January 31, 2014 in Outdoors

Hunting and fishing

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tip of the week

Although lakes north of Spokane and around Coeur d’Alene have good ice, lakes to the south can change quickly. Don’t assume that the ice is safe because there are people out fishing. Four inches of solid ice is the minimum for safe fishing. If it is honeycombed, even twice that is not enough. Fish Lake in Chelan County and Lind Coulee in the Columbia Basin are examples of waters that still entice anglers because of the excellent fishing even though the ice is “iffy.”

Braggin’ rights

Spokane resident Aaron Erickson had never been ice fishing until last weekend when he went with two veteran ice anglers to Hatch Lake. While his mentors were getting skunked, Aaron landed two 17-inch rainbow and lost a third at the hole. He was using a small tube jig with a piece of salad shrimp on the hook.

Overheard

Ron Roler, Columbia River policy manager for WDFW, said this year’s spring chinook fishery looks promising. “The stage is set for a great fishery this year,” Roler said. “Not only is the run forecast well above average, but the light snowpack makes it unlikely that anglers will have to contend with high, turbid water as they have in some years.”

Heads up

The Sprague Chamber of Commerce is hosting a gun show from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 1 at the Sprague Community Center, 213 South C Street. Vendors contact (509) 259-7060. Info: (509) 259-7061.

Fly fishing

The lower Spokane River has good color and willing fish – an excellent winter fishery close to home. Pat’s Rubber Legs and San Juan Worms have been working in the upper and lower river.

Nymphing is the way to go on the Grande Ronde. The water is in excellent shape and some good reports have come in. The Snake River is seeing perfect conditions and nymphing is also working there.

Most anglers figured the Methow would be shut down by now, but it isn’t and is providing some decent steelhead action on nymphs.

Salmon and steelhead

Steelhead guides on the Clearwater River report steady fishing, with boats averaging 10 fish per day. Freelance anglers fishing the water from Peck to Lenore say fishing is normal, with all fish between 2-3 feet long and “keepers” coming infrequently. They indicate there seems to be a lot of fish in the river. Drift boats are finding quite a few fish on the Grande Ronde by casting Corkies and yarn. Bank fishermen are doing well, throwing jigs under bobbers. Water conditions were perfect on Thursday.

Steelhead fishing continues to be slow in the Hanford Reach. Large numbers of tumbleweeds were present in the river this week.

Steelhead and walleye were hitting on The Dalles and John Day pools last week. A few sturgeon were also landed.

Ice fishing

Eloika Lake was its usual unpredictable self for me this week. On Sunday, I began fishing the north end at 2:30 p.m. and quit at 5, keeping 11 perch between 8 and almost 10 inches. Two friends fishing near me did about the same on the perch, but also caught several crappie, four of which were above the legal 9-inch mark. Two days later, I sat between the same two friends who hauled out an accumulated 35 perch, and I didn’t get a bite for three hours, finishing up with but four. The most action by far has been from 4 p.m. to dark. The crappie are suspended about halfway down in 9 feet of water.

Another perch destination, Silver Lake, had a strip of open water this week separating the public launch from the resort across from it. The ice on either side was fishable, but the lake is seeing few anglers because of the small perch.

Lind Coulee remains popular with ice fishermen despite diminishing ice. Perch ranging from 8-12 inches are the norm, but some walleye are being taken.

The north shoreline of Fourth of July Lake has open water, enough to plunk Power Bait from shore, but most anglers are still testing the ice in shallow water where the bite can go from dead to lights-out overnight. Fourth of July is one of those lakes that can lose its ice cover quickly, so be cautious. The fish range from 6 inches to well more than 20, with most around 18 inches.

The boat basin at Coulee City Marina is still frozen and recent fishing efforts have yielded quite a few 8- to 10-inch perch. The whitefish water outside the marina is no longer frozen.

Waitts Lake has good ice. Anglers are catching rainbows and browns in many spots, but are concentrated near the public access.

In Idaho, Fernan is steady for trout and perch and the Chain Lakes for pike. Spirit Lake kokanee anglers were finding 6-8 inches of ice and lots of small kokanee this week in Bronze Bay. The small lakes around Sandpoint such as Round and Cocolalla have good perch fishing.

Open water fishing

I didn’t think it was possible to spend five hours trolling on Lake Roosevelt this winter and not catch a limit of rainbow, but I managed to only catch three there last weekend, hitting all the spots from Fort Spokane to Split Rock. The best bite by far was around the swimming beach at Fort Spokane, but this wasn’t discovered until it was time to leave. All fish were caught on a fluorescent orange Apex.

Roosevelt reports this week indicate fishing has been excellent from Keller on down. The Apex has been productive, but broken back Rapalas and a perch pattern flies are also taking a lot of the 15-to 18-inch trout, and a few large kokanee have shown recently in the vicinity of Spring Canyon, hitting small pink offerings at 30-35 feet. Bank fishermen have done well on trout, particularly at Fort Spokane.

Rufus Woods Reservoir is hot for big trout on the bottom end of the reservoir along the can line. Most all of the fish, averaging 5 pounds each, are wearing Colville Tribal hatchery tags. Approximately 800 of these were released from the net pens three weeks ago. Needlefish trolled about 20 feet down are effective.

Rufus is also heating up for walleye, and some nice fish are being taken right out of the Seaton Grove launch. These are early prespawn fish.

Some big walleye are beginning to show in the Wallula vicinity outside the mouth of the Walla Walla River. Use blade baits and jigs.

Oddly, no one is trying for walleye in Banks Lake, but the fish are there and the bite could be good, Lou Nevsimal at Coulee Playland Resort said. He said there is a thin slush near shore, but the lake is open and boats could launch easily.

Some walleye anglers are finding decent fish on Lake Roosevelt in the Spokane Arm and near Outhouse Flats. Dark 5/8-ounce jigs tipped with nightcrawlers are dredging up fish from 50 feet of water. Elsewhere on the reservoir, anglers report lots of fish but few more than a foot long.

Medicare Beach on Potholes Reservoir is again ice free and bank anglers are taking some of the big rainbow.

Other species

The Yakima Canyon continues to boot out whitefish for anglers drifting small black or white flies tipped with maggots in the vicinity of the Harrison Bridge. The fish are in fast and slack water, so you’ll have to adjust the amount of weight used accordingly.

Burbot fishing in the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt got off to an unusually fast start this year but appears to have slowed.

Usually, the bite is best in March, so there could be another flurry of action later.

Hunting

The time to apply for Idaho spring turkey controlled hunts runs from Saturday through March 1. Printed copies of the 2014 Upland Season booklets will be available in mid-February.

Contact Alan Liere at spokesmanliere @ yahoo.com


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