North Central Washington: Although fishing for steelhead in the northcentral region has been slow, opportunities continue "until further notice" on the mainstem Columbia River from Rock Island Dam upstream to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
Steelheading is also still open on the Wenatchee River from the mouth at the Icicle Road Bridge, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam; the Entiat River from the mouth to about 1/2 mile upstream; the Methow River from the mouth upstream to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop; the Okanogan River from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville; and the Similkameen River from the mouth upstream to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.
All steelhead anglers must have a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement and comply with selective gear rules and night closures, except bait is allowed on the mainstem Columbia. The daily bag limit is two hatchery-marked (adipose fin-clipped) steelhead. All wild steelhead must be released. Anglers must also release all steelhead with a floy (anchor) tag attached and/or one or more round 1/4 inch diameter holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin.
Fishing the Columbia's reservoirs in the region may be more productive at this time. WDFW fish technician Aulin Smith said that Banks Lake is fishing well, especially for rainbow trout off the bank at and around the Grand Coulee end of the reservoir.
"They're catching rainbows by plunking off the bank with a marshmallow and worm," Smith said. "Whitefish have slowed a little but some are still being caught. Burbot have been taking jigs and blade baits fished in 40 to 50 feet of water. Random walleye are being picked up doing the same thing."
Smith notes that weather conditions have many boat launches open, like Coulee Playland, Northrup, and the mid-lake launches on both sides of the "million dollar mile."
"Lake Roosevelt is excellent right now at the Grand Coulee end with anglers on the bank and in boats catching limits of rainbows and bonus kokanee," Smith said. "Rufus Woods reservoir is also good, with limits of trout and burbot. The biggest burbot I weighed there during creel checks was 9.6 pounds."
Other fishing opportunities in the region through February are usually through the ice for trout and spiny-ray fish at lakes open for fishing. But ice conditions have fluctuated this winter to the point of being dangerous, so anglers are advised to be especially cautious, careful and prepared.
When safe, Fish Lake, north of Leavenworth, usually produces yellow perch and rainbow trout. Roses Lake, just north of Manson, usually produces mostly rainbows through the ice.
Lakes open in Okanogan County that usually provide good catches this month include:
Davis (near Winthrop) for rainbow trout.
Patterson (near Winthrop) for yellow perch and kokanee.
Leader (near Omak) for bluegill, black crappie, bass, yellow perch, rainbow trout.
Big and Little Green (near Omak) for rainbow trout.
Rat (near Brewster) for rainbow and brown trou.t
Palmer (near Loomis) for yellow perch and kokanee.
Bonaparte (near Tonasket) for eastern brook trout and kokanee.
Tips to help keep an outing at this time of year safe include:
Don't 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 with appropriate clothing and equipment for weather conditions and emergencies.