It has been a long time since I have seen spring fever among anglers as epidemic as it is this year. So much that I have prepared an unusually long list of spring fishing prospects in hopes of inspiring some relief to this malady. Typically I offer ten or twelve options for what I consider to be the best opportunities for excellent spring fishing. Those included are certainly not the only ones worth trying. These are lakes or streams that are on my personal wish list. I don’t always check them all off, but I sure have fun trying. Here are my selections for the spring of 2017.
#1 Lake Roosevelt: Fishing for large kokanee on this big reservoir above Grand Coulee Dam has been an attraction to anglers for many years. The state record of 6.25 pounds came from here in 2003. A spike in the abundance of large kokanee spurred the interest of anglers last year. Kokanee of over 20 inches were common, and fish over 5 pounds were reported. This year promises to offer very good fishing for these giants, and the possibility of breaking the state record has anglers out in force. I began fishing Lake Roosevelt in December, and have had success taking kokanee over 20 inches, but due to our prolonged winter this fishery is just getting started. Last year and again this season I have had great success with the blades, spinners and the new squid spinners from Kokabow Fishing Tackle.
#2 Banks Lake: Walleye anglers enjoyed excellent fishing for walleye on Banks Lake last season, and all indications are that it will be even better this year. By that I mean that the 14-inch class walleye that were so common last season are anticipated to be 18 inches or even larger this season. The ice came off Banks much later than last year. Anglers that happen to get on the lake to take advantage of the pre-spawn feeding will reap big rewards in terms of numbers and size of the walleye. When the lull in action due to the spawn will occur is a mystery. However, when they finish this activity there will be another period of excellent fishing for walleye. Last year Dutch Fork Custom Lures came out with their new “Turtle Back” spinners. By chance I tried their Blue Tiger version and never switched all season. It was an excellent walleye lure fished with on a Slow Death Hook or with a worm harness.
#3 Columbia National Wildlife Refuge: The map of this refuge below O’Sullivan Dam on Potholes Reservoir is dotted with a score of lakes that offer excellent trout fishing in the spring. There is everything from put-and-take lakes that are supported by annual plants of trout fry, to the walk-in lakes that provide the opportunity for larger trout. There are dry camping sites available on many of the larger lakes and boat ramps that make them accessible. The number of lakes that offer excellent fishing for warm water species nearly matches those that offer trout. Walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, crappie and bluegill exist in excellent numbers. One way to become familiar with these lakes is to pick up the map that is available at Mar Don Resort.
#4 Sprague Lake: I fished this lake last fall for the first time, and my fishing partner and I pledged to come back in the spring. The quality of the rainbow we caught was impressive. They were at least 17 inches and very heavy bodied. There are much larger fish available here. It was one of the lakes that received a plant of steelhead and I have heard of these fish being taken that weigh into the teens. The lake has a very consistent bottom and was easy to troll with plugs. We used Rapalas and Flicker Shad lures with good success, and even got one on a streamer fly. There are many quality trout lakes in Spokane, Adams and Whitman County, so Sprague doesn’t receive heavy pressure.
#5 Icicle River: This small river gets a lot of attention due to its consistently good return of spring salmon. The season typically opens in mid-May, but depends on the timing of the returning fish. There is some shore access but most of the fish are taken from drift boats. The springers will average 8 to 12 pounds, but I have personally taken fish to 30 pounds from the Icicle. It is one of the most scenic floats in the state.
#6 Potholes Reservoir: This is one of the most popular fishing destinations in the state. Walleye are a main attraction, but it isn’t the only fishery that blooms in the spring. Some of the biggest largemouth bass in the state are taken here and big smallmouth bass are plentiful. Perch, crappie and rainbow weighing over 3 pounds also come on the bite in the spring. One day last year a friend and I caught eight different species of fish in one day, and that included a rainbow weighing over 3 pounds. All while trolling for walleye. There are excellent facilities for camping and RVing near the reservoir and there are many boat launches available, too.
#7 Omak Lake: This is one of the lakes found on the Colville Indian Reservation requiring a Tribal Permit and is just eight miles from the town of Omak. It is inhabited by Lahontan cutthroat trout, and they are abundant. In the spring the big fish cruise the shorelines and are available to shore anglers casting spinners and spoons. Fly fishers flock to the lake in the early spring, too, and catch cutts than often exceed 20 inches. Trolling the ten mile long lake with downriggers, using plugs and spoons, is very productive. My friend Dan Beardslee broke the state record for Lahontan cutthroat twice in a calendar year. His biggest was 18 pounds, 4 ounces.
Guide Austin Moser (Austin's Northwest Adventures) and I had a great day on Lake Roosevelt fishing for kokanee.
#8 Rock Lake: Located not far from Sprague Lake, this lake is very high on my list to fish this spring. It is long, narrow and rocky, with hazards such as erratic rocks that can to take out a lower unit. Nonetheless anglers troll or cast along its shores and make excellent catches of rainbow of 12 to 16 inches. What I will be looking for is the big brown trout that inhabit the lake. Browns of 4 to 6 pounds are no surprise here. Anglers are seeking fish much larger. It is has been stated by those familiar with the lake that the new state record for brown trout will come from Rock Lake.
#9 Curlew Lake: In the far north of Okanogan County Curlew has been a favorite of trout anglers for decades. Rainbow to 5 pounds are possible here, but not too common. The trout fishery is supported by a net pen operation and there are tagged fish that can be worth up to $100.00 released each year. It is also one of the best places in the state to fish for tiger muskie. They are so plentiful that Curlew is the site of a couple of muskie tournaments each year. It is loaded with largemouth bass, and just recently the perch population has increased to the point that anglers are now targeting them due to their good size and numbers.
#10 Lake Chelan: I used to tell people that the time to fish Lake Chelan for kokanee was in May. Well, things have changed. This year I started making good catches of kokanee in November. I had great fishing in December and January and it appears that there are going to be unusually large numbers of kokanee available to anglers through the spring and early summer. There is a ten-fish limit on kokanee on Lake Chelan and anglers should expect to easily take limits, trolling deep from the Yacht Club and later on near Rocky Point and even Lakeside Park. There is a year class of kokanee that average 11 inches, but most of them are 12 to 14 inches. Lake Chelan is also known for very productive fishing for lake trout and excellent fishing for smallmouth bass in the spring.
#11 Moses Lake: The walleye fishing in Moses Lake has always been good, and this year should be particularly productive for fish of 18 to 20 inches. There are many boat launches at various points from the top to the bottom of the lake. Trolling spinners on warm harnesses or Slow Death Hooks is the most popular method and there are areas that are very well suited for trolling crank baits. I always bring my bass gear along when I plan a trip to Moses Lake. If the walleye aren’t biting I switch to casting for smallmouth and have had great success. There are good numbers of largemouth bass in the lake as well. Some of the biggest perch in the state are taken from Moses Lake.
Lake Chelan can get steming hot for kokanee catching.
#12 Conconully Lakes: There are two lakes in close proximity to the town of Conconully, which is north of the town of Omak, and both offer very good fishing. Conconully Reservoir is served by private resorts and a State Park. Trout fishing has been popular here for decades, and it now offers very good kokanee fishing and good fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Nearby Conconully Lake has a good launch at the west end. It offers very good fishing for rainbow trout average 14 inches and now has a very good population of kokanee that can be of the same size. It is also loaded with largemouth bass. There is a trout derby sponsored by the local chamber on the opening of trout season the fourth Saturday in April.
#13 Lake Chopaka: This lake has the reputation for being one of the best fly fishing rainbow trout lakes in the state. A few years ago Chopaka was rehabbed to remove a smallmouth bass population. Since then it has rebounded and offers excellent fishing for rainbow up to 20 inches. It is fished from float tubes and pontoon boats and anglers drive their campers and even pull trailers up the steep slope to stay on its shores. When the road becomes passable, trolling large Wooly Bugger style patterns or fishing chironomids under indicators are popular methods for taking the rainbow.
#14 Blue Lake: There are several Blue Lakes in Eastern Washington. This one is in the Sinlahekin Valley near the town of Loomis. It offers excellent fishing for rainbow and brown trout. Anglers should expect rainbow to be from 12 to 15 inches and the brows 18 inches. There is camping available there and boat launches, but internal combustion motors are prohibited. Blue Lake is a particular favorite of fly fishers. Spring is the best time of year to fish this lake.
#15 Buffalo Lake: Located about ten miles from Grand Coulee Dam, Buffalo Lake is on the Colville Indian Reservation and requires a Tribal Permit. There is a small resort on the lake that offers camping, very rustic cabins, RV hook ups and pit toilets. Although the facilities are primitive, the trout fishing is excellent. The Colville Tribe plants the lake and often puts in a good number of large triploid rainbow. In some years the kokanee fishing is very good for fish averaging 12 inches in the spring. There is a fee launch at Reynolds Resort and another free launch at the upper end of the lake. There is also a good population of largemouth bass in the lake. I have had good success trolling and catching both the rainbow and kokanee on the same Kokabow blades and spinners, tipped with corn. If I am targeting the rainbow I troll plugs such as Rapalas and Flicker Shads near the shorelines and in the bays off the main body of the lake.
NOTE: Please refer to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sport Fishing Rules for the details on the seasons and regulations for all of the fisheries that I have listed. Also, I encourage you to visit my web site at www.fishingmagician.com. Here you will find three reports a week on current fishing activities and events in Eastern Washington. You will also find a distribution map for the NCW Nickel Newspapers that carry a Weekly Column where I talk about my recent fishing adventures. In the Fishing TV section you will find many helpful videos on how to fish various east side waters for a variety of species.