Winter lake fishing: Three lakes in Okanogan County – Rat Lake near Brewster and Big Green and Little Green lakes near Omak – provide good angling throughout the winter months, either iced-over (as they usually are by January) or in open water. Nice catches of rainbow trout in the 10- to 12-inch range can be made on a variety of bait, lures, and flies.
The 15th Annual Northwest Ice Fishing Festival, sponsored by the Oroville Chamber of Commerce, will be held Saturday, Jan. 19, on Sidley Lake in Okanogan County.
Anglers who fish through the ice on any waterway with an open fishing season through the winter are reminded to check out the ice fishing safety information.
As winter settles in and the ice thickens, a number of lakes in Chelan County offer good ice-fishing opportunities. Fish Lake should provide opportunities for through-the-ice catches of yellow perch and rainbow trout.
Roses Lake in Chelan County was stocked in November with nearly 20,000 half-pound rainbow trout, which will make up the bulk of the catch. But Roses also provides catches of yellow perch, bluegill, black crappie and the occasional largemouth bass.
Lake Chelan usually has fair open-water fishing for lake trout (mackinaw) throughout the winter, when anglers often troll near the bottom for them. The state mackinaw record – a 35.63-pounder – was caught in Lake Chelan on Feb. 4, 2013.
Okanogan County’s Leader Lake usually provides fair fishing for black crappie, bluegill and rainbow trout as conditions allow. Patterson and Davis lakes in the Winthrop area usually provide good winter fishing, either in open water or through the ice. Davis has rainbows in the 10- to 12-inch range and Patterson has yellow perch in the 7- to 8-inch range.
The Rufus Woods reservoir has big triploid rainbow trout that can be caught throughout the winter months. Several areas upstream of Chief Joseph Dam can usually be accessed by shore anglers. Boat anglers often launch at the Army Corps of Engineers boat ramp and can explore upstream any one of numerous back bays and shorelines that could hold triploids.
Banks Lakewhitefish fishing is usually excellent this month. Burbot fishing is picking up and rainbow trout catches remain fair at this time.
Moses Lake in the Columbia Basin usually provides good yellow perch fishing around this time of year, when the fish bunch up into large schools. The lake freezes over some years and provides good ice fishing for both perch and rainbow trout. The most popular ice-fishing location is near Blue Heron Park.
Waterfowl: January is the last month for waterfowl hunting in Washington, and is often among the best. Migrant ducks and geese from the north are in the region and if large bodies of water remain, they can provide good hunting opportunities through the end of the season Jan. 27.
Goose hunting in Management Area 4, which includes all of Region 2, is normally open only on Saturday, Sundays, and Wednesdays. But geese are fair game on extra days in January, including on New Year’s Day (Jan. 1), and every day Jan. 21-27.
Hunting opportunities for waterfowl on private lands include acreage in the Columbia Basin Corn Stubble Hunting Access program, which features a combination of “Hunt By Reservation” and “Register to Hunt” programs. Hunters must make reservations online to use these private land access sites and follow rules established per site. For more information on these hunting opportunities on private land in the Columbia Basin, contact the regional office at 509-754-4624.
Upland game birds: Hunting continues through Jan. 15 for pheasant, quail, chukar, and gray partridge. Be sure to secure permission first to hunt private lands, or check out public lands like WDFW’s Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George. For more details, visit WDFW’s GoHunt interactive mapping system.
Upland game-bird hunters in Douglas and Okanogan counties are reminded to carefully identify birds before shooting, because of protected sharptailed grouse in some areas. Sharptails, which are designated as threatened in Washington state and are off-limits to hunting, can sometimes be confused with the smaller Hungarian partridge or chukar partridge. In the winter, both species occupy the same habitats, but sharptails vocalize a “tuck, tuck, tuck” when flushed and have sharply pointed tails with white borders.
Big game reports due: Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, cougar, deer, elk, or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31, 2019 for each 2018 license, permit, or tag purchased. Hunters can file their reports online or by calling 877-945-3492. Whether reporting online or over the phone, hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report. Hunters who submit their reports by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state. Those who miss the Jan. 31 deadline must pay a $10 administration fee before they can purchase a 2019 hunting license. For more information, see the hunter reports FAQ.
First Day Hikes: Washington State Parks invites you to start the new year off with a First Day Hike on Jan. 1 at dozens of parks around the state. These ranger-led events include snowshoe treks, fat-tire bike rides, and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Jan. 1 is also the first of 12 “free days” – Jan. 21 is another – when visitors don’t need a Discover Pass to access state parks.
Birds: January is a good month for birdwatching, because interesting migrants are often in -- or moving through -- the region and most birds are more visible with snow cover.
The Columbia Basin is full of waterfowl species now, and roadside viewing from the comfort of a heated motor vehicle is possible with the network of roads across private farmland south of Moses Lake near the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.
Further north in the region, snow buntings, longspurs, northern pygmy owls, gyrfalcons, and other winter visitors can be seen, along with year-round resident raptors, jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and other birds.
Birdwatchers are encouraged to use eBird Northwest, the online tool for identifying birds, reporting their sightings, and contributing to conservation efforts throughout the region.
Wildlife tracking: It’s a good time to take in a “Nature of Winter” snowshoe tour in the Okanogan County’s Methow Valley. These family-friendly tours are available every Saturday from Jan. 5 through Feb. 23, beginning at 11 a.m. Reservations are not required, but space is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. A Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA) trail pass or a MVSTA snowshoe trail pass is required for each person. Passes and snowshoe rentals are available at Sun Mountain Ski Shop, North Cascades Basecamp, Mazama Ski Shop, Methow Cycle & Sport and Winthrop Mountain Sports.
Shed antlers: Finding the simple treasures of shed deer or elk antlers can brighten up a casual winter hike in the woods, but WDFW biologists recommend delaying serious antler hunting to late spring to avoid inadvertently harassing animals on winter range.
Collecting naturally shed deer and elk antlers is legal but there are some ethical considerations to keep in mind and a few places that are restricted or off-limits. The easiest antler hunting is, of course, where deer or elk concentrate in the winter. But if many antler hunters descend on an area before wintering animals have left, the disturbance can threaten their survival at the harshest time of year. Public lands across the state may have rules, so antler hunters should do their homework before going afield, and secure permission from landowners before entering private property.