Steelhead anglers are putting in a lot of hours on the Snake and Clearwater rivers with little success. A bright spot is Hells Canyon, where backtrolled plugs have accounted for some decent catches.
Fishing for steelhead in northcentral Washington continues through February on three waterways: 1) the mainstem Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to the boundary markers below Wells Dam and from Highway 173 Bridge in Brewster to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam; 2) the Okanogan River from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville; and 3) the Similkameen River from the mouth upstream to 400 feet below Enloe Dam. Steelheading is slow in the mainstem Columbia River above Brewster.
WDFW Chelan District Fish Biologist Travis Maitland reports steelheading on the Upper Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to Wells Dam has been slow.
Anglers continue to catch some hatchery steelhead at Ringold. Catch rates should pick up in late February or early March as the weather warms. The lower Snake River is also open for the retention of hatchery steelhead through March 31.
Tiny jigs tipped with bright green Power Bait have outfished other offerings recently on Hatch Lake in Stevens County. Anglers at Hog Canyon are using similar offerings. The Hog Canyon bite has slowed considerably, but Fourth of July keeps humming along.
Two friends who fished out of Spring Canyon last week were disappointed when they only caught three rainbow, especially when they learned about the three anglers in the boat nearby who landed eight large kokanee and seven trout. Turns out my friends were fishing 3-4 colors of leaded line which would have put them well below the Lake Roosevelt “zone,” which has consistently been 10 feet and shallower. Most of the action recently has been in and near the bay by the launch.
Rock Lake in Whitman County has been consistent through the winter for rainbow and brown trout catches. Sprague Lake ice fishermen are not finding many trout.
A few anglers are catching suspended triploids near the lower net pens on Rufus Woods Reservoir. Unbaited jigs are working.
Waitts Lake in southern Stevens County is providing decent catches of brown and rainbow trout.
Waitts Lake perch have been difficult to find all winter, but savvy anglers are beginning to zero in on them all the way across the lake along the west shoreline in about 14 feet of water. The fish are in the 8- 10-inch range.
Most of the Eloika Lake ice-fishing effort is concentrated 150 yards out and slightly north of the public access and slightly north of Jerry’s Landing. A lot of bass are being caught on assorted jigs baited with worms, maggots or fish eyes.
A friend with a fish locater said he found fish stacked up 6 feet deep on bottom at 45 feet in Silver Lake, but after one or two were caught, the rest got lockjaw. The trick is to drill lots of holes.
The Chain Lakes in Idaho have had decent pike fishing at times, but the good ice has been under slush and there is even some open water in Kilarney. Ice on Fernan Lake has also been slushy on top. Perch fishing has been decent for 9-inchers in 20 feet of water along the far bank.
The Columbia River walleye fishery is just beginning. On Lake Roosevelt, walleye anglers are catching “eating size” fish in Porcupine Bay in 35-45 feet of water.
This is prime time to fish for whitefish. A white fly tipped with a maggot will take them from practically any area river open to fishing. In south central Washington, they are abundant in the Yakima River upstream from Union Gap, the Naches and the Tieton. In eastern Washington, try the Kettle, the Tucannon and the Little Spokane. In Idaho, the Coeur d’Alene, the Clark Fork and the Clearwater all have good whitefish populations.
The deep hole just down river from Buoy 5 in the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt is kicking out burbot at a fast pace. Bead Lake, north of Newport is also producing burbot for anglers jigging deep water under the power lines.
Tip of the week
If you’re thinking of applying for an Idaho controlled hunt but aren’t sure where to go, check out IDFG Hunt Planner at fishandgame.idaho. gov/ifwis/ huntplanner/. The site offers detailed information on every big-game management unit in the state, including maps, drawing odds and harvest statistics.
Although ice fishing was generally slow at Hatch Lake last weekend, 5-year-old Jake Gilstrap, a Central Valley kindergartener, caught his first trout, a 13-inch rainbow. Jake was also a bit of a hero, grabbing his father’s fishing rod as a trout drug it toward the hole, thus landing his second fish of the day.
During a public meeting today and Saturday, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will ponder nearly 70 proposed sportfishing rule changes, including one that is intended to boost the harvest of walleye, smallmouth bass and channel catfish in the mid and upper Columbia and lower Snake rivers to reduce predation on protected salmon and steelhead. The WFWC will take public comment on proposed changes to the state’s sportfishing rules during this meeting in Olympia. To review the proposed rules, as well as the comments already received, visit WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ regulations/rule_ proposals/
• The Feb. 13 meeting of the Spokane Fly Fishers will feature Davy Wotton talking about fishing tailwaters and soft-hackle flies. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier School, 1104 W. Heroy.
• The ninth annual NW Ice Fishing Festival on Molson and Sidley lakes will be Feb 16. Info: Robin Stice (509) 485-4002 or info@ edenvalleyranch.net.
• The Wenatchee and Icicle rivers open today for steelhead fishing. Whitefish also open today in the Wenatchee.
Contact Alan Liere @ spokesmanliere @yahoo.com