Tag Archives: SMALLMOUTH

Why A Relatively Unknown Washington Lake May Produce The State’s Biggest Tourney Bass

If a WDFW staffer’s analysis of a decade’s worth of bass tournament catches spiked your interest in hitting Lake Osoyoos, we have a few more details to add about it and other hot spots.

That data posted to Facebook earlier this week showed that out of 18 waters across Washington, the fattest average fish was caught at this relatively overlooked border-straddling Okanogan River lake, 3.34 pounds — more than half a pound heavier than the next closest entry on the list.

A BASS ANGLER WORKS THE EASTERN SHORE OF LAKE OSOYOOS JUST BELOW THE INTERNATIONAL BORDER IN THIS CROPPED IMAGE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S SHORELINE PHOTO VIEWER. (DOE)

“I suspect they are large in there because conditions are perfect and they have been left alone for the most part,” says Dr. Daniel Garrett, a state warmwater fisheries biologist now stationed in Spokane who crunched the numbers from 14 contests held there.

“I’m sure they would eat a sockeye smolt,” he adds, “but I’d be shocked if crawfish wasn’t driving their growth there for most of the year, as in other systems.”

No need to tell that to two Washington anglers who fished a tournament on the British Columbia side of the 5,729-acre lake last April.

They brought a monster smallmouth aboard that might have gone 9-plus pounds had it not been “pooping crayfish all over the deck,” according to an article on Bassfan.com.

ANOTHER BASS BOAT WORKS OSOYOOS — WHICH MEANS “NARROWING OF THE WATERS” IN THE OKANAGAN LANGUAGE — ALONG ITS WESTERN SHORE IN THIS CROPPED IMAGE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY’S SHORELINE PHOTO VIEWER. (DOE)

It stated that the duo’s two-day, 64-plus-pound catch might also have been a record for the entire nation of Canada, though their final margin of victory — 39 pounds, 15 ounces — also suggests that they might have been fishing the spot on the spot on the spot.

The website reports they were dragging 4-inch Yamamoto Hula Grubs in cinnamon-purple flake and green pumpkin on 1/2-ounce football-head jigs around rocks next to weeds.

“This will put B.C. bass fishing on the map,” angler Shane Hoelzle told BassFan, which observed that otherwise, “largely because it’s a long drive from any large population center, and because anglers have kept quiet, Osoyoos remains largely unpressured.”

The lake is also on WDFW’s map, per se, and the agency says it offers “good fishing” from May through September, but ironically doesn’t list smallies in its rundown of “species you might catch” there.

At this writing, those spot-hoarding state zipperlippers only list perch, rainbows, kokanee, Chinook and sockeye as available.

But in Garrett’s analysis, Osoyoos actually had one of the highest percentages of smallmouth in its tourney catch, around 95 percent, topped only by the Mid-Columbia River’s Wallula Pool at roughly 97 percent.

Bronzebacks also comprised more than 70 percent of the bag at Lakes Washington, Sammamish, Banks and Long (Spokane), according to his analysis.

(WDFW)

But largemouth dominated at two other waters, Box Canyon and Potholes Reservoirs, a reflection of the preponderance of habitat for bucketmouths at the Central and Northeast Washington impoundments, he says.

“Box Canyon, for example, has a ton of slough habitat for largemouth,” Garrett says.

Those off-channel waters and drowned tributary mouths of the Pend Oreille River also unfortunately provided prime places for northern pike illegally introduced from Idaho’s Couer d’Alene drainage to establish themselves before WDFW and the Kalispel Tribe began an aggressive suppression program. While that effort appears to be working, walleye are now turning up in increasing numbers.

Garrett hopes to drill further down into the WDFW tournament data, including catches by month and season, but notes that out of the 146,124 bass caught and recorded at events held between 2008 and 2018, at least 112,213 were smallmouth and 33,503 were largemouth.

“They don’t add up to the 146,124 fish because there are a few missing data points because anglers didn’t report their smallmouth and largemouth. Not very many, though,” he notes.

(WDFW)

WDFW’s permit to hold an event requires organizers to report how many fish of each species were caught, their total weight, the biggest and smallest fish, and how many were released alive.

It turns out that this data may also provide key and unique insights into Washington’s bass populations.

Asked on Facebook if the end of size and bag limits on the Columbia in 2013 and 2016 had had any effect, WDFW stated, “Average weights of bass weighed in tournaments have not changed significantly in the Columbia River Pools. The average since 2016 is slightly higher than the 10-year average.”

As for getting on Lake Osoyoos this spring and summer, there are two boat ramps on the Washington side of the lake, including at Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial Park at its south end and Deep Bay Park on its west side just off Highway 97.

Do be aware that the lake belongs to two countries and boaters on it are watched more closely than on your local neighborhood lake, if this 2013 Wenatchee World story picked up by the Associated Press is any indication.

But over the coming months you might just spot one of WDFW’s warmwater bios doing a little field research here.

“I need to take a trip to see this lake,” says Garrett.

Me too!

Washington Bass, Walleye, Channel Cats Would Remain Game Fish But With Liberalized Regs Under Bill Amendment

Walleye, bass and channel catfish would not be declassified as game species in Washington, but the Fish and Wildlife Commission would need to liberalize limits on them in all waters where sea-going salmonids swim.

STATE LAWMAKERS RECOMMENDED THAT LIMITS ON LARGEMOUTH BASS, LIKE THIS ONE CAUGHT AT A NORTHWEST WASHINGTON LAKE, AS WELL AS SMALLMOUTH BASS, WALLEYE AND CHANNEL CATFISH LIMITS BE LIBERALIZED IN WATERS BEARING SEA-GOING SALMONIDS LIKE CHINOOK. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee this morning voted 8-6 to amend HB 1579 to that effect.

The bill mostly deals with enforcement of hydraulic codes, but targets the nonnative smolt eaters as part of its suite of changes meant to help out struggling orcas and their key feedstock.

I think we should do everything we can to encourage recreational fisheries to catch as many of those fish as possible so that they’re not predating on Chinook salmon,” prime sponsor Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Burien) said during a public hearing last week.

There already are no size or catch limit restrictions on smallmouth, largemouth, walleye and channel cats in the Columbia below Chief Joseph Dam and Snake and both of their tribs, a move WDFW implemented in 2016 following ODFW’s lead.

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But as written the change would liberalize regulations for the species on Lakes Washington and Sammamish and a host of other stillwaters connected to streams that serve as spawning and rearing habitat for not only Chinook but also coho, sockeye, steelhead, bull trout and other anadromous species.

For instance, Cottage Lake near Woodinville, Big Lake near Mt. Vernon, and Lake Sawyer east of Auburn.

WDFW’s SalmonScape illustrates the scope of other potentially affected waters.

And it also shows ones that may not, at least under the bill as it’s currently written — important spinyray lakes such as Banks, Billy Clapp, Moses, Potholes, Scooteney and Sprague in Eastern Washington, along with Seattle’s Green, Snohomish County’s Goodwin and Roseiger, and Bellingham’s Whatcom.

The state mapping product shows those have not been documented to have salmon present in or above them.

But eventually Rufus Woods and Lake Roosevelt could, if efforts to reintroduce Chinook to the Canadian Columbia go through.

Walleye and smallmouth are primarily in the Columbia system and largemouth are ubiquitous in lakes across Washington, and all can spawn naturally, but channel cats, which tend to only be able to spawn in the warmest of our relatively cool waters, have been planted in select lakes when funding has been available to buy them from other states.

While the issue of how to classify fish that are from the Midwest and elsewhere east of the Rockies is of concern to WDFW and the state’s warmwater anglers and guides, the bill has primarily elicited pushback for the elements strengthening how the agency permits work around water, including repealing all but automatic approvals for residential bulkheads on the saltwater, which can impact forage fish spawning habitat.

Rep. Bruce Chandler, a Republican from eastern Yakima County, called the bill “an imposition of changes that really apply to Puget Sound.”

Chairman Brian Blake, a Democrat who represents Washington’s South Coast, termed it a “work in progress,” but nonetheless asked fellow lawmakers to move it forward.

All eight Democrats voted for a slate of amendments to the bill, while six of the seven Republicans voted against, with the seventh absent.

The bill also would require anglers who fish for smelt in saltwaters to buy a license, a move that would annually yield an estimated $37,400, according to a legislative analysis.

A version in the Senate, SB 5580, had a public hearing yesterday. It was supported by WDFW and tribal and environmental groups, and opposed by building and business associations, with concerns from the state farm bureau.

To go into law, they would have to pass both chambers and be signed by Governor Inslee, and then, at least as far as bass, walleye, and channel cats go, the Fish and Wildlife Commission would need to make the changes to the regulations, though it could be also be done via an emergency rule.

Editor’s note: An earlier version reported HB 1579 received a do-pass recommendation out of committee. In fact, the vote was whether to amend the bill, which occurred. It remains to be given a recommendation.