Euro nymphing has been productive on the Spokane River with hot bead patterns and tungsten stones working best.
Steelhead fishermen working the slower Snake River runs with sink-tips and Reverse Marabou patterns or egg sucking loop leeches have had fair success.
Salmon and steelhead
The waters below Bonneville are still open for salmon and steelhead. Anglers on the stretch of river from Rocky Point/Tongue Point Line to Bonneville Dam can keep six fish, two of which can be adult hatchery coho, or one adult hatchery coho and one hatchery steelhead. All other salmon and steelhead must be released.
Winter steelhead returns will start building in Lower Columbia River tributaries this month. Reviewing a few years of Sports Catch Reports gives a good idea of the best times to hit individual rivers.
Trout and kokanee
Anglers are finding Lake Roosevelt rainbow all over the system. The Spokane Arm has been productive, but good reports also come from Keller, Hunters and Lincoln. “This is the best trout fishing on Lake Roosevelt in the Kettle Falls area that we’ve seen in the last couple of years,” regional fish biologist Bill Baker said. Friends who fished the Hunters area recently said the trout there were larger than other locations on the reservoir. They took two limits of fish running 18-21 inches. A few kokanee were reported landed in the Keller area. Most of the action for kokes and rainbow has been in the top 20 feet of water.
The Washington winter trout lakes opened last week and remain open through March 31. As expected, Fourth of July saw the most anglers, and a lot of large rainbow were reported. Most of the lake had open water, but there was ice in places, particularly at the public access, where launching a boat would be all but impossible. At Hog Canyon, participation was almost nonexistent as almost the entire lake was covered with thin ice. To the north, Williams Lake did not disappoint, with rainbow averaging about 18 inches. There were no reports from Hatch, which is said to be full of small perch.
Anglers have been doing well at Pacific Lake in Lincoln County near Odessa, catching 13- to 15-inch rainbow. Water levels there can fluctuate, so contact the local Bureau of Land Management office to check ramp conditions prior to making the trip. Fishing at Sprague Lake remains good, with rainbow up to 4 pounds being caught. Bank anglers are pulling in trout at two Tucannon River impoundments on the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area – Blue and Spring lakes. The other lakes on the Wooten closed at the end of November.
Three lakes in Okanogan County opened for catch-and-keep trout fishing Sunday. Rat Lake near Brewster and Upper and Lower Green lakes near Omak switched from a catch-and-release regulation to a five-trout daily catch limit. These fisheries provide good angling throughout the winter months, either on open water – as they mostly are now – or iced-over later in the season. Catches of rainbow trout are usually in the 10- to 12-inch range.
Potholes Reservoir in Grant County is a popular winter destination for duck and goose hunters, but trout anglers are trolling up some big rainbow trout. Out of courtesy, stay away from the decoy spreads.
Blade baits have been effective for walleye on Lake Roosevelt, but drop-shotting is also a good technique and allows you to stay in the strike zone longer. The walleyes are hanging on the channel edges in the Spokane Arm. Many of the fish are under 14 inches, but there are enough 15- to 20-inchers to make a fish fry. The early bite is generally slower than the afternoon bite. Work the flats in the main lake with jigs, going as deep as 60 feet.
Banks Lake is a great choice for anglers in search of big lake whitefish. There’s no size limit, and up to 15 whitefish can be taken daily. The Yakima River whitefish season opened Sunday for two months between Sunnyside Dam and 3,500 feet below Roza Dam. The lower Cle Elum and on the lower Naches rivers also opened Sunday.
Retention fishing for sturgeon is closed on Lake Umatilla and Lake Wallula, but catch-and-release fishing is allowed. Lake Umatilla will reopen for sturgeon retention Jan. 1, and Lake Wallula will open for retention Feb. 1.
Idaho’s 2020 license, tags and permits went on sale Sunday. Purchases can be made at a license vendor, online, at a Fish and Game regional office or by phone at (800) 554-8685. Here are some Idaho Fish and Game policies that can save you money and increase your Idaho hunting opportunities:
1. Purchase a three-year youth license for 17-year-olds while they’re still 17. They can continue to purchase junior-priced tags through the valid dates of the license.
2. Save $89 on license and tags by buying a Sportsman Package, which provides a resident combo license, six big-game tags and four permits – a savings of $89.15 off the a la carte pricing.
3. Enter Idaho’s Super Hunt that allows you to hunt any open unit (even controlled hunts) anywhere in the state. Each year, 34 winners are drawn for elk, deer, moose, pronghorn or the ultimate super hunt, a combo of all four species. You do not need to purchase a license to enter. There are two drawings you can enter, and the second drawing often has fewer entries. Entries are $6 for individual species or $20 for combo entries.
4. Guarantee your ability to hunt big game in Idaho with a lifetime license even if you move out of the state. Even when nonresident tags sell out, you will still have the ability to buy an over-the-counter tag. Give children the gift of a lifetime license before they turn 2 and save nearly 30 percent.
Duck and goose hunting has been good in the Columbia Basin. There are huge flocks of snow geese as well as Canadas. A nephew on a field hunt there this week said the snows decoyed a lot better than those he hunts in Alberta in September.
Contact Alan Liere at spokesmanliere@ yahoo.com
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