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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

December 22, 2010 at 2:57 PM

Fishing choices over the holidays are bountiful

We all need a break from the recent wind and rain whipped storms that have pounded the Evergreen state and with that mayhem in our rearview mirrors for the most part, now is the perfect time to get out and enjoy pretty decent fishing action.

On the hatchery winter steelhead fishing scene many anglers are saying the “bite” in some local rivers and streams has been the best seen in years.

“The Skykomish at Reiter Ponds is pretty consistent and is steadily putting out catches of fish all day long,” said Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood. “We’ve gotten good reports from the Snoqualmie out of the Big Eddy-Fall City area. Also we’ve had fair reports from the Cascade, but the water got low and clear so now the focus is more on the Upper Skagit River itself.”

Chamberlain says the North Fork Stillaguamish River, which recently reopened for steelhead after meeting spawning escapement needs has been ho-hum to say the least with just a few fish coming out of the Fortson area.

Surprisingly (well not really) the Humptulips River is known to give up some early winter coho and fishing has been fairly good in recent days.

The Three Rivers Marine and Tackle Hatchery Steelhead Derby is happening now through Jan. 15 with 50 hatchery steelhead weighed-in. The largest is a 16 pound-11 ounce fish caught on the Snoqualmie River by a young kid. Details: 425-415-1575.

Other “go to” rivers are the Skykomish around Sultan; Snoqualmie at Tokul Creek; and the Cascade, Wallace, Pilchuck and Green.

On the northern Olympic coast, the highlight is the excellent fishing happening right in front of the hatchery on the Bogachiel River where gobs of “brats” are coming in wave after wave.

In southwest Washington, despite some lousy visibility in the waters of the Cowlitz River anglers were still catching some coho at the salmon hatchery with winter steelhead being banked at the trout hatchery.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 2,838 coho adults, 45 jacks, one fall Chinook adult, 295 winter-run steelhead and eight sea-run cutthroat trout in the Cowlitz during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 339 coho adults and eight jacks into Lake Scanewa, 405 coho adults, seven jacks and three winter-run steelhead in the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellowjacket Creek, 561 coho adults, eleven jacks and five winter-run steelhead into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, and 150 coho adults, nine jacks, four winter-run steelhead and two cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,880 cubic feet per second on Monday, Dec. 20.

By permanent regulation on the Lower Cowlitz, the salmon daily limit reverts back to no more than two adults beginning Jan. 1. Only hatchery chinook and hatchery coho may be retained. Also, Mill Creek near the salmon hatchery closed to all fishing the same day.

The Kalama River fishing conditions were less than optimal thus nobody is going there and what for since the Cowlitz is still the place to be. By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit will be six hatchery chinook of which no more than pne may be a adult beginning Jan. 1.

Otherwise the next best thing is the Lewis River mainstem and North Fork where fishing was fair to good for steelhead. Flows below Merwin Dam are currently near the long term mean of 8,230 cfs for this date. By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit will be six hatchery chinook of which no more than one may be a adult beginning Jan. 1.

The Deep River by permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit reverts back to no more than two adults beginning Jan. 1. In addition, all chinook must be adipose fin clipped to be kept.

In the Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam, state Fish and Wildlife sampled eight bank and four boat anglers (two boats) with no catch. Under permanent regulations from I-5 Bridge downstream to Buoy 10 release all salmon other than hatchery chinook beginning Jan. 1.

Under permanent rules, Dec. 31 is the last day to fish for salmon on the mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco and the Elochoman, Grays, Tilton, and Washougal rivers plus Drano and Mayfield lakes.

In Eastern Washington, fishing expert Dave Graybill says steelhead fishing on the Upper Columbia continues to be very productive. Graybill fished with former state Fish and Wildlife director Rollie Schmitten of Lake Wenatchee for an afternoon’s fishing off the mouth of the Entiat River. Schmitten had a hot tip that the fishing here can be very good at times and neither one of them had ever tried this area.

They launched at the park above the mouth and motored the short distance to the bar that spreads out just below the Highway 97A Bridge. They dropped anchor and began casting. Schmitten was tossing a Maxi Jig below his bobber and Graybill had grabbed a rod that had a black and red Rocky Dancer on it. Both had been on station for about 20 minutes when Schmitten’s bobber went down and a small wild steelhead was brought to the boat and released. About 20 minutes later Graybill’s bobber went down and he hooked and released a very bright, wild 7-pounder.

After that the action died. Schmitten said that something seemed to change, and he was right, the current went dead. Just like other productive steelhead spots on the Columbia, when the current falls off, so does the bite.

On the marine fishing scene, not only has the winter Dungeness crab season been excellent, but the hatchery chinook bite in central Puget Sound has crawled out of its slump to produce some decent action.

“We got tossed around like a rag doll with the west winds (Wednesday) off Richmond Beach,” said Pete Sergeef with the state Fish and Wildlife test fishery boat.

But on Tuesday, Sergeef reported good fishing at Presidents Point where they hooked three legal-sized fish (hatchery chinook longer than 22-inches) and lost a couple. For the month of December, the test boat has caught 15 legal fish for 11 trips.

Places that have picked up are Elger Bay in Saratoga Passage, Jefferson Head, Point Monroe (14 pounder was caught on Sunday) and Kingston. Also try Southworth, Allen Bank off Blake Island and Manchester.

The San Juan Islands remains the most consistent for hatchery chinook in the Rosario Strait area off the west side of Cypress Island, Hein Bank, Salmon Bank, Parker Reef, Fidalgo Head near Anacortes and Guemes Channel.

“Crabbing been very good in Kingston-Apple Tree Cove Area and in Areas 9 and 10 fishing deep in the 100 to 125 foot range and on the edge of drop offs,” Chamberlain said. “Nobody is complaining about the quantity or quality of crabs which some are 7- to 7 ½-inches. Squid jigging is also decent in most squid areas, and overall this winter I would have to say it has been better overall than what we’ve seen the last couple seasons.”

Dungeness crabbing is allowed daily through Jan. 2 in open areas of Puget Sound, Hood Canal, Neah Bay, Sekiu and Port Angeles.

Squid jigging is good at night off piers at Edmonds, Illahee State Park, Brownsville, Shilshole, Mukilteo, Des Moines, Redondo, and in Elliott Bay off the Seacrest Pier in West Seattle and Pier 86 near the grain terminal off Elliott Avenue in Seattle.

The clam season reopens at Belfair State Park in Mason County on Hood Canal from Jan. 1 until further notice. Surveys show the clam population will support a year-round harvest, and oyster season also remains open year-round in the park’s designated portion.

The next coastal razor clam dig is Dec. 31 (low tide is 0.0 feet at 3:40 p.m.) and Jan. 1 (minus-0.4 feet at 4:31 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; and Jan. 2 (-0.7 at 5:18 p.m.) at Twin Harbors.

Those looking for some freshwater fishing action can look no further than the backyard of Seattle on Lakes Washington and Sammamish where good reports for cutthroat trout have been coming out. Try trolling lead core line with a needlefish lure or small cut-plug herring or Wiggle Wart off a downrigger.

Fairly good for lake trout on Lake Chelan. Try Rufus Woods for large triploid trout.

Roses Lake near Lake Chelan got a plant of 17,000 trout, and is a worth a try before it freezes over. Lacamas Lake near Camas was planted with 8,500 trout. Rowland Lake near Bingen was planted with 130 trout averaging 4 to 7-plus pounds.

Black and Offutt lakes in Thurston County, and Kitsap Lake in Kitsap County were planted with rainbows, but no recent reports.

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