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Originally published Thursday, May 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Outdoors | Clam beaches reopen to digging

Three coastal beaches will open to clam diggers Saturday, the first time in two decades state fisheries has offered an opener this late in the spring.

Seattle Times staff reporter

It's time to grab a shovel or clam gun and head to three coastal beaches open for razor clam digging Saturday.

"Even though digging was excellent during our early May opener, the digger turnout was lower than expected," said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife shellfish biologist. "This is the first time in two decades that [state fisheries] has been able to offer an opener this late in the spring."

Digging at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks will be allowed from midnight to noon [low tide is minus-0.5 feet at 10 a.m.] only.

Low tides heading into this weekend should also create some decent clam and oyster gathering on open Puget Sound and Hood Canal beaches. Tides: Today, minus-1.7 feet at 12:54 p.m.; Friday, minus-1.6 at 1:33 p.m.; Saturday, minus-1.2 at 2:15 p.m.; and Sunday, minus-0.7 at 2:59 p.m.

There is good news and bad news coming out of Lower Columbia tributaries.

More woes for Columbia River spring chinook returns, and this time a lack of fish in the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers means anglers must release all spring chinook.

But, the good news is a stronger than anticipated steelhead return will allow anglers to keep up to three hatchery-marked steelhead in the Cowlitz and the North Fork of the Lewis rivers.

"Spring chinook returns in the Kalama and Cowlitz haven't been good, but summer steelhead returns are off to a good start in the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers," said Joe Hymer, state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

Fishing reports

• Halibut and bottom-fish in marine areas: "We still have about 15,000 pounds left in the halibut quota, and we'll get some fishing in this Sunday, plus at least another two or more days after that," said Larry Giese, owner of Deep Sea Charters in Westport. "Rockfish and lingcod fishing are also very good, and we've got the chinook season opening on June 1 [at Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay]."

Further south at Ilwaco, a state fisheries biologist out fishing on Monday reported pretty decent action for halibut up to 40 pounds about 28 miles in the ocean off the Columbia River mouth.

On the North Coast, halibut fishing at La Push and Neah Bay has closed after reaching a catch quota, but bottomfishing remains rather robust. Both areas will reopen for halibut on June 17 and 19.

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Lingcod and halibut fishing from Port Angeles into Puget Sound is fair to good.

Best lingcod reports have come from Possession Bar off South Whidbey Island and the south side of Hat Island. Other spots in Puget Sound to try for lingcod are south of Alki Point; jetties off the Edmonds, Elliott Bay and Everett marinas; Point Evans; Blake Island; Toliva Shoal; Burrows Island; and Smith Island.

For halibut, try off the humps at Port Angeles, Freshwater Bay, the outer banks of the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the west side of Whidbey Island.

• Trout, bass and other game fish in statewide lakes: "I've had people go out and they got some action, but the water is still cold in lakes and if it gets warm again maybe that will turn the bite on," said Jerry Beppu, owner of Linc's Tackle Shop in Seattle.

Lakes planted this month with more trout are Green, Angle, Meridian [also good trolling for kokanee], Sawyer, Gissburg, Harts, Kapowsin, Spanaway, Shoecraft and Lone. Others worth heading to are Ballinger, Pine, Cottage, Beaver, Rattlesnake, Ki, McMurray, Armstrong, Wilderness, Deer, Mineral and Desire.

Bass fishing has picked up with the warmer weather at Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, plus at Clear [near Sedro-Woolley], Munn, Banks, Long, Hicks, Campbell, and the Upper John Day Pool and Bonneville Pool of the Columbia River.

"I went smallmouth bass fishing for the first time in my life at Lake Stevens, and got four nice ones about 3 to 4 pounds," said Bryan Nelson at Three Rivers Marine and Tackle in Woodinville. "I also fished Lake Ballinger and caught a few nice trout."

East of the Cascades, Rufus Woods, Badger, Warden, Wannacut, Pearrygin, Spectacle, Wapato, Jameson and Conconully Lake and Reservoir have all been fair to good for trout.

Spring chinook, shad and steelhead in open parts of the Columbia River and tributaries: "About the only thing fishable is Drano Lake, and fishing had been good [although the tribes fished yesterday, which could slow it down], along with a good number of jack chinook caught," Hymer said. "The Wind River water level has been fairly high, but a few fish are being caught."

Shad fishing in the Lower Columbia River is off to a slow start in the Camas-Washougal area due to turbid and high water flows. So far this spring, 15,408 shad had been counted at Bonneville, and Hymer said last year they were seeing single-day counts of more than 40,000 shad.

Sturgeon fishing is also slow in the estuary with private boat anglers averaging one legal-size fish per 17 rods, and charter anglers getting one for every 11 rods.

Salmon in southern Puget Sound: Fishing is open south of the Narrows Bridge, and fishing has been fair off Anderson Island, Point Fosdick, Fox Point and Gibson Point on the east side of Fox Island.

• Spring chinook in the Icicle River: The fishery is open through July 31, but the recent toasty weather made the river high and murky. An in-season run analysis predicts about 7,000 spring chinook are headed for the Icicle. About 1,000 are needed to meet hatchery spawning escapement.

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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