OLYMPIA - With fall Chinook fishing pretty much wrapped up on the Lower Columbia River and anglers' attention now consumed with late-run coho, regional fish biologist Joe Hymer suggests taking a moment to appreciate this year's bounty - nearly 915,000 returning fall Chinook were counted this season; the largest returning fall Chinook run since at least 1942.
The spectacular tally far outstripped pre-season projections of 595,000 returning fall Chinook. With early-run coho also posting an unexpectedly strong number of 450,000 fish against a pre-season projection of 271,000, it's likely that the late coho run will also beat projections.
"If the pleasant surprises continue, the late coho run numbers should be above expectations," Hymer said.
The lower Cowlitz, Lewis, and Washougal rivers all offer good coho prospects, as well as bonus daily bag limits of six salmon, no more than three adults and no more than two of which may be adult Chinook. Other good coho prospects with normal bag limits of two adult fish include Lake Scanewa (Cowlitz Falls Reservoir), the Elochoman and Kalama rivers and at the mouth of the Washougal River (Lady Island area).
Sturgeon catches have been respectable from the Camas-Washougal area up to Bonneville, Hymer notes. The best hatchery sea-run cutthroat fishing has been on the Cowlitz River from Blue Creek downstream (a five trout daily bag limit is in place).
The waterfowl opener was mixed in western Washington. There were reports of limits from the Lower Columbia River, but the major flights of northern birds have yet to arrive.
Rain on opening weekend had only a minor effect on inland wetlands, so most hunting success will continue to be on the more permanent water bodies until the fall rains begin in earnest, says Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.
Hunters are reminded that duck season closes Oct. 16 and 17, and pintail and canvasback seasons are closed Oct. 18- Dec. 1. The goose season in Area 1 will be closed Oct. 24-31, and the season in Area 2A is closed until December.