The Big Spokane is an excellent option for rainbow in the cold weather as the water temperatures remain fairly stable. Streamer fishing has been good, but there has been some dry-fly action in the late afternoon.
There is good streamer fishing on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River – especially sink-tips. Nymphing is also good if you’re looking for numbers, but the larger fish seem to prefer streamers.The Coeur d’Alene River, like most areas rivers, is most productive from noon until dusk. Fish may be rising to midges. Below Pritchard is best.
Fly fishing has been slow to decent on the Grande Ronde River, both upper and lower. Nymphing is most effective on both stretches.
Salmon and steelhead
Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service (509-630-5433) is doing most of his steelhead fishing around Pateros with shrimp and bobber. Although the bite has not been red-hot, he says it is consistent with 4-6 steelhead a day landed, approximately half of which are hatchery fish.
Both the Grande Ronde in Washington and the Clearwater in Idaho have decent populations of steelhead. ’Ronde fish are smaller but there are more hatchery fish available, so the “keep rate” is higher. The A-run Clearwater fish are 5-8 pounds, but on a good day, you’ll see a number of B-run fish in the teens. The majority of Clearwater steelies are either wild or too large to keep, and the one-fish-per-day limit discourages those anglers who just want to fill their freezers.
Bobber and bait steelhead anglers have had decent luck the past two weeks fishing for steelhead from shore at Wawawai Landing on the Snake. Set your bobber-stop at 7 feet.
Trout and kokanee
A lot of Lake Roosevelt rainbow fishermen are trolling out of Fort Spokane for fast limits of 15-17-inch fish. Flies and Rippin’ Minnows close to the surface get the most mention, with the Frisky Jenny Trick ’r Treat fly being very popular. Remember – if your fly is tipped with a piece of nightcrawler you are considered a bait fisherman and must count the first five fish netted toward your limit. Anglers without boats are finding fish by plunking Power Bait from shore in the vicinity of Sterling Point.
Rock Lake trout anglers are throwing bait from shore at the access for good catches of mostly rainbow running 14-16 inches. Trollers are doing even better dragging Apex lures.
It will be a while before Waitts Lake in Stevens County has any ice fishing, but trolling is still an option for the 12-18-inch ’bows and browns. The fish are near the top and very susceptible to a Muddler Minnow tipped with worm.
On Lake Chelan, Anton Jones at Darrel and Dad’s Family Guide Service (866-360-1523) says fishing for big spawning lake trout historically gets good by mid-December but sometimes begins as early as Thanksgiving. The deep water above the narrows is the place to be.
Rufus Woods trout fishing has picked up and some fish with size have been landed recently, including an 18-pounder and quite a few 5-6 pounders. Most, however, are 1 to 3 pounds. The Colville Tribal Hatchery in Bridgeport has planted 1,500 triploids weighing 3 pounds each in Buffalo Lake.
Pike fishing slowed somewhat last week on Lake Coeur d’Alene, but they are still hitting soft plastics, particularly white frog patterns, as well as Husky Jerks and X-Raps. The fish are near the weedlines, but not necessarily in them. Try drifting over standing weeds and throwing to the deeper water surrounding them.
Long Lake is still booting out bass for persistent anglers. The strikes are not frequent, but largemouth to 7 pounds have been landed recently. The most aggressive largemouth bite is coming to an end, but it is still possible to successfully target them at lakes such as Newman, Coeur d’Alene, Silver, Eloika, Hayden, Hauser, Lower and Upper Twin, Banks, Potholes and Moses.
The larger Lake Roosevelt walleye seem to have disappeared, and most anglers don’t want to freeze for a bunch of 11-inchers. The water temperatures are currently around 50 degrees. When it drops into the upper 40s, the walleye bite for big fish generally gets good at night. Troll a jointed plug in the shallows close to shore.
Burbot fishing on Lake Roosevelt will improve as the water drops and the holes become more conspicuous. It generally begins to peak in mid-December. Currently, most burbot are caught accidentally on spinners or jigs baited with nightcrawler by anglers fishing for other species.
This is the beginning of the whitefish season on area waters. Almost all Washington and Idaho streams see a migration of whitefish each winter. The Kettle River, the Little Spokane, the Clearwater and the Coeur d’Alene are four of the most popular, and anglers are finding these oily fish to be excellent for smoking. Drift a white fly baited with a white maggot into pools and seams.
Huge flocks of geese – both lessers and honkers have been seen in the Davenport/Harrington area, though mallards are barely beginning to trickle in.
Around Moses Lake, a lot of the local ducks moved out in front of the cold front, but they should be replaced soon by northern flights.
In the Tri-Cities, Bill Saunders of Big Gun Outfitters (509-438-0415) says there are lots of birds around, particularly on McNary Wildlife Refuge, but with the full moon they have been feeding all night and sitting tight during the day. That will change soon. Saunders noted that public ground on the Columbia River at the mouth of the Walla Walla River has lots of ducks.
With most modern-rifle deer seasons over, big-game hunters are beginning to target the healthy coyote populations in Whitman County. Pelts are prime and the cold weather has made the dogs less wary.
Snowshoe rabbit populations appear to be plentiful in Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties as well as in wooded areas in most of the Idaho Panhandle. Cottontail numbers are also up. Seek out brush piles around abandoned farm equipment and buildings. Piles of old lumber and sagebrush draws can be excellent.