Discover Southwest Washington

Klickitat river seen through the trees

Counties served: Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania, Wahkiakum

Director: Kessina Lee

5525 S 11th Street
Ridgefield, WA 98642

Email: TeamRidgefield@dfw.wa.gov

Telephone: 360-696-6211

Fax: 360-906-6776

January fishing tips and news

Sturgeon

Fisherman on a boat holding a large white sturgeon using both hands
AJ Porter

Starting Jan. 1, retention fishing for white sturgeon opened seven days a week on the pools of the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to McNary Dam, including adjacent tributaries (Note: The Dalles Pool closed to sturgeon retention at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 4). The daily limit is one white sturgeon per day until further notice and an annual limit of two legal-size fish.

  • Bonneville Pool: Anglers may retain white sturgeon measuring 38-54 inches (fork length) between Bonneville Dam and The Dalles Dam until the catch reaches the 500-fish guideline.
  • The Dalles Pool: Catch and release fishing remains open between The Dalles Dam and John Day Dam, though retention fishing closed at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 4, after the 135-fish guideline was met. This guideline is scheduled to be re-evaluated early next year.
  • John Day Pool: Anglers may retain white sturgeon measuring 43-54 inches (fork length) between John Day Dam and McNary Dam until the catch reaches the 105-fish guideline.

Anglers should check for emergency rules affecting these fisheries. Sturgeon retention remains closed below Bonneville Dam, but catch-and-release fishing is open there and in areas above the dam that are open to retention fishing.

Salmon/steelhead

Salmon and steelhead fishing continues into the new year on sections of the lower Columbia River, with additional steelhead retention opportunity available beginning Jan. 1, when anglers can keep up to two hatchery steelhead from Buoy 10 to the Dalles Dam.

The rule change issued in late December breaks down the salmon and steelhead limits through March 31:

  • From the mouth (Buoy 10 line) to the Interstate-5 Bridge
    • Jan. 1-March 31: Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adult salmon or 2 hatchery steelhead or 1 of each may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook. Release wild steelhead. Salmon min. size 12".
  • From the I-5 Bridge to The Dalles Dam
    • Jan. 1-March 31: Daily limit 2 hatchery steelhead. Release all salmon and wild steelhead.
  • From The Dalles Dam to Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco
    • Jan. 1-March 31: Daily limit 1 hatchery steelhead. Release all salmon and wild steelhead.

While the spring Chinook run doesn’t arrive in earnest until late March, anglers often start catching early-arriving fish later in January.

The preseason forecasts for spring Chinook, summer Chinook, and sockeye salmon are now available, with the spring Chinook forecasts looking similar to 2020.

The 2021 pre-season forecast for Columbia River spring Chinook is estimated to be 143,200 total adults, close to the 2020 actual return of 142,500. Upriver Columbia River spring Chinook forecasts are similar to the last few years at 75,000, which would be the second lowest since 1999. Forecasts for tributaries below Bonneville Dam and in the Bonneville pool are a mixed bag, with some rivers forecast to return above last year’s numbers, while others are expected to see lower returns compared to 2020.

Trout 

If trout fishing is on your agenda for the new year, you don’t have to wait until spring to get started. WDFW planted lakes in Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis and Skamania counties in December, with more to come this month.

Lake Sacajawea in Longview was planted with nearly 3,500 rainbow trout in December, including more than 900 trout weighing more than a pound each during its fourth-annual Christmas Break plant this year.

Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond in Clark County, along with Little Ash Lake and Ice House Lake in Skamania County, were all planted with thousands of trout in December. For more options, see the weekly catchable report.

Coho fishing has been good in Riffe Lake, while kokanee have been fair to good in Merwin and Yale reservoirs.

Warmwater fish

Warmwater fishing has slowed way down, but there are a few Crappie and perch being caught in Silver Lake.

Fishing the tributaries

January is the perfect time of year to start a clean fishing slate and one of the best months to catch winter steelhead in southwest Washington tribs.

The table below shows southwest Washington rivers with the range of months when fish will be returning, with peak returns generally occurring in the middle of this range.   

Tributary  

Return Strategy 

Expected Fishery Timing  

Elochoman River 

Early 

Nov. – Feb. 

Cowlitz River 

Late 

Feb. – Apr. 

Coweeman River 

Early 

Dec. – Feb. 

Kalama River 

Late 

Feb. – Apr. 

Lewis River  

Early 

Nov. – Feb 

Salmon Creek (Clark Co.) 

Late 

Feb. – Apr. 

Washougal River 

Early 

Dec. – Feb. 

Rock Creek (Skamania Co.) 

Early 

Dec. – Feb. 

Always be sure to check for emergency fishing rule changes  for the latest regulations in these waters before heading out. 

The daily limit for steelhead on most tributaries is two or three hatchery fish. Only hatchery-reared steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained. Be sure to check all permanent rules in the 2020-21 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. 

Share your volunteer photos

We want to see the outstanding work you’ve done to benefit fish and wildlife! We're grateful for all the volunteers who provide their time and talents by contributing to projects that benefit fish, wildlife, and habitat. Volunteer hunter education instructors are committed to ensuring that hunters have safe, legal, and ethical hunts. Many volunteers work directly with WDFW, but many also volunteer through partnerships and local projects around the state.

Share your photos or videos of your volunteer time with us at wdfw.wa.gov/share and select the category "Volunteer Activities". 

January hunting tips and news

Ducks and geese

Canada geese
Kelly McAllister

Most big-game hunts are closed for the year, but waterfowl seasons run through Jan. 31 in most areas. An exception is Goose Management Area 2, which is open for geese on select days through Jan. 17. The rules are outlined in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet.

Hunters are reminded that a special permit is required to hunt in Goose Management Area 2 (Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties) and that Dusky Canada geese are off-limits to hunting. For more information, see Page 27 of the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet. Hunters can also learn more at our goose identification testing webpage. Hunters are required to record harvest on a harvest card they get when buying their license. The reporting deadline is March 20, 2021.

Hunter reporting

Report your harvest by Jan. 10 to win a special permit.

Hunters who report their 2020 black bear, deer, elk, or turkey hunting results by Sunday, Jan. 10 will have the opportunity to win one of nine deer and elk incentive permits for fall 2021.

To qualify for the drawing, hunters must submit a report by Jan. 10 for each black bear, deer, elk, or turkey tag they purchased, and each special hunting permit they received in 2020. The permits will be valid from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, 2021.

Hunter reports are due by Jan. 31. Failure to meet the deadline can result in a $10 reporting fee, which hunters must pay when they buy a license for the 2021 season. Hunters can report online.

Spring bear permit applications

The application period for special spring bear hunting permits begins Jan. 2 and runs through February. Details are on the Spring Black Bear Special Permit Hunts webpage

Share your volunteer photos

We want to see the outstanding work you’ve done to benefit fish and wildlife! We're grateful for all the volunteers who provide their time and talents by contributing to projects that benefit fish, wildlife, and habitat. Volunteer hunter education instructors are committed to ensuring that hunters have safe, legal, and ethical hunts. Many volunteers work directly with WDFW, but many also volunteer through partnerships and local projects around the state.

Share your photos or videos of your volunteer time with us at wdfw.wa.gov/share and select the category "Volunteer Activities". 

Wildlife viewing close to home

Snow geese in Clark County

There are several good opportunities this month to see birds gathering in southwest Washington; thousands of snow geese make their way to and from the Vancouver Lowlands each year as they journey from the Arctic along the Pacific flyway.

Eagles on Klickitat River

Bald eagle perched on a tree
Robert Haney

Meanwhile, salmon are now spawning near the mouth of the Klickitat River, which makes the area a natural destination for bald eagles migrating south for the winter. Now is the time to see the raptors congregating in the trees near the river, often more than a dozen at a time.

One popular spot to observe eagles is the Balfour-Klickitat Day Use Park, near the entrance to Lyle. Another is the 31-mile Klickitat Trail, which starts in Lyle and climbs to the Goldendale Plateau. You can also learn more from the Klickitat Trail Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the trail.

New Year's hikes

Washington State Parks invites the public to start the new year off in the outdoors. Though the traditional First Day Hike events aren’t being offered due to COVID-19, New Year’s Day is still a great time to get outside in Washington at parks around the state. Jan. 1 is also the first of 12 “free days” in 2021 – Jan. 18 is another – when visitors will not need to display the Discover Pass to gain access to state parks.

Share your volunteer photos

We want to see the outstanding work you’ve done to benefit fish and wildlife! We're grateful for all the volunteers who provide their time and talents by contributing to projects that benefit fish, wildlife, and habitat. Volunteer hunter education instructors are committed to ensuring that hunters have safe, legal, and ethical hunts. Many volunteers work directly with WDFW, but many also volunteer through partnerships and local projects around the state.

Share your photos or videos of your volunteer time with us at wdfw.wa.gov/share and select the category "Volunteer Activities". 

Recreate Responsibly this winter

Seven tips to recreate responsibly

#RecreateResponsibly to protect yourself, others, and the outdoors. Review the guidelines below before heading out on your outdoor adventure!

  • Know before you go. Some areas can become dangerous wither winter conditions. Research your destination, as roads and facilities may be closed in winter.
  • Explore locally. Consider exploring locally, as driving and parking may be more challenging in winter. If you travel, be mindful of your impact on native and local communities.
  • Plan ahead. Check local conditions and prepare for the elements, packing extra layers, waterproof clothing, and avalanche safety gear for the backcountry.
  • Leave no trace. Did you know that snow is our water supply? Keep our winter playgrounds clean. Pack out any human or pet waste and be respectful of the land.
  • Practice physical distancing. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth. When possible, opt to eat and rest outside. If you feel sick, stay home.
  • Play it safe. Know your limits and your gear. Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury.
  • Build an inclusive outdoors. Everyone deserve to experience a winter wonderland. Be an active part of making the outdoors safe, accessible, and welcoming for all identities and abilities.

Recreation and habitat projects

Mount St Helens Wildlife Area got a 1,453-acre addition!

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) transferred 1,453 acres of land to create a new unit of the Mount St Helens Wildlife Area. This partnership exemplifies the missions of RMEF and WDFW to protect habitat for elk and other wildlife, while also securing public access for hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists.

The new Merrill Lake Unit features a combination of wildlife, unusual geology, spectacular waterfalls, and dense forest, making it an ideal destination for an outdoor adventurer. A stunning waterfall on the Kalama River is a popular site for hikers. The unit includes old-growth forest, located primarily on an ancient lava flow—tree casts can be found in the lava flow—and also has a large stand of lodgepole pine, which is a very unique feature. 

Waterfall with surrounding forest

Event calendar

Types of events

  • Community event
  • Key date
  • Public meeting

Meet your regional director: Kessina Lee

Kessina Lee, Southwest Region Director

Kessina Lee, the Southwest Regional Director (Region 5), joined WDFW in 2018. In her role as the Director’s representative in the region, Kessina works in close coordination with each program, as well as in collaboration with federal, Tribal, and local partners on implementing the WDFW mission of protecting native fish and wildlife, and providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing opportunities for Washingtonians.

Prior to coming to WDFW, Kessina worked as the statewide aquaculture specialist for the Washington Department of Ecology. Before arriving at Ecology, Kessina was a Sea Grant policy fellow working on ocean and coastal issues with the Oregon Legislature’s Coastal Caucus and for the office of Oregon Governor Kate Brown. She also spent nearly a decade studying marine mammal strandings in the Pacific Northwest, as well as interactions between fish and sea lions on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Kessina holds bachelor's and master’s degrees in biology from Portland State University and has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1989. In her free time, Kessina enjoys gardening, traveling, kayaking, and hiking with her German shorthaired pointer.