Allen Petersen of Swede’s Fly Shop said there’s not too much going on.
“The fish slow way down in the cold, just like most of us,” he reported.
For those willing to brave the frigid temps, he suggested Fourth of July Lake. Streamers and a woolly bugger might be just enough to entice a sluggish, 18-inch rainbow to strike. Wherever you choose to try your luck, make sure you’re using sinking lines to get your offer deep.
Grant County’s Rocky Ford Creek and Lincoln County’s Crab Creek are among the few winter options, although heavy rains can easily blow out the latter. Rocky Ford would be best with midge pupa or small euro jigs. Target Crab Creek the same, however, you might throw red Copper Johns or Hotbead Pat’s Rubbers into the mix.
Bigger flows on the Grande Ronde and Clearwater Rivers have nearly shut down fishing. Silver Bow Fly shop recommends waiting a few days to allow things to settle down. The same thing goes for the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene. The Snake River, however, is still fishable.
Trout and kokanee
The fishing for triploids on Rufus Woods has been phenomenal this year and should continue through the winter. Boaters can run down from the launch at Seaton’s Grove to fish the net pens, and shore anglers can fish above Chief Joseph Dam or Brandts Landing.
The incipient rumors of big kokanee in Lake Roosevelt this winter appear to have some elements of truth. Fishing for these usually begins above Keller where, as the year progresses and the reservoir is lowered, they follow the daphnia (a form of plankton) as they are pulled down to the lower end. This past weekend, anglers trolling dodgers and hoochies with corn out of Spring Canyon managed a limit of large kokanee, including a nearly 4-pound lunker. Supporting pictures of 18- to 22-inch fish helped quell any disbelief.
Lake Chelan kokanee aren’t as large as those in Lake Roosevelt, but there are more of them. They average about 11 inches, and you can also add a limit of cutthroat, as they are numerous all over the lake this year. The kokanee can be found just above the Yacht Club and will move further down lake by early spring.
Billy Clapp Lake has rainbow that average 16 inches and some that measure in the 20s.
Launching can be difficult, though, due to the drawdown and the sandy surface. Most anglers start by trolling crank baits above the big basalt island.
Bonaparte Lake is one of the few Washington lakes with safe ice. In addition to trout and kokanee, Bonaparte holds some big mackinaw and tiger trout.
Rat Lake is not far from Brewster and offers excellent fishing for rainbow trout. It is open through the winter and usually gets a good layer of ice by midwinter.
Fish Lake, near Lake Wenatchee, is one of the most popular ice fishing lakes in the Okanogan. Just 20 miles from Leavenworth, it has a reputation for excellent perch fishing in the winter, but rainbow trout are also taken here, as are triploid rainbow that can weigh several pounds.
Rock Lake still had a significant concentration of debris muddying the waters from last week’s harsh weather, but that hasn’t stymied fishermen from chasing rainbows. Those having the best success experimented with flashers and Pro-Troll Strike Lites to cut through the reduced visibility. Dragging an OG1 perch-pattern 20 feet down behind this inventive combination handily brought limits of 12- to 14-inch trout aboard.
Pete Fisher of MarDon Resort reports the best trout fishing has been right out in front of Potholes State Park. He recommends trolling a No. 7 Flicker Shad 100 feet out the back of the boat, but flashy perch patterns have also been popular. Tossing marshmallows and PowerBait off the shore to hang 18 inches off the bottom at Medicare Beach is also a good choice for landlocked anglers. For more information about fish activity in the area, call the MarDon Tackle Store at (509) 346-2651.
Salmon and steelhead
Clearwater steelhead fishing has slowed significantly with the recent influx of water. Reports of any successes have been slim to none. The same disappointing reports have come in from other areas.
Curlew Lake ice is building with the current drop in temperatures, ranging from 5 to 8 inches, depending on locations. Anglers who are not reluctant to move around have found large schools of perch in 35-40 feet of water. Most are running in the 8- to 10-inch range, but a handful closer to 13 have been pulled from the ice. Don’t sit at a “dry” hole too long. Sometimes moving just a few yards will mean the difference between a few fish and a bucket full.
Friends fishing the ice at Thomas Lake in Stevens County had mild success on perch and crappie, with one of the latter measuring out at a chunky 13.5 inches. They assured me the ice there is plenty thick and stable, well over 8 inches, but warned of the exceptionally slick top surface. A bad fall dulled the day’s fishing successes and they were forced to leave early to find something for the pain. Liquor or a doctor, they never specified. Perhaps it was both.
Lake Roosevelt walleye fishing is slowly picking up in the Spokane Arm and up near Kettle Falls. Most action comes from jigging blade baits or curly-tailed grubs. Whichever rig you choose, send it down fast, then use a sharp, upward motion to jig off the bottom and attract hungry eyes.
For big burbot, Palmer Lake is the place to go. Veteran Palmer Lake anglers like to catch some of the redside chubs that inhabit the lake and use chunks of them for bait. Palmer also produces excellent catches of yellow perch and rainbow.
While the Washington upland game season for quail, chukars, pheasant and gray partridge has closed, those same options are still available in neighboring Idaho through Jan. 31.
Don’t forget about completing mandatory harvest reports in Washington and Idaho as the seasons wrap up. In Washington, such reporting allows the WDFW to better manage game species throughout the state and set permit levels for upcoming seasons. Hunter reports can be submitted either online through the Wild Licensing System at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, or by phone at 877-945-3492. Report deadline dates can be found on the WDFW website. Failure to report will incur a $10 administrative fee.
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