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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Alan Liere’s fishing-hunting report for March 9

By Alan Liere For The Spokesman-Review

Fly fishing

Anglers should find good fishing at Rocky Ford Creek near Soap Lake. This is a catch-and-release, fly-fishing-only stream, and only fishing from the bank is allowed. There are plenty of 16- to 20-inch rainbow trout in this stream and a few hundred larger (4-pound plus) fish that were recently stocked.

Cold temperatures are keeping bug hatches down on area rivers, but nymphing and streamers are still dredging up trout in the Spokane and North Fork Coeur d’Alene rivers.

Open water fishing

Fishing for sea-run cutthroat trout in Puget Sound, Hood Canal and coastal estuaries using light tackle spinning or fly fishing gear is a unique angling activity. March is a great time to pursue these anadromous cutthroat as they will be in shallow water feeding aggressively on chum fry and other baby salmon. Look for sea-run cutthroat over oyster beds and cobble beaches near streams or smaller rivers. Silver, green and brown flies or small spoons imitate chum fry. Barbless hooks and catch-and-release are required.

Fishing at Lake Roosevelt will get better as the weather warms up. The spring drawdown of the lake by the Bureau of Reclamation starts in March, depending on conditions, so call (509) 754-7800 to make sure boat ramps are usable.

Downs Lake in southwest Spokane County is usually the first to melt as it is just 12 feet deep. In addition to rainbows, Downs has a good largemouth bass fishery in early spring.

Some of the year’s biggest walleye are caught in the Columbia River in the late winter/early spring. These fish are now preparing to spawn and are nearing their highest weight of the year.

Walleye are usually caught this time of year in Lake Wallula, Lake Umatilla, Lake Herbert G West and Scooteney Reservoir. Spots to try for walleye in the Tri-Cities area are the Snake River downstream to Badger Island and from McNary Dam downstream to Boardman.

Snake and Columbia walleye fishing has been good at times lately on both rivers.

Ice fishing

As the month progresses, many ice-covered lakes will open up and WDFW hatchery staff will spend the month stocking them with rainbow trout.

You can find which lakes have been stocked by checking the WDFW Catchable Trout Plant reports web page.

Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County, stays iced over sometimes well into the month but is known for great brown trout fishing in March when it does open up. Deer Lake, southeast of Chewelah, is best for brook and rainbow trout in earlier March, then lake trout later in the month when things start to warm up a little. Right now, there is a lot of ice.

Toward the end of March, Amber Lake in southwest Spokane County is consistently good for rainbow and cutthroat trout. Amber is under selective gear rules, and there is a one trout over 18 inches daily limit from March 1 through Nov. 30. Boat motors are prohibited at Amber.

At the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in southeast Washington’s Columbia County, the lakes were ice free in late February, but the weather is unpredictable so call the Last Resort at (509) 843-1556 before heading out to fish this month. Blue, Spring, Rainbow, Deer and Watson lakes were stocked in the fall so should offer some good early spring fishing.

Idaho anglers are catching good numbers of kokanee from Spirit Lake, accessing the fishing area at Nautical Loop.

Salmon and steelhead

Steelheading has been fair on the Clearwater and Grande Ronde rivers. The Grande Ronde is in good shape. Some big B-runs have been taken recently from the Clearwater.

Coho returns on the Washington coast are expected to grow in 2023 to just over 519,329, up from the forecast of 454,693 fish a year ago. Coho returning to Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor are expected to be up overall this year, while the number of natural-origin Grays Harbor coho is expected to be similar to 2022 returns.

Coho returns to Puget Sound and surrounding rivers are forecast to be up in 2023 at about 760,000 wild and hatchery coho, above the 10-year average.

Pink salmon, which return to Puget Sound only in odd-numbered years, will offer good opportunities for anglers in 2023. The total prediction for pinks returning throughout the region is about 3.95 million fish, similar to the 3.77 million that returned in 2021.

The total return of fall chinook to the Columbia River is expected to be similar to the recent three-year returns.

That includes about 272,400 “upriver bright” fall chinook that are expected to return to areas of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam, an increase from the 254,880 that returned in 2022.

Contact Alan Liere at