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Clearwater steelheading ‘on fire’

FISHING — Dan Barth reports that the steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River "has been on fire" the past week.

He said his boat hooked more than 50 fish!

"Plus it was sunny and warm in Orofino."

Brown trout photos document beauty of catch and release fishing

FISHING — Here's a tip of the hat to catch-and-release trout fishing regulations on the upper Spokane River  — and elsewhere for that matter.

The value of the rules is documented in this report and photo comparison just received from Sean Visintainer, guide and owner of Silver Bow Fly Shop.

My buddy Bob McConkey and I were out on the upper last night and caught a couple really nice browns on dries. Bob's brown however looked awfully similar to a fish that one of my guides caught when we were floating TWO February's ago.

I matched up the pics… same brown!

We had fished through this area numerous times since but had not caught him again until last night, he was a little farther downstream but pretty much in the same area. We caught another brown later last night (inset photo) — couldn't believe we picked them both up on dries! 

Visintainer has more photos and details on his Silver Bow blog.


Spokane County lakes get extra trout for Fathers Day

FISHING — Washington is spicing up the potential for a Fathers Day fishing trip at 19 lakes, including two in Spokane County, with extra plants of rainbow trout this week.

In addition to the trout remaining from fish plants preceding the April fishing season opener, West Medical Lake will received 1,250 catchable-size trout and Williams Lake will get 400.

Other lakes in this region getting a boost of fish include:

  • Diamond Lake in Pend Oreille County, 600.
  • Park Lake in Grant County, 400
  • Alta Lake in Okanogan County, 350 and Conconully Reservoir, 750.

State, Avista join to stock trout in Lake Spokane

FISHING — About 155,000 catchable-size rainbow trout are being stocked into Lake Spokane in the first season of a 10-year agreement between the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Avista Utilities.

Lake Spokane, sometimes called Long Lake, is the Spokane River reservoir west of Spokane, created by Avista’s Long Lake Dam.

While the reservoir is popular among anglers fishing for bass, crappie and perch, trout fishing will improve with the annual stocking of rainbows, each about 8 inches long and expected to grow quickly. 

The stocking already has begun with trout from the state’s Spokane Fish Hatchery and Trout Lodge, Inc. in Soap Lake. The fish are sterile so they cannot reproduce with native fish in the river system. They are marked with clipped adipose fins for ease of monitoring harvest through creel surveys that will begin in 2016.

WDFW district fish biologist Randy Osborne and Avista Environmental Specialist Tim Vore thank members of the Spokane Fly Fishers and Inland Empire Fly Fishing clubs for volunteering time to the trout stocking program.

“Avista has long been providing public fishing and boating opportunities,” said Vore, “but this is an excellent new opportunity to fish and enjoy Lake Spokane.”

Randy Osborne, the state’s district fish biologist, says anglers can expect the trout to be down in the cooler water of the reservoir this summer, and therefore more conducive to boat fishing.

  • Click here for details on boat launching facilities.

But this fall and next spring, when the stocked trout are bigger, casting near the surface off of the docks or public shorelines will also be productive.

It’s the buzz: fishing season opens Saturday

FISHING — I just got off the air with KXLY radio host Bud Namek to discus Saturday's opening of Washington's lowland trout lake fishing season — and the special advance coverage we'll be publishing Thursday in S-R Outdoors.

I’ve been covering opening day for more than three decades and every year I come across family groups that have been assembling at the same lakes to camp and fish for generations.  

There's a lot of competition for a family's recreation time nowadays, but fishing is still a good value and time well-spent.

 It's a lifetime sport.

Northeastern Washington fishing lakes to get more trout

FISHING — More fish will be stocked in northeastern Washington lakes this spring, a benefit of the relicensing agreement for Boundary Dam.

A new, long-term recreational fishing program that will increase fish numbers stocked in Pend Oreille and Stevens counties lakes kicks off  this month, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said. 

The program, funded by Seattle City Light as part of its new operating license for Boundary Dam, will stock approximately 12,000 pounds of trout and kokanee in local lakes annually for the next 40 years.

“This enhanced fish stocking program will provide the additional springtime opportunity that northeast Washington anglers have been asking for,” said Bill Baker, WDFW fish biologist of Colville. 

The program continues and expands stocking of rainbow trout, tiger trout, cutthroat trout, and kokanee in 17 lakes. Most fish will be stocked as spring and fall fry and fingerlings, but catchable-size fish  (10-12 inches) will also be stocked.

The 2014 stocking list includes:

  • 11 lakes in Pend Oreille County — Big Meadow, Carls, Crescent, Deception, Frater, Lead King, Ledbetter, Leo, Little Lost, Nile, and Yocum;
  • Six lakes in Stevens County — Cedar, Deep, Gillette, Heritage, Sherry and Thomas.

This new program also includes monitoring to help fine tune the effort. Anglers who see staff or creel counters on the lake or dockside are encouraged to tell them about catches so the program can be evaluated.

Roosevelt bite still on despite drawdown

FISHING — Fishing for trout remains good in Lake Roosevelt — for kokanee, too, on occasion —  despite the deeper than previously predicted drawdown that's underway. 

In mid March, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had predicted the lake level would drop from the full pool level of 1290 feet at the end of February to about 1266 feet by the end of March.

But on Sunday evening, the level was already down to 1259 feet and the downward trend is predicted to continue.

It's important at this point to compare the lake level with the levels at which boat ramps are dewatered.  Spring Canyon near Grand Coulee and Seven Bays downstream on the Columbia from the Spokane Arm are the deepest launches on the 125-mile long reservoir.

Get daily Lake Roosevelt level forecast by phone, updated daily at 3 p.m: (800) 824-4916.

Check out this NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.

Lake Roosevelt rainbows worth the effort

FISHING — The bite was scattered and the fish ranged greatly — from 15 to 70 feet deep — but putting in the time and effort today netted a fine harvest of beefy rainbows from Lake Roosevelt.

Fishing with Jim Kujala and Dave Ross.  Most fish caught trolling pink flies on 4 colors of leaded line.

Everyone should have a friend with a fishing boat

FISHING —  A good day of fishing at Lake Roosevelt will be followed by an even better week of eating.

The world would be a better place if everyone had a friend with a fishing boat.

Video: winter trolling for Lake Roosevelt trout

FISHING — Anglers new to winter trolling for trout at Lake Roosevelt should take five-minutes to view a video produced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Chris Donley, the agency's inland fisheries manager and a Spokane County native, offers general guidelines to help anglers zero in on what's left of the 750,000 net pen rainbows that are released in the lake each summer. 

Main points: 

  • Most winter rainbows are in the top 10 feet of the water column.
  • Troll far back behind boats —150-300 feet — or use side planers to put lures in front of fish displaced by movement of the boat.
  • Experiment with a variety of flies and lures, such as Apex and Rapala, and use a flasher to attract fish.
  • The keys to success generally are speed (he mentions trolling at 2 mph), depth and color.

Oregon’s Crooked River is year-round trout fishing gem

FISHING — Solid winter trout fisheries are hot items.

Check out this report from Mark Morical of the Bend Bulletin about Central Oregon's Crooked River, a trout stream that lures fly fishers from far and wide, especially to the 7-mile stretch below Bowman Dam. 

Learn basics of fly fishing and steelheading

FISHING — Silver Bow Fly Shop is offering two classes this month at 13210 E Indiana Ave. in Spokane Valley:

  • Beginner Fly Fishing, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 7. $30.
  • Fly Fishing for Steelhead, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Sept. 16. $20.

Preregister: 924-9998.

Angler wins Sprague Lake derby with 6-pound rainbow

FISHING — Josh Williams of Spokane won $500 in gift cards and merchandise with the 6-pound 1-ounce rainbow he caught Saturday during the Sprague Lake Trout Derby. The fish measured 24.5 inches long.

Second, $250: Randy Williams of Spokane with a trout weighing 4 pounds 5 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches.

Third, $100: Kathy Armstrong of Bayview, Idaho, with a trout weighing 4 pounds  3 ounces and measuring  22.5 inches.

Sprague trout, bass bending rods as free fishing day looms


FISHING — Reports of good catches of largemouth bass at Sprague Lake keep coming in, and some lunker rainbows also are showing to provide incentive for the June 8 Sprague Lake Trout Derby.

The photos posted here from Four Seasons Campground and Resort show a 5.3-pound rainbow caught off the resort dock and a 5.8-pound largemouth caught with a Rapala cast to shore from a boat over the holiday weekend.

Remember, the June 8 Sprague Lake derby falls on Free Fishing Weekend in Washington: No fishing licenses required.

Idaho has a single Free Fishing Day set for June 8.

Montana's Free Fishing Weekend is set for June 15-15, including Father's Day.

Eastern Washington’s top trout lakes surveyed

FISHING — Despite strong winds that picked up by late morning, Saturday's opener of Washington's lowland trout fishing season produced some excellent fishing throughout much of Eastern Washington.

Click on the documents below to see the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's opening day survey results and comments of local biologists on the top lakes from Grant County east to Pend Oreille county.

Also see:

Video: Fishing with kids is a hoot!

Photo essay: Boy's first fish — hooked on the moment


A boy’s first fish: hooked on the moment

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FISHING — I feel sorry for parents who don't take their kids fishing. They don't know what they're missing.

See a few hints about what they're missing in my Sunday story about Saturday's opening day of Washington's lowland trout season

Please enjoy this short photo sequence of Quinn Connacher, 6, of Spokane, as he works at Williams Lake to catch his first fish.

Once the trout was netted, the boy got a huge high five before he pranced and danced in celebration on the Bunker's Resort dock.

To heck with the five-fish limit.  As soon as his stepfather gathered their minimal gear, the boy made a beeline  up to the campground to show off his prize. 

The rainbow may have grown a little larger by the time he finished telling the story.  

Also see:

Eastern Washington's top trout lakes surveyed

Photo essay: Boy's first fish — hooked on the moment

First fish caught at 12:02 a.m. at Fishtrap

FISHING — Eleven-year-old Cameron Earnshaw of Kennewick caught the first fish of the season off the docks at Fishtrap Lake Resort on Saturday — two minutes after the season opened at midnight.

Much more fun followed for the large family groups gathered for the annual tradition of fishing on opening day of Washington's lowland lake trout season. 

NY Times explores source of behemoth cutthroats

FISHING — After my post on a Spokane Fly Fishers outing to catch large Lahontan cutthroat trout at Omak Lake, I received an email from an angler who was surprised.

"When I lived in Omak in 1965-67, we waterskied there and as I remember the lake was very alkaline and nobody fished it," he said. "Is it possible that the lake I remember is another lake?"

"No, it's the same lake," I responded. "But you hit exactly on the reason it is stocked with Lahontan cutthroat trout, a species originating from the southwest and specially adapted to thriving in alkaline waters.  The Lahontan species also is stocked in Lake Lenore and Grimes Lake."

By coincidence, The New York Times has just published a story recounting the successful effort to revive and preserve the Lahontan cutthroat's genetics originating from Pyramid Lake, Nev.

Note:  Check out the NYT photo of the anglers wading out with ladders to get out to deeper water while gaining a higher profile for longer casting.

Anglers flock to Dry Falls for April 1 opener

FISHING — With April 1 falling on a Monday, the opening day for fishing at many of the Columbia Basin's trout lakes didn't reel in a lot of effort in some areas.

Dry Falls Lake was an exception.

The selective gear lake, a darling for fly fishers had a good turnout, with 45-50 float tubes and pontoons on the water when Washington Fish and Wildlife Deparment district biologist Chad Jackson checked it out.

Fishing overall was good with several anglers having double digit catches of trout, Jackson said. "However, individual angler success was highly variable, that is, some with over 20 fish, some with less than10, and others with 2-3 or less," he said. 

"Anglers who fished chironomids were the most successful. 

"Trout size was excellent ranging from 12-20” and with most around 15-16."

Fishing effort wasn’t very high at the “production” lakes (Upper and Lower Hampton lakes, North and South Teal lakes), but those who did fish Monday morning had gorgeous weather and reasonably good success, Jackson said.

Anglers averaged about two trout each, and those harvested were 13-16 inches. 

TV catches fish footage at Spokane Hatchery

FISHING — KHQ-TV paid a visit to the Spokane Fish Hatchery this week to produce this segment on winter operations that are vital to the region's anglers.

The cameraman was a bit late for the peak December spawning action described in this story by North Central High School student volunteer.

Here's a story about the "egg sucking" that goes into removing the dead eggs from the trays, as hatchery manager Ace Trump mentions in the TV video.

Simple rig catches Lake Roosevelt trout from shore or boat

FISHING — Lake Roosevelt rainbows like those pictured above can be caught November-March from shore as well as from a boat by casting a bait rig. Look for a shoreline shelf under 10-15 feet of water and cast near the drop-off into deeper water.

A proven rig cast from a spinning rod includes:

  • 8-pound monofilament line.
  • 24-30 inches of 10-pound leader (extra heavy to take a beating with fewer breakoffs) below a snap swivel and 3/8- to 1/2-ounce sliding sinker.
  • No. 2 bait hook baited with a mini-marshmallow or PowerBait and piece of nightcrawler.

Experienced anglers have a half dozen hook-and-leader rigs ready to change onto the snap swivel if necessary so they can keep fishing when the bite is on. Keeping at least one rig in the water as a school of rainbows circulates through an area is an excellent application for the two-pole endorsement. 

The rainbows tend to be most active for a short period in early morning and again in the afternoon, although they can be caught throughout the day and night.

A five-fish limit of rainbow trout from Lake Roosevelt is a beauty to behold in December, when the fish released from net pens in summer have had a chance to go wild putting on length and girth.

These are healthy, lovely and delicious fish.

Lake Roosevelt trout a picture of perfection

FISHING — A five-fish limit of rainbow trout from Lake Roosevelt is a beauty to behold in December, when the fish released from net pens in summer have had a chance to go wild putting on length and girth.

These are healthy, lovely and delicious fish.

Limits have been coming easily on most days since mid November, although Wednesday was an exception.  Anglers I fished with and interviewed had to work long, hard hours to scratch out a limit.

Today could be a different story.

Hog Canyon, 4th of July Lakes heavy with fish

WINTER FISHING — Hog Canyon had an average turnout, but the pressure was down somewhat at Fourth of July lake when the fisheries opened for their winter trout season on Saturday.

Fishing was good, but anglers had trouble getting their limits after catching two fast fish over 14 inches.

Problem:  Most of the fish are large and you can keep only two fish longer than 14.

Click here for the opening weekend report from Hatch and Williams lakes near Colville.

Following is the Hog Canyon/Fourth of July lakes report from Randall Osborne, Washington Department of Fish Wildlife area fisheries biologist:

Both lakes were ice free for the opener and with the forcast, should stay that way for a while anyway. Both lakes fished relatively well and should be good for quite a while through the season.

Hog Canyon Lake - this lake had a pretty good turnout for the opener. Rainbows averaged 16 inches and ranged from 9 to 20 inches. Average number of fish harvested by anglers that were creeled was 1.9 fish/angler.

Fourth of July Lake - Not the most people I have seen here in past openers, but still a pretty good turnout. Rainbows averaged 17.5 inches and ranged from 15.5 to 21.5 inches. Average number of fish harvested by anglers that were creeled was also 1.9 fish/angler.

When these two lakes are in form, like they are now, they tend to grow trout really, really well. This is the reason for the relatively low harvest rates. Most people harvested their two fish over 14 inches pretty quickly, but struggled a bit finding fish under 14 inches to fill in their limits.


Trout fishing hot for winter season opener at area lakes

FISHING — Trout were present while any sign of ice was absent during Saturday's winter fishing season at several northeastern Washington trout lakes.

Here's Saturday's field report from the Colville area by Bill Baker, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist:

Hatch Lake - No ice…all open water. Rainbows averaged 14.5 inches and ranged from 13-16 inches. Catch rates were decent with most anglers limiting within 2 hours. However, most fishing occurred from shore…not the easiest way to fish Hatch Lake due to its shallow, weedy nature. Few anglers took advantage of the open water to launch a small boat, but those that did were rewarded with quick limits. Given the weather forecast, I suspect that there will be open water for a while longer.

Williams Lake - No ice…all open water. Rainbows averaged 15 inches and ranged from 12.5-17 inches. Catch rates were very good with most anglers limiting within an hour. Similar to Hatch Lake, most anglers were fishing from shore. Shoreline fishing space at Williams Lake is somewhat limited due to the rushes and cattails growing around the edge of the lake. Therefore, as long as open water persists, I recommend fishing from a boat if possible. Trolling, drifting with the wind, or anchoring up and plunking bait should all be very effective.

Click here for the report on Hog Canyon and Fourth of July lakes.

Water temps almost cool enough for good fall trout fishing

FISHING — Time is running out  for anglers at many of the Spokane-area trout lakes, some of which close for the season on Sunday .

The rainless heat wave of August-September is keeping water temperatures unusually high, and the fish haven't picked up their fall feeding activity.  

I talked to a group of locals having coffee this morning at Fishtrap Lake Resort. They'd put in some long hours for just a few fish.   But the ones they caught were beautiful, big-shouldered carryovers with  delicious red meat.

"It's just a matter of how much time you want to put in to get them," one angler said.

Water temps have cooled to 60 degrees in the morning and range to 65 or more in the afternoon, they said.

"But that's a lot better than earlier in the week when they were up to 72 in the afternoon, " one man said. "That's just too warm for the trout."

The general consensus from the group was that the water temperatures would drop and the fish would go on the bite within a few days after the Fishtrap fishing  season closes.

Fish Creek habitat project needs public support

FISH HABITAT — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a proposal to install a series of log jams consisting of native green and aged woody debris along a portion of lower Fish Creek in Mineral County. 

Fish Creek, which begins at the crest of the Bitterroot Mountains, flows under I-90 and into the Clark Fork River near Superior.

The proposed project is a cooperative effort between FWP, Trout Unlimited and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. 

If approved, the project is projected to be completed later this summer and would improve habitat for native fish, restore natural stream processes and likely enhance the quality of fishing in the area.

A draft environmental assessment has been prepared for this proposal, and FWP is accepting public comment through Aug. 3. 

Find the documents and make comments online at fwp.mt.gov under “Public Notices.”

Info: Region 2 FWP office in Missoula, (406) 542-5540; or email shrose@mt.gov.

Film festival tops first day of International Fly Fishing Fair

OUTSEE – Fly fishing takes center stage in Spokane this week starting Thursday July 12 with the opening of the International Fly Fishing Fair at the Spokane Convention Center.

The public is invited by the Federation of Fly Fishers to cruise the exhibit and take part in presentations, clinics and classes in fly tying, fly casting, fishing techniques, conservation and more.

Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday

Cost: adults $5, kids under 16 free.

Other related activities include:

Benefit for Spokane River Redband Trout, featuring local brews, wind and Dry Fly Distillery spirits, 5 p.m-7 p.m. at Rick Singer Photography rooftop garden, 415 ½  W. Main Ave.  $25. Sponsored by Trout Unlimited's Spokane Falls Chapter.

International Fly Fishing Film Festival, a two hour show featurring edited versions of the year’s top fly fishing films, starting at 7 p.m. at the Bing Crosby Theater. Benefits Spokane RiverKeeper.

Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 if purchased in advance at area fly fishing shops.

Spokane-area rich with fly fishing shops

FLY FISHING — July is a major period of transition for fly fishing in the Inland Northwest, as you'll read in my outdoors feature story coming Sunday at www.spokesman.com/outdoors.

Hear the latest news from the water, connect with guides and get tips on the fly patterns and techniques that are working NOW from the area's great selection of fly shops:

Spokane-area fly shops and guides


101 N. Cabela Way, Post Falls; (208) 777-6300.

Joe Roope's Castaway Fly Fishing Shop,

1114 N. 4th St., Coeur d’Alene; (208) 765-3133.

Northwest Outfitters,

2171 N. Main, Coeur d’Alene; (208) 667-2707.

Silver Bow Fly Shop,

13210 E. Indiana Ave., Spokane Valley, (509) 924-9998.

Swede’sFly Shop,

1611 N. Ash St., Spokane; (509) 323-0500.

WestslopeFly Shop,

1003 E. Trent Ave., Spokane, (509) 838-0252.