March 1 opener
As expected, fishing was good at several of the more than 50 lakes that opened for the season Sunday and mediocre at most of them. Predictions of low temperatures and rain showers, however, kept the turnout comparatively low.
Coffeepot Lake, 15 miles west of Harrington, was one of the most popular, attracting many anglers who thought they’d hook some big rainbows, as well as the trout planted recently by the Fish and Wildlife Department. Some hoped to catch perch, crappies and bass.
Several outsized rainbows, including one that weighed more than 6 pounds, were boated, fisheries biologist Bob Peck reported.
Many of the 2- and 3-year-old rainbows apparently came down the creek from the Twin lakes. Until just before the opener, Coffeepot hadn’t been planted with trout by the department for several years; therefore, nearly all the big rainbows almost certainly were released into the Twin lakes.
The head of Coffeepot long has been known as a good producer of rainbows.
Lenice, one of three “selective gear” lakes in a chain along the lower Crab Creek channel, was one of the few Columbia Basin lakes to provide excellent fishing Sunday.
Fisheries biologist Jeff Korth reported anglers averaged one trout per hour at Lenice. Both fly fishers and spin fishermen caught 659 rainbows and browns, many of which were released.
Fishing was fair at Upper and Lower Hampton and Pillar. Seventy-five percent of the trout caught at Lower Hampton were carryover trout averaging 15.9 inches; 92 percent of the fish caught at Upper Hampton were carryovers averaging 16.3 percent. A majority, including one 18 inch cutthroat caught at Pillar, were carryover fish.
Korth said he believes several of the lakes in the Pillar-Widgeon chain hold enough trout to provide good fishing.
Planting rainbows last fall after cormorants migrated out of the Basin apparently resulted in good survival, he said. In the past, cormorants have eaten most of the young fish released during spring months.
Fishing was fair at Warden, with most of the fish rainbows stocked recently. No carryover fish were checked. Anglers averaged nearly one fish per hour. Warden and South Warden may provide better perch than trout fishing.
Only carryover Lahontan cutthroat averaging 17.7 inches were hooked at Lenore, another “selective gear” lake. Anglers averaged one cutthroat every 3 hours.
Upper Caliche Lake kicked out a fair number of 14- to 18-inch rainbows. Anglers averaged one fish each. Most of the 122 trout caught at Martha were 15.5-inch carryover rainbows.
Fishing was slow at Dusty, Burke and Quincy. Best fishing for good-sized trout was at Dusty, where the yearling trout averaged 11.2 inches and the carryovers 17.6. Some 18-inch plus rainbows were caught at Quincy.
If you are familiar with Lake Roosevelt and know how to fish for the kokanee in the big reservoir, you have an excellent chance of catching five big kokanee.
Those who fish the reservoir frequently say they’ve been taking limits nearly every time they troll between Seven Bays and Grand Coulee Dam. Favorite area is from Spring Canyon to the mouth of the San Poil River.
The kokanee, most 14 to 16 inches long, are in the top 20 feet of water. Anglers have been trolling 50 to 100 feet of monofilament behind leaded line. They let out one or two colors of leaded line to get their lures down to the fish. Many troll lures off planing boards so as not to spook the fish.
Although most fish with small, baited lures behind dodgers, a few have discovered that the kokanee, a few of which are 20 inches long, will hit huge plugs. They’ve learned the plugs apparently irritate the fish into striking. One plug that’s been working is a No. 12 Rapala, which is at least 5 inches long.
The key to catching kokanee is to locate schools, then troll for them.
Although they’ve been fished hard nearly every day after their ice caps melted, Fourth of July and Hog Canyon lakes apparently still have plenty of trout for anglers to take five-fish limits.
However, the fish no longer are jumping into the boats or racing one another to take shore anglers’ baits.
Most of the rainbows fishermen catch are the yearlings that measure 9 to 11 inches. Most of the 2- and 3-year-old trout seem to have been caught and killed.
Fourth of July still holds more of the carryover trout than does Hog Canyon; consequently, the lake is fished by 20 to 30 anglers every week day and many more on weekends.
The best tasting rainbows are in Hog Canyon. That’s one of the reasons some continue to fish the lake.
Most experienced fly fishers are continuing to hook and release 20 to 30 rainbows a day at the two lakes, especially Fourth of July. Although hatches have been sparse, the trout readily take imitations of scuds, back swimmers, leeches and chironomid pupae.
Hottest steelhead fishing in the Inland Northwest during the five-day period ending Sunday was along the Salmon River from the Riggins Creek station to the Salmon’s South Fork. The Idaho Fish and Game Department reported anglers averaged a sensational 1 hour per steelhead in that section.
Other averages for the Salmon: From Whitebird to Riggins, 11 hours, and from the Middle Fork to the North Fork, 14 hours.
The department also said fishermen averaged 16 hours per steelhead along the lower Clearwater River, 30 hours along the upper Clearwater and 48 hours along the South Fork.
A few anglers have found schools of good-sized perch at Sprague Lake. One said he and his partner filled a 5-gallon bucket with perch, bluegills and crappies. Nearly all the fish were perch, with some measuring 11 to 13 inches long.
The water temperature is still in the high 30s and fishing isn’t apt to improve much until it rises to the high 40s and low 50s.
Periodic snowstorms and low temperatures apparently kept good numbers of northern pike from moving into Lake Coeur d’Alene’s shallow bays last weekend, but some anglers hooked pike weighing 8 to 24 pounds, according to Jeff Smith, owner of the Fins & Feathers shop.
Fastest action, he said, was in Harrison Bay. However, the biggest pike were caught in the south end just north of the railroad tracks in a spot called the “Red Cut.”
Fishing was only “fair at best” for the chinook salmon in Lake Coeur d’Alene last weekend, Smith said.
The few salmon caught were in 20 to 40 feet of water. Trollers used helmeted herring and flutter spoons.
Some anglers, using three-quarter to 1-ounce jigs baited with fish meat, have been catching good-sized mackinaw trout near the islands in the north end of Lake Pend Oreille, Smith said.
He also reported Fernan and Hauser lakes, now ice-free, have been yielding carryover rainbows in the 11- to 15-inch range.
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