A red band trout.

A frequent contributor to OTM and an avid fly fisher remarked to me recently that the trout fishing is the Spokane River is a lot worse than last year. What could be the reason? Where could he go to find out answers? I posed that question to our resident water expert Stan Miller and here’s what he said:

The WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife may have some creel survey data that will support, or not the conclusion that fishing was better last year. There is on physical factor this year that may have made it a poor fishing year. Last year, for the last several years summer flows out of Coeur d”Alene Lake have been low and warm. Under those conditions the trout tend to seek refuge in two or three areas where there is a lot of SVRP Aquifer recharge to the river – the area between Sullivan Bridge and Maribeau – is one notable area. Most flyfishers know this and focus on those location to catch fish – and they catch lots because the large number of fish in a small area make food scarce – they will often bite just about anything. This year the flows have been much higher and I don’t think they have been as warm. I’m a Priest Lake guy not a C dAer but Priest didn’t get nearly as warm this summer as in the past 4 – 5 years. I assume Coeur d’Alene was the same. With more and cooler water the fish could spread out more, have more foraging area and thus be less hungry. So they would be harder to catch

This sort of thing makes estimating population by ease of catch risky. Only doing good population surveys will get you any kind of reliable data. I don’t know how often WDFW does those things but you could ask them. Another possible source of info on this is the Spokane Tribe; they are quite knowledgeable about the lower river.

If you are looking for a toxics problem killing the fish off this year I think you ar barking up the wrong tree. Nothing new hit the river this year and they have been surviving at these levels for a couple of decades. If there is a lower population of catchable fish this year it is more likely due to poor spawning conditions two or three years ago. We haven’t had a really good spawning year, until this year, for several years.

Anyway that’s what I know off the top of my head.

– Stan Miller

Does anyone else have thoughts on Spokane River trout? Please share them with us in the comments.