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Hunting and fishing

Fri., March 20, 2009

Steelhead and salmon

The lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam was good for chinook early last week in the Vancouver area. After a subsequent slowdown, it has picked up again this week.

“It’s time to get serious,” said Joe Hymer, WDFW fish biologist. “The catch should start smoothing out pretty soon, and increase day by day.”

Snake River steelhead fishing is in its final weeks, with the hatchery fish retention season closing March 31. In April, a fishery for hatchery spring chinook salmon will open near Little Goose Dam.

The Clearwater steelhead season is like the Energizer Bunny – it just keeps going and going, said guide Toby Wyatt. Wyatt said last weekend was fantastic with his boats taking 54 fish in three days. Since then, there has been quite a bit of rain and the river is out of shape.

Steelhead fishing on the Methow, upper Columbia and Okanogan rivers is good. The Okanogan can be floated, but remember that that two sections of the River closed Sunday, from 100 feet below the Highway 155 Bridge to the mouth of Omak Creek, and the 100 feet below the mouth of Bonaparte Creek.

The Grande Ronde River should be running at about 3,600 cfs through the weekend – a bit high, but fishable.

There are many steelhead in the river, and though the bite has slowed from last week, anglers drifting jigs or Corkies and yarn are averaging a fish every four hours.

The East Point area of Lake Coeur d’Alene was good to some chinook anglers this week. Trolling helmeted herring, one boat enticed six fish, the largest being 11 pounds.

Trout and kokanee

Fishing with two friends, first-time ice fisherman Mitch Kirkpatrick caught and released seven nice Amber Lakes rainbow this week. A 1/16-ounce white crappie tube or white grub did the damage. It is reported fishing slows way down after 10 a.m. There were still 7 inches of ice early in the week, but a plank was needed to get onto solid ice from shore.

Liberty Lake anglers can fish from boat or shore. Rapalas are accounting for a lot of big brown trout.

Sprague Lake is opening up and anglers fishing from shore have been catching rainbow, all 2-3 pounds. There was still ice in the middle of the lake at midweek, but the entire lake may be fishable by boat by this weekend.

Downs Lake, in southwest Spokane County, also has open water with lots of carryover rainbow in the 15- to 16-inch range. Downs will be receiving 2,500 catchable tiger trout in the next week or so.

Rock Lake has been best early. Some warmer weather would improve the fishing significantly. Big winds last week chased many anglers from the lake, but those who were able to get out said they were catching four browns for every rainbow.

A few ice fishermen at Deer are catching rainbow and small macks near the resort on the north side of the lake.

Other anglers are going out onto the ice anywhere they can find parking where the road dips in close to the lake. The ice is solid.

Lake Roosevelt is still high at 1,283 feet, a condition blamed by many anglers for the poor trout fishing.

There have been a few reports of kokanee being taken in Spring Canyon. Guide Ray Bailey said he is getting into both kokanee and rainbow in Hansen Harbor while trolling a Wedding Ring baited with corn and maggots. Bailey, who fishes with a planer board, said the fish are in the top 10 feet.

Rufus Woods trout fishing has picked up but has a long way to go to match the phenomenal fishing of last year. Anglers who are used to drifting with a current must use their electric motors.

The ice is gone from all Columbia Basin fisheries that opened March 1 or are open year-round. Quincy Lake, which just became fishable, is full of fat rainbow. Burke Lake was slated for another stocking of 4,500 half-pounders this week. The Seep Lakes south of Potholes Reservoir are ice-free. Some of these are year-round waters, but some like Herman, Lyle and Teal open April 1. Be sure to check the rules pamphlet for which ones are open.

Some of Idaho’s small lakes have kept a safe ice cap, but others are getting punky. At Spirit Lake, kokanee jiggers were still catching limits through the ice at midweek, but that doesn’t say the ice will be safe by the weekend.

An angler fell through the ice at Priest Lake last weekend, but fortunately he was fairly close to shore. Mackinaw fishing has been good for small fish.

Fly fishing

Year-round Beda Lake, just south of the Winchester Wasteway, is said to be fantastic, with anglers catching and releasing an average of more than 10 rainbow per trip.

Lenice and Nunnally lakes, on WDFW’s Lower Crab Creek Wildlife just east of Beverly, are giving up five to eight fish per trip.

Lake Lenore, near the town of Soap Lake, opened to catch-and-release fishing March 1 but is still cold and slow. There is open water at the top and bottom ends of the lake.

Spiny ray

The walleye fishing on Lake Roosevelt is not red-hot, but knowledgeable anglers are finding enough fish to keep them interested. The trick is to stick the jig in their mouths, as the bite is light.

Banks Lake is ice-free at the north end, and it is possible to launch a boat at Coulee Playland Resort. Jiggers are getting some walleye. On the other end of the lake, the Coulee City boat basin is still frozen – a good place for perch and whitefish.

A friend who fished Coffeepot early in the week said the ice was good. He found perch to 10 inches in scattered locations near the narrows. Ice is pulling away from shore in places.

Spokane tournament angler Bob Ploof said that because or the lack of current in Roosevelt, walleye aren’t yet pushing into the Spokane arm. Prespawn males, which are usually evident by now, haven’t shown. Nevertheless, there have been a few positive reports regarding larger fish from the main lake in 30-45 feet of water, and in the arm from the cemetery down. The Hawk Creek area could be good as a lot of fish are stacked up there about 10 feet off the bottom. Slow trolling a crank bait could be the ticket.

The northwest end of Eloika Lake has been red-hot the past two weeks, but few anglers are taking to the ice. Eloika perch average about 8 inches and are stuffed with eggs or milt. There is a thin crust on top of surface water that will really get your attention when it cracks. Beneath the crust, the ice was a solid 14 inches at midweek and just beginning to weaken near the shorelines. The bite goes absolutely dead after 9 a.m.

Walleye are being caught in all three Columbia River pools. Some bass are being caught in John Day Pool

You can contact Alan Liere by e-mail at

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