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Bottom’s Up

by Mark Yuasa
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Many anglers are looking forward to trying their luck this spring and summer in several coastal and western Strait of Juan de Fuca marine areas for lingcod, certain rockfish species, and other highly sought after bottom-dwellers.

On the coast, Ilwaco (Marine Area 1), Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2), La Push (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4 west of Bonilla-Tatoosh) are now open daily through October 19. The daily aggregate limit is nine bottom fish and includes a sub-limit of seven rockfish. The daily limit is two lingcod and one cabezon per angler, and there is no minimum size restriction. (FYI: Retaining copper rockfish, quillback rockfish, and vermilion rockfish in Marine Areas 1, 2, 3 and the western coastal portion of 4 is not allowed in May, June, and July, as recent scientific assessments for the three rockfish species indicate populations are likely healthy but smaller than previously understood, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fishery managers.)

In the western Strait of Juan de Fuca, Neah Bay (Marine Area 4 east of Bonilla-Tatoosh) is open year-round for bottom fishing, and lingcod fishing is also open daily through mid-October. The daily aggregate limit is nine bottom fish and includes a sub-limit of seven black, blue /deacon, yellowtail, and widow rockfish. The daily limit is two lingcod and one cabezon per angler and there is no minimum size restriction.

The coastal bottom fish limit doesn’t include halibut, which has a daily limit of one halibut. Fishing for, retaining, or possessing sixgill, sevengill, and thresher sharks is closed in all marine areas. Yelloweye rockfish retention is prohibited in all areas of Washington and must be properly released immediately. A descending device must be on board all vessels and rigged for immediate use when fishing for or possessing bottomfish and halibut.

Many inner-Puget Sound marine areas open for lingcod fishing from May 1 to June 15. The daily limit is one lingcod and minimum size is 26 inches with a maximum size of 36 inches.

Other Spring Fisheries:


While the statewide lowland lakes trout fishing opens April 23-24, anglers looking to get a jump start have plenty of options right now on lakes that opened March 1 or are open year-round. Depending upon the severity of late winter weather, some lakes east of the Cascade Crest may still be iced over, although warmer weather conditions should provide some trout fishing opportunities.

In Grant County, Martha and Upper Caliche lakes near George, Washington, should be good for 10- to 14-inch rainbow trout. Quincy and Burke lakes have a decent amount of 12- to 13-inch fingerling rainbow trout plus a fair number of larger carryover fish. Other Grant County lakes worth a try are Dry Falls, Lenice, Lenore, Cascade, North Potholes Reserve, and Nunnally. Lakes offering bank fishing only off the Tucannon River in Columbia County are Rainbow, Deer, and Watson. Spring and Blue lakes are open year-round and will be stocked this spring.  Look for trout in Pampa Pond in Whitman County and Fish Hook Pond in Walla Walla County is open year-round. Both are open for bank fishing only and the ponds warm early, providing spring opportunities. Looking for a bit of privacy? Within the Quincy Lakes Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area there are many walk-in lakes including Dusty, Cliff, Crystal, and Cup. These lakes can be good for trout in the 12- to 14-inch range with some up to 20 inches. Trout are also lurking in the greater Spokane region at Liberty, Amber, Downs, and Medical lakes. Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County is open with selective gear rules in effect. In the northeastern section of Washington, try Deer Lake in Stevens County.


Spring salmon anglers have several options right now including Sekiu-Pillar Point (Marine Area 5) in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is open daily from April 1-30. Anglers should take note that while there are closing dates, Marine Areas 5, 10 and 11 could close sooner than expected, so making plans to head out in the front end of the Area 5 opener will likely guarantee you time on the water. In Marine Area 10, the winter Chinook fishery guidelines are 4,953 total encounters, 953 unmarked encounters, and 4,181 sublegal encounters. In Marine Area 11, the guideline is 1,191 total encounters, 259 unmarked encounters, and 816 sublegal encounters. In Marine Area 5, the guideline is 3,707 sublegal encounters. As of the deadline for this magazine’s issue, central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10) and south-central Puget Sound (Marine Area 11) were to remain open Wednesdays through Saturdays for hatchery winter Chinook fishing through April 15 but were dependent on guidelines. Anglers should check the WDFW website for any changes. Another option is southern Puget Sound (Marine Area 13) south of the Narrows Bridge, open daily for salmon fishing with catches being fair at times for winter hatchery Chinook. Lastly, don’t overlook the Columbia River main stem where fishing is currently open for hatchery spring Chinook. A few lower-river tributaries were also scheduled to be open for spring salmon fishing.

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