Rufus Woods Winter Rainbow Action Could be the Best in Years! Leave a reply

Dec 17, 2018 by Tom Nelson

Dave Graybill – Outdoor Line Blogger

We have a lot of good fishing options in the winter season in our region. One in particular has been a long-time favorite, and that is fishing for triploid trout on Rufus Woods Reservoir. This 50-mile long impoundment on the Columbia River stretches from Chief Joseph Dam in Bridgeport, to Grand Coulee Dam at the town of Coulee Dam.  The reports I have been getting this year indicate that the chance of getting a big fish, and I mean weighing well into the teens, is the best in years.

I started fishing Rufus Woods back in the early 90s, before the “releases” of triploid rainbow from the net pens on the reservoir.  Photos of trout weighing up to 12 pounds definitely got my attention.  The unintentional releases of big fish that were intended for the restaurant markets drove the popularity of sportfishing Rufus Woods.  There was a period of a few years when the state record for rainbow trout, under which the triploids qualify, was broken four times! The current record is 36 pounds, 6 ounces.  I found it interesting that all but one of these records was set in the month of February, and the other was set in late January.  This tells me two things:  one that the fish are actively biting in wintertime, and two, anglers are also very active here in the winter.  There are a lot of lines in the water.

Dave Graybill with a 16 pound Rufus Wood rainbow taken trolling near a net pen!

One of the things I most enjoy about Rufus Woods is that the chance of catching one of these monster rainbow is just as good from the shore as from a boat. There are some very good places to cast from shore on the reservoir.  Probably the most popular spots are near the upper net pens.  There is a public access area here that has been developed by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Colville Tribe. It used to be pretty rough, with just a single pit toilet.  Now anglers will find an RV park with hookups and two heated restrooms with showers and a camping area.  A new boat launch near the site has been funded but not yet constructed.  Anglers can fish this access with either a WDFW license or a tribal license.  I want to remind anglers that this year there is a 14-inch minimum size on trout, and the limit is two.  If you use bait, each fish you release counts toward your daily limit as these bait-caught fish are often hooked too deeply to be released without harm.

At the bottom end of the reservoir, not too far from the dam, there is a park complete with picnic tables and fire rings for anglers to use along the shore, and other smaller area with a handicapped fishing platform, picnic tables and fire rings.  Just below these two fishing spots, at the base of power line tower, is a very productive fishing spot.  Below that is a new fishing access with a parking area and toilet.  Anglers take the path to the edge of the water and cast into very good water.  One of my favorite spots to fish Rufus Woods is at Brandt’s Landing.  This federal park is located six miles above the dam.  Here, anglers will find toilets and picnic tables and fire rings at a half dozen or more sites that are next to the water. 

I recently fished Rufus Woods from the shore at Brandt’s Landing, and the technique used I would honestly recommend to anyone who plans to fish the reservoir from the bank.  If you want to try shore fishing on Rufus Woods, this is how I set up:  I use medium action spinning rods of 8 ½feet.  I load my spinning rods with 20-to 30-pound braid, and “top shot” it with 10-pound Izor line. I slide a rubber bead on my main line and then a ½ ounce egg sinker.  I put another rubber bead on to protect my knot and tie on a barrel swivel.  I use three to four feet of fluorocarbon leader and snell a size one hook to the end of the line.  I have tried a lot of different baits and have found a marshmallow and shrimp combo the best.  I push a chunk of regular, white marshmallow up my hook to the eye and then thread on a jarred shrimp, with the head pulled off.  I dip my bait into the water to besure that the bait floats.  I also give my bait a good squirt of Graybill’s Guide Formula before I cast it out.  It is very handy to have a rod holder.  These can be as simple as the ones that extend and have a fork at the top.  You can push it into sand or brace it with rocks. This keeps your rod tip high, so you see even a nibble easily.

This beautiful 24-inch triploid rainbow was taken from the bank with the gear described above!

Boaters on Rufus Woods concentrate on three areas. Below the upper net pens, below the new net pens and above Chief Joseph Dam. At the net pens many anglers will anchor and cast bait to catch their fish. Some cast jigs, sometimes tipping them with a worm or shrimp. Others will anchor and flat line plugs in the current. Others troll plugs below or just off the pens. There are some good spots to try above the net pens, too, like the seams below points. Casting spinners or drifting Corkies in these spots can be very productive. I also need to mention that fly fishing is a good way to get triploids. These trout are very aggressive and often anglers casting and retrieving flies or trolling them can be extremely effective. When there is enough current to drift a bobber, this is a good way to get fish off Brandt’s Landing.

I have caught some absolute dandys  on Rufus Woods Reservoir, including two that were close to 16 pounds.  I don’t know if I will get one this size this winter season, but you can bet that I will be out there trying.  This will be a great time to fish Rufus Woods, and if you haven’t tried it yet, this would be the winter to do it!

Dave Graybill, Outdoor Line Blogger

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