Spring fishing in Washington has never been better. Whether you're angling for steelhead or planning on slamming walleyes, these are the best places to hit.
Olympic Peninsula rivers, WA
The hatchery run might peak in January, but steelhead action in the Sol Duc, Calawah, Hoh, Bogachiel, and Queets continues through April. In March there is a good chance to put a trophy in the net. Fin-clipped steelhead average six to eight pounds and wild fish run a little bigger.
Watch the calendar and time the trip to hit the water after two days of rain when the water is 'steelhead green' and dropping with a visibility of three to five feet. Early in the morning, steelhead like to lay close to the bank. Always make a few short casts before you wade in.
Use floats and jigs in clear water, and fish drift gear and bait when the water is emerald green. When the water is high, pull plugs and run them in softer water close to the bank.
Check out http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt for current river flows. For a drift boat run, call Jim Mansfield (360-374-9018, www.jim-mansfield.com).
Columbia River, OR/WA
On February 28, 2014, Washington angler John Grubenhoff boated a fish that weighed in at 20.32 pounds, a walleye that set a new state record.
April marks the pre-spawn on the Columbia River between The Dalles and the Tri-Cities. This is your chance to get your biggest fish of the year.
An effective rig that will take fish throughout the season employs a three-foot leader, a light spinner blade, fluorescent green beads, and double hook setup baited with a whole nightcrawler. The nightcrawler is rigged to hang straight down on the two hooks. Five inches of hollow core lead on a slider rig keeps the bait bouncing along the bottom.
Baits should be presented on a long line or off to the side of the boat's path of travel. When you feel the strike, drop the rod and count to three before gently lifting.
For a guided trip, call Ed Iman at 971-235-0448.
Brown Trout AND Rainbows
Southwest Washington Lakes, WA
At 30 surface acres, Cowlitz County's Kress Lake is another sure bet for fast action early in the season. WDFW stocks 20,000 rainbows and brown trout each year. Kress is located north of the town of Kalama, just off I-5. No boat is required on this accessible lake.
Bring a boat or a float tube for the best action on southwest Washington's Battleground Lake. This 28-acre stillwater is surrounded by trees and fills the crater of an extinct volcano. WDFW stocks legal and brood-stock rainbows, browns, brooks, and surplus steelhead. Bank anglers can circle the lake on a nice trail. Fallen timber provides shoreside cover for trout and perilous footing for fishermen.
A 315-acre, 65-foot deep lake, Lacamas Lake is conveniently located near Vancouver for thousands of anglers in search of an early-season limit of browns or rainbows. Bring a boat. The best trout fishing is in the main lake north of the boat launch.
Few lakes can top little Honeoye, in Ontario County, for numbers "keeper" largemouths. Experienced bass anglers often do 40 or 50 bass a day.
Don't forget to share your best fishing photos with us on Camera Corner for your chance to win free gear!
Anglers like their tools close by. And it's even better if it's connected to you so it doesn't go in the drink. T-Reign retractable gear tethers hold onto your pliers, hemostats or landing net. Several size options. Carabiner connects to D-ring, belt loop or strap, or use the stainless steel clip on belt or pack.
Suzuki DF15A/20A EFI
Suzuki's two new four-stroke, two-cylinder portable outboards have a compression reduction system for easier starting. The 20hp tiller model weighs 97 pounds the eletric-start model weighs 106 pounds. Single overhead cam, four-valve engine with Suzuki's Lean Burn Control and bat-tery-less electronic fuel injection. Built for running in skinny water, both motors come with five tilt pin positions and 15- or 20-inch shaft.
Rapala is hoping the new Scatter Rap Series lures and their 'evasive action ' will be as popular as the original 'wounded minnow ' style action that the company is famous for. The new lure has a 'Scatter Lip ' that creates an evasive, erratic, aggressive sweep-ing action. Ideal for multispecies gamefish, the Scatter Rap Series is available in 14-16 classic and new color patterns. Baits 5- to 9-feet deep.
MSRP, $18.95 per pair.
The original Gear Grabbar is a unique way to hold lures and tools at the ready in boats. But the new Lure Hangar is a step beyond. This is a 12- by 16 1/2-inch plate,m ade to mount on your gunwhale, that holds 16 or more lures. There's enough room for a selection of jig, plugs, topwaters or whatever other baits you want to hang.
Honda Marine's BF250 outboard is a 24-valve 3.6-liter V6 that uses varia-ble valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC). Programmed fuel injection delivers the precise amount of fuel and air to each cylinder for easy starts and instant throttle re-sponse. 20-, 25- and 30-inch shaft models.
TACKLE TOTE VEST
If you wade when you fish, Fish-N-Hunt Pro Gear designed a Tackle Tote Vest that to keep gear accessible but dry when you're standing in deeper waters. It's adjustable, sturdy, has lots of pockets and a modest pricetag.
FLEX 'N GO TACKLE SATCHEL
On-the-go anglers will find a lot to like in Plano's new Flex 'N Go Tack-le Satchel. It features adjustable built-in storage with a deep bin on one side and framework for the pair of swap-pable Plano 3600 StowAway boxes on the other, each Stowaway held with a flexible strap.
www.cabelas.com Jackets MSRP, $249.99-$269;
Cabela's Guidewear raingear now comes in four distinct series. Bass Angler (pictured) jackets and bibs are built with the tournament bass angler in mind. Xtreme parkas and bibs will help anglers fishing Northern lakes and rivers. Tidal jackets and pants offer lightweight, waterproof and breathable protection. River Runner jackets are perfect for wading anglers.
BERKLEY JAR BAIT FOLDER
Anglers who use jar baits know it's a pain to carry more than a few. Berk-ley now has two Jar Bait Folders to keep the baits at hand and make them easy to transport. Model 1170 holds 10 jars. Model 1490 holds 16. Both have various pockets and a D-ring for pliers.
BERKLEY TRILENE XL
Berkley says they've improved a classic. New Trilene XL lines are now 10 percent stronger 20 percent more flexibility then they had been. Knot strength has also improved, said the company. Trilene XL has been around since 1972.
The new AV Micro is a complete underwater camera system that is the same size as a smart phone. On the boat or off the dock, use it to see where fish are hanging out. 3 1/2-inch diagonal display. Built-in rechargea-ble lithium ion batteries.
Smithwick Rogue's has been a stand-ard in bass-anglers' tackle boxes for years. Now they've got a new twist on the famous jerkbait. The
Perfect 10 Rogue has a new lip de-sign, to get deeper, quicker than other jerkbaits.
SIMMS WEATHER GEAR
MSRP, jacket $349, bibs $299.
Simms designed its Contender Gore-Tex jacket and bibs for anglers who need reliability when they are motor-ing on the water at 70 mph in rain and wind. Waterproof and breathable. Cuffs are water tight and adjustable.