Outdoor Outlook: Cold weather might mean ice fishing time

  • By Wayne Kruse
  • Wednesday, December 17, 2008 6:20pm
  • Sports

The current Arctic Express weather system beating us about the head and shoulders almost certainly presents more negatives than positives, but for sport fishermen, there’s at least one plus worth mentioning.

Mike Meseberg, at MarDon Resort on Grant County’s Potholes Reservoir, said below-zero temperatures in parts of Eastern Washington would most likely result in enough ice on the big lake to allow ice fishing, perhaps by early next week.

“There was a stretch there of eight or nine years when we didn’t have enough ice to give folks a safe shot at it,” Meseberg said. “But the last year or two it has been looking better, and I can almost guarantee ice by next week, at least on parts of the reservoir. If you’re interested in early-season ice fishing … when conditions are marginal in places, it’s best to go with an experienced angler the first time or two.”

Ice fishing can be a lot of fun — often more a social event than a serious fishery — and there aren’t too many places in Washington that support the activity. Potholes, because of its central location, available amenities and services, and wide range of fish species, is one of the best.

Meseberg said that if safe ice develops, fishing could be very good for both yellow perch and walleye. Boat anglers have been doing well recently, on fish to 12 or 13 pounds, around the trout pens and other places. Swim jigs and blade baits have been the top producers, he said.

Safe ice usually develops first on areas protected from the wind, such as Lind Coulee, and Meseberg said the coulee arm probably would provide the best early-winter fishing. It enters Potholes on the east side of the dam, and runs eastward for roughly four miles, and offers good fishing for both perch and walleye.

“One of the better spots for some nice walleye is the north side of the island in Lind Coulee, about a mile and a half above the reservoir,” Meserberg said. “There are several public access points along there, off Highway 262 before you get to ‘M’ Road.”

Another popular ice fishing spot is Long Lake, in the “seep lake” area below O’Sullivan Dam, also for perch and walleye, and ice also forms relatively early there.

The majority of walleye have been found by boat anglers at 25 to 40 feet, Meseberg said. Blade baits and various jig/nightcrawler combinations should score through the ice, fished close to the bottom in about that much water. The old standby for perch fishermen is the ubiquitous Swedish Pimple spoon, usually tipped with a worm or a piece of Perch meat, which also catches walleye.

“Several different rigs will catch both species,” Meseberg said, “if they’re in the area. It’s all a matter of location, in ice fishing.”

The MarDon tackle shop has ice augurs for rent and Meseberg said if you intend to cut a hole with a chain saw, be very sure to make it too small for a child to fall through.

“That’s not the punchline of a joke,” he said. “It does happen. People do step into these large holes cut by inexperienced fishermen. You don’t really need a hole that large, so you’re just creating a hazard.”

For current ice conditions or other fishing information, go to the resort’s Web site, mardonresort.com, then click on “fresh news” or call 1-800-416-2736 and ask for the tackle shop.

STEELHEAD: Most small to medium-size rivers are now too low and too cold for decent steelheading, so a better bet probably would be larger, and particularly dam-regulated, rivers. The Cowlitz is probably the top choice right now, where state Department of Fish and Wildlife checks around Blue Creek over the weekend showed 32 bank fishermen with nine steelhead kept and nine released. Nine boat anglers kept three steelhead and released 12 jacks and three cutthroat

Anthon Steen at Holiday Sports in Burlington said that while the Skagit River wasn’t hot, it was at least a decent pick for the weekend. Fish are scattered, he said, all the way from the plunking bars on the lower end up to the Cascade River at Marblemount.

The Forks area has fallen off with the cold temperatures, but state checks over the weekend on the Bogachiel tallied 28 hatchery fish and one wild fish for 69 anglers. On the Calawah, it was two hatchery fish kept and two released for eight fishermen.

Over at Ringold on the Columbia, upstream from the Tri-Cities, checks last week showed 10 to 20 bank anglers per day catching one steelhead for every 10 hours on the water, and three to six boat fishermen per day, catching one for every 4.2 hours.

SMELT: The tasty little critters don’t seem bothered by cold weather, and so jiggers at the Deception Pass State Park pier on Cornet Bay continue to do very well at times. State checks there on Saturday showed only one fisherman, but he had 47 smelt and 50 herring in his bucket. Anthon Steen (above) said most fishermen are using the standard white Gamakatsu jig in either No. 4 or No. 5.

NO MORE MCMANUS: Rich Landers, writing in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, said Outdoor Life Magazine has terminated — for budget reasons — its contract with outdoor humor writer Patrick McManus. Landers said the Spokane writer — at one time a writing instructor at Eastern Washington University — has written his “Exit Laughing” column for 28 years in Outdoor Life, and for 12 years before that in Field &Stream. He also has more than two million of his 18 books in print, and has written three mystery novels.

McManus exits with a quip, according to Landers. Describing his third mystery novel, due out in 2009, McManus said, “It’s called the ‘Double-Jack Murders.’ A double-jack is a two-man drilling operation from the old hand-mining days, where the dumb guy holds the drill bit while the other guy hits it with a sldege hammer.”

That’s not Rancid Crabtree, but it’s not bad.

SPORTSMEN’S SHOW: Don’t forget that the Monroe outdoor show is belly-up, and Puyallup will be the only game in town this winter. Dates are Jan. 21-25, at the Puyallup Fair and Events Center, with free parking and a return of the famous “indoor steelhead river.”

BIG LAKER: The 2008 fishery for Mackinaw trout in Lake Chelan is winding down, and guide Anton Jones (antonj@aol.com) said the big fish for the year was taken April 19 by Herb Dollar of Rathdrum, Idaho. The fish weighed 23 pounds, 10 ounces.

COLUMBIA SPRINGERS: The contentious issue of who gets what percentage of Columbia River spring chinook took a turn for the worse Saturday, when the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission refused to go along with a split proposed by its Washington counterpart. The Washington commission, following a recommendation from the two-state Columbia River Fish Working Group, had approved an allocation of 65 percent to the sport fishery and 35 percent to the commercial fishery, considered a victory by recreational fishing advocates.

Surprise! The Oregon commission came back with a proposal allowing 55 percent sport and 45 percent commercial.

Washington state spokesperson Susan Yeager said the spring chinook fishery presents special challenges to fishery managers, both because the catch is highly prized by both sport and commercial fishers and because the run includes wild salmon listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The Washington commissioners voted to delay action on the issue until their next public meeting, Jan. 9-10 in Olympia. They also voted to extend the appointment of Phil Anderson as interim director, at least through June 30, 2009. Anderson was appointed interim director earlier this month, after director Jeff Koenings’ resignation.

PUBLIC WILDLIFE AREA INFO: So you know there’s a public wildlife area managed by the state somewhere around Chelan, and that there’s turkey and chukar hunting available there, but you don’t know exactly where it is, or how to get there, or what, exactly, is available.

Now there’s a handy source for that information, with the announcement that a new Web site offers wildlife area descriptions, maps, directions, water access facilities, amenities and a wealth of other details.

The site is http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/, and is considered user-friendly for those researching the wide range of recreational opportunity available on the state’s public lands.

“Viewers can search by county, region, or specific wildlife area,” said state lands division manager Jennifer Quan.

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