Colville Indian Reservation
By Al Camp
Fishing for large triploid and native redband trout will be easier on the Colville Indian Reservation after the fish pamphlet had several regulations clarified.
Tribal waters also feature bass, kokanee and a few eastern brook trout.
Just about every lake that opened to the general public April 11 on the reservation was stocked with native redband rainbow trout.
The fish are a product of an extensive program at the tribe’s Bridgeport hatchery. The program started with a few dozen fish retrieved from the far reaches of tribal streams.
“We’ve completely gone away from coastal rainbows stocked here for so many years,” senior resident tribal fish biologist Ed Shallenberger said.
The native fish seem to thrive better in low-oxygen, high-temperature waters often found on the reservation. Shallenberger said for the most part tribal lakes will be going away from non-native species.
Most lakes were expected to be frozen for the opener, though they should be producing well by the end of April.
This year’s fishing pamphlet includes clarification on what licenses are required and where on Lake Rufus Woods behind Chief Joseph Dam and Wells Reservoir.
No major changes were made except for a bass slot limit change on Twin Lakes. There is a 15-bass limit, with only bass less than 12 inches and more than 17 inches allowed to be kept, and not more than two bass over 17 inches allowed.
Bass 12-17 inches help control a gold shiner population in the lakes.
Anglers will enjoy fishing Lake Rufus Woods, where about 2,000 triploid trout averaging close to four pounds each are being released each month.
An oxygenation system will be tested in North Twin Lake to see if it gives a bigger band of livable water this summer. Trout are restricted to about 5 percent of the lake’s volume in the summer, Shallenberger said.
The system should increase that to as much as 50 percent of the lake, he said.
Tests last fall indicated the system made a huge difference.
The tribal opener is always the second Saturday of April each year. Most seasons on the reservation run until Oct. 31, ending at the same time as state waters close.
In Lake Rufus Woods, several dozen tickets were issued this winter to anglers for various violations, including possessing more than two fish, releasing fish caught on bait or dumping fish guts into the reservoir.
“Take your mess out,” Shallenberger said. “You are not allowed to leave guts in any water on the reservation. The park department says no guts in garbage cans. Basically, take your fish home.”
Lake Rufus Woods, open year-round, provides fishing for walleye, kokanee and triploid rainbow trout. The state’s last three record rainbows were caught in the lake.
Tribal license prices remain the same, at $35 for a regular season permit. Those who take on a winter permit while buying the regular license pay $5 more. Buying a winter permit later will cost $10.
There is a separate price schedule for permits allowing fishing for a specific amount of days. A tribal license runs to March 31.
A seasonal permit allows anglers to fish 19 lakes and five creeks or rivers on or adjacent to the Colville Indian Reservation, which encompasses 1.3 million acres within Okanogan and Ferry counties.
Several marginal lakes continue to be listed, though few, if any, fish can be located in them. They include Apex, Cook and Duley lakes. They are relics from years past when they contained more water.
Anglers will continue to find some of the most diverse fishing experiences in the Northwest on the reservation, with species including rainbows, jumbo rainbows (triploids) and eastern brook trout, bass, Lahontan cutthroat, walleye and kokanee.
The tribe tries to mirror state regulations on boundary waters.
Anglers should check the back of the tribe’s fishing pamphlet for the latest changes.
Reservation and state licenses are required when fishing from the reservation shoreline of boundary waters, which include Crawfish Lake, Lake Pateros (Wells Dam pool), Washburn Island Pond, Okanogan River and Lake Roosevelt (Grand Coulee Dam pool).
Check the pamphlet for latest regulations concerning where various licenses are needed on Lake Rufus Woods (Chief Joseph Dam pool).
Those fishing in a boat in boundary waters adjacent to the reservation need only a state license. A tribal license is not required as long as an angler fishes from a boat.
Tribal licenses and pamphlets are available where reservation licenses are sold and from the tribal fish and game department office on School House Loop Road (Old TSI Road), two miles west of the tribal agency campus near Nespelem.
Outlets selling tribal licenses include Wal-Mart, Omak; J&J Smoke Shop, Okanogan; Dave’s Gun and Pawn, Riverside; Tom’s Tackle Box, Tonasket; Bridgeport True Value; Triangle Texaco, Brewster; Jackson’s Chevron, Nespelem; Pateros Ace Hardware; Eich’s Mercantile, Republic; Keller Community Store; Twisp Chevron; HiCo Gas and Convenience Store, Grand Coulee, and Big Wally’s, Coulee City.
Those wishing to use a campfire or stay at a tribal campground may need additional permits.
More information about campground permits is available from the Colville tribal parks department, 509-634-3145.
More information about campfire permits is available from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs’ fire management office, 509-634-2194.
Most tribal regulations, such as those for trout or bass limits, match state rules. Still, anglers would be wise to check tribal regulations prior to fishing.
Unless otherwise noted, the daily catch limit for trout, including kokanee and other landlocked salmon species, is five fish, with not more than two longer than 20 inches. Minimum size is eight inches. Possession limit is two daily catch limits.
On Lake Roosevelt only, anglers can keep two kokanee (marked or unmarked) in addition to a daily trout catch limit. That means a bag limit of up to seven trout.
Steelhead, salmon, sturgeon and bull trout are closed to fishing. There were emergency openers last year that allowed fishing for steelhead and salmon fishing on boundary waters.
Reservation waters, mostly in Okanogan County, include:
Apex Lake: Now mostly a mud hole, this former largemouth bass lake of a couple acres is no longer managed. It may contain a few brown bullheads.
The lake drains into Borgeau Lake about three-quarters of a mile to the south.
Apex is located in Ferry County about four miles south of Inchelium.
Big Goose Lake: Last winter may prove worse than the previous winter on this shallow bass lake that suffers winter kill.
Shallenberger said he may use an emergency closure of the lake, which has lower water levels than last winter because of another dry winter.
He said windmill aerators (paid for by the Bonneville Power Administration) on the lake will not do much good, with only one of two still working. Another is out of the water.
“The whole south end is almost dry,” he said.
The lake, which has not been planted of late, has a daily catch limit of 15 bass with not more than two over 14 inches.
Fish used to get large fast in the shallow lake because of scuds. Bass averaged 11-13 inches, though they could go larger with higher water.
Large pumpkinseed fish, perhaps even one big enough for a state record, used to reside in the lake.
A concrete ramp on the east side of the lake may reach to the water line if levels rise.
Borgeau Lake: The 22-acre lake, located 4.5 miles south of Inchelium, probably was not accessible opening day for redband rainbows, including some nice carryovers and a few specially planted triploid trout.
Largemouth bass range up to four pounds, though an angler did catch a six-pound bass in early 2005. Bass are best fished once the lake warms up.
There is a seldom-used boat ramp along with a picnic table and outhouse.
Buffalo Lake: After the Twin Lakes, Buffalo is the next most-fished water on the reservation.
Shallenberger said he plans an extensive study this year of the lake, which suffers from siltation. Cattle grazing and logging cause debris to wash into streams and into the lake, harming potential spawning areas.
The lake will be planted with a fair number of fish this year, including a few of the larger rainbows.
At two miles in length, the 540-acre-plus lake is 7.25 miles southeast of Nespelem and is a fairly complicated lake, Shallenberger said.
“There are some very good bass in there,” he stressed.
Though the lake is managed for trout, largemouth bass averaging less than two pounds (some reach up to five pounds) also reside in the lake.
There is a 25-bass daily catch limit. All bass caught must be kept, as outlined in the general regulations for bass.
There are a few eastern brook and kokanee that have spawned naturally in the lake since the 1950s and there may be a few triploid rainbows.
A crayfish season (there are fewer in the lake than in the past), where the limit is five pounds in the shell, runs July 1 through Sept. 15.
The kokanee daily catch limit is 15 fish, which could help reduce the fishes’ numbers and increase the amount of plankton available for other fish.
A winter season, which requires a winter fishing permit, runs Jan. 1 to March 15.
A boat access is on the west side.
RV hookups are available at a resort at the northeast end of the lake.
Cook Lake: Nothing has been done for a number of years at this tiny lake that suffers from alkaline and low-water conditions.
Access to the lake is limited because of private property.
Cook is located on Cameron Lake Road about a half-mile west of Little Goose Lake.
Crawfish Lake: Crawfish lies partly on tribal land and partly on state land. Its season matches the state’s general fishing season, April 26 to Oct. 31. (See listing with Highlands waters.)
Those who fish from shore on the reservation portion of the lake must possess a reservation license. For those who fish from a boat in reservation waters, a state license will suffice.
The lake is managed by the state for rainbow and eastern brook trout.
Duley Lake: This shallow lake near Okanogan is about eight miles south of Little Goose Lake on upper Cameron Lake Road.
No fish have been found in the lake of late.
LaFleur Lake: This seldom fished lake sports largemouth bass, native redband rainbows, a few large triploid trout and possibly some held-over eastern brook trout.
The season runs from the first Saturday in May, which will be May 2 this year, until Oct. 31.
Bass in the two- to three-pound range roam in the lake, with some reaching six pounds.
The lake is planted when the ice goes off and prior to the opener, if a truck can reach the lake. It should hold some good carryovers.
“It’s a lake that a lot of people ignore,” said Shallenberger. “People would rather fight crowds at the Twin Lakes when they could go to LaFleur and have the lake to themselves.”
The 25-acre lake is nine miles north of Inchelium. Though an attempt at a boat ramp exists, it’s better to bring small, car-top boats because of difficult launching conditions.
Lake Roosevelt: The good news is that the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam is not slated for any major drawdowns. In past years it’s been reduced as much as 90 feet. This year the forecast is 10 feet or less.
Colville and Spokane tribes, along with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, manage the lake behind Grand Coulee Dam for kokanee that range from 16 to 18 inches.
A kokanee program releases fingerlings each year to rehabilitate the population. Wild kokanee return to the San Poil. Two kokanee can be added to a daily catch limit of five trout.
The lake is stocked with triploid rainbows from 28 net pen rearing projects including Keller Marina, Hunters, Kettle Falls, Hall Creek and Seven Bays.
Lake Roosevelt runs from Grand Coulee Dam, which lies at the junction of state highways 155 and 174, and extends east and then north past Kettle Falls.
Lake Roosevelt, which is open all year, carries several special regulations.
The lake is closed to sturgeon fishing.
Anglers must become familiar with physical landmarks where the San Poil River and Lake Roosevelt meet. (See tribal fish pamphlet concerning the San Poil River.)
Daily catch limit for trout is five fish, not more than two longer than 20 inches. Possession limit is two daily catch limits.
The daily walleye limit changed this year. It’s eight fish, not more than one longer than 22 inches. The 16-inch minimum no longer applies.
The lake sports smallmouth bass and a few largemouth bass. The fish are in the one- to two-pound range, with a few pushing four pounds.
Daily bass catch limit is 10 fish, with no minimum size limit, and only one bass greater than 14 inches may be kept.
Lake Rufus Woods: The tribe and state worked to clarify license requirements for this popular stretch of water that extends 51 miles behind Chief Joseph Dam.
There will be three designated fishing areas that will include camping and boat launch facilities. State or tribal licenses can be used at these areas.
Other areas if fished from shore on the reservation side, such as Bridgeport State Park, require a reservation license.
Either license is required if fishing from a boat.
The tribe planted 1,959 tagged fish, averaging four pounds each, Feb. 25, and 2,000 more a week later. Supported by Bonneville Power Administration funding, the plan is to plant 2,000 of the larger fish each month.
Many larger triploid rainbows have been pulled from the lake, including a state-record 29.6-pounder by Norm Butler, Okanogan, on Nov. 11, 2002. At the time, the fish broke the previous record, set the same year, by nearly four pounds.
In recent years, fish weighing more than 20 pounds have been landed.
The sterile fish benefit from feed flowing from a net pen operation near the Nespelem River.
The lake also gets a lot of fish passing from Lake Roosevelt through Grand Coulee Dam.
Some smallmouth bass and walleye live in the 7,800-acre reservoir.
There is a bass slot limit with a daily catch limit of five fish less than 12 inches or more than 17 inches. No more than one fish can be longer than 17 inches.
Wild kokanee, which contain special genetic material, must be released in Nespelem River Bay from July 15 to Nov. 30 to protect naturally spawning fish. (For more on the lake, see state listing with major lakes and rivers.)
For approved boat launch sites, check the back of the tribal fish pamphlet. There is a launch near Chief Joseph Dam and a ramp near Seaton’s Grove.
There’s also unimproved access off Columbia River Road near the Timm Ranch and Coyote Creek. Check the tribal pamphlet to learn more.
Little Goose: This small lake east of Okanogan appears to have escaped the annual algae blooms last summer, which could mean some very nice carryovers.
Fish that average a half-pound in the spring can get quite large fast because of so much feed in the lake, which averages a three-foot drop in water level during the summer.
“If we don’t get some wet years that lake is going to dry up,” Shallenberger said, noting the best time to fish the lake is May or June.
Little Goose, which has a boat access, is located nine miles east of Okanogan on Cameron Lake Road.
Lost Creek: Rainbow and brook trout live in the creek, located in the north central part of the reservation and starting near the headwaters of Crawfish Lake northeast of Riverside.
The tiny creek does get planted with legal-size rainbows, with the strategy now for more plantings of fewer fish that can reach 14 inches by fall.
The creek flows east, staying mostly in the reservation, and feeds into the west fork of the San Poil River north of the reservation boundary. Some of the creek flows through private land, so anglers need to get permission before fishing.
The creek can be reached via state Highway 155 through Lyman Lake.
McGinnis Lake: This is the only brook trout only lake on the reservation open to the public, with very nice carryovers up to 20 inches and several pounds.
Best fished either early or late, the lake received a plant last fall but was not expected to be planted this spring.
Larger boats can be launched at the 115-acre lake a mile south of Buffalo Lake and 9.5 miles southeast of Nespelem.
Nicholas Lake: The limited-access lake north of Inchelium has a season for rainbows from the first Saturday in May (May 2 this year) to Oct. 31.
The late opener allows a mid-April plant of legal-sized rainbows to acclimatize at the lake, which is difficult to reach both by muddy road and by water.
The lake features a shallow bench before getting to the good part to fish, so not many people work their way to the open water, Shallenberger said, noting the tiny lake would not be his first choice to fish.
“It’s kind of a pretty little place but people have trashed it with beer bottles, which is a shame,” he said. Some years the lake suffers a severe winter kill.
The two-acre lake is located 11.6 miles north of Inchelium.
Okanogan River: A large portion of the river, which is open all year, forms the western edge of the reservation. Tribal and state regulations close the river to the taking of trout, salmon and steelhead. (See listing with state waters.)
When salmon can be taken, only tribal members can take them from the tribe’s side of the river.
The river is open all year from the mouth to the Malott bridge for all game fish except trout, salmon and steelhead. An emergency regulation may open the river for steelhead fishing in the fall.
From Dec. 1 to March 31 gear is restricted to a single hook, no larger than size 14.
Upstream from the Malott bridge, the season runs June 1 to Aug. 31 for all game fish except trout, salmon and steelhead.
Anglers are allowed to use bait north of the Malott bridge. Selective fishery rules no longer apply since the state considers the river a warm water fishery.
Bait is prohibited from the mouth to the Malott bridge, with the stretch of water considered a selective fishery.
The daily bass limit is five bass less than 12 inches or more than 17 inches, with no more than one bass over 17 inches (same as the state’s regulation).
Omak Creek: This creek located east of Omak is closed to non-member fishing due to a summer steelhead program. Rainbows are no longer planted in the creek.
Omak Lake: There is limit of three Lahontan cutthroat (not more than one being longer than 18 inches) at this 3,000-acre lake seven miles southeast of Omak off state Highway 155, and those fish are consistently in nice shape.
A catch-and-release season runs March 1 to May 21, while spawning fish are trapped for egg collection. The lake has a year-round season.
Fishing success may be down this year and next year because of vandalism two years ago when someone cut anchors on traps and dragged them ashore. They took a few fish but left many to die.
That led to only 25,000 fish being planted instead of the usual 100,000. There will be fewer fish to catch but they should be of good size.
This year’s plant was increased to help make up the numbers, but those fish will take at least a year before they enter the fishery.
“A few greedy people and it hurts everybody,” Shallenberger said.
A mandatory creel census at the lake shows anglers are catching lots of fish 18 inches or larger.
Fish can reach up to 18 pounds, which is the current state record set in 1993 at the lake.
Non-members can access the south end of the lake north of Baines Beach. Access from Baines Beach southward is for tribal members only.
Two boat accesses are available on the north end of the lake — Nicholson Beach off Columbia River Road and Mission access at the end of the road past Paschal Sherman Indian School off state Highway 155.
The north embayment (next to the Mission boat ramp) is closed to boating and fishing March 1 to May 21. All islands are closed to access from March 1 to April 30 while birds are nesting.
Anglers may use artificial lures and flies with barbless hooks only; no bait fishing is allowed. Fishing time is from dawn to dark daily. Anglers are required to furnish creel census information.
Rebecca Lake: One of the better largemouth bass lakes on the reservation, the lake is located about eight miles north of Nespelem and 1.5 miles southwest of Buffalo Lake.
There is a bass slot limit with a daily catch limit of five fish less than 12 inches or longer than 17 inches. No more than one fish can be more than 17 inches.
There is an unimproved boat launch facility, which sometimes can be blocked by floating islands of brush.
San Poil River: The tribe continues its transition to native redband trout, raised at its hatchery, for the river. A lot of fish come up the river from Lake Roosevelt.
“Regulations are more complex than basically any place on the reservation,” Shallenberger said. “People should read regs carefully.”
Redband trout were native to the drainage but disappeared over the years. Trips to the far reaches of tribal streams produced enough eggs over time to get a fishery started at the tribal hatchery near Bridgeport.
The program has grown big enough so that only redband trout are being planted and coastal trout no longer are being introduced into the river. Walleye and smallmouth bass also inhabit the river.
There is a year-round season from the mouth of the San Poil River upstream to a location extending across the river from French John’s Lake/Manila Creek on the west shoreline and Dick Creek on the east shoreline.
The season upstream from the location to the free-flowing reach of the river is open to fishing from June 1 through Dec. 31. The short season helps rainbows that are staging in Lake Roosevelt prior to entering the river to spawn.
The free-flowing reach of the system is open to fishing from May 1 to Oct. 31.
A catch-and-release trout season May 1 to Oct. 31 covers the area from Thirty Mile bridge to the reservation boundary. Only single-hook, artificial flies and lures with barbless hooks may be used. No bait fishing is allowed.
There is a wild kokanee release in effect.
The San Poil has a 25-fish daily catch limit for walleye and smallmouth bass. There are no walleye or smallmouth bass size limits in the river section.
Regulations differ for the river and Lake Roosevelt, into which the river flows. A bay formed where the waters meet fluctuates by season, causing regulations to fluctuate as well.
With the river not reaching the high water mark, at an elevation of 1,290 feet, the definition of the flowing river can change by as much as one to three miles.
Anglers should have a tribal permit if they’re fishing for walleye and smallmouth bass in the San Poil and be aware of differences in seasons and bag limits between the San Poil and Lake Roosevelt. Tribal regulations are an effort to rebuild the wild rainbow population in the San Poil River by putting pressure on San Poil walleye.
The river produces best in the fall for rainbows up to five pounds.
State Highway 21 parallels the San Poil River for 58 miles from Republic to the Columbia River.
Stranger Creek: This tiny creek is closed from Inchelium/Gifford Road downstream to the mouth.
Best success lies in beaver ponds. Anglers should get permission before fishing on private property that borders the creek, which runs out of Twin Lakes near Inchelium.
The creek, which is planted in three separate locations each June when water levels recede, contains naturally spawning brook trout and plants of sterilized rainbows 13-14 inches.
“This is a fun little stream to fish, and should be in reasonable good shape,” Shallenberger said. He felt the creek was under-fished last year compared to how well it was stocked.
Season is April 11 through Oct. 31.
Summit Lake: This lake has a regular season of April 11 to Oct. 31. It also has a winter season, which requires a separate tribal winter fishing license that runs Jan. 1 to March 15.
The lake receives a small planting of brook trout in May after it becomes ice free. Anglers can expect fish averaging 9-11 inches. There are a few carryovers up to a couple pounds at the lake, where there is not much feed to support more fish.
The lake was to receive some of the four-pound triploids this year.
“I put in some of the bigger fish to spice things up a little bit,” Shallenberger said. “It’s a pretty little lake.”
The lake is up a steep hill about six miles east of Disautel and 11.5 miles northwest of Nespelem at 3,500 feet elevation.
Twin Lakes: An oxygenation system was installed in North Twin Lake to give fish a better chance of survival. If funding can be found, a similar system will be installed in the south lake next year. The system will greatly expand the band of water where fish can survive.
The lake contains largemouth bass in the 10- to 16-inch range plus rainbow trout and some eastern brook.
There is a new slot limit at the lake where there is a 15-bass limit. Only bass less than 12 inches and more than 17 inches can be kept, with not more than two over 17 inches allowed.
“The middle-size bass are controlling the gold shiner population,” Shallenberger said.
These lakes are now the second-most popular angling area on the reservation, being surpassed by only Lake Rufus Woods.
The regular season runs April 11 to Oct. 31 this year. A winter fishery, which requires a tribal winter fishery license, runs Jan. 1 to March 15. It is lawful to fish to the base of the Stranger Creek outlet structure.
Twin Lakes covers about 2,000 acres and is located eight miles west of Inchelium. There are two resorts and public access.
Washburn Island Pond: The season at this 13-acre pond, managed mainly by the state for bass and lying partly on the reservation and partly on state land, runs April 1 to Sept. 30.
There is a bass slot limit with a daily catch limit of five fish less than 12 inches or over 17 inches, and no more than one can be over 17.
Largemouth bass run up to a couple pounds at the pond, located four miles east of Brewster off state Highway 17.
The lake also contains bluegill.
Anglers must possess state and Colville tribal fishing licenses if fishing from shore. A state license is required for fishing from a boat. Use of internal combustion engines is prohibited. The boat launch area includes toilets.
Wells Reservoir: Often called Lake Pateros, the pool is formed on the Columbia River behind Wells Dam up to Chief Joseph Dam. The reservoir is open all year.
The reservoir is closed to salmon and steelhead fishing, though emergency measures may open limited seasons in the fall for summer Chinook salmon and steelhead.
A trout season runs June 1 to Aug. 31, with a daily catch limit of two fish. Only fish 12-20 inches can be kept. Artificial lures and flies with barbless hooks are required
There’s no bait fishing allowed. Possession limit is one daily catch limit.
The reservoir, which is managed by the state, is closed to shoreline fishing from the base of Chief Joseph Dam downstream to the state Highway 17 bridge on the reservation side (Okanogan County side).
Closed waters are at Chief Joseph Dam between the west end of the tail race deck downstream 400 feet to the boundary marker.
Bass and walleye also live in the reservoir.
There is a bass slot limit with a daily catch limit of five fish less than 12 inches or more than 17 inches. No more than one fish can be larger than 17 inches.
Wilmont Creek: This creek that is seldom fished is closed to all fishing from Silver Creek Road downstream to the mouth to protect spawning rainbows.
The creek, located 20 miles south of Inchelium, receives a few plants (above the falls) of native rainbows (planted after spring runoff) and contains a few naturally spawning brook trout.
The lower two-thirds of the creek borders private land, so anglers should seek landowner permission before fishing.