Saturday, May 25, 2024

Great winter fisheries east of the Cascades




LONG LAKE:  Located near Spokane, Long Lake kicks out good numbers of quality rainbow trout in November and December.  The best fishing is found several miles up the lake from the main boat launch at the south end of this reservoir.  Trolling Mack’s Lure Wedding Ring spinners is a good choice and orange is a great color.  Dropping water levels in December often make the primary boat launch unusable so plan on fishing here sooner than later.

CURLEW LAKE:  Traditionally known as a summer destination for trout and the occasional tiger muskie, Curlew Lake is now known for its perch fishing.  Perch are now the predominant species in this Ferry County lake and fishing for them in the winter, either through the ice or in open water, can reward you with quality fish averaging 9 to 11-inches in length.

LAKE ROOSEVELT:  This huge impoundment of the Columbia River offers excellent fishing for three species during the winter months.  Walleye are often found biting near Kettle Falls and at the southern end of the Reservoir from Keller to Seven Bays you can find big rainbow trout and kokanee salmon that often weigh over two pounds.  If you have never fished Lake Roosevelt in the winter before, consider booking a trip with a local guide and learn from a pro.

RUFUS WOODS RESERVOIR:  If you are looking for big trout, head to Rufus Woods Reservoir, an impoundment of the Columbia located between Grand Coulee Dam and Chief Joesph Dam.  The best fishing is around the Nespelem net pens.  You can fish from either the shore (An access fee is required) or from a boat.  Jigs or dough baits both work well for trout that are measured in pounds, not inches.  A Colville Tribal fishing permit is required to fish here.  Looking for another option?  Try fishing from shore just above Chief Joseph Dam.  Anglers soaking bait from shore for trout can do quite well at times.

It's not just about trout at Rufus Woods Reservoir.  There is an under-rated walleye fishery too which offers very good opportunities.  The walleye here tend to be eater sized versus trophy sized and can be caught in the winter with blade baits or fishing nightcrawlers off the bottom.

MID-COLUMBIA RIVER:  Another great place for walleye during the winter is the mid-Columbia River from The Dalles to the Tri-Cities.  Unlike Rufus Woods Reservoir, you have a legitimate shot at big walleye in this stretch of the Columbia which has given up state records in both Washington and Oregon (20.3 pounds and 19 pounds, 15 ounces respectively).  Try looking for walleye at least 30 feet deep and be prepared to go far deeper.  Blade baits, jigs and slowly trolled spinner-worm harnesses behind a bottom bouncer weight all work.  Wondering what color to use?  Start with Chartreuse.

POTHOLES RESERVOIR:  Quality rainbow trout and walleye fishing is the name of the game here during the winter.  Trout, averaging one to three pounds, can be caught either trolling or from shore at Frenchman’s Wasteway next to Potholes State Park or at Medicare Beach at the east end of this 27,000-acre reservoir.  When it comes to the trout, fishing nightcrawlers (drifted or off the bottom) can be effective.  If you are trolling, try a Berkley Flicker Shad, both #5 and #7 sizes work well.  You can catch the walleye in the winter months in 20 to 50 feet of water with blade baits or vertical jigging spoons like a Mack’s Sonic Baitfish.

ROSES LAKE:  Last but not least, Roses Lake near Manson is a good place to go for rainbow trout and this lake typically gets a good stocking of catchable size rainbows in the fall.  You can catch these fish in open water out of a small boat or from shore at the public access area on the south side of this small lake.  Roses Lake is also a good destination for ice fishing too.  Just make sure you are not the first person on the ice this season if you decide to venture out there!

John Kruse – and


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