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Hunting + fishing

Fly fishing

Spokane resident Steve Moss fished Rocky Ford this week, landing five fish in the first 45 minutes beginning at 7:15 a.m. He was throwing a “sparsely tied” No. 6 black marabou leech on a medium-length sproat bend hook. Afterward, he landed several more big trout on a No. 16 scud, followed by more on a small chironomid pattern. Moss said there was only one other angler on the water.


Fishing for rainbow trout continues to be excellent at Lake Roosevelt and more kokanee are showing each week.

“During the winter, the rainbows usually move down into the lower reservoir,” said WDFW district fish biologist Chris Donley. “They’re following the movement of zooplankton downstream, so the Keller and Spring Canyon areas become the target, rather than Seven Bays and above.”

Warmer weather has negatively impacted the triploid bite at Rufus Woods because melting snow has lowered the water temps to less than 40 degrees. To compensate, slow your presentation. The bigger fish were just beginning to bite before the current slowdown.

The small trout lakes throughout Washington and northern Idaho are a day-to-day proposition. Unless daytime temperatures drop, ice fishing may soon be over. Sprague Lake ice is “iffy” at best. There is a little bit of open water near Sprague Lake Resort and at the creek mouth.

Steelhead and salmon

The Clearwater River and its tributaries have been productive this past week. While the Snake River is somewhat roiled, the tributaries are running clear. On the Grande Ronde, visibility is 4-5 feet, said Bill Vail at Boggan’s Oasis. Fishing is excellent.

Fishing on the mainstem Columbia remains decent for steelhead with lots of pressure. The Methow is fishing again after being frozen much of the month. Bobber and jigs are accounting for some good steelhead catches in the holes above and below Wells Dam.

Steelhead fishing in the Ringold area on the Columbia River near Tri-Cities should be slightly higher than normal into mid-April. December’s catch and harvest was higher than any of the past six years.

High-water conditions have made it tough – even dangerous – for anglers to find west side steelhead.

“It’s a waiting game,” said Ron Warren, WDFW regional fish manager for south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. “Lots of hatchery steelhead are moving into the rivers, but they’re tough to catch under these conditions.”

High water has brought some good-sized wild steelhead into the rivers. When weather conditions improve, there should be excellent fishing.

Spiny ray

This is the beginning of the pre-spawn walleye bite – the best time of the year to catch trophy fish throughout the Columbia River system. A few big fish have already been weighed in near the Tri-Cities.

Walleye anglers in the Fort Spokane area are catching small fish in 55-60 feet of water. The three-eighths-ounce Firetiger jig and dark-colored Gulp Leech have been effective recently. The launch at Porcupine Bay is clear. Positive reports have come from the Laughlin area where blade baits are working.

Walleye anglers are just beginning to catch fish at Rufus Woods in front of the island.

Ice at Silver Lake is either 3-4 inches or 4-7 inches, depending on who you talk to. Everyone agrees that there is water showing around the edges. The Silver Lake bite is over by 11:30 a.m., but it is the most consistent perch bite in the area.

Eloika Lake also has water showing around the edges, but at midweek there was a solid 10 inches of ice. I fished the lake twice this week on the north end but never found a fast bite. The smallish perch definitely prefer maggots over worms.

Winchester Wasteway (the portion within the Winchester Game Reserve) and Stratford/Brook Lake in Grant County open Feb. 1 for fishing under standard statewide rules. Expect to catch a variety of spiny ray.

Other species

Five ocean beaches are scheduled to open for razor-clam digging later this month if marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. Under the current plan, Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open Wednesday through Jan. 31; Copalis and Mocrocks will open Jan. 29-31; and Kalaloch beach Jan. 30-31. Digging at all five beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight.

With temperatures warming, the Columbia River sturgeon fishery is coming to life, particularly above Bonneville Pool. Sturgeon fishing in the lower river remains slow, but that could change if smelt return to the Cowlitz River in greater numbers than expected.


Only two weeks of waterfowl hunting remain, with goose and duck seasons closing Jan. 31. The latest aerial waterfowl surveys in the North Columbia Basin show ducks and geese highly concentrated in select areas. North Franklin County, specifically the Eagle Lakes area and Sugar Ranch private clubs, held nearly half of the mallards counted. The Winchester Reserve held nearly half of the remaining mallards counted.

WDFW waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore said ducks have switched from feeding only in the evenings to feeding multiple times during the day.

“This should increase hunter success,” Moore said. “Hunters should also look for ducks concentrating on sheet water forming in the fields. With the recent snow melt, geese seem to be focusing their feeding activities on thawing winter wheat and alfalfa fields.”

Contact Alan Liere via e-mail at

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Washington State center Fred Mauigoa has spent spring camp refining snapping technique

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