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Originally published Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 8:05 PM

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First spring chinook caught on Columbia

The Lower Columbia River below I-5 is open for spring chinook fishing, and reports are swirling about the first fish of the season being...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Reel Time Northwest

Seattle native and lifelong angler Mark Yuasa blogs on fishing in the Pacific Northwest.

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The Lower Columbia River below I-5 is open for spring chinook fishing, and reports are swirling about the first fish of the season being caught this week.

"We heard an early spring chinook might've been caught on the Cowlitz through a verbal and photo verification," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. "We don't know for sure if it was a spring or winter fish."

It's usually around now when you hear of spring chinook caught, although the height of this fishery doesn't occur until March and April. The upriver spring chinook forecast is 141,400 compared to an actual return of 203,100 last year.

Locally, many marine anglers are looking forward to Jan. 16 when northern Puget Sound reopens for hatchery chinook. Action was pretty good at places like Possession Bar right before it closed Nov. 30.

In between storms, chinook fishing has been decent in the San Juan Island region in eastern Rosario Strait, the north side of Orcas Island, northwestern San Juan Channel, Spring Pass and President Channel.

Central Puget Sound is open through Jan. 31, and fair at Jefferson Head. Fishing is also fair in Saratoga Pass at Elger Bay, Baby Island and Foxes Spit, and from Port Angeles to Freshwater Bay in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.

One of the better winter outdoor ventures has been the coastal razor clam digs.

"The stormy weather really didn't hit the beaches (early Tuesday night), and an estimated 280 diggers at Twin Harbors actually did well, and averaged 13 clams per person (the first 15 clams dug is a daily limit)," said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.

Digging is open Thursday at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Copalis; Friday and Saturday at Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Copalis and Mocrocks; and Sunday and Monday at Twin Harbors. Digging is allowed after noon each day.

Other tentative dates are: Feb. 7 and Feb. 11-12 at Twin Harbors; Jan. 26 and Feb. 8-9 at Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Copalis and Mocrocks; and Jan. 25, Jan. 27, Feb. 10 and Feb. 23-24 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors.

Fishing report
Location Comment
Marine areas Squid jigging remains fair, but starting to wane as spawning time nears, at Seacrest Pier in West Seattle, Pier 86 off Elliott Avenue West in Seattle, Des Moines Pier and Edmonds Pier and the Tacoma area piers. Smelt jigging is good at Oak Harbor Marina and Cornet Bay on Whidbey Island. Slow to fair for steelhead off beaches at Bush and Lagoon points on west side of Whidbey Island. Slow for hatchery chinook in the Tacoma/Narrows.
Biting: Yes

Rating: 2 stars

Statewide rivers Rivers were all high and marginally fishable due to recent rain, but once it drops expect fresh steelhead in places like the Nooksack, Stillaguamish North Fork, Snoqualmie, Upper Skykomish, Cowlitz, Wynoochee and Lewis. Cascade River from the Rockport-Cascade Road down to the mouth reopens Feb. 1. Slow to fair for steelhead in Lower Hoh, Calawah, Sol Duc and Bogachiel. A few sturgeon caught in Lower Columbia around Vancouver and Kalama, and The Dalles and John Day pools.
Biting: Yes

Rating: 2 stars

Statewide lakes Rufus Woods Reservoir is good for large-size trout. Locally, try for trout at Lone, Pass, Roesiger, Goodwin, Silver near Castle Rock, Sacajawea, Klineline and Blackmans. Slow to fair for cutthroat in Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish.
Biting: Yes

Rating: 3 stars

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