The fishing in the Tri-Cities area of Kennewick, Richland and Pasco is dominated by a productive reach of the Columbia River and the lower sections of two major tributaries, the Snake and Yakima rivers.
This article will show you the best fishing locations throughout Benton and Franklin counties, including some of its lakes and reservoirs in this irrigated but otherwise dry landscape.
Several of those lakes are nicely stocked with trout, while warmwater fishing for bass, walleye, channel catfish and other game fish also can be excellent.
In Benton County on the west side of the Columbia, Kennewick and Richland are part of the major population center and Prosser is the county seat.
This county also includes Rattlesnake Mountain, Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge and Umatilla National Forest.
Pasco is the largest city in Franklin County, on the east side of the big river, while smaller communities include Connell, Kahlotus and Mesa.
Outdoor attractions here include Sacajawea Historical State Park, Palouse Falls State Park, Juniper Dunes Wilderness and the Snake River.
Besides fishing, camping and other outdoor adventure, the two county-region is home to wineries and casinos that bring visitors.
As mentioned, the Columbia River is the dominant feature of both counties and the focus of much of the best fishing not only in this area but also some of the very best anywhere in Washington.
The Columbia offers some of the region’s biggest salmon and steelhead runs, with summertime Chinook runs often the highlight.
Other native species include giant sturgeon and plentiful whitefish.
The river also hosts spectacular fisheries for non-native fish, including impressive numbers and sizes of smallmouth bass, walleye, shad, channel catfish, and a variety of panfish.
This section of river borders or outright contains some of the best fishing reservoirs (formed by massive hydroelectric dams) forming the John Day and McNary pools (Lake Umatilla and Lake Wallula).
The counties also border on the Hanford Reach, one of the few truly free-running sections of the river in the Pacific Northwest.
This part of the river also sees the confluences of two of the Columbia’s most important tributaries, the Snake and Yakima rivers (see separate listings for those below).
There’s too much fishing in the Columbia River to deal with in an overview article like this, but just know here that the river offers ample opportunities.
Also, be sure to check regulations carefully for the area and time period you will fish. Rules are especially stringent for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon, the latter of which is catch-and-release in many areas of the Columbia.
Several ponds formed by diking in railroad crossings on the Benton County side of the river offer a variety of the same warmwater species as the main river (in a nice little package), including bass, crappie, perch and catfish. This waters include Mitchell, Mount, Pit, Switch and Yellepit ponds.
Luckily, we have much more to report on this incredible river.
More: Columbia River Fishing
The rest of the article lists additional fishing spots located in Benton and Franklin counties with links to more information when available.
And one more thing: Once you’ve read about all of the great fishing spots right near the Tri-Cities, you might also like to know where else you can find some of Washington’s best fishing a short drive away.
We have you covered: Find the “Fishing in Neighboring Counties” feature below the fishing spots in this article. The county links there will take you where you want to go.
Columbia Park Pond
This 7-acre Kennewick fishing hole is the only spot in Benton County that is currently stocked with hatchery-reared trout.
It’s also only open to young anglers, senior anglers and those with a designated harvester companion card.
But for those Tri-Cities anglers who are able to fish it, Columbia Pond is close to home and stocked with something around 10,000 rainbow trout each spring in the March and April time frame. A good number of those fish will be jumbo-sized trout.
Trout fishing should be excellent from the first planting until a few weeks after the final planting, but catches will tend to fade out fairly quickly as the fish numbers get thinned out and warmer weather comes on.
The pond is technically open to fishing all year, but WDFW notes that it may be closed during a few days in April.
Once the trout fishing falls off, anglers still can fish for a variety of common warmwater species found in this area, such as smallmouth and largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill and channel catfish, and you may also hook common carp and northern pikeminnows.
Columbia Park and its fishing pond are located near the Kennewick end of the U.S. 395 Bridge.
Dalton Lake is around 50 acres with a year-round fishing season for planted trout and other game fish located a short drive from Pasco.
Dalton Lake is quite nicely stocked with some 16,000 catchable rainbow trout and about 300 very large triploid rainbow trout, typically between February and April. Trout fishing will be best during that late winter to mid-spring time period, but by the end of June (and possibly sooner) it’ll be all but over.
Besides the early season trout, there is a year-round population of largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie and bullhead catfish. These species will bite well once the water warms in spring and continue to provide action until fishing slows with the arrival of colder fall weather.
Dalton is about five miles northeast of Ice Harbor Dam, on the north side of the Snake River.
A public access with boat launch is provided by the Army Corps of Engineers and is located at the end of Herman Road, off Pasco-Kahlotus Road.
Dalton Lake is about 20 minutes east of Pasco.
This 9-acre pond diked out from the lower Palouse River is modestly stocked with trout during the late winter and early spring.
Recent plantings have included about 1,500 catchable rainbow trout and several dozen much larger trout in February and March.
Located near the local hatchery just up from the Palouse River mouth, this body of water occasionally provides some larger trout carryovers from the previous year, but expect trout fishing to be far slower outside of the stocking period.
The lake can be reached by boat from the Palouse River or a short hike from Lyons Ferry State Park.
The state park is off State Route 261 at the eastern edge of Franklin County, a little more than an hour driving northeast form Pasco. It’s about 25 minutes west of Kahlotus or 10 minutes north of Starbuck.
This nearly 50-acre warmwater fishery in the Mesa area is fed by irrigation water and home to bass, crappie, walleye, yellow perch, sunfish and bullhead catfish.
The lake is about a half hour’s drive north of Pasco, with a WDFW access available from Langford Road.
This Snake River tributary, known more for its calendar-worthy falls, forms the eastern boundary of Franklin County.
Like the Snake River, the lower Palouse River (below the falls) can be good for smallmouth bass fishing, and the area around the mouth at Lyons Ferry State Park can be excellent for warm weather channel catfish angling and also yields some crappie and other game fish.
Hatchery steelhead fishing is open from August through mid-April but catches appear to be few and very far between, so stick to warmwater angling in the lower river.
This small reservoir in the north part of Franklin County is about 20 acres with a year-round fishing season and a brief opportunity at catching big trout.
Powerline Lake is typically stocked with around 650 very large rainbow trout in the spring (around April), and trout fishing then should be good. Some may also be caught in the fall.
There is a two-fish limit and 14-inch minimum for trout in this water.
You also should find good fishing for largemouth bass, yellow perch and black crappie. Other catches might include channel catfish and bluegill.
The lake is located on the WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Unit, eight miles northwest of Mesa.
Access to this lake is walk-in (about 1.5 miles) from a parking area.
When you get there you can fish from shore, but the banks are fairly steep overall.
The lake is located roughly midway between Pasco and Moses Lake, south of Scooteney Reservoir and about 45 minutes from either city.
The parking lot is located at the end of Merion Road off Highway 17.
This fairly big reservoir at almost 700 acres is best fished for a variety of warmwater species, including historically good numbers of both walleye and yellow perch.
Other warmwater fish that at times can provide lots of action include smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and several types of catfish.
Scooteney Reservoir also has quite a decent population of lake whitefish, but few anglers seem to care. (Note that smoked or canned whitefish are quite tasty, and preparing them that way separates them easily from their notorious bones.)
The reservoir is open all year to fishing, with spring into early fall best for warmwater fishing. However, ice fishing can also be quite good here when wintertime conditions are safe.
Scooteney Reservoir is in the northern part of Franklin County, just west of State Route 17 and just nine miles southeast of Othello (a Grant County community).
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation provides a campground that includes a boat launch, a small dock and toilets.
This reach of the Snake River from the mouth near Pasco to the Palouse River forms much of the southern boundary of Franklin County and is fished for a variety of native coldwater and introduced warmwater fish.
The lower Snake River is mostly a series of reservoirs, with Ice Harbor and Lower Monumental dams impounding the waterway.
There are a variety of warmwater fish found in the Snake, although smallmouth bass and channel catfish are the most common and targeted species among the non-native fish.
If the runs are good, anglers may have access under special regulations to several hundred fall Chinook, which arrive in this area mostly in September and October.
Sacajawea Lake (the Ice Harbor Dam impoundment) often accounts for a fair share of the total lower Snake River salmon catch.
The lower section of the Snake also will account for hundreds of hatchery-only steelhead harvested.
While technically summer-run fish, steelhead will be passing through here in the best numbers from November into the winter. Note the closures for April and much of May.
With salmon and steelhead, be sure to check the regulations online for specific details and new updates.
There are sturgeon in the Snake River, but fishing here is strictly catch and release.
The lower section of the Yakima River flows through Benton County on the way to its confluence with the Columbia River at Richland.
Here the river is a low-elevation stream through heavily farmed countryside, which warms the water and adds nutrients.
The lower river doesn’t have the famed trout fishery of the stream in its higher reaches in Kittitas County, but it does sometimes open for decent fishing for salmon migrating upriver (especially returning hatchery fish) when the runs are large enough for WDFW to announce special seasons.
But the most reliable fisheries here center on warmwater species, with the emphasis on good number of smallmouth bass and channel catfish, although other species also are present, especially near the mouth.
The river also has a good whitefish population, including places with a special winter fishery.
More: Yakima River Fishing
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Grant and Adams Counties: To the north, an incredible concentration of waters rich with trout, bass, walleye and more around Moses Lake.
Spokane, Whitman and Lincoln Counties: to the northeast, lakes loaded with trout, bass, panfish and more within easy reach of Spokane and Pullman.
Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin Counties: to the east, sometimes remote lands from Walla Walla and Clarkston in Southeast Washington have some of the state’s best steelheading as well as lots of trout and warmwater gamefish.
Klickitat County: To the southwest, lots of Columbia River fishing for salmon, steelhead, walleye and more, as well as bass and trout spots.
Yakima County: To the west, the eastern slope of the Cascades offers lots of trout, kokanee and other fish in lakes and rivers in the Yakima River drainage.