Winter fishing season on thin ice - Coeur d'Alene Press: Outdoors

Winter fishing season on thin ice

Fish Tips

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 12:00 am

Ice fishing is suspect at best right now.

After local stories of ice fishers falling through ice on some of the northern lakes, Tina Padgitt of Black Sheep Sporting Goods wouldn't recommend anyone getting out on it right now.

Some anglers are still jigging for kokanee at Spirit Lake, using weighted lines with a maggot and glow hook.

But it might be a better bet to wait for ice to thicken or prepare for springtime trolling instead, Padgitt said.

"There's not really much you can do," she said of anglers caught between seasons. "People are getting their boats ready for trolling."

Anglers can troll now, she added. Chinook can be pulled out of Lake Coeur d'Alene. Lines between 30 to 60 feet were working best in the fall. Or anglers can go after rainbow trout on Lake Pend Oreille, dragging Frisky Jenny Flies. Drop lines "really deep" to go after mackinaw.

But closer to springtime could be the better bet, Padgitt said, though there's no telling when that will be. Meantime, it could be wise to prepare for whenever trolling season hits hard.

"That's what most people are doing," she said. "They're getting their reels all oiled up, just getting ready for the season."

The steelhead rivers down south have been a little high and murky with the warmer weather, but there are some fish around, said Mike Beard, of Orvis Northwest Outfitters in Coeur d'Alene.

"The Snake River and lower Clearwater River have been giving up some fish for those who are willing to cover some water, but once the rivers start dropping again and the clarity gets a little better things could get good again," Beard said.

Swinging sink tips with a larger dark colored fly in the murky water will at least help the fish see the offering, but dead drifting bigger nymphs and egg patterns can also generate strikes if fishermen put it right on their nose, he noted.

"Trout fishing on the North Fork (of the Coeur d'Alene) has been a decent option for those needing a quicker fix close to home," Beard said. "Still a fairly short window of opportunity, but it's a good excuse to get out."

Double nymph rigs with rubberleg stoneflies, San Juan worms, prince nymphs, pheasant tail or some other beaded nymph will be the best for this time of year until warmer days get the dry flies working a little better, Beard said.

With recent temperatures above the freezing mark, ice fishing on many area lakes has taken a back seat, said Steve Holweg of Cabela's.

"I wouldn't go out on any of the lakes right now," Holweg said, referring to a man who fell in recently on Rose Lake. "If you fish, find open water (from the bank) or troll. I'd put ice fishing on hold for now."

Holweg believes Lake Coeur d'Alene would be a good option for anglers right now.

Holweg said that, with some colder temperatures, there could still be some good ice fishing left this winter. Before the recent warming trend, he heard great ice fishing reports on most area lakes.

"But I would stay off the ice for at least the next few days," he said. "We're expected to get warmer temperatures and rain and snow mixed. Overnight lows in the 30s just isn't going to cut it."

The ice is tenuous on small, local lakes like Hauser, Fernan, Rose and the Chain Lakes, cautioned Dale Odenbaugh.

But there is still some ice fishing available further north, said Odenbaugh, with Fins and Feathers Tackle Shop and Guide Service.

He recommended Twin Lakes, as well as Kelso, Granite and Gamble lakes.

"It should all be the same thing. Perch, crappie, bluegill," he said.

Folks are still relying on ice jigs, Odenbaugh said. Some are also using Swedish Pimples loaded with maggots.

"Just pound the bottom," he said.

Those who are trout fishing should target 2 or 3 feet off the bottom, he added.

"If you try that in deeper water, you've got a chance of catching bass, crappie, bluegill," he said. "You're going to get a bigger selection of fish."

Chinook fishing on Lake Coeur d'Alene is doing well, Odenbaugh said. In the past several days, 12-pound and 11-pound chinook have been reeled in, he said.

He recommended fishing from Arrow Point on south. One of the trophies was also caught in the Tubbs Hill area, he added.

Fishermen are using herring and mini squids, he added.

"The herring will tend to get you the bigger fish," he said. "There's more action off the mini squids."

Some are also starting to pike fish on the shorelines of Lake Coeur d'Alene, he said.

Most are sticking to the Wolf Lodge area and bays, he said.

Smelt or herring should do the trick, he said, or dead perch.

Fish no deeper than 8 feet, he added.

"If you've got open water, there's a good chance to get into some pike," Odenbaugh said.

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