By The Chronicle staff
The month of July is filled with plenty of fishing opportunities in southwest Washington, from the fourth annual Bass Week, to the annual trout derby and the return of summer steelhead. Right now, fish can be caught from a boat on the mighty Columbia, on the bank of Fort Borst Park Pond and everywhere in between. Check out what July has to offer in southwest Washington.
Bass Week (July 12-16)
With more than 1,000 lakes containing bass statewide, and some outstanding river fishing opportunities, both smallmouth and largemouth bass are plentiful in Washington waters. Plus, a boat isn’t needed to catch bass as some of the state’s best fishing can be done from docks or along the shoreline. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s fourth-annual “Bass Week” will take place July 12 to 16, when the WDFW will highlight some of the best bass waters in Washington, provide bass fishing tips and answer questions on all things bass.
Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead
Sockeye fishing is scheduled to remain open throughout July on much of the lower Columbia River from the Megler-Astoria Bridge to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco. Anglers can keep up to one adult hatchery sockeye and one adult hatchery steelhead as part of the daily limit.
See rules for each section of the river at the emergency rule change.
Fishing the Tributaries
July can provide decent fishing for hatchery steelhead in southwest Washington rivers. Hatchery steelhead are released in the Cowlitz, South Fork Toutle, Kalama, Lewis, Elochoman, Washougal and Klickitat rivers.
Trout fishing is slowing down a bit, but spots like Mineral and Riffe are doing well. The WDFW stocked Lake Sacajawea (Cowlitz County) and Long Lake (Lewis County) with brown trout in June. For those who prefer rainbow trout, the WDFW stocked Goose Lake and Takhlakh lakes in Skamania County last month. Lake Merwin in Cowlitz County was also stocked with more than 1,200 jumbo trout in early June.
Coho fishing is excellent right now at Riffe Lake. Kokanee fishing is fair to good in Yale Reservoir and Merwin Reservoir. Check water levels for Merwin, Swift and Yale reservoirs here: tinyurl.com/xftb6hc7.
Catch a Fish — Win a Prize
The annual trout derby continues through Oct. 31. Tagged trout are stocked in more than 100 lakes across Washington with over 1,000 prizes up for grabs valued at more than $38,000.
Participating lakes and ponds in Lewis County include Carlisle Lake, Fort Borst Park Pond, Mineral Lake and South Lewis County Park Pond.
The derby is open to anyone with a valid fishing license; no entrance fee or registration required. Just catch a tagged trout at a participating lake and claim a prize.
The full list of participating lakes can be found at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/contests/trout-derby/lakes.
Tiger muskies are doing well in both Merwin Reservoir and Mayfield Lake. Crappie fishing is fair in Silver Lake, as is bass fishing. Some bass are also being caught in both Rowland and Horsethief lakes. Yellow perch are good in Lacamas along with some crappie.
Channel catfish and walleye are good above and below John Day Dam.
Get Paid to Fish
The Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward fishery, which pays anglers $5 to $8 for each qualifying fish, continues until the end of September.
This program targets large northern pikeminnow, the primary piscine predator of juvenile salmon and steelhead throughout the Columbia and Snake river systems. Tagged pikeminnow are worth $500 each, and in 2019, the top angler earned more than $50,000.
The goal of the program is not to eradicate pikeminnow, but to harvest 10 to 20% of the larger fish that might prey on endangered or threatened salmon and steelhead species.
To see where anglers have been having luck reeling in pikeminnow, visit WDFW’s website for weekly updates. For more information on the program and helpful tips on how to catch pikeminnow, visit the program page at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/creel/pikeminnow.
Help Fish Beat the Heat
The historic Pacific Northwest heat wave may be over for now, but the summer weather continues, and fish need help staying cool as air and water temperatures remain high. Fishing in the early morning, when air and water temperatures are cooler, can help reduce stress on fish — and on the fisher. High lakes are also a great option this time of year thanks to cooler temperatures at higher elevations.
For those who fish the same areas every year, try to be aware of water levels and temperatures. If the water seems especially low, or hotter than usual, give fish a break by coming back another time.
If fishing an area with catch and release, it’s critical to take steps to minimize the impact. Using appropriate gear and landing the fish quickly can help, as can making sure not to remove the fish from the water once it’s reeled in. Quickly remove hooks or cut the line if the hook is especially deep. A fish can also be revived by pointing it into a slow current and letting it swim out of your hands whenever possible.
For more information for all that is happening in July, visit wdfw.wa.gov/places-to-go/weekender/southwest#fishing.