Nymphs or streamers will be your best bet now on the Big Spokane, but soft hackle caddis pupa and Copper Johns will find fish. Fishing is decent rather than great, with the best luck coming after noon.
The North Fork Coeur d’Alene is decent for this time of year – which is to say it is not bad for cold water, but certainly not great. Go deep and slow with flashy nymphs.
Salmon and steelhead
The Grande Ronde, Snake and Clearwater have all had fair steelheading at times, but the rainy weather could adversely affect the water level and the fishing, especially on the two smaller rivers. Friends fishing from shore for steelhead at Wawawai Landing last week said there were zero take-downs. A fish checker there said he had not seen a fish caught in several days.
Trout and kokanee
Lake Roosevelt shore fishermen have been doing almost as well as the boaters. The usual spots – Hanson Harbor, Fort Spokane, Lincoln and Spring Canyon – are producing. Anglers say the early-morning bite is best, often slowing down and picking up again around noon. Several of the trout have been more than 20 inches.
Rufus Woods is another place where shore anglers have been doing well. One of the nicest, most convenient spots is Brandt Landing, near Chief Joseph Dam. It has good access as well as picnic tables and fire boxes. Use a nightcrawler, shrimp, marshmallow or Power Bait on a single hook with a heavy egg sinker, cast out and let it sit. The only problem with the spot is that like everywhere on Rufus Woods Reservoir, the limit is two, and sometimes you’re done fishing in an hour. Some of these triploids are 18 inches long, and others stretch a foot. Of course, there’s always the chance a fish in the teens will take the bait.
Sprague Lake continues to kick out rainbow trout up to 24 inches. Flat-lined Rippin’ Minnows have been effective. Anglers at Sprague say they have seen few if any of the steelhead planted a couple of years ago. Theoretically, rainbow trout and steelhead are the same fish once they have been planted in land-locked waters, but there is no denying the steelhead are more slender. The fish being caught at Sprague are fat.
Waitts Lake trout are not as large as those in some of the year-round waters, but this little lake, even in winter, is a consistent producer of brown and rainbow trout and it is open through February. The fish are still up in the water column, and a trolled fly or fly and flasher at about 20 feet will bring hits if a little piece of worm is added. When Waitts freezes, the fish are deeper and ice fishing can be decent, though not fast.
Three lakes in Okanogan County open for catch-and-keep trout fishing Friday. Rat Lake near Brewster and Big and Little Green lakes near Omak switched from a catch-and-release regulation to a five-trout daily catch limit.
Pend Oreille Lake is the place to be this winter for large trout. The recently concluded fall derby weighed in a lot of rainbow and mackinaw more than 10 pounds. The rainbow are up high in the water column and the macks are on the bottom.
The small trout lakes in the Idaho Panhandle are still good for a trout or two. Cocolalla has a nice variety that includes rainbow, browns, cutthroat and brookies. Spirit Lake is mostly known as a kokanee fishery, but anglers there are catching some nice-sized cutthroat as well as smaller brookies.
There has been a good whitefish bite lately for large fish on the Columbia River near Ringold. There are also good spots between Vernita and Priest Rapids.
A good walleye bite has developed recently at Seaton’s Grove on Rufus Woods Reservoir, but it has slowed considerably on Lake Roosevelt, as it has on the Columbia. A few walleyes – some quite large – have been taken recently from the Snake River near Lyons Ferry.
Jerk baits and swim baits will still take northern pike from Lake Coeur d’Alene. Although the weed beds have fallen over, the toothsome fish are still in the vicinity.
Recreational crabbing remains open in Washington’s coastal waters as well as in several areas of Puget Sound, but state shellfish managers have delayed the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery on Washington’s coast because recent testing indicates crabs there do not have sufficient meat in their shells to meet industry standards for harvest. The fishery will be delayed until at least Dec. 16 to allow more time for crabs to fill with more meat. Contrary to an erroneous news report, WDFW did not delay the commercial crab fishery because of a harmful algae bloom.
Evening razor clam digs have been approved for four Washington beaches. Copalis will be open Friday. Long Beach, Mocrocks and Twin Harbor digs will be Saturday and Monday. Long Beach, Twin Harbor and Copalis will be open on Sunday.
Idaho Fish and Game commissioners have rescinded a proposal that would allow hunters to forgo prepaying moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat tags when applying for those controlled hunts in the spring. Those hunts will remain under the existing rules, which means residents and nonresidents must pay the application fee and tag fee to apply, as well as have a valid hunting license.
The mild weather is definitely a boon for Washington and Idaho duck hunters. For the first time in several years, the ducks are arriving and small potholes remain open. Friends have also reported excellent goose hunting in Lincoln, Spokane, Grant and Whitman counties.
Washington turkey hunters have until Dec. 15 to take their fall bird. Huge flocks have been seen recently in the wheat stubble throughout the Inland Empire and to the north into Idaho.
Chukars have been scarce this year in Washington, but a friend who hunts the rugged Salmon River breaks near Riggins, Idaho, said the canyons there are loaded. He is seeing 10 times as many birds as he has seen before.
Contact Alan Liere at firstname.lastname@example.org