If you’re bent on fly fishing local rivers now, Silver Bow Fly Shop says to slowly strip streamers or nymphs through deeper, slower slots. For both, the most important factor is weight – if it isn’t down deep you might as well go home. Stones, Worms, Princes, and Copper Johns will work all winter.
Rocky Ford is always fishable – try strip streamers, scuds, midge pupa, or small nymphs. Try a slower, longer strip when it’s real cold, but speed it up when it warms up.
Fly fishing for steelhead is not a good option now on the Grande Ronde as it has iced up, but the Snake River is a great swing option.
The hard water season is finally kicking off with reports of fishable ice at Eloika. A friend who lives on the lake said there was a solid five inches on Tuesday, and several anglers were on the ice just out from Jerry’s Landing. Early in the season, the perch bite is usually pretty good.
Silver, Hatch, and Fourth of July in Washington, and Upper and Lower Twin, Hayden, Fernan and Avondale in Idaho have good ice. Of these, Avondale has had the best fishing with lots of rainbow trout showing. The perch bite has been light. At Silver, you may need to stick to the bay just to the left of the public access until the ice cap over deeper water gets thicker. The stick-ups directly across the lake and to the right should be well iced over, however.
Keep your eye on Roses Lake in the Chelan area. It holds rainbow trout and perch and gets good ice most years. Patterson Lake to the north has trout, kokanee, bass and perch. So does Bonaparte Lake near the town of Tonasket, and it also has mackinaw. Bead Lake has kokes and macks and provides one of the best burbot ice fisheries in the state. It is very deep, though, and it takes a long time for safe ice to form under the power lines where most of the fishing takes place.
Most ice fishermen are anxious to get onto Curlew Lake near the town of Republic for a go at the big perch there. On Wednesday, Curlew had an ice cap with just a dusting of snow, and it is possible it may be angler-safe by the weekend. To my knowledge, the only access in winter is at the State Park.
The small lakes near Sandpoint, which are usually some of the first to freeze, received a heavy snow cover last week which probably prevented good ice from forming. Tread lightly if you’re of a mind to try one of them.
Salmon and steelhead
Steelhead anglers side-drifting scented yarn balls or cured eggs are finding a bite now and then on the Snake River above Heller Bar. The same offerings are bringing a few Clearwater River steelhead to net.
Trout and kokanee
Anglers trolling Lake Roosevelt within sight of the Seven Bays Marina have been finding trout in the middle of the reservoir as well as along the shoreline. The fish are still no deeper than 15 feet. Preferences vary from day to day, but the Muddler Minnow or Kekeda fly, Apex, Rippin’ Minnow or Rapala will be the hot offering on a given day.
Lake Chelan trollers are finding kokanee from 50 feet down to 150 feet over deeper water from Mill Bay to 25 Mile Creek.
The swimming area at Spring Canyon has been good for bank fishermen lately. Many of the trout are only a foot or so in length, but fish to 18 inches have also been beached. Lake Roosevelt has been near full pool for quite a while, and while the fish are more dispersed than they were last year, fishing from shore has been generally productive.
Brandts Landing on Rufus Woods Reservoir continues to attract bank fishermen. Jigs and bobbers have worked at times, but most anglers cast Power Bait on a heavy sinker and let it sit. The fish are smaller this year than last.
The Rock Lake launch hasn’t improved with the snow, and boats over 16 feet long are nearly impossible to get into the water. Take gravel and hip boots to make things a little easier. Once the launching ordeal has been conquered, trolling the top 15 feet for rainbow and browns is reported to be very good. Shore fishermen are also taking trout at the access.
Moses Lake is iced over, but as of Wednesday no one was venturing out to fish. Before the freeze, anglers in boats were getting into some of the smaller perch near the I-90 Bridge, but it is now impossible to launch.
Walleye anglers report moderate success in the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt, where they are also taking a few incidental burbot on jigs baited with nightcrawlers.
Clam diggers can make plans for a two-day razor clam dig on Washington’s coastal beaches over the New Year’s holiday, with minus evening tides in store for Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks on Sunday and Twin Harbor and Mocrocks only on Monday.
Westport surf and jetty anglers are finding some red-tailed perch despite high wave action. Berkley Gulp Sandworms are mentioned as the best bait in several reports.
There are two species of whitefish in Washington and Idaho waters – the lake whitefish and the mountain whitefish. Both are largely underfished but delicious. They are oily, like a kokanee, and while many do not care for them pan fried, they rival the kokanee when smoked.
Lake whitefish, the larger of the two species, are found in Lake Roosevelt, Rufus Woods, and major irrigation lakes of the Columbia Basin including Banks, Soda and Billy Clapp. In the winter, they congregate in shallow water to spawn.
Currently, good numbers are being taken from the north end of Banks Lake, old Devil’s Lake on Banks Lake, and the upper end of Soda Lake. Once you locate the fish you can anchor up and vertically jig for them with small jigging spoons such as Swedish Pimple. If fishing on the bank, use a slip float or slip sinker rig.
Mountain whitefish are found in moving water, where they will readily take a fly.
The Methow and Yakima rivers have good numbers, as do the Kettle and parts of the Little Spokane. Some anglers target them on the Hanford Reach, taking huge numbers in the winter. The streams of North Idaho such as the North Fork Coeur d’Alene and the Clearwater also offer good whitefish angling in the winter.
A friend who hunted the McNary Reserve last Wednesday said he and a buddy shot only four divers and heard very few shots from any of the other assigned blinds. The Patterson area of the Umatilla Wildlife Refuge has been better, but bird numbers fluctuate daily and quickly according to the weather. All in all, the Columbia River seems to be the place to be. Ringold should be good.
Contact Alan Liere at email@example.com