Eastern Washington: With earlier than usual warm weather, the dozen lakes throughout the region that open to fishing March 1 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 were being stocked with fish the last week of February. The only one that may not receive fish before the first of March is Big Four, due to fluctuating river levels that usually make hatchery truck access difficult at this time.
Throughout the spring these popular fishing lakes are stocked with both catchable size rainbow trout (10-12-inchers or one-third pounders) and jumbo size (over 14 inches and one pound each.) From now through June, Big Four is slated to receive a total of 2,000 catchables and 300 jumbos; Blue gets 16,000 catchables and 400 jumbos; Deer 2,550 catchables, 50 jumbos; Rainbow 13,000 catchables and 325 jumbos; Spring 9,000 catchables and 325 jumbos; Watson 14, 000 catchables and 325 jumbos.
Fishhook Pond in Walla Walla County also opens on March 1 and this year has been stocked with 3,000 catchable-size and 100 jumbo trout. Stocking had been discontinued a couple years ago because angler access to Fishhook forced crossing a set of railroad tracks, but WDFW staff worked with the Corps of Engineers to create a safe access trail.
WDFW Tucannon Fish 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.
March 1 opening fisheries in the central district of the region rely on put, grow and take or trout fry stocking, says Randy Osborne, WDFW central district fish biologist. Fry planted in lakes last last fall or spring have grown and are ready for anglers this season, he explained. Other lakes are stocked with larger fish this spring that can be harvested on the opener where regulations allow it.
Amber Lake, in southwest Spokane County, was stocked with 5,000 rainbows and 1,000 cutthroat trout last May. It opens for catch-and-release only fishing March 1, and then shifts to a two-trout-per-day harvest season April 25. Selective gear rules apply at Amber Lake and internal combustion motors are prohibited.
Medical Lake, in southwest Spokane County, was stocked with 2,500 rainbows last May, and will be stocked with 2,000 brown trout this spring. Medical Lake is also under selective gear rules, motors are prohibited, trout minimum size is 14 inches, and the daily catch limit is two trout.
Downs Lake, east of Sprague on the Lincoln/Spokane county line, should be stocked with 5,000 rainbows by the March 1 opener if the weather continues to cooperate. Downs also has warmwater fish species, and there is a black crappie minimum size of nine inches and a catch limit of 10.
Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County, received stockings of brown trout and rainbow trout fry last season, and should be stocked with some catchable size rainbows this spring if weather allows.
Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County received 5,000 put, grow and take rainbows last spring, and should receive another 5,000 this year. Selective gear rules are in effect, plus an 18-inch minimum size and one-fish daily catch limit.
Coffeepot anglers should be aware that due to low water conditions, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has closed the boat launch area at Coffeepot Lake to prevent boat trailers from getting stuck in the mud. Recreation managers at the BLMs Spokane District reported that small boats not requiring trailers can still be launched from the shoreline, but larger boats will not be able to access the ramp. BLM intends to reopen the launch area once conditions improve.
An alternative fishing site for anglers with trailered boats is the BLMs nearby Upper Twin Lake, located west of Harrington, where water levels are higher and the boat launch is open.
Deer Lake in southern Stevens County also opens March 1 and during the first month of fishing its best for lake trout.
March is the last month to fish the regions four winter-only trout lakes Hatch and Williams in Stevens County, Hog Canyon in Spokane County, and Fourth of July in Lincoln County. These Dec. 1-March 31 fisheries usually provide through-the-ice action, but all have been more or less open water for several weeks during the warm winter.
But fishing opportunity still exists at these winter season waters, Osborne said. Anglers should plan on casting from shore or bringing a small boat. Just remember that Hog Canyon and Fourth of July are under the rule that no more than two of your daily five trout can be over 14 inches.
Year-round-open fishing waters are also an option this month and might be better than usual at this time of year because of warmer weather.
Far and away the best year-round fishery in the region is Lake Roosevelt, the huge Columbia River reservoir on the border of Lincoln and Stevens counties. Both bank and boat anglers at Lake Roosevelt have continued to do really well fishing for rainbow trout in the 14-20 inch range. Boat anglers there have also reported good catches of walleye and kokanee.
Silver Lake, in southwest Spokane County, can be fair at this time for largemouth bass, yellow perch, and tiger muskie. Eloika Lake, in north Spokane County, might be fair for brown trout, yellow perch and largemouth bass. Newman Lake in eastern Spokane County could provide decent action on black crappie, bluegill and largemouth bass.
Another kind of fishing is available at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Councils 55th annual Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, March 19-22 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 Fish Washington sweatshirts, and talking with visitors about all things fish and wildlife.