Fishing: Spring chinook fishing on the Snake River gets under way later this month, followed by the lowland lakes season opener on April 28. Hundreds of thousands of trout will be waiting in lakes throughout the region when anglers hit the water for opening day.
Best bets in the central district include Badger, Williams, West Medical, Fishtrap and Clear lakes, which will be well-stocked and grow fish well, said John Whalen, regional fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
In Stevens County, Whalen recommends Waitts, Loon, Deep, Cedar, Potter’s Pond, Bayley, Rocky, Starvation and the Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes. In Ferry County, he likes Ellen, Davis, Swan and Trout lakes, and favors Diamond, Frater, Big Meadow, North and South Skookum, Marshall and Sacheen lakes favors in Pend Oreille County.
But anglers don’t have to wait until the end of April to catch some nice trout, Whalen said. Lots of lakes that opened for business March 1 are still producing well, he said.
For example, Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County is producing rainbow trout up to 22 inches, mostly on flies. Coffeepot is under selective gear rules (no bait, artificial flies and lures only, knotless nets), a minimum size limit of 18 inches and daily catch limit of one trout.
Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County offers good catches of brown trout that run up to 25 inches. Liberty still has lots of good fishing for both those trout and, as the water warms, some of the earliest yellow perch and crappie.
Downs Lake in southwest Spokane County receives hatchery “catchable-size” rainbow trout, but it should also fish well this month for largemouth bass. Downs also has yellow perch and crappie. Medical Lake, near the town of the same name in southwest Spokane County, has brown and rainbow trout.
Catch-and-release fishing on both rainbow and cutthroat trout at Amber Lake in southwest Spokane County has been good. Amber is under selective gear rules and shifts to a catch-and-keep season on April 28 when the daily limit is two trout of at least 14 inches. Rainbows with clipped adipose fins caught at Amber must be released even after April 28.
A year-round fishery at Rock Lake in Whitman County is consistently good for catches of both brown and rainbow trout.
Year-round Lake Roosevelt keeps producing big rainbows most days, with some kokanee and walleye. Anglers should keep in mind that the portion of the reservoir from the Kettle arm upstream to Barstow Bridge closes April 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day (May 25).
Deer Lake in southern Stevens County, which opened March 1, is finally warming up and likely producing some catches of rainbow and lake trout, with bass, crappie and perch catches not far behind.
In the south end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments, on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area, have been producing nice rainbow catches since opening March 1. Area manager Kari Dingman said Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes are all well-stocked with hatchery trout and slowly warming up as spring advances.
Anglers are reminded that all fishing rules in the 2011-2012 regulations pamphlet apply throughout the month of April. New rules take effect May 1, 2012, and will be available in pamphlets online and at license dealers later this month.
Anglers are also reminded that all 2011-2012 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers 15 years of age and older must purchase a 2012-13 license. Licenses and permits are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.
April 20 is the deadline for registration for the May 5 Kids’ Fishing Event at Clear Lake in Spokane County. For details on the registration form, see the Youth Fishing 2012 Event Calendar on WDFW’s website.
Meanwhile, four sections of the Snake River in southeast Washington will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon this month, starting April 20 with the stretch below Ice Harbor Dam. Three other sections of the river, near Little Goose Dam, Lower Granite Dam and Clarkston, will open April 25.
The daily catch limit for most of the open areas is two hatchery-reared adult chinook – marked with a clipped adipose fin – and four hatchery jacks measuring less than 24 inches. The exception is the area along the south shoreline of the Little Goose Dam (including “the wall”) upstream to the juvenile-bypass return pipe, where anglers may retain only one adult chinook salmon and one hatchery jack per day.
In all areas, anglers are required to use barbless hooks, and must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult chinook salmon. All chinook with the adipose fin intact, and all steelhead, must immediately be released unharmed.
Whalen said the fishery below Ice Harbor Dam is tentatively scheduled to remain open through May 24 – and through May 31 in the other areas – but may close earlier if impacts on wild stocks reach federal limits. “Our ability to closely monitor this fishery, as required by federal permit, is due in large part to funds from the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement,” Whalen said. “Without the monitoring, we wouldn’t be able to open this fishery.”
The section of the Snake River scheduled to open April 20 below Ice Harbor Dam extends from the Highway 12 bridge at Pasco upstream about seven miles to about 400 feet below the dam.
The three sections of the river scheduled to open April 25 are:
Near Little Goose Dam: From the railroad bridge approximately a half-mile downstream from the mouth of the Tucannon River, upriver to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam, and from Little Goose Dam to the Corps of Engineers boat launch approximately one mile upstream of Little Goose Dam. This zone includes the area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility and the walkway area locally known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility.
Below Lower Granite Dam: From Casey Creek Canyon Road in Garfield County (located about six miles downstream of Lower Granite Dam) to about 400 feet below Lower Granite Dam.
Near Clarkston: From the intersection of Steptoe Canyon Road with Highway 193 in Whitman County, upriver about 12 miles to the Idaho state line (identified as a line from the north end of the rock levee on the east side of the Greenbelt boat launch near the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office), northwest across the Snake River to the Idaho/Washington marker on the north shore.
Whalen strongly encourages anglers to review regulations specific to each area, posted on WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/. General fishing regulations for the Snake River effective through April 30 are available in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/). The new sport fishing rules pamphlet for 2012-13 will be available in stores and online May 1.