Anglers at Banks Lake have been approaching the ice with a wing and a prayer this winter.
“There aren’t many people who like to ice fish more than I do, but I haven’t dared go out on that lake much this year,” said Reg Morgan of Coulee Dam.
Only a few anglers ventured onto the rotten ice that still capped the lake last weekend. They’ve been going to the north end at night with lanterns to jig for whitefish at the mouth of the feeder canal.
Perhaps a safer, saner and more popular activity has been trolling the lake’s exposed shoreline for lures and other valuable booty.
Since fall, the Grant County reservoir has been down 22 feet from normal pool. The water was released partly for the benefit of Columbia River salmon as well as to enable Steamboat Rock State Park to install a powerline.
“A lot of old road beds are exposed,” Morgan said, noting this is a good time to scout the lake for good fish-holding structure.
Indeed, the water hasn’t been this low for at least 15 years.
Bureau of Reclamation officials said they supported the drawdown to expose milfoil beds. The freeze earlier this month should have killed much of the menacing weed that chokes good fishing waters.
While that will be a boon for anglers and boaters, the exposed vegetation was a bane for goose hunters this season.
“The geese wouldn’t fly out to the fields because all they had to do was sit out on the bare lake bed and feed on the milfoil,” Morgan said.
“But treasure hunters are having a ball. I’ve heard of people finding all kinds of stuff - lures, tackle boxes. One kid found and electric trolling motor.”
The drawdown should have little effect on fish, said Joe Foster, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologist in Ephrata. “If anything, it will reduce some of the small stunted fish by forcing them out of the shallow weed beds and into the deep water where they’ll be eaten by the bigger fish,” he said
While the lake’s trout, walleye, whitefish and bass are holding their own, the kokanee fishery has not prospered.
“We had plants in the ‘80s and we’ve planted a million kokanee fry a year for the past five years, but they just haven’t come on,” Foster said. “We haven’t identified the problem.”
The slow refilling of Banks Lake should begin later this week. Full pool should be reached around mid-April
FDR’s low profile: The upcoming drawdown of Lake Roosevelt to permit work on a turbine at Grand Coulee Dam shouldn’t surprise area anglers.
Although the reservoir will be drawn down 35 feet to a level of 1,255, it’s been drained nearly twice that much on several occasions in recent years.
The last major drawdown was in 1974, when Grand Coulee’s third powerhouse was brought on-line. The lake was drained to 1,215 feet - a level low enough to expose the inundated namesake of Kettle Falls.
That occasion brought 40,000 visitors to see the spray and hear the roar that had been silenced decades ago, said Gig Lebret, Kettle Falls ranger for the Coulee Dam National Recreation Area.
The falls won’t be revealed this year. But from Feb. 20-26, the lake should be low enough to bare part of the old Hayes Island Indian fishing site, which is just north of the Highway 395 bridge.
Walleye weight revealed: Many readers were unamused to see the Sunday Outdoors page story about the new Montana record walleye only to find we neglected to tell the weight of the fish.
This was not a liberal media conspiracy to withhold sensitive information that could lead to the impeachment of the president.
We simply made a mistake.
Or maybe it was a public service for the families of the nine readers who vented with senselessly nasty messages on my voice mail. If you beat up on me, maybe you won’t abuse the kids.
“Why don’t you print a retraction or something,” one caller said. “I suppose you wouldn’t expect us to read your dumb outdoors section, but those of us who do expect to get the facts,” another raged.
Thanks to the two people who kindly pointed out the error. One even said “please” when asking for the information.
For that, I’ll tell it all. The Montana record walleye weighed 15.66 pounds.