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January 2019
Region 5: Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)
Fisherman on boat holding the large sturgeon caught fishing the Columbia River.
Sturgeon caught in the Columbia River. Photo by A.J. Porter

Sturgeon: Starting Jan. 1, retention fishing for white sturgeon opened seven days a week on the three pools of the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to McNary Dam, including adjacent tributaries. However, fishery managers announced the early closure of The Dalles Pool to prevent high catch levels from exceeding the area quota.

The daily limit in all three pools is one white sturgeon per day 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 further notice. The current guideline is 325 fish, but this guideline is scheduled to be re-evaluated early next year.

  • The Dalles Pool: This area is scheduled to close for sturgeon retention fishing at the end of the day Jan. 6. Until then, anglers may retain white sturgeon measuring 43-54 inches (fork length) between The Dalles Dam and John Day Dam. The harvest guideline for The Dalles Pool is 135 white sturgeon.

  • 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 on the WDFW website. 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: After months of emergency closures, fisheries for salmon and steelhead reopen Jan. 1 throughout the lower Columbia River Basin under the rules described in the 2018-19 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. So, while the spring chinook run doesn't arrive in earnest until late March, early birds often start catching early-arriving fish later this month.

For salmon, the daily limit on the mainstem Columbia River is now two adult hatchery chinook, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each per day downstream from the Interstate 5 Bridge. The same is true in the Kalama and Deep rivers, although the daily limit on the Lewis River remains at one adult hatchery chinook per day.

For steelhead, the daily limit on most tributaries below Bonneville Dam is three hatchery fish, plus the salmon limit listed in the pamphlet for individual rivers. Only hatchery steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.

Unfortunately, preseason forecasts for spring chinook salmon are signaling a potentially difficult year for area anglers.

The 2019 pre-season forecast for Columbia River spring chinook is estimated to be 99,300 upriver adults, down from the 115,080 adults that returned in 2018. Forecasts for tributaries below Bonneville Dam – and in the Bonneville pool – show similar trends, with most being lower than actual returns from 2018.
In addition, this year’s summer chinook run is estimated at 35,900 fish, compared to a return of 42,120 last year.

“Staff will be monitoring this year’s salmon returns very closely,” said Ryan Lothrop, WDFW’s Columbia River Policy Coordinator. “Given these low projections, our first responsibility is to make sure we can meet our conservation requirements and spawning objectives during the upcoming seasons.”

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.

One highlight is Lake Sacajawea in Longview, which was planted with 640 rainbow trout running nearly a pound apiece during its second-annual Christmas Break plant. Mineral Lake also got 672 of those fish from the same hatchery. For more options, see the weekly catchable report.

Rather catch steelhead? WDFW is stocking Kress Lake with excess adult hatchery steelhead as they become available. Small in number but prodigious in size.

Meanwhile, kokanee fishing has been very good in Merwin and Yale reservoirs, but watch out for those afternoon wind changes.

Warmwater fish: If you think the warmwater fish have gone quiet, you are in for a surprise. Anglers are catching good-size crappie in Silver Lake (Cowlitz County), and bass are snapping at lures Lacamas Lake. Walleye are also being caught in the Columbia above and below John Day Dam.

Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s show: The Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show will run Feb. 6-10 in Portland with several new features, speakers, and exhibitors this year. Check out the newest hunting and fishing gear, boats, apparel, art, food, seminars, and much more! Stop by and visit with WDFW staff at our exhibit in the boat hall. Visit the show’s website for event details.

Group of duck hunters posing with day's harvest.
Shillapoo duck hunters. Photo by Eric Holman

Waterfowl: Most big-game hunts are closed for the year, but waterfowl seasons run through Jan. 27 in most areas. An exception is Goose Management Area 2, which will is open for geese in specific counties though Feb. 9. The rules are outlined in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet.

Mandatory hunter reporting: Hunters are required to report their hunting activity by Jan. 31, 2019 for each special permit acquired and each deer, elk, bear, cougar, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey tag they purchased last year. Those who do not meet the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can buy another license. Those who report by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for a special incentive permit. See the Big Game Hunting Pamphlet for more information.

Hunt reports may be filed by phone at 877-945-3492 or on the WDFW website. Hunters should be prepared to note the game management unit they hunted and their individual WILD identification number, which is printed on license documents. Whether reporting online or over the phone, hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report.

Spring bear permit applications: The application period for special spring bear hunting permits begins Jan. 2 and runs through February. Details are on the 2019 Spring Black Bear Special Permit Hunts webpage.

Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s show: The Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show will run Feb. 6-10 in Portland with several new features, speakers, and exhibitors this year. Check out the newest hunting and fishing gear, boats, apparel, art, food, seminars, and much more! Stop by and visit with WDFW staff at our exhibit in the boat hall. Visit the show’s website for event details.

Geese standing in water at river's edge.
Photo by Larry Jordan

Snow Geese in Clark County: Thousands of snow geese are now on display in the Vancouver Lowlands. One observer reported seeing 2,000 geese feeding on corn stubble in that area, attracting bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and other raptors. While conducting a waterfowl survey in the area, a team of WDFW wildlife biologists spotted a “blue goose” among a gaggle of white geese. While considered rare, blue-morph snow geese are becoming more common in southwest Washington as the snow goose population continues to grow. Blue geese have bluish-grey plumage, except on the head, neck and tail tip.

Eagles on Klickitat River: 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.

“The best time to observe the eagles is earlier in the day, rather than later in the evening,” according to the Klickitat Trail Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the trail. “Be sure to wear warm clothing and bring binoculars and a camera.”

First Day Hikes: Washington State Parks invites the public to start the new year off with a First Day Hike on Jan. 1 at more than three dozen state parks, including Beacon Rock State Park, Lake Sylvia State Park, and Cape Disappointment State Park. “These hikes are a fitting way to cap off the holidays,” said Don Hoch, state parks director. “They offer something for every fitness level and interest, including guided hikes with rangers, snowshoe treks, and fat bike rides.” Jan. 1 is also the first of 12 “free days” – Jan. 15 is another – when visitors will not need to display the Discover Pass to gain access to state parks.

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