YAKIMA, Wash. -- Not that it has been of much good, but a number of lakes up in the Columbia Basin opened for fishing on March 1. Normally, the lakes are ice-free and give anglers a chance to shake off some of the winter doldrums when they open.
Obviously this has been a strange winter, setting record low temperatures until just a few days ago, keeping calf-deep snow hanging around way too long for most of us. But, with warmer temperatures finally on the horizon, the lakes that opened a week ago should soon be ice-free and offering some good trout fishing in the near future.
The most popular of the lakes that opened include Burke and Quincy Lakes, along with Martha and a couple others near George. Some 50 degree days and sunshine will have those lakes ready to fish before too long. Martha Lake, along with Upper Caliche Lake, will likely be the area’s best producing waters according Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists. In addition to fingerling rainbow trout, both lakes received 4,000 catchable rainbow trout last spring. Those fish should be in the 14- to 16-inch range this spring. Test fishing at Martha Lake found the fingerlings had grown to 12 inches and were feisty and ready to take spinners or Power Bait.
Other lakes that opened on March 1 that should be worth fishing when the weather allows are the Lenice chain of lakes near Vantage. These selective-gear lakes, including Lenice, Merry and Nunnally, usually provide some excellent fishing for trout in the early spring for fly-fishers and anglers throwing barbless, single-hooked lures. These lakes receive approximately 2,500 catchable rainbow trout each fall and growth of these fish is excellent. Anglers reported catches of multiple fish in the 16- to 18-inch range last year. Anglers should note that, while they can still retain one fish per day, the minimum size is now 18 inches on Lenice, Nunnally, and Merry.
If you are tired of waiting on the lakes to thaw and would like to try some fishing this weekend, walleye fishing in several areas seems to be perking up. In the past few days I have been seeing a bunch of photos from a couple of my guide friends who have found some walleyes that are willing to bite. Austin Moser has been fishing up at Rufus Woods, just below Grand Coulee Dam, and he has been catching some nice walleyes up to 25-inches long, in the river.
And Jacob Munden, of Rising Son Guide Service, has been having some equally good luck fishing for walleye in the Columbia near the Tri-Cities. He’s posted several photos of fat walleye taken this past weekend.
Walleye, while not being the best fighters in the fishing world, are incredibly good eating. The light meat makes really good fish and chips.
March gets us a bit closer to spring salmon fishing, but the recent cold temperatures in combination with the run off of all our snows will most likely keep the Columbia River colder than normal for this time of year.
River temperatures play some role in the timing of the upstream migration of the salmon, and this is likely to delay the return to some extent. The current water temperature is right at 36 degrees in the mid-Columbia. The average temperature is for this time of year is 42 degrees.
As of Monday there were still no chinook salmon over Bonneville Dam. Looking back at run counts for this time in March, the ten year average is 20 springers over Bonneville by now. Not that 20 fish is much to get excited about, but at least it showed signs the run was starting. This year we may be waiting a bit longer to get that notification.
Popular fishing holes Drano Lake and the Wind River will open for spring chinook salmon fishing this Saturday, March 16. But with no salmon over the dam yet, it will most likely be a few weeks before it is worth fishing these spots.
Multi-season hunting permit applications are now available
Applications for multi-season permits that allow hunters to use all three weapon choices (modern rifle, muzzleloader, archery) are now available for purchase. The deadline to apply for these permits, which allows holders to hunt with rifle, muzzleloader and archery gear, during those seasons, is the end of this month.
Multi-season permits are available for both deer and elk and give the holders much more time to be hunting until their tag is filled. Multi-season permit holders can apply for special hunts for all three weapon types. Elk multi-season permit holders are eligible to apply for special hunts on both sides of Washington State.
The applications can be purchased online or from an authorized license vendor. Cost is $7.10 per application and successful applicants then can purchase the multi-season tag for the species for which they are drawn. Those tags are $139.10 for deer, and $182.00 for elk. Drawing results will be available online in April, and winners will be notified by mail.
This year there are 8,500 deer and 1,000 elk multi-season tags available. Every year there are unsold tags available and if a person has purchased an application but did not get selected in the April drawing, they may be eligible to buy any unsold multi-season tags on a first-come, first-served basis.
Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has written the Northwest Sportsman column for over 25 years. He can be reached at email@example.com