The upper Columbia near the Canadian border has some fairly large back eddies that are fishing well with dry and wet caddis patterns. Some of the rainbows in these deep pools measure up to 32 inches.
Fourth of July Lake is producing some large rainbows using soft hackle and streamer patterns fished as deep as possible.
The Grande Ronde is still a steelhead option – if it doesn’t freeze up. Nymphing with a stone/egg combo is best there, Silver Bow Fly Shop said.
Salmon and steelhead
The lower and middle Columbia River remain open for salmon and steelhead. The Southwest Washington area from The Dalles Dam upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco is open for salmon and steelhead through Dec. 31. The majority of the fall chinook and coho have already migrated upstream, but there are still a few steelhead in the river.
The lower section of the Hanford Reach from the I-182 Bridge at Richland upstream to the old Hanford townsite powerline crossing is open to fishing for steelhead with a daily limit of one. These must be both adipose and ventral fin clipped to be harvested. All other hatchery and wild steelhead as well as any salmon must be released.
The Snake River and tributaries are also open to fishing for steelhead. Daily limit is one hatchery steelhead from the mouth of the Snake River upstream to Lower Granite Dam.
Trout and kokanee
Preseason sampling at Hog Canyon Lake produced trout in 12- to 21-inch range. At Fourth of July Lake, preseason sampling saw trout from 9-23 inches. On Tuesday morning, there was thin ice at the Fourth of July launch and small boats were breaking through to open water. The rest of the lake had substantial ice cover along the edges, making fishing difficult from shore. Hog Canyon was ice-covered and launching a boat would have been impossible.
Trout fishing on Long Lake is reported to be excellent and it doesn’t seem to matter what you use if trolling. Places to fish from shore are limited to turnouts off Highway 291 downstream of Tum Tum or the area between Nine Mile Dam and the mouth of the Little Spokane River.
The Hunters area of Lake Roosevelt has been good for 15- to 17-inch rainbows, and several anglers reported catching fish over 20 inches. The Spokane Arm has also been good for trout with limits coming quickly. Bank fishermen at Fort Spokane have also had some good days. Orange Power Bait seems to be the most popular. Pacific Lake in Lincoln County near Odessa and Sprague Lake in Lincoln/Adams counties are traditionally good for winter fishing, but both had ice around the edges this week, preventing much fishing from shore. The W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area lakes – Blue and Spring – were stocked with trout prior to deer season this year and should be fishing well. The other lakes on the Wooten Wildlife Area closed Monday. Roses Lake in Chelan County and Putters Pond in Douglas County have recently been stocked with catchable-sized rainbow trout. Lake Chelan kokanee fishing has been slow. Most of the fish are down 100 feet and deeper.
Walleye fishing on the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt has been slow for most anglers. They say the “bites” are mostly just some heaviness on the line.
Anglers don’t typically catch as many walleye in winter as during the summer months, but the fish they do catch are often much larger. Hot spots for winter walleyes in the Tri-Cities area include from the Snake River downstream to Badger Island and from McNary Dam downstream to Boardman. Some of the best spots are within a half-mile of the boat launches.
Tuesday was the opening of the whitefish season on part of the Little Spokane River (from the Highway 291 Bridge upstream to Chain Lakes). The daily catch limit is 15 fish of any size. Whitefish season is also open on the Kettle River in Ferry/Stevens counties and on the Yakima River between Sunnyside Dam and 3,500 feet below Roza Dam, as well as from Roza Dam to 400 feet below Easton Dam. The lower Cle Elum and lower Naches rivers are also open for whitefish. For larger lake whitefish, try Banks Lake.
Idaho Fish and Game has Wildlife Management Areas spread throughout the state. About two-thirds of these are managed with waterfowl in mind, providing food and resting areas for migrating waterfowl, and opportunities for hunting. In the Panhandle region, there is the Boundary-Smith Creek WMA hugging the Canadian border; McArthur Lake WMA in the narrowest point of the valley between the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountain ranges; Pend Oreille WMA, which consists of 25 parcels scattered along the edges of Lake Pend Oreille; the Pend Oreille River; Pack River; Clark Fork Delta; Priest River and additional nearby waters. A final wildlife management area is the Coeur d’Alene WMA, a mix of wetland habitats and small lakes, composed of a collection of land parcels along the river between Harrison and Cataldo. Additional parcels are scattered around the lake and along the St. Joe and St. Maries rivers.
The biggest change in Idaho’s nonresident deer and elk tags for 2021 is that you have to pick and stay in the game unit you choose. Unlike a resident tag that includes numerous units, the new NR tags limit your movement. In addition, if you pick, for example, the whitetail tag and rifle hunt in Unit 10A, your season ends Nov. 20, even though other good whitetail units like 8 and 8A are open until Dec. 1. Some hunters complain that this is a big deal in that your tag is worth less but costs more than it did in 2020. Other than last year, many of the leftover NR tags were purchased by Idaho resident hunters at NR prices for the years prior to that, thus contributing to their own “congestion.”
Most of the changes seem directed at Washington hunters.
Late fall turkey hunting runs through Dec. 31 in select game management units in Washington, including 101-154 and 162-186. As usual, the big birds are abundant across most of the region.
Relatively mild weather has kept a lot of Canada geese, mostly lesser or Taverner subspecies, in the upper Columbia Basin, like the Hiawatha Valley just west of Moses Lake.
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