Even though there’s water everywhere this spring, two popular trout fishing lakes on the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge southeast of Colville will be empty or dramatically lowered when the lowland trout season opens Saturday.
But a third refuge fishery is getting a boost from construction projects.
Replacement of the failed water control structures on McDowell Lake will cause some inconvenience for fly fishers, said Jerry Cline, refuge manager.
And Potter’s Pond, a popular catch-and-keep trout family trout water, has been drained.
Bayley Lake, another fly-fishing water on the refuge, received a windfall of trout swimming out with the water drained from Potters Pond and flowing into Bayley last summer.
The water level in McDowell Lake was about 8 feet lower than normal a week ago, he said. However, even with the spillway gates wide open, the lake level had come up considerably following another round of heavy precipitation, Mike Munts, refuge biologist said Tuesday.
“I expect McDowell’s level to drop quickly when the rain quits, if it ever does,” Munts said.
McDowell, a fly-fishing-only lake, will open under its normal catch-and-release rules with the start of the lowland lake season, but access will be more difficult because of the lower water level and other factors.
Fishing is restricted at the south end of the lake to reduce disturbance to an active bald eagle nest, Cline said.
“Anglers are required to launch and fish north of the area closed signs,” he said.
River Camp, the campground near the lake, will be open, but sometime this summer the campground and access to McDowell Lake will be temporarily closed while the water control structure is being replaced, he said.
Potter’s Pond has been drained and the remaining fish were moved to Bayley Lake in preparation for water control structure replacement.
“There were some fish still present in the little bit of water remaining when it reached full drawdown in August,” said Bill Baker, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife district fisheries biologist.
State and federal refuge workers joined to sein and dip-nett the remaining 99 fish, load them onto a truck and transport them to Bayley Lake.
“Most of the fish we moved were rainbows averaging about 14 inches,” Baker said.
About 10 percent were brook trout averaging around 11 inches.
“There will be more fish than usual in Bayley Lake this spring,” he said. “In a typical year, I would expect more competition, and perhaps smaller fish overall. However, given the water year we’re experiencing, the timing on this influx of fish is probably pretty good, as there is going to be more available habitat than usual.”
The south end of Bayley Lake is temporarily closed to protect the active bald eagle nest, Cline said.
“The campsites at Potter’s Pond and Bayley Lake will be available for use for the season opener, but the access road and campsites will be closed sometime this summer while the Potter’s Pond water control structure is being replaced.
The main auto-tour route through the refuge is passable and the gates were opened Friday in time for Saturday’s opening of the wild turkey hunting season.
“However, snow or mud is still hampering travel at higher elevations,” Munts said.
Updates: refuge office, (509) 684-8384.