Fishing: April 24 marks the start of the most popular fishing season in Washington, including dozens of trout-stocked lakes in this region. It is also the opening day of spring chinook season on three sections of the Snake River, where fishing will be expanded this year. Daily catch limits will also be raised, thanks to the abundance of hatchery chinook expected to return.
In all, four sections of the Snake will open to spring chinook fishing this year - starting April 20 with the stretch starting just below Ice Harbor Dam on the Walla Walla/Franklin county line, just east of the Tri-Cities. That section of the Snake River runs from the southbound Highway 12 Bridge upstream about seven miles to the fishing-restriction boundary, about 400 feet below Ice Harbor Dam.
The three sections of the Snake that open April 24 are:
From Railroad Bridge, about half-mile downstream of the Tucannon River mouth, up about nine miles to the Corps of Engineers boat launch (about a mile upstream of Little Goose Dam along the south shore). This zone includes the area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as "the Wall" in front of the juvenile collection facility);
From Casey Creek upstream about six miles to the fishery restriction area below Lower Granite Dam; and
From Blyton Landing Boat Launch along the Snake River Road in Whitman County (about 12 miles upstream of Lower Granite Dam) upstream about 19 miles to the boat dock behind the Quality Inn in Clarkston (boundary line is from the white sign for Hells Canyon Tours (about 100 ft upstream of the boat dock that has the small green roofed shed on the south shore) across to the culvert with tanks and trailers on the north shore).
Only adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adults or jacks can be retained in these fisheries. Chinook harvest or retention is limited to two adults and four jacks per day. One exception is the area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility - including the walkway area locally known as "the Wall" in front of the juvenile collection facility - where the daily catch limit is one jack and one adult.
The minimum size of any retained chinook is 12 inches. Jacks are less than 24 inches long. The adipose fin-clipped fish must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin. Fishing must cease as soon as the adult chinook daily limit is retained. All chinook with the adipose fin intact, and all steelhead, must be immediately released unharmed.
All of these chinook fisheries will run through June 30, unless catch rates warrant an earlier closure. See all details at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ .
Meanwhile, the April 24 lake opener should provide lots of catch limits at most of the traditionally popular trout-fishing waters throughout the region. Some of the best are in Spokane, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties where WDFW fish hatchery crews have been especially busy stocking rainbow , cutthroat , brown , eastern brook , and tiger trout . (All details of fish stocking by water by county are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants and complete information about all lakes is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/prospects/ .)
WDFW central district fish biologist Chris Donley of Spokane expects that Badger and Williams lakes in southwest Spokane County will again be among the top producers. Both rainbow and cutthroat trout to 18 inches will be available. Although both should be excellent on the opener, the Mayfly hatch in mid-May is usually the peak fishing time for these waters.
Donley also predicts West Medical Lake, just west of the town of Medical Lake in southwest Spokane County, will be one of the best opening-day trout lakes in the state. West Medical has been stocked with fry, catchable-size, broodstock and triploid rainbow trout, so catches will run the gamut size-wise.
Fish Lake, northeast of Cheney, should provide excellent fishing on stocked brook and tiger trout on the opener and throughout the season. Two years ago the state record tiger trout, over 14 pounds, was harvested from this lake.
Clear Lake, south of the town of Medical Lake, is also expected to see good action on stocked yearling rainbow, broodstock rainbows, and brown trout. Donley notes that Clear also has good largemouth bass and black crappie fisheries.
Chapman Lake, south of Cheney, usually provides good catches of rainbow trout and kokanee on the opener, but it’s best known for late-season action on largemouth and smallmouth bass and other warm water species.
Amber Lake, southwest of Cheney, which opened March 1 as a catch-and-release fishery, shifts to a harvest fishery on April 24. Amber is under selective gear rules and a two fish over 14 inches limit, designed to maintain a quality rainbow and cutthroat trout fishery. Anglers must release all trout with missing adipose fin - only unmarked trout may be retained as part of the legal limit.
Donley expects Fishtrap Lake, on the Spokane-Lincoln county line, to be among the best opening-day trout lakes in the state. Fishtrap has fry planted rainbow trout, with larger carryover, broodstock and triploid rainbows available.
Deer or Deer Springs Lake, northeast of Odessa in Lincoln County, has annual fry and catchable-size rainbow trout plants, along with some brown trout. The access area can be muddy early in the season, but it could provide decent catches on the opener. Fishing for yellow perch and black crappie can be good, too.
WDFW northeast district fish biologist Bill Baker of Colville expects good performance starting April 24 from a number of Pend Oreille and Stevens county fisheries, many which lie on national forestlands, some with campgrounds.
In Pend Oreille County, Davis Lake, south of Usk, has good early and late season fishing for rainbow and eastern brook trout, kokanee, largemouth bass, and sunfish. Diamond Lake, southwest of Newport, has a cooperative net pen project that releases 12,500 rainbow trout, in addition to WDFW hatchery-stocked catchable-size rainbows and browns. This year, 950 larger triploid and a few broodstock rainbows have been added to Diamond, which also offers action on largemouth bass, yellow perch, and bullheads. Frater Lake, southwest of Ione, should be good for planted cutthroat trout since it was rehabilitated in the fall of 2008 to eliminate illegally introduced tench and pumpkinseed sunfish. Big Meadow Lake, west of Ione, should provide 10-15-inch rainbows from annual spring fry plants.
Other Pend Oreille County lakes that open April 24 and are well stocked with rainbows and/or cutthroat trout include the North and South Skookum lakes, northwest of Usk; Browns Lake northeast of Cusick (fly-fishing only, all motors are prohibited); Carl’s Lake, southwest of Tiger; Crescent Lake, north of Metaline Falls, Fan Lake, northeast of Deer Park; Halfmoon Lake, northeast of Usk; Horseshoe Lake, northwest of Elk; Ledbetter Lake, north of Metaline Falls; Leo Lake, southwest of Ione; Marshall Lake, northwest of Newport; Mystic Lake, east of Usk; Nile Lake, southwest of Ione; and Sacheen Lake, southwest of Newport along Highway SR-21.
Yocum Lake, another popular Pend Oreille County lake that opens April 24, has some access limitations early in the season. Lying north of Ruby, across the Pend Oreille River and up LeClerc Creek Road, Yocum has road access on both its north and south ends. But the south road is not available until after May 30 due to road protection efforts by Simpson Lumber Company. A Forest Service road to the north end of the lake provides an alternative route, but it is not suitable for trailers.
In Stevens County, three popular lakes open April 24 for a short catch-and-keep season (through May 31) under selective gear rules - Bayley Lake northeast of Chewelah, Rocky Lake south of Colville, and Starvation Lake southeast of Colville. Both receive annual rainbow trout fry plants that should provide excellent catches before they shift to catch-and-release fishing June 1.
Potter’s Pond, north of Colville on the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge, usually grows large trout from rainbow plants. Baker notes, however, it nearly went dry last fall, so there are no larger carryover fish this year and anglers can only expect fair numbers of 8-10 inch trout.
Waitts Lake, west of Valley along Highway US-395 with a newly improved access area, has seen an increase of rainbow and brown trout plants from a net-pen project, so there’s good carryover potential. Largemouth bass, yellow perch, and numerous pumpkinseed sunfish are available as well.
McDowell Lake, southeast of Colville on the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge, opens April 24 for fly-fishing only and catch-and-release and should provide good angling on large rainbows. McDowell was rehabilitated in the fall of 2006 to eliminate tench and restocked with various rainbow age classes in the spring of 2007.
The Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes northeast of Colville near the Pend Oreille county line - including Gillette, Heritage, Sherry and Thomas - usually produce decent catches of rainbow and tiger trout throughout the season.
Other Stevens County waters that open April 24 that could be good destinations are Cedar Lake, north of Leadpoint; Mudget Lake, south of Fruitland; Black Lake, east of Colville; Deep Lake, southeast of Northport; Elbow Lake, west of Northport; Jump-Off-Joe Lake, south of Chewelah; Little Twin Lake, east of Colville; Loon Lake, northwest of Deer Park; and Summit Lake, northeast of Orient.
A traditional favorite for the opener in Ferry County is Ellen Lake, north of Inchelium, on the Colville National Forest, and it should produce especially well this year. Baker explained that Ellen was rehabilitated in fall 2008 and re-stocked with rainbow trout catchables and fry, so anglers can expect good numbers of fair-sized fish and an occasional larger carryover on the opener.
Long Lake, southwest of Republic, in the Scatter Creek drainage on the Colville National Forest, opens April 24 for fly-fishing only on fry-planted cutthroat trout.
Other good bets in Ferry County for the opener, depending on road access conditions, are Davis Lake, northwest of Boyds; Swan Lake, southwest of Republic; Trout Lake, west of Kettle Falls; Empire and Ward lakes, north of Republic; and Renner Lake, west of Barstow.
In the southeast end of the region, Hood Park Pond in Walla Walla County closes to fishing April 16 - at least for anglers 15 years of age and older. A youth fishing event, coordinated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, takes place at Hood Park Pond on April 17. WDFW hatchery crews will stock trout for the event on April 16, so the closure is to prevent premature harvest of trout dedicated to the kids. Hood Park Pond will re-open to all fishing at 1 p.m. April 17.
Youngsters can still be registered for the "Kids Fish-In" event scheduled for May 1 on Clear Lake in southwest Spokane County. For $5, kids 5 to 14 years of age can fish and catch up to three trout, and receive a t-shirt and rod and reel. Registration forms are available at WDFW’s Spokane Valley office, 2315 N. Discovery Place, or on-line at www.gopaw.org . The event is co-sponsored by the Go Play Outside Alliance of Washington, Fairchild Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation program, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club, Spokane Fly Fishers, Spokane Walleye Club, White Elephant Stores, Zebco and Eagle Claw.
Hunting: With about 80 percent of Washington’s wild turkey harvest in this region, the spring wild turkey hunting season opener April 15 is huge here. Hundreds of turkey hunters, donning camouflage and using calls, will be afield through May 31.
WDFW officials remind turkey hunters to be safe and ethical. Avoid using gobbler calls, never presume what you hear is a turkey, be sure of targets, select calling sites with vision in all directions, don’t wear red, white or blue clothing (the colors of gobblers’ heads at this time of year), don’t attempt to stalk turkeys, and always ask permission to hunt private land.
The northeast GMUs 101-136 in Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Lincoln counties should be particularly productive with an abundance of the big birds. The southeast GMUs 139-186 in Whitman, Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin counties, traditionally produce the second-highest harvest.
Remember that turkey hunting tag-holders must report hunting activity after the seasons and harvest should be reported within 10 days of taking a turkey. For all the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/game_species/turkey .
Over one-third of Washington’s spring black bear hunting permits are in this region. Permit-holders will be afield after black bears during the April 15 - May 31 season. For all the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/game_species/bear_cougar .
Another kind of popular "hunting" in the spring is for the shed antlers of deer and elk. WDFW biologists say deer, elk and other wildlife are still "winter-weary" and should not be unduly disturbed during the increasingly popular quest for "sheds."
WDFW ungulate research biologist Woody Myers says these native ungulates are foraging day-long on newly-sprouted grasses and forbs in grasslands, pastures, low or mid elevation forest meadows, and other open areas of southern exposure.
"They’re just now finding the opportunity to reverse the energy deficit they’ve been in all winter," Myers said. "Plus, the does and cows are entering their third trimester of pregnancy, a time of increased energy demands. Any disturbance now might mean the difference between life and death for both adults and youngsters yet to be born. Adults can still be lost as a result of starvation this spring and weight at birth has been correlated to fawn and calf survival."
WDFW wildlife biologist Paul Wik says the Blue Mountains area, for example, sees far too much accidental and intentional bumping and chasing of animals at this time, along with trespassing, traveling in winter closures, and traveling behind locked gates. To protect wildlife, there is currently a closure to motorized traffic in the Lick Creek Game Management Unit (GMU 175) in Garfield and Asotin counties and closures to all human entry in the Cummings Creek area of WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area that continue through April.
Wildlife viewing: WDFW wildlife biologist David Woodall of Clarkston reports osprey are back in the southeast Washington area now. The fish-eating raptors, which winter in more southern climes, set up housekeeping near the Snake River or its tributaries - good sources of food for parent birds rearing young. "A pair of ospreys have claimed the nesting platform across from the ballfield in Asotin," Woodall said.
Woodall also reports mountain bluebirds and tree swallows are back in the area working on nests. The bluebirds use open, high meadow areas where old tree cavities or man-made nest boxes are available. The swallows are also cavity nesters and will use nest boxes in wooded areas near water.
For details on building and locating cavity-nesting species nestboxes, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/backyard/nestboxes.htm .