Silver Bow Fly Shop said the Spokane River is and will be your best winter option other than Rocky Ford Creek. The trout spey and streamer swinging has been good lately with some nice fish being caught. Flashy patterns with good profile are important during winter flows. Nymphing a stone with a smaller hot bead (or hot spot) pattern is also a go-to.
On Rocky Ford, expect a lot of competition. Fishing has slowed somewhat, but midges, scuds and streamers are still getting it done. Silver Bow said for streamers, “Try goofy, random types that you may not fish other places. You can be surprised at what they are willing to chase down.”
Trout and kokanee
Put a heater in your boat and head for Lake Roosevelt for some excellent winter trout fishing. Trout running 15-20 inches are being caught in the main lake as well as the San Poil Arm. If you’d rather build a fire and fish from shore, there have been excellent days reported from most of the major launches from Fort Spokane to the dam. Power Bait (orange) has been a consistent fish-getter.
Flies, plugs and apex lures in varying colors, mostly on planer boards, are taking some big trout on Lake Pend Oreille. The fishing isn’t fast, but the fish can easily run into the teens.
A friend fishing for perch and crappie this week on Long Lake complained that he couldn’t keep the trout off long enough to catch the spiny ray.
WDFW has released a substantial number of cutthroat into Lake Chelan’s Monument Bay. Good fishing is available from shore and docks for fish running mostly 12-14 inches. Anglers are catching easy limits on just about anything they throw, from bait to flies.
Some big kokanee were caught off planer boards this week in the vicinity of Hansen Harbor on Lake Roosevelt. The biggest fish was almost 2 feet long.
It looks as if ice fishing is still a way off. With warm temperatures projected through the weekend, thin ice covers have been compromised.
Eloika is a big maybe, and so is Hog Canyon. The safest bets in Washington are Gillette and Thomas in the Little Pend Oreille chain and Bonaparte Lake. Bonaparte is especially intriguing as it has big tiger and brook trout as well as rainbow, kokanee and mackinaw. Thomas has trout and perch and the perch fishing has been good.
In the Idaho Panhandle, Round Lake and Blue Lake have about 3 inches of ice each with Blue Lake ice getting thicker to the south.
Reports indicate the crappie fishing at Blue has been fair. Round Lake has trout and spiny ray.
Hard water anglers who like to fish for perch will be pleased to know Lake Cascade in Idaho has a layer of solid, clear ice over much of the lake.
Anglers there still have an excellent chance of catching some big perch, but the number of “jumbos” will be less for a few years as younger fish are numerous and will take several years to reach the size anglers have come to expect from Cascade.
Some lakes to keep your eye on in the Idaho Panhandle are Fernan, Cocolalla and Upper and Lower Twin. Unless you’re going up high around Sandpoint, these lakes will be some of the first to get safe ice. Other places to consider if ice conditions allow are Spirit, Avondale, Hauser and Hayden lakes.
In the Clearwater region, Winchester Lake (trout and spiny ray), Spring Valley Reservoir (trout), and Elk Creek Reservoir (trout) will have good ice fishing later.
Salmon and steelhead
If you’re looking for steelhead, the Snake River is the best place to be during this time of year, but not a lot of anglers are participating. The Clearwater fishery has slowed down and the Grande Ronde has a lot of ice.
Most Coeur d’Alene chinook anglers are catching fish in the 2- to 8-pound size range by trolling flashers and Mini Squid 100-150 feet down. An occasional fish is taken shallower on helmeted herring, but most of the fish are deeper. The best deep water boat ramp for winter launching is the IDPR ramp at Higgins Point.
Walleye reports were few this week. Those from Roosevelt, Banks and Rufus Woods indicated the fishing was slow … and cold.
Burbot fishing is not hot on Roosevelt, but enough reports have come in to suggest that fishery is coming on. I’ve had my best burbot luck on Roosevelt in early February.
Fishing for whitefish has been decent on the North Fork Coeur d’Alene.
Proposals for the 2021-22 Idaho season for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats have been posted and you can submit your comments to these online through Dec. 30. The proposals are available at idfg.idaho.gov/MSG. All regions will host virtual open houses where hunters can hear about proposals and regional overviews. Attendees will also be able to ask Fish and Game biologist questions during the meeting or by submitting questions ahead of time. The Panhandle open house will be held Monday starting at 6 p.m.
A friend and I finally got what we had been hoping for last Friday – 4 inches of new snow in the Palouse pheasant country. I was sure the birds would be reluctant to run under such conditions, but evidently the cock birds didn’t get the memo. We saw lots of pheasants and had numerous points, but every bird pointed was a hen and the roosters all gave us the slip.
They should be here, but they’re not. Washington and Idaho hunters are still asking, “Where are the ducks?” In the Columbia Basin, goose hunting is holding up, and a lot of the big birds have moved to Lake Spokane.
As mentioned last week, the best duck hunting in Washington is near Patterson on the Columbia River, but hunters who don’t launch at “Zero Dark Thirty” are finding their spots already occupied when they arrive.
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