This is perfect weather for Rocky Ford near Moses Lake. Fill your vest with scuds, chironomids, leeches and hand warmers and give the big rainbow a go.
Trout and kokanee
Northern Stevens County’s two winter-season rainbow trout lakes – Williams and Hatch – are still producing catches of fish measuring 13-14 inches. The bite is best in the early morning. Both lakes remain open through March.
Fishing action has slowed at Hog Canyon in Spokane County and Fourth of July in Lincoln County. Many limits have been taken, but changing ice conditions have been frustrating.
Tuesday is the opener for a number of lakes near Spokane, but there will probably be just enough ice to make fishing difficult. An exception could be Amber, which had just a little ice at midweek. There could even be some ice fishing for the first time in recent memory at Liberty, Medical and Coffee Pot. Downs will probably have some open water. The thought of ice fishing for mackinaw at Deer is intriguing, but it is probably too early for the big Downs Lake perch.
Six of the seven Tuesday-opening impoundments off the Tucannon River on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County will get some of their annual allotment of hatchery rainbows before the opener if an ice covering doesn’t interfere. As of Wednesday, most of the lakes were open, but the cold snap could change things. Big Four Lake is scheduled to receive a total of 2,000 catchables and 300 jumbos; Blue Lake will receive 23,000 catchables and 400 jumbos; Deer Lake gets 3,400 catchables and 50 jumbos; Rainbow Lake gets 15,000 catchables and 325 jumbos; Spring Lake gets 11,000 catchables and 325 jumbos; and Watson Lake gets 21,300 catchables and 325 jumbos. Beaver Lake has water depth and quality issues that preclude it from viable fish stocking this year.
At least 18 rainbow trout-stocked waters in the north-central region open to fishing on Tuesday, but only a few will likely be fishable early in the season. Two lakes in Grant County – Martha, just east of George, and Upper Caliche, just west of George, are at least half free of ice, reports Chad Jackson, a district fishing biologist for WDFW. He noted that fishing at Martha Lake should be good for 11- to 14-inch trout and that Upper Caliche should also fish well for smaller trout.
No fishing reports have come from Sprague Lake, but at midweek ice remained only in the middle. There should be some big rainbow cruising the shallow water.
Judging by most reports, trout fishing on Lake Roosevelt has slowed down, but WDFW fish biologist Chris Donley trolled Spring Canyon this week with three friends, limiting on rainbow and taking two kokanee. Donley said the best luck came on pink hootchie flies on the surface and the bite was early. Another positive report came from anglers trolling orange S-11s and J-9 Rapalas.
Elsewhere on Roosevelt, anglers at Keller and Seven Bays were having fair luck from both boat and shore. A friend said he and his grandson took six fish in four hours fishing from shore at Fort Spokane.
Rufus Woods Reservoir is producing plenty of 2- to 3-pound triploids for anglers casting bait near the net pens. Rainbow-colored Power Bait has been good.
Rock Lake has produced browns and rainbow for trollers, but one of the best fish caught recently was a taken at the public launch with a worm and marshmallow. It weighed just less than 8 pounds.
Steelhead and salmon
Steelhead fishing has been decent on the South Fork Clearwater and a little slower on the mainstem. Anglers who put in a long day from Kooskia to Kamiah and from the pink house to Lenore are taking home limits.
With the cold weather, the Grande Ronde will probably have a lot of ice by Saturday.
The water is still chilly, but a few spring chinook and winter steelhead are milling around the lower Columbia for anglers willing to brave the elements.
Local tournament angler Bob Ploof says walleye fishing was good this weekend on Roosevelt. Despite wind on Saturday, he caught seven, missed several and threw back some small ones. Sunday fishing was similar, with he and a friend both taking limits. Ploof said the fish were split equally between Norisada silver blade baits with scale tape and Liveline Baits ringworms rigged on a jig head. Darker colors of ringworms were the ticket, matched with a red, white or green heads in three-eighths ounce. Some of the fish were caught in less than 20 feet of water, but most around 30 feet. A 9-pound walleye was caught by another angler above the first island in the Spokane Arm.
Ice fishermen on Eloika and Silver are taking plenty of fish. Eloika has some variety, with crappie, sunfish and bass included as part of the catch, but the perch bite at Silver is more consistent and the fish are larger. They seem to prefer small kokanee-type Glo Hooks baited with maggots, and the bite has been over by 8:30 a.m. At Eloika, the evening crappie bite can be very good. Perch are more inclined to bite all day.
Upper Twin is a good spot for sunfish and small perch, but anglers fishing 15 feet of water are also catching bullheads and pike.
Pend Oreille River pike were fairly active this week. Anglers throwing plugs caught quite a few small fish to 5 pounds.
Sturgeon anglers in The Dalles Pool and John Day Pool are catching a few keepers. The Bonneville Pool is closed for sturgeon retention, but remains open for catch-and-release angling.
Palmer Lake, near Oroville, Wash., is well known by bass anglers, but winter is a good time to take large perch and ling cod (burbot) through the ice. For the ling, look for water more than 70 feet deep and bounce your offering (nightcrawlers or cut bait) on the bottom using a heavy sinker. The best bite is after dark.
The state record for burbot was set at Palmer a couple of years ago at just more than 17 pounds.