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Ecology and salmon related articles

Cold Water, Hot Angling

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, January 27, 2001

For those anglers who didn't stach their gear at Thanksgiving, steelies are striking

The weather may be cold, but the steelhead fishing is hot.

Power generation at Dworshak Dam has increased flows on the Lower Clearwater River and seems to have prompted fish to become more active.

Fishing on the Snake and Salmon rivers also is good for the few anglers willing to brave the chilly temperatures and sketchy weather of winter steelheading.

Higher flows on the lower Clearwater River now will be bad news for young salmon if there is less water available for flow augmentation this spring and summer. That could be bad news for steelhead fisherman two years from now if few of those fish survive to return as adults.

But in the here and now, the fish are biting and steelhead anglers should get them while they can.

"It's fantastic," said Evelyn Kaide, owner of the Guide Shop at Orofino. "The fishing is really good."

Kaide said water from Dworshak Reservoir is warmer than the ambient river temperature, making the fish more active. She believes it's also drawing more fish into the river from the Lower Granite Pool. The higher flows are expected to continue at least through today and could continue beyond.

Her guides have been doing well drifting eggs, but she said anglers using bobbers and jigs are catching fish as well.

The guys at the Water's Edge, a Clarkston bait and tackle shop, have a long-standing theory that anglers are struck with a virus each year that causes them to abandon their rods and reels around Thanksgiving Day. Stu Waters and Bruce Andrews say those inflicted with the dreaded disease are missing out on some great fishing.

"We are convinced that Thanksgiving inflicts most of the fishermen out here with a virus we call the turkey virus, and one of the side effects is they stop fishing," said Waters. "Those brave of heart and those that can stand the elements are doing well, and in fact quite well."

Waters reports anglers are doing well on the Snake River from Hens and Chicks up and says the farther up one goes, the better the fishing seems to be.

But he said those fishing at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers also are having some luck by trolling lighted lures during the day.

Anglers back-trolling deep diving, quarter-ounce Hot Lips plugs in the nontraditional colors of silver and blue, purple and silver and black are catching fish. Traditional colors like red and pink are not producing as well, he said.

Bait fishermen he talks to say they are doing better drifting shrimp than they are with eggs. Andrews says one of their spey-casting fly fishermen is doing well on the Snake River, south of Asotin, with black woolly buggers. He also said the Grand Ronde, though slow this past week, has produced hot fishing from Troy, Ore., to the mouth and should pick up again if the region sees some rain and snow.

"If we get some water in that river, right now, that would be a good place to fish."

As long as the Salmon River remains free of ice, the fishing should be good, according to Rexann Zimmerman, owner of the Hook, Line and Sinker, a tackle shop in Riggins.

Zimmerman said anglers are having late-season success back-trolling plugs and are still catching a lot of A-run fish with a few of the larger B-run steelhead thrown in.

Bobber and jig anglers are catching fish she said, and those throwing spoons also are catching steelies. She recommends metallic blue or green plugs for those back-trolling behind boats.

Eric Barker
Cold Water, Hot Angling
Lewiston Tribune, January 27, 2001

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