September Shows Good Prospects
September is prime time for salmon fishing on the Columbia River, as large numbers of fish move upriver and into tributaries on both sides of Bonneville Dam. Anglers fishing the lower river from Buoy 10 to the dam this season are expected to reel in nearly 32,000 fall chinook and 8,000 hatchery coho -- most of them, this month.
"Prospects are good for salmon fishing this month, but it's important to remember these fish are on the move," said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "As the month goes on, successful anglers will follow the fish upriver and into the tributaries."
The retention fishery for chinook salmon ended Aug. 28 at Buoy 10, but hatchery coho should remain strong below Rocky Point throughout the month. Even so, the prospect of catching a chinook is drawing most anglers farther upstream.
In the Woodland-to-Longview reach of the river, fishing was slow the first part of last week and had improved some by the weekend. In general, chinook catches are increasing while steelhead are tapering off.
Last week, the WDFW checked 2,515 salmonid anglers, including 628 boats, on the lower Columbia River. The catch was 264 adult and 13 jack fall chinook, 152 steelhead, and five adult and one jack coho. That translates to about one fish for every six rods.
All but a handful of the adult and jack chinook and about two-thirds of the steelhead were kept.
The heaviest fishing pressure was around Kalama and Longview.
Through Sept. 9, anglers can keep one adult chinook per day as part of their limit from Rocky Point upriver to Bonneville Dam. Anglers fishing those waters have a daily limit of six fish, including two adult salmon (chinook or hatchery coho) or hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Beginning Sept. 10, chinook retention will close from the Lewis River downstream but increase to a maximum of two adult chinook per day upriver to Bonneville Dam.
Starting Oct. 1, when most wild tules have passed, the stretch of the Columbia River below the Lewis River will also open to retention of two adult chinook per day.
"Anglers targeting chinook do best in fairly deep water -- 40 to 50 feet down," Hymer said. "Some of the best fishing for both salmon and steelhead will be at the mouth of tributaries, where the fish hold up before heading upstream."
Buoy 10: At Buoy 10 last week, boat anglers checked on the Washington side kept a hatchery coho per every nine rods.
Drano Lake: Fishing was much better at Drano Lake, a backwater of the Columbia in Skamania County, last week. The catch rate at Drano was more than one steelhead per rod.
Cowlitz River: On the Cowlitz, about half of the boat anglers got a steelhead, though no bank anglers checked had a fish.
Lewis River: On the North Fork of the Lewis, 30 bank anglers reported catching six steelies.
Ocean: In the ocean out of Ilwaco last week, 3,395 anglers caught 2,363 coho and 961 chinook, almost one fish per rod. The catch rate was similar out of Westport.
As the month progresses, salmon fishing will heat up farther upstream in the tributaries, Hymer said. He reminds anglers of several new rules that will be in effect on various rivers this season:
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