When snow flies, anglers’ thoughts typically turn to steelhead or salmon — or warm afternoons sitting at the fly-tying bench. Some, though, continue to be tempted by trout.
While it’s true that “trout season” typically runs from the first Saturday in June through the end of October for many of Washington’s rivers and streams, it’s also true that year-round seasons exist on many prime trout waters. Some of these require just a hearty constitution and tolerance for cold weather. Others force anglers to work a little harder to trudge through snow to get to the open water.
Indeed, there are some great opportunities to merge a couple great outdoor pastimes — fly-fishing and snowshoeing — into one fine adventure.
You’ll have to work for them, but this lake can produce big trout during the winter. The Highway 504 route into the northwest corner of Mount St. Helens National Monument remains open most of the winter as far as the Coldwater Education Center atop Coldwater Ridge. From that parking lot, snowshoe about two miles down the road to the parking lot on the west end of Coldwater Lake.
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For best results, you’ll want to be on the water when fishing. That means carrying a lightweight pontoon boat or float tube down to the lakeshore. Trade your snowshoes for that portable boat and hit the water. If you don’t have a boat, don’t despair. You’ll just have to work the shorelines on foot.
Anglers may keep one fish larger than 16 inches here, but must follow selective gear rules while fishing. (See Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s website for details: wdfw.wa.gov.)
From Roza Dam upstream to Easton, the Yakima boasts a year-round trout fishery on par with Montana’s best rivers. Many folks continue to boat the river all year, but bank anglers will find low and slow waters throughout the winter to make wading easier. Note that this section of river is catch-and-release only, with selective gear rules in place.
For the past couple years, my partner and I — along with our yellow lab — have enjoyed peaceful outings on Christmas Eve walking and fishing along the river near Hanson’s Pond in Cle Elum. If the short access road to the pond is snow-clogged, walk that track toward the ponds. You can find fish along the bank near the road, and further downstream along the trail atop the old dike separating the river from the ponds. Irene Rinehart Park in Ellensburg also offers a riverside trail for easy angling access — and generally less snow than you’ll encounter in Cle Elum.
Look for deep pools where fish can congregate and conserve energy during the winter.
The wall of water that is Snoqualmie Falls ensures no anadromous fish move up into the Snoqualmie Forks, leaving these upper branches of the river to the resident trout.
The Middle Fork Snoqualmie offers the best opportunities for winter anglers, and snowpack can be sufficient to make this a good snowshoe outing to reach some of the best water. If that’s the case, park well off the road and trek upstream, at least as far as the Middle Fork Campground.
Keep in mind that both the Pratt River and Taylor River are closed to fishing after Oct. 31. All other tributaries are open year round.
When possible, you can drive up to the Middle Fork Trailhead and use the trail on the north side of the river to access the river.
Like the Yakima, this is a catch-and-release fishery with selective gear rules.
Dan Nelson is a freelance writer who lives in Puyallup.