Eastern Washington: About a dozen lakes throughout the region open to fishing March 1, and depending on weather, most should be ready for action.
Six Tucannon River impoundments on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlifes (WDFW) Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes have thawed and are being stocked with trout, said area manager Kari Dingman. The only lake that may not receive fish before the first of March is Big Four, due to fluctuating river levels that make hatchery truck access difficult.
Throughout the spring these popular fishing lakes are stocked with both catchable size rainbow trout (10- to 12-inches or one-third pounders) and jumbo size (measuring more than 14 inches and weighing one pound each). From now through June, Big Four will receive a total of 2,000 catchables and 300 jumbos; Blue will get 16,000 catchables and 400 jumbos; Deer 2,650 catchables, 50 jumbos; Rainbow 13,000 catchables and 325 jumbos; Spring 9,000 catchables and 325 jumbos; Watson 14,500 catchables and 325 jumbos.
WDFW Tucannon Hatchery staff are also stocking other year-round-open fisheries in southeast Washington, including: Asotin Countys Golf Course and West Evans ponds; Columbia Countys Dam, Dayton Juvenile and Orchard ponds; Walla Walla Countys Bennington Lake and Hood Park, Jefferson Park, Lions Park and Quarry ponds; Franklin Countys Quarry and Dalton lakes and Marmes Pond; and Whitman Countys Pampa Pond.
Other March 1 opening fisheries in the region rely more on put, grow and take trout fry stocking, says WDFW Central District Fish Biologist Randy Osborne in Spokane. These are about 8-inch trout stocked last fall or spring that have grown and are ready to harvest in this season, he said.
Downs Lake, east of Sprague on the Lincoln/Spokane county line, should be stocked with 5,000 rainbows by the March 1 opener, if weather allows. Medical Lake, in southwest Spokane County, was stocked with 2,500 rainbows last May, and will be stocked with another 1,000, plus 2,000 brown trout this spring. Medical Lake is under selective gear rules, motors are prohibited, the minimum size limit for trout is 14 inches, and the daily catch limit is two trout.
Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County, received 5,000 brown trout and 13,500 rainbow trout fry last fall and will get 700 jumbo size browns this spring. Liberty is also being stocked this spring with 5,000 catchable and 150 jumbo rainbows.
Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County received 5,000 rainbow fry last spring, and will receive another 5,000 this year. Selective gear rules are in effect, plus an 18-inch minimum size and one-fish daily catch limit.
Amber Lake, in southwest Spokane County, opens for catch-and-release only fishing March 1, and then shifts to a two-trout-per-day harvest season in late April. Amber was stocked with 7,500 rainbows and 1,000 cutthroat trout last May.
Osborne also notes that March is the last month to fish the winter-only lakes in the region Hog Canyon Lake in Spokane County, Fourth of July Lake in Lincoln County, and Hatch and Williams lakes in Stevens County. These Dec. 1-March 31 fisheries are mostly ice-fishing opportunities, and this year Fourth of July has offered a little more action than Hog Canyon.
Most ice fishing action is happening at a couple of year-round-open fisheries in the district, Osborne said. Eloika Lake in north Spokane County and Silver Lake in southwest Spokane County, have been pretty good for yellow perch through the ice this winter. Catches vary, but most anglers who put in their time are successful. Both lakes have a ton of perch to catch, but the fish at Eloika are larger than those at Silver.
Osborne cautions that recent temperature swings have caused the ice on many lakes to partially thaw and refreeze, especially around the edges. Anglers need to test the ice depth and use good judgment prior to venturing out on the ice.
Year-round Lake Roosevelt continues to fish really well for rainbows, walleye, and the occasional burbot and kokanee, Osborne said.
n Mendel, WDFW southeast district fish biologist, reminds anglers that the Tucannon River closes to fishing this year on March 1 instead of April 1, and will remain closed until the first Saturday in June. Mendel said the fishery is closing early to protect wild steelhead.
WDFW Regional Fish Program Manager John Whalen notes that although the increase of the daily limit for walleye on the San Poil River in Ferry County from eight fish to 16 fish is effective this month, the walleye fishery there doesnt open until April 1. The change was recently made to address an overpopulation of walleye in this tributary to Lake Roosevelt.
Another kind of fishing is available at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Councils 54th annual Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, March 20-23, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. Some 5,000 trout are stocked in three huge indoor lakes for kids to catch at Fishing World, and theres a Virtual Reality Fishing Simulator, fishing demonstration tank, lots of fishing seminars by experts, and hundreds of fishing equipment and charter service vendors. WDFW staff will be on site selling fishing licenses and talking with visitors about all things fish and wildlife. New this year will be sales of Fish Washington sweatshirts for $35.