The Missouri River in Montana is one of the best bets for good fly fishing. When the air temperatures are at or below freezing, swinging a small streamer with a trout spey rod is a great way to get into fish. Orvis trout guides suggest putting some fly floatant on your rod guides to help reduce icing. Flies can be as easy as a beadless bugger or a fancy trout spey fly. Nymphing under an indicator is also a great way to find fish on the Missouri.
Blackfoot River Outfitters in Montana said big chunks of ice have been drifting down the Clark Fork, and parts of the river will freeze over as single-digit temperatures dominate this week. You might nymph up a fish or two, they say, but it’s probably a better move to tie flies for a warmer day. The good news is that temperatures are expected to rise after Thanksgiving.
Trout and kokanee
The winter lakes – Hatch, Williams, Fourth of July and Hog Canyon – open Friday. Hatch is iced up and probably won’t be fishable, but Williams should be ice-free and fishing well. Around 1,500 1-pound trout were planted there recently to complement carryovers from years past. Hog Canyon also received plants of 1-pound rainbow trout. Most of the carryovers are 12-14 inches. There is ice at the launch, but bank anglers can find open water by walking the shoreline. Fourth of July Lake is expected to fish well, with larger trout available – up to 22 inches – along with other fish of 10 inches or better. Water is low and launching will be difficult as there is ice, but there is open water for bank fishermen who walk a few hundred yards.
Several places in this region offer the opportunity to catch big trout from shore. Brandts Landing on Rufus Woods Reservoir can be good, and so can the shoreline near the swimming area at Spring Canyon Park, just above Grand Coulee Dam. There is also a nice spot at the end of the park below the marina at Keller that is usually consistent, and the Colville Net Pens site can also be good. Brandts Landing, 6 miles above the park at Chief Joseph Dam, has restrooms and fireboxes, but bring your own wood.
The Thanksgiving Derby on Lake Pend Oreille, which ends Sunday, is off to a good start.
As of Wednesday, Josh Shelton was on top of the adult rainbow division with a fish he released that weighed 24.85 pounds. In the adult mackinaw division, Jim Carothers holds first place with an 11.65-pounder.
Salmon and steelhead
The Hanford Reach steelhead fishery closed Sunday from the I-182 Bridge (Richland/Pasco) upstream to the Old Hanford town site powerline crossing.
As the harvest season for Clearwater River steelhead continues, catch rates have dropped due to increased traffic and a cold snap that has dropped the water temperatures several degrees. A warming trend is in the forecast, however, and fish should become more active again in the coming week. Reel Time Fishing said the fish this year are beefier than what they’ve seen in past years.
Walleye fishing remains decent on Lake Roosevelt’s Spokane Arm. Blade baits have proven effective, but jigs baited with a piece of nightcrawler seem to outfish everything.
Crappie anglers are finding a good bite off the fishing dock at MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir. Long Lake perch seems to be larger this year. Anglers with boats are finding them in 20 feet of water next to dying weed lines.
Several Washington rivers offer good winter fishing for whitefish, including the Yakima, Entiat and the Little Spokane from the state Highway 291 Bridge to the West Branch of the river (open Dec. 1) and The Kettle River, which opened Nov. 1. 1. In all of these rivers, whitefish gear rules must be followed (only a single hook, size 14 or smaller is allowed, but bait may be used. In north-central Washington, portions of the Chewuch, Methow, Similkameen and Sinlahekin rivers also open for whitefish Dec. 1 and in south-central Washington, the Naches and Klickitat rivers open.
Lake whitefish get much larger than river whitefish, and the season is open year-round with fewer restrictions. These salmon relatives grow up to 7 pounds and an average of 3-4 pounds. They form huge schools that can provide fast action every day.
There are a handful of lakes and reservoirs in Eastern Washington where large established lake whitefish populations provide easy access for anglers. These are Lake Roosevelt (including the lower Spokane arm), Banks Lake, Potholes Reservoir, Soda Lake, Billy Clapp Lake, Moses Lake, Rufus Woods Reservoir and Scooteney Reservoir. There are no minimum size restrictions for whitefish and you may keep up to 15 fish a day.
Throughout most of the year, lake whitefish occupy deeper water where they suspend near the bottom in large schools. Things get a little easier for both boat and bank anglers in the winter when they spawn, as they start moving toward shallow water inlets and congregate just off shore within reach of shoreline anglers.
A single report from a Washington chukar hunter who worked the Snake River breaks near Steptoe Canyon recently advised that there are still birds, but not a lot, up there, and they are high – even as high as the wheat stubble on top.
Pheasant hunters are hoping for some snow to slow the birds’ tendency to run and flush wild. The new birds are well-colored and have caught on to this race rack tactic, but there are decent numbers in areas that have all the prerequisites for survival – food, water and cover. Quail numbers are also up.
Contact Alan Liere at firstname.lastname@example.org