Fishing & Hunting Report: Columbia Big Opener Just Around the Corner

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle

June 16 is the big opening day for Columbia River fans on the hunt for summer Chinook, hatchery steelhead and sockeye salmon.

Pre-season forecasts anticipate a strong run of 91,200 summer chinook and an even stronger run of 462,000 sockeye this year, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the WDFW.

“This year’s fishery offers anglers a chance to catch chrome bright trophy-sized fish weighing up to 40 pounds,” Hymer said. “There’s a good reason why these fish are known as ‘June hogs,’ and this season will give anglers a good chance to catch some.”

The Columbia River will open to fishing for salmon and steelhead from the Megler Astoria Bridge upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. The daily limit is six fish, including two adult salmon, or two adult hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Only sockeye salmon, adipose-clipped chinook and adipose-clipped steelhead may be retained.  All sockeye count as part of the adult daily limit.

Above Bonneville Dam, the season for summer chinook and steelhead is scheduled to run through July 31. Below Bonneville, the initial season will run through July 1, but anglers may get additional time on the water if the fish come through as expected, said Cindy LeFleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator.

“Last year’s summer chinook run came in at 12 percent below forecast,” she said. “We need to make sure we’re on target before we start adding fishing days in the lower river.”

Anglers can also catch shad, which have been open without size or catch limits since mid-May. Bank anglers have been catching shad in good numbers just below Bonneville Dam and at the public dock in Washougal.  Boat anglers can do well in shallower water from Longview upstream.

Father’s Day Fishing

The WDFW is stocking 5,000 triploid trout in 14 different lakes across the state — none of them local.

The closest opportunity will be a American Lake, where they are tossing 1,200 of the big rainbows into the water just before the weekend.

Rivers, Lakes, and Streams

The fishing should be pretty hot up at Scanewa Lake, although I haven’t heard back from any anglers yet. The lake is receiving plants of 800 trout twice a week throughout the month of June and Tacoma Power regularly hauls spring Chinook and steelhead into the waters this time of year.

Riffe Lake anglers are seeing silvers up to 18 inches recently.

Lake Mayfield is picking up.

American Lake has slowed down for kokanee, but they’re picking up some nice rainbows.

Charles McElroy, sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center, said he hasn’t heard any good news from anglers trying their luck at the Lewis, Kalama, the South Fork of the Toutle, or the Green.

“It’s just a zoo out there, the place has been packed but nobody’s bringing home many fish,” said McElroy.

The Cowlitz River has been hit and miss — mostly miss.

Last week Tacoma Power recovered 196 spring Chinook adults, 34 jacks, two winter-run steelhead and 91 summer-run steelhead during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 74 spring Chinook adults, 23 jacks and one winter-run steelhead at the Day Use Park in Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam. They released six spring Chinook adults into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek and released 13 spring Chinook adults into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood.

In the Salt

Crabbing is still going strong.

The Westport opener for spring Chinook was rough, but a lot of fish were caught on calmer waters on Sunday.

“They’re about 80-feet down and in kinda close,” said McElroy. “But you’ve got to really sort through them, there were a lot of fish carrying that extra fin.”

Bottom fishing has been very good at Seiku, Neah Bay and Westport.

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