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July 2017
Region 5: Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)
Young woman fishing for salmon from boat.
Photo Credit: Steve Thiesfeld

Summer salmon fishing: After a weeklong closure, the summer chinook salmon has reopened in the lower Columbia River through the end of July, followed by the fall chinook season. A new, higher run estimate allowed fishery managers to reopen the fishery under a higher catch guideline.

The area of the Columbia River affected by the states' action extends from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upriver to Bonneville Dam. As before, anglers can catch up to two adult hatchery chinook, two adult sockeye, or one of each. One hatchery steelhead may also be retained as part of two-fish daily limit.

Barbless hooks are required, and anglers must release any summer chinook with an intact adipose fin.

Summer chinook can weigh up to 40 pounds or more, which can make catching them a real workout. Sockeye, averaging about 5 pounds apiece, are great on the grill but can prove challenging to catch. Seasoned anglers, recommend baiting up with shrimp (their preferred prey in the ocean) and downsizing your gear.  

Summer steelhead restrictions: Anglers should be aware of several restrictions on steelhead fishing this summer, adopted in response to projections of the lowest returns in 37 years. Until further notice, the catch limit is one hatchery steelhead per day in the following waters:

  • Columbia River, from the Astoria-Megler Bridge 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.

Additional restrictions will take effect in August. For more information, see WDFW's news release and the 2017-18 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

Shad: This year's shad run up the Columbia River started slow, then took off like gangbusters. Through June 27, nearly 2.5 million shad had passed by Bonneville Dam. 

Shad, the largest member of the herring family, should be available for harvest both upriver and downriver from the dam through this month. Weighing up to 8 pounds apiece, they are fairly easy to catch and no daily limits apply. Tips on where, when, and how to catch and prepare shad are available on WDFW's website.

Sturgeon: All waters below McNary Dam are now closed to sturgeon retention, although catch-and-release fishing is permitted in areas not designated as spawning sanctuaries. The best spot for anglers who want to catch and keep white sturgeon is farther upriver in the Wanapum and Priest Rapids reservoirs. For more information on those new fisheries, see the Fishing Rule Change on WDFW's website.

Trout: July is a great time to catch some trout – and beat the heat – at high lakes in Southwest Washington. Whether you want to hike or drive, the WDFW website lists dozens of options throughout the region.

John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist, recommends Takhlakh and Council Lakes near Mt. Adams for those who want to drive to their fishing spot. "Both of these lakes are large, and will be stocked with thousands of large catchable rainbows the first couple of weeks of July," he said. "Takhlakh will also receive broodstock rainbow running 5-6 pounds apiece, and both of these lakes are terrific places to camp and fish. Recent reports indicate both lakes have some very nice holdover trout from last year."

Weinheimer also recommends four large drive-up lakes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. One is Horseshoe Lake, which contains eastern brook trout, browns, and tiger trout – a sterile cross of the two. Big Mosquito Lake near Trout Lake also contains eastern brook and tiger trout, but boat access is largely limited to car-top boats and float tubes.

Walupt Lake is a large lake, featuring wild cutthroat and rainbow with a great campground. North of Carson is Goose Lake. This lake is very popular for the coastal cutthroat that are planted each year as catchables. The lake also contains rainbows, browns, and eastern brook trout.

Merwin Special Kids Day: Children with disabilities will have a chance to reel in some big trout during a special fishing event July 14 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Merwin Fish Hatchery, 10 miles east of Woodland.

Prior to the event, WDFW will plant the hatchery's wheelchair-accessible waters with up to 3,000 trout ranging in size from one to four pounds. Volunteers will provide one-on-one coaching, assisting youngsters throughout the day. For more information, call Tom Gauntt at (503) 813-7291.

Hunter Education instructors teaching rifle skills.

Hunter Education courses: Avoid the autumn rush and sign up now for a hunter education class. All hunters born after January 1, 1972 must complete a hunter education course to purchase a hunting license. WDFW offers both traditional and online options to complete the hunter education training requirement.

The traditional classroom experience includes practical exercises and live-firing activities taught by certified volunteer instructors. The online class offers the same classroom content, but on the student's schedule. An in-person Field Evaluation Course is required with the online class for students to demonstrate what they have learned.

Sign on WDFW property prohibiting off road vehicles in order to prevent wildfires.

Fire precautions: With the summer recreation season now in full swing, WDFW and other public landowners are urging campers, anglers, and others visiting the lands they manage to take precautions against sparking a wildfire.

Effective July 1, the department will restrict campfires and other activities on lands WDFW manages in Klickitat County and other counties east of the Cascade Range. Those restrictions on activities ranging from smoking to off-road driving are outlined in a news release issued by the department in late June.

Visitors are also reminded that fireworks are prohibited year-round at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state.

Free canoe trips: The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership is offering free public canoe trips to help promote public understanding of the lower Columbia River and the fish and wildlife that rely on the habitat it provides. Destinations include Vancouver Lake, Lacamas Lake and Lake River near Ridgefield.

Space is available on a first-come basis. Contact the partnership to register and learn more about the region from an on-water perspective.

Trips depart from various locations this summer in stable, 29-foot, 14-person canoes. The trips are suitable for ages 5 and older. The partnership provides paddles and personal flotation devices.

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