Even die-hard fly fishermen are having difficulty getting excited about fly-fishing prospects, what with frigid water, frozen guides and ice flows on their favorite rivers. Things will improve, but for now, a weekend at the fly vise may have to suffice as a fishing fix.
Salmon and steelhead
Steelhead catching on the Clearwater remains good between the mouth and Orofino, but it is often possible to have a five-fish day with no keepers because of size restrictions that mandate any fish more than 28 inches be released. The North Fork Clearwater has also been productive. For some reason, the ratio of retained fish seems to be greater there than on the Clearwater proper.
Steelhead fisheries closed Sunday on the upper Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to Wells Dam and on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers. This also means no whitefish season on the Wenatchee River. The mainstem Columbia River remains open for steelhead and whitefish from Wells Dam upstream to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam. Columbia River tributaries that remain open to fishing for hatchery steelhead include the Methow River from the mouth upstream to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop; the Okanogan River from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 bridge in Oroville; and the Similkameen River from the mouth upstream to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.
The Gene Fink Winter Derby on Lake Coeur d’Alene last weekend was won with a chinook weighing 11 pounds. A lot of 8- to 10-pounders were brought in, and the bite remains good at a depth of 100 feet in the vicinity of Carlin Bay.
Contacts at Newman and Waitts lakes say the lakes are frozen all the way across but probably not thick enough for safe ice fishing. Give them another week.
Eloika Lake ice is 4-7 inches thick and ice fishermen are taking 7- to 8-inch perch, though the bite, as is common on Eloika, has been sporadic. Silver Lake has been producing a perch on nearly every drop, but the fish are smaller than ever. The ice cover, which last weekend only covered the access bay, extends over deeper water to the south and has become thick enough to walk on. With luck, anglers will find larger perch in 30-35 feet of water.
The Twin Lakes near Coffeepot are iced and fishable. The perch, though fewer in number, are generally larger. Friends fished there Wednesday, throwing back numerous 4-inchers, but keeping eight running 9-12 inches.
Hog Canyon ice is good and anglers dunking single eggs and Power Bait are doing well on trout running from 9-18 inches, with most somewhere in the middle lengths. Fourth of July is also iced over, and the rainbow are much larger. Up north, Hatch and Williams rainbow are usually fairly cooperative. They are around a foot in length and in good condition.
There have been no fishing reports from Sprague Lake, but it is frozen all the way across. Two anglers were observed on the ice near the island last weekend.
The Banks Lake boat basin at Coulee City is frozen and attracting a little interest from perch fishermen. The size of the perch seems to fluctuate dramatically. Several years ago, 10-inchers were common. The next year, it was difficult to catch a fish more than 8 inches. No word on the average size so far this winter.
In Idaho, Fernan Lake is the hot spot this week for nice-sized perch. Some of the other Panhandle lakes – Cocolalla, Round and the Twin lakes – are also producing perch and some trout, but none as large as those in Fernan. A report from Avondale said the perch were numerous but small.
Rainbow trout fishing on Lake Roosevelt remains excellent and more anglers are enjoying the bounty by building a fire and fishing from shore. The fish average 15 inches and are heavy bodied with deep pink flesh. Miniature marshmallows have worked as well as anything. Spring Canyon is still a popular spot, but it is farther from Spokane and there are lots of other closer beaches that are just as good. If trolling is your thing, a Frisky Jenny Fly on three colors of leaded line and a long leader will put you in fish throughout the system.
The next round of evening razor-clam digs is set to begin Saturday. The best digging typically occurs 1-2 hours before low tide and is not allowed at any beach before noon on the upcoming dig. Low tide of -0.1 feet will be at 4:45 p.m. at Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks and Copalis on Saturday. Not all beaches are open for the duration of the dig, so check the regs by calling (360) 902-2500. Press 1 for Marine Area 1-4 and 2 for recreational rules.
Though many big-game seasons are winding up, there’s still time in Idaho to bag a wild turkey for Christmas. The fall general turkey season runs through Sunday in Game Management Units 1, 2 (except Farragut State Park and Farragut WMA) 3, 4, 4A, 5 and 6 in northern Idaho, and through Dec. 31 in Units 8, 8A, 10A, 11, 11A, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18 on private lands only. Many Idaho upland-game seasons are also open, including most upland birds as well as cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares.
In Washington, the late-fall turkey season for either sex remains open through Sunday in GMUs 105-154 and 162-186. Other GMUs are already closed.
Cold weather and ice have concentrated good numbers of ducks and geese up and down the Snake and Columbia rivers. Hunters with blind-boats and deep water rigs are finding excellent shooting. In the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas, there are still good numbers of Canada geese on the rivers and big waters. As long as deep snow holds off, field shooting will be productive.