Winter Turning Rosier Around Chelan For Anglers

I, Andy Walgamott, was wrong to question covering ice fishing in the Northwest this winter.

Back in early December, I said, “You can stick your ice auger up your a**, Jack Frost!”

The weather was all screwy, OK, and maybe I had too much caffeine that morning, plus I have a bad history with ice fishing coverage.

Today, however, I’m extending my humblest apologies to J. Frost, M. Nature, F. the Snowman, and all ya’ll of the frozen-fingered clan.

What’s prompting my change of heart? Anglers being able to get out and ice fish, of course.

“My dad hit Roses Lake yesterday and got a limit of nice pan-frying-size rainbows,” reports Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks this morning.

Roses is in northern Chelan County just outside Manson and can be pretty good in the winter for trout.

Brooks says his pa, Al, was using Pautzke’s Fire Corn.

AL BROOKS AND HIS LIMIT OF RAINBOWS FROM ROSES LAKE ON JAN. 6, 2011. (AL BROOKS)

“When I talked to him yesterday he had only been there about a half hour and had two on the ice and about 10 missed bites,” he emailed.

Perch are also available at the lake. WDFW provides directions on how to get there on its site.

The extended forecast calls for continued cold, with temps even dipping down to the single digits across Eastern Washington, though there’s a bit of crud to make it through first.

“Right now they’re catching some spinyrays, perch, crappie, walleyes, just south of the I-90 bridge” on Moses Lake, reports Leroy Ledeboer in the Columbia Basin town of the same name. “And if the cold snap we’re expecting this weekend and early next week materializes, ice conditions should be pretty good.  I’m ready to try either Long Lake, the one in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge,  or Banks, but today we have freezing rain, making the roads too treacherous.  Schools were canceled.”

South of the Columbia, a number of Southeast Oregon lakes are beginning to ice up or already serving up winter fish, including Unity Reservoir the hell and gone southeast of Baker City.

We previously reported on a mess more ideas for where to go ice fishing, and our January issue has tips as well.

Just use caution. Though WDFW isn’t sending its biologists and game wardens around to the ice caps with measuring sticks, the agency advises among other things:

* While ice safety can never be assured, no one should venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 inches thick, clear and solid, according to U.S. Coast Guard guidelines. As much as 9 inches may be needed to safely support snowmobiles or other vehicles. Such ice depths can form after at least a week of below freezing temperatures, day and night.

* Don’t fish alone. Let others know exactly where you and your fishing partners are going and when you plan to return.

* Keep fishing holes small and few. When drilling fishing holes with an ice auger, keep the diameter under 8 inches. Bigger holes are not necessary to land fish and can create a safety hazard for others.

* Watch your step. Avoid ice fishing near feeder streams or known springs; brush, logs, plants or docks; multiple ice cracks or ice that is popping or otherwise audible; and dark-colored ice that may be weak.

* Spread out. Too many people congregated in one area may be more than the ice can safely support. Disperse weight and fishing holes.

* Be prepared for weather conditions. Dress in layers and wear thermal underwear, fleece or wool, and wind and waterproof outerwear, especially for feet, hands and head. Take extra clothes, food, water, sand for on-ice traction, and a sled for easy on-ice transport of all equipment.

* Be prepared for emergencies. Carry equipment such as ice picks or awls, rope, and personal flotation devices. Also pack a first-aid kit and matches for starting a fire.

UPDATE 12:55 P.M., JAN. 7, 2011: Jason Brooks just emailed and said, “Just got off of the phone with my dad…he’s back at roses with 4 fish already (less than an hour).”

UPDATE 2:58 P.M., JAN. 7, 2011: Ernie Buchanan, an Okanogan ice angler, reports 6 inches of ice at Rat Lake where the rainbows are running 12 inches. He says they’re on the “slender” side, but “lots of fishermen” are there anyway.

And here’s an uber-fresh pic from Fish Lake near Leavenworth.

ANGLER BRANDON BOREN WITH A FAIR MESS OF PERCH CAUGHT TODAY.

Be careful here, however. The report from Cove Resort is that it was 41 degrees around midday and someone fell through the ice recently.

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