People fish for different reasons. Some fish for the food. If they can’t keep and eat what they catch they probably wouldn’t fish. Others fish just for the fun of it. The challenge of enticing a fish to bite and utilizing the skills needed to land it is enough to make fishing worthwhile for them. And yet others may go fishing just to get away. Being in peaceful, beautiful surroundings is their reason to go fishing.
For some of us, fishing is a combination of those things and more.
And, while everyone has their own reason for fishing, most have their own favorite type of fish to try to catch. Here in Washington we are lucky because of the variety of different types of fish available to anglers. Just in Central Washington alone we have catfish, crappie, walleye, bass, trout, steelhead, perch, salmon, sturgeon, bluegill, shad, kokanee, burbot and more.
Not that I have fished for all of them. Because I haven’t. I’ve never fished for burbot. These fresh water ling cod are deep, cold water fish and it seems like the best time to fish for them is in the dead of winter. If I’m outdoors during a cold winter day I am usually hunting ducks or something. Not that I am against burbot fishing, because I’m usually game for anything, it’s just I know a lot more about setting decoys than a I do trot lines.
Catfishing is another thing I haven’t done much of. I have caught a few catfish but they have always come incidentally, while I was fishing for bass or walleye. Actually, I know a few people who fish for catfish quite a bit. They love to catch catfish and they really love to eat them. You don’t hear that much about it but catfishing in the Snake, Columbia, and the Lower Yakima Rivers can be quite good.
Sturgeon fishing is another fishery that has really gained in popularity. In fact, it has become so popular that just in the past several years the sturgeon fishing regulations have become fairly rigid, with size limits and catch quotas being placed on different stretches of the Columbia River.
I’ve fished for sturgeon a few times, but frankly it’s not my cup of tea. Yes, you have the chance to catch the largest fish you will ever catch in your life, but when you do hook one of the monsters, it will be more work than fun.
Some people love eating sturgeon, but I’m of the opinion that there are many other fish, including the previously mentioned catfish, that make a better meal, so sturgeon fishing is towards the bottom of my “gotta go fishing for them” list.
As a kid I would fish for perch with reckless abandon. My buddy Rob Robillard and I would go with his parents to Banks Lake and when we weren’t waterskiing, or playing plastic baseball, or trolling for silvers with his dad in their boat, we’d fish for perch.
And boy did we catch them. We would literally fill a five gallon bucket with the things. I can’t remember all the details because it was almost 50 years ago, but I am sure we would have contests to see who could catch the most. Then, when we finally tired of catching them, we would take on the gargantuan task of cleaning them. It was a lot of work for a little bit of meat, but dang, perch are sure good to eat.
The same goes for walleyes. Walleye meat is very light, almost opaque, and when rolled in a flour mix and deep fried, well, there may be nothing better for fish and chips.
Walleye are definitely not the hardest fighters, but they are so good to eat, they get a lot of attention from local anglers.
Actually, smallmouth bass are just about as good to eat. And some would say even better. The nice thing about bass is they are extremely prolific, and are fairly easy to catch in lots of places around Eastern Washington. Find a rocky shoreline on the Columbia, or Snake Rivers and pitch a Rooster Tail spinner into the shoreline, and if a bass is there and even half way hungry they’ll bite.
Not real big, smallmouths will run from 8-inches up to three, maybe four pounds, but when you hook one, even a smaller one, you will have a fun battle with the feisty fish.
Normally, this time of year the summer steelheading is just getting good. But not this year. The runs are down and fishing for steelhead is closed in many rivers. Steelhead are still open on the Klickitat River, which, when in shape can provide some pretty good fishing.
My favorite summertime meal is fresh-caught steelhead, with some local melons and corn on the cob. I’m going to have to wait until next summer I guess.
If you are looking for a big tug on the end of your line, fall chinook will give you all you can handle. The fall salmon run is just now starting to pick up on the Columbia, and as August progresses, there are opportunities to catch a big bright salmon at Drano Lake, at the mouth of the Klickitat, and then up in the Hanford Reach area.
Like many anglers in our area, I love catching all kinds of fish, and I enjoy eating them too. Luckily we have plenty of options here in our area.
• Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has written the Northwest Sportsman column for over 25 years. He can be reached at email@example.com