Are the fish biting?

Is fishing good in the Grand Coulee Dam area?

Bass boats speed up a lowered Banks Lake
Bass boats speed up a lowered Banks Lake

The three largest reservoirs in the state of Washington are within 10 miles of Grand Coulee Dam — Roosevelt, Banks and Rufus Woods all offer excellent year-round fishing.  McGinnis and Buffalo lakes on the Colville Confederated Tribes‘ reservation can also be fished .

Many changes have occurred to the warmwater fisheries on Banks Lake and Lake Roosevelt. Increased smallmouth bass and walleye limits and reduced size restrictions should keep you out on the lake all day! Make sure you measure your fish and keep only what you can eat.

What kind of fish are found locally?

There are over 14 species of game fish found in nearby Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, Rufus Woods Lake and Banks Lake. These include: largemouth and smallmouth bass, trout, kokanee, perch, crappie, whitefish, ling cod, sunfish and sturgeon. The sturgeon is by far the largest, and has been known to measure over 13 feet and weigh over 1,000 pounds. For fishing information contact Coulee Playland Resort at 509-633-2671.

When can I fish Lake Roosevelt?

This major waterway is a year-round fishery in Washington state. Fishermen are reminded to adhere to the state and tribal fishing regulations. Copies are available where fishing licenses are sold.

Rainbow and kokanee are the stars of the lake, with walleye and smallmouth bass in supporting roles.

In the summer months, trolling is the most popular way to fish the lake. During the cooler months, bank fishing is popular where fishermen can stand by a fire or sit in their rigs while waiting for the fish to strike.

Still fishing is popular above Grand Coulee Dam during the winter and spring.

A tribal license is required on the north side of the reservation on Colville Reservation and above the Third Powerhouse.

What kind of fishery is Banks Lake?

The sprawling Banks Lake reservoir covers 30,000 acres and is regarded as one of the finest fishing lakes in the state for bass, perch and walleye. In spring, summer and fall, it provides plenty of room for  fishermen, both along its shores and from boats. In winter, ice fishing is popular and, depending on the  winter, can last as long as four months.

Banks Lake has a growing reputation and is becoming increasingly attractive to bass organizations hosting tournaments. For more information on these tournaments, stop by or call the Coulee Playland Resort 509-633-2671.

Where are some Tribal lakes?

Rufus Woods Lake – 52-mile reservoir stretching from Grand Coulee Dam to Chief Joseph Dam in Bridgeport, is an excellent fishery too. In the dam area, a boat launch is located near Elmer City on the Lower River Road. Heading north, turn left onto the Lower River Road just past Lake Roosevelt High School on SR155.  Or ask one of the friendly folks in Elmer City. Boating is prohibited between the SR155 bridge and Grand Coulee Dam.

McGinnis Lake – Take SR155 north from Coulee Dam toward Nespelem. Approximately one mile past Elmer City (three miles from Coulee Dam) turn right on the Peter Dan Road. Drive about three miles, then watch for a sign which indicates a left turn toward McGinnis and Buffalo lakes. Three or four miles after this turnoff, the road comes to a “T.”  Take the right turn and the lake is a quarter mile away.

Buffalo Lake – Follow the same directions to McGinnis Lake, but turn left at the “T” instead of right. Buffalo Lake lies another three to four miles beyond, on a good dirt road.

Is it permissible to fish on the reservation?

Fishing is permitted on the waters of Rufus Woods Lake or within the Colville Confederated Tribes “designated fish area” with either a tribal permit or state license.  More designated areas will be added later.  For updates, you can call the state Department of Fish and Wildlife at 509-754-4624.  Non-members of the Colville Tribes must purchase a special permit for all other reservation waters.  These can be purchased at certain local businesses such as Coulee Playland Resort in Electric City.

Please note, a state license is required when fishing from the shoreline of Douglas County on Rufus Woods Lake.  Also, anglers fishing the Spokane Arm (Lake Roosevelt) must have a Spokane tribal permit when they fish from the reservation shore out to the midpoint of the Spokane Arm’s channel.


Monthly Fishing Guide

January: Ice fishing attracts its own special following in the coulee. Some years, Banks Lake has safe ice for four months; other years, for only two weeks, and at times, no ice at all. Ice may form as early as December and run through February, or be available only for a fortnight in January.

A unique way to ice fish on this lake is at night using a gas lantern with the prey being whitefish. The best ice fishing spots on Banks Lake is the causeway area west of Electric City—for perch.

Many anglers fish the shoreline of Lake Roosevelt for large rainbow by parking their vehicle next to the lake. (Caution: unattended poles warrant a $100 fine.) A two-rod endorsement may be purchased – check the fishing regulations.

February: Walleye fishing now comes into its own, with boat fishermen launching their boats at the Elmer City ramp (below the dam; check on accessibility) and fishing either upstream to the Highway 155 bridge or downstream to Chief Joseph Dam, a distance of approximately 50 miles.

Shore fishing continues along Lake Roosevelt for large rainbow and kokanee (silvers or landlocked sockeye salmon).

March: During the month of March, the ice is about gone from Banks Lake and now the big walleye are caught.

Fishing is good not only from a boat on Lake Roosevelt but also from the shore. Crescent Bay Lake, midway between Grand Coulee and the dam, offers spiny ray fishing from the bank. Boats with motors are not permitted on the lake.

The fishing is also good for walleye and trout in the Columbia River below Grand Coulee Dam.

April: A continuation of March fishing patterns, with a few additions. The lakes on the Colville Indian Reservation open to fishing. McGinnis and Buffalo lakes provide excellent trout fishing. McGinnis Lake has only eastern brook with some exceeding three pounds. Buffalo carries “brookies”,  rainbow and kokanee.

Weekend bass tournaments are scheduled April through October on Banks Lake. Bass tournament headquarters are usually at Coulee Playland Resort (between Grand Coulee and Electric City).

May: Many area fishermen head for Grand Coulee Dam in May, where they fish directly upstream or downstream from the dam.

Rainbow and walleye are caught not only early in the evening but during the pre-dawn hours.

A major bass tournament is held on Banks Lake over the Memorial Day weekend.

June: In Banks Lake, the walleye are taking jigs and spinners, just about anything tipped with a nightcrawler.

Lake Roosevelt is dotted with boats fishing for rainbow and silvers. Some fishermen use “hardware” (Pop Geer and Ford Fenders) while others use small spoons fished from either leaded line or with a downrigger 30 to 50 feet below the surface.

July/August: Lake Roosevelt is usually warm enough by the end of July that the water is tolerable for swimming close to shore.

During these warm months, however, fish will seek the cooler deep waters of the lake.

Other spiny rays that offer fishing all summer long are perch and “slab” crappie in the small coves along Banks Lake.

September/October: While the fishing is still exceptional in September, hunting season arrives. With the emphasis now on hunting, sportsmen taper off their fishing during October.

November/December:  If the month of November has been cold, Banks Lake is beginning to freeze and ice fishing comes to mind. The small bays freeze first and offer fishing for yellow perch. By December, the lake is often ice-bound and holes are being cut in the ice.


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