By Dave Graybill
A couple of years ago I said that Lake Chelan for kokanee and Banks Lake for walleye would share the spotlight for spring fishing in our region. Well, last year the fishing at both of these lakes was even better than I had anticipated. This year I think that they both will be even better.
Let’s start with Lake Chelan. Hang on folks. It’s going to be a kokanee fishing party at Lake Chelan. Fishing for kokanee was good last season, with limits of 12- to 14-inch fish very common. The fishing didn’t slow down and limits were being taken throughout the winter on Chelan. Even better news is that the fish are bigger. Kokanee of 13 and 14 inches dominated the catches this winter, with some 15-inch fish sprinkled in. By late spring and summer we should see many kokanee of 16 inches and even larger being taken. Things are looking up for a spectacular season for kokanee anglers on Chelan.
I was out in January with Lance Effrig, of Washington Guide Services, and we got 20 fish that day, and even hit a quadruple once. A few years ago this would have been unheard of, but now it is expected on Chelan. We got our fish above the Yacht Club and at a variety of depths. When we hit the quad we had a rod at 125 feet, another at 100, one more at 80 and the last at 60. They all went off at the same time!
Effrig is a man of my same bent. He fishes Kokabow Fishing Tackle pretty much exclusively. These blades, spinners and squid rigs are deadly. I haven’t seen a blade with as much “kick” as the Kokabow, and the kokanee seem to like the spinners and squid rigs about equally. Effrig trolls fast, especially when looking for fish. He will cook along at 1.8 to 2.0 mph at times. He uses a 20-inch leader as a result. I myself usually troll at 1.5 to 1.7 and use a 14 inch leader. Both of us tip our hooks with stained shoe peg corn. We both will start out with a different blade on each rod and then switch until if we think the kokanee are preferring one color over another.
I have fished as far up on Chelan at 25 Mile Creek to find kokanee this late winter and as the water warms the main schools will head further down the lake. By late April and May anglers should be finding them in the area of Rocky Point and the Blue Roofs. Soon after that they will be off Chelan Shores and Lakeside Park.
In the early season I expect the main schools to be found around 100 feet down. Later on they will be available in shallower depths. Last season I was fishing with 3- to 4-ounce lead balls on a sliding rig and got limits doing this.
Hang on folks. It’s going to be a kokanee fishing party on Lake Chelan this season!
The walleye fishing on Banks Lake got a later start than usual. It froze from one end to the other and didn’t clear off until April. When the ice did clear off the fishing was great. This year it didn’t freeze and there were limits of nice walleye being taken in February. I expect the walleye fishing to be something special this season.
So far the fish have been deep in the chilly water on Banks. Anglers were pulling worm harnesses or Slow Death Hook rigs down 50 feet. The fish will be moving into more shallow water soon, and these same rigs will produce good catches. I have had great luck already this season with the new Butterfly Blade from Northland Tackle. This blade is nothing like anything else on the market and I would fish it either on a worm harness or a Super Slow Death Hook. For Banks I suggest using blades in shades of blue.
Another really fun and effective way to catch walleye on Banks is with crank baits. My brother Rick and I had many days on Banks when we limited trolling cranks. If you haven’t tried this before better give it a go this season. Get yourself a selection of Flicker Shads and Shad Raps in a variety of colors that dive from 8 to 20 feet and troll them at 2.0 to 2.2 mph. Put them at 75 to 100 feet behind the boat and hang on! When they hit these plugs your rod really bends.
Anglers will start fishing Banks behind Steamboat Rock, and then as the water warms move onto Barker Flats. The fishing inside Devils Punchbowl can also be good in the spring. The walleye will be found off the edges of the weed beds, picking off small bait fish. This can be frustrating, as you will be picking weeds off your baits constantly, but it is worth it.
Trolling worm harnesses and Slow Death Hook rigs will often be the best approach in the early season. The spawn should occur in late April or sometime in May, depending on water temperature. After the spawn the fish will be hungry and aggressive. Crank bait fishing will kick in then and boy is it fun.
Anglers should expect to catch walleye of over 17 inches this season. There should be quite a few fish over 20 inches this year. My daughter caught a 30-incher in Devils Punchbowl in early June two years ago, so some really big walleye can come from Banks Lake. Some of the shallow bays, like Jones, can be productive with crank baits, even in the early season, and the north end, where the canal enters Banks can also be a place to find good numbers of walleye.
There is a lot of water on Banks, so there is plenty of room for lots of anglers. The most popular launch is at Northrup, which has two docks and lots of parking. Don’t forget to have your Discover Pass.
I had a great time on Banks Lake last year, so expect to see me when you’re out there!
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