The Fishing Corner: Inland salmon fishing is closed, but steelhead are still available

The season for inland salmon fishing closed as of Jan. 31. This closure takes into account any salmon caught in our streams that must be released.

Because our fall fishery was so different in terms of rainfall, there is an outside chance some salmon may still be trickling into our rivers. However, it would be illegal to retain any, regardless of condition.

Our next inland salmon opportunity would be the spring Chinook fishery. This fishery begins to pick up in April and continues until the runs or regulations permit.

Historically, the Hoh River has accommodated a run of springers and usually opens mid-May. Our local Chehalis River has also provided anglers with an opportunity to hook a spring Chinook. This run is numerically quite small, and so anglers have had to work extensively to catch a fish.

The more popular opportunities to connect with this species are the Cowlitz River and Columbia River. The Cowlitz can be a crowded affair and generally gets a lot of attention particularly near the barrier dam. The Columbia, on the other hand, is far more receptive to massive groups of anglers. Anglers will need to acquire a Columbia River endorsement for their license to fish these waters. This would be something to consider if one is going to renew their license for the 2014-15 season, which commences April 1.

In the meantime, anglers are currently after steelhead which occupy our coastal streams. The end of January and early February are good times to hook a steelhead.

When fishing for steelhead in this segment of the year, one of the main things to keep in mind is the metabolism of the fish. Steelhead, which are in the trout family, have a metabolism similar to that of rainbow trout. Cold water conditions tend to slow down the activity of these fish immensely. The optimum water temperature for enticing a steelhead and rainbow trout, for that matter, is between 44 and 54 degrees. Our current water temperatures can fall below 40 degrees, which affects steelhead fishing greatly. Anglers need to make adjustments to provoke steelhead to take the bait when water remains this cold.

For me, I would use spinners to attract and get these fishing moving. I might try bigger and even brighter spinners. In the some way, I would be prone to use plugs which give off flash and even noise to awaken the steelhead interest.

Care needs to be exercised that one does not cross the threshold of acceptance with these fish. This is not so critical with winter steelhead in cold water conditions as it may be with summer steelhead who are wary and very easily spooked. If one is fishing with bait or corkie and yarn, the key would be to place this offering as closely as possible before the fish. This way, the fish does not have to travel very far, while dealing with cold water and a slow metabolism.

Your skill in reading holding water will help in this regard. If you know precisely where these fish are, you can maximize your effort to hook a steelhead.


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