Fly anglers desperate for a fix are still fishing the lower Coeur d’Alene where water temperatures are holding and afternoon fishing is decent. Some anglers are going as far as the St. Joe, and say it is possible, if you hit it just right, to do very well there.
Salmon and steelhead
Jeff Smith at Fins and Feathers in Coeur d’Alene says he is catching lots of chinook 18-24 inches, but occasionally, one in the teens shows up. Smith trolls Mini Squids or helmeted herring between 90 and 100 feet down. Coeur d’Alene chinook must be 20 inches or longer to be retained.
The fall steelhead season remains open through Dec. 31 in the Clearwater River and the North Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork Clearwater rivers where bag limits are two per day and six in possession, and in the Salmon, Little Salmon, Snake and Boise rivers where limits are three per day and nine in possession. The spring steelhead season starts Jan. 1 in these waters with limits of three per day and nine in possession, but anglers will need a new Idaho steelhead permit and a 2013 fishing license to fish after Dec. 31.
Area steelhead rivers have been running high and fishing is tough. The Clearwater above Orofino is probably the best right now. Migration past Lower Granite Dam is still over 100 fish a day. The Snake is experiencing fluctuations, generally running between 22,000 and 28,000 cfs. The Grande Ronde is still running big, but it is very fishable on the drop if clarity isn’t too bad.
Anglers are catching a few steelhead on the main stem Columbia River from the point above Rocky Reach Dam all the way up the Okanogan River. Water temperatures in the Columbia remain higher than normal for this time of year. Cooler weather would improve the catching.
Trout and kokanee
Washington’s four winter lakes – Hog Canyon, Fourth of July, Hatch and Williams – continue to boot out nice catches of 14-20-inch rainbow. Most anglers have been fishing with bait from shore. So far, the lakes are ice-free.
Sprague Lake rainbow averaging 19 inches are fairly easy to catch on the west end and down the middle of the lake. Having just smoked up a few fish caught recently, I would definitely recommend skinning them before freezing to get rid of the “grassy” taste.
Another local lake – Waitts – is technically not a winter lake, though it is open all winter. Few anglers are taking advantage of a good rainbow and brown trout bite at mid-lake. A couple anglers fishing from shore at the public access this week even had a couple nice browns to compensate for their cold hands and feet.
Lake Roosevelt trollers are catching fish all over the reservoir, though fluctuating water the past week messed up the bite some. All ramps are still good, however, and the cookie-cutter 16-inch rainbow are the best-eating trout around. The usual trolled fare – Rapalas, Muddlers, Apexes and perch flies – are all taking fish between 8-15 feet down. A flasher can sometimes make the difference, but usually is not necessary.
Most Rufus Woods rainbow landed recently are 2-6 pounds, enticed with black jigs and black Muddler Minnows. Most bank fishermen use bait and concentrate their efforts at the net pens or near Bridgeport, but trollers and jiggers in a boat will find the big triploids throughout the system. Nearby Banks Lake is also providing good fishing for big rainbow. Anglers fishing from shore are doing very well tossing Power Bait.
Roses Lake near Chelan has recently received a plant of catchable rainbows. It should provide fast fishing until ice up. Troll a small Mack’s Lures Smile Blade in front of a Conehead Muddler Minnow, 12-15 feet deep 60 feet behind the boat at about 1.8 mph.
Lake Pend Oreille has been quite good recently for big Kamloops rainbow in the top 15 feet. Bucktails, Apexes and Rapalas take the majority of fish. Macks have not been very conspicuous lately.
Oversized Gerrard rainbow in Kootenay Lake in British Columbia are on top now, hammering big bucktail flies. Kootenay trollers consistently land rainbow over 15 pounds using the same gear as Pend Oreille Kamloops fishermen.
Walleye fishing is reported to be very good on Rufus Woods, both near the Seaton Grove launch and as far down river as the Timm Cattle Ranch. Trollers are having the best luck, pulling spinners upriver, starting at 25 feet and exploring in 10-foot increments down to 70 feet.
Fishing pressure has been light on the Potholes Reservoir and the Seep Lakes below O’Sullivan Dam. Walleye fishermen are reporting good blade bait action on walleye on the humps off the face of the Sand Dunes and in the Lind Coulee area. A few big ’eyes have been taken from the MarDon dock as well as from O’Sullivan Dam, the Lind Coulee, and Long and Crescent lakes.
Long Lake smallmouth, perch and crappie continue to bite in the cold weather. Both crappie and perch will be holding in the same areas as they do in the early spring, unaffected by the drawdown.
Waterfowl hunters are finding this year’s migration somewhat puzzling as many of the ponds are still open, yet they aren’t stacking up with ducks. One report noted that while there are some birds in the Columbia Basin, populations are below average in places like Coeur d’Alene Lake, the Pend Oreille River, and the Kootenai National Wildlife Reserve. That said, Craig Dowdy of Y.J. Guide Service, says he has been taking “tons of mallards” off the island of the Pend Oreille. He says waterfowl hunting improves when the water drops. Info: (509) 999-0717.
In Idaho, upland game hunters can take cottontail rabbits through Feb. 28, and snowshoe hares through March 31. Idaho hunters must have 2012 licenses and permits through Dec. 31; on Jan. 1, they will need new 2013 licenses and permits. Washington State cottontail and snowshoe rabbits are open through March 15 statewide and 2012 hunting licenses are still good.