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March 2017
Region 5: Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)
Photo: Boat fisherman holding prize spring chinook he caught.
Photo Credit: Jack Sanders

Columbia River spring chinook: The 2017 spring chinook season opens March 1 on the Columbia River under rules that reflect a lower projection of returning fish but a larger share of the catch than in previous years.

Initial catch guidelines set by the two states will allow anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam to catch up to 6,905 upriver spring chinook through April 6, before the early season closes until mid-May for a run assessment.

Under the preseason forecast, approximately 160,400 upriver spring chinook are expected to return to the waters above Bonneville Dam this year, which represent about 80 percent of the 10-year average. Spring chinook returns to the Willamette River and other tributaries are also expected to be lower than in recent years.

Starting March 1, fishing will be open to boat and bank anglers daily from the mouth of the Columbia to Beacon Rock. Bank anglers can also fish upriver to Bonneville Dam. Farther upstream, a sport fishery will run from March 16 through May 5 between Bonneville Dam and the Washington-Oregon border, east of Umatilla. Anglers are allowed one marked, hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit in all areas. See the news release on WDFW's website for more information.

Tributaries: The steelhead catch is starting to pick up on the Cowlitz River, where anglers are catching bright 8-12 pound steelhead near the trout hatchery. The Kalama River is also giving up some nice steelhead, and both rivers should be good bets for hatchery spring chinook.

Steelhead fishing is also open on the Lewis River, but starting March 1 anglers must release any chinook salmon they catch from the mouth upstream to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam.

Meanwhile, anglers have through March 15 to fish for steelhead on the Coweeman, Elochoman, Grays, East Fork Lewis, South Fork Toutle, and Washougal rivers. That is also the case for Abernathy, Germany, Skamokawa, Mill (Cowlitz Co.), Cedar (Clark Co.), Rock (Skamania Co.), and Salmon (Clark Co.) creeks. Barbless hooks are required in all Washington Columbia River tributaries with a few exceptions.

On the other hand, Wind River and Drano Lake open for salmon fishing March 16, with a daily limit of two hatchery chinook, or two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Anglers planning to fish any of these waters are advised to check for emergency fishing rules to make sure they are aware of any updates to state regulations before they head out.

Sturgeon: [Updated Mar. 15, 2017] The Bonneville Pool will close for retention fishing starting March 25, when fishery managers expect the harvest guideline for the winter fishery will be met. Catch-and-release fishing will still be allowed in the Bonneville and in the lower Columbia River.

Walleye and bass: Anglers have been doing pretty well for walleye in The Dalles and John Day pools. Bass should start biting there and in Bonneville Pool as the water warms up.

Trout: WDFW will plant thousands of catchable rainbow trout in Cowlitz and Clark counties in March. In Cowlitz County, Sacajawea Lake will receive over 3,000 of those fish and Silver Lake will be stocked with over 7,000.

In Clark County, Klineline Pond will get 3,000 trout, Battleground Lake 4,000, and Lacamas Lake 4,000. In addition, two lakes near The Bridge of the Gods along Highway 14 were planted in late in February. Icehouse Lake received 2,000 trout and Little Ash Lake got 1,000 trout.

Kress Lake in Cowlitz County should continue to receive excess adult hatchery steelhead from the Kalama River meauring 6-10 lbs. The most recent fish plants are posted on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Photo: Hunter looking out over a clear cut in early morning mist.
Photo Credit: Randy Baily

Apply for a multiple-season tag: Deer and elk hunters have until March 31 to enter their names into the drawing for a 2017 multiple-season tag, which can greatly increase the opportunity for success in the field. WDFW will hold the drawing in mid-April, randomly selecting names for 8,500 multiple-season deer tags and 1,000 multiple season elk tags.

Winners of the drawing will be eligible to purchase a special tag allowing them to participate in archery, muzzleloader, as well as modern firearm general hunting seasons for deer or elk in 2017. The deadline to purchase the multiple-season tag is July 31.

Winners may choose any weapon type when applying for a special permit to hunt deer or elk. Winners who purchase the multiple season elk tag can participate in general elk hunting seasons in both eastern and western Washington.

A multiple season application can be purchased from authorized license dealers, online at http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, or by calling (866) 246-9453. The application costs $7.10 for residents and $110.50 for nonresidents.

Photo: Four Sandhill cranes wading off shore in quiet waters.
Photo Credit: WDFW photo

Sandhill cranes:  With spring fast approaching, sandhill cranes are now arriving in the Vancouver Lowlands to begin their annual mating dance. Thousands of the large birds – with wingspans of up to seven feet – will visit prime feeding areas such as the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge before leaving for the long trip north.

The cranes have plenty of company while they're in the area. Great egrets, tundra swans, belted kingfishers and a wide variety of other birds are also arriving for spring.

Bears emerge: Bears are becoming active, drawn out of the dens by the spring-like weather. As always, their first thought will be to find food. Females with new cubs will be particularly hungry and may be attracted to human-provided sources of food such as compost, bird feeders, garbage cans, and fruit trees.

To avoid attracting bears, secure garbage cans in a shed or fenced area, and keeping meat scraps in the freezer until shortly before garbage cans are picked up or hauled away. For other tips on avoiding conflicts with bears, see the Living with Wildlife series on WDFW's website.

See springers through the window: Throughout March, the number of spring chinook and late-run steelhead passing by the fish-viewing window at Bonneville Dam increases day after day. A dozen a day may pass up the fish ladder early in the month, growing to hundreds, then thousands in April.

To observe the annual parade of fish, stop by the Washington Shore Visitor Complex at the dam. To get there, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and turn into the Bonneville Dam visitor center. The visitor center is the glass building at the end of the powerhouse.

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