Eastern Washington: The Eastern regions four winter-only season rainbow trout lakes that traditionally open on the first of December have this year, for the first time, been providing legal catches since Black Friday, Nov. 27. The Friday after Thanksgiving Day is the new opener for Fourth of July Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line, southwest Spokane Countys Hog Canyon Lake, and Stevens Countys Hatch and Williams lakes.
With recent cold daytime and nighttime temperatures, all of the lakes have some ice near shorelines and in shaded areas but not necessarily enough to safely fish through the ice. Forecasted warming trends could make ice cover even more hazardous so anglers are advised to be cautious and use common sense.
Randy Osborne, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) central district fish biologist in Spokane, says anglers who cast from shore or launch small boats on Fourth of July Lake have good opportunities for rainbows ranging from 10 to 24 inches. Hog Canyon has 11- to 14-inch rainbows. Both lakes are under special regulations that limit the daily catch of five trout to include only two over 14 inches. Osborne reminds anglers to be careful not only with ice conditions at these lakes, but also to avoid blocking gates with vehicles and to pack out any trash.
Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, says Hatch Lake usually provides rainbows in the 12- to 16-inch range and, if cold conditions persist, they might be caught through the ice. Williams Lake may not be as productive and remains open water longer, but it usually gets a boost of nice-sized hatchery fish in the fall. Both lakes have a five-trout daily catch limit with no size restrictions.
Osborne notes that several year-round-open fishing waters are productive this month. Rainbow trout fishing on Lake Spokane (Long Lake) should continue to be good. Access is limited during lower water conditions, but anglers continue to catch 10-16 inch rainbows that were part of the 10-year annual cooperative stocking effort between Avista and WDFW.
Rock Lake in Whitman County and Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line also continue to produce good catches of trout in December.
Once ice conditions become safe, some year-round lakes will be great for through-the-ice catches of other fish, Osborne said. Silver Lake in southwest Spokane County and Eloika Lake in northern Spokane County should produce some decent yellow perch, although perch at Eloika Lake will likely be slightly larger. Newman Lake in eastern Spokane County should have some decent fishing for black crappie if anglers can locate them.
December 1 marks the opening of whitefish season on the Little Spokane River between Hwy. 291 upstream to the West Branch tributary. Osborne reminds anglers that whitefish gear rules apply here one single-point hook, maximum hook size 14 (3/16-inch point to shank).
WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman notes year-round-open, trout-stocked Spring and Blue lakes off the Tucannon River in Columbia County are icing up with recent cold temperatures, but shoreline anglers should be careful before venturing out.
Snake River steelhead fishing usually continues to be productive in some areas this month, despite drops in water temperatures that usually slow fish movements and biting action.