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4/5/2012 4:54:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Fishin' Magician: Northport features rainbows

Dave Graybill
Fishing Magician

One of the reasons I wanted to get to Northport was to try the early spring fishing for big rainbow and cutthroat in the Columbia. Our guide, Justin Hotchkiss of Far North Charters, is an expert at taking these fish on a fly. Trout fishing in the extreme north on the Columbia is good throughout the year, but the biggest fish are usually taken in March. Rainbow weighing from 3 to 10 pounds are staging to spawn on the long gravel bars here, and even cutthroat of 4 to 5 pounds aren't unusual.

We were swinging flies along seams off points and along these long bars, and fished streamers and Stone Fly imitations on sink tips that were rated up to 300 grain and were 22 feet long. Rollie Schmitten landed a beautiful 3-pound rainbow on our first drift. We only caught the one rainbow but also landed whitefish of similar size. Schmitten is convinced that the next state record whitefish will come from this area. We battled wind later in the morning and finally had to give up in the early afternoon. I was very impressed with Hotchkiss and plan to return to the area in the fall for another shot at big rainbow on dry flies.

April Fools

April 1 was the annual "April Fools Opener," with a couple dozen lakes becoming available to anglers in the Columbia Wildlife Refuge. This region is dotted with lakes that are spread across the high desert from Potholes Reservoir down to Othello. Many of the lakes are managed for trout and offer great fishing in the spring, whole others are excellent spiny ray fisheries. There is very good shore access to most of these lakes, and areas for camping. According to Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Chad Jackson in the Ephrata office, a couple of exceptionally good prospects for this opener are North and South Teal lakes. These lakes on the southern edge of the refuge were rehabilitated in 2011 and should offer excellent trout fishing.

Traditionally, the Pillar-Widgeon Lake Chain, which are walk-in lakes provide very good fishing, but are in need of rehabilitation and won't be as good this year. The same is true with the popular Hampton lakes, which are in need of rehabilitation. I would suggest that anglers new to this area stop by Mar Don Resort on Potholes Reservoir and pick up a map. They have the best one I have found that identifies these lakes and the species they offer.

Columbia Wildlife Refuge

This weekend will be a busy one in the Columbia Wildlife Refuge, south of Potholes Reservoir. This will be the first opportunity for thousands of anglers to fish the trout and spiny ray lakes that opened to fishing April 1. I will visit these lakes and will report on how the fishing is on many of them in the early season.

Another lake that opened April 1 that is a distance from the Columbia Wildlife Refuge is Dry Falls Lake. This is a quality lake, with selective gear rules and a daily one fish limit, and is primarily fished by fly anglers. The lake is accessed through the small State Park above Park Lake. It is a very scenic lake, surrounded by high basalt cliffs. There is an observation and interpretive center on the rim of the cliffs on the highway from Soap Lake to Coulee City that offers a spectacular view of the lake. Anglers fishing Dry Falls in their float tubes and pontoon boats are tiny dots on the water from this vista. Fishing on Dry Falls has dramatically improved in recent years and anglers are now catching rainbow and brown trout to 16 inches with good consistency and there are tiger trout in the lake that can be even larger.

Lowland trout season

April is a busy fishing month. The lowland lake general trout season opens at the end of the month. In between there are a couple of kids fishing days. These free annual events bring families together at a local pond. For years I have helped organize a free kids fishing day in Rock Island at the Pit Pond. In Ephrata the Rotary Club has held a kids fishing day at Oasis Park for years. Both of these events are held the third Saturday of April. If you visit FishingMagician.com, be sure to click on the Pepsi logo. Pepsi is sponsoring a Family Fun Calendar that lists all the kids fishing events I am aware of in the region, and some other fun things that have been planned with kids and families in mind.

I would welcome additions to this calendar and am looking for other kids and family events. Please get in touch with me via my contact page if you have something that you would like to include.

In the meantime, be sure to try the "Seep Lakes" in the Basin or the kids events, and get ready for the big opener at the end of the month!



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