Fishing & Hunting Report: Cowlitz Runs Hot, Then Cold; Still Waiting for Chehalis Springers to Arrive

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle

The new sport fishing rules and big game hunting season regulations are out and available at your local bait shop or sporting goods store.

Special Hunting Permits Apps Due May 18
Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state.

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing in late June.
Applications may be purchased from license vendors or on WDFW’s website at Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492.
Instructions and details on applying for special-permit hunts are described on pages 84-85 of the 2012-13 hunting regs pamphlet.
Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags for each species they wish to hunt.
Most special hunt permit applications cost $6.60 for residents, $110.00 for non-residents, and $3.30 for youth under 16 years of age.

Wild Turkeys are Runnin’
The spring wild turkey season continues through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington.
Turkeys have been spotted in the north Centralia, Rochester and Toledo areas and heard in Cinebar.

Rivers, Lakes, Streams and Saltwater
“All the lowland lakes are fishing well,” said Charles McElroy, sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center. “Except for Carlisle in Onalaska. Either somebody dumped a bunch of fry in there or one of the net pens collapsed. The guys are pretty frustrated that they can’t seem to get past the little nibblers and get into the big fish.”
The water level at Riffe Lake has been raised, so the fish are scattered. Lake Mayfield hasn’t been too bad, but there hasn’t been much pressure on the lake to get a good report.
Kokanee fishing at American and Merwin is still going strong.
The Chehalis River opened for salmon on May 1. In case you’re having a hard time (as I did) finding the regs for the Chehalis, look on page 29 of the new rules book. The Chehalis is now listed in the Coastal Rivers section instead of Westside Rivers.
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 515 winter-run steelhead, 123 spring Chinook adults, 14 jacks and 30 summer-run steelhead during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
In the previous week the numbers ran much higher — 1,128 winter-run steelhead and 312 spring Chinook adults.
And the bite’s gone off, says McElroy.
“They keep jacking the water up and down,” said McElroy. “The fish are there, they just aren’t biting. I talked to a guide the other day that had four clients in the boat, it took them 11 hours to land seven fish. They really had to work for them.”
Marshall Borsom of Fish Country in Ethel agrees, suddenly it’s tough going out on the Cowlitz River; Borsom was on the river all day Sunday and said nobody was getting much of a bite.
“It may be the moon phase we are in, who knows,” said Borsom. “We did have some summer run steelhead come into the hatchery already, along with the springers — so it’s worth being on the water.”
The boaters are doing good running divers with bait or back-bouncing eggs and sand shrimp, said Borsom.
“The bank guys are also picking up fish, most of what we hear is near Barrier Dam right now,” he added. “It is definitely an ‘egg’ show on the river. We do have our corky guys and a few plunkers, but most of the fish being caught is on eggs and sand shrimp together or sand shrimp alone.”
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 19 spring Chinook adults, six jacks and twelve winter-run steelhead at the Day Use Park in Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Day-use Park. They released 21 spring Chinook adults and four winter-run steelhead into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, and released 17 spring Chinook adults and two jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood.
The spot shrimp sport fishery will reopen in most areas on Friday, May 11. The rules are somewhat complicated and the hours/days are limited. Check the sport fishing rules book for more information.
Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12) will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 11, 12 and 16.
Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6) is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 11, 12 and 16.
Marine Area 7 will be open May 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19.
Marine areas 8, 9, 10 and 11 will be open on May 11 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Halibut season is well underway in many areas.
The last razor clam dig was held last weekend. Reports of 15 minute limits were common and many a clam gun owner said they thought there were enough clams left on the beach for them to open it up for another weekend.
McElroy said he thought it was doubtful that WDFW would allow it.
For butter clam lovers, the pickings were easy and plentiful near Raymond. Grab a rake and join the fun.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News ( and find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email