Salmon and steelhead
The Clearwater River is a lonely place this season, what with the lack of hatchery fish, the reduced limit and the size restriction. There are fish to be caught, however, if you’re not particularly interested in bringing one home. The Grande Ronde is fishing pretty well for anglers drifting jigs or trolling plugs.
A friend fished from the rip-rap at Wawawai this week and had several take-downs and two keeper steelhead for the freezer. Large steelhead are in short supply in the Snake as most A-run fish are returning after only one year in salt water, and the B-run return is very low.
During the last week of October, creel reports on the Tucannon River showed the best catch-rate average of all Snake drainage sections checked – just a little over five hours of angling per steelhead caught. Correction follows: Since Aug. 30, Tucannon River anglers have been required to keep all hatchery-marked steelhead they catch up to their daily limit of two. The river from Marengo (at Turner Road) upstream is closed to steelhead fishing.
Steelhead fishing is good in the John Day arm of the Columbia. Weekly checking showed 22 adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus 45 unclipped steelhead released for 45 boats.
Steelhead fishing remains slow on the main stem Columbia River but the Methow has been good – so good, in fact, that there have been rumors the river would close soon. Now, however, it looks like it will remain open at least another two weeks. If the Methow does close, the main stem Columbia would also close from Wells Dam to the Highway 173 Bridge at Brewster. Guide, Shane Magnuson, says he is averaging about six fish a day – half of them hatchery. He drifts bobbers and jigs below the mouth of the Methow.
Fishing for resident Puget Sound chinook salmon is now underway in marine areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9. Good bets include Useless Bay, Possession Bar and West Point. Also available are chum salmon at Point No Point off the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula and Possession Bar south of Whidbey Island.
Chum salmon are pushing into Westside rivers. Popular fishing spots include the Hoodsport Hatchery area of Hood Canal and the mouth of Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet. Other areas where anglers can find chum salmon include the Dosewallips and Duckabush rivers in Jefferson County and Minter Creek in Pierce/Kitsap Counties. Several Westside rivers are also open in November for steelhead fishing, including the Nooksack, Skagit, Cascade, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish, Wallace, Snoqualmie and Green.
Trout and kokanee
Many of the region’s top-producing trout fishing lakes are closed by November. But there are a couple of exceptions as well as several year-round-open waters worth trying. Southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lake is one of these; it remains open through the end of November for catch-and-release, selective-gear fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout. Rock Lake has been excellent for 14-16-inch ‘bows and browns.’ “Roosevelt rainbow fishing is very good, with most fish running about 16 inches,” says WDFW District Fish Biologist Bill Baker. The best bite is early, tapering off before noon. Hot spots have been the Spokane mouth, the Hawk Creek mouth and Split Rock. A few large kokanee were reported this week. Big rainbows continue to provide action at Sprague Lake, and a few sportsmen are making their outing there a cast and blast, though they admit the trout fishing is better than the duck hunting, which is for mostly local birds.
A few lowland rainbow trout lakes in the Okanogan are still open for catch-and-release trout fishing through November – Big and Little Green lakes near Omak and Rat Lake near Brewster. Selective gear rules are in effect.
Roosevelt walleye anglers have to work at it, but fishing has been reasonably good in Porcupine Bay and in the Kettle Falls area. Every section of the Columbia and Snake Rivers in South Central Washington holds large populations of both smallmouth bass and walleye. Anglers should start in 15-25 feet on the edges of the main river channels. This is also a great time to catch walleye on Moses Lake, Banks, and Potholes. Fish are packing on pounds before slipping into lethargy for the winter.
Anglers interested in catching lots of perch should try year-round-open Patterson Lake near Winthrop, Washington. Average size on these perch is only 7-8 inches but there’s no daily limit and no minimum size, Anglers are encouraged to retain all perch caught regardless of size. For slightly larger perch closer to home, try Silver, Waitts or Long lakes.
Northern pike anglers on Lake Coeur d’ Alene are still taking fish on plastic frogs in shallow water. The bite has picked up a lot in the last week. No large fish were reported, with most in the 20-25-inch range. The Weeds are still up.
The late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting season runs Saturday through November 19 in northeast Game Management Units 105, 108, 111, 113, and 124 for any buck. GMUs 117 and 121 are also open for the late buck hunt, but are under a four-antler-point minimum rule. Deer hunter check stations will be conducted the last weekend of the hunt, Nov. 16-17, to help provide information about success rates and deer body condition. Hunters 65 and over, disabled or youth under 16 can harvest antlerless whitetails during the Nov. 9-19 late season in special deer areas. Check your regs. Late archery and muzzleloader deer hunting is also available in select units later in the month.
WDFW Upland Game Bird Specialist Joey McCanna reports good numbers of wild pheasants in the central and southeast districts of the region, where many private landowners allow hunting through various WDFW access programs. Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage). WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Manager Juli Anderson says it looks like an average year at best for Hungarian partridge hunting in the Lincoln County area. She reminds upland game bird hunters that the season is closed for sharp-tailed and sage grouse that are protected as they recover in the area, so be sure of bird identification before shooting.
BACKCOUNTRY -- Here's the source of most of the area's smoke woes -- the fires in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Here's a shot I made today as I hiked south ...