October 11, 2013 in Outdoors

Hunting and fishing report

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Rich Landers photo

The 2013 run of fall chinook salmon to the Columbia River has set records for abundance and sportfishing catch.
(Full-size photo)

Tip of the week

Make and use an equipment list for your upcoming deer or elk hunt. But don’t stop there. Take the list on your trip and add all the needed items you didn’t have. By the end of the season, you’ll have an excellent list. Keep a copy in your gun safe.

Braggin’ rights

They’re few and far between, but large October caddis are hugely tempting to reluctant trout. Seeing one specimen over the Spokane River last weekend, Frank Otto tied on a simulating pattern and soon caught a nice redband trout. “It was my first Spokane River trout on a dry fly in years,” he said.

Overheard

“Many steelheaders may choose not to fish the Clearwater River this year due to the projected low return and restrictive rules, but often when fishing pressure is low the catching can be quite good even during low-run years.” – Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game biologist in Lewiston.

Heads up

• Lake Roosevelt’s National Park Service launches have been closed by the federal government shutdown, but Two Rivers Marina is open – and busy. It’s the only ramp open to the public, and launching is free.

• Snap a good photo of your hunting camp this year and you might win a prize and see it published on Washington’s 2014 Big-Game Regulations Pamphlet. Details about the cover photo contest are on the Department of Fish and Wildlife website, wdfw.wa.gov/sharephotos /contest.

• Deer-organ donors needed: Hunters who can shoot antlerless deer this season can help with a northeastern Washington white-tailed deer study by turning in organs from female deer killed in Units 117, 121 and 124. See online instructions to learn how to collect the heart, kidneys, reproductive tract, a liver sample and certain teeth. Info: tinyurl.com/deerorgans.

Anglers throughout the region are enjoying more elbow room this week as a high percentage of competing sportsmen becomes distracted by hunting.

Fly fishing

The St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene rivers continue to offer good cutthroat trout fishing, with hatches of mayflies and smaller caddis, said Mike Beard of Northwest Outfitters in Coeur d’Alene. The fish aren’t pressured and they’re throughout the rivers, he said.

Mahoganies are a good pattern to have on deck this month, especially on the Clark Fork, where caddis, baetis and golden stone patterns also are working, notably between 1-4 p.m., according to Kingfisher in Missoula. Look for brown trout near the mouth of the St. Regis.

A few fly-fishing-only lakes in Eastern Washington remain open through Oct. 31, including Browns in Pend Oreille County and Chopaka in Okanogan County. But forget McDowell in Stevens County, as well as Bayley and Potters Pond until the government shutdown is over and the Little Pend Oreille Refuge is reopened.

October angling also can be good at selective fisheries – single, barbless hooks required; no bait – open through Nov. 30, including Medical Lake in Spokane County, plus Dry Falls and Lenice lakes in Grant County

Trout/kokanee

This is a sleeper time to hit timber-country trout lakes in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties. Lakes open through Oct. 31 include Cedar, Deep, Diamond, Ellen, Halfmoon, Muskegon, Petit and Starvation.

Sprague Lake water temperatures have cooled and water clarity is as good as it gets. Monika Metz of Sprague Lake Resort, the only resort on the lake open during fall, said anglers have caught trout averaging 16 inches but ranging to more than 4 pounds at the east end.

Kokanee fishing is good for 15-fish limits of 91/2-11 inchers at the north end of Lake Coeur d’Alene, but don’t wait much longer. They’ll soon be ripening for the spawn.

Six-fish limits of slightly larger Lake Pend Oreille kokanee also are being caught, especially near the south end, at Scenic Bay and in the Granite Creek area.

Spiny ray

“Bluegills and crappies are thick out here,” said Brent Roundtree of Sun Cove Resort on Clear Lake. The Spokane County lake is open for spiny ray and trout fishing through October.

“Several groups of people wait for this time of year. I don’t see them all season, but now they’re coming and filling 5-gallon buckets full of panfish.”

Northern pike fishing has been spotty at Lake Coeur d’Alene. At Hayden Lake last weekend, 17 boats in the two-day North Idaho Pike Association tournament caught 49 pike, including four over 10 pounds and one over 20.

Steelhead

Steelheaders have been doing well in the Heller Bar area of the Snake, and the fish finally are marching up the Grande Ronde, with catches picking up significantly from the mouth up to State Route 129.

Clearwater River steelheaders are taking it on the chin from emergency rules as predicted when the forecast for B-Run steelhead was downgraded last week. When the fall steelhead harvest season opens Tuesday, the daily bag limit will be just one fin-clipped steelhead, down from three normally. The possession limit will be two.

In the North Fork Clearwater River and the main stem Clearwater River downstream of the Orofino bridge, only steelhead 28 inches or less in total length will be keepers.

Salmon

The 2013 run of fall chinook continues to break records as it marches up the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Anglers last week averaged 2.5 chinook per boat as they set sportfishing records for chinook caught in the free-flowing stretch between the Tri-Cities and Priest Rapids Dam.

The count at Lower Granite on the Snake River is about 53,000 chinook, well past the previous record of 41,815 set in 2010.

Fish managers are adjusting rules to give anglers a chance to harvest more of the Columbia’s bounty. Starting today, Klickitat River anglers can keep up to four adult chinook and the season in the upper Klickitat River through Nov. 30 – for an additional month. 

Hunting

North Idaho’s major deer and elk seasons opened Thursday.

Saturday marks the openers for pheasants and waterfowl in North Idaho and the start of waterfowl and modern firearms deer seasons in much of Eastern Washington.

Deer:

“A mild winter followed by a favorable spring benefitted Washington’s deer populations,” said Dave Ware, state game manager. Recent storms have helped strip leaves from trees and moisten the vegetation to provide better visibility and stalking conditions.

“Northeast Washington whitetails are continuing a fourth year of recovery after consecutive rough winters in 2007 and 2008. We saw minimal losses last winter, which should mean a good carryover of mature animals.”

Hunters could see a higher proportion of “legal” four-point whitetail bucks in Units 117 and 121, where smaller bucks have been protected for the past two years by a four-point minimum.

All factors blended into a promising trend last year: While hunter numbers declined in northeastern Washington, deer harvest increased.

One of the best whitetail opportunities for youth, senior, and disabled modern firearm hunters is the four-day period from Oct. 17-20 when they can take either an antlerless whitetail or a legal buck.

Okanogan mule deer counts show 30 bucks for every 100 antlerless deer – an excellent ratio and big improvement, Ware said.

Waterfowl surveys in the Spokane region indicate local brood production wasn’t as good as last year. But continental counts of birds that will come down from the north later in the season are up 33 percent from the long-term average.

National wildlife refuges, such as the Columbia and Kootenai, are closed during the government shutdown.

Early fall turkey hunting in much of Eastern Washington ends today. The late fall season opens Nov. 20.

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