Washington: Rainbow Trout
For my annual out-of-state trip in 2023, I chose rainbow trout and walleyes on the Columbia River with Austin Moser (austinsnorthwestadventures.com). Austin's continued ability to catch trophy rainbow trout, trophy walleye, and trophy kokanee throughout the winter months had me champing at the bit for years to do this trip. And it was everything I hoped it would be, albeit colder.
The record for the coldest I've ever fished in was set the year before in Nevada, with a wind chill of 14 degrees at the start. I shattered that on my first day with Austin, with double-digit winds and a wind chill of 4 degrees at the start. This was a drop of about 30 degrees from the day before, thanks to a front that brought some fresh snow. The dam was running full throttle too, which turned off the trout. I managed a few decent ones, with the biggest being almost five pounds. The walleye, on the other hand, were very cooperative in the strong current, which also made the fights awesome. I landed some good ones, with the biggest being a massive 26 inches and 8 pounds, easily one of the biggest walleye I've ever caught.
That record for coldest day ever was promptly shattered the next day with more double-digit winds and a wind chill of 6 BELOW to start. The dam was running wild again, and the trout were finicky, so, after a few trout up to 21 inches, we switched to walleye fishing again. Then, 4.5 hours in, I had what I thought was a nice walleye until I realized it was the trophy trout I was looking for. It was a nerve-wracking fight, knowing that that fish was the reason I chose to freeze my butt off less than 60 miles from the Canadian border in February. After an eternity, it was finally in the boat, a 24-inch, 6.55-pound trophy rainbow trout. The girth was an unbelievable 15 inches. And then it didn't matter that I was wearing three hoods and had already set my gloves on fire (twice) trying to warm up my hands with the propane heater. Austin had put me on the trophy I wanted and I was very excited to have made Washington the 45th state in which I have caught at least one trophy.
The trip itself was as intense as the cold. I was gone from my house for 73.5 hours, of which 29 were spent traveling and 16 were spent fishing. But the little time I did get to spend in Grand Coulee was great; it's a nice little town with beautiful surroundings, a huge and scenic dam, and a shockingly good Mexican restaurant (La Presa).
To give you an idea of how successful Austin is at catching trophies, he caught numerous rainbow trout over 10 pounds throughout the winter and even seemed disappointed I didn't get a bigger one. (Two months after I was out there, Austin caught a 23.5-pound rainbow.) He is definitely the guy you want to fish with for all the Columbia River in Washington has to offer. I can't wait to fish with him again sometime.