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  More to do Outside!

July 2018
Region 5: Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)
Fisherman on the banks of a river holding the steelhead he caught.
Fisherman on the banks of a river holding the steelhead he caught.
Photo credit: Ralf Heidmann

Columbia River salmon/steelhead: Anglers can catch and keep sockeye salmon on the Columbia River, but are required to release any chinook salmon they intercept downriver from Bonneville Dam. Starting July 7, similar rules will also take effect from Bonneville Dam to Priest Rapids Dam.

All of those actions were based on updated information showing that sockeye salmon are returning at higher numbers than previously projected but summer chinook returning below the pre-season forecast.

Anglers fishing from the Megler-Astoria Bridge to Bonneville Dam on the lower Columbia River can still catch a total of six salmon/steelhead a day, but must release all chinook salmon. The daily limit for adult fish in the lower river is two adult sockeye salmon or hatchery adult steelhead, or one of each. Anglers can round out their daily six-fish limit with hatchery jack chinook salmon.

Daily catch limits for fisheries from Bonneville upriver to Priest Rapids Dam are outlined in the rule change notice that takes effect July 7.

Before the season began, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed to forgo a sockeye fishery this year due to low run projections, but changed course when a new run forecast projected the return of 209,000 sockeye this year– more than double the preseason forecast.

Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist, recommends that anglers also target summer steelhead. “This year’s summer steelhead run is expected to be considerably stronger than last year, so we don’t have the same kind of constrictions,” he said. “Anglers can do well fishing from a boat or off a sandbar.”

Shad are also available for harvest during salmon and steelhead fisheries, and there are plenty on hand this year. As of late June, 5 million shad had been counted at Bonneville Dam – the second-highest return on record. 

“Shad are fun to catch, and there’s no daily limit,” he said. For information on how to catch and prepare this historically important fish, see the feature on WDFW’s website.

Fishing the tributaries: July is also a good time to hook up with a combination of salmon and steelhead in area rivers above and below Bonneville Dam. Examples include:

  • Cowlitz River: Starting July 3, the river will be closed to retention of chinook salmon, due to another year of relatively low returns. Chinook fishing will also close in the Cispus rivers and in Lake Scanewa. Anglers can, however, still catch and keep up to three hatchery steelhead on the Cowlitz River. The river is scheduled to reopen for chinook fishing under permanent rules Aug. 1, when fall chinook begin moving up the Cowlitz River.
  • Kalama River: Daily limit of two adult hatchery adult chinook or hatchery coho per day, plus up to three hatchery steelhead.
  • Klickitat River: Closed for retention of spring chinook, but open for up to three hatchery steelhead per day.
  • Lewis River: Chinook salmon retention closed until Aug. 1. Anglers can retain up to three hatchery steelhead per day and use a floating device from Johnson Creek to the overhead power lines below Merwin Dam.
  • Drano Lake: Daily limit of two hatchery chinook, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Barbless hooks required.

For more information about these fisheries, anglers should check the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet and emergency rules in these waters.

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 news release here.

Trout: Swift Reservoir is up and running after a slow June opener, while Goose Lake continues to produce beautiful rainbows and cutthroats. There are still some harvest opportunities in the lowland lakes such as Battle Ground Lake and Mineral Lake. 

Meanwhile, July is a great time to check out high lakes fishing in Lewis and Skamania counties. The fish are biting and the scenery is gorgeous. Just remember to bring your bug spray and follow the golden rule: Pack it in, pack it out.
Warmwater fish: With temperatures rising, panfish are on fire at just about every lowland lake in the region. Great starting points include Horsethief Lake and Rowland Lake (Klickitat County); Vancouver Lake and Lake River (Clark County); Kress Lake and Lake Sacajawea (Cowlitz County) and South Lewis County Park Pond and Carlisle Lake (Lewis County). 

If you fancy bass, good options include Lacamas Lake, Horsethief Lake, Rowland Lake and Carlisle Lake are good options for largemouth bass and Riffe Lake for smallmouth bass. For channel catfish, the Columbia River above and below John Day Dam is a good bet, as are Vancouver Lake and Swofford Pond. 

Rounding out the slate of warmwater opportunities, try fishing for muskie in Mayfield Lake and walleye in the Columbia River above and below John Day Dam. 

Merwin kids fishery: 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, east of Woodland. More than 100 young people and their families are expected to turn out for the 20th annual Merwin Special Kids Day, sponsored by WDFW and Pacific Power. Rods, reels, tackle and T-shirts will be provided for the young fishers to use and keep. Call 1-800-899-4421 to register.

WDFW Hunter Education staff with boy at target practice.
WDFW Hunter Education staff with boy at target practice.
Photo by Dave Whipple

Hunter Education classes: Avoid the last-minute rush and sign up now for a hunter education class. All hunters born after Jan.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.

Black bear: Hunters can start looking forward to general hunting seasons for black bear. The season opens Aug. 1 in the coastal and east Cascades zone and Aug. 15 in the south Cascades zone. More information can be found in Washington’s 2018 Big Game Hunting Season and Regulations pamphlet.

Wild fire on WDFW wildlife areas lands.
Wildfire on a WDFW wildlife area.

Fire restrictions: The arrival of hot, dry weather has prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to restrict fires and other activities beginning June 30 on agency-managed lands in eastern Washington. A new, temporary rule prohibits the following activities in wildlife areas and access areas on the east side of the state:

  • Fires or campfires, including those in fire rings, although personal camp stoves and lanterns fueled by propane, liquid petroleum, or liquid petroleum gas are allowed.
  • Smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle.
  • Welding and operating chainsaws. Operating a torch with an open flame and all equipment powered by an internal combustion engine is prohibited.
  • Operating a motor vehicle away from developed roads. Parking is permitted within designated parking areas, including developed campgrounds and trailheads; and in areas without vegetation that are within 10 feet of roadways.

Fireworks are prohibited year-round at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state. The temporary restrictions will remain in effect until conditions improve and the risk of wildfires decreases.

Free canoe trips: The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership is again offering free public canoe trips on Vancouver Lake and other area waters to promote a better understanding of the region’s rich aquatic resources. Pick up an oar and help paddle a  29-foot, 12-passenger canoe and explore area from a unique on-water perspective

Contact the partnership to register. Space is available on a first-come basis, and no previous paddling experience is necessary. The partnership provides paddles and personal flotation devices.

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