Columbia County's Watson Lake March 1 fishing
March 1 opener: A dozen lakes in the eastern region open to fishing March 1, and at least those in the southeast district should be ready for action, with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish hatchery crews busy stocking rainbow trout.
In Columbia County, the six Tucannon River impoundments on the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area -- Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes -- are free of snow and ice and stocked with trout. Blue and Spring lakes have actually been fished already this winter since they are open year-round. But like most of the Tucannon lakes, they received about half of their yearly allotted "jumbo" (one-plus-pound, over 14 inch) trout and about 20 percent of their yearly allotted "catchable" (one-third to one-half pound, 10- to 12-inch) trout in the last week of February. Wooten area manager Kari Dingman reports that the campgrounds near the fishing lakes are all open and ready for campers.
Two other southeast district waters open March 1: Pampa Pond in Whitman County, and Fishhook Pond in Walla Walla County, which are receiving similar plants of fish.
The 2017 Statewide Hatchery Trout Stocking Plan is not yet available on the Stocking Reports webpage, but the Catchable Trout Plant Weekly Reports are posted there weekly. WDFW fish hatchery staff are also now stocking other year-round-open fisheries in southeast Washington including: Asotin County's Golf Course and West Evans ponds; Columbia County's Dam, Dayton and Orchard ponds; Walla Walla County's Bennington Lake and Hood Park, Jefferson Park, Lions Park and Quarry ponds; and Franklin County's Dalton Lake and Marmes Pond.
Further north in the region, March 1 opening waters are still mostly iced up and some may not be fishable or stocked for a while. But as WDFW central district fish biologist Randy Osborne says, "A lot can change in a short time in this area."
Once conditions allow, Amber Lake,in southwest Spokane County, should provide pretty consistent fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout as in years past. Amber is under selective gear rules, catch-and-release from March 1 through the Friday before the 4th Saturday in April, and internal combustion motors are prohibited.
Downs Lake, also in southwest Spokane County, will hopefully be stocked with rainbow trout before the opener if ice conditions allow hatchery crews to reach the lake. Anglers may also catch nice size yellow perch and black crappie at Downs, where there's a crappie minimum size of nine inches and a daily catch limit of 10 crappie.
Medical Lake, near the town of the same name in southwest Spokane County, may also be limited on the opener due to ice. When it's fishable, anglers need to remember this lake is under selective gear rules, a two-trout daily catch limit, 14-inch minimum size limit, and a prohibition on all motors.
Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County, continues to have ice cover. If conditions change enough before the March 1 opener, it will be stocked with rainbow and brown trout.
Osborne had no reports of current ice conditions at Coffee Pot Lake in Lincoln County, but says water levels should be good there this spring. Coffee Pot was stocked last spring with rainbow trout that will provide good catches this year. The lake is under selective gear rules, a trout daily limit of one fish 18 inches or larger, and a crappie limit of 10 fish nine inches or larger.
Also opening March 1 is Deer Lake in southern Stevens County, where most waters remain iced up. When it's fishable, Deer Lake is best for lake trout in March, and many other species throughout the year.
Winter-only fishing: March is the last month to fish the region's four winter-only trout lakes – Hatch and Williams in Stevens County, Hog Canyon in Spokane County, and Fourth of July in Lincoln County. All still have ice, but of varying degrees of depth and safety, so it's more important than ever for anglers to use caution.
Vehicle access to Hog Canyon Lake has been closed due to the road washing out, but anglers can still access the lake on foot. Osborne said there are "mixed reports" about catches at Fourth of July; some anglers have caught rainbow trout above 14 inches, but others consistently catch smaller fish. Rules on both Hog Canyon and Fourth of July lakes are a five fish daily catch limit with no more than two over 14 inches.
"This is always a transitional time of year regarding ice conditions," Osborne said. "Anglers should always test the ice conditions before venturing out on what looks like an iced-over lake, and be prepared with safety equipment."
Anglers are encouraged to follow Ice Fishing Safety guidelines.
Year-round fishing: Lake Roosevelt is still pumping out limits of rainbow trout both from the bank and from boats. The huge Columbia River reservoir on the border of Lincoln and Stevens counties also has good kokanee fishing at this time of year, at least for those who find them.
Roosevelt anglers need to remember the new trout regulation in place to protect native redband rainbow trout. Any trout with an intact adipose fin in Lake Roosevelt from Grand Coulee Dam to the Little Dalles power line crossing must be released. Only hatchery-produced trout, marked with a clipped adipose fin, can be retained. The daily catch limit is still five trout, not including kokanee. But there is no longer a limit on how many of those fish can exceed 20 inches, as is currently indicated in the WDFW fishing rules pamphlet. The same new rule is in effect on the Spokane Arm and Sanpoil Arm of Lake Roosevelt.
In addition, from the Little Dalles power line crossing to the Canadian border, the daily catch limit is now only two trout (marked hatchery or unmarked wild), with a minimum size of 18 inches. See the details on these rule changes on the WDFW website.
Despite reported "slushy" conditions, year-round-open Eloika Lake in northern Spokane County continues to be productive through the ice for yellow perch as well as some crappie and largemouth bass.
Other year-round open fishing waters to try this month for trout include Long Lake (Lake Spokane), Rock Lake in Whitman County, and Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line.
Bighorn Show: Another kind of fishing is available at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council's 57th annual Bighorn Outdoor Adventure Show, March 16-19, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. Some 5,000 trout are stocked in three huge indoor lakes for kids to catch at "Fishing World," and there's a "Virtual Reality Fishing Simulator," fishing demonstration tank, and hundreds of fishing equipment and charter service vendors. The show also has lots of free fishing seminars by experts. WDFW staff will be on site selling fishing licenses and "Fish Washington" sweatshirts, and talking with visitors about all things fish and wildlife.
Kids fishing event registration: Registration is now open for the annual Clear Lake Kids Fishing Event, scheduled this year for Saturday, May 6. This event is a great way to get kids ages 5-14 outdoors and involved in the sport of fishing. Registration forms, directions, and the WDFW kids fishing video can all be found on the WDFW Youth Fishing Calendar.
Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show
Apply for a multiple-season tag: Deer and elk hunters have until March 31 to enter their names into the drawing for a 2017 multiple-season tag, which can greatly increase the opportunity for success in the field. WDFW will hold the drawing in mid-April, randomly selecting names for 8,500 multiple-season deer tags and 1,000 multiple season elk tags.
Winners of the drawing will be eligible to purchase a special tag allowing them to participate in archery, muzzleloader, as well as modern firearm general hunting seasons for deer or elk in 2017. The deadline to purchase the multiple-season tag is July 31.
Winners may choose any weapon type when applying for a special permit to hunt deer or elk. Winners who purchase the multiple season elk tag can participate in general elk hunting seasons in both eastern and western Washington.
A multiple season application can be purchased from authorized license dealers, online, or by calling (866) 246-9453. The application costs $7.10 for residents and $110.50 for nonresidents.
Bighorn Show: Another kind of hunting is available at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council's 57th annual Bighorn Outdoor Adventure Show, March 16-19, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. Among other things, the show offers a rifle range, archery range, laser shot shooting simulators, and of course the origins of the event – "Trophy Territory," where hundreds of hunter-harvested antlered and horned animals are displayed and judged by Boone and Crocket scorers. The show also has lots of free hunting seminars by experts. WDFW staff will be on site selling hunting licenses and talking with visitors about all things fish and wildlife.
Tundra swans in Pend Oreille County
Bird migration: Despite persistent wintery conditions, the very earliest returning migratory bird species have been reported throughout the region. Killdeer, red-winged blackbirds, bluebirds, meadowlarks, and other migrants are triggered to move more by length of daylight than weather conditions, and are looking for mates and nesting areas.
Other year-round resident birds have also started those spring behaviors, like male northern flickers pounding on wood or metal or other noise-producing material to announce territories and attract mates. Ducks and geese are moving into or through the region, headed for traditional breeding grounds. Great blue herons are gathering at communal nesting sites. Wild tom turkeys are starting to strut and gobble to find hens and defend territories. Many owls, eagles, and other large raptors are already incubating eggs in nests made last month.
Tundra Swan Festival: Hundreds of northbound tundra swans will soon make their annual migration stopover in the Pend Oreille River Valley in northeast Washington. You can see them during a Calispel Lake bus tour as part of the Pend Oreille County Tundra Swan Festival on Saturday, March 4, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. This event is co-hosted by the Pend Oreille River Tourism Alliance (PORTA) and the Natural Resources Department of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, and based at the Camas Center for Community Wellness, 1821 N LeClerc Road, Cusick. Bus tour space is limited, so register soon online or by calling 1-844-PORTA-US (767-8287).
Deer and elk: Deer and elk throughout the region are more visible this month as they browse on newly emerging green forbs and grasses. WDFW wildlife biologists advise giving these animals space to reduce stress as they shift from winter to spring diets, and waiting until May to look for shed antlers to avoid disturbance. Some parts of some of the region's wildlife areas are closed to all entry through the month of March and even April to protect wildlife, includingparts of the W.T. Wooten in Columbia County, Asotin Creek and Chief Joseph in Asotin County, and Sherman Creek in Ferry County.
Bighorn sheep: Bighorn sheep can still be seen on the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area near the Tucannon Fish Hatchery, along Hatchery Ridge from the mouth of Cummings Creek south. WDFW Wooten manager Kari Dingman notes that although the Cummings Creek drainage is still closed to entry until April 1 to protect wintering wildlife from disturbance, the rest of the wildlife area is open for wildlife viewing and other recreation.
Nuisance wildlife: Smaller mammals, like raccoons, skunks and marmots, are abundant throughout the region in both rural and urban environments, and can become a nuisance at this time of year when they make family-rearing nests in the wrong places – like crawl spaces under porches or corners of garages or storage sheds. Learn how to enjoy these wildlife neighbors without problems at WDFW's Living with Wildlife webpages.
Bighorn Show: Another kind of wildlife viewing is available at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council's 57th annual Bighorn Outdoor Adventure Show, March 16-19, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. Exhibitors include wildlife artists and photographers and WDFW staff will be on site talking with visitors about all things fish and wildlife.