Fishing Near Dayton and Columbia County

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This article highlights the best fishing spots in Columbia County, a rural and sometimes rugged area just east of Walla Walla, between the Snake River on the north and Oregon on the south.

Columbia County includes the city of Dayton and several very small communities, and it shares parts of the Umatilla National Forest and Blue Mountains with neighboring counties in both Washington and Oregon.

Columbia County has a wide variety of fishing for a relatively small place, including good opportunities to catch trout, bass, catfish, salmon, steelhead and more.

Just a note that many of the trout stocked in Columbia County are placed in artificial ponds (with water pumped in, at least seasonally) within the Wooten Wildlife Area along the Tucannon River, a popular fishing and camping destination.

The ponds are sometimes collectively known as the Tucannon Ponds, but we’ll list them separately below because there are some differences.

Note that nearly all of these ponds do not allow fishing from a floating device, so plan to fish from the bank.

This article provides a quick look at where you are likeliest to find some very good fishing in Columbia County.

After you’ve explored the better fishing options within the county, you’ll also want to see what’s just across the lines with our “Fishing in Neighboring Counties” at the bottom of this article.

Big Four Lake

This 3-acre lake in the Wooten Wildlife Area is the only fly fishing-only lake in the region. 

Expect Big Four to be well-stocked in early spring with rainbow trout, as soon as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife can get across the Tucannon River to stock it.

Anglers also will need to make sure it’s safe to wade across the Tucannon to get to the lake, which not only is restricted to fly fishing but also allows only bank fishing.

Anglers may keep only two trout per day and those must be at least 14 inches, so many trout are released to fight again here.

The lake is nearly 27 miles up Tucannon Road from the Interstate 12 intersection at the tiny crossroads of Tucannon.

Blue Lake

This is a small but accessible and well-stocked lake for rainbow trout also located in the Tucannon River area.

Blue Lake is open all year but best after being planted with several thousand catchable trout in spring and again in fall. WDFW also may put hundreds of very large trout in early spring.

Blue Lake is located within the Wooten Wildlife Area along the Tucannon Road south of Marengo.

This lake is located close to camping available on the Wooten Wildlife Area, U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, Camp Wooten State Park, and the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.

Blue Lake is just off Tucannon Road (about 30 minutes upriver from Interstate 12) and has easy shoreline access around more than half of the lake.

Curl Lake

Yet another lake along Tucannon Road, this lake is open to fishing seasonally beginning the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and running through October.

The reason this lake is open seasonally is that it’s also used as an acclimation pond for spring Chinook salmon for much of the off-season.

This could be a good spot for people with limited mobility as there is a vehicle-free gravel roadway around the 2-acre lake.

As with the other lakes along Tucannon Road, there is lots of public camping in the general area, plus a private KOA at the Last Resort.

Dayton Pond

Dayton Pond offers fishing for juveniles and anglers with a disability and a state-issued designated harvester card.

This tiny pond is stocked with catchable rainbow trout (and a smaller number of really big ones) starting very early in spring and again in June, and fishing will be best in the periods after those plantings.

Brown trout have been stocked at times in the past, but rainbows are more common. Check stocking schedules for details.

While technically open all year, the pond is often only filled with water from early spring into early summer, the only time there are fishable numbers of trout anyway.

There is very good shoreline access at the pond in Dayton Park, located in town near the Touchet River. The pond also has been known as Dayton Juvenile Pond..

Deer Lake

Deer Lake offers bank fishing only off the Tucannon River in the Wooten Wildlife Area. Open dates are March 1 through November 30.

Deer lake is nicely stocked in the spring with catchable rainbow trout.

Access to Deer Lake is gained by driving south of Rainbow Lake and hiking about half a mile south beyond a locked gate.

Donnie Lake

This small high-elevation fishing pond is primarily used by visitors to Camp Wooten Environmental Learning Center on the Wooten Wildlife Area, where the pond is located along the upper Tucannon River.  

It is typically stocked in April with a few hundred rainbow trout.

Orchard Pond

Orchard Pond along the Snake River is stocked with rainbow trout for good spring fishing.

The pond, less than 5 acres, is open all year but catchable and very large trout are planted in late winter and early spring, and that’s when fishing will be worthwhile.

Orchard Pond is near the Lyons Ferry Marina parking lot on the south side of the Snake River.

Rainbow Lake

This 8-acre lake is one of the most heavily stocked lakes in the Wooten Wildlife Area along the Tucannon River.

WDFW typically stocks this lake with 15,000 or more rainbow trout with several plantings in the spring.

Expect fishing to slow down dramatically as those fish are caught out, and water levels might be an issue into the dry season.

Rainbow Lake also offers excellent bank access, including for people with disabilities.

As with other lakes in the Tucannon River area, this spot is close to lots of public camping areas and a private KOA.

Snake River

The Columbia County stretch of the Snake River is within a larger river section turned into reservoirs with a series of hydroelectric dams, turning the fisheries more into lake systems than river fishing.

But the Snake still has river-run fish, including both fall and spring Chinook salmon.

The fall runs are often your better bet, typically in September and October, with the best catches in this area coming below Little Goose Dam in Columbia County down to Lower Monumental Dam in neighboring Walla Walla County.

Spring Chinook are often caught in smaller numbers, according to recent catch records.

Salmon fishing here is allowed under emergency regulations when WDFW determines the runs are strong enough to allow fisheries, which is fairly often.

The steelhead that run up the Snake River are technically summer-run fish, but they don’t actually arrive in the river in worthwhile numbers until fall.

Catches from these reservoirs, often by trolling, can range from fairly modest to quite good, depending on the run year. Much of the action occurs around October or November, but things may also pick up again as the weather starts to ease up in the weeks before the closure at the end of March.

The Snake in this area also is well known for its warm water fishing, with the two favorite species definitely being smallmouth bass and channel catfish. There also are some crappie and other species of bass, panfish and catfish found here.

You might catch a sturgeon in the lower Snake River system, but pay close attention to regulations as these fish are protected in these parts.

We’d also note that all but a few of the Snake River’s tributaries in this part of Washington are closed to angling, so read those regulations carefully well before that first cast.

Spring Lake

Another lake located along Tucannon Road south of Marengo, Spring Lake is very nicely stocked with thousands of rainbow trout several times a year.

In this area, it’s a go-to lake in the fall after a late-season planting, unlike other nearby waters. Check stocking schedules to plan a trip, though.

You may also hook some smallmouth bass here.

There is lots of camping in the area.

Touchet River

The Touchet River around Dayton is most enthusiastically fished for its brown trout.

The forks above also have trout, including rainbows and protected bull trout.

The Touchet River also gets a steelhead run, although at last check steelhead harvests were modest and typically occurring most often in late winter.

Steelhead fishing is allowed in the mainstem from the Dayton area down into Walla Walla County.

Tucannon River

This river offers a variety of fishing opportunities, including trout and steelhead.

Wild rainbow trout are the primary target in season, typically beginning in late spring or early summer after snow runoff subsides. The Marengo area can be good.

Steelhead catches have been modest here in recent years, with several dozen or so coming primarily in the early fall.

However, this stream is nicely stocked with hatchery steelhead smolts at several locations, with the fishing typically occurring in the fall through the early spring closure. Wintry weather will typically put a damper on this fishery.

Steelhead fishing is allowed in season from the mouth up to the Hatchery Road bridge.

There also are native bull trout and hatchery spring Chinook salmon, but both are protected here under typical rules.

Whitefish also may appear in your catch but aren’t widely targeted.

Watson Lake

Watson Lake is heavily stocked with 10,000 or more catchable rainbow trout per year.

The lake is located across the Tucannon River from a parking area, but a foot bridge provides easy access with a short walk. Once there, bank fishing access is very good.

This lake is close to plentiful camping areas and lots of other small fishing lakes on and near the Wooten Wildlife Area.

Fishing in Neighboring Counties

Walla Walla County: to the west, the Walla Walla area offers a variety of fisheries in the Snake, Walla Walla and a bit of the Columbia rivers, as well as nicely stocked trout lakes.

Whitman County: to the north, the home of Pullman includes several nicely stocked trout lakes and warmwater fishing opportunities.

Asotin and Garfield Counties: To the east, the Clarkston area can be great for steelhead, bass, catfish and stocked trout.

Washington Resources

WDFW Fishing and Stocking Reports
WDFW Fishing Regulations
National Weather Service forecasts