No need to wait until spring to catch fish, observe wildlife
Temperatures are warming, birds are singing and the lower Columbia River will soon be teeming with spring chinook salmon. Spring is still a ways off, but February offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
State fishery managers expect a return of 166,700 upriver adult spring chinook to return to the Columbia River this year. The fishery is open now below the Interstate 5 Bridge, but it usually doesn’t catch fire until March.
Meanwhile, there are several other great fisheries and outdoor events available this month including:
- Blackmouth salmon: Several marine areas of Puget Sound are open to fishing for blackmouth chinook salmon.
- Razor clams: An evening dig continues Feb. 1-3. For details, check the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html. Later this month, shellfish managers expect to announce an additional schedule of digs.
- Rainbow trout: Anglers have had success fishing for trout at numerous lakes on both sides of the Cascades.
- Sport shows: A trio of sportsmen's shows are scheduled in the coming weeks, including the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show, Feb. 7-11 in Portland; the Central Washington Sportsmen Show, Feb. 16-18 in Yakima; and the Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen Show, Feb. 23-25 in Wenatchee. WDFW will have booths at all three events.
- Great Backyard Bird Count: Birders of all levels of experience are invited to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tallies, by species, online at http://gbbc.birdcount.org/. Participants can conduct their count Feb. 16-19 in their own backyards, in neighborhood parks or anywhere they choose.
For more information about these and other opportunities to enjoy Washington's great outdoors, see the Weekender Regional Reports posted on WDFW's website. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide current information about recreational opportunities around the state.Region 1: Eastern Washington
Lake Roosevelt: Randy Osborne, WDFW’s central district fish biologist in Spokane, says rainbow trout fishing has been hit or miss lately for both boat and shore anglers at Lake Roosevelt, the biggest Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam that stretches along the Lincoln-Ferry and Ferry-Stevens county line in the northeast district. Kokanee catches have been the same, he says, decent for the anglers who find groups of fish and disappointing for others.
Osborne reminds Lake Roosevelt boaters that February weather conditions can be unpredictable and launches may be unusable or even closed due to ice. Check conditions first with the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area at 509-754-7800.
Shore fishing is available at many access points, from Spring Canyon to Seven Bays to Hunters and beyond. Osborne says if you haven’t already, check out the Winter Bank Fishing for Trout at Lake Roosevelt video.
Osborne also reminds anglers that Lake Roosevelt’s rainbow trout rules are designed to protect wild, native red-band rainbows. It’s a five-fish daily catch limit (not including kokanee), but anglers must release any trout with an intact adipose fin from Grand Coulee Dam to the Little Dalles power line crossing. Only hatchery-produced trout, marked with a clipped adipose fin, can be retained. The same rule is in effect on Lake Roosevelt’s Spokane Arm and Sanpoil Arm. The Sanpoil Arm area (boundary A to boundary B) is described under Sanpoil River on page 67 of the rules pamphlet.
The part of Lake Roosevelt from the Little Dalles power line crossing to the Canadian border has a daily catch limit of two trout (marked hatchery or unmarked wild), with a minimum size of 18 inches.
Year-round-open waters: Some of the region’s year-round-open waters have been fishing well through the ice this winter, although recent unseasonably high temperatures may change that to open-water fishing. Anglers are encouraged to be cautious and follow Ice Fishing Safety guidelines.
North Spokane County’s Eloika Lake has been producing decent numbers of 8-inch-plus yellow perch, as well as some largemouth bass and black crappie. Anglers should remember that there is a 9-inch minimum size and 10-fish daily catch limit on black crappie at this lake.
Silver Lake in southwest Spokane County has been decent for numerous yellow perch, although the fish are small – six inches or less.
Lake Spokane (Long Lake) has been producing decent catches of yellow perch and rainbow trout up to 17 inches.
Stevens County’s Waitts Lake isn’t actually open year-round, but almost. Open since last April, Waitts closes at the end of February, so this month is the last chance to catch both trout and perch there, at least until it re-opens again this April.
Yellow perch fishing has been hot this winter at year-round Curlew Lake near Republic in Ferry County.
Year-round Blue and Spring lakes, impoundments off the Tucannon River on the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, are both ice free and anglers continue to catch hatchery-stocked rainbow trout in each lake.
Winter-only trout lakes: Fourth of July Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line, is open through March and has been providing fair fishing, at least off and on. WDFW Central District Fish Biologist Randy Osborne notes that as February advances and winter conditions fluctuate, ice may or may not be safe at any given time. Anglers need to check conditions carefully before venturing out on ice. Osborne also reminds anglers that the daily catch limit at Fourth of July is five trout but only two over 14 inches may be retained.
Also open through March is Hatch Lake, southeast of Colville in Stevens County. It’s been producing rainbows in the 12- to 14-inch range through the ice when safe. Hatch has a five-trout daily catch limit with no size restrictions.
Anglers are reminded that both Hog Canyon Lake in Spokane County and Williams Lake in Stevens County, which are on the same winter-only season, do not have fishing this season because they were treated with rotenone earlier this fall to remove non-trout species. Both will be re-stocked with trout this spring and will provide fishing starting with next season’s opener on Nov. 23.
Anglers are encouraged to be cautious and follow Ice Fishing Safety guidelines.
Southeast rivers/steelhead: The Snake River is open from the mouth of the river (Burbank to Pasco railroad bridge) to the Washington/Oregon state line. The daily catch limit is two hatchery steelhead with some sections also limiting harvest to hatchery fish less than 28 inches in length. The details of all Snake River steelhead rules are in the rule change that went into effect in November.
Jeremy Trump, WDFW southeast district fish biologist, says that with a few warm days and snow melt, anglers could see fish moving into Snake River tributaries like the Walla Walla, Touchet, and the lower Grande Ronde rivers, and into the Tucannon River. As of Feb. 1, the daily catch limit in those rivers increased from two to three hatchery-marked (those with clipped adipose fins) steelhead. The rule change was made to help remove excess hatchery steelhead returning to the region.
Also as of Feb. 1 and through April 15, fishing is extended on the Tucannon River downstream of the Tucannon Hatchery Bridge. This fishery was scheduled to close Feb. 28, but the rule change was made to also help address excess hatchery steelhead. Anglers must retain hatchery steelhead caught, but barbless hooks are required to be able to release other species. Fishing is closed on the Tucannon River from the hatchery bridge upstream.
Region 2: Northcentral Washington
(Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties)
Year-round-open waters: Kokanee fishing on Lake Chelan in Chelan County continues to be a good bet, with anglers reporting catches of 12- to 14-inch fish. “I think the mild winter we’ve had may be playing a role in the willingness of anglers to be out targeting these fish,” said Travis Maitland, WDFW district fish biologist in Leavenworth.
Other year-round open waters expected to produce this month include Chelan County’s Fish Lake and Roses Lake. “Fish Lake has good catches of yellow perch with most in the 10- to 12-inch range,” Maitland said.“Roses Lake is producing 11- to 13-inch rainbow trout from our stocking last fall.”
With recent warmer temperatures, Maitland says both lakes have a good layer of slush on questionably safe ice, so anglers need to be very careful and followIce Fishing Safety guidelines.
In Okanogan County, WDFW District Fish Biologist Ryan Fortier reports ice fishing continues to be productive at some year-round open lakes.
“Patterson Lake near Winthrop has featured easy limits of 10- to 13-inch kokanee with many anglers limiting in one or two hours in the mornings,” Fortier said. “Yellow perch has been the other large draw with anglers finding success in waters less than 20-feet deep.”
Fortier says use of Leader Lake near Omak has been down with heavy snow making access from the highway more challenging. But anglers are finding success within 50 yards of the boat launch and the ADA fishing platform.
“The ice at Palmer Lake near Loomis is not as thick as last winter,” he said, “but local anglers are still finding the yellow perch as plentiful as ever.”
Bonaparte Lake near Tonasket has seen less fishing this winter, with many local anglers electing to make the longer trip to Curlew Lake – near Republic in Ferry County – for its currently hot yellow perch fishery, Fortier reports. “On some weekdays, an angler could have all the scenic beauty and ripe kokanee of Bonaparte Lake all to him or herself,” he said.
Fortier reminds winter anglers to evaluate the safety of the ice each fishing trip. Be cautious, especially with this winter’s early warming trends, and follow Ice Fishing Safety guidelines.
Fishing at Banks Lake, the Columbia River reservoir above Coulee City on the Grant-Douglas county line, is slow, according to WDFW Fish Biologist Aulin Smith.
“A few rainbow trout have been caught around the north end of the lake by anglers plunking,” Smith said. “Whitefish are mostly being caught after dark with vertical presentations and lots of hours of fishing. Some anglers have been finding a few walleye, fishing slow and deep.”
Smith says the Coulee Playland boat launch on Banks is open but anglers will hit ice just a couple of miles down the lake. The Northrup launch is open and allows access to the main lake. The primitive mid-lake launches are also open and so is the lake from there. The rest of the launches are currently ice locked. “Be careful and watch for ice and daily-changing conditions on Banks Lake,” he said.
River whitefish: Fishing for whitefish continues through March on the Methow and Similkameen rivers in Okanogan County with catch rates improving as water temperatures slowly rise.
Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen Show: WDFW staff will be on hand Feb. 23-25 at the 5th annual Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen Show at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee to talk about the latest in hunting and fishing.
Region 3: Southcentral Washington
(Benton, Franklin, Kittitas and Yakima counties)
Sturgeon: The McNary Pool (also known as Lake Wallula) opens Feb. 1 for retention of one legal-size fish a day, drawing anglers from throughout the region. The fishery extends from McNary Dam upstream to Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia River and upstream to Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River.
Only sturgeon measuring 43-54 inches from their snout to the fork in their tail may be retained, with an annual harvest limit of two fish. Only fish that are going to be kept may be removed from the water.
Steelhead: Fishing for steelhead is still open on the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the river upstream to the wooden powerline towers at the old Hanford townsite. The daily limit is two hatchery steelhead from Buoy 10 upstream to the Hwy. 395 bridge at Pasco/Kennewick, and one hatchery steelhead upstream of the Hwy. 395 bridge.
The Snake River is also open from the mouth of the river (Burbank to Pasco railroad bridge) to the Washington/Oregon state line. Daily limit in the Snake River is two hatchery steelhead with some sections also limiting harvest to hatchery fish less than 28 inches in length measured from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail. The rules for the Snake River can be found here. With a few warm days and snow melt, anglers could see fish moving into tributaries like the Walla Walla, Touchet, the lower Grand Ronde River, and Tucannon, downstream of the Tucannon Hatchery bridge. Daily limit in February is three hatchery steelhead in these areas, but some restrictions apply. Visit our rule change page for full details.
Walleye: Fishing has been very good so far this winter, and there’s always a chance of catching a lunker. WDFW Biologist Paul Hoffarth said some of the largest walleye of the year are boated during the winter months near the Tri-Cities – including the 20.3-pound state record taken in Lake Wallula four years ago. The Oregon record, just shy of 20 pounds, was taken on Lake Umatilla during the winter of 1990.
Sports Show: Anglers and hunters who want to get prepped for the seasons ahead might want to drop by the Central Washington Sportsmen Show, running Feb. 16-18 at the Yakima SunDome. WDFW will have a booth at the show, which will also feature plenty of outdoor gear, a fly-casting pool, and experts on topics ranging from fly fishing to elk bugling.
Region 4: North Puget Sound
(Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties)
Puget Sound Salmon: Marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gamble), and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) are scheduled to reopen to salmon fishing beginning Feb. 16 as announced in an emergency rule. Once the area is open, anglers will have a daily limit of one salmon, but must release wild chinook and coho.
Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) remain open for salmon fishing in February. Anglers fishing in Marine Area 10 can now keep two hatchery chinook, but must release wild chinook and wild coho.
Anglers can check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with WDFW collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout the Sound.
Squid: Winter is a great time to jig for squid in Puget Sound. Squid fishing is a fun group activity that is easy to learn and doesn't require a boat. Good spots include the Elliott Bay Pier in Seattle and the Edmonds Pier. More information is available on WDFW's squid fishing webpage.
Region 5: Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)
Trout: A number of lakes will close to trout fishing in late February, so now is the time to catch some trout if the spirit moves you. To support the winter fishery, WDFW recently planted catchable-size rainbow trout in lakes around the region. Klineline Pond and Battle Ground Lake are the frontrunners in the harvest of those fish, although Kress Lake is also producing some nice catches. For more options, see the Catchable Trout Plant Reports on WDFW’s website.
Meanwhile, Merwin Reservoir has been giving up a lot of good-size kokanee. Due to recent rains, the reservoir has been touch-and-go in terms of clarity, so make sure you check on water conditions before you go.
Winter steelhead: Fishing has generally been slow on Columbia River tributaries. The daily limit for adult steelhead on most area rivers is three marked hatchery fish. Barbless hooks are required, and any steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be released. In addition, anglers must keep the first three hatchery steelhead they catch.
Sturgeon: Anglers have a limited number of days to catch and keep white sturgeon on the Columbia River this month. The retention fishery is set to close effective Feb. 4 from Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam. Retention fishing will also end Feb. 12 from the John Day Dam to McNary Dam. Those and other waters of the Columbia will remain open for catch-and-release fishing.
Smelt: State fishery managers have delayed setting a recreational smelt-fishing season on the Cowlitz River until they can better gauge the size of this year’s run. Current projections indicate that the 2018 run will be smaller than last year’s run, but a limited gillnet research survey scheduled this month could show otherwise. If commercial catch figures average 250 pounds per delivery, fishery managers may consider opening a recreational fishery.
Spring chinook: The fishery is now open below the Interstate 5 Bridge, with a daily limit of two hatchery adult chinook per day. Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon will meet Feb. 21 to set the fishing season after March, when the fishery really comes alive. “Now 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 WDFW fish biologist.
Kalama boat launch: Anglers should be aware that the Port of Kalama will begin a major renovation project at the marina this month that will eventually affect use of the facility. The port expects to close the boat launch and fuel dock from mid-April until the end of May. Updates are available at www.portofkalama.com under the “contact” tab.
Warmwater fish: The bite is picking up for walleye preparing to spawn in The Dalles and John Day pools. Lake Sacajawea has been producing some nice panfish, and Silver Lake is doing great for yellow perch east of the WDFW boat launch.
Sportsmen’s Show: Anglers and hunters who want to get prepped for the seasons ahead might want to drop by the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show running Feb. 7-11 at the Portland Expo Center. The annual event features plenty of gear, along with an indoor steelhead river, a kids’ trout pond, survival training and lots more.
Region 6: South Sound/Olympic Peninsula
(Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Thurston and Pacific counties)
Razor clams: State shellfish managers have approved a dig through Feb. 3 on the following beaches, dates and evening low tides:
- Feb. 1, Thursday, 7:17 p.m.; -1.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- Feb. 2, Friday, 8:00 p.m.; -1.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- Feb. 3, Saturday, 8:42 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger's clams must be kept in a separate container.
All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2017-18 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available online and from license vendors around the state.
Shellfish managers plan to announce a tentative schedule for upcoming digs later this month.
For updates on upcoming openings, see WDFW's razor clam website.
Puget Sound Salmon: Marine areas 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (south Sound) remain open for salmon fishing in February.
Anglers fishing in Marine Area 10 can keep two hatchery chinook, per an emergency rule, but must release wild chinook and wild coho. The same daily limit and restrictions apply in areas 11 and 13. In Marine Area 12, anglers can keep two salmon but must release wild chinook.
Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) is scheduled to re-open to salmon fishing beginning Feb. 16 as announced in an emergency rule. Once the area is open, anglers will have a daily limit of one salmon, but must release wild chinook and coho.
Anglers can check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with WDFW collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout the Sound.
Steelhead: The run of hatchery steelhead is winding down in the northern rivers, but anglers can still find late-run hatchery steelhead to the south in the Skookumchuck, Satsop, Wynoochee and mainstem Chehalis rivers.
Information on weekly steelhead catches in the Quillayute River system and the Hoh River are available on WDFW’s website.
Squid: Winter is prime time to jig for squid in Puget Sound. Good spots include the Des Moines pier, Edmonds pier, Point Defiance and Les Davis piers in Tacoma, and the Illahee State Park, Waterman and Indianola piers in Kitsap County. More information is available on the department’s squid fishing webpage. Information on fishing piers is available here.
Trout: Another option is to head to a local lake and hook some trout. Best bets include American Lake in Pierce County; Saint Clair and Black lakes in Thurston County; Leland Lake in Jefferson County; Kitsap Lake in Kitsap County; and Spencer Lake in Mason County. Before heading out, anglers should check WDFW’s sportfishing regulations pamphlet for details.