Tag Archives: trout

ODFW Stocking Wallowa High Lakes, Studying Which Size Trout Works Best

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Thousands of juvenile trout were airlifted to the Wallowa Mountains last week by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to supplement the fish populations of lakes within the 361,000-acre Eagle Cap Wilderness in Northeast Oregon.

JUVENILE TROUT FALL TOWARD HOBO LAKE IN THE EAGLE CAP WILDERNESS DURING A HELICOPTER FISH-STOCKING OPERATION MONDAY. (KYLE BRATCHER, ODFW)

The Eagle Cap Wilderness has some of Oregon’s most beautiful mountain lakes, including the state’s highest lake, Legore Lake, perched above the Wallowa Valley at an altitude of 8,950 feet. More than 40 lakes in the Eagle Cap are above 7,000 feet.

“The extreme conditions involved in maintaining healthy fish populations in a landscape above 7,000 feet has its own challenges,” said Jeff Yanke, ODFW district fish biologist in Enterprise, adding, “but anglers have consistently told us that fishing is one of the recreational experiences they expect when they go to the wilderness.”

ODFW stocks Eagle Cap Wilderness lakes by helicopter every two years. The stocking program is paid for with federal Sportfish Restoration Program dollars, which is funded by a 10 percent excise tax on the sale of fishing equipment. In this way, ODFW seeds off-the-beaten-track lakes with rainbow trout that will hopefully grow to become the eight inchers that anglers can legally retain.

WITH MORE THAN 40 LAKES OVER 7,000 FEET UP, THE WALLOWAS PUT THE HIGH IN HIGH LAKES FISHING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The challenges juvenile trout face in the high mountains are considerable. First there is the long fall from the aerial stocking device (ASD) or “shuttle” underneath the helicopter to the cold waters of the high lake. In some of those lakes, the rainbows may encounter eastern brook trout, which were stocked in the high lakes decades ago and are a voracious predator. Freezing cold water is another factor in the high lakes that can take a toll on fish.

One way to improve survival rates is to start with larger fish. Fish biologists have long known larger fish are better able to withstand the forces of nature than smaller fish. However, larger fish also take up more space, which means fewer of them will fit into the two-gallon containers on the helicopter shuttle that ODFW uses to transport fish to the high lakes.

This year ODFW’s Enterprise office began testing three sizes of rainbow trout to see which one may fare better with the presence of brook trout in Oregon’s highest lakes. The control group, raised to a target size of 2.5 inches, is similar to what ODFW has released into the high lakes in the past and most commonly used for aerial stocking in other locations. This year two larger sizes: 3- and 4-inch rainbows – were also tested to see if there is any improvement in survival rates as the result of using larger trout. This part of the study will be completed in three to four years.

“Our study was initiated to see if we could increase rainbow survival in our lakes enough by raising a larger fish to overcome predation and competition by naturally producing brook trout,” said Kyle Bratcher, ODFW assistant district fish biologist in Enterprise.

One of the concerns was that larger fish might suffer more severe injuries when they hit the water after a 70-foot free fall because their bodies have more surface area to injure. Finding little or no documented evidence of this, the biologists simulated an air stocking event by dropping these different groups from varying heights into a small reservoir in advance.

Preliminary results indicate that all three size groups have high post-drop survival rates, according to Bratcher, who noted that samples were sent to ODFW’s fish lab in La Grande where they will be assessed for bruising, injuries and other signs of trauma.

In addition, ODFW crews will sample survey the stocked lakes two years from now, with captured fish identified as to species, length, weight, and other criteria that will lead to estimates of population abundance, growth, and condition.

Columbia, Gorge Pools, SW WA Fishing Report (7-12-17)

THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL ORIGINATED FROM JIMMY WATTS, ODFW, PAUL HOFFARTH, WDFW, AND JOE HYMER, PSMFC, AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY HYMER

SALMON, STEELHEAD AND SHAD

On Saturday’s (7/8) flight, 271 salmonid boats and 90 Oregon bank anglers were counted from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Bonneville Dam.

Gorge Bank: Weekend checking showed six adult Chinook kept and three adult Chinook released for 39 salmon anglers; and 250 shad kept for 43 shad anglers.

COLUMBIA RIVER FISHERY MONITORS CONTINUE TO REPORT GOOD ANGLING FOR WALLEYE THIS YEAR. LEXI HAN HOOKED THIS ONE IN JUNE NEAR TRI-CITIES. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Gorge Boats: Weekend checking showed five adult Chinook kept and three adult Chinook released for seven salmon boats (18 anglers).

Troutdale Boats: Weekend checking showed one adult Chinook kept plus three adult Chinook and one steelhead released for 27 salmon boats (57 anglers).

Portland to Westport Bank: Weekend checking showed three adult Chinook, one Chinook jack and four summer steelhead kept plus one adult Chinook released for 72 bank anglers.

Portland to Westport Boats: Weekend checking showed two adult Chinook kept and four adult Chinook released for 29 boats (64 anglers).

Estuary Bank (Astoria-Megler Bridge to Wauna Power lines): Weekly checking showed no catch for three anglers.

Estuary Boats (Astoria-Megler Bridge to Wauna Power lines):  Weekend checking showed no catch for two salmon boats (five anglers).

Bonneville Pool: Weekly checking showed one adult Chinook kept plus one adult Chinook released for seven bank anglers.

The Dalles Pool: Weekly checking showed one adult Chinook kept for six bank anglers; and no catch for two boats (four anglers).

John Day Pool: No report.

STURGEON

Gorge boats: Catch and release only. No report.

Portland to Wauna Power lines: Catch and release only. No report.

Estuary Boats (Buoy 10 to Wauna Power lines): Catch and release only. Weekend checking showed 16 sublegal and 31 oversize sturgeon released for four boats (11 anglers).

Bonneville Pool: Catch and release only. No report.

The Dalles Pool: Catch and release only. Weekly checking showed one sublegal sturgeon released for one bank angler.

John Day Pool: Catch and release only. Weekly checking showed eight sublegal and one legal sturgeon released for five boats (20 anglers).

WALLEYE

Troutdale boats: Weekend checking showed no catch for two boats (three anglers).

Bonneville Pool: No report.

The Dalles Pool: Weekly checking showed three walleye kept and 50 walleye kept for three boats (13 anglers).

John Day Pool: Weekly checking showed 421 walleye kept and 223 walleye released for 68 boats (152 anglers).

………………………………………………………

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – I-5 Bridge downstream:  2 boat and 25 bank rods had no catch.  Above the I-5 Bridge:  142 boat rods kept 4 adult spring Chinook, 37 steelhead, and 1 cutthroat and released 26 cutthroats.  155 bank rods kept 26 adult spring Chinook and 10 steelhead and released 4 adult and 2 jack spring Chinook, 1 steelhead, and 1 cutthroat.

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – During the first nine days of July we sampled 1,081 salmonid anglers (including 183 boats) with 72 adult and 4 jack summer Chinook, 82 steelhead, and 1 sockeye.  26 (36%) of the adult summer Chinook were kept (remember, adult Chinook had to be released through July 6). 52 (63%) of the steelhead and the lone sockeye were kept.

Tri-cities Area Summer Chinook & Sockeye Fishery – WDFW staff interviewed 58 anglers from 30 boats this past week with a reported catch of 1 adult chinook and 24 sockeye.  For the week an estimated 12 adult summer chinook and 300 sockeye were harvested.  For the season there have been 2,144 angler trips for sockeye/summer chinook with 107 adult hatchery chinook, 23 chinook jacks, and 885 sockeye harvested. Area fisheries will continue to be open to fishing for hatchery summer chinook through August 15.

Paul A. Hoffarth
District 4 Fish Biologist
WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

Sturgeon

Lower Columbia mainstem below the Marker 82 line – 50 sturgeon anglers (including 15 boats) were sampled with 37 legals released.

Shad

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – 188 anglers (including 2 boats) kept 601 shad and released 16 fish.

Walleye

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – 21 walleye anglers (10 boats) kept 6 walleye.

Trout

Recent plants of catchable size rainbows and browns into SW WA waters.  No report on angling success.

Lake/Pond
Date
Species
Number
Fish per pound
Hatchery
Notes

CHAMBERS LK (LEWI)<http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=CHAMBERS+LK+%28LEWI%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Lewis County – Region 5
Jul 05, 2017
Brown Trout
1,000
2
MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

MAYFIELD LK (26)<http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=MAYFIELD+LK+++%2826%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
County – Region 5
Jul 06, 2017
Rainbow
4,290
2.13
EELLS SPRINGS

Countdown To Trout Town: T-3 Days Till Washington Opener

Last night I made a quick pitstop at Fred Meyer to pick up my fishing license.

That’s because, well, I had to renew since it’s a new license year, but I’ve also got plans for Saturday morning and taking one of the Juniors out for trout.

THE 2012 TROUT OPENER WAS QUITE A LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR RIVER WALGAMOTT. HE LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF SHOUTING “FISH ON,” WHICH HE SHOUTED THROUGHOUT THE FIGHT WITH A CLEAR LAKE (PIERCE COUNTY) RAINBOW THAT DAY – “FISH ON FISH ON FISH ON FISH ON!” (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

April 22 is the fishiest day in Washington angling, the general lowland opener at a mess of lakes from the coast to the Cascades to Cheney.

RIVER ALSO LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF BOATS – ADAM BROOKS WONDERS WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THE WALGAMOTT KID. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW has been busy in recent weeks, stocking them plumb full of rainbows, including around 150,000 pound-on-average trout and 2.3 million catchables, along with millions that were stocked as fry last year and now have reached harvestable size.

RIVER LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF TEAMWORK. WHILE ADAM REELS IN ANOTHER, HE AND ADAM’S BROTHER RYAN READY THE NET. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“These are all high-quality fish that are significantly larger than our regular catchable trout, and those 3-pounders are outstanding fish,” says Steve Thiesfeld, who manages the Inland Fish Program, about several thousand triploids in the mix.

RYAN AND RIVER LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF BEING ON THE WATER, STARING INTO ITS MURKY DEPTHS AND WONDERING WHEN THE FISH WERE GONNA BITE – OR MAYBE EVEN COMPLETELY FORGETTING WHY THEY WERE ON THE LAKE THAT DAY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

To find out what’s gone into your lake, check out this year’s stocking plan. Don’t have a lake?!? May we introduce you to WDFW’s handy-dandy LakeFinder website?

ADAM, RIVER AND RYAN LEARNED ABOUT THE JOY OF A STOUT STRINGER – AND NOT TO TAKE THEMSELVES SO SERIOUSLY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The agency is also putting on its second statewide trout derby, with even more tagged fish and prizes — 1,000 rainbows bearing yellow tags, each with a number corresponding to $25,000 worth of prizes, including gear as well as year-long subscriptions to Northwest Sportsman magazine.

THE JOY OF FISHING ON THE OPENER WILL PUT A LITTLE SPRING IN ANYONE’S STEP. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Whether you’re fishing worms under a bobber from the bank, trolling spinners or small plugs from a boat, flailing a good ol’ Woolly Bugger from a pontoon or helping a youngster to catch their first, good luck, and thanks for taking part in the richest tradition in Washington fishing!

SW WA, Columbia Fishing Report (4-18-17)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION ORIGINATED WITH WDFW AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Salmon/Steelhead

FACTIOD – The 503 adult spring Chinook counted at Bonneville Dam through April 16 are the second lowest on record since at least 1939.  The record low are the 205 fish counted through April 16, 2006.

Cowlitz River – 8 bank anglers with 1 steelhead kept.  20 boat anglers with 3 adult Chinook kept.

ANGIE WILDER OF BEND PICKED UP THIS NICE SPRING CHINOOK WHILE FISHING ON ANCHOR IN 12 FEET OF WATER WITH AN M2 FLATFISH. SHE WAS OUT WITH GUIDE MIKE KELLEY. (VIA BUZZ RAMSEY)

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 300 winter-run steelhead adults, five winter-run steelhead jacks, 347 spring Chinook adults, seven spring Chinook jacks and one summer-run steelhead adult in five daysof operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power employees released 84 spring Chinook adults, one spring Chinook jack, 49 winter-run steelhead adults  and one steelhead jack into the Cispus River near Yellow Jacket Creek and 132 spring Chinook adults, one spring Chinook jack, one winter-run steelhead jack and ten winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

Last week, Tacoma employees released 13 winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River located at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and released 81 spring Chinook adults at Franklin Bridge in Packwood.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 12,400 cubic feet per second on Monday, April 17. Water visibility is six feet and water temperature is 44.6 F

North Fork Lewis River from Johnson Creek (located downstream from Lewis River Salmon Hatchery) upstream to Merwin Dam – During the month of May, closed to all fishing.

Wind River – 1 lonely boat there last Saturday.  No report on catch.

Effective May 1 through June 30, from the mouth to the Hwy. 14 Bridge each angler aboard a vessel may deploy SALMON/STEELHEAD angling gear until the daily SALMON/STEELHEAD limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved. In addition, anglers with a Two-Pole Endorsement may fish for salmon and steelhead with two poles during the same period.

Beginning May 1, anti-snagging rule will be in effect from the Hwy. 14 Bridge upstream. When the anti-snagging rule is in effect, only fish hooked inside the mouth may be retained.

Wind River from 100 feet above Shipherd Falls upstream to boundary markers approximately 800 yards downstream from Carson National Fish Hatchery (except closed 400 feet below to 100 feet above the Coffer Dam) -From May 1 through June 30, the salmon and steelhead daily limit will be a total of 2 chinook or hatchery steelhead or one of each. Unmarked chinook may be retained in this section of the Wind. Night closure and anti-snagging rule will be in effect. Only fish hooked inside the mouth may be retained.

Drano Lake – 17 boat anglers had no catch.  2-3 boats observed there daily.

Effective May 1 through June 30, each angler aboard a vessel may deploy SALMON/STEELHEAD angling gear until the daily SALMON/STEELHEAD limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved. In addition, anglers with a Two-Pole Endorsement may fish for salmon and steelhead with two poles during the same period.

Klickitat River – No effort observed.

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam -From last Thurs.-Sun. we sampled 1,369 salmonid anglers (including 443 boats) with 246 adult, 1 jack spring Chinook and 6 steelhead.  227 (92%) of the adult spring Chinook were kept.  We sampled 206 (91%) of the adult spring Chinook kept.  Based on Visual Stock identification (VSI), 159 (77%) of the fish sampled were upriver stock.

2 (33%) of the steelhead were kept.

Effort is increasing with nearly 1,000 salmonid boats and 600 bank anglers counted during last Saturday’s flight.

A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 19 at 1 PM via teleconference to review harvest and stock status and consider the recreational spring Chinook fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam.

Sturgeon

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – Light effort and catch.

All fishing for sturgeon will be closed from May 1 through Aug. 31 in the sturgeon sanctuary from Bonneville Dam downstream 9 miles to a line crossing the Columbia River from navigation Marker 82 on the Oregon shore westerly to the boundary marker on the Washington shore upstream of Fir Point.

Bonneville Pool – No report on success during the current catch-and-release only fishery. Angling for sturgeon will be prohibited from May 1 through July 31 between The Dalles Dam downstream 1.8 miles to a line from the east (upstream) dock at the Port of The Dalles boat ramp straight across to a marker on the Washington shore.

The Dalles Pool -No report on success during the current catch-and-release only fishery. Under permanent rules to protect spawning fish, closed to fishing for sturgeon from John Day Dam downstream 2.4 miles to the west end of the grain silo at Rufus Oregon

John Day Pool – No report on success during the current catch-and-release only fishery. Under permanent rules to protect spawning fish, closed to fishing for sturgeon from McNary Dam downstream 1.5 miles to Hwy. 82 (Hwy. 395) Bridge May 1 through July 31.

Trout

Recent plants of catchable size rainbows and browns into SW waters.  No report on angling success.

Lake/Pond
Date
Species
Number
Fish per Pound
Hatchery
Notes

Clark County – Region 5
Apr 10, 2017
Rainbow
2,500
1.85
VANCOUVER HATCHERY

KLINELINE PD (CLAR)<http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=KLINELINE+PD+%28CLAR%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Clark County – Region 5
Apr 10, 2017
Brown Trout
2,500
1.75
VANCOUVER HATCHERY

KRESS LK (COWL)<http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=KRESS+LK+%28COWL%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Cowlitz County – Region 5
Apr 12, 2017
Brown Trout
1,755
2.7
MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

LK SACAJAWEA (COWL)<http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=LK+SACAJAWEA+%28COWL%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Cowlitz County – Region 5
Apr 12, 2017
Brown Trout
1,755
2.7
MOSSYROCK HATCHERY

TUNNEL LK (SKAM)<http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=TUNNEL+LK+%28SKAM%29&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Skamania County – Region 5
Apr 12, 2017
Rainbow
2,000
2.36
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

Road Trip!

A weekend hall pass and I-90 lead to three trophy trout waters for Tacoma anglers.
By Al Schultz

Early in April of last year, I got three days off in a row and I knew just how I wanted to  spend them: fishing my way across Eastern Washington. I didn’t want any wasted time. I wanted the trip to be productive, with plenty of time for fishing, catching quality trout and enjoying time with a friend.
In January at the Western Washington Sportsman’s Show I’d obtained a “show special for two” flyer from the good folks at the Ellensburg Angler Guide Service, so I called them up and asked if the flyer was still good. They said it was, so I booked a trip for two floating the Yakima River. Day one was planned!
I contacted my friend, Leo Pierson, and advised him he was being included in another one of my harebrained outdoor adventure schemes.
“Oh, by the way,” I added, “don’t forget to load up your camper.”
Leo is a retired meat cutter and butcher who worked for over 30 years at the old Hi-Grade Meat Packing Plant that used to exist in Tacoma before it closed down and headed south. At 80 years old he still gets around well and is the best company and my first choice for a partner on any trip. My “plan” called for his camper with my boat towed behind. We would fish for trophy trout on three distinctly different waters open to the public year-round without having to spend more than two and a half hours on I-90 between fishing destinations, except on our way back.
I had to work right up until an hour before we were scheduled to leave, so I told Leo to meet me at 7 a.m. at my house. We’d hitch my boat to his truck and head straight away east to Ellensburg, where we were scheduled to meet our guide at 10 a.m.

ZERO HOUR ARRIVED, and three hours later Leo and I found Stefan Woodruff patiently waiting for us. We parked, grabbed some coffee, our fly rods and vests, and jumped in his rig and headed to the launch where he readied his drift boat. One thing that jumped out in my mind about the guide service is how thorough, organized and, above all, competent they were. In no time at all we were loaded up in Woodruff’s boat and drifting the Yakima.
Our guide had a plan: Due to the cooler temps and overcast sky, he opted for us to fish nymphs beneath a float, which he deftly and expertly rigged up and attached to our fly rods. Then in true guide fashion, he headed right for some holes he knew to be choice lurks for lunker rainbows. Remember how I didn’t want any wasted time on this trip? The folks at Ellensburg Angler, especially Woodruff, got it. We were on the water promptly, drifting and fishing one productive hole after another, no wasted time.

Floating the Yakima, Leo Pierson casts a dry fly  during an afternoon hatch. (AL SCHULTZ)

Floating the Yakima, Leo Pierson casts a dry fly during an afternoon hatch. (AL SCHULTZ)

“Fish on!” I nearly shouted, despite the fact that the only people around were in the same boat as I. I was amazed at the solitude. It was hard to believe a trophy trout stream so close to Puget Sound would be so devoid of people. The fish I’d hooked had shoulders and used the current to its advantage, bowing my 6-weight fly rod nearly double, stripping line off the reel and causing my drag to whir. I had heard of the quality of fish on the Yak, but to actually experience the wildness and tenacity of the trout that inhabit this beautiful river was something else!
While I played the fish, a beautiful, brilliantly colored 16- or 17-inch rainbow, Woodruff landed our drift boat on a gravel bar. And when I brought the fish to hand, he quickly stepped out, expertly netted the fish, then gently and reverently removed the fish so I could take a quick photo prior to releasing it. As I watched him carefully handle the fish I was struck by how truly special this fishery was to him, and it was apparent how much he loved it and felt responsible to be a good steward of it. I have fished a lot of places all over the world and have never seen anyone exemplify stewardship the way Woodruff did throughout the day, beginning with this first fish. As we drifted there were certain shallow gravel-bottomed pools that Woodruff stated he would rather not fish because the trout were spawning and had made redds there. He didn’t want to drag an anchor or anything through those areas and possibly  destroy or disturb the redds.
We continued drifting and catching fish and soon it was lunchtime. The folks at Ellensburg Angler offer hot shoreline lunches and Woodruff turned out to be a grill master! As I cast from shore, Leo settled in to enjoy some fruit and a beverage, while our guide began grilling steaks and preparing a salad. Before long we were all enjoying a delicious shoreline lunch. Afterwards, we helped pack everything back aboard the drifter and resumed our journey downstream in pursuit of more trout. Sometime in the early afternoon the sun broke through the clouds and almost instantly the air seemed to still and warm. Then, one of those magical moments happened: Mayflies began to emerge and in some of the stillwater eddies, trout began to rise. We quickly switched our rigs to dry flies, and while Woodruff worked the oars to keep us in the pocket, Leo and I had a ball catching fish on dries. After a while we resumed our drift and lucked into a few more grand fish before we reached the take-out. We had a terrific time and I learned a lot about the fishery and fishing, and how to be a good steward of the river, all simply by watching and listening to Woodruff, a man half my age. Our Eastside fishing trip was already awesome and it was only day 1!

LEAVING ELLENSBURG, WE headed towards Day 2’s destination: Ephrata for dinner and camping along Rocky Ford Creek. Rocky Ford is a shoreline fishery only– no floating or wading. Bank access was good, but, as ever in the Columbia Basin, the wind and brush can wreak havoc on novice fly anglers’ casts.

Next stop, Rocky Ford, where a young angler brings one of the creek’s rainbows to the net. (AL SCHULTZ)

Next stop, Rocky Ford, where a young angler brings one of the creek’s rainbows to the net. (AL SCHULTZ)

As daylight broke the horizon, we rigged our rods with Czech nymphs (scuds) and plied the spring creek’s warm waters for huge rainbows. Rocky Ford is known far and wide as a trophy catch-and-release fishery, and fish 24 inches or larger are not uncommon. But hear ye, hear ye, lest ye think that it is like shooting fish in a barrel, understand that these trout have been caught and released who knows how many times and they have the scarred noses and lips to prove it. They know every fly by its catalog number and they’ve seen every presentation, good and bad. They are not easily fooled. To catch one of these behemoths is not only a reward but a validation of one’s competency with a switch and string! Leo and I wandered our separate ways in pursuit of our own dreams (and validation!), and later in the afternoon we returned to the camper where we had a late lunch and shared respective stories of monsters lost and minnows landed.
As an update, more water is flowing in Rocky Ford this spring, so places we were able to stand on shore last April may be flooded now. With increased current, anglers are also reporting a need to use more weight, per se, in the form of a beaded fly and dropper setup to get their offerings down to the level of the fish.

WE PACKED UP in late afternoon and motored to our next destination, Four Seasons Campground and Resort along the west end of Sprague Lake. We checked in with our hosts Scott and Jane Haugen and hastily set up camp to get a little fishing in before dark. The resort has wonderful campsites and a good launch, as well  as ample dock space for bank anglers.
Fishing here has benefited from the lawsuit settlement between the Wild Fish Conservancy and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. As it prohibited releasing most of the 2014 crop of early-timed winter steelhead smolts into Puget Sound rivers, 369,000 of the young fish went into Sprague, which has no access to the sea. After just a year in the rich lake, many of those steelhead were over 2 pounds and 16 or 17 inches in length, and they’ll be even bigger this spring. Leo and I fully intended to capitalize. The evening of Day 2 found us trolling Rapala Minnows, and within 30 minutes of launching I had landed a 4½-pound rainbow that I promptly released after taking a quick picture.
That night we had moose steaks for dinner and the conversation was filled with excitement and anticipation about the fishing we would find in the morning. We were both pretty excited after catching such a nice rainbow after trolling for only half an hour. trout trip 4
Day 3 found us on the water after a delicious breakfast of ham and eggs. I frequently marked fish on the Hummingbird Fish Finder and we regularly caught cookie-cutter steelies in the 15- to 17-inch range. Actually, we landed so many that I got a little bored and began pursuing other fish that inhabit the 1,800-acre lake, like largemouth. Running a deep-diving crankbait over a submerged boulder field, I managed to hook a nice 4-pound bucketmouth. After releasing the bass, I took a moment to look around and absorb the sun’s rays. I couldn’t believe there were only four other boats in view on the lake. Amazing!

Sprague Lake anglers like Cye Logsdon and friends not only benefited from the release of nearly 370,000 steelhead smolts into the landlocked Channeled Scablands water, but from the 2007 rotenone and restocking of rainbows and largemouth bass. (AL SCHULTZ)

Sprague Lake anglers like Cye Logsdon and friends not only benefited from the release of nearly 370,000 steelhead smolts into the landlocked Channeled Scablands water, but from the 2007 rotenone and restocking of rainbows and largemouth bass. (AL SCHULTZ)

We resumed fishing, but as it  turned to afternoon, my hall pass was about to expire, so we motored back to the launch. There we met three amigos also wrapping up their day after limiting on nice steelhead and rainbows off Four Seasons’ dock. As I spoke to them, a family arrived to take their kids fishing on the dock. It was wonderful seeing everyone enjoying this remarkable fishery.
When Leo and I got ready to leave, I noticed the wiring harness  pins on my boat trailer were broken and my trailer didn’t have working lights. Haugen went into his shop, found a replacement plug and all the necessary tools to make the fix, and assisted as I spliced the wiring and replaced the plug. He and his wife define hospitality for sure!
Once the repair was made, we thanked our hosts for another tremendous time and made for home. It had been an amazing 72 hours! NS

Between Seattle and Spokane, I-90 provides access to a number of great trout fisheries, and none may be more productive than Sprague Lake, where author Al Schultz caught this nice rainbow on a Rapala. (AL SCHULTZ)

Between Seattle and Spokane, I-90 provides access to a number of great trout fisheries, and none may be more productive than Sprague Lake, where author Al Schultz caught this nice rainbow on a Rapala. (AL SCHULTZ)