Following the bass tournament trail is one way for non-tournament anglers to discover the region’s best bass waters. A lake needs good boat facilities and camping to attract the bass tournament crowd, but most of all, it must have a good fishery. Banks Lake and the mid-Columbia River are the most popular bass tournament waters in Eastern Washington, and there’s little dispute they provide some of the region’s finest bass fishing, not to mention excellent walleye fisheries.
McDowell Lake, on the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge in Stevens County, isn’t for everybody. You have to carry or hand-wheel a boat to the lake. Motors are prohibited. Rules allow only fly fishing and all trout caught must be released.
For the second consecutive year, ice was clogging most of the trout fishing lakes in Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties in early April, postponing delivery of precious cargo by hatchery trucks. “We got the fish into Jump-Off Joe Lake, but the then we pretty much had to hold off,” said Bill Baker, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department’s new fisheries biologist based in Colville.
The burgeoning northern pike fishery in the Washington stretch of the Pend Oreille River has caught on beyond local fishermen. The first northern pike tournament in Box Canyon Reservoir is scheduled for this weekend. Another is set for Oct. 3.
Puget Sound is the big winner in saltwater salmon seasons set recently by Pacific Fishery Management Council. By allowing selective fishing for hatchery chinook and coho with clipped adipose fins, the seasons and opportunity are vastly expanded this year.
Priest Lake, despite its storied past of record trout and prolific kokanee, has boiled down to a solid year-round fishery for 14- to 20-inch lake trout, and a few notably bigger ones. “There’s a lot of them in the depths of the lake, and we encourage fishermen to catch them and eat them,” said Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager.
Spring chinook salmon are causing a stir among anglers. Idaho is gearing up, as forecasts call for about 130,000 spring chinook – the fourth-largest run since 1979 – making their way upstream and over Lower Granite Dam, the last Snake River dam the fish must climb before reaching Idaho waters.
Chopaka is back, and we’re not talking about a character in Star Wars. Okanogan County’s darling for Washington fly fishers was treated with rotenone in 2007 and should be getting back to its old ways of producing thick rainbows this year, barring any winter-kill problems, biologists say.