Anglers don't have to go all the way to Westport to catch huge "silvers."
Some unbelievable lunkers have been coming out of Lake Roosevelt in a flurry reminiscent of 1993, the last year multiple records were set.
Two state-record kokanee were caught in June and they were the NFL All-Pro linebackers of land-locked sockeyes.
The first record was caught on June 16 by Ronald Moss of Richland, who topped the 1993 fish of 5.47 pounds with a bruiser that plunged the scales to 6.03 pounds.
Moss said he caught the fish while trolling a pink Apex Kokanee Special behind a Worden's 000 dodger near the surface in Swawilla Basin.
He'd been catching 18-inchers and his wife had already caught a 5.4-pounder that week.
"My fish hit about 10 a.m. and it was a wild ride," he said, noting that the kokanee came out of the water three times to show him for certain this was a big one he didn't want getting away.
"I weighed it on my digital scale and it said 6.2 pounds, so I knew it was a state record. We stopped fishing and went into the Grand Coulee Post Office to get it weighed.
"Funny thing, none of the other trout or kokanee we'd been catching that week were bleeders. But this one bled immediately, so I lost some weight before I could get it weighed."
Still, it was a state record.
For all of 10 days.
On June 26, Clarence Rief of Davenport was trolling an RC Spinner Fly baited with corn and maggots when he landed a 6.25-pound kokanee that was as big and bright as the fish you catch from a saltwater charterboat.
Rief couldn't be reached for more details Wednesday, a good sign that he's probably out fishing again.
But the word around town is that he had to be talked into taking the fish to get weighed at Safeway.
"Somebody told him it was probably a state record and he should have it mounted, but he said he and the missus would probably just eat it," said Gene Smith of Seven Bays, who runs one of the net pen projects that produce rainbows and kokanee for Lake Roosevelt.
The nets funded by the Bonneville Power Administration plus those operated by the state Fish and Wildlife Department and yet another project by the Spokane Tribal Hatchery produce about 800,000 kokanee a year for Lake Roosevelt.
Moss' fish, however, was not fin-clipped, which means it was a wild fish.
“We don't know where it came from," said John Whalen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional fisheries manager. “It could have come down from Canada or Lake Pend Oreille or Lake Coeur d'Alene."
However, the kokanee should still be putting on weight before fall spawning. Many of the keepers are in the 20-inch range, and biologists are sure there's likely more of the oldest age class and another record out there.
Roosevelt fishing guide Lenny Mayo said the kokanee are deeper now. He's been catching them at 35-40 feet.
“I was in the boat alongside the guy who caught the (first) record, and we were hammering the kokanee about that time in mid-June," he said. “But they're fewer and farther between now. You go down to the Sanpoil and hit them some days and other days you don't."
The rainbow fishing, incidentally, has been excellent, he said. Even the smallest of the 588,000 trout released this spring are getting pink and tasty by now. Those trout range from 9 to 12 inches. There's a good batch in the 18-inch range and larger.
And the Spokane Tribe will continue through July releasing a total of 8,500 2-pound sterile rainbows.
All will put on considerably more girth before the best trout fishing of the year starts surfacing this fall.
The daily limits on Roosevelt are two kokanee. You can catch five rainbows, no more than two of which can be longer than 20 inches. “A lot of people don't know that if you catch chinook they count in your trout limit," Mayo said. “You can have only two chinook in possession."
The chinook come downstream from Lake Coeur d'Alene, and Mayo has caught a few in the 8-pound range this year.
But just as salmon come down into Roosevelt from upstream origins, many of the Roosevelt net-pen fish are flushed through Grand Coulee Dam to points from here to the ocean.
“We've recorded tagged Roosevelt fish everywhere downstream all the way to Astoria," said Holly McLellan, Eastern Washington University fisheries researcher.
Which brings me to good news for the common angler.
Tagged fish reward: You don't have to catch a record fish to be a winner at Lake Roosevelt.
All you have to do is catch one of about 40,000 trout, walleyes or smallmouth bass that have been marked with tags inserted in the muscle near the dorsal fin.
Anglers who catch a tagged fish are asked to drop the tags at boxes
located at some of the boat launches or call the researchers at (509) 359-7498.
Researchers need the date of catch, location, size, tag color and number, whether you were fishing from shore or a boat and a way to contact you if they need more info (phone, e-mail, snail mail). If you release your fish, simply get the tag number and color and measure the fish before letting it go. Leave the tag in the fish and report the information.
All anglers who report their catch will be entered in the bi-annual tag prize drawing held every April and October.
Current prizes are gift certificates to the Sportsman's Warehouse that vary between $20 and $200. Walleyes have been marked this year with $10 reward tags. Call in the information from a tagged fish and you instantly win $10 as well as being entered into the tag prize drawing. The Spokane Walleye Club sponsored the tag costs and reward payouts for the walleyes.
The rainbow portion of the study, which started in 1993, is looking at several factors to see which stocks of rainbows stay in the lake the longest, McLellan said.
Tim Peone of the Spokane Tribal Hatchery said the research helps them figure out the best strategies for raising and releasing fish to reduce losses to predators and maturity.
You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.