Downstream from the Bonneville Dam to the Chief Joseph Dam
Walleye, Yellow Perch, Smallmouth Bass, Kokanee, Rainbow Trout, and Triploids (1/2 Rainbow & 1/2 Steelhead).
Located upstream of Chief Joseph Dam, Rufus Woods Reservoir is 51 miles long. From Chelan upstream to the Grand Coulee Dam.
Take Highway 155 north from Coulee City or Highway 174 north from Wilbur to Grand Coulee to fish the part of the river directly downstream from the Gran Coulee Dam, this is the stretch that is fished for Walleye. To reach the upper section of the Columbia, drive east from Pateros on U.S. 97 and turn south on Highway 17 near Fort Okanogan. Highway 17 parallels several miles of the river’s north shoreline. Highway 151 parallels the Columbia downstream portion of this section, around the town of Chelan.
There’s a great boat ramp and facilities with no launch fee at Beebe Bridge Park, south of Chelan on the east side of the river. Across the river, at Chelan Falls Park, there’s a day use only ramp, and it’s also free. Boat ramps are located near the town of Elmer City, which is downstream from the Grand Coulee Dam, and at Bridgeport State Park, at the lower end of Rufus Woods Lake. Ramp’s at Bridgeport, Brewster, and Pateros provide access to Lake Pateros. There are two launches on the Colville side, with one withing a mile of each set of pen location that is so-so at best, and then 15 mile down the highway there is another state park with full hookups and boat launch facilities. Food, gas, RV Parks, lodging, and other amenities are available in Pateros, Brewster, Bridgeport, Coulee Dam, and Grand Coulee, where there is a nice Safeway. Bridgeport State Park at the lower end of Rufus Woods Lake, offers dozens of tent sites, and Full RV hook-ups.
Rules and Regulations:
Year round open season. Trout daily limit is two (2) and includes kokanee. On the waters of Rufus Woods, or within designated fishing areas (DFA), which are located and marked as such on the Colville reservation shoreline, either a tribal permit or Washington State fishing license shall be acceptable. A Washington State license is required when fishing from the Douglas County shoreline.
Fishing Rufus Woods:
Compared to most of the Columbia River system, the many miles of largely still water between Wells and Grand Coulee Dams are rather lightly fished by Washington anglers until the recent past 10 years of so of the Triploid fishery. Road access to much of this stretch-especially Rufus Woods Lake is limited, boat ramps are few and far between. It’s accurate to say much of this portion holds angling secrets that few anglers ever discover.
As most Washington anglers have heard by now, Rufus wood lake is the Evergreen’s newest trophy trout producer, having laid claim in Febraury of 1998 to the state record rainbow trout. Robert Halverson of Republic boated a whopping 24.45-pound rainbow that fell for a trolled Rapala, so you can guess what most of Rufus Woods trout enthusiasts have been fishing with ever since. This monster trout eclipsed the former state record by more than three ponds and measured 31.5 inches in length and 25 inches in girth. The long impoundment behing Chief Joseph Dam has long been a favorite of north-central Washington anglers looking for a trout of three pounds or better, but the newest addition to the state record book has made it a popular destination than ever.
Most bank anglers fish from the “Greenhouses” downstream to the “Net Pens”. Most use a steelhead set up with a slinky weight, and a long leader with power bait or a night crawler. The best fishing at Rufus Woods is when they are releasing water from the Grand Coulee Dam which causes current, and moves the fish around. I personally have seen 15 pounders that live underneath the pens and feed, feed, feed. I have heard of divers saying they have seen 20 plus pounders underneath the pens. One year Maribou jigs worked for me, the next year they didn’t.
Washington State Rainbow Trout Record, Robert Halverson of Republic boated a whopping 24.45-pound rainbow
As is the case throughout much of the Columbia, walleyes can be found here, too. The walleye fishery in Rufus Woods Lake and Lake Pateros continues to provide new surprises as to where and how the fish may be caught. Because the vast area available to walleye anglers, those who cover the most water often make the best catches. Try trolling along rocky points with diving Rapala’s or Power Dive Minnows or with the standard Columbia River walleye set up of a two ounce sinker, a spinner, and a night crawler stretched out straight on a two-hook rig.
Diving plugs similar to those used for walleyes are also effective for steelhead on some stretch of the river. Lake Pateros is a popular destination for fall steelhead anglers, many of whom troll diving plugs for their fish. The waters around the mouth of the Methow River are some of the most popular, but trolling for steelhead can also be good in other places, including off the mouth of the Okanogan River. September and October are usually the best months, but steelhead may be caught until ice becomes a problem in December and January.
Kokanee fishing in Rufus Woods Lake can be quite good, but relatively few anglers outside of the locals fish for them. Trolling with string blades, Wedding Rings or similar offerings will usually draw the attention of the fine eating little salmon.
View from the highway upstream from the launch, with the net pens to the upper-left.
Friends Greg, Chuck, and my dad Leonard and I with 172 triploids caught and released in 3 days of fishing Rufus Woods 2011. Here’s a picture of our 3 days worth of limits (24), all 4 to 7 pound trout.
Brother Shane and my two nieces with some nice Rufus Wood Triploids: