Best NW steelhead &chinook runs in years attracting lots of


Mar 11, 2001
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Best fishing in years will attract plenty of first-timers

Fenton Roskelley - The Spokesman-Review

Numerous anglers who have read about this year's almost unbelievable steelhead and chinook salmon runs are trying to get information on where and how they can catch them.

They are the fishers who have never fished for steelhead and salmon and so they've been asking sporting goods store operators, fisheries officials and even outdoors writers how they can fill their freezers with the fish.

Here are some tips for the neophytes:

Anglers don't need a boat to fish for steelhead along some sections of the Snake, Clearwater and Grande Ronde rivers, but they should have one to fish for the chinook salmon in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River.

The first things an angler must know is that all wild steelhead must be released and barbless hooks must be used. The ban on barbed hooks makes it difficult for anglers to keep bait on a barbless hook.

For the first time in many years, most of the Snake between Asotin and the mouth of the Grande Ronde is so low that anglers will have no trouble finding places to fish from shore. Numerous potentially good shore fishing spots are available.

During normal water years, there are only a dozen or so spots where anglers can expect to hook a steelhead.

The only way to fish the first 2.5 miles of the lower Grande Ronde is to fish from shore. However, shore anglers who want to keep a few steelhead will fish the upper Ronde or the Snake and other tributaries. All steelhead hooked in the lower section must be released.

Most anglers who have fished for steelhead along the Snake above Asotin and along the Ronde have been frustrated lately. Steelhead are in the streams, but they've been reluctant to take anglers' lures and flies because of high water temperatures.

The lower Ronde will be swarming with fly fishers from throughout the West this month and next, lining up to take their turn to fish the "drifts."

The 300-yard-long drift just below the mouth of the Ronde always attracts scores of spin fishers. Anglers from Washington, Idaho and Oregon park their RVs just above the drift and stay for up to a month. Getting a spot to cast for steelhead along that drift is a challenge.

Anglers long have fished from shore just above Lower Granite Dam. The Corps of Engineers no longer permits the public to drive across dams because of security concerns. Anglers will have to cross the Snake at Central Ferry or drive to Lewiston to cross the river. They still can fish just above the dam.

A popular shore fishing spot is near the Lyons Ferry hatchery. Because it isn't near a dam, the spot won't be closed to anglers this fall. Many shore and boat fishers stay at the nearby Palouse Falls State Park.

The well-known "wall" just below Little Goose Dam is now closed to fishing. It has been a favorite spot with steelhead and salmon anglers.

Boat anglers often outnumber shore fishers along the lower Clearwater during the steelhead fishing season. However, most of the Clearwater can be fished from shore.

Experienced steelhead anglers who fish from shore cast wobbling spoons and weighted spinners along fast-flowing drifts. Nearly all the fishers who fish the long drift below the Ronde's mouth use spoons and spinners.

Many shore anglers who fish slow-moving water use jigs under large bobbers along parts of the Clearwater and pools behind dams. It's a highly effective way to catch steelhead. Most boaters, however, prefer to troll or back-troll plugs in fast-moving water.

Numerous lure makers produce effective fish-shaped plugs, including Luhr-Jensen and Wordens in the Northwest. Some wiggle near the surface and others dive deep. Among popular lures are Hot'n Tots, Wee Steelie Warts, Rattle Tots and Flatfish in red, chartreuse, purple, orange, silver and black.

Some anglers still don't know that it's illegal to keep any steelhead hooked in the Columbia above the Tri-Cities. Many may be confused by the regulations in the sport fishing rules pamphlet. The pamphlet says that trout fishing along the Columbia River above Pasco is closed. What it doesn't say on page 108 is that a steelhead is classified as a trout. An angler has to go to Fish and Shellfish Definitions on page 13 to learn that the steelhead is considered a trout.

The only place along the Hanford Reach where chinook salmon anglers can fish from shore between the White Bluffs and Priest Rapids Dam is on the east side of the river below the dam. It's not a very productive salmon fishing area.

However, shore anglers can fish for chinooks in the Ringold Springs area below the Hanford Reach. It can be a productive area, but it nearly always is crowded with anglers.

Many veteran salmon fishers troll and back-troll Magnum Warts and drift Nos. 5 and 6 Blue Fox spinners. They can leave triple hooks on the floating Warts, but can use only single hooks on the sinking spinners. Some anglers have boxes full of Warts and Blue Foxes in various colors, including orange, fluorescent orange, red, blue and black.

A few fishers jig for salmon and others anchor and use bait.

Beginning anglers can learn a lot about where and how to fish for the steelhead and salmon by talking to clerks at sporting goods stores and by observing and talking with veteran fishers along the rivers.

You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

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