Cold nighttime temperatures in the Columbia Basin since before Christmas have created ice-fishing opportunities not seen in 20 years, according to Mike Meseberg, owner of MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir.
The Lind Coulee arm of the big Grant County lake is the focal point for anglers right now, with 6 to 8 inches of ice providing walleye and fat perch in excellent numbers.
“Ice can vary in thickness, however,” Meseberg warned. “You always have to be cautious. Try to pick out some of the old-timers — the confident-looking guys with all the right equipment, and follow them out. They’ve done all this before and have well-scouted trails to the best spots.”
Then Meseberg couldn’t resist a little black humor. “As the old saw goes,” he said, “send your 300-pound buddy out there first.”
Some weekend days have been drawing 200 or 250 anglers, Meseberg said, and they’ve been catching perch to 12 inches (most in the 9- or 10-inch range), and smallish walleye going 15 to 19 inches. The occasional burbot, or “freshwater ling” enters the catch as well.
Perch fishermen use Swedish Pimple jigging spoons, tipped with a maggot, a piece of perch meat or a worm. Those targeting walleye go with a Blade Bait jigging lure.
“We have all the right gear in our tackle shop,” Meseberg said. “Maggots, worms, rental augurs, and free advice on where to go and how to do it.”
For more information or current conditions, call the MarDon Store (509-346-2651).
The best of our local winter blackmouth water, Marine Area 9, reopens to salmon fishing Jan. 16, and the outlook is reasonably good. But you’ll probably have to sort through a bunch of shakers to find your legal chinook, according to All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein in Everett.
“Fishing in Area 10, over around Kingston, has been productive,” Krein said, “but shakers have definitely been a problem, and Area 9 usually follows suit.”
Possession Bar, Double Bluff and Point No Point are the usual destinations for fishermen from the Everett-Edmonds area, but a longer run — to the west end of Area 9 — probably will result in more and larger blackmouth.
“Marine Area 6, the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, has been very good so far this winter,” Kein said, “so Midchannel Bank or other spots out around Port Townsend or Point Wilson could be a good choice.”
For those opting to hit Possession Bar, Krein likes the west side on the flood and the east side on the ebb, fishing on the bottom in 120 to 150 feet of water. He’ll use a Gibbs flasher, followed by a Kingfisher Lite, 31/2- or 4-inch spoon in green or green/white. If shakers are a real problem, he’ll go to a 5-inch Tomic plug in cookies ‘n cream, cop car, glow white or glow green/white.
The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby, one of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series boat giveaway events, runs Feb. 15, 16 and 17 out of Gardiner. The fee is $40. First place is worth $10,000; second, $2,000; and third, $1,000, and the only ticket outlet in this area is Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood.
Tickets also may be purchased online at www.gardinersalmonderby.org, or www.facebook.com/salmonderby. Weigh stations will be set up at Freshwater Bay Boat Ramp; Ediz Hook Boat Ramp, in Port Angeles; John Wayne Marina, in Sequim; Gardiner Boat Ramp; and Port Townsend Boat Haven, at the gas dock (Fish’n Hole).
Also coming up, Feb. 6, 7 and 8, is the upscale Roche Harbor Salmon Classic, offering $25,000 in guaranteed prizes, plus $30,000 more if the first-place fish is 30 pounds or better. This is a team event, up to four anglers per boat.
Go to www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby, or call Debbie Sandwith at Roche Harbor Market (360-378-5562) for more information.
Sandwith said that as of last week, there were just 28 spots remaining in the 100-boat field.
Take a chance. Be bold. See if you can beat the guys from Bellingham.
The San Juan Islands are generally considered the top spot for winter blackmouth in Western Washington, and action there has been very good so far. TJ Nelson was prospecting Sunday for film material (see the accompanying “Pick of the Week”) in the islands, and had two fish in the box, including a 13-pounder, and had released two more wild fish and lost another, by 10 a.m. He said the Rosario side was uniformly good, particularly at such spots as Eagle Bluff and Tide Point, but also along President Channel.
Nelson was using flasher and a yellowtail Coho Killer spoon on one rod, and herring on the other. Results were about the same for both setups, he said.
The reports on winter steelhead continue to be dismal. State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said, succinctly, “still pretty slow for steelhead on the Cowlitz.”
At Ringold Springs hatchery on the Hanford Reach portion of the central Columbia — sort of a Reiter Ponds East — 14 steelheaders were checked last week. Anglers had fished a total of 45 hours and released two wild steelhead and 11 whitefish.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.