Idaho Panhandle ice fishing
In Idaho, ice anglers are allowed to use up to five rods, lines or tip-ups while ice fishing with or without a two-pole validation. They still must attend the lines, however. Although most lakes still had just skim ice at midweek, some of the following could be ice-safe by this weekend:
Avondale: Perch 6-12 inches, fair for crappie, occasional largemouth bass, sunfish and bullhead.
Blue: (Bonner County) Perch 6-8 inches. Also crappie, bass and occasional channel catfish.
Cocolalla: Lots of 6-9 inch perch and an occasional crappie. Some nice rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout.
Dawson: Perch 7-9 inches, with occasional crappie, bluegill and bass
Fernan: Perch 7-10 inches, with occasional crappie, bass and northern pike, rainbow and cutthroat trout.
Freeman: Perch 6-9 inches, occasional crappie, sunfish, bass, tiger muskie and stocked rainbow trout. Access can be limited by snow, a quarter-mile hike.
Hauser: Perch 7-10 inches, occasional crappie, sunfish and bass. Good for rainbow and cutthroat trout.
Hayden: Northern pike in the north end at Sportsman Park. Dead smelt or herring under a tip-up. Most run 24-30 inches. Trout fishing closed Dec. 1 through the last Saturday in April. Bass closed to harvest until July 1.
Jewel: Perch 6-9 inches, bluegill, channel catfish and stocked rainbow.
Kelso: Good lake for stocked rainbow trout and mixed warm-water fish.
Killarney: Popular lake for 18- to 24-inch northern pike. Perch are generally small.
Medicine: Perch 6-8 inches, with occasional bass and northern pike.
Mirror: Rainbow trout and occasional kokanee.
Perkins: Perch 8-11 inches, with occasional crappie, sunfish and bass.
Robinson: Good fishing for 10- to 12-inch rainbow, brook and occasional cutthroat trout. Some bluegill, pumpkinseed and bass. Bass closed to harvest until July 1.
Rose: Perch 7-9 inches, some crappie, bluegill and bass.
Round: Perch 7-9 inches, excellent fishing for stocked rainbow trout. State Parks Pass required for entrance.
Smith: Good fishing for 10-12-inch. rainbow and cutthroat trout, some bass.
Spirit: Kokanee fishing is good with fish running 7-10 inches. Kokanee limit 15.
Thompson: Popular lake for northern pike, with most fish running 18-28 inches.
Lower Twin: Perch 7-10 inches. Nice-sized rainbow and cutthroat trout and a few big kokanee.
Upper Twin: Perch 6-9 inches, bass and occasional northern pike.
Eastern Wash. ice fishing
Hog Canyon will probably have safe ice by this weekend. On the opener, the lake was nearly deserted, as the ice cover was too thick to break and too thin to walk on. The back half of Fourth of July was still open on Dec. 1, and anglers were quickly catching their two 14-plus-inchers and going home. Fourth of July might be ready for ice fishing by the weekend.
In Stevens County, Williams Lake should be good. The aerator is running, and opening-day anglers were catching plenty of 13- to 18-inch rainbow. Hatch Lake has received little attention, as it is not expected to offer good fishing.
Eloika Lake had 4 inches of ice at midweek. You can catch almost anything from Eloika, although perch are the big draw in winter.
The Columbia Wildlife Refuge, which adjoins some of the Potholes Seep Lakes, also offers winter fishing. You can request a free map of this area, which also lists closed waters, by calling the Ephrata DFW at (509) 754-4624.
Salmon and steelhead
Chinook fishing remains excellent on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Try Mini Squids or herring at midlake and at the south end.
Steelhead fishing on the Snake has been erratic, although bank anglers in Wawawai Canyon have taken quite a few nice fish recently on dark-colored jigs tipped with shrimp.
On the Grande Ronde, guide Rick Hedding said he has been getting into fish, with best success coming while backtrolling plug/shrimp combos. The ice has been in and out near Boggan’s Oasis on the Grande Ronde. Last weekend, you couldn’t launch there, but Tuesday it had warmed up, and the left side of the bridge was open all the way through. Your best bet is to call Bill Vail at Boggan’s to get current conditions: (509) 256-3372. There is good river access available at Cougar Creek, Cable Creek and Stateline. The Grande Ronde is still running low –about 700 cfs.
Trout and kokanee
The bite has been fast at Waitts Lake for both browns and rainbows, and unless we get another big snow, you can still launch at the public access and at Waitts Lake Resort.
Lake Roosevelt rainbow are cruising the top 20 feet of water, and anglers trolling Muddler Minnows tipped with nightcrawlers are doing well. WDFW biologist Chris Donley has excellent success trolling 200 feet of mono with a quarter-ounce sinker and no flasher. He said that most fish graphed deeper than 20 feet are probably whitefish or walleye rather than trout. “The best fish finder is still a fishing rod,” Donley said. “The trout are so high in the column, a lot of them won’t even show on a graph.”
Surface fishing for rainbow trout with flies behind planner continues to be productive on Pend Oreille. Lake trout are also active.
Priest Lake is at the winter pool level, so the only two deep water launches are located at Priest Lake Marina in Kalispell Bay on the west side and the Indian Creek State Park on the east side of the lake. Call ahead to the Priest Lake Marina (208-443-2405) to see if the ramp is open and plowed. The Indian Creek launch is plowed, but you can call the Regional Office (208-769-1511) to check local conditions. Priest has been good for mackinaw lately, and they are not quite so deep in the colder weather. Rocky points and drop-offs are always good locations to look for concentrated fish to jig on calm days.
The Idaho winter stream season will allow die-hard anglers to continue to catch-and-release trout through March 31 and to harvest whitefish and brook trout. The list of rivers open during the winter includes the Clark Fork below the RR bridge, North Fork, Little North Fork and mainstem Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe, St. Maries and the Moyie.
In a recent meeting, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission authorized spring bear hunts in the Blue Mountains in southeast Washington, the Capitol Forest near Olympia and on land owned by Hancock Forest Management near Mount Rainier. It also raised the number of mountain goat raffles from one to two.
A midweek pheasant hunt in the snow between Steptoe and Colfax made three things evident: There are lots of birds, they definitely hold better in the snow, and you still have to hunt hard and make the most of your opportunities. There has been some fuss lately about pheasants “getting stressed” because of cold weather. The ones I saw fared a lot better than I did. Waist-high snowdrifts quickly sapped my enthusiasm.
A “big wad of new geese,” reportedly as many as 9,000 birds, showed up in the Moses Lake area last week. Duck hunting remains fair to good, with moving water such as Winchester Wasteway and Crab Creek holding birds.
In Idaho, there are good numbers of waterfowl using the lower end of Lake Coeur d’Alene, and hunting has been excellent.
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