North Central Washington: Anglers need to be aware of and prepared for the potentially dangerous conditions of fishing waterways, due to winter weather that has been warmer than usual winter so far. Shelf ice along the shorelines of rivers and streams can be hazardous and lake fishing on and through ice is only safe after extended day and night time below freezing temperatures.
WDFW district fish biologist Travis Maitland reports Upper Columbia River steelhead fishing continues until further notice for those willing to put in the time necessary to land one.
The mainstem Columbia River also remains open to hatchery steelhead fishing from Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam, along with portions of the Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan and Similkameen rivers. Anglers must retain hatchery steelhead, identifiable by a clipped adipose fin, caught to help increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds. The daily bag limit is two hatchery steelhead.
All anglers must possess a valid fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement. The season can close at any time due to impacts on natural origin steelhead; see more details in the emergency rule change.
Maitland also notes that Fish and Roses lakes, open year-round in Chelan County, are not safely iced over yet.
Once solid ice forms on these lakes, we should have good fishing for rainbow trout on Roses Lake, he said. We stocked 16,000 rainbows there last month. Fish Lake should continue to be a good producer of average sized yellow perch through the ice. We just need some consistently colder temps to get these fisheries going.
Maitland also notes that year-round Lake Chelan usually has fair fishing for lake trout (mackinaw) throughout the winter. Anglers usually troll just off the bottom for them.
Year-round Rufus Woods reservoir, on the Okanogan County south boundary off Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River, has big triploid rainbow trout that can be caught throughout the winter months. Several areas upstream of Chief Joseph Dam can usually be accessed by shore anglers. Boat anglers often launch at the Army Corps of Engineers boat ramp and can explore upstream any one of numerous back bays and shorelines that could hold triploids.
Three lakes in Okanogan County have been open for catch and keep rainbow trout fishing since the first of December: 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 until March 31. These fisheries provide good angling throughout the winter months, whether in open water or through the ice. Rainbow trout running 10 to 12 inches can be caught on a variety of bait, lures, and flies.
Leader Lake, located three miles west of the town of Okanogan on Hwy. 20, is open year-round for just the second year now, and fishing for black crappie, bluegill and rainbow trout should be fair when conditions allow.
Other traditional year-round fishing opportunities in Okanogan County that will provide through-the-ice fishing sooner or later are Patterson and Davis lakes in the Winthrop area. Davis Lake, which shifted in September to catch-and-keep through March, usually has rainbows in the 10-12 inch range. Patterson Lake typically has yellow perch in the seven to eight-inch range.
Anglers are cautioned to be alert and aware of changing ice conditions at these and other waters. WDFW does not measure ice on fishing lakes and cannot guarantee ice fishing safety. But here are a few tips to help keep an outing safe:
Dont fish alone. Let others know exactly where you and your fishing partners are going and when you plan to return.
Keep fishing holes small and few. When drilling fishing holes with an ice auger, keep the diameter under eight inches. Bigger holes are not necessary to land fish and can create a safety hazard for others.
Watch your step. Avoid ice fishing near feeder streams or known springs; brush, logs, plants or docks; multiple ice cracks or ice that is popping or otherwise audible; and dark-colored ice that may be weak.
Spread out. Too many people congregated in one area may be more than the ice can safely support. Disperse weight and fishing holes.
Be prepared for weather conditions and emergencies. Dress in layers and wear thermal underwear, fleece or wool, and wind and waterproof outerwear, especially for feet, hands and head. Take extra clothes, food, water, sand for on-ice traction, and a sled for easy on-ice transport of all equipment. Carry equipment such as ice picks or awls, rope, and personal flotation devices. Also pack a first-aid kit and matches for starting a fire.