At Northwest Outfitters in Coeur d’Alene, Pat Way said steelhead fishing is a “reality check” this year. “The last few years have been so good that anglers have forgotten what ‘normal’ steelheading is like,” he said. Way and friends are having one- and two-fish days on the Snake and the Grande Ronde near the mouth of the Snake. The Clearwater has been best to this point below Orofino, though a few fish are starting to show above, and many of these are the big B-runs. The Salmon River steelhead population should be building and could break loose at any time.
Way said the Coeur d’Alene River has a short window of opportunity, but trout fishing has been “decent,” and for such a short drive, more anglers should be taking advantage of it. Try throwing small nymphs between Pritchard and the interstate.
Salmon and steelhead
Salmon fishing in Idaho will be over for the year when the fall chinook harvest season on the Snake and Clearwater rivers ends Wednesday.
Fall chinook catches on the Columbia River are winding down, but anglers are still catching a few quality fish below Bonneville Dam. Steelhead catches are fair in the John Day Arm.
Steelhead and chinook action has been fair near Lyons Ferry on the Snake River below the Lyons Ferry Hatchery. Anglers have also been taking steelhead near Boyer Park on Brad’s Lighted Plugs. The Washington chinook season also closes at the end of October.
Guide Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service said he and two others brought 10 steelhead to the boat at Pateros this week. Three of them were hatchery fish. Magnuson said he hasn’t really seen a drop in success over last year. Right now, steelhead fishing at Pateros is “crazy good” for practically any method.
At Darver Tackle in Starbuck, Wash., the steelhead report is “they’re catching fish, but it’s not great.” Snake River temperatures in the area are still about 59 degrees and need to drop at least 6 degrees more for optimum fishing. Nearby, the Tucannon River has been more productive.
Amber Lake remains open for catch-and-release trout fishing though November. Fly fishing has been fairly consistent and small plugs also work well.
Rainbow fishing has been good on Lake Roosevelt in the vicinity of Fort Spokane and Seven Bays. Most of the fish are the 14- to 16-inchers planted this spring, but a surprising number of 20-inchers are also showing. Trollers are going three colors down with either an Apex or a fly and dodger. Some successful anglers are putting corn on the back hooks of the Apex.
Triploid fishermen plying the water in the vicinity of the lower net pens are catching fish to 8 pounds on Rufus Woods Reservoir by casting jigs into the current breaks below the pens. A 1/16-ounce black Marabou jig is the go-to lure, but fly fishermen are also doing well casting streamers and nymphs in dark colors.
Most Eastern Washington trout lakes that are not already closed will close after Wednesday. Clear Lake remains open until then, and a few anglers are catching a lot of browns and rainbow by trolling nightcrawlers in 15 feet of water at midlake.
Local trout lakes where fishing is allowed year-round include Sullivan, Sprague and Rock. Fish Lake in Okanogan County, Chelan Lake in Chelan County and Curlew Lake in Ferry County also remain open. Curlew is not listed in the Washington sports fishing pamphlet. At Fishermen’s Cove Resort on Curlew, Sandy Beck said one cabin is available throughout the winter and fishing for trout (and even a few big tiger muskie) remains a good option from the dock.
At Pend Oreille Charters on Lake Pend Oreille, Kurt Arnter said clients are catching a lot of trout – mostly rainbow – 2 to 5 pounds. He said the largest fish to come in recently was a 13-pounder. Most rainbows are between the surface and 100 feet and they have been coming up higher in the water column each day. Arnter said the water temperature on the lake is nearing the perfect 52-53 degrees that stimulates the bite of larger fish on the surface. Lake trout are in their spawning stage and difficult to catch. Info: (208) 610-8540.
Kokanee are beginning to turn on Lake Coeur d’Alene, though they continue to bite. The chinook salmon bite has heated up for anglers dragging Mini Squid at 100 feet. Trout in the local lakes are becoming more active as the weather cools.
Three Idaho tribal ponds near Plummer – DeSmet, Worley and Agency – are providing excellent triploid fishing from shore for big, fat fish. Non-tribal members need an inexpensive tribal license to fish these easily accessed waters so popular with handicapped and older anglers. For directions, look up fishing and hunting regulations for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe on the Internet.
Coeur d’Alene pike are putting on the feed bag for winter and are hitting soft plastics and Husky Jerks next to weeds beds in the bays. Some fish more than 20 pounds have been taken recently.
The second razor-clam dig of the fall season will get under way on evening tides at four ocean beaches Saturday. Twin Harbors Beach will open for digging after noon on four consecutive days, Sunday-Tuesday. Three other beaches – Long Beach, Copalis and Mocrocks – will open for digging Saturday and Sunday after noon each day.
In Pasco, Suzanne Sullivan of Burbank Guide Service said it is the front end of the migration cycle, but there are so many local ducks they are eating up the fields. Refuge hunters are getting a lot of shooting. Geese are mostly locals, though some lessers went through last weekend. Info: (509) 545-8000.
IDFG wildlife biologist Jeff Knetter said Idaho waterfowl hunters had great opening day success on the Chain Lakes near Coeur d’Alene. The upland bird harvest has been good for all species, and forest grouse are up everywhere – one of the best years in many.
The Washington pheasant opener saw mixed results with some hunters limiting quickly and others hunting hard for less than one bird each. The reopening of the waterfowl season had similarly mixed results. On a more positive note, chukar hunters in Idaho and Washington say there are definitely more birds than the last couple of years and quail populations look healthy.
The light goose season in Idaho opens in Area 2 on Monday and runs through Jan. 18, then opens again from Feb. 16-March 10. The bag limit is 10 per day and 20 in possession. In Area 3, the light goose season opens Nov. 5 and runs through Jan. 25. It opens again Feb. 16 through March 10.
FISHING -- In recent weeks I've explored some of the fishing and hunting ramifications of water management in Washington, especially the unsustainable impacts of deep-well irrigation in central Washington. While ...