Summer trout stream fishing’s second opener statewide including Western Washington occurs Saturday, June 6. Selected streams, generally below or downstream of natural barriers, will be available for trout and gamefish.
Anglers may ply these waters into the fall when those secondary or third level creeks in this sequence close Oct. 31.
However, in this collection of first Saturday in June starters, main river reaches continue, for the most part, to be legally fishable through the fall into the period of early returning or hatchery-bred steelhead.
As mentioned last week, the overriding rule here is that all flowing waters (creeks and rivers) in watersheds entering greater Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca are closed to all personal use or recreational fishing by non-treaty persons unless those waters are declared to be open by an individual special fishing regulation.
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Now more than in the past, it’s essential that you know the name and watershed locale of the stream you intend to fish and check in the regulations to make sure that it’s okay to wet a line in.
THE GEOGRAPHIC SPREAD
The Saturday, June 6, opener for stream borne trout and gamefish covers selected streams across the state.
Most watersheds are recognized by their dominant or main stream, the Nooksack Basin being one of eight so-named major Puget Sound geographic drainage sectors.
In the other eight Northwest Washington watershed locales, however, smaller, independent rivers and/or creeks that flow directly into Sound or Strait marine waters are organized into collections either known by the receiving marine waters or some other geographic reference.
Look for ‘open’ streams in the second category in their own listings heading (such as Whatcom Independents or Fraser streams) or in the sub-headed package associated with a major stream.
Streams and rivers that end up going directly into the Pacific Ocean are gathered into three major watershed collections, the North Coast, Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay in which their open or ‘legally fishable’ waters are delineated.
You will find Whatcom County and greater Puget Sound stream listings on pages 23-38 of the 2014-15 Fishing In Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet that remains in effect this year through Tuesday, June 30.
In the fifth year of their existence the new trout stream rules require careful and repeated reading plus constant referrals to a good map to discern which waters remain 'legally' fishable from those that are now not.
For gray-bearded stream vets set in their ways as well as parents and many young fishers in training, here's a summary of how the closure rule shakes out in Whatcom County and the Nooksack system with a compilation of well-known waters once fishable but that are now out of the stream season.
THE SMALL INDEPENDENT STREAMS
The Dakota Creek basin above Giles Road is closed to all fishing as are McDonald and Toad Lake creeks in the Squalicum Creek system.
Chuckanut Creek, along its entire reach, together with Padden and Connelly creeks also are no longer on the list of permissible streams.
All tributaries of Lake Whatcom were previously permanently closed as now are all streams flowing into Lake Samish.
MAIN NOOKSACK RIVER
In the main lower river corridor, Whiskey Creek, Schneider Ditch (including Keefe Lake), Scott Ditch as well as Double Ditch, Bear (Silver Creek drainage), Cougar (the outlet of Wiser Lake), Kamm and Fourmile creeks are no longer open.
Fishtrap Creek, except for the section between Kok and Bender roads, also appears now to be closed. This is the section in Lynden City Park that is temporarily screened off for the June Camel Club kids' fishing contest, but soon after the contest the barriers are removed allowing the remaining rainbow trout to disperse up and down the creek.
All waters impounded by beaver constructs in these drainages are closed to fishing.
NORTH FORK NOOKSACK RIVER
In the North Fork Nooksack, the beaver ponds in the Hatchery Creek/Bear Creek complex near Kendall are closed as are the resident trout zones of Kinney, Coal, Bell, Boulder and Aldrich creeks.
Upper Wells and Bar creeks with their eastern brook trout populations also are still protected by year-round closures.
By older rule, the lower 4.7 miles of Canyon Creek remain closed to protect spawning chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout.
MIDDLE FORK NOOKSACK
In the lower Middle Fork Nooksack drainage and Canyon, Porter, Bear and Peat Bog creeks as well as beaver ponds on the latter two now are off-limits to any angling.
Unfortunately, the mid- and upper sections of Canyon get automatically stocked with a stunted resident cutthroat population that drops down from Canyon Lake in its headwaters.
Beaver pond chains associated with the lower main Middle Fork’s various sloughs and wall-base channels (sections without river flow) stay closed.
SOUTH FORK NOOKSACK RIVER
In the lower South Fork Nooksack, Tawes Creek and its beaver pond complex are closed as are all sections of Black Slough. Hutchinson Creek including Powers Creek and Mustoe Marsh also are now closed as are the beaver ponds on an unnamed tributary upstream of the second Mosquito Lake Road bridge.
The major mid-reach stream, Skookum Creek, is closed up to Arlecho Creek as are lower sections of Cavanaugh, Howard, Plumbago and Roaring creeks. Skookum Hole Pond and the entire Edfro Creek drainage and its previously stocked beaver ponds also remain closed.
Fans of fishing the upper South Fork basin tributaries still are not allowed to fish Springsteen Creek for its eastern brook trout, nor Three Lakes and Brookie creeks and its ponds, likewise for eastern brook.
STREAMS FLOWING INTO CANADA
Except for the juvenile fishing waters in Johnson Creek that flow through the City of Sumas, most all of the Sumas River basin has been restored to the angling domain as are the other border crossing streams in the greater Chilliwack River basin.
There is no explicit legal definition or description of a beaver pond in the fishing regulations.
The ubiquitous water-dwelling rodents that create or affect aquatic environments can be found traveling through or dwelling in almost any river, stream, lake, reservoir, farm pond or drainage ditch.
It’s likely to be obvious in the vast majority of examples into which legal category for fisheries management a body of water where beavers are present will fall.
But there are small percentage of applications that are arguably ambiguous.
The rule of thumb accepted as a reasonable standard is that a body of standing or pooled water in or along a water course that’s held back by wood/mud/rock barriers that are built by beavers is a ‘beaver pond.’
The corollary test in this standard is that if the berm structure were not there, then neither would any of the standing water, the water body therefore is a ‘beaver pond.’
Natural basins of water especially woodland ponds that have raised water levels due to the exertions of these industrious animals remain examples of potential disagreement between would anglers and fish and wildlife officers.
SKAGIT BOUND KINGS BECKON
Another stream opening, this one for salmon, comes a little sooner on the calendar.
In the upper Skagit River from the State Route 530 bridge at Rockport upstream to the mouth of the Cascade River, early returning marked (adipose fin clipped) chinook salmon will be fair-game on Monday, June 1.
Besides those mainstem waters, Skagit spring seekers will have about .7 mile of the smaller, occasionally wadeable Cascade River from its mouth upstream to the Rockport-Cascade Road bridge to plumb for clipped kings.
Of the expected 4,731 combined wild- and hatchery- origin Skagit springs the state/tribal 2015 pre-season forecast says will be coming back to these up-river digs, 2,787 should be of hatchery descent. These cultured-origin salmon are produced at Marblemount Hatchery, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife facility.
Another of the inaugural Puget Sound river salmon fisheries scheduled to start the first of June has been postponed indefinitely.
It is the personal use chinook fishery listed in the rule book for the lower Skykomish River from its confluence with the Snoqualmie River upstream to the mouth of the Wallace River.
The expected size of this year’s Skykomish summer/fall chinook return is 7,394 fish of which 3,235 are expected to be of cultured origin. These marked fish are homing on WDFW’s Wallace River Hatchery near Startup.
A Thursday, May 7, 2015, emergency order posted on the fish and wildlife department’s e-rules Web portal https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=1577 announced the cancellation of this pending opener. There’s a provision that would allow an opening sometime in the planned 60-day period of this fishery if enough kings return to the hatchery.
Also, this year’s lower Skagit in-river sockeye fishery is set to start Tuesday, June 16.
For reference, the lower Nooksack will open July 15 for its expected return of odd-year pink salmon, a.k.a. humpies.
Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald’s outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at bellinghamherald.com/outdoors-blog/.