The Spokane River has been a decent winter option lately. Nymphing stones and hot bead patterns has been best, but the streamer bite has also been good. Get your flies down and keep them down. Fishing the softer/slower sides of the current seams and deeper runs/pools is extremely important. Use streamers with a lot of flash and movement.
Rocky Ford and Crab Creek are some of the best winter options for fly fishermen. According to Silver Bow Fly Shop, Rocky Ford will be best with midge pupa, scuds, small Euro jigs or try ripping a streamer around. Crab creek is good with small Euro jigs, red Copper Johns, Hot Bead Pat’s rubbers and San Juans. A small black Sculpzilla can also be good for a streamer through the deeper pools.
There were a lot of trout rising out from the Fort Spokane swimming area early this week.
I have no idea what they were taking, but it would be worth a few casts from a belly boat to find out.
Trout and kokanee
You may have to move around a bit to find them, but Lake Roosevelt trout are hitting from boat and shore. Good reports are coming in from bank anglers at Fort Spokane and trollers near Split Rock. Most of the fish are around 17 inches long. Apex and Old Goat lures in red, pink and orange are good on the troll. Friends fishing from shore at Fort Spokane on Tuesday limited in a little over 3 hours.
They said orange Power Bait worked best. Last week, the bite was good at Porcupine Bay, but Long Lake is flushing water and the resultant flow has turned the Spokane Arm brown.
Leader Lake near Okanogan, Bonaparte Lake east of Tonasket, Palmer Lake near Loomis and Patterson Lake near Winthrop are popular mixed species lakes in the winter with intermittent snow plowing of the parking access sites.
Anglers frequently target panfish in addition to recently stocked rainbow and tiger trout. Kokanee in Bonaparte, Palmer and Patterson are steadily growing in popularity. Sidley and Molson lakes near Molson are generously stocked each fall with catchable trout.
Lake Chelan has been producing a few limits of kokanee, but fishing there has not heated up yet. The best fishing is for cutthroat trout, and you don’t have to be in a boat to catch them. Casting spinners, spoons and jigs around docks, bridges and riprap shorelines can be productive. Only cutthroat that have had their adipose fin clipped are legal to keep on Lake Chelan.
Roses Lake in Chelan County was recently stocked with catchable-sized rainbow, brown and tiger trout. They should provide good fishing from shore, boat or through the ice (when there is some). Fish Lake, also in Chelan County, is popular for rainbow trout and yellow perch. There is not a safe ice cover, but it will provide good ice fishing if/when there is.
The Antilon lakes, about 5 miles north of Manson, can provide some good ice fishing for crappie and brown trout once there is enough ice. The road to these lakes is typically gated in the winter at the snow park, so access is about a quarter-mile by foot or snow machine to the lower lake and about 1½ miles to the upper lake.
Salmon and steelhead
The Snake River and the Clearwater River have seen some decent steelhead fishing. The Clearwater bumped up after the big rain on Monday but should settle back into fishable levels if the wet stays away.
It has seen some big B-runs caught recently. January steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River can have some of the best catching all season. The Snake wasn’t affected as much by the rain. The Grande Ronde levels have also been up but should be back down now.
Part of Curlew Lake was frozen, though sloppy at midweek and ice fishermen out from the state park were catching 8- to 13-inch perch. The ice north of the island was only about 3 inches thick last week and could be unsafe at this time. The trout bite has been good for fish ranging 8-16 inches. Most of these have copepods (a small, white external parasite). They detract from the appearance of the trout but do not affect the fish in any other way and are completely natural to many fresh water lakes.
Lakes that had safe ice last week are a big maybe. As a resort owner once said to me when I asked him if I could ice fish, “Sure you can, but leave your wallet.”
Walleye fishing on Moses Lake near the western I-90 bridge has been good for anglers using 3- to 4-inch grubs fished on the bottom. Some walleyes over 22 inches have been reported.
Lake whitefish in Lake Roosevelt and Banks Lake provide a good winter fishery. In January, they spawn in groups 40 to 50 feet below the surface. The smaller river variety of whitefish is numerous in the Little Spokane and Kettle rivers. A video put out by WDFW called “Fishing for Whitefish in Washington” has tips on catching these fish, as well as information on whitefish biology, management, gear and habitat.
Burbot fishing on Lake Roosevelt also heats up in winter, in particular near the mouth of the Colville and Spokane rivers. Bead and Sullivan lakes in Pend Oreille County also have burbot.
They can be caught through the ice or by casting jigs or plunking bait from shore. The burbot fishing video put out by WDFW has tips for catching these delicious fish.
Hunters wanting to participate in this spring’s controlled hunts for black bear in Idaho can apply from Jan. 15 through Feb. 15. Spring 2021 bear controlled hunt information is in the 2020 Idaho Big Game Seasons and Rules book.
I haven’t been bird hunting since last week’s mud wrestling adventure in the Palouse, but a friend who hunted near Steptoe on Tuesday said he saw a few wild cock pheasants and “tons of hens.”
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