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