Whitefish can be the saviors of sanity for fly fishermen this time of year. The Coeur d’Alene River has them, and you might also catch a trout. Other rivers, such as the St. Joe, Clark Fork, Clearwater and Kettle also have whitefish.
Salmon and steelhead
Steelhead anglers aren’t going to have much success from here on by fishing the main stem of big rivers. This is the time to head to tributaries such as the Grande Ronde, Salmon and Clearwater. Even then, cold water and fewer fish are making catching difficult. The Clearwater, for example, is seeing perfect water but few fish. The Grande Ronde, where fishermen expected to catch five steelhead a day in banner years such as 2009, is giving up less than one fish a day per angler.
Starting New Year’s Day, anglers will be required to use barbless hooks until further notice when fishing for salmon, steelhead and cutthroat on a large section of the Columbia River.
The rule issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will affect sport fisheries from the mouth of the Columbia River – including the north jetty – upstream to the state border with Oregon, 17 miles upstream from McNary Dam. Under the new rule, anglers may still use single-point, double-point, or treble hooks in those waters, as long as any barbs have been filed off or pinched down.
Monday is the last day to fish for steelhead in Mill Creek (a Cowlitz River tributary) and salmon in the Elochoman, Grays (including West Fork), Tilton and Washougal rivers, the main-stem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco, and Drano and Mayfield lakes.
Small Coeur d’Alene Lake chinook are plentiful in 90-100 feet of water. Use the usual Mini-Squids and helmeted herring.
Trout and kokanee
Trout fishermen have had some good days at Rock Lake recently. Browns are willing to hit sinking Husky Jerks and other plugs in crawdad colors.
Lake Roosevelt is still excellent for 15- to 16-inch rainbow. Eden Harbor has been mentioned a lot lately, and it is a good place to try if the water is rough. Good reports also come from the vicinity of Split Rock, and the consensus is the fish are in the top 10 feet of water.
Triploid fishing has been good at time on Rufus Woods by anglers throwing bait from the Corps of Engineers Park and Brandt’s Landing below Chief Joseph Dam on the south shore. Quite a few 4-to 5-pound fish are taken there.
The winter trout lakes in eastern Washington are in a transition period – ice is forming, but not enough to walk on.
Things are supposed to start cooling off by Sunday, so perhaps there will be some ice fishing by next weekend on lakes such as Williams, Hatch, Fourth of July and Hog Canyon.
Ice anglers itching to get out might consider the Okanogan area where lakes such as Davis (near Twisp) and Patterson (near Winthrop) offer safe ice fishing for trout and perch.
Eloika Lake is usually the first local water for ice fishing for perch, but snow has kept the ice thin and fishing is not advisable. Other perch destinations such as Silver and Long are also without fishing ice. Long is seeing some of the best open-water winter fishing in many years. Crappie and perch in 50-60 feet of water have been bending rods for several weeks.
Walleye anglers are finding fish near Two Rivers on Lake Roosevelt and also on Rufus Woods near Seaton Grove and on the humps at Potholes. Blade baits are working. Ice is beginning to form in back of the Potholes dunes and some skim ice is forming on Moses Lake.
Burbot are biting on Lake Roosevelt in the Spokane Arm, but other winter burbot destinations such as Bead and Sullivan lakes are without ice.
The recreational fishery in Bonneville Reservoir opens to white sturgeon retention seven days per week effective Tuesday through Feb. 10. Catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon will still be allowed between Bonneville and The Dalles dams when retention is not allowed.
State fishery managers have approved an end-of-the-year razor clam dig over four evenings, leading up to and including New Year’s Eve. They also announced a tentative schedule for additional digs in 2013. Information about both confirmed and tentative digs are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ shellfish/razorclams/current .html. The upcoming dig will begin today after noon at Twin Harbors and expand to include three other ocean beaches through Monday. Good digging tides are forecast.
This is an excellent time to find a coyote or two wandering about at midday. They are abundant and also conspicuous throughout the Palouse.
Flocks of gray partridge are being spotted in the snowy wheat stubble around Rosalia, Spangle, Reardan and St. John. Find a protected brushy draw near a food source or open water and you’ll probably find more than one pheasant.
A friend in Moses Lake said he is seeing good numbers of mallards returning to Moses Lake each morning. There is little snow in Grant County and the birds don’t seem in a hurry to move on.
There are still good numbers of Canada geese in Goose Management Areas 4 and 5. Area 4 is open today through Monday before resuming normal Wednesday and weekend openings until Jan. 21. At that time, they will be open every day until the end of the season on Jan. 27. Area 5 is open every day until the closure on Jan. 27.
BACKCOUNTRY -- Here's the source of most of the area's smoke woes -- the fires in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Here's a shot I made today as I hiked south ...