December 13, 2013 in Outdoors

Hunting and fishing

By Correspondent
Tips of the week

In Banks Lake, there are a lot of big rainbow hanging out in water that is impossible to troll. Cast Rapalas, spinners and plastics into the rocks where the bruisers cruise looking for crawdads and bait-fish.

• A gift that’s always in style, never the wrong size or color, and useable every day of the year is a Washington or Idaho hunting and/or fishing license. In Idaho, go to any Idaho Fish and Game regional office and buy a gift certificate for a 2014 license. A gift certificate is best because anyone in Idaho older than 18 has to show proof of residency. These gift certificates can be redeemed only at Fish and Game regional offices. In Washington, the new licensing year doesn’t begin until April 1, but the licenses may be purchased now by phone (866-246-9453), online ( and from licensing dealers around the state.

• For broader access to state lands, a Washington Discover Pass also makes a fine holiday gift. An annual pass provides access to nearly 7 million acres of state-managed recreation lands, including state parks, water-access points, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, trails and trailheads. For details on purchasing a Discover Pass, see


The Columbia River adult chinook returns for 2014 are projected to be at least double the 2013 returns. The spring run should bring smiles to anglers on rivers such as the Clearwater, which is experiencing a somewhat dismal steelhead season.

Heads up

• WDFW will accept applications for its Master Hunter Permit Program from Jan. 1 through Feb. 15. Master hunters are enlisted for controlled hunts to remove problem animals that damage property. They also participate in volunteer projects involving increasing access to private lands, habitat enhancement, data collection, hunter education and landowner relations. For more information, go to

• In Idaho, the Rose Lake Access Area is closed to the public for a site improvement project that will make it more useful to anglers and boaters.

Fly fishing

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.

Winter fishing

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.

Other species

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.

Contact Alan Liere at spokesmanliere @

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