Fishing Near Walla Walla, Clarkston and SE Washington

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This article will look at the better fishing spots in four southeastern Washington counties stretching from Walla Walla to the Idaho border near Clarkston.

The area we cover here (listed west to east) includes Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin counties, all of which sit between the Snake River and the Oregon border.

The most populated of these four counties is Walla Walla County, on the west side, home to more than 60,000 people, many of whom live in and near the city of Walla Walla.

At the other end, where the Snake takes a big turn toward the west, Asotin County includes the cities of Clarkston and Asotin.

Between them, Columbia and Garfield counties have small human populations but some nicely fish-populated waters.

Columbia County includes the city of Dayton and several very small communities, while Pomeroy is the only incorporated city in Garfield County, which has just a few thousand people  and is Washington’s least-populated county.

Other cities in Walla Walla County include East Walla Walla, College Place, Prescott and Waitsburg. Among the cities in this region, Walla Walla is the biggest tourist destination and also is known as home to Whitman College and several attractions and wineries.

Besides the Snake River, several of these Southeastern Washington counties also share parts of the Umatilla National Forest and Blue Mountains with Northeastern Oregon. There are wildlife refuges, historic sites, and other attractions.

However, you almost certainly landed on this article looking for places to go fishing in this large and in part remote region of the state.

Here’s a quick look at some of the best fishing sites.

We’ll give an overview of the Snake River first, since it’s shared by all four counties, and then we’ll take a peak at some of the other great fishing holes working our way from west to east.

Snake River

A majority of this section of the Snake River flowing across the southeastern corner of Washington is largely tamed into a series of reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams. For many years now the dams have been the targets of groups who want to restore the Snake River’s migratory salmon and steelhead runs.

Salmon and steelhead still run up the Snake and are caught in moderate numbers in the lower river.

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

Fall Chinook salmon are caught mainly in September and October, often with the best catches coming from between Lower Monumental Dam in Walla Walla County and Little Goose Dam in Columbia County.

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

Steelhead fishing can be fair to good in the Snake River, depending where and when you fish.

These are summer-run fish, but they don’t arrive in good numbers in this system until the fall.

The best summer steelhead catches are typically in the upper part of Washington’s section of the Snake, above the Interstate 12 bridge in Clarkston where the river has more flow the closer you get to Hell’s Canyon and the Oregon border.

This stretch includes the mouth of the Grande Ronde River (Rogersburg), where many hatchery steelhead turn off. Expect steelhead fishing here to peak in October and November.

Steelhead catches are usually a more modest downriver between the lower Snake Dams, with catches spread out from mid-fall through winter, closing after March. Trolling plugs is a common tactic for reservoir steelheading.

This entire stretch of the Snake River across these four counties can have some pretty incredible warmwater fishing.

The two most popular species targeted here are smallmouth bass and channel catfish, both abundant throughout the lower Snake River region.

There also are crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, and several other species of panfish and catfish.

The lower Snake River also is home to white sturgeon, including some big ones, but take note that this fishery is strictly catch and release.

We’d also note that all but a few of the Snake River’s tributaries in this part of Washington are closed to angling. The ones that do allow fishing are listed below under one or more counties, as appropriate.

Best Fishing Near Walla Walla

The following fishing spots are in Walla Walla County.

Bennington Lake

Located just a couple miles east of Walla Walla, and formerly known as Mill Creek Reservoir, Bennington Lake is heavily stocked with trout and triploids multiple times a year.

This more 50-plus acre lake is open for fishing, but it will shine the brightest in the spring and early summer, when the trout are plentiful and access is best.

This popular spot receives multiple plants that typically total over 15,000 catchable-size rainbow trout in late spring, and more than 500 very large trout may be planted in early spring.

You might also catch warmwater species including bass, crappie or perch.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir offers good bank access and a boat launch.

Note that fishing prospects become limited after about mid-summer and into the fall, when water levels are drawn well down.

Columbia River

The section of this huge river on the west end of Walla Walla County has all sorts of fishing opportunities, from migrating salmon and steelhead to incredible angling for resident walleye, smallmouth bass and channel catfish.

More: Columbia River Fishing

Fish Hook Pond

This small year-round fishing pond west of Fish Hook Park is about a 30-minute drive northeast of Burbank.

The main catch here are the rainbow trout, several thousand of which are stocked in the spring.

There’s a trail to walk about a half mile to the pond.

This is a bank fishing spot only. Fishing from floating devices is prohibited. 

Hood Park Pond

Hood Park Pond is on the north side of the community of Burbank, at the western end of the county near where the Snake River joins the Columbia River.

This 1-acre park pond is well stocked with trout several times in early spring, when fishing is best. 

You may also catch yellow perch at this year-round pond.

Jefferson Park Pond

This one-acre pond in the city of Walla Walla is set aside for select anglers to have a better chance to catch fish.

Fishing here is restricted to juvenile and senior anglers, as well anglers with a state-issued disability who have a designated harvester companion card.

Jefferson Park is open year-round but fishing will be most worthwhile once it is stocked, typically several times from late February to early June.

WDFW stocks both catchable and jumbo rainbow trout. 

The pond is off South 9th Avenue just north of the county fairgrounds.

Lions Park Pond

This is a small half-acre pond in the town of College Place is open to the same group of anglers as Jefferson Park Pond, described above.

Lions Park Pond also is open all year and stocked several times each spring with rainbow trout. 

Lions Park Pond is located along Garrison Creek in Lions Park, just a few miles southwest of downtown Walla Walla.

Quarry Pond

The pond sitting just off Interstate 12 is open year-round, but it will definitely be busy in the spring, when it is stocked multiple times with rainbow trout.

Quarry Pond is a diked-off section of Burbank Slough along the Columbia River.

Almost 20,000 catchable sized rainbow trout as well as some 400 very large rainbows have been planted at Quarry Pond in recent years.

This is a bank-fishing only spot, so leave those floating devices at home. Shoreline access is excellent though.

Quarry Pond is only 12 minutes south of Burbank and has good access just west of I-12 in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

Touchet River

This major tributary of the Walla Walla River flows through both Columbia and Walla Walla counties and among anglers is probably best for trout fishing but also has a modest run of steelhead.

The stream’s forks headwater in the Blue Mountains before coming together near Dayton and flowing through Waitsburg on the way down to Touchet, where it joins the Walla Walla River near Interstate 12.

The Touchet River has a nice population of brown trout, particularly upriver around Dayton.

It also is home to rainbow trout as well as protected bull trout.

Trout fishing is allowed in the mainstem and up into the forks and a couple of tributaries, with selective gear rules in effect in those upstream areas.

Steelhead fishing is allowed most of the year (except a short spring closure) in the Touchet River’s mainstem below where the two main forks join near Dayton.

But while the season is long, steelhead don’t typically arrive until at least the fall, and sometimes late winter is best for catches, which have been very modest in recent years as steelhead runs have been somewhat weak.

This could be a stream to watch should significantly stronger steelhead runs return to the mid-Columbia region’s streams, because it has produced better in the past.

The lower river also is home to warmwater game fish, including smallmouth bass.

Walla Walla River

The mainstem Walla Walla River offers a variety of fishing opportunities, including some incredible channel catfish, good smallmouth bass and at times pretty decent steelhead fishing.

The river begins as a trout stream in the mountains of Oregon before flowing northward into Washington, where it changes its character somewhat.

This is a nice little steelhead river, with decent catches starting up in about October and stretching into March.

Typically, the very best catches will be in the fall and again in February and March, but even mid-winter can produce fish, especially with breaks in the weather, though expect fewer opportunities.

The lower reaches of this river provide some excellent warmwater fishing.

Warmer weather of spring and summer brings some of the state’s best fishing for big channel catfish, particularly near the mouth at the Columbia River and lowest stretches of the Walla Walla River.

Nighttime fishing with your favorite catfish baits during the hottest months is popular.

Smallmouth bass prevalent in the Columbia River also make their way into the Walla Walla River, as might other warmwater species.

Best fishing Near Dayton and Columbia County

The following waters are located in Columbia County.

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.

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 WDFW 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.

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 Near Pomeroy in Garfield County

There aren’t any waters in this county that currently appear on WDFW’s stocking schedule, although a few waters have been stocked in the past.

Tucannon River

The very upper reaches of this river system are in Garfield County, although much of the fishing is downstream in Columbia County (see listing above).

The upper watershed consists of very small streams with rainbow trout, whitefish and protected bull trout.

Fishing Near Clarkston in Asotin County

These waters are located in the most southeastern of all of Washington’s counties and include one of the state’s best steelhead rivers and several heavily stocked trout ponds.

Asotin Creek

These days Asotin Creek is closed to steelhead, which are a wild strain (unless a hatchery fish takes a wrong turn out of the Snake River).

Old-timers might also remember when this stream was stocked with hatchery trout, but now it’s strictly managed for wild fish.

However, this long stream’s mainstem and part of its North Fork are open to fishing seasonally for wild trout and other species but do take note of selective gear rules in force here.

The South Fork and upper North Fork are closed to angling, so study up on the regulations to make sure you’re fishing where it’s legal.

The stream joins the Snake River at the city of Asotin, about 10 minutes south of Clarkston, and then Asotin Creek Road follows it far upstream.

Golf Course Pond

Golf Course Pond near Clarkston is a small waterway that fishes big for lots of stocked rainbow trout in the early season.

The pond is regularly stocked in February through early June with more than 15,000 rainbow trout, including some fish that are very large. 

Golf Course Pond is cut off from the Snake River along U.S. 12, just west of the local golf course.

There is a parking area reached from Elm Street just off the interstate, and bank access is very good.

Grande Ronde River

You might not realize, but the lower Grande Ronde River out in the southeastern corner of the state is one of Washington’s very best steelhead streams.

The Grande Ronde River (even more so than the larger Snake River) is why Asotin County anglers tend to harvest more steelhead per catch card than just about anywhere else in Washington.

The river, which starts in Oregon, is one of the premiere inland rivers in this part of the Snake River system.

The lower river can put out several thousand summer steelhead in a season, but don’t read that and show up here in July or August expecting steelhead.

The summer steelhead heading to the Grande Ronde typically find colder water refuges downriver into the Columbia system and its tributaries to ride out the hot summers, and then they show up in force in the Grande Ronde in the fall.

The steelhead season here spreads out across about half the year, with good catches possible anytime between October and March.

Since winters can be bitter here, some of the best times to catch Grande Ronde steelhead are soon after they arrive in the fall (and they are brighter then) and again in the final weeks of the season in March.

Also take note that there are special catch and release requirements in the lower river for part of the steelhead season, so move upriver during those times if you’re after keepers.

Steelhead aren’t the only game in town on the Grande Ronde, which has a very nice smallmouth bass fishery during the warmer months.

The lower river might also see some catches of other warmwater game fish, particularly some channel catfish and possibly some panfish.

Spring Chinook salmon migrate up the Grande Ronde but are generally not open to harvest in the mainstem.

Read about Grande Ronde River Fishing in Oregon.

Headgate Pond

This tiny pond in Headgate County Park is eight miles west of Asotin.

Headgate pond is stocked with catchable and large size rainbow trout, typically from February through June.

Fishing is best during spring before the water warms too much. 

It is open only to juveniles, seniors and anglers who have a disability and a state-issued designated harvester card.

West Evans Pond

West Evans Pond is a year-round fishing water that’s planted with more than 15,000 catchable rainbow trout and also some very large trout.

It is a small impoundment off the Snake River between the bottom of Alpowa Grade and west of the City of Clarkston.   

It is normally stocked multiple times from late February through early June, and trout fishing will be best in that time frame. 

There is a parking area and very good access around the entire shoreline.

West Evans Pond is only about five minutes west of Clarkston and just a little over a mile west of Golf Course Pond, which also is generously stocked with trout for spring fishing.

Washington Resources

WDFW fishing and stocking reports
WDFW fishing regulations
National Weather Service forecasts