The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s 53rd annual Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show runs March 21-24, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
• Your 2012 fishing and hunting licenses expire at the end of March. These and the Discover Pass are available online ( https://fishhunt.dfw. wa.gov/), by phone (866-320-9933) and from license dealers around the state.
Between now and early June, fisheries all over Montana will serve up some of their finest moments before snowmelt runoff begins. The Bitterroot River and Rock Creek (near Missoula) start to turn on right about now.
In Idaho, the Coeur d’Alene River is a decent option. Cutthroat fishing has been very good near the Cataldo Mission – anything black. Double nymph rigs and slow moving streamers will be most consistent, but on sunny days there has been enough bug activity to get some fish looking up. Hatches are inconsistent, however, and water quality can change overnight if it rains.
The best places for late-season steelhead should be the Clearwater above Orofino, the Salmon, the Methow or the Wenatchee.
Salmon and steelhead
Despite modest run-size forecasts, this year’s spring chinook fishery is off to an early start on the lower Columbia River. Fishing will continue to ramp up through March, as the bulk of the run moves in from the ocean, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The main stem Columbia remains open from Rock Island Dam to below Wells Dam and from the Highway 173 Bridge in Brewster to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
The Methow River, a selective fishery, is a favorite of fly fishermen, but bobber and jigs as well as Corky and yarn have also been productive.
The Okanogan River is open to steelhead fishing, but there are two short sections of the river that will close on March 17. See the WDFW website for the boundaries. The Wenatchee River remains open and the fishing has been very good at times. Fishing is best now in the upper reaches.
The Grande Ronde River was up a little on Thursday, but the color was good and steelhead were being taken. Area weather patterns showed a lot of sun.
Boat and bank anglers are catching some steelhead on both The Dalles Pool and the John Day Pool. The Snake River in Hells Canyon has been fair for steelhead. The Salmon River is also fair upstream from the East Fork.
Coeur d’Alene Lake chinook running up to 10 pounds are being caught on herring or plugs trolled in the top 30 feet of water. The good bite is just getting started.
Trout and kokanee
Liberty Lake trout anglers are fishing open water for browns and rainbows, but it doesn’t seem as many fish have been caught as last year at this time. Those fishing from shore are catching trout on worms and marshmallows on bottom, and trollers take an occasional brown to 19 inches.
Deer Lake ice was good on the opener, but there were very few anglers participating. Judging by the fat 13- to 20-inch rainbow being caught, Deer should delight trout anglers once the lake opens up. Ice fishing access at Deer is very limited, but there is parking available at Deer Lake Resort on Deer Lake Road.
All boat ramps on Potholes Reservoir are ice free. Bank fishermen are finding trout up to 28 inches. Reports of big trout come from the point at the Blythe Boat launch and between MarDon Resort and the Potholes State Park. A popular trolling rig for the big trout is a spinner and worm harness, much like that used for walleye. The fish are suspended from 15 feet to the surface.
Trout fishermen are still having good luck at Upper Goose Lake in Grant County. Recently opened Quincy Wildlife lakes like Caliche, Martha and Burke have been consistently good for 11-13-inch rainbow. At the Quincy Valley Tourism’s annual trout derby on Burke, Dan Sharf took first place with two trout that weighed over 8 pounds. The biggest was 6½ pounds. Many limits were recorded.
All Seven Tucannon Lakes in Columbia County fished well last weekend. The majority of rainbow were 8-9 inch plants, but there were also jumbos and carryovers caught.
Trout fishermen throwing Rapalas are having good success on Rock Lake with 12- to 20-inch browns being most common. Rock also has some nice rainbow, but a lot of smaller rainbow plants are hitting. Friends who fished the big lake over the weekend said they were surprised to catch three kokanee in addition to the trout.
Sprague Lake anglers are taking nice rainbow around the springs on the east end.
Banks Lake had only a thin layer of ice on the extreme south end at midweek and a little on the north end. Anglers targeting rainbow in shallow water are catching some big fish. Prime areas are near Coulee Playland, Barker Canyon and the riprap shorelines of the Devils Punchbowl. Crankbaits are effective this time of year.
Lake Roosevelt and Rufus Woods Triploid have been on and off. On Rufus, troll, jig, or dunk bait in shallow water, and remember these fish are lethargic. On Roosevelt, lures such as the Trout Killer in pink trolled behind a dodger have been taking fish. Friends trolled on Roosevelt out of Lincoln this week but didn’t catch any trout until they pulled the boat into a bay and fished from shore with bait. They said all five fish they caught were 3 pounds and better. Another excellent bank fishing report came from anglers throwing Power Bait at Hawk Creek.
Eloika Lake is probably the best remaining bet for perch fishing as the ice remains solid at about 9 inches. Fishing was good this week in the middle of the lake out from Jerry’s Landing. Anglers are finding fish from top to bottom. There is some open water around the edges.
Silver Lake is beginning to open up near the boat launch. A friend who lives on the lake said on Thursday: “There was a perch fisherman on the lake today, but you wouldn’t catch me out there.”
Walleye fishing on Lake Roosevelt was slow this week just about everywhere. Jigging has been more effective than trolling as the fish are in 40-50 feet of water. Anglers have been having their best luck downstream of the Porcupine Bay launch. Some anglers speculate the upriver progression of walleye on Roosevelt may be slower this year because of the lack of drawdown.
Walleye anglers are also having limited early-season action on Potholes Reservoir.
Lake Coeur d’Alene pike are cruising the shallow bays. Herring under a bobber is the go-to rig. Ice fishing is pretty much over in the Panhandle.
Tip of the week
You can make those expensive salmon eggs last longer if you remove all the oxygen from the jar when you’re through fishing for the day. To do this, light a paper match, put it in the jar and screw on the lid.
Although I drilled a hole alongside them on the March 1 opener at Deer Lake, I was outfished by lake residents Debbie Stewart and Cheryl Ring. Stewart caught more than I, and Ring caught a rainbow that weighed 3½ pounds. Supposedly, I had gone to Deer to show them how to ice fish.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has decided to increase the daily catch limit for walleye from eight to 16 fish in Lake Roosevelt and a portion of the Spokane River. The rule also opens that portion of the Spokane River to the harvest of walleye year-round. The commission has removed the daily catch limit for channel catfish and the daily catch and size limits for bass and walleye in portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers and their tributaries to assist recovery efforts for salmon and steelhead.
Contact Alan Liere by email at firstname.lastname@example.org