The North Fork Coeur d’Alene River is good on winter days when the air temperatures warm. The lower deep slots are best, but look for “cabbage” in the water, which can indicate a spring.
Steelhead and salmon
The Columbia River below Pateros to the mouth of the Methow River has been good this week for steelhead. Remember the single barbless/no bait restrictions above the bridge.
Clearwater River anglers averaged a fish every seven hours last week from the mouth to the Orofino Bridge. On the North Fork Clearwater, the average was a fish every 10 hours. Hourly averages for the Snake River were generally poor.
A lot of small chinook are biting on Lake Coeur d’Alene, but there are enough 10- to 14-pounders around to keep things interesting.
Winter lakes Hog Canyon and Fourth of July both had good openers Dec. 1 with anglers averaging about 2 1/2 trout each and almost all catching the two allowable 14-inchers. There are quite a few 18-inch fish in each lake. The newest plants at Fourth of July were 11-12 inches, the ones at Hog Canyon smaller but less prevalent. At midweek, Hog Canyon was open in the middle with ice around the edges. It could be difficult to fish. Fourth of July is frozen everywhere and anglers braver than I have ventured onto the ice.
Williams Lake had a good opener with a lot of limits of 11- to 15-inch trout.
Hatch Lake had just enough ice to discourage anglers. It also has a good number of 11- to 15-inch trout, and may have enough ice cover this weekend to safely fish.
Waitts Lake had some ice forming near the launch and could be iced over by the weekend. If you can get a boat out, the fishing should be excellent. Trolled Rippin’ Minnows are good for 12- to 15-inch browns and rainbows. The best bite is in the top 20 feet.
Boat anglers are making good catches at Rock Lake, but fishing is tough from shore. Trolled Rapalas, Apexes and a Muddler/flasher combo are the hot tickets. Most brown trout are around 14 inches and the rainbow average larger.
Lake Roosevelt trollers are finding a few trout close to Split Rock. Rather than troll, some successful anglers are throwing jigs and plastics in relatively shallow water, but fishing is slow.
Rufus Woods was tough on fishermen last week as the triploids seemed to be more spread out than usual. Dark plugs, plastics and flies were the most effective. The reservoir was clear and cold.
Roses Lake in the Okanogan has received a plant of 15,000 catchable rainbows. It should provide fast fishing until ice-up.
There is a good mackinaw bite at Priest Lake. The only two deep-water launches are located at Priest Lake Marina in Kalispell Bay on the west side and the Indian Creek State Park on the east side. Call ahead to the Priest Lake Marina (208-443-2405) to see if the ramp is open and plowed. Cold water temperatures require a slower presentation. Troll with Flatfish, Kwikfish or a baited fly or hootchie behind a dodger or try jigging rocky points and drop offs.
A lot of local lakes are getting close to having safe ice, but most are not quite there. If the current cold weather continues, some of the shallower local lakes could be fishable by the middle of next week. Eloika is usually the first to become safe, followed by Silver. Both are good for perch. Eloika has a good population of largemouth bass.
In Idaho, ice fishermen have more options. The farther north the lake is, the sooner it will become fishable. Kelso, Round, Upper Twin and perhaps Shepherd may be ready by midweek. The Interstate side of Fernan is frozen. All are multispecies lakes. Other Idaho Panhandle lakes which may be ready soon are Avondale, Bonner, Blue, Cocolalla, Dawson, Freeman, Gamble, Hauser, Hayden, Jewel, Kilarney, Medicine, Mirror, Perkins, Robinson, Rose, Smith and Thompson.
Winter is a good time to fish for Lake Roosevelt burbot, particularly if the walleye aren’t biting. They aren’t particularly large (2-5 pounds), but they often stack up in 35-60 feet of water. They are being taken near Hawk Creek and Seven Bays and are pretty easy to catch with either soft plastics or nightcrawlers..
Clam diggers will get their first chance Saturday at four ocean beaches – an evening dig at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches. The low evening tide will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Quail are open through Jan. 31 in northern and southwestern Idaho, but are closed in eastern Idaho. Chukar and gray partridge remain open through Jan. 31, pheasants through Dec. 31 in Area 1 in northern Idaho and Area 3 in southwestern Idaho; they are closed in Area 2 in eastern Idaho. Forest grouse remain open through Dec. 31 in most of Idaho and through Jan. 31 in the Panhandle. The Idaho fall general turkey season runs through Thursday in game management units 1, 2 (except Farragut State Park and Farragut WMA) 3, 4, 4A, 5 and 6 in northern Idaho.
In Washington, forest grouse close Dec. 31. Pheasants, quail, chukars and grey partridge are open through Jan. 16. The fall turkey season in select units ends Thursday.
“Still no ducks” is the word from friends in Moses Lake who usually do well this time of year on Crab Creek and area wasteways. Mikal Moore, state waterfowl biologist, said the season’s first aerial waterfowl surveys indicate the northern birds have arrived and are holding in large concentrations on reserves and private hunting clubs. She said the biggest concentrations of mallards are on North Potholes Reserve, Winchester Reserve, Eagle Lakes and Columbia Basin National Wildlife Refuge. In the North Basin, 240,000 ducks were surveyed. “You can have a ball hunting divers, especially on Wells Pool, where there’s up to 20,000 scaup,” Moore said.
Pheasant hunting has been better around Moses Lake than in recent years. Fair numbers are being found in cattails bordering the wasteways.