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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Alan Liere’s fishing-hunting reports for Dec. 31

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 30, 2020

By Alan Liere For The Spokesman-Review

Fly fishing

At Swede’s Fly Shop on Garland Avenue, Allen Petersen said there’s not too much going on with the holidays and below-normal temperatures.

He said some diehards are fishing the lower Spokane River using streamers on sink tip lines in the deeper sections of the river using a swing/strip technique to improve the action of the fly, as opposed to just a dead drift.

Petersen also said Rufus Woods below Grand Coulee is always great this time of year using full sinking lines while targeting the back eddies and rock formations with patterns like the Electric Bugger and the Slump Buster, while allowing the line to settle into the deeper sections of the eddies.

He said to slowly bring the fly patterns to the surface, and don’t forget a fluorocarbon 0X or 1X tippet.

The North Fork Coeur d’Alene has accumulated a considerable snowpack in the upper reaches and even with four-wheel drive there is always a chance of getting stuck in remote areas. It’s a long walk with no cell service.

Trout and kokanee

The Lake Roosevelt water level has been up and down lately and is at about 1,286 feet above sea level. Fishing has been good in the lower (southern) portion of the reservoir, but slower as you get into the upper third (above Gifford).

The fluctuating water has affected bank fishermen more than those fishing from a boat, but fishing for everyone always gets better when the drop is constant, though trollers are still having success in the top 20 feet when the wind is manageable (which it hasn’t been several days in the past week.)

Ice fishing

It’s tough making a call on ice fishing conditions.

At this time, there is enough good ice at Curlew out from the state park for good ice fishing, though that area hasn’t been as productive for perch this year as in the past.

The trout bite, however, has been excellent. Up north, Gillette and Thomas lakes in the Coeur d’Alene Chain have good ice and anglers are doing well on perch as well as crappie, particularly at Thomas Lake. Park on the east side at the campground entrance. It’s a short walk. There is also parking at Gillette for accessing Thomas, and cabins for rent at Beaver Lodge Resort.

Newman Lake is frozen completely over but might need another day or two of consistently below-freezing temps before it is safe to fish.

You can catch a variety of spiny ray species as well as trout and tiger muskies there. Fishing has been fair for trout at Williams Lake in Northeast Washington, but the ice was thin enough early in the week for a small boat to break through heading for open water at the aerator.

Sacheen has 4 inches of ice for the first 100 feet or so out from the access. Eloika is covered with snow and there is open water at the public access. After some early promise, I’d say it is not ready yet. Waitts Lake is only half frozen. Jump-Off Joe is fishable and anglers there report big perch.

Salmon and steelhead

Idaho’s “spring” steelhead season opens Friday. In Washington, the Tucannon River, Walla Walla River and Touchet River have a one hatchery steelhead limit, as does the Snake River from the mouth to lower Granite Dam. From Lower Granite Dam upstream to the Idaho/Oregon state line, as well as the Grande Ronde, the limit is two hatchery steelhead.

Other species

Lake whitefish and burbot fishing are great winter fisheries. The burbot are schooling up in Lake Roosevelt’s Spokane Arm for the spawn, and there are also some big whitefish available. The best whitefish bite is at the far end of Banks Lake near Coulee City.


The waterfowl situation hasn’t changed much in Eastern Washington and North Idaho – lots of geese and few ducks. I went looking for pheasants on Monday with my son and two friends, trying several spots between Rosalia and Steptoe. We only shot one cock bird, but the highlight of the day came in a brushy draw in late afternoon when we got into a huge covey of quail.

It was a delightful and memorable trip despite all the frozen ground covered with 2 inches of slippery mud. Because of numerous faceplants, I had to hose off boots and shoes before entering my house.

There are still numerous pheasant release sites with birds in Eastern Washington. In Region 1 (Ferry, Lincoln, Spokane, Whitman, Garfield, Columbia, Asotin, Walla Walla counties), Sherman Creek, Fishtrap Lake, John Henley, Central Ferry HMU, Willow Bar/Rice Bar, Hartstock Unit, Asotin Wildlife Management Area, Mill Creek HMU, Hollebeke HMU are options. In Region 2 (Okanogan, Chelan, Grant counties), you can try your luck at Kline/Hegdahl, Chiliwist, Swakane Canyon, Chelan Butte, Banks, Steamboat Rock, Gloyd Seeps, Quincy, Buckshot and Lower Crab Creek. For more information and directions, go to

The general fall turkey season in Idaho’s Panhandle Region runs through the end of January.

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