Wind and rain combined to make fishing difficult on the region’s bigger waters this week. Only the most committed anglers – or those who should be committed – were on the large lakes and rivers.
Generally, waters are still cool, spawning and hatches are behind normal.
Transitions, good and bad, will begin with warm weather this weekend.
Chopaka Lake near Tonasket, in its first full season with fish after rehabilitation, has been given a positive report by scouting members of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club. Rainbows are running 14-22 inches.
At Amber Lake, Pat Way of Northwest Outfitters likes the Ice Cream Cone chironomid in black, size 10. Note: 1,000 triploids 6-8 inches long – next year’s lunkers – were stocked May 4.
McDowell Lake has been producing excellent fishing for anglers who get the right combination of depth and patterns. One couple was red hot last weekend fishing weighted damselfly nymphs and/or chironomids nearly dead under a bobber, er, indicator. Mornings were slow until 10:30 a.m.
Coffee Pot rainbows are running 15-20 inches. Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow recommends black chironomids and Chromies, as well as Six Packs or other damselfly nymphs along the shoreline.
Hayden has been fishing well for crappies, Way said. “It’s all pre-spawn. We’re using brown mohair leeches, and on any cast we might come up with crappie, bass, rainbow or pike.”
The St. Regis River opens Saturday. Stonefly nymphs could work, but watch the flows. While the river floats well at 1,700 cfs, it was creeping above 1,900 on Thursday.
The Clark Fork had leveled off at 16,000 cfs Thursday and Brooks Sanford at Clark Fork Trout & Tackle in St. Regis said nymphers could catch fish in slower moving water and clear-water seams. Consistent dry fly fishing is history until after runoff in June, he said.
The Coeur d’Alene River also is high, but still offering some dry fly fishing if you can find soft pockets along the bank. Try a Lighting Bug dropper under a Chernobyl Ant.
Trout and kokanee
Spokane-area lakes are still pumping out fish, with Williams and Badger the standouts. Crowds are down after the April 25 opener and fishing is pleasant.
West Medical isn’t up to par.
Sprague Lake has been a rough mess, but don’t overlook its 19-inch rainbows when wind subsides.
Loon Lake kokanee already are showing at 11-12 inches and could be pushing 13 when the prime night fishing kicks in this summer. Trollers report catching koks at 25 feet as well as on monofilament near the surface.
In Northeastern Washington, Cedar and Starvation lakes, among the state’s top opening day fisheries, continue to fish well with carryover fish up to 18 inches, said Bill Baker, WDFW district biologist.
Lake Ellen southwest of Kettle Falls is producing fast fishing for trout averaging 8-9 inches.
Big Meadow Lake finally became accessible this week through the lingering snow, Colville Forest staffers said. Ditto for South Skookum Lake in Pend Oreille County as well as Browns Lake, a fly-fishing-only water, but anglers still have to walk in from the gates.
Curlew Lake in Ferry County has been producing lots of rainbows in the 14-inch range, thanks to the lake’s net pen project, Baker said.
Lake Roosevelt is likely to be a bust starting next week when lake levels will begin rising. The Bureau of Reclamation plans to bring the level up from, 1,258 to 1,270 by May 30.
Nevertheless, one angler contacted said he’s been catching rainbow limits – mostly 12-14 inches up to 20 – trolling a fly in 12 feet of water along the shoreline in the Lincoln area.
Roosevelt net pen fish will be released sometime between this weekend and Thursday.
Kokanee fishing is slow at Coeur d’Alene for fish running about 10 inches. The few anglers out fishing have caught them in the Harrison area as well Arrow Point.
Oregon, Washington and Idaho fisheries managers said this week that 120,000-150,000 adults will head over Bonneville Dam, down from a forecast of about 300,000. The lower expectations triggered announcements to shorten these Washington spring/summer chinook fisheries, which will end on Sunday evening:
•The Snake River in Washington from Texas Rapids Boat Launch upstream about 7 miles to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Boat Launch (up from Little Goose Dam).
•The Ringold bank fishery of the Columbia.
The news isn’t all bad, with a portion of the Yakima River just opened to spring chinook fishing.
Idaho anglers still expect good fishing, with Lower Granite Dam seeing its first 1,000-chinook day on Monday, a trend that’s increased all week.
More than 8,000 springers will be in Idaho waters this weekend, and another 40,000-50,000 are expected to come, even with the reduced forecast.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, meeting in Pocatello Thursday, reduced the chinook bag limits on the Clearwater, the North Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater, and the Lochsa rivers beginning Monday.
The daily limit will be four salmon, only one more than 24 inches.
At Potholes Reservoir, it’s prime time for trophy smallmouths. “They’re just starting to spawn, and this is the time to catch world-class smallmouth 2-6 pounds,” said Rob Harbin at MarDon Resort. “After the spawn, the big ones virtually disappear.”
The Pend Oreille River may be at ideal levels for the Inland Empire Bass Club’s annual tournament this weekend based out of Blueslide Resort. North Idaho bass are in the pre-spawn and starting to move into shallow waters, where they’re becoming more active, said Jim Fredericks, IFG regional fisheries manager.
Biologists were at the Lower Coeur d’Alene River’s lateral lakes tagging bass this week. Anglers who catch the fish should report the tag numbers for a research project.
“The smallmouth fishing is just turning on around Lake Coeur d’Alene, but the largemouth fishermen have been doing well in the warmer water at the south end and the chain lakes,” said Raleigh Turley at Fins and Feathers.
The Panhandle Bass Anglers have a tournament Saturday at Spirit Lake.
“Pike fishing is excellent,” Turley said. “Cave Lake and Killarney are two of the best, for sure. The fish have turned on to lures now, and they’re hitting spinner baits, Husky Jerks and weedless spoons. Cave Lake and Killarney are two of the best, for sure.
A pike tournament is set for Lake Coeur d’Alene on Saturday, 6 a.m.-4 p.m. out of Booth’s Park.
Gobblers are losing their lust, although some will still come running at the prospect of finding a hen not on a nest.
Turkey hunters have pretty much given up in Lincoln and much of Stevens County. Curt Wood, WDFW enforcement officer and turkey hunter said bird numbers are down: “I have to look pretty hard to find anyone out hunting, except on weekends.”
Cave Lake and Killarney are two of the best.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.