Whitefish angling has improved, particularly on the lower stretches of the North Fork Coeur d’Alene. Copper Johns are a hard fly to beat.
Steelhead fishing on the Snake has been decent for fly fishermen. The Grande Ronde is losing its ice cover and rising, but it could be fishable by the weekend. The Clearwater should also be back in action.
Salmon and steelhead
Steelhead fishing on the Snake River remains excellent with a fish per angler about every four or five hours. On the Clearwater, a fish caught per every nine angler hours is about average.
Persistent anglers have caught a few steelhead from shore at the Wawawai Landing. Vary the depth of presentation. Sometimes the fish are at 12 feet, sometimes much shallower. The best bite has been just before and after noon. Some anglers indicate the fish seem smaller this year, but others say they are seeing plenty of 8- to 10-pound fish.
Drifting shrimp-bated jigs under slip bobbers continues to be good for steelhead in the Upper Columbia.
Although most Coeur d’Alene chinook are on the small side this year, Jeff Smith of Fins and Feathers said two in the midteens were reported on the same day this week from Carlin Bay.
Trout and kokanee
The big triploids are finally beginning to hit on Rufus Woods. Anglers throwing dark-colored jigs near the second set of net pens downstream from the Seaton Grove launch have been tying into bruisers in excess of 10 pounds.
Sprague Lake is frozen clear across and anglers venturing out from the public access are taking some big trout through the ice. Oddly, most of these are the 17- to 24-inchers, though regional fish biologist Chris Donley said the lake is also loaded with 12- to 14-inch fish. He recommends small ice jigs tipped with a maggot or mealworm, fished with little movement.
The winter fishing lakes north of Spokane, Williams and Hath, are frozen enough to allow ice fishing. Anglers are still taking limits or near-limits from Williams and a couple of fish each from Hatch. Despite numerous announcements regarding rehabilitation and no fish, anglers are still trying to catch trout from Hog Canyon and Fourth of July. I guess this would be the ultimate fishing challenge.
Rock Lake is still kicking out lots of browns and a few rainbow. Trollers are having the most success at midlake, just under the surface. Lake Roosevelt is close to a sure thing for 14- to 18-inch rainbow, some of the best-eating trout you’ll ever have.
Eloika Lake ice is a solid 7 inches and anglers are taking perch and lots of grass pickerel from both ends of the lake. A good crappie bite has been reported at dusk for fish up to 14 inches.
Silver Lake, near the city of Medical Lake, is providing fast perch fishing right in front of the public boat launch. The fish may be just a little larger than they were last winter.
Waitts Lake is said to be giving up some sizeable perch to anglers who don’t mind exploring a bit. There is always the possibility of finding a big brown or rainbow. Ice is about 7 inches thick.
Potholes Reservoir is about half iced over and the channels in the sand dunes are socked in. Moses Lake also has a lot of ice, but no one is fishing. The ice in the boat basin at Coulee City may still be a little thin for safe fishing. A few perch were caught there during the cold snap.
Most small Idaho lakes are frozen and there has been a lot of ice fishing. Most have a mixed bag. Hauser, Fernan and Round lakes have a lot of 8- to 10-inch perch. Gamble, near Sagle, has larger perch, but half a dozen is a good bag. The Chain Lakes have just about everything. Pike fishermen are taking fish off their tip-ups
Area waterfowl hunters are still looking for that big wad of mallards. Wanapum Pool from Vantage down to the dam is mostly coots and various divers and hardly any geese. Mattawa/Priest Rapids area hunters say they are seeing good numbers of ducks. There appear to be a lot near Vernita Bridge. A friend who hunted winter wheat near McNary Dam said his group of seven shot quick limits of geese, which included 18 snow geese.
Idaho goose hunters are having some good shoots off the ice edges surrounding Lake Coeur d’Alene. The Pend Oreille River is a good place to set some goose decoys along the edge.
A friend who should be old enough to know better still chases chukars on the Snake River breaks a few times each season. On his last foray, he said he jumped three nice coveys. He said quail were scarce in draws where we used to always jump a 200-bird covey.
Local pheasant hunters may take comfort in the knowledge that Montana hotspot Malta is also having a down year. A friend and I hunted hard there two days this week. Although we shot 10 roosters, we had to slog a lot of miles through chest-high tules, braving temperatures in the negative teens. On the third morning, a look at the thermometer and its reading of minus-29 degrees sent us packing for the Spokane banana belt