Fishing Report, Eastern Washington Lakes, March 24 2023
Updated: Apr 20
We were down to t-shirts at one point earlier this week as we fished the lake in low winds, sunny skies, and mild temps. While those conditions can put a damper on the trout, it was enjoyable nonetheless. The first green sprigs of spring were also sprouting up in spots, the trees are budding up confidently, and it won't be too long until the Palouse and scablands are at their greenest. Songbirds are out, turkeys have been gobbling, and some nice trout have been brought to net, so far this spring has been shaping out quite nicely.
Speaking of songbirds, the red-winged blackbirds and black-capped chickadees are flitting around the reeds along the lakeshores and chirping away. A while back, Ethan pointed out that when the chickadees call out it sounds like they are saying "cheeseburger!" Now, I cannot un-hear that, and whenever I am on a lake all I hear are dozens of tiny birds all trying to sell me a "cheeseburger!"
The bird calls quickly dissipate though when a merlin falcon comes ripping in from above attempting to pluck one of those red-winged blackbirds from the sky. The merlin falcon is a small, gray bird with its own distinct calls and can impress you with its aerial acrobatics. Watching all of this unfold from the boat can easily distract me from the fishing.
So far, the fishing has been productive. Most of the lakes south/southwest of Spokane are mostly ice-free (Hog Canyon, Fourth of July, Sprague, Amber, etc...though Medical is still caked in ice). Again, be sure to check the regulations on when our local lakes open/close because some will be shutting down at the end of this month and others won't open until the fourth Saturday in April:
Water surface temps have been in the low 40s in the early afternoon and rising gently up to the mid-40s by late evening. Water temps down deeper are in the upper 30s. With the mild cold front that is pushing through between yesterday and today, and the moderate temps thereafter into next week, I wouldn't expect the lakes (that are already ice-free) to start turning over until maybe late next week (but we'll keep an eye on that).
(Read: What Is Lake Turnover?)
The trout that we have caught so far have been in the 16-20 inch range, and some are just plain hefty guys and gals. These larger trout seem to be about the only ones active in the lakes, as the colder water temps have made the smaller trout a bit sluggish. Some throat pump samples also showed that these larger trout were either near empty or had just dined on some scuds. The scuds were in the size 14-18 range, and these bugs are usually best found in shallow, weedy areas. A size 12-16 olive scud (with an orange hotspot), can be a good searching pattern when there is little else to go off of.
As for other hatches, there is little going on besides the random chironomid taking flight. Most hatches won't get going until after the lakes turnover and are rejuvenated with oxygen. With this is mind, leeches, baitfish, and general attractor patterns are working. Something else I also keep an eye out for as an indicator that things are starting to heat up are the return of ospreys. Once they are back at the lakes you know it is on. One of my favorite memories of last spring was watching an osprey slam into the water right near the boat and struggle to pull out a hog of a trout. The osprey hoisted the trout just enough out of the water that its belly was still skimming the surface as the bird lugged it through the air and onto the shoreline.
On the fish finder, the trout were at various depths throughout the lakes. Several times I did spot lunkers that were in the shallows but the calm winds and sunny skies made approaching and casting to these spooky trout difficult. If you are walking the shorelines, move slowly, have your fly ready, and work on your sight fishing game.
Most productive for us was anchoring up the boat at points and drop-offs and using sinking lines paired with floating flies like boobies, FABs, and blobs. Oddly enough, even with the cold water temps the trout were preferring a moderately quick retrieve, and some even pursued the fly right up to the boat.
For this weekend, we did have a minor cold front pass through yesterday, and I like 24-48hrs to pass in order for the trout to adjust to the new conditions. So, by Saturday the fishing should pick right back up to where it's been. In fact, we should have cloud cover and wind all weekend which are far better conditions than clear, calm and sunny skies.
Conservation and Community Events-
Spokane River Forum Conference, April 26-27:
The Spokane River Forum is having their two day conference April 26-27, which is a great event to learn more information about conservation efforts on the Spokane. Some of the topics will include:
Water Quality: Stormwater, PCBs, PFAs, Non-Point Source Pollution
Water Quantity: Infrastructure Development, Planning, Conservation
Habitat: Riparian Restoration, Aerial Imagery Monitoring
Fisheries: Preparing Our Waters for Salmon, Redband Recovery, Invasive Species, Recreation
Stewardship: Cleanup, Restoration, Digital Media Messaging, Spokane River Water Trail
The conference will be a fantastic way for you to learn more about the river, become engaged in conservation/stewardship events, and connect with others on protecting and restoring the river and its fishery. More info and registration here: https://spokaneriver.net/events/spokane-river-forum-conference/
Trout Unlimited/Spokane Women on the Fly:
Trout Unlimited/Spokane Women on the Fly also have a lot of upcoming events (everyone is welcome to attend these events):
Casting practice on April 1st over a Audubon Park, 2-4pm: https://spokanefallstu.org/event/ffi-bronze-casting-challenge-hosted-by-swotf-2/
Hackle and Hops Fly Tying on April 23rd at Whistle Punk Brewery, 2-4pm. More info and registration here: https://spokanefallstu.org/event/march-hackle-hops-fly-tying-with-swotf-2/
More events listed here: https://spokanefallstu.org/events/
Earth Day River Clean Up! Saturday, April 22nd, 10:00am-1:00pm:
The Spokane Riverkeeper and Spokane River Forum will be hosting their first and biggest public river cleanup of the year on Earth Day 2023. Last year volunteers removed 4,900 pounds of litter from Hangman Creek and the Spokane River. They will provide gloves and bags, you bring solid walking shoes. Sign up here: https://www.spokaneriverkeeper.org/calendar/2023/4/22/earth-day-river-cleanup
For more information on our guided fly fishing trips and instructional fly fishing lessons here in Spokane, check out Our Services (including Spokane River fly fishing trips, and Eastern Washington lake fishing trips). Feel free to Contact Us to book a trip or to inquire more information.