Steelhead and salmon
Salmon fishing near Wells Dam and in the Okanogan River has been good. Barring any big weather change, it should remain so until the end of the season. Herring and dodgers are still the main show, but plugs are becoming the next best thing as fish near spawning and become aggressive. Rod Hammons at R&R Guide Service said fish are starting to settle into favorite holes, so anglers should move around the river until they find them. He also said fall fish should start arriving in the next week or so.
Idaho’s statewide steelhead fishing season opened Thursday. It appears this year’s run is a bit smaller than those of recent years. Counts at Lower Granite Dam show 5,114 steelhead passed between June 1 and last Sunday. That compares to a 10-year average of 7,712 for the same period. It is worth noting two enormous runs elevated the 10-year average in 2001 and 2002. The 10-year average for the same period during the decade of 1991 to 2000 is 4,766 fish. So this year’s run is actually a bit higher than the average run of the 1990s.
While Clearwater River anglers can fish for steelhead, they may not keep any steelhead upstream from the U.S. Highway 12 Memorial Bridge until Oct. 15.
Anglers fishing the early season on the Clearwater have not caught many steelhead, but the few taken are in good shape. All steelhead fishermen must have a valid fishing license and a steelhead permit. Statewide limits for steelhead are three per day, nine in possession, and 20 for the season. Barbless hooks are required, and only fish with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.
Neah Bay opened Tuesday for salmon seven days a week. There is a two-salmon bag limit. Neah Bay anglers have taken 75 percent of the quota. La Push anglers have taken 55 percent of theirs.
Last week, Ilwaco anglers averaged 1.4 salmon per rod, 74 percent of which were coho. The catch estimates for Westport last week were 2,720 chinook and 1,380 coho.
Anglers are catching a few summer-run steelhead on the Lewis and Wind rivers, as well as at Drano Lake.
On the White Salmon River, bank anglers at the mouth are catching a mixture of fall chinook, coho and summer-run steelhead. All wild coho caught after today must be released.
Chinook catches have declined but coho catches have increased this week at Buoy 10. On the lower Columbia, fall chinook and steelhead catches are improving, although down 50 percent from last year.
Trout and kokanee
Deer Lake continues to give up 12- to 21-inch rainbow for night fishermen dunking standard kokanee set-ups tipped with either maggots or Power Bait.
Loon Lake kokes are starting to turn just a little, with elongated heads evident on some of the males. They are still in excellent shape, however. Still-fishermen do better than trollers dunking Glo Hooks and maggots or white corn in 34-37 feet of water.
Kokanee anglers on Lake Coeur d’Alene are finding mixed success, with some boats hammering the fish while others get only a handful. Friends Dale Moffat and Mike Sweeney of Spokane recently had an excellent trip out of Powderhorn Bay, catching near-limits on seven colors of leaded line, or a downrigger set at 40 feet. They used 000 flashers and tipped their hooks with red maggots. The best bite was early.
On Banks and Roosevelt lakes, rainbow trout are plentiful, but kokanee have been difficult to find lately. The best koke bite has been near Grand Coulee Dam, with a No. 7 Flatfish or a purple Kokanee Killer taking a good share of the fish. Remember that on Banks, the five-fish limit includes no more than two kokanee. On Roosevelt, you can take two kokes in addition to five trout.
Twin Lakes near Inchelium is kicking out nice rainbow and brookies. Largemouth fishing has also been good. Favorable reports have come recently from Williams and Clear.
With the cooling weather, bass, crappie and perch are becoming more active. Some 14-inch crappie have come from Potholes Reservoir this week. Largemouth bass fishing has been excellent in the dunes, and smallmouth are still hitting aggressively off the face of the dam.
Elsewhere in Washington and Idaho, smallmouth are abundant around rocky shorelines and submerged islands. At Banks Lake, Dave Altier at Coulee Playland Resort said bass fishermen are having a ball with topwaters. He also notes that the best walleye fishing has been at Rufus Woods on red and white or yellow and white jigs tipped with night crawlers. Banks perch anglers are finding large schools of 8- to 12-inch perch.
Roosevelt walleye anglers are netting good numbers of fish within the slot. Moses, Sprague and Scootenay lakes are fishing well at times.
Youths 15 and younger, and the adults who accompany them can find excellent fishing for perch and large bass at Bear Lake, just north of Spokane off Highway 2. This little lake is often overlooked.
Washington’s East Side early goose season in GMUs 4 and 5 runs Sept. 10-11 with a three-bird daily limit. The West Side will have two early seasons – Sept 10-15 in GMUs 1, 3 (five birds daily limit), and 2-A (limit 3 daily). GMU 2-B opened Thursday and will run through Sept. 15 with a five-bird daily limit. A statewide youth waterfowl and upland bird hunt will run Sept. 17-18, except in GMUs 2A and 2B.
Washington and Idaho dove and forest grouse seasons began Thursday, and in Idaho, sandhill cranes also became legal targets for those who drew permits. In addition to a regular license, a $1.75 federal migratory bird harvest information program validation is required for both dove and crane hunting in Idaho. Non-toxic shot is not required for either. In Washington, dove hunters must have a Federal Migratory Bird Stamp in addition to their license.
Although I haven’t seen many doves recently in the Spokane/Reardan/Davenport area, wildlife biologist Jim Tabor in Moses Lake said there are good populations in the Columbia Basin where you find them. He notes that doves do not appear to have flocked up yet, but it could happen soon. When it does, “they’re out of here.” Reports from Yakima, Clarkston and St. John indicate birds are scattered rather than flocked up, with lots still to be found in the vicinity of harvested wheat fields.
Last year’s Idaho fall chukar numbers were the highest in 17 years and the second highest since counts began in 1984. That record has been surpassed. Surveys on the highlands along Brownlee Reservoir on Sunday counted 173.8 chukars per square mile, 12 percent higher than last year’s record count. Surveyors found 116 chukar coveys averaging 18 birds.
Closer to home, the lower salmon chukar count completed Thursday was down slightly from last year, but keep in mind last year was a record. Counts on the Snake River upstream from Lewiston are up slightly from last year. Chukar seasons open Sept. 17 in Idaho and Oct. 1 in Washington.
(Outdoors editor Rich Landers contributed to this report.)
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