By Alan Liere
For winter fishing, the Spokane River is as good as it gets with fairly comfortable temperatures and water levels. It is still a dredger’s game with nymphs or streamers. Silver Bow Fly Shop said skwala nymphs are getting a bit more active, so pack small stone patterns to imitate them. Throw streamers on sink-tips like sculpins, leeches, buggers and sparkle minnows.
Rocky Ford Creek has been fishing well. Throw scuds, midge pupa, baetis nymphs and streamers.
Lake Roosevelt trout have been off the bite for a few weeks, but the reservoir is dropping again and fishing has picked up between Keller and Spring Canyon. Trollers in this stretch are finding a few kokanee, but the 16- to 22-inch rainbow have been more cooperative. It sounds odd, but some anglers have had phenomenal success by adding a Berkley imitation maggot hanging straight down from the hooks on a J-9 or J-11 floating Rapala. Troll slowly and shallow – no more than 12 feet down. Two friends and I fished five hours from shore at Fort Spokane this week, but only had a few bites and five landed trout.
Whitefish season on the Little Spokane River and the Kettle River in Ferry County ends Feb. 28. Fishing for whitefish in the Methow, Similkameen and Entiat rivers also closes at the end of February. The same holds true for the Yakima River between Sunnyside Dam and 3,500 feet below Roza Dam, Roza Dam to Easton Dam, the lower Cle Elum River and the lower Naches River downstream of the confluence with the Tieton River.
In Washington’s Columbia and Garfield counties, Spring and Blue lakes on the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area are still open to fishing and generally have decent rainbow trout fishing since they were stocked last fall. Access to the lakes is easy as the snow is mostly gone.
Many sections of the Columbia and Snake rivers in south-central Washington hold large populations of walleye and smallmouth bass.
Ideal spots for winter walleye in the Tri-Cities area include from the Snake River downstream to Badger Island and from McNary Dam downstream to Boardman. Smallmouth bass can often be found in the mix.
There is no minimum size and no limit on the number of walleye, bass or channel catfish anglers can keep while fishing in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Some popular ice fishing lakes in the region include Hog Canyon and Fourth of July for rainbow trout, In northeast Washington, try Williams, Waitts or the Little Pend Oreille Chain lakes, including Gillette and Thomas. Silver Lake perch anglers can take home as many small perch as they care to clean, but finding a 7-incher is rare. Sprague and Moses lakes are showing some open water.
In Idaho, Hauser Lake still has good perch fish fishing in 25 feet of water. Lower Twin has over a foot of ice. Perch fishing can be good, but they are not particularly large.
Winchester Lake is one of the best ice fishing destinations in the Clearwater region. You’ll find rainbow trout, perch, channel catfish, tiger muskie, crappie, bluegill and largemouth bass. There are 9 inches of good ice and no slush. The perch and bluegill fishing is almost always good and the channel cat bite has picked up. Sinking a whole night crawler to the bottom or targeting actively feeding fish using sonar and rattle bait will increase your chances at encountering these fish that average over 14 inches.
Salmon and steelhead
The Grande Ronde, Snake River and Clearwater River are all options for steelheaders. The Grande Ronde is in pretty good shape for February.
WDFW fishery managers expect an improved return of adult spring chinook to the Columbia River this year. The predicted total is 307,800 fish, up from an actual return of 274,495 in 2022. If the forecast is correct, the 2023 return could be the largest dating back to 2015. Fishing is open daily below the Interstate 5 Bridge, but it usually doesn’t pick up until March and April when the fishery expands upriver to Bonneville Dam and beyond. Additional dates for the spring chinook fishery will be decided on Feb. 22.
The crab season in all of Puget Sound is closed until summer, but you can still catch crab along the coast. At Ilwaco, Westport/Grays Harbor, La Push and Neah Bay west of the Tatoosh-Bonilla line, crab pots are allowed through Sept. 15, and all other crab gear is open year-round.
The Columbia River area is open year-round for all gear. At Tokeland/Willapa Bay there have been some nice crab caught lately, even off the docks where crab pots are allowed through Sept. 15, and all other crab gear is open year-round. The World Class Crab Races, Crab Feed & Crab Derby and Clam Derby are April 15-16 in Westport.
There are catch-and-release sturgeon fishing opportunities on the Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Chief Joseph Dam. Sturgeon could be anywhere in these pools, but the tailraces are a good starting location. Be sure to check on specific regulations and harvest limits for this fishery by clicking on the WDFW website.
Unless you’re an ice fisherman, winter has outlasted its welcome in eastern Washington. If you need something to motivate you to get outside, small game seasons remain open until March 15 for several species such as bobcat, fox, raccoon, cottontail and snowshoe hare.
A snow goose late season hunt will occur this month during certain dates in a few Goose Management Areas. Hunters should check the WDFW website for specifics. Opportunities will mostly occur in the Tri-Cities and around Moses Lake and Potholes reservoir.
Contact Alan Liere at email@example.com