The Coeur d’Alene River, like all area rivers, has been running high but is expected to drop by the weekend. Streamers and nymphs are taking a few fish in the slower pools and eddies in the afternoon.
The Clearwater River has been big but should begin dropping by the weekend, and the Snake and Grande Ronde are coming into shape. Sink tips and winter flies (leeches, Intruders) or dead drifting nymphs and egg patterns will take these steelhead.
Salmon and steelhead
Areas that remain open to fishing for hatchery steelhead in the Columbia River system include the main stem Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to the boundary markers below Wells Dam, and from Highway 173 Bridge in Brewster to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam as well as the Okanogan River from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville.
The Cowlitz, Lewis (including north and east forks), Kalama, Grays, Washougal and Elochoman rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County are getting good for steelheading. Water conditions – often highly variable at this time of year – can make a big difference when it comes to catching fish. Most anglers do best when water levels are rising or dropping.
Steelhead angling is good in the John Day Arm of the Columbia River.
Trout and kokanee
Last Saturday’s opening of the Washington winter lakes did not disappoint. Friends who fished at Hatch said action was nonstop for trout running mostly 12-13 inches. Similar reports came from Williams Lake. The wind at Hog Canyon made fishing difficult, but anglers fishing from shore did well on Saturday. Fourth of July experienced the same high winds, but anglers who stuck it out were doing well on rainbow that were running 18 inches and up.
WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area manager Juli Anderson reports trout fishing has been good at Z-Lake, located off Telford Road on the wildlife area in Lincoln County.
Sprague Lake trollers are taking rainbow up to 5 pounds about 15 feet below the surface. A trolling speed around 2.0 mph is best. Most of the activity is coming toward the west end of the lake.
Rock Lake has been excellent for rainbows and browns, but don’t think about fishing from a boat if the wind is blowing. The lake saw ocean-sized rollers this week, which made shore fishing difficult and boat fishing treacherous. Apexes and Rapalas are popular. Anglers fishing from the access were taking their fish on bobbers and bait.
Lake Roosevelt has been excellent for trollers and bank anglers, but it is not a slam dunk. Friends fishing from shore near Lincoln took quick limits of 16-inch rainbow on Saturday but only managed two fish from the same spot on Monday. They said the best bite was on Power Bait under a bobber. Trollers are going a little deeper now – to 18 feet – with the same flies and lures as always.
The triploid bite at Rufus Woods has been good. Fish have been taken by bank and boat fishermen throwing Power Bait or bouncing black jigs tipped with a nightcrawler. Most fish are 3-7 pounds.
Three lakes in Okanogan County – Rat near Brewster and Big and Little Green near Omak – opened for catch-and-keep trout fishing last Saturday with a five-trout daily limit. WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff says these fisheries provide good angling throughout the winter months, either in open water or through the ice. “Expect rainbow trout in the 10- to 12-inch range,” Jateff said.
Priest Lake mackinaw trollers are finding a good bite in Cavanaugh Bay and near the islands. Big Flatfish are popular, but the venerable Lucky Louie has not lost its effectiveness.
Long Lake (Lake Spokane) has been good all month for crappie. Eloika largemouth are still hitting Rattle Traps and jerk baits.
The smallmouth bite on Banks Lake has picked up. Fish up to 3½ pounds are being taken in depths ranging from 25-45 feet. Areas to target include the main-lake side of Steamboat Rock, Barker Canyon, just outside of Barker Canyon and Poplar Point.
Scootney Lake in Franklin County is largely overlooked in the winter because its panfish are fickle and the schools are scattered deep. If you find them, there are big perch and nice walleye.
The walleye fishing has started to heat up at Rufus Woods. Look for back eddies and slack water and bounce jigs on the bottom.
Clam diggers can look forward to some of the best tides of the year during a six-day razor clam dig set to begin Tuesday at Twin Harbors, then expand to include openings at Long Beach, Mocrocks and Copalis beaches on Dec. 14-15 and Twin Harbors and Mocrocks only Dec. 16. These are all late afternoon and evening digs. Another digging opportunity is tentatively scheduled Dec. 28-31.
Though many fall wild turkey hunts have closed, others are open through the middle or end of December. In Idaho, a fall general season is open through Dec. 15 in Game Management Units 1, 2 (except Farragut State Park and Farragut WMA) 3, 4, 4A, 5 and 6. The fall general season also is open through Dec. 31 in units 8, 8A, 10A, 11, 11A, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 18.
This hunt is open on private lands only. Washington turkey hunters have until Dec. 15 to bag another bird, which are conspicuous now in large feeding flocks.
Decent pheasant hunting is available at WDFW’s Revere Wildlife Area in Whitman County. WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager Kari Dingman reports pheasant numbers are still good on the Hartsock Unit in Columbia County.
Northern migrant ducks have started to show up in all the usual waterways in Grant and Adams counties, and Canada geese are prominent throughout the Basin.
This is an unusual year in that the ducks are here on time and the small waters are not frozen. Thus, they are spread out. If ponds freeze and food sources remain snow-free, waterfowl will concentrate on moving water and large reservoirs.
Upland hunters are reporting a lot more grey partridge this year. Fringe areas in wheat country hold numerous nice-sized coveys. Quail populations are also up.
Contact Alan Liere at firstname.lastname@example.org