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In The Outdoors

Salmon fishing heats up like summer weather

 :  For those who think the weather's been hot, consider the salmon-fishing opportunities coming up in the days ahead:

* Buoy 10: The mouth of the Columbia River opened for salmon fishing Aug. 1 as tens of thousands of chinook and coho press in from the coast. Although the fishery doesn't usually peak until the end of the month, anglers often pick up some nice fish on opening day.

* Pacific Ocean: Fishing is finally picking up off the Washington coast, with average catch rates ranging from one to 1.5 salmon per angler. Starting Aug. 11, the fishery will open seven days per week coastwide and anglers will be able to keep up to two chinook per day.

"Salmon fishing really heats up at this time of year," said Tim Flint, statewide salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "Anglers have some choices to make with so many fishing opportunities available around the state."

Southwest Washington

Fishing:

The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery opens Aug. 1, when new salmon-fishing rules also take effect in many other areas of the Columbia River and its tributaries. Some of those regulations are more restrictive, others less, so anglers are advised to check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet before casting a line.

While the Buoy 10 salmon fishery usually doesn't peak until late August, it can produce some nice fish right from the get-go, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. "If conditions are right, anglers can hook up with some adult chinook and ocean-sized coho right from the start," Hymer said. "It's tailor-made for salmon anglers with boats that are too small for ocean fishing."

The fishery, which extends from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line east of Astoria, Ore., will be open seven days per week. The daily limit is two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook, from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31. Anglers can keep any chinook -- fin-clipped or not -- so long as it is at least 24 inches long. They can also retain any adipose-clipped coho measuring at least 16 inches, but must release any wild coho, sockeye or chum they catch.

The Buoy 10 fishery also has other attractions. Barbed hooks are allowed, and anglers may fish with either a saltwater, freshwater or combination license. "Party fishing" rules will be in effect, allowing all anglers aboard a boat to fish until the daily limit for all licensed and juvenile fishers aboard has been reached. And regulations allow jigging for anchovies and other baitfish, using up to three treble hooks or nine single-point hooks, not to exceed 3/8 inches between the point and shank.

Shore-bound anglers also have some options. Fishing off the North Jetty, where anglers can cast in either direction, is open seven days per week when the fishery for either Buoy 10 or Marine Area 1 is open. Barbed hooks are allowed, and the daily limit and size restrictions follow the most liberal regulation in either area.

Last year, anglers caught 9,223 chinook and 6,878 hatchery coho by the time the Buoy 10 fishery closed Dec. 31. This year's fishery is expected to be similar, except with fewer chinook and more coho predicted, Hymer said. "But we'll have a better idea once the fishery is up and running," he said.

On the same day the Buoy 10 fishery gets under way, fishing rules will change on several other areas of the Columbia and its tributaries.

Changes effective Tuesday, Aug. 1, include:

* No more than one adult chinook salmon -- clipped or unclipped -- as part of the daily bag limit for anglers fishing the mainstem Columbia River upstream to Bonneville Dam.

* Two adult chinook -- clipped or unclipped -- may be retained in the Deep, Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis (including the North Fork), Green, Toutle (including the North Fork), Washougal, Wind and White Salmon rivers, and in Drano Lake.

* Night closures and non-buoyant lure restrictions on the Columbia mainstem from Bonneville Dam to The Dalles Dam. * Non-buoyant lure restrictions also will be in effect on sections of the Wind, White Salmon and Klickitat rivers, and Drano Lake.

* A requirement to release wild, unmarked coho from mouth of the Columbia upriver to the Hood River Bridge and on many of the tributaries noted above.

For a river-by-river listing of regulation changes effective Aug. 1, see the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.

While anglers are still picking up some summer chinook below Bonneville Dam, catch rates have been best for hatchery steelhead. During the week of July 17, boat anglers fishing from the mouth of the Cowlitz River downstream averaged one steelhead for every three rods. The Cowlitz, itself, is still the best-producing tributary for steelhead, but those feeding the Bonneville Pool should start heating up as the Columbia mainstem continues to get warmer, Hymer said.

As recent thermometer readings would suggest, this is high season for warmwater fish. Boat anglers fishing the Bonneville Pool have been averaging nine bass per rod. Those fishing The Dalles Pool have been averaging three walleye per rod, and those fishing the John Day Pool have been scoring and average of six bass and one walleye per rod.

Wildlife viewing:

Now that Mount St. Helens is again open to climbers, dozens of people a day are making the trek to the volcanic rim. The U.S. Forest Service urges climbers determined to reach the crater to take a dust mask and goggles as a precaution against ash and debris.

Fortunately, some of the best wildlife watching is at lower elevations, where hikers are less exposed to volcanic activity around the lava dome. Elk can often be seen in summer from highway viewpoints, grazing on grasses sprouting from the volcanic mudflow.

"One of the great things about a trip to the Mount St. Helens area is that you can see species recolonizing the area that was devastated by the 1980 eruption," said Bill Tweit, a WDFW fish manager and avid birdwatcher. "Watch for savannah sparrow and pipit above the timberline, much of which was removed in the eruption."

Other bird species commonly seen around Mount St. Helens in summer include Barrow's goldeneye, American kestrel, osprey, sora, spotted sandpiper, Wilson's snipe, common nighthawk, willow flycatcher, warbling vireo, barn swallow, northern roughed-winged swallow, red-eyed junco, red-winged blackbird, and various warbler species. Golden eagles, prairie falcon and horned larks are seen occasionally.

Wildflowers are numerous throughout and are visited by various species of butterflies.

In addition to opening the mountain to climbers, the Forest Service also opened several hiking trails on the north side of the mountain that had been closed since the most recent eruption in 2004. These include Truman trail No. 207, Windy Ridge No. 216E, Willow No. 207A, Loowit Falls Viewpoint No. 216F and a portion of Loowit No. 216, which circles the mountain in a 30-mile loop. All offer views of wildlife species on the rebound from the catastrophic eruption of 1980.

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