Perch are piled on the ice at a fishing hole.
These perch were caught at Curlew Lake in December 2020.

Late-winter fishing in Washington

Head out on both sides of the Cascades for angling action

By Danny Garrett, Randy Osborne, Bill Baker, Mike Schmuck, Ryan Fortier, and Travis Maitland/WDFW

Winter fishing in Washington doesn’t get nearly the attention as spring, summer, or fall, but many lakes and reservoirs offer excellent wintertime fishing for rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, yellow perch, walleye, burbot, crappie, and more during February and early March.

Eastern Washington tips

During a typical December, lakes and bays in Eastern Washington begin to freeze, providing ideal conditions for ice fishing into January and February. With the exception of high-elevation lakes or the northern extents, ice fishing is never a guarantee, so anglers will need to monitor conditions throughout the season.

As always, anglers ice fish at their own risk, so protect yourself with adequate planning and good decision making before stepping onto the ice.

We recommend you go with someone experienced if you are a novice. Joining a Facebook group is a great way to meet experienced ice anglers willing to help. As always, anglers ice fish at their own risk, so protect yourself with adequate planning and good decision making before stepping onto the ice. For more information about ice fishing in Washington, including plenty of safety tips, check out the WDFW ice fishing page and our blog on ice fishing.

If lakes do freeze over but do not provide safe ice conditions, fisheries are often “preserved” for a few weeks, which can create an “opening day-like” experience once the lake thaws and opens back up to shoreline and boat anglers.

Where to go

In Northeastern Washington, Curlew Lake continues to provide good fishing for yellow perch and rainbow trout. Ice fishing conditions were improving in January with colder weather. Anglers have also been taking advantage of good ice fishing at the Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes, including Gillette, Thomas, and Heritage. Williams Lake in Stevens County also provides good winter trout fishing.

Closer to Spokane, lakes such as Hog Canyon and Fourth of July provide excellent winter fishing for fat rainbows, and anglers must also monitor the ice conditions to access these fisheries safely.

If you have a boat and want to avoid the ice, many larger lakes and reservoirs do not freeze while still providing excellent wintertime fishing. Options include Lake Roosevelt, Lake Spokane, Banks Lake, Potholes, and others.

Anglers are also catching nice rainbows throughout Central Washington in lakes such as Homestead Lake, Rocky Ford Creek (Kamloops strain stocked by Trout Lodge), and the Seep Lakes. If a fly-fishing adventure is more your style, grab your box of nymphs and check out the drains and wasteways that feed Potholes Reservoir. As always, obey property rights while venturing out in the field.

To the west, to the west

Anglers are still reeling in trout from lakes west of the Cascades, where February can be a great month to go fishing.

Hardy anglers can still take advantage of WDFW’s trout-stocking program, which saw many lakes amply stocked back around the holiday season and in the fall, not to mention more recent efforts.

For up-to-date stocking information, anglers should check the department’s Catchable Trout Report for weekly updates.

With so many lakes in Washington, anglers are reminded to search for local fishing opportunities at the WDFW lowland lakes webpage. Also check out the helpful fishing videos in our Fish Washington playlist on YouTube.

Licenses

If you haven’t already, you can buy your license today by calling 360–902–2464, visiting https://www.mywdfw.com/, or going to a license dealer near you. Go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/dealers to find your nearest license dealer.

Responsible recreation

When fishing, please recreate responsibly amid the coronavirus pandemic by following social distancing guidelines from state and local health authorities.

Be safe out there and enjoy fishing Washington!

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

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