Eastern Washington: Four of the regions rainbow trout fishing lakes open for a winter-only fishing season Dec. 1 through March 31, and all promise to provide good catches, depending on weather and access.
Hatch Lake, southeast of Colville in Stevens County, has an abundance of rainbow trout ranging between 12 and 16 inches in very good condition. Williams Lake, north of Colville in Stevens County, has a fair rainbow population, boosted last month with extra one-pound hatchery fish.
Fishing and catch rates at Hatch Lake will be very similar to the past few years, said WDFW northeast district fish biologist Bill Baker of Colville. Our fry plants are now averaging around 12 inches and there are lots of winter carryovers up to 16 inches. Hatch was frozen over, and it should provide action through the ice if it stays that way but be very cautious about getting out on it.
Baker said Williams Lake appears to have a growing goldfish population that compete with trout, so expectations for that fishery this winter are somewhat lower. The local high school education program at the Colville Fish Hatchery, in cooperation with Stevens County, provided 500 one-pound rainbows that were stocked in Williams earlier this fall, so catch rates should be fair to good. Williams Lake is still mostly open water and is unlikely to have enough ice formed to allow ice fishing early in the season.
The other two regional lakes opening Dec. 1 are Fourth of July Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line south of Sprague, and Hog Canyon Lake in Spokane County northeast of Sprague. Randy Osborne, WDFW central district fish biologist, says anglers can expect good fishing at both lakes, although changing conditions may delay the action.
Recent warming temperatures and rain have deteriorated ice conditions on these and other lakes, making them unsafe for anglers and possibly difficult to launch boats or even cast from shore, Osborne said. I encourage anglers to use common sense each and every time they venture out on or near any frozen water body.
Test fishing of Fourth of July Lake late last month showed the presence of large rainbow trout, measuring 14 to 22 inches. At that time, about a quarter of the lake on the northern end was frozen, so anglers may have to walk to find open water. Much of the land around Fourth of July Lake is private, so its important that anglers obey posted signs, pack out any trash, and not block any gates with vehicles.
No sampling was possible at Hog Canyon Lake because of ice, but Osborne says anglers should see rainbow trout in the 9-14 inch range once the lake is fishable.
Anglers should be aware of the special regulations in effort on both Hog Canyon and Fourth of July lakes: no minimum size, daily limit of five fish, but no more than two fish over 14 inches may be retained. Osborne said the retention limit on large fish is designed to extend the fishery through the season especially at Fourth of July Lake where most fish are large. Once anglers using bait catch and keep two fish over 14 inches, they should switch to lures or flies so that large fish can be released unharmed, Osborne said. (See Bait Rules under Statewide Freshwater Rules on page 16 of the fishing pamphlet.)
Dec. 1 is also the opening of whitefish season on the stretch of the Little Spokane River from Highway 291 upstream to West Branch. Theres no minimum size and the daily limit is 15 whitefish. Whitefish gear rules apply one single-point hook, maximum hook size 3/16-inch pint to shank (hook size 14).
Meanwhile, some waters that are open year-round can produce some decent catches of trout and other gamefish.
Rainbow trout fishing on Lake Spokane (Long Lake) continues to produce some nice fish, although access is limited during lower water conditions. Anglers have recently reported good fishing for 10-12-inch rainbows, which were part of the 10-year annual cooperative stocking effort between Avista and WDFW.
Lake Roosevelt fishing is fair to good for rainbow trout running about 16 inches and 1½ to 1¾ pounds. Whether fishing from shore or trolling, anglers have been catching good numbers of lunky rainbows reared in net pens in the big reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam.
Once ice conditions materialize and become safe, year-round-open waters such as Silver Lake in southwest Spokane County, and Eloika Lake in northern Spokane County, should produce some yellow perch. Newman Lake in eastern Spokane County should have some decent fishing for black crappie if anglers can locate them.
Blue and Spring lakes, the Tucannon River impoundments on the Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, remain open to trout fishing through the end of December. But Wooten manager Kari Dingman reports the lakes have developed thin ice layers with recent cold temperatures that hinder fishing.
Snake River steelhead fishing continues to be productive in some areas, despite drops in water temperatures that usually slow the bite.
Anglers who fish through the ice on any waterway with an open fishing season through the winter are reminded to check ice-fishing safety information on WDFWs website.