Category Archives: Headlines

State To Cull Sick Yakima Bighorns

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

State and federal wildlife officials later this month will take steps to curb the spread of pneumonia in wild bighorn sheep in the Yakima River canyon by euthanizing the sickest animals.

Biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services will spend several weeks identifying and removing sheep that show signs of pneumonia, such as coughing and lethargy, said Donny Martorello, wildlife manager for WDFW.

“We are attempting to limit the spread of the disease inside and outside the canyon by selectively removing bighorn sheep that are clearly sick,” Martorello said. “It’s unfortunate, but we believe it is a necessary step in limiting the spread of a disease that could devastate herds in the Yakima River area.”

About a third of two wild bighorn sheep populations in the canyon – the Umtanum herd on the west side of the Yakima River and the Selah Butte herd east of the river – are expected to be euthanized, Martorello said. Those two herds currently total about 260 animals.

In early December, wildlife managers received reports of sick and dead sheep in the Yakima River canyon. To date, 18 dead sheep have been found by WDFW biologists conducting aerial and ground surveys in the canyon.

Carcasses tested at Washington State University’s veterinary laboratory were found to have pneumonia, caused by Mycoplasma and Pasteurella bacteria.

The disease is often fatal in wild bighorn sheep, and can also affect the survival rate of lambs later born to animals that survive the disease, Martorello said. There is no treatment for bighorns with pneumonia and there is no preventative vaccination for the disease.

Pneumonia in wild bighorn sheep is not transmissible to humans or domestic livestock, Martorello said. But because the euthanized sheep could be carrying secondary infections, the meat will not be donated to local food banks, he added.

Heads and other biological samples from euthanized sheep will be removed from the canyon, Martorello said.

The Yakima River area is home to more than half the state’s 1,500 wild bighorn sheep, with herds totaling nearly 800 animals. Other bighorn sheep herds in the area include the Quilomene herd to the northeast and the Cleman Mountain and Tieton herds to the west.

So far, no dead or sick bighorn sheep have been found outside the Umtanum and Selah Butte herds.

Past outbreaks among bighorn sheep in Washington and other parts of the western United States have been linked to contact between wild sheep and domestic sheep or goats that carry Pasteurella but are unaffected by the bacteria. However, there is no evidence that such contact occurred in the Yakima River Canyon, said Martorello.

Other western states, including Montana and Nevada, also are experiencing disease outbreaks in their wild bighorn sheep populations. WDFW is in contact with wildlife experts across the western states and are working closely with WSU and other veterinarians.

MORE INFORMATION:

Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic has been reporting on this all along. His post from yesterday can be found here.

Here are other links:

http://nwsportsmanmag.wordpress.com/2009/12/30/bios-may-have-to-kill-yakima-bighorns/

http://nwsportsmanmag.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/the-rush-to-save-yakima-bighorns/

2010 Columbia, OR Coho Forecasts Out

This year won’t be last year — at least if forecasts for Columbia River and Oregon Coast coho hold up.

This year’s prediction is for an overall return just 37 percent of 2009’s whopper run of 1.3-plus million hatchery and wild silvers.

Expectations for the Columbia drag the forecast down. Fishery managers expect just 245,300 early and 144,200 late coho back, just 35 and 38 percent of last year’s actual returns (681,400 and 374,100).

Oregon Coast rivers and lakes are in better shape: 131,400 and 16,600 are expected back, roughly 55 percent and 86 percent of 2009’s final run tallies.

7 ATV Hunters Barred From Private Timberlands

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Seven people who were found illegally operating their All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) on Longview Timber Company during archery season near Silverton in September 2009 have pled guilty in Marion County Justice Court.

In September 2009 an Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division trooper responded to complaints from archery hunters regarding a group of five people operating ATVs on Longview Timber property.  The operation of ATVs on Longview Timber property is prohibited year round. The complainant confronted the riders and told them they were not allowed to ride their ATVs on the property.  The five people ignored the warning and continued on their way.  The trooper located the group approximately seven miles from the nearest locked gate.  There were signs outlining the restrictions that the riders had driven past.  The group had driven around a locked gate.  Members of the group indicated that they didn’t think it was a big deal because they were on gravel roads.

The following five defendants pled guilty to Criminal Trespass – 2nd Degree:

JAMES CULVER, age 49, Stayton, OR
RICHARD FRERES, age 32, Stayton, OR
CHAD HAFNER, age 33, Stayton, OR
THEODORE HAFNER, age 56, Stayton, OR
JACOB TOEPFER, age 32, Sublimity, OR

Each of the defendants was ordered to pay:

Court Fees                              $167
Fine                                    $250
Restitution to Longview Timber          $500

Personnel from Longview Timber Company were at the court appearance.  They served the five defendants with notice that they are not allowed on Longview Timber Company property for five years.

Six days later, the trooper was patrolling the same area.  The trooper heard ATVs approaching his location.  He waited and then observed two ATV’s.  The riders told the trooper that a contractor had opened the gate and let them into the property.  The trooper located the contractor, who told the trooper a totally different story.  The contractor was leaving the property and met the riders at the gate.  He had told the two riders that they were not allowed to ride their ATVs on the property.  When the contractor opened the gate to leave, the two riders squeezed by him through the gate, and continued on.

The following 2 defendants pled guilty to Criminal Trespass – 2nd Degree:

CHRIS SCHUMACHER, age 53, Aumsville, OR
SHEILA ROGERS, age 46, Silverton, OR

Each of the defendants was ordered to pay:

Court Fees                              $167
Fine                                    $250
Restitution to Longview Timber          $500

Personnel from Longview Timber Company were at the court appearance.  They served Ms. Rogers and Mr. Schumacher with notice they are not allowed on Longview Timber Company property for lifetime.

SW WA Fishing Report

(JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – 33 bank anglers kept 5 steelhead and released 2.  Sixteen boat anglers kept 4 steelhead and released 1.  The steelhead were caught at Blue Creek.  The anglers who permanently use a wheelchair are doing really well at the outfall structure at the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery.

Last week Tacoma Power recovered 42 winter-run steelhead and two coho adults during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. During the week Tacoma Power employees released six winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and eleven winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,850 cubic feet per second on Monday, February 8. Water visibility is ten feet.

Lower Columbia from the mouth to the I-5 Bridge –Near Kalama  6 bank anglers as well as 3 boats/5 anglers had no catch.  With the spring like weather and reports of a few spring Chinook being caught, effort increased last weekend with 53 boats and nearly 100 bank anglers counted during the Saturday Feb. 6 flight.

Bonneville Pool – No effort observed for steelhead.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers averaged over 2 steelhead per rod while bank anglers averaged one per every 2 rods.  However, over three-quarters of the fish caught were wild and had to be released.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged over a steelhead per rod.  Bank anglers were also catching some fish.  Nearly two-thirds of the fish caught were hatchery fish.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – 5 boats/10 anglers near Kalama kept 2 legals and released 11 sublegals.  Near Woodland 3 boats/7 anglers had no catch.  During the Saturday Feb. 6 flight, sixty six boats and 27 bank anglers were counted.

Lower Columbia from the mouth to Bonneville Dam – In January 2010, an estimated 1,750 angler trips produced a measly 25 keepers.

Bonneville Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaged just under a legal per rod.  Bank anglers are also catching some legals.  Through January 2010, an estimated 390 (28%) of the 1,400 fish guideline had been taken.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers caught some legals; fishing from the bank was slow.    An estimated 87 (29%) of the 300 fish guideline had been taken through January 2010.

John Day Pool – Boat anglers averaged a legal per every 9 anglers when including fish released.  Fishing from the bank was slow.  Through January 2010, an estimated 41 (25%) of the 165 fish guideline had been taken.

WALLEYE AND BASS

Bonneville Pool – No effort was observed for either species.

The Dalles and John Day pools – Boat anglers in both pools averaged better than a walleye kept/released per every 3 rods.  No effort was observed for bass.

TROUT

Mayfield Lake – Good catches of trout.

Silver Lake near Castle Rock – No report on angling success.  Planted with 1,811 catchable size rainbows Feb. 1.

Kress Lake near Kalama – High effort and good catches.

Horseshoe Lake near Woodland – Low effort but excellent catches.  Some anglers were catching their limits in under an hour.  Planted with 2,150 catchable size rainbows Feb. 2.

Battleground Lake – Average effort but low catch.  Only a few of the steelhead were reported caught.  Planted with 35 cutthroats averaging 1.5 pounds each Feb. 3.

Lacamas and Vancouver lakes – No effort.

SMELT

Cowlitz sport – Last Saturday was a bust with no smelt observed caught.  No smelt were reported caught during last Wednesday’s or last night’s commercial fisheries.

Big Lakers Coming Out Of Chelan: Guide

(DARRELL AND DAD’S GUIDE SERVICE PRESS RELEASE)

What’s hot is… holy cow! Did we have a week to remember for big lakers on Chelan! Steelhead continued to bite baited jigs on the Upper Columbia. Particularly the area between Wells Dam and Beebe bridge was productive. Roses Lake is a mixture of open water, slush and thin ice. Stay off of it.

On Chelan, we are into the peak period for big Mackinaw above the Yacht Club. Go to our web site to see this week’s pictures. Purple Glow Rushin’ Salmon Wobblers by Critter Gitter were the hot ticket. We continued to fish straight out through the Narrows from 200 feet deep all the way out to the 400’ break.

To put this last week in perspective we get about one fish over ten pounds for every forty fish caught over the course of the year. This week we put forty nine lakers in the boat with ten of them being over ten pounds. That is better than 1 in 5.

Twenty pound fish are one in a thousand here. We got one this week. Fish over 15 are about 1 in 200. We got three this week. Which is the long way around to say “it doesn’t get much better than this.”

JAY BOMGARDNER WITH THE "BIG FISH OF THE YEAR SO FAR" AT LAKE CHELAN, A 20-PLUS-POUND MACKINAW. (DARRELL AND DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

We dealt with some rain this week. Temps were in the high 30’s to low 40’s all week. No wind. In other words, perfect for this time of the year.

The Upper Columbia Steelhead fishing is doing pretty well, well… below Well’s Dam. Bait up Mack’s Lures quarter ounce Rock Dancer jigs baited with purple shrimp. — Anton Jones

JACQUELINE SWINDELL OF WENATCHEE WITH TWO HATCHERY STEELIES FROM THE UPPER COLUMBIA. (DARRELL AND DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

Sturgeon News

The infamous “Wall” in Oregon City, a bank-fishing spot for Willamette River anglers, may close, reports the Statesman Journal in Salem, while KIRO TV reports on poaching rings capturing oversize fish in the Columbia, tethering them up and offering them for sale.

For a picture of The Wall, and previous coverage of sturgeon issues in the Willamette, see Bill Monroe’s piece here and here.

Sea Lions Munch 300+ Sturgeon In January

A report in today’s Columbia Basin Bulletin says that from Jan. 8 through the end of last month, Steller and California sea lions had eaten well over 300 white sturgeon below Bonneville Dam.

A little bit concerning seeing as how that number is “already nearly halfway to last year’s record total, 758,” CBB reports.

The pinnipeds are being monitored five days a week; last year, researchers started counting Jan. 13.

The sturgeon taken last year were estimated to be from 2 to 7 feet long but most, 79.4 percent were fish 4 feet long or shorter, according to the study’s final 2009 report.

CBB points out that predation will probably switch over to springers as this year’s forecasted bumper run builds next month. Sea lions, the article says, usually leave the dam in May.

There’s also word that NOAA Fisheries is about to begin a review of the status of ESA-protected Steller sea lions in the eastern Pacific “in the very near future,” a spokeswoman for the federal agency tells CBB.

City Coyotes Do Better Than Their Country Cousins

Fascinating natural-history material on coyotes in an article in Scientific American, out today.

For instance, writes author Lynne Peeples:

Coyotes in urban settings have a far greater rate of survival than their rural counterparts: Between 60 and 70 percent of adults and pups survive each year in the city, whereas in the country—in the face of rampant hunting and trapping—they may have only a 15 to 30 percent chance of survival.

Coyotes, of course, were in the news recently in the Northwest when WDFW had to kill an aggressive male in Seattle’s Discovery Park, just 4 miles from Pike Place Market and downtown.

The story discusses what makes some urban coyotes good and some bad — hint, sounds like it partially has to do with how much handout from humans they’re getting — how to live with them, and the best ways to avoid conflicts. Since obviously hunting isn’t an option in the big city, researchers are studying alternate ways to instill fear of humans, “from firing paintballs and Super Soaker water guns at coyotes, to clanging pots and pans and installing motion-sensor lights,” Peeples writes.

But why are the songdogs being drawn to the bright lights?

A New York photographer offers an interesting insight:

“I started out with the idea that the coyote has been dislocated from its natural environment,” (Amy) Stein says. “But it’s more resourceful than I thought. The coyote is reclaiming a new environment: the human environment.”

Tribes To Gauge Salmon Habitat Work

(NORTHWEST INDIAN FISHERIES COMMISSION PRESS RELEASE)

We know that protecting and restoring habitat are the keys to wild salmon recovery. But how are we really doing on that front?

Puget Sound chinook and steelhead, Hood Canal summer chum and Lake Ozette sockeye are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Meanwhile, our culture, treaty rights and way of life – everything that makes us Indian people – are disappearing a little every day, just like the salmon.

We know that we can’t count on the ESA to protect us, our treaty rights and the natural resources that we depend on. And we know that salmon recovery begins and ends with habitat.

That’s why this year, the 20 treaty Indian tribes in western Washington are beginning a project to help gauge just how we’re doing when it comes to habitat protection and restoration.

In 2004 and 2005 the joint tribal/state Salmon and Steelhead Habitat Inventory and Assessment Program (SSHIAP) produced the State of Our Watersheds, reports that captured the status of salmon stocks and habitat in western Washington. What the reports didn’t tell us were the results of the natural resources management decisions being made.

We’re looking to change that through a new effort that will track key indicators identified by tribes to find out the impacts of our protection and restoration efforts regionwide.

Are threats such as development and water withdrawals being balanced by responses through the federal Clean Water Act, state stormwater rules and other laws? Are these responses leading to salmon recovery? Are the restrictions imposed on harvest balanced by restrictions on habitat loss and degradation?

We will focus on fish, harvest, water quality/quantity and land-use rules. The first phase of the effort to begin this year will focus on the Skokomish, Quinault and Snohomish river systems.

We know that we can’t wait for the ESA to save the salmon or us. We may not like what we find, but we have to have the courage to look for ourselves to see how we are doing at recovering habitat.–Billy Frank Jr., chairman, NWIFC

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

One spring Chinook down, 469,999 to go.

Or something like that.

While news of the first springer of the year may distract some anglers, there are plenty of other fishing opportunities to be had around Washington — rainbows, blackmouth, steelhead, browns, kokanee, sturgeon and more.

Here’s WDFW’s most recent Weekender:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

Most marine areas in Puget Sound are open for salmon, but blackmouth fishing has yet to heat up this year.

“I’ve heard reports of anglers reeling in a salmon here and a salmon there, but overall fishing for blackmouth has been slow,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist.

Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) are open for blackmouth – resident chinook. Anglers fishing those marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is closed to salmon fishing.

In the rivers, steelhead fishing continues to be slow as well. Some hatchery steelhead have been reeled in recently at Reiter Ponds on the Skykomish River and at Tokul Creek. There also have been reports of some wild steelhead in the Pilchuck and Wallace rivers, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.

Leland reminds anglers that the Green River is closed to fishing from the 1st Ave. South Bridge upstream to the Tacoma Headworks Dam, and the Skagit and Sauk rivers close Feb. 16. With low steelhead returns expected back to those rivers, the emergency closures are necessary to protect wild steelhead, Leland said.

Meanwhile, a portion of the North Fork Nooksack River re-opened Feb. 2.

Details on all of these emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

Freshwater anglers looking for a change of pace might want to try fishing for cutthroat trout in Lake Washington. The daily limit is five trout, but rainbow trout measuring more than 20 inches and steelhead must be released.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Several new areas of Puget Sound are opening to blackmouth fishing, more wild steelhead are moving into coastal rivers and another razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled for later this month.

“Blackmouth fishing has been pretty slow around the Sound, but these new areas could be a different story,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a WDFW fish biologist.  He was talking about marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal), both of which opened to fishing for resident chinook salmon Feb. 1.

Starting Feb. 13, anglers will also be able to fish for blackmouth in marine areas 5 and 6 on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

There is a daily limit of one chinook, measuring at least 22 inches, in all of those areas, although anglers fishing for blackmouth in Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) can keep two fish per day.  Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) closed for blackmouth fishing Jan. 31.

Rather fish for steelhead ?  This is the time of year when wild steelhead begin moving into coastal rivers in large numbers and – as of Feb. 1 – most of those rivers were in good shape for fishing, said Randy Cooper, another WDFW fish biologist.

“Fishing has been pretty good on the lower Hoh River, although the Sol Duc has been drawing the largest number of anglers,” Cooper said.  “Hatchery steelhead are clearly winding down, but the fishery for wild fish should keep improving through the month.”

Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers.  On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar. Specific rules for each river are described in the 2009-10 Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm

WDFW has tentatively scheduled an evening razor clam dig at several ocean beaches in late February, pending the results of marine toxin tests.  Shellfish managers are optimistic that elevated levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) – which disqualified Long Beach from a dig in late January – will have dissipated by then.

“The toxin appears to have moved up the coast from Oregon, where it has cleared up enough to open beaches for razor clam digging,” said Dan Ayes, WDFW coastal shellfish coordinator.  “That’s a good sign, but it’s still important that diggers here wait for a final announcement on the opening before they hit the beach.”

Approved digging days in February for specific beaches are shown below, along with evening low tides:

* Friday, Feb. 26, (4:49 p.m., -0.7) Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
* Saturday, Feb. 27, (5:34 p.m., -0.9) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Sunday, Feb. 28, (6:16 p.m., -0.8) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch

Harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s limit must be kept in a separate container. All diggers must have an applicable 2009-10 fishing license to dig razor clams on any beach. A license is required for anyone age 15 or older.

Anglers can buy a combination license or an annual shellfish/seaweed license. Also available are razor-clam only licenses in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . A list of state license vendors is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/ .

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

The first spring chinook salmon of the year was caught Feb. 1 in the Columbia River off Davis Bar, west of Vancouver.  The fish reportedly took a cutplug herring on a “downhill” troll with the current.

So began the 2010 spring chinook fishery, which could promise to be one of the best on record.  With over 550,000 springers predicted to return to the Columbia River this year, anglers are already prospecting for early arrivals.

Columbia River anglers may retain hatchery-reared spring chinook under last year’s rules until fishery managers from Washington and Oregon meet to establish new fishing seasons for the remainder of 2010.  That meeting, which is open to the public, is set to begin at 10 a.m. Feb. 18 in Oregon City, 211 Tumwater Dr.

But since the bulk of the spring chinook run isn’t expected to arrive until mid-March, anglers may want to consider some other options between now and then:

* Winter steelhead:   Anglers fishing The Dalles Pool have been averaging one to 1.5 steelhead per rod, although 70 percent of the fish were wild and had to be released.  Meanwhile, late-run winter steelhead are beginning to move toward the hatcheries on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers where they were raised. The fishery for late-run fish tends to peak in late February and early March, although some late-run steelhead are already beginning to show up in the catch.

* White sturgeon:    Catch rates of legal-size sturgeon have picked up above Bonneville Dam in recent days, likely triggered by warming water temperatures.  Sturgeon fishing in the lower river remains slow, but that could change if smelt return to the Cowlitz River in greater numbers than expected.  Sturgeon regulations for all areas of the lower Columbia River listed in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet will remain in effect through February.  New seasons will be set by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon at a public meeting scheduled Feb. 18 in Oregon City, Ore.

* Smelt: Projecting another poor return, WDFW is limiting the Cowlitz River sport fishery for smelt to four days this winter. The Cowlitz will be open for smelt dipping Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a 10-pound daily limit. Sport fishing for smelt on the mainstem Columbia River opened seven days per week, 24-hours day, starting Jan. 1, although anglers catch very few fish there. Commercial boats on the Columbia landed about 2,700 pounds of smelt in January, but the catch dropped off  during the last few days  of fishing.

* Trout:   While nothing is certain, anglers have a pretty good chance of catching trout – some averaging eight pounds – in lakes planted by WDFW during the winter months. At Klineline Pond, 106 bank anglers caught and kept 123 catchable-size rainbows and 10 broodstock rainbows and released another 106 catchables and three brooders during the last week of January.  During that week, Klineline was stocked with 4,500 catchables, Lake Sacajawea in Longview got 3,000 catchables and Battleground Lake got 1,500 catchable, plus 150 surplus hatchery steelhead averaging eight pounds each.  In addition, a couple of lakes in the gorge (Rowland Lake near Lyle and Spearfish Lake near Dallesport) got a total of nearly 100 broodstock rainbows averaging four pounds each.

During the last week in January, Tacoma Power recovered 44 winter-run steelhead, five coho adults and one jack during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.  Also that week, Tacoma Power employees released five winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 11 winter-run steelhead and one coho jack into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

Ice on lakes throughout most of the region remains questionable since daytime temperatures have been above 40 degrees. Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said the two winter-season rainbow trout lakes – Williams and Hatch lakes in Stevens County near Colville – remain iced over and a few folks are fishing through the ice.  But ice fishing is definitely “at your own risk,” he said. Baker encourages anglers to check WDFW’s ice fishing safety information at http://wdfw.wa.gov/factshts/ice_fishing.htm .

Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist, said there is open water at the northeast end of Sprague Lake, and anglers continue to catch the lake’s big rainbow trout . Year-round Eloika Lake in north Spokane County has mostly open water for anglers.

Year-round Rock Lake in Whitman County rarely freezes up completely and has been providing good open-water fishing for rainbow and brown trout .

“But the best bet right now is still Lake Roosevelt,” Donley said. “The rainbow trout and kokanee fishing there is very good, especially on the south end.”

Steelhead fishing is also good in the Snake River drainage, especially on the tributaries like the Grand Ronde, Touchet, Tucannon, and Walla Walla.  When water levels drop and the water clears, steelhead are harder to catch. But the fish are there, so persistent anglers can be successful. Anglers fishing the system can retain hatchery steelhead, but are required to release all wild fish. See the details in the rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

WDFW fish biologist Matt Polacek recommends year-round Banks Lake in Grant County for good fishing opportunities for rainbow trout and kokanee.

“The main lake is ice free,” he said, “but a small group of anglers are also catching whitefish and perch through the ice on the south end of Banks Lake.”

Warmer weather has opened up previously iced-over sections of the Methow and Okanogan rivers, providing some good winter steelhead fishing.  WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports catch rates of one fish for every six to eight hours of fishing for the last two weeks.

“Jig and bobber setups for the gear fishermen, as well as smaller flies under float indicators for the fly fishermen, have all been producing catches of steelhead,” Jateff said.

Jateff reminds steelheaders that both the Okanogan and the Methow are under selective gear rules and no bait is allowed.  Retention of hatchery-origin fish with clipped adipose fins is mandatory, up to the daily limit of four.  Anglers should make sure to gain permission before crossing private property alongside both of these rivers.

Meanwhile, ice fishing opportunities on Okanogan County lakes has been reduced due to warming temperatures.

“The ice in some areas appears to be unstable,” he said.  “However, Patterson Lake in the Winthrop area is still producing catches of yellow perch , with a few rainbows mixed in.  There is no minimum size and no daily limit on yellow perch in Patterson because we actually want anglers to remove as many as possible.”

For information on ice-fishing safety, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/factshts/ice_fishing.htm .

The Methow River is open to whitefish from Gold Creek upstream to the falls above Brush Creek and the Chewuch River from the mouth to the Pasayten Wilderness boundary.  The Similkameen River is open from the mouth to the Canadian border.  Jateff notes those fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).

SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

Three out of 14 boat anglers fishing the John Day Pool on the Columbia River took home a legal-size sturgeon, according to a creel survey conducted the last week of January.  “Legal-size sturgeon must measure between 43 and 54 inches in fork length,” said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish biologist. “New regulations went into effect last year changing how sturgeon are measured from total length to fork length.  Fork length is defined as the distance from the tip of the nose to the middle of the fork in the tail, and that’s the length you record on your catch record card, even if the card has the old ‘total length’ column.”

Hoffarth notes the sturgeon fishery in this area will remain open until the quota is reached and closure announced.

“Walleye fishing in the Tri-Cities area and upstream in the Snake River is beginning to pick up,” Hoffarth said. “Anglers are reporting fair catches below and above McNary Dam and in the Snake River below Ice Harbor and Little Goose dams.”

Hoffarth says steelhead fishing in the district has been spotty this winter but should pick up in late February and early March.