YAKIMA, Wash. — The Washington State Emergency Management Division released a long list of activities that are currently not allowed under the new coronavirus protocols. You’ve by now seen those, along with the businesses that are to be closed.
They also included a list of places that we are allowed to patronize, or use, during these unprecedented times. On the OK list is campgrounds for camping, and hiking trails for hiking.
Neither list included hunting nor fishing, which tells me that as anglers and hunters, we are good to go. Especially if we aren’t going to do so with 49, or now even nine, of our closest friends. That will keep us under the recommended “group and gathering” numbers.
Being outdoors, sitting on the bank of a lake, or in a boat on the Columbia, walking a nearby trail, or enjoying a night or two next to a campfire in the woods, sounds pretty inviting right about now.
I’ve been getting the dogs out for some extra-long walks in the past few days, and even that, with the fresh air in the lungs, just does a body good.
If you are thinking about fishing, there are definitely some opportunities to do so. The Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery folks have planted many of the lakes in Yakima and Kittitas Counties in the last couple weeks, so there’s definitely a chance to catch a trout or two.
Walleye fishing down on the Columbia near Umatilla below the McNary Dam has been decent. Anglers are catching a few fish below the John Day Dam near Biggs as well. Water temperatures are warming, so the walleye are in a pre-spawn mode and are actively feeding.
Potholes Reservoir and Banks Lake in Grant County should also be perking up for walleye and smallmouth bass fishing as the weather warms in the days ahead.
Kokanee fishing at Lake Chelan continues to be good. The landlocked sockeye salmon are not very big, running from 10- to 12-inches, but they are plentiful and have been in a biting mood. Most of the fish have been caught up lake, above Manson up to 25 Mile Creek. The fish have been caught from depths of 40 to 120 feet.
Spring salmon fishing is open on the Columbia below Bonneville Dam, but so far fishing has pretty sporadic. The fishing boundaries are from Warrior Rock upstream to Beacon Rock, and is open every day until March 31st. After that the season will switch to being open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only until the sports catch quota is reached.
Above Bonneville, the Columbia will open for spring salmon fishing on April 1 and run through May 5. Bank anglers can fish from the dam upstream to Highway 730 at the Washington/Oregon border. Anglers fishing from a boat can fish from the Tower Island power lines upstream to the Washington/Oregon border.
Department of Fish and Wildlife officials recently reduced the limit to one adult salmon a day at the Wind River, Drano Lake and the Klickitat River. The rule change was adopted to help ensure broodstock collection goals will be met for the hatcheries that feed those waters.
The Wind and Drano opened for spring salmon fishing on March 16, but with fewer than 30 salmon total over Bonneville so far this year fishing for them is basically a fool’s errand. On the other hand, you can’t catch one of these prized fish if you don’t fish for them. The chances for success should improve considerably towards the end of April or in early May when daily counts at the dam peak.
Only 4,600 spring salmon are forecast for Drano this year, with an estimated 2,000 predicted to return to the Wind River.
The Klickitat won’t open to salmon fishing until April 1. Some 1,800 chinook are estimated to return there this spring.
These estimates are below the 10-year average and are well below some of the best return years.
Another option for getting out of the house, but still be social distance correct, is to take a drive and do some turkey scouting for the upcoming season. Turkey hunting in Washington State opens on April 15, and now is the perfect time to get out and try to figure out where the birds are.
We have some turkeys in Yakima County, and there are even more up in Kittitas County, but the best populations can be found in the counties in the northeast part of the state. A mild winter should have allowed the birds to survive fairly well, and this is the time of year when the toms start strutting and gobbling.
Finally, if you are totally committed to self-quarantining indoors during these troubling times, there are some things you can be doing at home to be ready to fish or hunt once the “all clear” has been sounded. Tie some rigs, clean out tackle boxes, fix all those loose screws and bolts in the boat, go through your turkey vest to double check your gear, and even give the shotgun a quick cleaning.
These are definitely uncharted waters we are navigating. Luckily, we can do so in the safety and solitary of the outdoors as a very viable option.
• 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