Safe ice is the No. 1 consideration if you’re thinking of fishing the hard water this week in Washington or Idaho. That said, here are some places to consider:
In Washington: Some lakes like Molson, Bonaparte, Gillette Jumpoff Joe and Sacheen have at least 4 inches of ice and are being fished with varying degrees of success. Silver Lake near Cheney has some ice, but it is still too thin to be safe. Last year, the lake was loaded with small perch, but there is always the chance of hooking a tiger muskie. Eloika, Diamond, Hog Canyon and Fourth of July should be good to go by the weekend, and farther north, so should Fish and Patterson for perch. Curlew Lake has at least 4 inches of ice out from the state park, and perch anglers are hauling in buckets of 8- to 10-inch fish. There were at least two dozen ice tents on the ice early this week. This state park fishery always starts quickly and is best the first three weeks of fishable ice. After that, the area slows considerably, but if you can find access, perch fishing holds up well at other places on the lake.
In Idaho: Thomas Lake has safe ice and a good perch bite. Twin Lakes – both upper and lower – are capped with ice and may be safe to fish by the weekend. Avondale may also be safe. There has already been some action there by anglers who weigh less than I do. Fernan was almost completely capped as of this writing, but the ice that existed was an “iffy” 2 inches on Tuesday. When it’s ready to fish, Fernan is a popular destination, and there are numerous pull-offs around the lake for parking. The deepest spot in the lake is 24 feet, and this is often where the larger fish are found in January.
Some of the small lakes around Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry may have safe ice – Gambel for sure, Cocolalla and Round by the weekend. Cocolalla is primarily a perch destination in winter, but the lake has some hefty rainbow trout that aren’t often targeted. The Idaho Chain Lakes could possibly have safe ice by the weekend. The main attraction there is tip-up fishing for pike.
Trout and kokanee
Bank fishermen are making good catches of 15- to 18-inch rainbow in a few hours on Lake Roosevelt at such destinations as Porcupine Bay, Keller, Fort Spokane, Spring Canyon and Hunters. Power Bait and Power Nuggets have accounted for a lot of the fish.
Trolling near Hunters on Lake Roosevelt has also been good lately for rainbows, but kokanee have been few and far between. For trout, trollers are pulling Kekeda flies in assorted colors with shades of orange and green being best. A piece of worm on the hook will sometimes result in more action than an unbaited fly, but it is not absolutely necessary. Flashers are also optional.
Long Lake has also been good for bank fishing for rainbow trout running 15-18 inches. Limited access is available at the parking areas from Tum Tum south.
The middle net pens on Rufus Woods Reservoir have yielded a lot of big trout from shore this winter, and the good fishing continues for anglers using the same baits as Lake Roosevelt bank fishermen.
Rock Lake bank anglers are doing fairly well on rainbow trout by throwing bait from shore at the access.
Salmon and steelhead
Steelhead anglers are reminded that Idaho steelhead bag limits have been reduced for the 2022 spring season, but the reductions are not reflected in the new 2022-24 Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules booklet.
There are a couple of months left for Clearwater, Snake and Grande Ronde steelhead, and once the weather warms back up it will be better. The Clearwater limit will stay at one fish after Saturday, the Snake will bump up to two fish on Idaho tags, and the Grande Ronde will remain at one fish.
In the past, January has seen some of the best catching.
There is still open water on Potholes Reservoir along and around the Frenchman’s and Winchester wasteways, but the sand dunes are freezing up. There is open water at the face, but with the current temperatures it will be frozen soon. The walleye bite was fair last week. If there is still open water by the weekend, the best technique will be to locate the fish and then drop a blade bait or fluke-style bait. The fish will be in the 20- to 40-foot range.
Idaho hunters can still take advantage of winter hunting opportunities in 2022 by chasing snowshoe hares, cottontail rabbits or pine squirrels. The season for all three runs through March 31. Upland bird and waterfowl hunters will find a multitude of January offerings around the state. Most duck and Canada geese seasons are open during at least part of January, into February for white-fronted geese, and as late as March for light geese in parts of the state. Likewise, seasons for chukar, Hungarian partridge and California quail are also in full swing during January.
The snow and cold are making pheasants hold tight in thick cover, but you still have to find them. As always, access to good cover is difficult to find. Now that deer season is over, however, permission to hunt may be granted on some lands that were off limits earlier.
A friend in Moses Lake said the lake is capped with ice and the ducks are nowhere to be found; actually, they never were this year. He said a few widgeon and diver ducks are still hanging around, but when Crab Creek ices up, hunting is all but impossible.
Goose hunters, on the other hand, are experiencing good field shooting for Canadas and sometimes snow geese.
Contact Alan Liere at firstname.lastname@example.org
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