It’s all fun and games in September and October as the foliage turns scarlet and gold. The fish put on the feed bag, biting readily. Then, November and December arrive, the leaves turn brown, tree branches become empty, and catching fish gets more challenging. Having said that, there are still some great places to catch fish in Eastern Washington in the late fall and early winter.
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE: You know what they say, “the river never sleeps”, and neither do the fishing opportunities in the Gorge. At this time of year, the coho salmon bite is waning, but the walleye bite near John Day Dam, as well as catch and release sturgeon fishing, remains strong. If you are looking for current information, drop by Gorge Outfitters Supply in Rufus, Oregon.
GRANDE RONDE RIVER: It’s a long drive, but this picturesque river is worth it. Starting in November, good numbers of summer steelhead show up here, and fortunately, there is a good amount of public access for you to get at them, from Highway 129 at Boggan’s Oasis to Troy, Oregon. There is also some access near the mouth of the Grande Ronde, where it flows into the Snake River. The steelhead run is much better than last year and anglers should be in for decent fishing from the bank, or from a raft or drift boat. Spinners, spoons, and small jigs fished under floats all work well here. Barbless hooks are required. Check the regulations for additional information.
POTHOLES RESERVOIR: The walleye bite continues well into December, and trout fishing is an option too! Try trolling near Medicare Beach or off the mouth of Frenchman’s Wasteway for quality size rainbow trout. Try off the face of the sand dunes, the mouth of Crab Creek, or in the Lind Coulee for walleye at this time of year. Trolling a spinner/worm harness behind a bottom bouncer weight works well in November, but as the water continues to cool, switch to blade baits for the walleye.
ROSES LAKE: Located near Manson, this 132-acre lake offers very good trout fishing during the fall and winter. There is a public access area on the south end of the lake, with some room to spread out for anglers fishing from shore. Once the lake freezes over, it becomes an ice fishing destination not only for trout but also for perch, which are found in good numbers here. Pro tip?
After you are done fishing, have breakfast or lunch at the nearby Blueberry Hills Restaurant. It will make the whole trip worthwhile even if you don’t catch a thing!
LONG LAKE: I was introduced to this lake when I was invited by Mack’s Lure President Bob Schmidt to fish with him and a couple of other friends on board Steve Morris’s boat, the man who owns SJM Guide Service. This lake is located just northeast of Spokane. Morris explained this fishery has a limited window because the boat launches become unusable by mid-December.
Our late November fishing trip was fantastic with a very quick limit of chunky, 12-to-14-inch rainbow trout. If you have never fished here before I would recommend using a guide like Steve. His website is www.sjmguideservice.com .
RUFUS WOODS RESERVOIR: This impoundment between Chief Joseph Dam in Bridgeport and Grand Coulee Dam is a long time draw for anglers going after the big triploid trout found in this reservoir. In the past, most of the triploids caught here were escapees reeled in near the net pens they were raised in on the reservoir. Now, the Colville Tribe raises triploid trout in a hatchery and releases them directly into the reservoir.
If you are fishing on tribal land, you will need a permit to do so, in addition to your fishing license. While many anglers take their boats to the areas just outside the net pens, bank anglers can also have success on tribal land by the net pens, as well as from shore at Bridgeport State Park, Brandt’s Landing, and the Willow Flats Recreation Area near Chief Joseph Dam. Oh, and if the triploid trout aren’t biting? Try trolling or jigging for walleye, there are a bunch of them here.
LAKE ROOSEVELT: Last but definitely not least, this 151-mile-long impoundment of the Columbia River stretching from Coulee Dam to Canada offers very good fishing during the winter months for quality rainbow trout and kokanee, both of which average 16 to 20 inches in size on a good year, with some fish even bigger than that. Walleye fishing is also very good here during the cool weather months, and they can get big (a walleye weighing nearly 12 pounds was caught this past March). Anglers tend to fish around Keller, the mouth of the Spokane River, or by Kettle Falls. The kokanee are usually found in the lower end of the lake in the winter. If you want the latest fishing information about Lake Roosevelt, stop by Clark’s All-Sports in Colville.