Eastern Washington: December marks the start of winter fishing in several waters in the region, including rainbow trout at winter-only-season lakes, panfish through the ice at year-round lakes, and trout and kokanee in open water reservoirs.
Fourth of July Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line south of the town of Sprague, and Hog Canyon Lake in Spokane County northeast of Sprague, are open to fishing Dec. 1 through March 31. WDFW Central District Fish Biologist Randy Osborne says anglers can expect good fishing at both lakes if they can get to open water.
Our recent cold snap has created about one to two inches of ice in the protected bays on both lakes, including the boat launching areas, Osborne said. This ice is not thick enough to walk on, but thick enough to cause problems launching a boat. There are some open water areas, but be careful since things are changing daily at both lakes.
At Hog Canyon, Osborne says anglers can expect to catch rainbow trout ranging from 10 to 18 inches. Recent checks show a good mix of fish both measuring under and over 14 inches.
At Fourth of July, anglers can expect really good fishing for rainbow trout ranging from 12 to 24 inches. Recent checks showed that only about 20 percent of sampled fish were less than 14 inches, so it may be difficult to catch a full limit of five fish there, Osborne says.
At both lakes you can only keep two fish over 14 inches, Osborne said. So at Fourth of July Lake in particular, be sure to take an accurate measuring device to make sure youre following the size restriction.
Osborne notes the ice conditions on parts of many year-round-open fishing lakes in the region are causing problems, both with launching boats and with safely walking across the ice. Anglers may have to play things by ear for a while, Osborne said. It may warm up again, clearing up some of the ice, or folks may just have to wait for consistently cold weather before venturing out to fish through the ice.
Silver Lake in southwest Spokane County should produce some decent yellow perch through the ice, Osborne says, and Newman Lake in eastern Spokane County should have some good fishing for black crappie if anglers can find them.
Osborne and WDFW Northeast District Fish Biologist Bill Baker both report rainbow trout fishing has been excellent at Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam. Baker says reservoir catch rates on healthy net-pen-reared rainbows, that typically run 15 to 16 inches, are high for both shore anglers and boat anglers.
Lake Roosevelt kokanee fishing has been more spotty, they say, but some anglers have been finding fish and doing pretty well.
Brian Walker, WDFW fish biologist , said recent sampling at Stevens Countys two winter-only fishing lakes showed excellent prospects for the Dec. 1 opener. Hatch Lake, southeast of Colville, has an abundance of rainbow trout ranging between 14 and 16 inches in very good condition. Williams Lake, north of Colville, also produced some healthy trout, including one that was 18 inches, Walker said.
These fish were willing biters at both lakes, so I dont think you could go wrong choosing either one for the winter opener, Walker said. Just be very careful on or around changing ice conditions. Hatch and Williams are mostly open water now, but conditions are changing daily. Ice needs to be at least four inches thick to support on-ice angling, and no fish is worth your safety.
Snake River steelhead fishing continues to be productive in some areas, despite drops in water temperatures that usually slow fish movements and biting action. The most recent creel reports indicated the best steelheading is on the mainstem from Little Goose to Lower Granite dams, where angler action was measured at an average of 7.6 hours per steelhead caught. Creel reports on the Tucannon River, a Snake River tributary, showed an average of about eight hours per steelhead caught. The Washington stretch of the Grand Ronde River saw an average of nine hours per steelhead caught; while the Oregon side measured an eight-hour average.
Glen Mendel, WDFW district fish biologist, notes that some Tucannon River anglers are wondering about the fall chinook salmon carcasses theyre seeing on the shoreline. Mendel said that fishery management staff have been taking samples from and marking the spawned-out salmon, including removal of heads for coded wire tag retrieval.