On May 4 the governor relaxed his COVID-19 “no fishing” rules, allowing anglers in Washington State to go fishing, after being placed on the sidelines for six weeks. If you don’t think fishing and the outdoors is important to the good people of our state, you should spend a little time at some of the rivers and lakes around the region.
After fishing for spring salmon for a few days right after it opened in early May, I have gone to a couple other spots to fish during the past two weeks. Every day, no matter if it is a weekend or not, there have been more people fishing than I have ever seen. It is like every day is opening day.
Of course, this is the time of year when many people would normally be outdoors, especially with the weather getting nicer. But it has been really eye-opening to see just how many folks are out fishing.
A couple Fridays ago I fished at Riffe Lake, near Morton. I’ve fished the lake frequently the past few years for the nice, land-locked coho in the lake. When we pulled out of the lake in the early afternoon, the boat launch was full of trailers and tow rigs.
Then, I met my sons, Kyle and Kevin, at Riffe this past Sunday. When we got there about 7 a.m., there were a dozen rigs in the parking lot at the Mossy Rock Park launch. When we pulled out at 2, the main parking lot was full, and they were parking in an overflow lot nearby.
Again, in all the years I have fished there, I have never seen the lake that busy.
I know the fishing there attracts many people, but frankly, it hasn’t been quite as productive as in years past. The fish seem to be spread out, and you have to work hard to catch a five-fish limit of nice silvers.
On Sunday, my sons and I did get into a good bunch of fish about two-thirds of the way up the lake. We caught 10 really nice coho in the 17- to 18-inch range, and another dozen coho and rainbows that were smaller.
We had our best luck on Tight Line kokanee spinners on about 10- to 12-inch leaders, behind silver 000 dodgers. We caught some of the fish right on the surface, and others down to 24-feet on the downriggers. We tipped the lures with shoe peg corn and trolled from 1.3 to 1.6 miles per hour.
The fish we in beautiful shape, with bright orange meat. We’ll be going back again soon.
Elsewhere around the area, anglers have been catching trout at Clear Lake, Rotary Lake, Tims Ponds and at Fio Rito up near Ellensburg.
Walleye have been biting on the Columbia River down below John Day Dam and below McNary Dam near Boardman. Trolling worm harness rigs, with a spinner blade of a small Spin-N-Glo off of a bottom walker has been working well.
Most of the fish that are being caught are in water that is 12- to 20-feet deep. Change blade colors or Spin-N-Glo colors until you find out what the fish want.
Walleye are biting too, up at Potholes Reservoir, at Banks Lake and at Lake Roosevelt. One recent report from Banks from Dave Graybill said they were having the best luck fishing at the upper end of the lake at Devils Punch Bowl in 12 to 14 feet of water. They found a willow leaf blade with blue and pink beads, trolled behind a bottom bouncer worked the best. The following day they got their limits of walleye with the same set up on Barker Flats.
With the warm weather heading our way, bass fishing in several spots will be picking up. The lower Yakima River can be excellent for bass this time of year, if the river stays in shape. Pitching Rooster Tail spinners, or curly-tailed grubs along the rocky shorelines has always been productive for the hungry bass.
Working the rocky shorelines along the Columbia down below John Day Dam will also get good now through the next few weeks. Again, a spinner or a rubber grub will work well.
Keep an eye on the fish counts, as the shad are already starting to climb the fish ladders at Bonneville. So far over 66,000 of the hard-fighting fish have made it over the big dam on the lower Columbia. There is already some decent shad fishing to be had right below the dam, and it will get better upriver, below John Day and McNary in the next couple weeks. Last year over two million shad returned to the Columbia.
Finally, if you want to fish and make a few buck, even during the pandemic, the state is again running their Northern Pikeminnow Reward Program where they pay anglers for every pikeminnow they catch and return to one of several sites along the river. To get paid, you need to sign up first. So far over 10,000 fish have been registered in the program. Go to the WDFW website to learn more.
During all this craziness, fishing is one of the activities we can participate in almost normally. It’s pretty obvious that many of us are enjoying the chance to do so.
• 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