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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Hunting and Fishing

Alan Liere, Correspondent The Spokesman-Review

Salmon and steelhead

Summer chinook salmon fishing in the Brewster/Bridgeport area continues to be good, with fish averaging 12 to 15 pounds. Trolling with herring has been most effective.

The Columbia River Hanford Reach fall chinook salmon fishery may be slow going, said Jim Cummins, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, probably because high water temperatures are delaying upstream migration.

The Snake River system steelhead harvest season opens Thursday with a daily catch limit of three. With lower flows in the Snake’s tributaries, the big fish may be holed up in the mainstem. Steelhead are being caught wherever fresh, cold water is coming in, such as at the mouth of the Clearwater River near Lewiston.

The coastal salmon season has finally hit its stride. Anglers fishing off Westport have averaged nearly 1.4 salmon per rod – mostly chinook – with Ilwaco and LaPush not far behind. At Neah Bay, anglers have averaged about a half a coho per rod – and one pink salmon for every three rods. Starting Tuesday, salmon fishing at Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) will be open seven days a week.

Though the run is late, salmon fishing near Buoy 10 started to come alive this week. One good sign is that more than 2,500 adult chinook salmon were tallied last Sunday at Bonneville Dam, the highest count of the summer season.

Thousands of pink salmon have pushed through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, keeping anglers busy throughout most of Puget Sound. At such popular fishing spots as “Humpy Hollow” and “Shipwreck,” catch rates have bested a fish per rod. Schools of coho are following close behind.

While primarily a pink show, a few kings and early hatchery coho salmon have bolstered fish counts at boat launches throughout the San Juan Islands. Productive terminal tackle included the favorites of a small hot pink imitation squid tied to a 24-inch leader behind a white flasher and trolled at various depths, or casting small pink lures to fish that are swimming near the surface.

Beach anglers on Whidbey Island can find plenty of action for pinks – and the occasional coho – at Bush Point, Fort Casey and Lagoon Point. Fishing has picked up significantly in marine areas 8-1 and 8-2, with pink salmon providing the bulk of the bite. Boaters and beach fisherman are doing well casting the usual assortment of Buzz Bombs, Rotators and Phish lures.

Freshwater salmon-fishing opportunities are picking up, particularly on rivers with healthy pink salmon runs. At the top of that list is the Snohomish River system, which is expected to see the largest return of humpies in the state this year. The peak time for fishing in the Snohomish is mid-September.

Drano Lake steelhead are still coming in at a catch rate of about three-quarters a fish per rod. Lewis, Wind and White Salmon rivers are also still producing some summer steelhead, although a growing number of anglers have begun to target fall chinook where streams flow into the Bonneville Pool. Nearly 120,000 steelhead counted to date at Bonneville Dam have not yet crossed The Dalles Dam. Many of those fish are probably seeking relief in the cooler water of the tributaries until the mainstem Columbia cools down.

Trout and kokanee

White’s Fly Shop’s Barry Pipella reported excellent hopper fishing on the St. Joe River above Avery. He suggests any big stimulator pattern would fish well.

Kokanee fishing remains good at Loon Lake in southern Stevens County. A typical night of kokanee fishing also yields an average of two rainbow per angler, some running 18 inches, but most around 10.

WDFW fish biologist Jeff Korth reported that 15- to 17-inch kokanee can still be caught at Banks Lake, and Lake Roosevelt is producing kokanee and rainbow trout.

Williams Lake in southwest Spokane County and Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County have been surprisingly productive throughout the hot weather, and cutthroat trout are especially good at Marshall Lake in Pend Oreille County.

Spiny ray

The water level on Potholes Reservoir continues to drop and boating in the sand dunes is restricted to the main channels. Improved fishing action has been reported from all over with the lowering levels and cooling nights. Trollers are catching walleye and crappie just outside the dune area on the underwater humps using plugs or spinners and night crawlers trolled.

The sturgeon bite in Hells Canyon has not been good, reported Tim Johnson of FishHawk Guides in Clarkston, who also said smallmouth fishing has been erratic.

Hayden Lake largemouth fishing has been excellent at midday, with many fish to 3 pounds taking drop shot rigs.

Other species

All crabbing areas are open – either four or seven days per week – plus the entire Labor Day weekend.

Night fishing at Sprague Lake is yielding channel catfish, reported WDFW district fish biologist Chris Donley of Spokane. “The successful anglers there aren’t revealing what they’re using, but I suspect they’re catching them on shrimp and other baits,” he said.

Hunting

Early archery whitetail and mule deer hunting season opens Thursday, and early archery elk hunting opens Sept. 8 in many of the region’s game management units. Those planning to hunt the Blue Mountains should avoid the north half of the Tucannon unit (GMU 166) where the “School Fire” burned, as access to those areas could still be restricted. WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area is accessible via the Tucannon River Road, but campgrounds remain closed to overnight use.

The two-week dove season, which opens Thursday, could be a bust if cold fronts move in to the area and push doves from the region, noted WDFW regional wildlife program manager Kevin Robinette. It appears that these migratory birds are already bunching up in preparation for heading south. If they do, the Columbia Basin could be the place to go. Warmer conditions combined with large waterways and grain fields there usually hold doves longer than other eastside areas.

The forest grouse season also opens Thursday. Northeastern Washington and North Idaho have ruffed and blue grouse, which likely will be found near riparian areas and springs. To the south, ruffed grouse populations should be good along waterways such as the upper Tucannon, Touchet, Coppei and Pataha, but hunters need to plan around access restrictions from the wildfire damage. The Okanogan district should be a good bet for blue, ruffed and spruce grouse.

Black bear hunting opens Sept. 6 in the northeast (GMUs 101-117), where the population is one of the healthiest in the state, and in the Blue Mountains.

Young hunters who have yet to complete the required Hunter Education training can register through Sunday for a special “Jamboree” course, Sept. 9-11 at Camp Cowles Boy Scout Camp on Diamond Lake in Pend Oreille County. Register with Hunter Education instructor Greg Koehn in Newport, (509) 447-2604, state Hunter Education Coordinator Chuck Ray in Ephrata, (509) 754-4624, or in person at the General Store or Sharp Shooting Range in Spokane.

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