The Coeur d’Alene River has dropped enough to make afternoon streamer or nymph fishing for cutthroat worth the drive. Afternoons are best.
Steelhead rivers are still a little on the high side, but the Grande Ronde and Clearwater are starting to give up a few fish. Swing with a sink tip and large leech to cover more water, or try nymphs under an indicator for fish less willing to chase.
Salmon and steelhead
Steelhead anglers checked last week by Idaho Fish and Game averaged a fish every nine hours from the mouth of the Clearwater River to the Orofino Bridge, six hours upstream from there and 12 hours on the South Fork Clearwater. The best fish-per-angler average was two on the Salmon River downstream from Whitebird Creek, though only a few anglers were checked.
It’s not great fishing, but steelheaders with boats are still taking fish on the free-flowing upper Okanogan River. Fishing there from shore is almost impossible because of the ice shelf. The lower river near Brewster is frozen.
The bar below Wells Dam is giving up the occasional steelhead for anglers drifting jigs and bobbers. Water is higher than normal.
Trout and kokanee
Hatch Lake near Colville, is ice-covered, but there is not enough to safely support ice anglers. Nearby Williams, which is deeper and has an aerator, was not iced early in the week, so trout fishing may still be a possibility. South of Spokane, Hog Canyon was ice-free at midweek, and Fourth of July had patches of skim ice. Both of these should provide excellent trout fishing once the ice forms.
Lake Roosevelt, near the area known as “The Goat Farm,” was very good this week for rainbow trout. Trollers dragging perch flies or Rapalas from the surface to about 15 feet at 2.5 mph were taking limits if they could land even a third of the fish that hit. The water around Split Rock and Lincoln has also been good, with the Lincoln area being most consistent. It’s time to include a bag of sand in your fishing gear for the icy ramps on Roosevelt.
Though the bite is not nearly as fast, Sprague Lake trollers are using the same gear and presentation as Roosevelt trollers to take big rainbow from the middle of the lake in the deeper water. Chances of taking a 5-pound trout are excellent.
There have been good days and not-so-good days for those fishing at the lower end of Rufus Woods Reservoir. On a good day, numerous triploids to 12 pounds are caught. On an average day, most of the fish are in the 2-4-pound range. Spoons, black jigs and flies are all effective.
Anglers are fishing through the ice on Rat Lake in the Okanogan, catching lots of 10-12-inch trout.
The trout lakes around Coeur d’ Alene are still fishable from shore. Bait anglers are taking fish from Fernan, Hayden and the Chain lakes. Lake Pend Oreille is a good bet for big rainbows on top.
Lake Spokane is still good for crappie and bass. Launching is possible at the Riverside State Park launch upstream of where the Little Spokane river runs in. You’ll need a Discover Pass and $7. The Willow Bay launch is open; the launch fee is $15. Anglers drop-shotting in almost 50 feet of water are catching 12-inch crappie and perch that are slightly smaller.
Deer were reported to be crossing Eloika Lake on the ice this week, but the 2 inches of ice is not enough to be ice fishing. Silver Lake, another popular winter perch destination, is not even close.
A two-day hunt in Grant County yielded five quail, one pheasant and nine mallards for friends Mike Vargas and Mike Sweeney last weekend. The quail hunting was in the sage brush around Potholes Reservoir, and several coveys were bumped when the duo left the blind to take the dogs for a walk. The duck hunt in the same area was dead one day and mediocre the next, but they said they saw numerous large flocks of geese and a fair number of ducks were moving ahead of Sunday’s storm.
There is no shortage of geese anywhere in eastern Washington, with large concentrations in Whitman, Grant and Lincoln counties. A friend, Brad Waines, and I, shot quick limits of big honkers pass-shooting in the scabrock near Coffeepot Lake on Wednesday.
Idaho waterfowl seasons are open through the holiday season and into January. Waterfowl hunters must have a valid Idaho hunting license – a 2012 license through the end of December and a 2013 license on Jan. 1 and thereafter, but the federal duck stamps are good through the end of June. In Washington, waterfowl licenses are good to the end of the season, which is Jan. 27 for most units.
Pheasant hunters are hoping the snow holds, as they are now finding roosters in huntable numbers under the trees in brushy draws in the Palouse. Pheasants are inclined to hold much better when there are a few inches on snow on the ground.