Temperatures are warming, birds are singing and soon spring chinook salmon will be moving into the lower Columbia River in large numbers. Spring is still a ways off, but February offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
Pre-season projections anticipate a strong run of 308,000 adult spring chinook to the Columbia River this year, up significantly from last year’s return of 195,200 fish. Salmon fishing is open now below the Interstate 5 bridge, but it usually doesn’t catch fire until March when the fishery expands upriver to Bonneville Dam and beyond.
Barbless hooks are required, and anglers must release any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin.
“This is a good time to dust off your gear, order your bait, prepare your boat and maybe do a little prospecting,” said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “You want to be ready to go when the bulk of the run arrives.”
For more information about the coming spring chinook season, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/jan2914a/.
State fishery managers also point to several other promising fishing opportunities available this month:
• Rainbow trout: Anglers fishing Lake Roosevelt in northeast Washington have been reeling in lots of rainbows averaging 15 to 17 inches. Many other lakes open to trout fishing lakes are also filling catch limits throughout the state.
• Blackmouth salmon: Most areas of Puget Sound are open – or will be opening – to fishing for blackmouth chinook salmon this month. Waters around the San Juan Islands are usually the most productive for blackmouth, most weighing in at 6 to 10 pounds.
• Whitefish: February is the prime time to catch whitefish in several rivers near Yakima. The daily limit is 15 whitefish, often served smoked.
• Razor clams: The month opens with a razor clam dig at several ocean beaches. A dig is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 26-28, provided marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. For updates, check the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.
• Squid: This is also prime time to jig for squid in Puget Sound. Good spots include the Elliot Bay Pier in Seattle, the Edmonds Pier, Point Defiance Park Pier in Tacoma and the Indianola Pier in Kitsap County.
Anglers and hunters eager to gear up for seasons ahead will have several good chances to do so at a trio of sportsmen’s shows this month. They include the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show, taking place now through this coming Sunday in Portland; the Central Washington Sportsmen Show next weekend, Feb. 14-16, in Yakima; and the Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen Show the weekend of Feb. 21-23 in Wenatchee.
WDFW will have booths at all three shows, which also feature fly-casting pools, trophy displays and experts on topics ranging from fly fishing to elk bugling.
For more information about fishing and other opportunities available this month, see the Weekender Regional Reports posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide current information about recreational opportunities around the state.