December 27, 2013 in Outdoors

Hunting and fishing

By Correspondent

Tip of the week

As basic preparation for a steelheading trip, Google Northwest River Forecast or NW for river conditions before heading out. Anglers generally do best when water levels are rising or dropping. It’s a lot tougher to catch steelhead in the peaks and troughs.

Braggin’ rights

When Levi Weber of Spokane got interested in ice fishing last year, I scoffed a little at his elaborate preparation. The young man, who will get up before the sun rises to watch an ice-fishing show on television, soon purchased a sled, an ice-fishing tent, a MarCom Fish Locator, a propane heater, some jigging rods and a handful of expensive jigs. My gear can be carried onto the ice in a 5-gallon bucket. I fished recently with Weber on an unnamed scabrock lake south of Spokane, and he did something I have wanted to do all my life – catch a 13-inch perch. In fact, he caught numerous perch longer than 11 inches. I am now looking into the purchase of a sled, an ice-fishing tent, a MarCom Fish Locator, a propane heater and some expensive ice-fishing jigs.


• Early-season estimates for next year are for a return of 345,900 adult sockeye to the mouth of the Columbia, including 282,200 Okanogan and 63,500 Wenatchee fish. That would be the third-highest on record. The record return was an estimated total of 521,000 in 2012.

• Plastic litter is one of the most significant problems facing the world’s marine environments, as an estimated 20 million tons of plastic litter enter the ocean each year. As the particles break down and disperse, they have a wide range of adverse environmental, public health and economic consequences with the potential to kill wildlife, destroy natural resources and disrupt the food chain. Ocean or not, make a resolution this year to pick up your litter.

• Under proposed legislation, Idaho hunters and anglers would be able to lock in the price of their hunting and fishing license for the next three to five years. Called a “fee lock,” agency officials think it will help raise needed revenue and reduce the need for fee increases. Not all hunters and anglers consistently buy hunting and fishing licenses. The fee lock would reward those who do and encourage others to do the same. For Idahoans who consistently buy annual licenses, the price of a license and tags would be the same as buying them in 2013.

Heads up

• The annual Roche Harbor Salmon Derby will run Feb. 6-8. Tickets are $700 per boat with a 100-boat maximum. Moorage is included. First prize is $10,000 and there will be a $30,000 prize for a 30-pound winning fish. For tickets or more information call Debbie Sandwith at (360) 378-5562 or email

Fly fishing

With the warmer weather, the Big Spokane is an option for fly fishers. Dredging with nymphs or streamers on sink-tips will be best. Fish pockets close to shore. The Clearwater and Snake rivers are also fishable for steelhead.

Salmon and steelhead

The Grande Ronde is fishing again and the upper river is floatable in a boat. There is ice along the banks. Call Boggan’s Oasis (509-256-3372) for latest conditions before leaving.

Steelhead angling is fair in the John Day Arm of the Columbia and the Snake River from Heller Bar up. Clearwater fish are holding tightly in slack water and will take a jig or bait if you can get it in their face.

Ice fishing

A friend who fished the narrows at Fourth of July Lake this week caught all his fish in 11 feet of water using a single salmon egg and sinker. He was surprised that most of the rainbow were only 10 inches long. The ice was a solid 8 inches with the only open water near the shore over the springs on the north side.

Hog Canyon trout fishing has slowed, but the fish occasionally go on a biting rampage. If it is sunny, fish in the shadows on the right side of the lake. Williams and Hatch remain steady, if not fast, for 11- to 14-inch rainbow. Anglers who fish the open water near the aerator in Williams make me nervous but generally do better than those drilling holes.

Upper Twin Lake, near Coffeepot Lake, is producing some 9- to 12-inch rainbow in the first bay. Eloika Lake has yielded some decent catches of 7- to 8-inch perch north of Jerry’s Landing. Silver Lake perch aren’t getting any bigger. Moses Lake perch anglers are moving around to find schools of big perch in the vicinity of the I-90 bridge, but a day on the ice can be a big zero or lights out.

Perch action is good at Fish Lake near Lake Wenatchee. In the Methow Valley, Patterson Lake is producing decent catches of slightly larger perch. Roses Lake is also a popular perch fishery in the winter, but the ice is marginal. Also worth exploring is Palmer Lake outside of Tonasket, which has perch and some large burbot.

In Idaho, there has been fair perch fishing at Avondale, Upper Twin, Cocolalla and Rose. Fernan Lake has the best perch fishing. Try Medicine, Killarney or Coeur d’Alene for pike. Shallow bays with lots of weed growth on Hayden Lake are also productive for pike. Use smelt or herring 3-4 feet below the ice.

Some good reports have come from ice fishermen at Spirit Lake, where a hot morning bite will provide 15-fish limits of smallish kokanee in short order. Use the same Glow Hook tipped with maggot as you would if fishing for summer kokes. Kokanee school up, so the best “fish locator” is the presence of other fishermen.

Trout and kokanee

Lake Roosevelt remains the best open-water trout fishery around. Troll perch flies or perch broken-back Rapalas. The Whitestone area has been good, but the entire system is loaded with 15- to 16-inch rainbow. A few big kokanee are also being taken by trollers in the vicinity of Spring Canyon.

If you like to fish for rainbow trout and are shore-bound, this is a great time of the year for dunking bait from the docks and shore at Mill Bay on Lake Chelan. Some of the fish will stretch to 20 inches or better. If you’re trolling, a Wedding Ring and dodger are effective.

Trollers are netting Rufus Woods triploids in the 3-pound range near Chief Joseph Dam. A few double-digit fish have also been caught. Various wedding ring/spinner type combinations behind a 4/0 flasher will do the job, but Rapalas are always good, as are flies on the surface and casting spoons and spinners to the shorelines.

The Lake Chelan mackinaw bite has been excellent in the lower 6 miles of the lake. The Ace Hi-Fly in glow patterns has been the ticket on the bottom in depths below 200 feet.

If you can fish a non-windy day, Rock Lake can be extremely good for 14- to 16-inch brown trout. Limits are the rule for anglers trolling Rapalas.

Other species

The burbot (freshwater ling cod) bite has turned on in Lake Roosevelt’s Porcupine Bay, Craig Dowdy of YJ Guide Service said. Fish are running 2-6 pounds. If you’ve never eaten a burbot, often called “poor man’s lobster,” you’re missing out on some fine dining. Contact Dowdy at (509) 999-0717.

Effective Wednesday through Jan. 19, sturgeon retention will be open in the Bonneville Pool. Effective Wednesday, sturgeon retention will be open in The Dalles and John Day Pools until the guidelines are met.

An eight-day razor clam dig on ocean beaches begins Sunday and stretches through Jan. 5. All digs are scheduled on evening tides. Additional digs are tentatively scheduled later in January and in February but have not been approved. For more information, see the WDFW Razor Clam webpage at fishing/shellfish/ razorclams/ current.html.

Contact Alan Liere at spokesmanliere @

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