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The city of Washougal is located in northwest Washington, close to Portland International Airport. The two major fishing locations in the area are the Washougal River and the Washougal Fork West River, both of which have been stocked with hatchery steelhead and salmon. Left to naturalize in their surroundings, these fish migrate between the rivers of Washougal and the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River. They return to Washougal in annual winter and summer runs for spawning purposes.
Hatchery steelhead trout and chinook salmon are the primary species of the rivers in this region, but cutthroat, brook trout and redear sunfish are also available, and you may come across a wild steelhead or salmon. Hatchery originating steelhead in Washington average 6 to 8 pounds. They develop a silvery sheen when exposed to the salt waters of the Pacific on their annual migratory runs, and this distinguishes them from rainbow trout. Chinook salmon, also known as "king salmon," are the largest of the Pacific salmon; Washington hatchery salmon average 10 to 15 pounds. The Washington state record catch in a river is a 68-pound Chinook.
Bait and Tackle
Steelhead and Chinook are powerful fish, so cheap equipment could bring your fishing trip to a quick end. Use a quality 8- to 13-foot medium to fast-action spinning rod, graphite if possible, with 10- to 20-lb test line depending on the size of fish you are expecting in a given season. Float fishing is typically done with a longer rod (10 to 13 feet), and regular cast fishing can be done with rods 8 to 9 ½ feet long. Both fish are attracted to a wide variety of row or spawn as well as egg-sucking leeches and woolly buggers. Fish eggs are versatile baits as you can use them individually or tie multiple eggss together in colorful mesh netting. In the summer steelhead will often feed on insects, so dry flies can be useful baits. Spinners, lead head jigs and crankbaits can all be effective lures.
Winter steelhead are known to arrive in large numbers from early January to March, and summer steelhead usually run from July to October. A few earlier steelhead runs sometimes occur in the springtime. Chinook salmon runs occur in the spring and fall each year, from March to early June and from August to November. The timing of the annual migratory runs can be somewhat sporadic and change slightly from year to year.
Trout season on the Washougal River opens the first Saturday of June and runs to March 15 of the following year. During this period you are permitted to catch 2 hatchery steelhead per day; all wild steelhead must be released. Open season for salmon on the Washougal River runs from August 1 to December 31. The minimum-size limit for retained salmon is 12 inches, and you may catch six per day, but only two of these six can be hatchery Chinook salmon. For all other fish the statewide size and bag limits apply. The Washougal River is closed to fishing upstream from the bridge at Salmon Falls. Washougal River West is closed from its mouth to the water intake at the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Hatchery.
A freshwater fishing license is required to fish in Washington if you are 16 or older. An annual license is $24 for residents and $50 for non-residents. A one-day license is $10.18 for residents and $17.82 for non-residents. You are not required to use a catch record card. Licenses may be purchased online, through a licensed dealer or by telephone.
- fishing image by Zbigniew Nowak from Fotolia.com