With the rivers dropping back into ideal fishing condition and no more rain forecasted, it is time to grab your steelhead fishing gear and take advantage of some decent action...

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With the rivers dropping back into ideal fishing condition and no more rain forecasted, it is time to grab your steelhead fishing gear and take advantage of some decent action happening around Western Washington.


The best winter steelhead options are occurring along the northern coast, mainly in the Quillayute river system.


“There should be lots of hatchery steelhead stacked up in the rivers, and fishing should be pretty good over the holidays,” said Bill Freymond, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.


“The Quillayute is looking pretty darn good with about half a fish per angler average last weekend. In the Bogachiel over the weekend, we checked 256 anglers and they had 129 hatchery fish, plus another eight wild fish either kept or released.”


In the Calawah River, it was about a third of a fish per angler, along with some wild fish released.


“The Salmon River on Queets system got pounded over the weekend, and is dropping into fishing shape pretty nicely,” Freymond said.


The Hoh River has been out of shape for a while, but the flows have dropped down dramatically in the past three or four days.


“The Hoh should be a good place to be fishing right now for steelhead,” Freymond said.


Other coastal fishing spots worth mentioning are the Soleduck, Lyre, Elwha, Queets, Lower Quinault, Sooes, Chehalis, Wynoochee, Willapa and Naselle.


Closer to the Puget Sound region, steelhead anglers are also finding some better-than-average fishing for hatchery fish.


“This is absolutely one of the best steelhead fishing seasons I’ve seen in a long time,” said Bryan Nelson at Three Rivers Marine and Tackle in Woodinville. “I’ve gotten good reports from Tokul Creek (on Snoqualmie), Reiter Ponds (on Skykomish) and from Fortson (North Fork of Stillaguamish).”


The Green River has been spotty for steelhead, and the Skagit has been fair at times.


“The Skagit has been OK for steelhead and Dolly Varden trout, and the best area seems to be near the Cascade River mouth,” said Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood.


In Southwest Washington, “the steelhead run is more spread out in the Cowlitz and the run timing has shifted to a more later arrival,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “I did hear of a 23-pounder caught below the Toledo Bridge this past week.”


Other rivers kicking out some fair steelhead fishing are the Grays, Elochoman, Lewis, Kalama and Washougal.




Top spots of the week


1. Salmon in open marine areas: Central Puget Sound (Area 10) has reopened, and a few places such as Kingston, Jefferson Head, Allen Bank off Blake Island are generating fair blackmouth fishing.


Other places worth a try are Manchester (usually good on a high tide), the northwest side of Blake Island, Yeomalt Point, Point Monroe, West Point south of Shilshole Bay and Elliott Bay.


“Rain and windy conditions made it tough for 59 Tengu (Derby) members as only four blackmouth were checked in,” said Doug Hanada, Tengu Club president. “The salmon were caught off Duwamish Head, Red Stack and Todds Shipyard. Bait’s still around, but even the shakers (chinook under the 22-inch minimum size limit) are hard to come by.”


Tengu results: 1, Doug Hanada, 9 pound-1 ounce chinook; 2, Mas Tahara, 9-0; 3, Sid Morton, 8-2; 4, Justin Russo, 6-8. The Tengu Derby in Elliott Bay is Sunday, and Jan. 2, 9, 16 and 23. Details: 206-324-7600.


Chinook fishing is spotty in southcentral Puget Sound (Area 11), which closes after Dec. 31. A few fish have been caught in the Tacoma area at Clay Banks and Owens Beach off Point Defiance Park, Quartermaster Harbor, Point Dalco and Point Evans.


2. Squid jigging in Elliott Bay and Puget Sound: “The water cleared up in the bay, and it is pretty good for squid,” said Jerry Beppu, owner of Linc’s Tackle Shop in Seattle.


Places to jig in Elliott Bay are Piers 86, 62 and 63, Seacrest pier in West Seattle and the pier south of the Seattle Aquarium. Good squid jigging outside of the bay are the Des Moines, Edmonds and Les Davis piers.


3. Coho in southern Puget Sound: “I spoke with Mike Croft, a Tacoma based fly-tier who uses the Tacoma Narrows as his field-testing area, and he is finding good numbers of small but chunky and spirited coho snapping at his flies,” said Les Johnson, a local fly angler. “Krill patterns and very small baitfish patterns should be the ticket. A black Knudson spider can also be deadly.”


Good coho areas are near the Narrows Bridge, Point Fosdick, the sand spit west of Fox Island Bridge, and Purdy and Penrose State Parks.




Other fishing spots


Rufus Woods Lake and Lake Chelan in Eastern Washington: “Rufus Woods is becoming very consistent, producing (large) rainbow trout and jumbo kokanee,” said Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad’s Family Guide Service. “Pull a baited fly behind a dodger near the deadline above the dam from 5 to 15 feet down (and) set your gear back at least 100 feet.”


“Lake Chelan continues to pump out 2- to 6-pound (mackinaw) with some bigger fish on Mack Bar and in the lower basin.”


West Whidbey Island: Slow beach fishing for steelhead at Bush Point, Lagoon Point and Fort Casey.


Columbia River: Fair-to-good sturgeon fishing below the Willamette River mouth, in the Gorge and from Longview to Portland. Areas from the Wauna power lines to Bonneville Dam are open Thursdays to Saturdays only for sturgeon. Also steelhead fishing is fair to good in John Day Arm and Pool.


Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com