Chinook Salmon and Summer-Run Steelhead
Enters the Columbia River at Carson
Take Highway 14 along the Columbia River to Carson and turn north on Wind River Road to reach the upper river. To fish lower portions of the Wind, drive east past Carson and turn left at the bridge crossing over the mouth of the river.
There’s a county boat ramp near the mouth of the river. Carson Hot Springs is a funky old place with a hotel, a campground, a restaurant, and hot mineral springs. Restaurant, gas stations, and other accommodations can be found throughout the area, including the huge beautiful Skamania Lodge a few minutes west in Stevenson. The best for tackle would be in Camas, to the west on Highway 14.
Fishing the Wind River:
Like so many other Northwest salmon and steelhead streams, the Wind has gone through its ups and its downs in recent years. Anglers fishing the lower reaches of the river, mostly from boats, have had some success in the past few years. Trolling with diving plugs, or casting from shore with diving plugs can have some success catching Wind River springers. Things can get crowded at the height of the springer season on the Wind in May. Be ready for a long walk once you find a spot to park your vehicle and trailer.
The Wind received an average of 78,000 steelhead smolts a year from 1961 to 1980. Sportsmen caught about 1,100 steelhead annually, said John Weinheimer, a state fish biologist.
Then stocking stopped from 1981 through 1983 as the state selected the Wind to be an experimental wild-steelhead-only watershed.
Not surprisingly, the catch plummeted about about 140 steelhead a year in 1983 to 1985, mostly fish dipping in the lower Wind on their way farther up the Columbia.
That wild-steelhead-only decision proved unpopular in Skamania County and stocking resumed with an average of 32,000 summer steelhead smolts from 1984 to 1997. A catch of almost 600 fish a year followed.
Steelhead populations then hit the skids in 1997 through 1999 and the Wind was closed to angling. The fish were listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1998.
Stocking of hatchery fish stopped in 1998 to give wild steelhead a better chance to recover.
The return of wild steelhead to the Wind has varied, but hit a high of 1,500 in the 2010-11 spawning year.
Summer steelhead fishing in the Wind upstream of Shipherd Falls eventually resumed in 2006 with a catch-and-release season from Sept. 16 through Nov. 30. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed as long as the run is at least 500 fish.
The watershed appears seeded fully with spawners at about 500 summer steelhead. At that number, about 25,000 smolts are produced. At 1,000 spawners, still about 25,000 smolts are produced, he said.
The goal of 1,500 or more wild spawners may be too high. He mentioned 500 to 700.
State biologists also were told winter steelhead stocking should resume in Rock Creek at Stevenson and Hamilton Creek at North Bonneville. Weinheimer said stocking in Rock Creek stopped about 1994.
(2013)Weak returns of spring chinook salmon are predicted for the Wind River and Drano Lake in Skamania County, a not-surprising forecast given the low return expected to the Columbia River upstream of Bonneville Dam.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is forecasting a return of 3,000 spring chinook to the Wind River, 4,500 to Drano Lake and 2,200 to the Klickitat River. Those numbers compare to 5,400 in the Wind, 8,800 at Drano and 2,100 in the Klickitat in 2012.
Given that Carson National Fish Hatchery needs about 1,500 spring chinook for spawning, it is possible there will be angling restrictions at Wind River in 2013.
Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, said the two-pole rule, allowed during part of the 2012 fishery, is almost certainly gone. The angling area, expanded in 2012, might return to its former size, certain days of the week might be closed or the daily bag limit reduced. Drano Lake needs 1,000 spring chinook for spawning, but also is fished by treaty Indians fishermen with both nets and off platforms along the west shore the lake.
Anglers caught 3,500 adult spring chinook from the Wind in 2012, a number larger than this year’s total run forecast. Anglers caught 3,400 adult spring chinook at Drano Lake and 500 from the Klickitat River.
(2012)Approximately 8,400 hatchery-reared adult spring salmon are expected to return to the Wind River this year, up from 7,800 last year. The fishery for hatchery-reared salmon on the Wind River will remain open through June 30, regardless of the regulations in effect on the mainstem Columbia River.
The Carson NFH released nearly 1.2 million spring Chinook salmon smolts (juvenile salmon) into the Wind River on April 16, 2012