January 13, 2012 in Outdoors

Hunting and fishing

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tip of the week

Depth is important when fishing for winter perch. Put your jig 6-12 inches off the bottom. Below that and you’re in the weeds; above and you’re out of the zone.

Overheard

Fish biologists for Oregon and Washington estimate that the abundance of legal-size sturgeon measuring 38-54 inches in length has declined nearly 50 percent in the past four years on the lower Columbia. As a result, the allowable catch will be reduced for the third straight year in 2012.

Heads up

• About 4,000 recently issued 2012 Idaho wolf hunting tags include an incorrect telephone number for the reporting hotline. The correct reporting hotline number is 1-855-648-5558. Hunters are required to report killing a wolf within 72 hours, and must present the skull and hide to an Idaho Fish and Game office within 10 days.

• The application period for Idaho spring turkey controlled hunts has been delayed to begin Feb. 1 and run through the end of that month. Hunters may apply for controlled hunts at any hunting and fishing license vendor, at the Fish and Game office, with a credit card by calling 1-800-55HUNT5 or online at fishandgame.idaho.gov.

Steelhead

In the Clearwater Region, steelhead fishing is still on. Fish responded to the warmer weather and rain last week and moved out of Lower Granite Reservoir, and the fishing picked up.

In the Salmon region, anglers are still catching steelhead in the main Salmon River, primarily below North Fork.

The Tucannon River near the town of Starbuck, Wash., is fishable for steelhead. There is plenty of accessible water on the Tucannon for the wade fisherman, but if you haven’t been there before, stop off at Darver Tackle in Starbuck and get some directions and instructions. Steelhead anglers are catching a few fish in The Dalles Pool. Some winter steelhead should also be available from beaches on the lower Columbia.

Fishing for steelhead and other game fish will close early in several river systems in Puget Sound and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect wild steelhead.

The early closures will affect the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish and Puyallup, along with several streams along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Most river systems will close Feb 1.

Trout

With morning temperatures in the low teens again most lakes that were “iffy” for ice fishing a week ago are again fishable. Hatch Lake and Williams Lake in Stevens County have good ice covers and are producing some nice rainbow, but not for everyone. Hog Canyon has its moments of hot fishing, followed by several hours of dead time. Fourth of July trout fishing never seems to get hot, but a day on the ice is usually good for a couple of big trout.

Sprague Lake was ice-covered early in the week. It probably has fishable ice near the public launch, but no one was out when I drove by.

Reports from Lake Roosevelt range from “decent” to “lousy.” The Fort Spokane boat ramp was so icy last weekend some boats could not put in. Seven Bays was much better. Several “decent” reports have come from trollers in the vicinity of Sterling Point. Jointed Rapalas have been effective, as have perch-pattern streamer flies.

Rock Lake seems to be the most reliable destination for boat and shore anglers. Rainbow and browns are being caught by trolling or casting Rapalas to the shorelines, and bank fishermen are also having success dunking worms, marshmallows and Power Bait.

Trollers working along Medicare Beach on Potholes Reservoir are catching rainbow trout up to 4 pounds. Baby Hot Lips and Needlefish are popular.

Rufus Woods triploids continue to make anglers smile. Near Bridgeport, troll the can line. Down river, the net pens are good from shore, or try jigging in 10-20 feet of water. Trollers are dragging a variety of offerings, and all seem to work at one time or another. Most reports mention Rapalas or Muddler Minnows.

Rat Lake near Brewster is not completely frozen, but anglers fishing through the ice in the bay by the launch are catching rainbow trout running 10-14 inches.

Mackinaw trollers on Lake Chelan, Pend Oreille and Priest are raving about the Ace Hi-Fly and also the bite, which has been steady.

Spiny ray

The Pend Oreille River is not a bad option for northern pike. Anglers in boats have been dunking dead bait such as herring under a bobber or casting swimbaits.

Walleye action has been slow on Potholes Reservoir, though a few fish have been taken recently off the humps just out from Bly Landing – the first right past MarDon Resort. Ice is beginning form at Potholes launches.

Fish Lake in the Okanogan is coming back into fishing shape. Fish Lake was seeing some good perch fishing before the warmer weather hit.

Two friends and I fished Eloika Lake for 2 hours Monday morning just north of Jerry’s Landing. Between 7:30-8:30 a.m. we caught more than 50 perch from the same three holes. From 8:30-9:30 a.m., we caught only six. The ice was a solid 7 inches thick. We went back to Eloika Wednesday and caught a late bite from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Other fishermen report big catches throughout the day.

No one was on the ice at Silver Lake on Monday, but the launch bay should be fishable. The larger fish are in deeper water just out of the bay, so if you go, proceed cautiously.

Bear Lake, which is for juvenile anglers and those with disabilities, has good ice and is giving up a variety of spiny ray and trout.

A good ice fishing bet in Okanogan County is Patterson Lake, near Winthrop. The lake has just about every species of freshwater fish, but perch are the most targeted during the winter. Most are small, but there are some “jumbos.”

Ice on some of the most popular lakes closer to Coeur d’Alene is freezing again. Bonner and Boundary county lakes have good ice and fishing for perch, bluegill and trout. These include Kelso, Hauser, Twin, Round, Smith, Brush, Bonner, Dawson, Perkins and Robinson. Popular ice-fishing lakes Cocolalla and Spirit did not have safe ice early in the week, but it could be fine now.

Other species

Anglers looking for a fish fry are targeting burbot in the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt. Look for deep holes around buoy 5 above and below the spit. Jigs baited with nightcrawlers, blade baits and scented plastics are all taking fish. Aggressive jigging during which the bait is bounced hard off the bottom seems to be preferred by this tasty freshwater ling cod.

Sturgeon angling is good for boat anglers in the Bonneville Pool. Sturgeon anglers are also catching a few in The Dalles and John Day Pools. The higher temperatures have also kept the sturgeon biting on the Snake River, and some nice fish were reported caught the past week.

Hunting

Duck hunting in Grant County was slower than slow for four of us last weekend as we saw fewer than 25 ducks in two days on Crab Creek and Frenchman Wasteway and had only one small flock of mallard visit our decoys. Even the divers stayed away.

On the positive side, on a short walk into the sagebrush to relieve boredom, my dog put up a covey of quail and two pheasants. Those watching me return were treated to a slapstick routine when I caught my clunky cold-weather boots in a tangle of dead sagebrush. The scab on my forehead looks like a third eye.

Brant goose numbers in Skagit County are high enough to allow an eight-day hunt, according to WDFW. Hunting is scheduled Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, and Jan. 21, 22, 25, 28 and 29 with a bag limit of two geese per day. To participate, hunters must have a small game license, a migratory bird validation and a special migratory bird-hunting authorization with a brant harvest record card and a federal migratory bird stamp.

Contact Alan Liere at spokesmanliere@yahoo.com

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