Pat Way at Northwest Outfitters in Coeur d’Alene says there has been a lot of insect activity on the Coeur d’Alene and the St. Joe rivers, and cool evening temperatures are keeping flows low enough to be fishable. Streamer fishing tight to the bank is effective. He added that wading will be tricky for a few days and this is no time for beginning rowers to be floating the rivers. The Clark Fork in western Montana should be fishable this weekend, but fluctuation in flows is a given this time of year. The Yakima River is still high, but catching has been decent.
Lenice Lake is sitting at about 50 degrees and fly fishermen are seeing lots of midges and a few Mayflies. The trout are finicky and it’s necessary to change flies often as they seem to wise up quickly.
San Juan worms or bead heads are producing decent numbers of fish on Henrys Fork of the Snake River. Fishing has been good, particularly on warmer days on the South Fork. Fish and Game encourages anglers to keep all rainbow trout caught in the South Fork. There is no limit.
Trout and kokanee
WDFW fish hatchery crews have finished stocking more than 20 million fish in Washington waterways before the state’s biggest fishing season opener on April 30, when 300,000 anglers are expected to turn out. Among the fish stocked by WDFW crews are 50,000 triploid averaging 1 1/2 pounds apiece, stocked in 108 lakes; 84,000 2-year-old “jumbo” and surplus hatchery broodstock trout (1 1/2 to 5 pounds each), stocked in 172 lakes; 6.8 million trout, planted in 474 lakes; and 3.5 million catchable-size trout stocked in 347 waters. Fish stocking details – by county and lake – are available in the Annual Statewide Hatchery Trout Stocking Plan on WDFW’s website (wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/statewide).
Area fish biologist Chris Donley said he had a great day on Sprague Lake last weekend trolling a Firetiger Wiggle Wart with enough weight to get down 11-14 feet. Donley said he caught a total of seven trout, two of which weighed more than 5 pounds each. He also caught a 5-pound largemouth on the same setup. Sprague is not packed with trout, but the chances of catching a whopper are good.
Because of the low-water launching situation most boat fishing on Lake Roosevelt is in the vicinity of Spring Canyon, where trollers are catching rainbow and fair numbers of 16-inch kokanee. Shore fishermen are taking trout from the rapidly-receding bays.
Palmer Lake in the Okanogan is giving up limits of outsized kokanee to trollers fishing shallow in the middle of the lake. Some of the kokes are nearly 20 inches long.
Banks Lake is producing good catches of big trout and whitefish from the dikes at Coulee City Marina. Water temperatures remain chilly at 42-44 degrees.
Anglers are taking some good-sized triploids on Rufus Woods when the current cooperates. Fish to 8 pounds and larger have been taken recently from the shore by the net pens or by trolling.
Spoons, spinnerbaits, Rapalas and swimbaits are all taking Pend Oreille River pike. At times, anglers have been able to catch all the 20- to 30-inch fish they want, with a big one now and then. The whole system seems to be hot, with excellent reports coming from Oldtown to Cusick.
The bays on Lake Coeur d’Alene are good for taking pike on bait under a bobber. Anglers are also catching quite a few pike on plugs in the Chain Lakes.
Walleye anglers are finding good numbers on Banks Lake. A slow troll is working best. The line from Barker Flats to Steamboat has been productive at 30 to 60 feet. Smallmouth fishing hasn’t gotten hot yet at Banks, but those that are catching them say they are deep. Lake Roosevelt walleye fishing remains decent, but the smallmouth bite hasn’t begun.
There are good numbers of 10- to 14-inch largemouth in Sprague now – big enough to have some fun with by summer. The bluegill and crappie need another growing season to be decent size. Donley says anglers can expect to catch a lot more bluegill than crappie.
Downs Lake hasn’t warmed up much in the past week and bass fishing is still slow. The lily pads are not quite halfway out of the water. With the current warming trend, Downs is due to explode for largemouth anglers.
Hayden and Hauser lakes in Idaho are picking up for crappie, as are Kelso and Fernan. A 19-pound rainbow was taken at Hayden recently, but trout fishing has been slow overall.
Steelhead and salmon
Chinook fishing seasons will open in the Clearwater, Snake, Little Salmon and part of the lower Salmon rivers on Saturday. As of Tuesday, only 15 adult Chinook had been counted crossing Lower Granite Dam, the last dam fish pass as they migrate up the Snake.
Anglers on the South Fork Clearwater are catching a steelhead every five hours on average, but they aren’t keeping many of them. The river has been muddy. The Little Salmon and the Salmon upstream from the East Fork were kicking out a steelhead every three hours on average last week. The fish are higher up in the system now – Boulder Creek and above.
Coeur d’Alene chinook are scattered and often difficult to find, but those being caught are near the surface.
Turkey hunters have been frustrated by cold weather, quiet birds and changing patterns due to traditional food plots that are still dormant. If the temperatures get into the 60s, things could get crazy quickly.
A zigzagging sliver of water in the scablands southwest of Davenport is a model of rare opportunity for the muscle-powered sportsman. Z Lake isn’t named on government maps. It isn’t listed in Washington’s fishing regulations pamphlet because it’s open year-round with no special regulations.
NIGHT SKIES -- Wherever you're headed outdoors this holiday weekend, I hope Nature leaves the Lights on for you.
ENDANGERED SPECIES -- Not since the market hunting days have waterfowl gunners set their sights so high. Government hunters reportedly are scouting an island at the mouth of the Columbia ...