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High lakes in Washington.

Just yesterday my son, Zach, was telling me about goal setting. Maybe the best goal setting I’ve ever heard. As he guided guests on 5-day whitewater rafting trips his goal would be to make sure each of the kids on the trip caught their very first fish. And then they would fry them up in camp that night for dinner.

Watching kids catch a fish is magical. There is this mix of emotion in the youth with anticipation, excitement and even fear as they feel the tug on the line, reel like crazy and finally after lifting the fish into the boat or onto the shore they sometimes are very hesitant in touching that slimy little guy. Yes, it is magical and I’d greatly encourage everyone to go have this fun.

In the Columbia River Gorge, we’ve got water everywhere and with water comes fishing. You can go after trout, smallmouth bass, walleye, salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and more. Kid fishing is easiest and maybe best when you chase after the smaller fish, both trout and smallmouth bass. 

Oscar strings his first of the day.

It really does not take much to get started. At a minimum you’ll need a trout pole and some very minimal tackle. You can spend very little on these items or quite a bit. Fishing can be as simple as casting out some power-bait or a worm with a bobber and then relax and wait for that bobber to start doing its bobbing. My experience has been that kids enjoy casting as much as fishing so letting them have a good casting practice session before the fishing can also be a great time of fun. 

Both Washington and Oregon have dates where you are allowed to fish without need for a license and for some ages youth do not need a license at any time during the year. Purchasing a license can be done at many locations in the Columbia River Gorge and you can even get one online. They even have special 3-day licenses for those who are visiting for a short time. Locally you can pick up a booklet of fishing laws and of course you can find them online for both Oregon and Washington. 

Aurora providing some dinner.

Now, for the big secrets! Where to catch some trout or bass. Everywhere! Some of the super easy access points in the Columbia River Gorge are Rowland and Horsetheif lakes just east of the White Salmon River and Bingen, Washington. Taylor lake east of Hood River, Oregon offers great access and is a great bet for trout and then bass also when the water warms in the summer. If you wish to take an easy drive to a mountain lake you will find that Oregon has Timothy and Trillium lakes near Mt. Hood and Washington has Goose, Forlorn, Council and Takhlakh lakes near Mt. Adams. There is really no big secret. With lots of water, we have lots of fishing. 

So, head to one of the local lakes and catch a fish or two. Or as I do, catch some sunshine and a nap! It’s all good.

These links can help get you started:

            Free fishing days – Oregon Oregon Fish and Game

            Fee Fishing days – Washington Washington Fish and Game

As always, never hesitate to hit me up for information on the fun we are having here in the Columbia River Gorge.

Mark Zoller – MarkZ@ZooRaft.com

Older male guide and company owner, Mark, holding his raft paddle and smiling.
Mark Zoller has been guiding whitewater rafting trips on the White Salmon and Klickitat Rivers since 1985. He lives in and loves the Columbia River Gorge