The Grande Ronde River is clear and cold, and steelhead fishing is tough, although anglers from Northwest Outfitters in Coeur d’Alene had a successful trip recently. They said the fish are really spread out and covering a lot of water thoroughly is more important than the fly you choose. Most of their fish came after noon, particularly at dusk.
Steelhead and salmon
Water temperatures are cold on the Snake and Clearwater and steelhead fishing, though not great, is not completely futile either. Angling has also slowed down on the Salmon and colder daytime temperatures are causing ice to form in some parts of the river.
Catch rates for hatchery steelhead have picked up in the Hanford Reach but are still running a little slower than normal. Paul Hoffarth, a district fish biologist for WDFW, said fishing should remain productive through December as steelhead mill around waiting for the spring spawn. “The fish are still out there, but fishing tends to get spotty – good one day, bad the next,” he said.
Coeur d’Alene Lake chinook anglers are catching a lot of small fish dragging Mini-Squids at 90 feet.
Trout and kokanee
Hog Canyon Lake, which opened Thursday, has rainbows ranging from 9-16 inches. Fourth of July Lake, 2 miles south of Sprague in Lincoln County, looks better than last year with most fish more than 14 inches and some as large as 24 inches. The other two winter season trout lakes are in Stevens County – Hatch Lake, about 5 miles southeast of Colville, and Williams Lake, 14 miles north of Colville. WDFW northeast district fish biologist Bill Baker said fishing in both lakes should be good this season. The rainbows in Hatch Lake range 12-15 inches and those in Williams Lake will be 11-13 inches. On Wednesday night, there was ice around the edges at Williams, but it was probably fishable. Hatch Lake ice was thicker, but not safe. It may not be fishable until colder weather prevails.
Waitts Lake is a good winter destination for the trout angler, and there will be little competition. Long-lining small Rapalas or Rippin’ Minnows or going deeper with a flasher and Apex will put fish in the boat. Browns and rainbows are hitting at midlake north of the public access. The fish are mostly 12-14 inches.
Lake Roosevelt anglers – boat and bank fishermen – are not getting the consistent trout action they have come to expect from the big reservoir. Local anglers who traditionally do well from shore at Jones Bay say they aren’t catching anything. A couple of positive reports came in from anglers dragging Muddlers near mile marker 25. Another angler said he fished all day without a hit until he moved over to A-rock, where he limited quickly on big fish by trolling Muddlers under four colors of leaded line.
Rufus Woods is giving up some large two-fish limits to anglers long-lining Wooly Buggers 100-150 feet back. A trolling speed of 1 mph or less is recommended. The Pump 4 area near Bridgeport has been good.
Big browns and rainbows are becoming aggressive at Rock Lake. Troll leaded line and experiment with depth, as the fish are cruising anywhere from 15 to 40 feet. A Double Whammy and piece of nightcrawler is a good Rock Lake enticement. Hip boots will shorten your launch time and frustration considerably.
Most anglers quit fishing for bass this time of year, but the bite is still there if they’ll just go deeper. Drop-shotting is effective. Good reports have come recently from Long, Coeur d’Alene, Chelan, Banks and Potholes.
WDFW has tentatively scheduled evening clam digs on minus tides at several ocean beaches Dec. 10, 22 and 23, pending the results of marine toxin tests. For updated information, check the department’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/.
The Yakima River Basin is closed to steelhead fishing, but the whitefish season opened Thursday on the Yakima and Naches rivers. The catch limit is 15 fish per day, but anglers are required to use a single-point hook no larger than a size 14.
Pheasants are moving back and forth between heavy cover and CRP, depending on what the weather is doing. Last week in the snow, I found birds in the brush and trees. The week before they were along the edges and in CRP. This week, I couldn’t find them at all.
The duck report is about the same as last week and the week before – no new birds. At Mardon Resort on Potholes Reservoir, Mike Meseberg said there are many birds on the reservoir but success has been erratic, depending on the weather. He said there are huge numbers of lesser Canadas in the area but not many migrant honkers.
Populations of Canada geese are good in the Burbank area of Walla Walla County and around Clarkston in Asotin County, where goose hunting is open daily throughout the season. The Pend Oreille River is also seeing good concentrations of geese but few ducks.
There is an absence of quail along the Snake River breaks, but chukars have been a pleasant surprise, although each week they seem to be higher. Last week, friends found a few coveys just below the wheat stubble on top.
Fall turkey hunters are finding large flocks and easy picking north and east of Spokane in units 105-124.
Most recent column
The curtain has opened on the last act in the Columbia River system’s “Year of the Salmon.” The performance began with good returns of spring chinook followed by this summer’s post-dams record returns of sockeye and a great showing of coho. Now the big stars …
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