Fly fishermen are reporting action on the Spokane River using trout spey or streamers. Flashy patterns with good profile work well during winter flows. Nymphing a stone with a smaller hot bead (or hot spot) pattern can also be effective.
Considering the time of year, the North Fork Coeur d’Alene River has had some decent fishing lately. Go low and slow, dredging the deeper pools with a streamer or double nymph rig.
Silver Bow Fly Shop said Rocky Ford Creek or Crab Creek are good options. Rocky Ford will be best with midge pupa, scuds and small Euro jigs. If you’d rather go large, try ripping a streamer.
Trout and kokanee
Anglers fishing the last 2 miles of the Spokane Arm have been catching limits of trout running close to 18 inches. Many lures have been effective as long as they have some orange in them. You don’t need a boat to take advantage of the great fishing on Lake Roosevelt, either. Bank fishermen at Keller, Fort Spokane and Lincoln report nice catches of rainbows ranging 16-22 inches.
Newly planted cutthroat trout are still feeding near the docks on Lake Chelan, and fishermen without boats are taking advantage. Most fish are in the 14- to 16-inch range with a few bigger. Chartreuse seemed to be the most popular color for jigs, spinner and flies.
Ice fishing is a tough call these days. The only confirmed good ice is in the Coeur d’Alene Chain, Bonaparte and Molson.
Salmon and steelhead
The Snake River may be your best option if you are looking to catch a steelhead. Don’t give up on the Clearwater, though. With cold, low water, the Clearwater steelhead move into the warmer waters of the North Fork, push back down into the Lower Granite Pool, or hold in the slow deep holes where it becomes hard to coerce them into biting. When water temperatures rose this week, the bite picked up a little. This “post-cold” period can be really good, but judging by current outside temperatures, it may not last.
This year’s return of Ringold Springs Hatchery steelhead is expected to be the lowest return on record during the past 20 years. Returning steelhead will be needed for broodstock to meet the production goal of 180,000 juvenile steelhead scheduled for release in 2022, so steelhead retention on the Hanford Reach will close on Jan. 1 and remain closed through the end of the scheduled fishery, April 15, 2021.
The daily limits from Buoy 10 to the Interstate 5 Bridge will be raised to two adult hatchery chinook or steelhead or one of each Jan. 1-March 31. During the same time from the Interstate 5 Bridge to The Dalles Dam, the limit will be two hatchery steelhead. All salmon must be released. From The Dalles Dam to Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco, the daily steelhead limit will be one. All salmon and wild steelhead must be released.
On Potholes Reservoir, the water temperature is in the upper 30s to low 40s. Throw in a little wind and the ice in the dunes will retreat. Walleye fishing continues to be fair for those jigging one-half ounce blade baits, curly tail grubs and Whistle Pigs, or trolling nightcrawlers behind a 2-ounce bottom bouncer on a slow death hook. Fish in 20-30 feet of water. The largemouth bass fishing is slow. Crappie and Bluegill can still be caught on the main lake. Look for schooled fish over deeper habitat boxes on the humps in front of the sand dunes.
A friend reported excellent walleye fishing this week across the river from Fort Spokane. He was tossing blade baits into deep water near the rocks. Elsewhere on the reservoir, walleye fishing was not as good, but anglers near Seven Bays had fair success dragging jigs off the humps.
Hunters who report their 2020 black bear, deer, elk or turkey hunting results by Jan. 10 will have the opportunity to win one of nine deer and elk incentive permits for fall 2021. To qualify for the drawing, hunters must submit a report for each black bear, deer, elk or turkey tag they purchased and each special hunting permit they received in 2020. The permits will be valid Sept. 1-Dec. 31, 2021. All hunters, regardless of their success in the field, must submit hunting reports for each transport tag by Jan. 31.
Small game hunting in Idaho can continue well into winter with what is being called “The Forestland Trifecta.” The three species included are forest grouse (open through Jan. 31 in northern Idaho, limit four), snowshoe hare (open through March 31, limit eight) and red squirrel (also open through March 31, limit eight). All of these species may be hunted in Idaho with either a shotgun or a small caliber rifle. Annual Idaho hunting licenses expire on Dec. 31.
I experienced two decidedly different back-to-back pheasant hunts this week. The first one in the St. John area produced five nice points on pheasants, two of which were roosters that got up at my feet (I’m embarrassed to say I missed one of them). The other hunt, closer to Rosalia, didn’t give me an opportunity to miss as I saw few birds and my dog, Lucy, had but one point on a hen pheasant.
Small ponds all over Eastern Washington and Idaho were beginning to shed their ice last week, but that trend is changing with current lower temperatures. Ducks are scarce locally, but there are a lot of geese. Goose season will be open in GMU 4 each day from today through Jan. 1, and on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays until Jan. 24 with the exception of another open day on Jan. 18. On Jan. 25, they will be open each day until the end of the waterfowl season on Jan. 31. GMU 5 will stay open each day through Jan. 31 when ducks also close.
In Washington, forest grouse are open through Dec. 31, Eastern Washington pheasants, quail, chukars and gray partridge through Jan. 18, and turkey through Dec. 31.
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