The vinyl hatch on the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers has ended and fishing has been excellent throughout the systems. Blue winged olives and PMDs are hatching.
Anglers who suffered through a poor year on the Clark Fork in 2009 are saying the popular river is back in business with an increase in both insect hatches and numbers of fish.
Fly fishermen took a few steelhead on the Wednesday opener of the Methow. That fishery will get nothing but better as fall progresses.
Trout and kokanee
Clear Lake, with brown as well as rainbow trout, is also beginning to give up good catches of crappie and largemouth bass. Like a number of other waters throughout the region, Clear Lake remains open through October.
The larger Loon Lake kokanee have pretty much quit biting as they prepare to spawn, but the 11-13 inchers are still hitting Wedding Rings and maggots on a slow troll behind a 000 dodger.
A few fishing reports are in from Lake Roosevelt, where anglers near Split Rock and Lincoln made nice catches of 13- to 14-inch fish trolling Muddlers at 30 feet. Spring Canyon and Keller Ferry were slow, as was the fishing at Rufus Woods Reservoir.
Small Coeur d’Alene Lake kokanee are abundant on the east end from Bennett Bay to Wolf Lodge. Chinook fishing has been good at the north end at 70-90 feet. Herring and plastic Mini-Squid are both working. You’ll need a faster troll to entice the chinook – about 2.2 mph.
Salmon and steelhead
Fall salmon are beginning to show at Bridgeport and below Wells Dam and will only improve until the Oct. 15 closure. The Brewster area does not get a fall run, and the summer run is virtually over.
Steelhead opened Wednesday on the upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Entiat and Methow rivers. Anglers are already taking fish and it should improve dramatically as the season progresses. There is a mandatory retention of hatchery fish and the limit is four.
At midweek, over 37,000 steelhead had passed Lower Granite Dam. This compares to about 29,000 for the same date in 2009 and about 14,000 for the five-year average. Shrimp and bobber fishermen at the confluence are having some very good days as pods of fish move through. Guide Rick Hedding of Asotin says to get out early. Start near the shore first thing and move to deeper water later. He says there are lots of wild fish. When I talked to him on the water Wednesday morning, he and two companions had kept two, released five, and had numerous other take-downs that were missed.
The chinook and sockeye salmon season on the Columbia River from Wells Dam to the Highway 173 Bridge in Brewster has been extended to Oct. 15. This will allow anglers to retain incidentally caught fish during the steelhead season. The Columbia River is full of fall chinook between Tongue Point and Bonneville Dam, with an average of almost 20,000 passing through the Bonneville ladder daily.
As of Aug. 31, about 16,600 steelhead had been counted above Priest Rapids Dam, nearly double the overall return’s 10-year average. Due to the late arrival, there are bright fish being taken, and they seem to be running larger than previous years.
Hatchery steelhead opened Saturday on the Hanford Reach section of the Columbia River. WDFW staff sampled 117 anglers with 20 fall chinook and five steelhead during the holiday weekend. Steelhead may be retained from the U.S. 395 Bridge in Pasco upstream to Priest Rapids Dam.
Coho salmon are moving east through the Strait of Juan de Fuca in increasing numbers. “After Labor Day is when we usually see a big push of ocean coho move into Puget Sound,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a WDFW fish biologist. “We should see more and more of those ocean fish make their way into the Sound as the month progresses.”
Pike anglers on the Pend Oreille River are having some great days all the way from Newport to Cusick. Largemouth bass are also lurking on the weed lines to intercept spinnerbaits and plastics. The Pend Oreille is about 65 degrees and very clear.
Coeur d’Alene Lake pike fishing has slowed some but should pick up as the water cools, says Jeff Smith at Fins and Feathers in Coeur d’Alene. He says the Chain Lakes are better right now.
Billy Clapp Lake is a good smallmouth destination for fish running to 17 inches. Try the west shore and near the falls. This deep lake has walleye, too, but anglers have had a difficult time finding the big ones, which are mostly nocturnal.
Early fall is a good time to load up on perch fillets. Eloika, Jump-Off-Joe, Waitts, Diamond, Downs, Silver, Bonnie and Liberty all have good perch fishing.
The early fall Washington hunting season for wild turkey begins Sept. 25 in many game management units throughout the region. The northeast district continues to provide the most opportunity. In Idaho, most units open for fall turkey on Wednesday.
Idaho quail, chukar and gray partridge open Sept. 18 and chukar counts are higher than they’ve been in years on the lower Snake and Salmon rivers south of Lewiston. Biologists say the Salmon River route is 69 percent higher than the long-term average from 1994-2008. The Snake River route is 76 percent higher than the average for the same years. The chukar survey reported earlier for the Brownlee area estimated numbers similar to last year, though somewhat below the 10-year average.
A Washington muzzleloader-only seasons for deer and cougar starts Sept. 25, followed by the early muzzleloader hunt for elk that begins Oct. 2. The high buck hunt in the Okanogan wilderness areas runs Wednesday through Sept. 25. Most of the deer in this region are mule deer, and populations are doing well. Hunting prospects are fair to good in all districts.
Dove hunters can still expect some good shooting as migrating birds trickle into the Columbia Basin. Grouse hunters are not finding a lot of birds. Friends who walked three miles on South Baldy recently saw only three and had no shots.