The Fishing Corner: Wave of river closures set to begin late February

The Fishing Corner

By Larry Dublanko

We are at the start of what will be a series of river closures. This measure assures safe spawning water for migrating fish. These closures will affect the smaller rivers and some portions of the larger ones as well.

Whereas rivers have closed to salmon fishing, they (in many cases) have remained open to steelhead fishing. The actual closures will now affect all fishing until they reopen later in the 2019 season.

So, the next wave of closures will lie the last day of February. Those streams in our area that will be impacted by this ruling are the Salmon River, Wishkah River, Hoquiam River, Johns River and Stevens Creek just to name of few. A full list of those rivers closing at the end of February are listed in the Washington State Sports Rule pamphlet. These closures signal the fact that before the 2018-19 season will be in the history books.

The next waves of closures occur in mid-March, then the end of March, mid-April and in some cases the end of April. There are some year round river fisheries in Western Washington to entice anglers. A few include the Cowlitz River, Kalama River and Columbia River. Each of these rivers may have a season within a season, so anglers will need to pay close attention to where they actually wet a line on these waterways.

It goes without saying, the year round fisheries are greatly enhanced with proper water vessels. Boats geared for these waterways actually make catching fish a reality rather than a fishing outing. Add to the equation, anglers need to be prepared to do some traveling. These trips will take the entire day and maybe more.

The next consideration at this time in the season is the availability of hatchery steelhead. We are definitely in the time frame when wild steelhead start their migratory move. Anglers will need to sort out their catches and release wild fish. The state of Washington has become a hatchery only fishery, except for some isolated cases, in recent years.

It would be a good idea to fish rivers that are served by steelhead hatcheries. These streams will give the best chance of late hatchery steelhead arrivals. Of course, these fish should have put on an extra pound or two since they have been exposed to feeding opportunities in the ocean for a longer period of time than their earlier arrivals. There is something to be said about being in the right place at the right time.

The cold snap we have experienced over the past month does nothing to deter the productivity of steelheading. Except, however, with the fisher themselves. Pushing through the past cold winter conditions does two things. First of all, it doesn’t diminish the chances of hooking fish. Secondly, it gives anglers more uncontested water. I say this because cold conditions tend to limit the activity of anglers.

As we close out this season, anglers will also need to be aware of the Selective Gear Rule and where it applies. This matter becomes more of an issue at this time of the season.