When it's too cold to walk around the house without socks on, it's time to grab the steelhead gear.

Fishing for steelhead is once again open on the Columbia River all the way from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the river upstream to the Blue Bridge at the end of Columbia Park. The limit is one hatchery steelhead for those areas, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

From there, the Columbia River is open upstream to the old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers, where anglers have a one fish limit but can only keep steelhead that have both adipose and ventral fins clipped.

McNary is a popular spot this time of year.

According to fishery managers, river conditions have been up and down since Thanksgiving, but that's a good thing.

“Most anglers do best when water levels are rising or dropping,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. “It's a lot harder to catch steelhead in the peaks and troughs.”

Best bets for steelhead in the month ahead include the Cowlitz, Lewis (including the north fork), Kalama, Grays, Washougal and Elochoman rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County, Hymer said. Above Bonneville Dam, Rock Creek in Skamania County is also a good place to catch steelhead.

The daily limit on most tributaries below Bonneville Dam is three hatchery steelhead – plus the salmon limit listed for individual rivers in the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. Only hatchery steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained, and anglers are required to keep the first three hatchery steelhead they catch.

Anglers fishing the mainstem Columbia River can retain up to two adult salmonids a day through Dec. 31 from Buoy 10 to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco, but only one may be a hatchery steelhead. Anglers may retain any chinook salmon – with or without an adipose fin – but all wild coho must be released from the Hood River Bridge downstream.

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