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When to fish

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Spring fisheries

Trout:  For many anglers, the fishing year starts on the last Saturday in April, when trout season opens on lowland lakes.  Although dozens of Washington lakes are open for fishing year-round, those opening in April are heavily stocked with hatchery trout, greatly improving anglers’ chances of catching fish.  Check our trout stocking information for details. Some lakes, particularly in Eastern Washington, open for trout fishing March 1, giving anglers a jump on the season in that part of the state. Trout generally bite well until mid-summer, but tend to lose interest when the water temperature gets too warm.

Bass, walleye and other warmwater fish:  These scrappy fish generally start biting in late spring as the weather warms up, but the best fishing is during the summer months.  Fishing for warmwater fish – which also include perch, burbot, crappie and sunfish – is open year-round on most rivers and lakes.

Salmon:  Spring chinook, the first salmon run of the season to arrive from the ocean, start moving into the Columbia River in March.  Fishing improves steadily from late March into May on the Columbia River and several of its tributaries, including the Cowlitz, Lewis and Wind rivers.  In Puget Sound, fishing for resident blackmouth salmon winds down in April.

Steelhead:  Some fishing opportunities for hatchery-reared steelhead are available in early spring on the Columbia and Snake rivers.  Fisheries for wild steelhead run through mid-April on several Olympic Peninsula rivers.

Clams and oysters:  Spring is the time to harvest clams and oysters on saltwater beaches, because their quality declines in the heat of summer.  Harvest regulations vary by beach.

Dungeness crab:  Crab fishing is closed in spring months in Puget Sound, but open on coastal beaches, Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay and the mouth of the Columbia River.