Pat Way of Northwest Outfitters in Coeur d’Alene said despite the fact a lot of anglers are singing the blues, he has recently enjoyed some good steelhead fishing on the lower Clearwater. Using sink-tips and weighted flies in blacks and blues as well as orange or white leech patterns, he fishes “low and slow,” mostly below the North Fork. Way also said the Coeur d’Alene River has been decent from noon to 2 p.m. from Pritchard down.
Steelhead fishing has been slow for pluggers and bait anglers on the Snake River, with the one bright spot being near Wawawai where anglers long-lining Brad’s non-lighted plugs are taking a few fish. Low, clear and cold, the Clearwater is fishable from the mouth to Orofino and in places from Orofino to Kooskia, but the farther up, the more ice. Anglers are averaging less than a fish per 17 hours. The Grand Ronde has a lot of ice.
Cold temperatures have also impacted rivers in the Okanogan. They are running low and slow and have ice. The Okanogan River froze first, and the Methow, Entiat and Wenatchee have developed an ice shelf along the shore. Under such conditions, the steelhead will move out of these rivers and go back into the main stem Columbia near the mouths of these streams.
The Columbia River has had some decent steelhead fishing this week near Pateros.
Hog Canyon ice is solid except at the far end, where it appears to be slushy. Typically at Hog Canyon, there are long, dead times between bites for trout ranging from 10 to 19 inches.
Fourth of July Lake ice is also solid, but fishing success is different each day. There are some big trout as well of good numbers of 12-inch fish present, and Fish and Game personnel say they have checked a number of five-fish limits recently.
On Sprague Lake, a few anglers were observed on the ice at midweek between the public access and the island. Just before the lake froze, trout fishing was good for huge rainbow. If you fish Sprague, you’ll probably want at least 8-pound test line as lighter line can easily be sawed off on the edge of the hole.
Eloika Lake ice is nearly 6 inches and is attracting quite a few fishermen. Last winter, Eloika perch were running small, but they seem to be larger this year. On a recent trip, a friend and I found a fast bite at first light, which died off completely by 9 a.m. Other anglers indicated they had good fishing until about noon later in the week.
Farther north of Spokane, Hatch and Williams lakes continue to give up good catches of rainbow running mostly 12-14 inches. Bait fishermen are using miniature marshmallows.
Moses Lake resident Cindy Kalamikis reports anglers are testing the ice near the I-90 Bridge. The perch bite has been only fair, but Kalamikis, who spends a good part of each winter on the lake, said the fish are good-sized.
The south end of Newman Lake has 4 inches of ice, but there is open water elsewhere. Typically, Newman does not fish as well in the winter as other local lakes. Fishermen checked this week had mostly small sunfish and bluegill.
In Idaho, ice fishing prospects are numerous. Round Lake has been one of the best, with anglers catching large perch and brook trout. Nearby, Lake Cocolalla isn’t ready for safe fishing. Other good multispecies lakes that are ready are Hauser, Kelso, Fernan and Granite. Kelso and Fernan have channel cats in addition to the spiny ray and trout.
The Chain Lakes north of Coeur d’Alene are beginning to give up some northern pike through the ice. Not all lakes in the chain are frozen enough for fishing, but Rose Lake has been good.
Open water winter fishing
The Rock Lake brown and rainbow bite has been best just off Johnson’s Beach. Trolled flies and Rapalas at 10-20 feet will put you in the zone.
Just when it seems Lake Roosevelt trout fishing is dead, good reports begin to filter in. “It’s not as bad as everyone is making it out to be,” WDFW fish biologist Chris Donley said. “Yes, it takes longer to catch your fish this winter, but isn’t the opportunity to spend a day outdoors the reason we go fishing?” Good reports have come from many spots on the reservoir with the most from near Hawk Creek. Three friends fished for three hours at Hunters this week. They caught three and lost two, but said the fish landed weighed 3-5 pounds.
Walleye fishing is not great on Roosevelt, although a few are being taken near Hawk Creek, where the burbot bite is still on. Burbot are also showing in good numbers in Porcupine Bay.
Rufus Woods triploid fishing is picking up, with the lower net pens being good. Be patient when fishing Rufus because the bites seem to come in bunches. Jigs have been effective. Because there are some small fish and most anglers who fish Rufus are looking for the larger triploids, it is a good idea to save the bait for the end of the day.
On Monday, a friend and I proved there are still a few pheasants in Whitman County by grassing two each in three hours of hunting. Rather than thick cover in brushy draws, the birds were bunched up in CRP on side hills.
Our hunt was cut short when my Labrador got into a porcupine and took several quills deep into muscle tissue that left her limping badly but provided a nice Christmas bonus for my veterinarian.
Reports indicate there are still a lot of geese in the Moses Lake area, although duck hunting is mostly poor.
There are still a lot of waterfowl on the Pend Oreille River.