West Kootenay Fishing Report: The bite is on for bull trout on Arrow Lakes

Fishing may not be fast and furious in February, but the rewards are worth the effort

Gary LeRose caught this 15-pound bull trout on Arrow Lake earlier this month. Patience is key when trolling for big bulls, but the rewards are worth it.

The West Kootenay Fishing Report is submitted by Kerry Reed of Reel Adventure Sportfishing in Nelson; ph. 250-505-4963 or go to reeladventurefishing.com.

Kootenay Lake:

The month of January was not bad, considering the weather. We managed to get out quite a few times with guests, although the phone calls have slowed down a bit, now that people have got their Visa bills from the holiday season.

Our rainbow fishing has slowed down a bit, but the bull trout fishing has picked up. It’s the same every year as the water is at its coolest and the fish are lethargic. On the upside, it’s also the same time of year when we seem to catch our biggest fish. So, the trade-off is a fair one.

The fish seem to be on a schedule lately. One day is a full feeding frenzy and they get stuffed, and the next five days they seem to turn off the feed bags and just hang around and digest. Pretty normal for fish metabolism in the winter. So, a typical day on the water right now might yield 6 -10 rainbows one day, and then 2 – 3 rainbows the next.

Rainbows between 2 -5 pounds and Bull Trout between 2 – 12 pounds have been the standard issue for the past month. We hope to see a few bigger ones coming in over the next month. Stay tuned…

Related read: A productive month of lake trolling in West Kootenay

Arrow Lakes:

The annual Blue Knuckle Derby was held in Nakusp last month and produced some respectable fish. As usual, there were lots of healthy bull trout caught, but the top two fish this year were rainbows stealing the show. Top fish this year was a 14.62-pound rainbow, with the next two fish being just over 12 pounds. Also a lot of 8-to 10-pound fish being caught throughout the winter.

The fishing’s not on fire by any means, but it is consistent. The guys getting out are still catching fish, and it’s quality over quantity at this time of year.

The Lower Arrow Lake has been producing some good fish as well. It seems a bit slower than last year at this time, but again the trade-off is worth it.

Rainbows up to 10 pounds and bull trout up to 16 pounds have been caught in the past few weeks.

The annual Scotties Marina Derby is coming up on Feb. 22, so we should see some good fish caught throughout this month.

Stay tuned for the results…

Columbia River:

Still fishing well. The river has been consistent throughout the month of January and so far into February. Rainbows between 2–4 pounds have been caught, and stories of some bigger ones breaking off.

A typical day fishing from shore on the river seems to produce between 4–10 Rainbows. I even heard of a buddy hooking into 15 – 20 one day. So, it’s definitely worth a trip if you can choose the right weather.

Another one of our friends has also managed to hook into a few Walleye in the last few weeks. Although he was specifically targeting them, you never know what you might hook.

We hope to get out on the river a few days this month if the weather cooperates, so stay tuned…

Related read: Rainbow trout fishing picks up on Kootenay Lake

Ice Fishing:

With the cold snap and and the piles of snow in January, it helped us switch our mindset on fishing and we managed to get out a few times on the ice. A nice change of scenery from the boat and a good social outing is what I liked.

We only managed to fish a few of our local lakes, but each of them was productive enough to keep our attention.

Cottonwood lake has been decent fishing for the past month or so, yielding rainbows between six to 16 inches. Rosebud Lake has also been consistent this year. Bigger fish in Rosebud between 2 – 5 pounds, which can be exciting through the ice. Erie Lake has been fairly productive as well. A multitude of species from Erie lake keeps you guessing. Rainbows, brook trout, bass, and perch are just a few of the species you will catch in a day. These fish range from about 6 – 16 inches as well.

The opportunities are endless. From the boat, from the shore, or from the ice. Let’s go fishing…..

What are they biting on?

On the lakes it’s been a mixed bag. Although the rainbows have slowed down, we are still catching them on the surface. Bucktails are still working at a slower speed. Our favourite colors from our new partner Lux Flies are the same favourite colors that we’ve been using all year. Lucky colors have been the November Special #203 (Lux 03), the Bleeding Gill #210 (Lux 10), and the modified Bleeding Gill #222 (Lux 22). Try tolling at a speed between 1.8 – 2.3 mph.

And on the other side of the boat, we have been running the Gibbs/Delta crocs on the surface which have been working well. It’s interesting that one day, the fish are biting all on flies, and the next day they will only take a spoon. I guess that’s why you need to mix it up.

Bull trout have been consistent on the Gibbs/Delta flasher and hoochie combo. The usual lemon lime, STS, or the Oki yellow/green mist are my favourites followed by any of the Goldstar hoochies in green. Depths on Kootenay lake for the bulls have been 75 – 150 feet, and our best depths on Arrow lake have been 60 – 80 feet.

On the river its been best from shore with our Gibbs/Delta bottom bouncer and leader saver using any kind of bait. We’ve also had some good days float fishing some of our favourite runs. We also had a fun day swinging flies one day. Sinking lines and streamers were the ticket on that day. You just have to get out there.

And finally, on the ice it’s been a mix of jigs and the odd flasher. In the shallow water, we’ve done best with just a single jig tipped with maggots or worm. And in the deeper water we’ve done better with an attractor flasher ahead of our jig. We got to test out the new Gibbs Ice Gator flashers as well as the new Ice Minnow jigs. The jigs worked well on their own in the shallows, but once we added the Ice Gator in the deep water, they seemed to excel.

Hope this helps with your next adventure!


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Graham Cloutier from Chillbilly Charters hooked and released this nice rainbow on the fly in the Columbia River on Sunday. Darrell Cross photo.

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