This is the time of year anglers head for their favorite trout streams, but as many have learned, most of the rivers are still higher than usual for mid-July.
For example, the St. Joe at Calder was running at 2,910 cubic feet per second Monday, compared with a mean flow of 1,360 cfs for July 14. That’s more than twice the average.
The Selway and Lochsa, two of Idaho’s top cutthroat streams, are still high. The Selway at Lowell was clocked at 4,620 cfs Monday, against a mean flow of 3,000 cfs for that date. The Lochsa was flowing at 3,710 cfs, compared with a normal flow of 2,110 cfs.
Even though the rivers are high, they’re clear, except after rainstorms. And some fishermen have done well. Several Spokane-area anglers fished the St. Joe below Spruce Tree campground last weekend and hooked and released numerous cutthroat to 16 inches.
But wading is difficult at most of the streams and there are few places where anglers can cross easily.
The Coeur d’Alene River and its Little North Fork are in ideal condition for fishing. That’s why the stream has been hit hard by anglers, particularly fly fishers.
Trollers continue to take limits of 3- to 7-pound mackinaw trout at Priest Lake, Jeff Smith, owner of the Fins & Feathers shop at Coeur d’Alene, said. Most troll near the bottom, but some have found the fish suspended somewhere between the surface and bottom.
Smith said some fishermen are hiking into the mountain lakes to catch cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout. They’re finding they have to wade through snowdrifts to get to some of the lakes.
Mosquitoes are active near the lakes, he said, and fishermen should carry plenty of mosquito repellent.
Damselflies are hatching at Henry’s Lake in the Last Chance area. When they hatch, fly fishers hook big rainbow-hybrid cutthroat.
Montana’s blue-ribbon trout streams also are high and difficult to wade. Insects are hatching, but fly fishers have had difficulty taking trout in most of the popular rivers.
Here are Monday’s stream flows for some trout streams, with the mean flow for this time of year in parentheses: Big Hole at Melrose, 1,930 cfs (1,250); Madison at Hebgen Lake, 1,190 (935); Missouri below Holter Dam, 9,600 (4,970); Kootenai below Libby Dam, 12,900, (8,900); Rock Creek at Clinton, 1,500 (842); Bitterroot at Darby, 1,140 (913); Bitterroot near Missoula, 3,730 (2,580); Clark Fork at St. Regis, 11,500 (7,420).
It’s obvious most streams will have to drop significantly before anglers can take full advantage of the hatches. Meanwhile, many fly fishers have been using bead head nymphs, streamers and Woolly Buggers.
Some Spokane-area fly fishers, who spent several days fishing Missoula-area streams last weekend, vowed they won’t be back for a couple weeks. They complained of tough wading and high water.
It’s not easy to catch a limit at most of the trout lakes in Eastern Washington. Anglers have cut deeply into the trout populations, most insects have hatched and the lakes are warming fast.
Although the best time to catch fish is during late evenings, most anglers still-fish during mid-day hours. Fishing often is slow when the sun is high. Even the experts have trouble catching fish.
The Fish and Wildlife Department this week released 432 surplus broodstock rainbow trout weighing 2-1/2 to 5 pounds in Diamond Lake, said agency spokeswoman Madonna Luers.
The department released rainbow fry into the lake last year to provide fishing for this year, she said, but bass in the lake ate the young fish. As a result, fishing has been poor this season.
Luers said the department soon will release 69,000 4- to 5-inch rainbow fingerlings into the lake to provide fishing next fall and early 1998. Because they are considerably larger than the fry, she said, most should escape the bass.
Some of the lakes that hold spiny rayed species, as well as trout, are producing good-sized rainbows and browns. Such lakes as Clear, Waitts and Sprague have given up trout in the 14- to 24-inch class, but the fishing almost never is fast.
The selective fishery and fly fishing-only lakes and the small cutthroat lakes in Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties are good bets for 12- to 16-inch trout this time of year.
Sprague Lake is still one of the best spots to catch walleyes. Monika Metz, co-owner of the Sprague Lake Resort, said anglers, using Beetle Spins, caught good numbers of walleyes in shallow water around the shoreline last weekend.
Some fishermen found schools of 9- to 11-inch crappies and did well, she said. A few have found perch in the 9- to 12-inch class.
Early mornings and late evenings are the best times to catch walleyes and crappies.
Walleye fishing was tough during the weekend at Lake Roosevelt, said guide John Carruth of Davenport. He said his clients hooked a few walleyes and 12- to 14-inch smallmouth bass.
One hundred bass anglers in 50 boats took part in a buddy tournament last weekend at Lake Coeur d’Alene, Smith said. The fishermen caught 275 bass and released all but one in excellent condition.
The team of Minderman and Howard of Spokane won first place, catching 31 pounds, 13 ounces of bass. The largest bass, weighing 6 pounds, 7 ounces, was caught by Dean Steppe of Oregon.
Gary Gill and his wife, Pam, who live near Coeur d’Alene, were the big winners of the chinook salmon derby last weekend at Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Jeff Smith, owner of the Fins & Feathers Shop, said Gary’s 17-pound, 15-ounce chinook was the largest caught. He won $1,500. Pam caught a chinook weighing 16 pounds, 12 ounces and won $500.
It’s rare during a tournament for the two biggest chinooks to be caught by anglers in one boat, he said.
Third place was Mark Poole of Coeur d’Alene. His chinook weighed 16 pounds, 8 ounces.
Fishing was slow for the chinooks, Smith said.
Seasons were opened for hatchery chinook salmon on parts of the Lochsa and South Fork of the Clearwater rivers this week. The season is expected to run through Aug. 3.
Fastest fishing for good-sized kokanee last weekend was at Lake Mary Ronan in northwestern Montana. Mark Thomas of Camp Tuffit said most still-fishermen caught 10-fish limits of 12- to 13-inch kokanee in an hour or two.
Anglers caught some immature kokanee, most 9 to 10 inches, but released them because they knew they could catch the mature kokanee.
Fishing for 11- to 12-inch kokanee has picked up at Koocanusa Reservoir. Nevin Zugg, operator of the Koocanusa Resort, said most anglers are taking 20-fish limits in the south end of the reservoir, which is nearly full.
The kokanee are 20 feet deep and fishermen are using three colors of leaded line to get down to them, he said.
A few fishermen have been hooking 8- to 10-pound Kamloops rainbows, Zugg said. They’ve been trolling in the same water where others have been fishing for kokanee.
If you’re willing to troll all day, you can take 25 of the 9- to 10-inch kokanee at Lake Coeur d’Alene, Smith said. Best fishing has been in the south end of the lake off Spokane Point and in Windy Bay. Most popular areas in the north end are in Wolff Lodge and Bennett bays.
The big kokanee in Loon Lake are showing signs of taking anglers’ lures at night. However, it’s still nearly impossible to catch a limit of the 16- to 20-inchers. The average catch by experts is one or two of the fish.
If you’ve been thinking of fishing for shad below the Snake River’s Ice Harbor Dam, now is the time.
Nearly 300,000 shad have climbed the fish ladders at McNary Dam and more than 3,000 have been counted at Ice Harbor. Enough are in the lower Snake for fair to good fishing.
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