Fly fishermen are finding Rock Lake browns and rainbows close to the surface and near the shorelines. Olive and brown Woolly Buggers and Seal Buggers are effective.
Salmon and steelhead
With the Methow and the Okanogan rivers frozen, steelhead have headed back to the Columbia and fishing is picking up around Pateros and Bridgeport.
Guide Toby Wyatt of Reel Time Fishing in Clarkston reported that Clearwater steelhead are fishing well, but don’t plan on going home with a cooler-full because of the size restriction. It is an odd year when anglers fish the Clearwater hoping to catch the smaller A-run steelhead.
Cold weather has kept anglers away from the Hanford Reach. Through Sunday, WDFW staff had interviewed only 18 anglers with one wild steelhead released.
Eloika Lake has plenty of ice, but for the most part only the anglers who get there early have been catching more than a few. That said, a friend fished from 2:15 to 4:30 recently and caught what he described as “20 keepers” – perch from 7½ to 8 inches.
Silver Lake perch are small and smaller, but the ice is good. Two friends and I fished in 30 feet of water 100 yards out and to the right of the boat ramp, keeping and filleting about 35 fish from a 250-fish morning. A plain hook tipped with a perch eye worked as well as anything. At midweek, the bite had slowed some and the fish actually seemed to have become smaller. Some anglers are saying the larger fish are in deeper water (35-40 feet), but ice is not as thick as you move out of the bay, and at those depths, the fish must be brought up slowly or they will not survive if released.
Waitts Lake anglers are finding rainbow and brown trout straight out from the public access.
Bear Lake, north of Spokane, is giving up some large trout and decent perch to ice anglers. Bear can only be fished by kids 14 or younger or by an adult accompanied by a kid 14 or younger. It is also open to any disabled angler with a reduced-fee license.
Friends who fished Hatch Lake last weekend said there was plenty of ice but that the bite was sporadic. Two of them took trout of around a foot, with the largest going 17 inches. Williams Lake has been about the same, with a lot of the rainbow running 14 inches and larger.
Sprague Lake ice is good and fishing is possible just about anywhere there is access. A good bite has not materialized. When it does, most anglers do their fishing on the west end between the public access and the big island. A better bet is Hog Canyon, where the rainbow are running from 10 inches all the way to the 20s. Fourth of July trout can be more cooperative, and they are a lot bigger on average.
Moses Lake got a 9-inch ice cap during the big freeze, said Cindy Kalamikis, who lives on the lake. She said that last weekend anglers parking at Blue Heron Park and walking across the ice to a place a couple of hundred yards above the I-90 bridge caught limits of jumbo perch, some as large as 13 inches. Unfortunately, by midweek, the big schools had moved and ice fishermen were drilling a lot of holes looking for them. It is also reported that Potholes Reservoir has pretty much iced over, but be wary on both waters and keep an eye on the weather as both can lose their ice caps quickly.
There are lots of opportunities for ice fishing on Idaho’s multispecies lakes. Upper and Lower Twin, Hayden, Hauser, Avondale, Cocolalla, Jewel, Kelso, Mirror, Gamble and Round are popular. The perch at Cocolalla are small, but those at Gamble, while fewer in number, can stretch to 14 inches.
Trout and kokanee
Trolling a flasher and a Frisky Jenny flies tipped with nightcrawler at around 3 mph near Lincoln is about as close to a sure thing as you can get for a limit of 2-pound Roosevelt rainbow. Let out 150 feet of leaded line and leader.
Chelan, Priest and Pend Oreille mackinaw trollers are taking a few large fish close to the bottom. The rainbow bite on Pend Oreille has slowed some since last month, but there are still fish in the teens cruising near the surface.
The recreational white sturgeon fishery on the Bonneville Pool opens to catch-and-keep Jan. 1-19.
Burbot fishermen have experienced success this week on 2- to 4-pound fish in the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt.
Bank anglers are also finding fish up and down the reservoir wherever a stream dumps in.
The mouth of the Colville has been good at night.
In Idaho, anglers drifting small wet flies are catching lots of whitefish just off the bottom in riffle areas in the Clearwater River below Kooskia, the lower Selway and the Lochsa.
There are lots of ducks and geese on Long Lake and hunters with access are enjoying some good shooting. The wheat fields off the river are providing excellent goose shoots.
The Columbia and Snake rivers are where most of Washington’s waterfowl appear to be. Most of the water in the Moses Lake area is ice-covered and the birds have moved on.
With the less-than stellar pheasant season winding down, hunters are hoping for some snow to give them a slight advantage over wild, long-flushing birds. There have been some pockets of birds in prime habitat around St. John, but for the most part, the season has been a bust. Quail hunters are doing slightly better.