Get Ready for the Lowland Lake Season Opener

Dig It: One More Weekend to Go After the Razor Clams

By The Chronicle

It’s time to get serious about the lowland lake season opener on Saturday, April 28, as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has released 3 million trout averaging about 12 inches, which is a third larger than last year’s released trout.

Millions of other trout are also awaiting a chomp on a worm and hook that were stocked last year in state lakes, with many weighing more than 1.5 pounds and some lunkers as big as 11 pounds each. An estimated 300,000 anglers will be going after the fish bright (we hope) and early that first day.

“We have made some changes in our trout hatchery rearing programs in response to the feedback we heard from anglers who really enjoy catching larger fish, said WDFW Director Phil Anderson. “With these fish, our state’s biggest fishing day of the year just got better.”

Changes included giving the hatchery fish more feed — makes sense!

For Lewis County, the best opening day bets are Mineral Lake and for the kids, Fort Borst Park Pond. Just north of the Lewis-Thurston county line, Offutt Lake is also worth a chance. Mineral was planted in late February with 17,630 rainbow raised in the Mossyrock hatchery; Fort Borst Park Pond in January was planted with 3,050 rainbows; and Offutt Lake received plantings of 1,000 cutthroat in mid-February and another 3,500 rainbows in mid-March.

An opening day fishing derby at Fort Borst Park Pond is an annual tradition put on by the Centralia Lions Club. Now in its 53rd year, the derby runs from 9 a.m. to noon, is free, and all anglers must be 15 or under. Each kid that participates is entered into a prize drawing that includes donations by Riverside Fire Authority of three bicycles, fishing poles donated by Cabela’s, and other fishing gear worth $200 donated by Sunbird Shopping Center.

Other nearby lakes worth a sniff on opening day are Swift Reservoir in Skamania County and Rowland Lake in Klickitat County.

Rivers — A Few More Days on the Lower Columbia

Winter steelhead fishing remains strong on the Cowlitz River, specifically near the trout hatchery. Spring Chinook are being caught from the mouth all the way to Barrier Dam.

Last week Tacoma Power recovered 762 winter run steelhead adults, one jack, 18 spring Chinook adults and one jack at its Cowlitz salmon hatchery. Tacoma Power then released 41 steelhead, one jack and five spring Chinook in Lake Scanewa above the Cowlitz Falls Dam; another four steelhead into the Cispus River; four steelhead and one spring Chinook in the Cowlitz River near Packwood; and 21 steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

The Skookumchuck River steelhead run remains strong, although it appears to be tapering off from last week’s rush.

Those with a fondness for fishing the lower Columbia River for Chinook have through Sunday, April 22 as that fishery was extended an extra eight days last week.

Fishing was set to close on April 13, but harvest levels are still below what was expected due to high waters leading to poor fishing conditions. The fishery might be opened up again in May.

“We have scheduled another meeting April 19 (today) to further discuss the season,” said Cindy Le Fleur, Columbia River policy manager for WDFW. “But we really need to start seeing higher numbers of fish make their way upriver before we can consider any additional fishing opportunities in late April.”


One More Round of Clam Digging

Clam diggers will want to take part in the morning razor clam digs this Saturday, Sunday and Monday as the season nears its end.

Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open all three days; Copalis and Mocrocks will be open for digging only on Monday. All digging is prohibited after noon all three days.

“We have just enough clams available for harvest at Copalis and Mocrocks to offer one more weekday dig,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’ll see where we are with the other beaches after this opening.”


Razor Clam Dig Openings and Low Tides

April 21, Saturday (7:28 a.m., -0.3 feet): Long Beach, Twin Harbors only

April 22, Sunday (8:01 a.m., -0.4 feet): Long Beach and Twin Harbors only

April 23, Monday (8:35 a.m., -0.4 feet): Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks


New Hunting Rules Introduced

This past week the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission agreed to expand hunting for elk and cougar, but retain the statewide ban on using electronic bird decoys.

Due to expanding elk herds across the state, the commission agreed to up the number of bull-elk permits for the Nooksack, Blue Mountain and Yakima herds. Antlerless elk permits will expand for the Blue Mountain, Yakima and Colockum herds. In addition, one extra day of general season modern firearms elk hunting in Western Washington is added, giving those hunters a total of 12 days per year.

“The health of our elk herds has shown real improvement since 2001, when the department started developing management plans specific to each herd,” said Commission Chair Miranda Wecker. “Most of our elk herds are now at or near the population goals established under those plans.”

For those going after cougar, the general hunting season has also expanded and will run from Sept. 1 through March 31.

The commission also rejected a rule that would allow for illuminated arrow nocks for bow hunters which would have made it easier for them to recover their arrows, although the issue likely will be revisited during rule making sessions next year.

In rejecting the electronic decoys, Wecker said their use “raises questions of fair chase, equal opportunity among hunters and the very tradition of the sport.”