March 1 opener: With the March 1 opener having arrived, and most Columbia Basin area lakes covered in ice, you will want to brush up on ice safety before heading out to fish. Mike Schmuck, WDFW District Fish Biologist, says the majority of Northcentral Washington lakes that open March 1 are iced over and will remain so at least partway into March. The exception is a small section of Martha Lake, near George, which has some open water at the north end.
Martha Lake, along with Upper Caliche Lake, will likely be the area’s best producing waters in March according to Schmuck. In addition to fingerling rainbow trout, both Lakes received 4,000 catchable rainbow trout in spring 2018. These 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.
Schmuck also notes that Quincy and Burke lakes, on the Quincy Lakes Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, should fish well in 2019. He says Quincy will likely produce larger fish, on average, than Burke. Burke Lake is suffering from a yellow perch infestation and fingerling trout growth and survival has suffered. To offset this, three thousand catchable rainbow trout were stocked in Burke Lake in fall of 2018.
Lenice Lake, north of Mattawa in Grant County, and nearby Nunnally Lake produced well on the opener in 2018 and Schmuck expects similar results in 2019. 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 in 2018. Once the ice is off these lakes, similar reports are expected in 2019. 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 Lakes.
Lake Lenore, just north of Soap Lake on Highway 17, should produce some large Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in 2019. Rumors of big declines in this fish population are exaggerated. In spring, Schmuck says cutthroat will be staged in the warmest water they can find, getting ready to spawn. WDFW stocks approximately 70,000 fingerling Lahontan Cutthroat Trout each fall into Lake Lenore. There are multiple strong year-classes of fish in the lake with some weighing in at eight or more pounds. Historically, anglers primarily chose to target these with fly gear. It’s important to note that Lake Lenore is not a fly fishing only lake—it is a selective gear lake. Recently anglers have had success fishing with jigs and spoons in and around some of the islands on the lake.
A rule change came into effect for Lake Lenore in 2019. There is no longer a catch-and-release season from March 1 to May 31. Anglers may retain 1 fish per day, minimum size 18 inches, from March 1 to Nov. 30.
Within the Quincy Lakes Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area there are a number of walk-in lakes that open March 1. Schmuck says these lakes can provide not only good fishing, but also solitude. Dusty Lake has excellent rainbow trout fishing as well as Brown and Tiger trout. Just southeast of Dusty is a collection of small lakes that hold rainbow trout. Cliff, Crystal, Cup and the Spring Lakes are small enough that they can all be fished in a morning. All these lakes receive spring fingerling rainbow trout and produce good catches of trout in the 12 to 14-inch range.
Okanogan lakes: Ice fishing was underway at the beginning of March at year-round-open Leader Lake near the town of Okanogan, with catches of 8 to 10-inch yellow perch and occasional black crappie and bluegill.Patterson Lake near Winthrop is also open year round with catches of yellow perch and kokanee through the ice.
Year-round-open Bonaparte Lake near Tonasket is traditionally productive for rainbow and kokanee ice fishing. Palmer Lake near Loomis usually has decent yellow perch ice fishing through March.
Year-round-open waters: WDFW Chelan District Fish Biologist Travis Maitland reports Chelan County’s Roses Lake was ice covered at the start of March. Most anglers there have been targeting rainbow trout, which should be in the 11 to 13-inch range. Catches of yellow perch up to 11 inches are consistently coming through solid ice at Fish Lake. For anglers willing to hike a little or with access to a snowmobile, the Antilon Lakes can produce limits of brown trout in the 12 to 14-inch range with a few larger on occasion.
Year-round-open Banks Lake, the Columbia River reservoir above Coulee City on the Grant-Douglas county line, traditionally has fair to good fishing for lake whitefish, rainbow trout, and yellow perch this time of year.
Once the weather warms up a little in later March, another Columbia River reservoir, Rufus Woods Lake, becomes very popular for triploid rainbow fishing near the net pens.
Boating safety: With freshwater fishing season openers in March and April, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program reminds you to take a boater safety education course, if you haven’t already, to be prepared for the season. In Washington state, boaters who operate a vessel with a 15 horsepower engine or greater must carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course.
Apply for a multiple-season tag: Deer and elk hunters have until March 31 to enter their names into the drawing for a 2018 multiple-season tag, which can greatly increase the opportunity for success in the field.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (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 can purchase a special tag allowing them to participate in archery, muzzleloader, and modern firearm general hunting seasons for deer or elk in 2019. Winners who purchase the multiple season elk tag can participate in general elk hunting seasons in both eastern and western Washington.
The deadline to purchase the multiple-season tag is July 31.
Winners may also choose any weapon type when applying for a special hunt permit for deer or elk.
"With the multiple season tag, hunters have the opportunity to extend their seasons this fall," said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager. "Winners do not need to choose one hunting method over another, so they have more options and flexibility."
Aoude noted that the tags can be used only during general seasons and in game management units open during a modern firearm, muzzleloader, or archery general season. For example, winners may not hunt during the muzzleloader general season in an area not open for the muzzleloader general season.
Hunters can apply only once for each species and their bag limit remains one deer or elk.
A multiple season application can be purchased from authorized license dealers, online at http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/, or by calling 866-246-9453. The application costs $7.10 for residents and $110.50 for nonresidents.
A 2019 hunting license is not required to submit an application, but winners of the drawing must purchase one before they can purchase a multiple season tag.
For more information, visit WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/, or call the Licensing Division at 360-902-2464.
Sandhill Crane Festival: The 22nd annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival is March 22-24 and registrations for limited-capacity bus tours, field trips and other presentations are underway online. This event celebrates the annual migratory stopover of nearly 35,000 sandhill cranes in the Columbia Basin, along with lots of other early spring wildlife activity.
Sandhill cranes are large, prehistoric-looking birds that migrate through the Pacific Flyway, stopping to feed and rest in the Columbia Basin on their way to nesting sites in Alaska. The greatest concentration of cranes are found in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge marsh units: Frenchmen Reserve, Potholes Reservoir, Scootney Reservoir, and Winchester Reserve.
Bird migration: In addition to cranes, March is a great month for birdwatching throughout the northcentral region. Large numbers of migrating waterfowl- including mallards, pintails, and Canada geese- are prevalent in the area even in wintry conditions. The wetlands throughout the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area provide excellent birdwatching opportunities.
Open waterways throughout Okanogan and Chelan counties draw a variety of waterfowl, too. Later in the month, blue grouse will be begin mating. Give the birds some space to conduct their courtship displays by using binoculars and scopes to watch.
Other migrants- including bluebirds, blackbirds, grosbeaks, killdeer, and robins- are also being spotted throughout the region.
Deer, moose, and elk: A reminder not to feed wildlife this time of year (or ever) even if they appear to be hungry due to deep snow and winter conditions. Sudden shifts from a natural diet to hay or other feed can be unhealthy. Feeding also concentrates animals where they can be more susceptible to predators or collisions with motor vehicles on roads. Learn more at WDFW’s Winter Wildlife Feeding webpage.
Nuisance wildlife: Small mammals like raccoons, skunks and marmots are abundant throughout the region in rural and urban environments this time of year and can become a nuisance when they make nests in places such as crawl spaces, under porches or corners of garages or sheds in which to give birth. Learn how to enjoy these wildlife neighbors without problems at WDFW’s Living with Wildlife webpages.