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September 2017
Region 5: Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)
Three young boys ankle-deep in the Columbia River holding the salmon they caught.
Photo by Sally McKerney

Columbia River salmon: The month begins with plenty of action in the Buoy 10 fishery, where anglers were averaging one fall chinook salmon for every two rods. But the focus will change Sept. 5, when the chinook fishery closes in the lower 16 miles of the river and many anglers choose to follow the fish upstream. Those who remain can catch up to two hatchery coho salmon a day in the Buoy 10 area through the end of the year.

Through Sept. 4, anglers can catch two adult salmonids in the Buoy 10 fishery, only one of which can be a chinook salmon or a hatchery steelhead.

With water temperatures in the 70s, state fishery managers advise anglers fishing farther upstream to “go deep.” Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist and avid angler, recommends dropping a wobbler anchored with a heavy weight 40 to 60 feet down when fishing for salmon in the mainstem Columbia River.
“We’ve had a long string of warm days and salmon are looking for relief,” Hymer said. “Some of the most productive fishing this month will likely be in the cooler waters off the Lewis and Cowlitz rivers.”

Anglers may retain up to 2 adult salmon (chinook and hatchery coho) per day in most waters upstream from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco. An exception, as noted in the state Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, is the area below Warrior Rock where only one hatchery adult may be retained Sept. 8-14. In addition, anglers must release any chinook they intercept in that area Sept. 15-30.

Barbless hooks are required when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the North Jetty, the Columbia River and many of its tributaries. Other rules in effect on the mainstem Columbia River include:

  • Buoy 10 upstream to the Hwy. 395 bridge in Pasco – Through Dec. 31, each angler aboard a vessel may fish using salmon/steelhead gear until the daily salmonid limit for all anglers aboard has been reached. However, a night closure is in effect in those waters to conserve steelhead. 
  • Bonneville Dam upstream to McNary Dam – The anti-snagging rule is in effect for salmon and steelhead through mid-October, requiring that those species be hooked inside the mouth to be retained.

Steelhead restrictions: Anglers should be aware of several new regulations in effect this month for summer steelhead, which are expected to return in the lowest number since 1980.

Through September, anglers are required to release any steelhead they catch on the Columbia River from The Dalles Dam upstream to McNary Dam. Drano Lake will also remain closed to steelhead retention through Sept. 30.

In several other areas, anglers are limited to one hatchery steelhead per day:

  • Columbia River, from Buoy 10 to The Dalles Dam.
  • Cowlitz River, downstream from the Lexington Drive/Sparks Road bridge.
  • Lewis River, downstream from the confluence with the East Fork Lewis River.
  • Wind River, downstream from Shipherd Falls.
  • White Salmon River, downstream from the county road bridge.

In addition, night fishing is prohibited in the following waters, except by anglers 1) registered in the Pikeminnow Reward Program targeting pikeminnow or 2) those targeting carp:

  • Columbia River, from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco.
  • Cowlitz River, downstream from the Lexington Drive/Sparks Road bridge.
  • Lewis River, downstream from the confluence with the East Fork Lewis River.
  • Wind River, downstream from Shipherd Falls.
  • Drano Lake.
  • White Salmon River, downstream from the county road bridge.

Also on the Cowlitz River, the mandatory retention rule has been lifted and the daily catch limit has also been reduced from 3 to 2 hatchery steelhead upstream from the Lexington Drive/Sparks Road bridge.

As always, all steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be released in the Columbia River Basin. For more information about steelhead restrictions in effect for the 2017 season, see the WDFW news release.

Fishing the tributaries: Success rates for salmon fishing usually start ramping up in area tributaries in September. Best bets for chinook include the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Washougal and Klickitat rivers, along with Drano Lake.

Chinook retention is limited to fish with a clipped adipose fin, except on the Klickitat River and Drano Lake, where anglers can catch up to three adult chinook – marked or unmarked – per day. In addition, up to 2 adult coho a day may be retained from the Klickitat River and 3 adult coho from Drano Lake. Again, the fish may be marked or unmarked.   

Sturgeon: Catch-and-release fishing is allowed in the lower Columbia River and from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam.

Warmwater fish: Walleye fishing can be good in the Columbia River near Camas, as well as in The Dalles and John Day pools at this time of year. Bass fishing is also good from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam. All of the inland lakes are still producing nice panfish and bass. Rowland Lake continues to do well for bluegill; Vancouver Lake has been producing nice channel catfish; the Riffe Lake smallmouth bass fishery has been doing fair.

Trout: For anglers who don't mind a hike or a drive, September is also a great time to head for the high lakes around Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and the south end of the Cascade Range. Lakes you can drive up to include Goose (stocked the end of June), Council (stocked the first of July), and Takhlakh (stocked the first of August).

Other great fishing opportunities await anglers around the Indian Heaven, Goat Rocks, William O. Douglas, and the Trapper Creek wilderness areas. The trout are biting, the mosquitos are gone, and the leaves are blushing with fall color. September is the time when the trout start feeding heavily to prepare for winter and anglers can hook up with some nice rainbow, cutthroat, eastern brook, brown and tiger trout.

For a different fishing experience, anglers might want to hit Mayfield Lake, which was recently stocked with rainbow trout.

Pair of Canadian geese standing at water's edge.
Photo by Kelly McAllister

Planning your hunt: September marks the start of this year's hunting seasons for elk, deer, upland game birds and waterfowl. Dates and regulations are listed in the Big Game and Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets, available on this website. Hunters planning their seasons may also want to check WDFW's 2017 Hunting Prospects reports, which outline hunting opportunities in specific game management units (GMUs) in southwest Washington.

Hunters are strongly advised to check fire conditions in areas they plan to hunt before going afield.

Elk: The season’s first archery elk hunt, set to run Sept. 9-21, will include some of the most productive GMUs in the region. Those units, which account for biggest harvest in the region, include GMUs 520 (Winston), 506 (Willapa Hills), 530 (Ryderwood), 550 (Coweeman) and 560 (Lewis River).

Southwest Washington has historically offered some of the best elk hunting in the state. Last year, hunters harvested 1,229 elk during the general season and 255 by permit in District 10 alone.

As most hunters know, hoof disease is an ongoing problem among elk in southwest Washington. While there is no evidence that the disease affects humans, it has taken a toll on the region’s elk population. To help contain the disease, WDFW asks that hunters:

  • Leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site.
  • Call the number on the collar of any collared elk taken so WDFW can retrieve information on these animals, which are part of an ongoing study.

Deer: Earlyarchery hunts for deer get underway Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 24 or Sept. 29 depending on the GMU. The black-tailed deer population in this region has been fairly stable, although the severe winter of 2016 undoubtedly took a toll – particularly in Klickitat County where the snow persisted for three-to-four months.

Hunters can get a better idea of past success rates by checking the Game Harvest Reports on WDFW’s website.

Black bear: General hunting seasons for black bear continue through Nov. 15 in the Coastal and South Cascades zones, as shown on page 67 of the Big Game Hunting pamphlet. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, only one of which may be taken in eastern Washington. Successful hunters are required to submit a bear tooth to WDFW to determine the animal’s age, and all hunters are urged to avoid shooting sows with cubs.

Geese: Early goose-hunting seasons run Sept. 2-10 in Goose Management Area 2 (including Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and Clark counties), Sept. 9-14 in Area 3 (including Lewis and Skamania counties), and Sept. 9-10 in Area 5 (including Klickitat County).

Waterfowl hunters planning to hunt in Area 2 should be aware of new rules in effect in that area since last year. Information on the new season structure is printed on page 12 of the 2017-18 Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet.

Those new to waterfowl hunting might want to check out the “Let’s Go Waterfowl Hunting” webpage, which provides an introduction to the sport.

Youth and senior hunts: The traditional bird hunt for hunters under age 16 has been split between two weekends this year, providing more options for them and the non-hunting parents, guardians or mentors who accompany them. The youth hunt for waterfowl is scheduled Sept. 16-17, followed by the youth hunt for pheasants and other upland game birds Sept. 23-24.

Hunters age 65 and older can participate in a special pheasant hunt Sept. 25-29.

Upland game seasons: General hunting seasons get underway Sept. 1 for forest grouse, as well as cottontail and snowshoe hare. Seasons for quail and northern bobwhite run from Sept. 24 to Nov. 30 in western Washington. The regular pheasant season extends from Sept. 30 to Nov. 30.

Private land access: Hunters looking for a place to hunt should check out WDFW's Private Lands Access Program, which provides a variety of options around the region.

Poster for the Sturgeon Festival to be held in Vancouver, Washington.

Celebrate the sturgeon: The Columbia River ecosystem and its primitive inhabitant, the sturgeon, will be honored here Saturday, Sept. 16, at the 20th Annual Sturgeon Festival. The free, one-day festival runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way in Vancouver. The festival is hosted by the City of Vancouver in partnership with WDFW.

While sturgeon have top billing, the popular festival features a variety of entertaining and educational activities for all ages. Special events include a live reptile show, fish dissections, a Birds of Prey Show and opportunities to learn about plants and animals around the Columbia River.

See fish climb the ladder: Salmon and steelhead are on the move. More than a half-million fall chinook salmon are expected to pass by the viewing windows as they move up the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam this year, and many of them will make that journey this month. Hundreds of thousands of coho and summer steelhead will also be on display.

To get to the visitor center, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and park in front of the glass building at the end of the powerhouse. To check on the number of fish passing the dam each day, go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

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