Rocky Ford Creek near Ephrata is a great place to take large rainbow on a fly when other waters have frozen up. The big rainbow there are suckers for small nymphs.
Salmon and steelhead
Clearwater steelheading is slow, but the fish are large. The Snake is still your best bet. A lot of wild fish have been hooked recently in Hells Canyon. There is a lot of ice on the Grande Ronde, and things will need to warm up before it is easily fishable.
Bob Jateff, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist from Twisp, said steelhead fishing is slowing down a bit in all Columbia River fishery areas above Wells Dam as water temperatures drop.
Steelhead fishing is heating up on north coast rivers. A recent creel survey conducted on the Bogachiel River in the Quillayute system showed 162 anglers with 146 hatchery steelhead and two wild steelhead.
“After a long stretch of high and colored waters, we’re seeing some prime fishing conditions,” said Mike Gross, WDFW fish biologist.
Trout and kokanee
No bad reports have come from Lake Roosevelt in recent weeks. It won’t last forever, but 3-hour limits of 15- to 18-inch rainbow are the rule now. Take a bucket of sand and a shovel with you for the icy ramps.
Rock Lake has been excellent for large rainbow and slightly smaller browns. Trolling 10 feet down over deep water at midlake has been productive, especially for the rainbow.
Sprague Lake has had a phenomenal run but is almost entirely ice-covered. It will probably be a week before anglers can safely fish for the huge rainbow through the ice.
You can’t count on a good day at Rufus Woods yet this winter, but a few of the larger triploids are beginning to show. A 12-pounder was reported this week.
Williams Lake near Colville was good the first week for 9- to 12-inch rainbow, Hatch Lake for fewer fish of approximately the same size. Both lakes have ice covers and may be fishable by the weekend.
Fish Lake, close to Chelan, was beginning to ice up near the launch last week, but anglers who trolled Wedding Rings and flashers had non-stop action on small trout.
Ice fishing opportunities in Okanogan County will improve as colder temperatures thicken the ice. Lakes to try are Patterson and Davis near Winthrop, Big and Little Green near Omak, Rat near Brewster, and Sidley near Oroville. Rainbow trout are the predominant species in these lakes, but Patterson also has a good population of perch.
Most area waters have at least a partial ice cover, and shallow lakes such as Eloika may be fishable by next weekend. It is iced over, but some areas stayed open longer than others and may not be safe. Other lakes to keep an eye on for ice fishing are Newman,. Silver and Waitts. All have multiple species.
Lind Coulee and Potholes Reservoir in the Columbia Basin are freezing up. There was some good walleye fishing last week off the Mar Don dock, but that area is frozen now, as is the dune area. Some duck hunters were frozen into the Crab Creek Channel recently and had to be rescued. Moses Lake has not frozen except in shallow bays and near the fill in town.
Whitefish are biting on area trout waters such as the St. Joe and the North Fork Coeur d’Alene. They are also fair game in Yakima County on sections of the Naches and Klickitat rivers.
Fishing for burbot on year-round Sullivan and Bead lakes in Pend Oreille County should be productive later in the winter as safe ice conditions develop. Bead also gives up some big mackinaw through the ice each winter.
Evening razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled at ocean beaches from Dec. 31 through Jan. 3, pending the results of marine toxin tests. The last time conditions allowed for a New Year’s dig was in 2006 when 22,000 people hit the beaches.
There are ducks, but not a lot of them, in the Patterson area of the Columbia River. Geese are another story, as they appear to be as numerous as ever.
“A recent weather system in southern Alberta with several days of snow and north winds should have pushed out the last of the northern mallards,” said Rich Finger, WDFW district wildlife biologist from Moses Lake. “At the same time the Columbia Plateau received a significant cold front, with single-digit temperatures and strong north winds. Only moving water will remain open for birds in these conditions. With the wind, it’s likely that many ducks continued south, hopefully only temporarily. Fortunately, there is no snow cover so far on the Columbia Plateau, so it’s likely that some ducks will return as forecasted conditions ease. But with several days of single-digit lows still to come, it’s likely that most ponds will remain frozen through the remainder of the waterfowl season, and only big, moving water will hold birds.”
The late fall general hunting season for turkey continues through Tuesday in game management units 105-124, where the big birds are abundant in large groups. Snow cover should help late archery, muzzleloader and Master Hunter deer and elk hunting, most of which concludes Tuesday, depending on the game management unit and season.