Sports

Hunting & Fishing

Pheasants and quail

You can hear a lot of conflicting reports about pheasant populations in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Wildlife biologists have their opinions and hunters have theirs.

Hunters in both states will learn Saturday who is right. Indications are that pheasants are plentiful in some areas and scarce in others. Pheasants and quail will become legal targets in Eastern Washington at noon Saturday. North Idaho gunners will start hunting pheasants Saturday morning.

Washington wildlife biologists have predicted good pheasant hunting in southeast Washington and poor to fair hunting in the northern part of the Spokane region and in the Columbia Basin.

Idaho biologists say hunters will have fair to good pheasant hunting in parts of the Panhandle, including the Lewiston area and Benewah County.

Some Washington hunters say they’ve seen lots of very young roosters that still don’t have their adult plumage.

Serious Washington pheasant hunters have made arrangements to hunt prime pheasant habitat. It will be difficult for procrastinators who ask for permission to hunt land that holds good numbers of birds.

The Snake River breaks from Lower Granite to Ice Harbor dams will be popular with hunters this weekend. There’ll also be lots of hunters in and near grain fields throughout Whitman, Garfield, Columbia and Walla Walla counties.

Pheasants haven’t made much of a comeback in the Columbia Basin. One of the reasons is the elimination of good habitat.

Big game

Bagging a legal buck deer in Eastern Washington this fall won’t be easy. Only whitetail bucks that have three or more antler points on each side of a rack are legal this year in numerous game management units. And there is a three-point minimum for all mule deer bucks on the East Side.

Eastern Washington’s general deer season opens at 6:40 a.m. Saturday. Fish and Wildlife Department officials warn hunters to study the regulations pertaining to buck deer for this fall.

Severe weather last winter apparently was too much for thousands of deer, especially in northeastern Washington and in the Okanogan area. The weather wasn’t quite as severe in southeast Washington, and a high percentage of deer survived.

Rolf Johnson, deer and elk program manager for the Fish and Wildlife Department, said the deer kill in Eastern Washington will be considerably smaller than those of the last few years. “Besides loss of animals from last year’s severe winter,” he said, “the three-point-minimum restriction and shortened season will greatly reduce harvests on the East Side.”

Several North Idaho game management units opened to deer and elk hunting today.

Last winter was a severe one, especially in the northern part of the Panhandle, and biologists said there were some losses. However, they still think hunters will see lots of animals.

Because vegetation is especially dense this year as the result of spring rains, visibility will be a problem in many areas.

Waterfowl

Eastern Washington waterfowl hunters can start shooting geese on Saturday morning. The duck season has already opened.

Geese that were raised in Eastern Washington already have become wary as the result of being shot at during the early, weeklong season. Those who hunted ducks last weekend alerted the geese to the hunting season.

Nevertheless, goose hunting likely will be good this weekend, with many serious hunters bagging four-bird limits.

Thousands of geese are on the Pend Oreille River and lakes in northeastern Washington, along the Snake River, in the Sprague area and in the Columbia Basin.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department reported that 106 hunters were checked with 254 ducks on opening day Saturday. The hunters averaged 2.4 ducks each, compared with 2.3 on opening day last year.

Only 41 mallards were checked Saturday, compared with 62 a year ago. As usual, hunters bagged good numbers of wood ducks. They killed 124 Saturday, compared with 136 a year ago. Some other species checked were widgeons, 19; green-wing teal, 35; pintails, 14; and shovelers, 8.

The department said 60 hunters were checked at the Clark Fork delta station. They had 114 ducks, compared with 127 a year ago.

Washington hunters did well in parts of Eastern Washington, but many said they saw fewer mallards than last year. Since most locally raised ducks, particularly mallards, have been shot at since last Saturday, hunters can expect tough hunting until the “northerns” start arriving in the Inland Northwest from Canada a month from now.

Salmon

Plenty of chinook salmon are in the Hanford Reach for good fishing, but hooking one or two might be difficult. Some anglers did well last weekend; many more went home without hooking a salmon.

More than 64,400 adult fall chinook salmon and 12,400 jacks have climbed the fish ladders at McNary Dam. A high percentage is in the Hanford Reach.

Anglers who have fished the Columbia from the White Bluffs to Priest Rapids Dam the last 10 days said magnum and standard Wiggle Warts, as well as Blue Fox spinners, were productive.

Most of the chinooks are dark now and soon will spawn.

Incidentally, the Columbia is running higher now than it was a year ago, making it difficult for anglers to get their deep-running lures down near the bottom.

Jeff Smith, owner of the Fins & Feathers shop at Coeur d’Alene, said 2- to 3-pound chinooks are biting regularly at Lake Coeur d’Alene. He said Rick Caddy, a guide, and his clients hooked 17 a few days ago and he and friends caught 10.

Steelhead

The Snake River from Ice Harbor Dam to the mouth of the Grande Ronde River is full of steelhead now.

About 107,700 steelhead have climbed the fish ladders at McNary Dam and those at dams along the lower Snake. The Idaho Fish and Game Department reported anglers averaged 11 hours per fish along the Snake from Lewiston to the mouth of the Grande Ronde River last weekend. An average that low means fishing was outstanding. Fishing also was good along the Salmon from Whitebird to Vinegar Creek, with fishermen averaging 13 to 14 hours per fish.

Jay Poe, owner of Hells Canyon Sports at Clarkston, said fishing has been slow above and below Lower Granite Dam. Most of the steelhead climbing the ladders are on the move and are hard to catch.

He said fishing was excellent last weekend at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers and just below the mouth of the Grande Ronde. Fishermen also did well along the Ronde from the mouth to the Washington-Oregon border.

Trout

Some anglers, jigging for mackinaw trout in Cavanaugh Bay at Priest Lake, have done exceptionally well on small fish in recent days.

He suggested anglers use three-quarter ounce fluorescent jigs baited with shrimp or other bait in 90 to 100 feet of water.

He said trout fishing is fair to good at several Panhandle lakes, including Cocolalla, Fernan and Hauser.

Several Eastern Washington lakes are yielding good numbers of trout. Among them are Amber, Clear, Lenice and Nunnally, as well at the Potholes Reservoir. Ell and Chopaka lakes in the Okanogan have been popular with fly fishers the last two weeks.

Spiny rays

If you are interested in catching perch, try your luck at Sprague Lake. Monika Metz, a co-owner of the Sprague Lake Resort, said the few anglers on the lake are continuing to catch 10- to 12-inchers.

Smith said bass and perch fishing has been good at several North Idaho lakes and along the Spokane River just below Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Kokanee

The 10- to 11-inch kokanee in Lake Coeur d’Alene are still in good condition, but they’re starting to turn a little dark, Smith said.

He said the kokanee are between 15 and 45 feet of water. Popular areas are off Arrow and Spokane points and in Beauty and Mica bays.

Squawfish

The squawfish bounty program, which pays anglers $3-$5 for each mature squawfish they catch on the Snake River, has been extended until Oct. 17.

Anglers have turned in 111,000 squawfish for rewards this year. The Bonneville Power Administration wants even more removed, since the predators eat young, endangered salmon.

Roy Kendall of Selah, Wash., has earned more than $11,500 from the program this year. Anglers must sign up at check stations before fishing. Info: (800) 858-9015.

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