Spiny ray water


Active Member
The question often comes up both here and on the main board: "Where can I catch some panfish?" I don't know all of the good panfish water in the state but I do know of one place where you can catch quality fish in good numbers. Plan a late spring or early summer trip to the Shiner/Hutchinson chain of lakes adjacent to the Columbia Wildlife Refuge. I recommend this chain because no internal combustion engines are allowed but a pram or a 'toon with an electric motor will get you around just fine. The lake holds bass, good sized crappie and a zillion bluegills. Two of us caught over 100 bluegill apiece on dry flies one day and had an absolute blast doing it. Just patrol the edges during spawning season and cast right to the bank.

If you get tired of the panfish try some big bass flies. There are some decent sized bass in there that can make things real interesting. For me no trip to the Refuge is complete without a day on Shiner fishing the coves. Nice canoe water and a good lake to take kids on since there are no wakes from powerboats.

A good place to get your spiny ray fix.


Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
Damsel nymphs are deadly for panfish in these lakes . . . also farther east in the Coyote Lake chain (fish will be lip-hooked, as opposed to engulfing the fly). There are a few Rattlers and lots of ticks in the Spring, so exercise appropriate caution when traversing to/from the water.

Tom Palmer

Active Member
Thanks Ive, this is a great suggestion and I'm planning on taking your advice this spring. Will bring beer batter just in case and definitely will report on the trip.


Active Member
There is nothing like a day out there with your 3 or 4wt and a school of spawning bluegills! little poppers work really well as well
That brings back memories; I fished those two lakes with gear--buzzbaits--and my buddy and I each had over 100 bass to the boat one day. Most were on the small side, but a topwater strike is a topwater strike. I also hooked what probably was the largest bass ever on a follow-up cast to a missed topwater bite. It was a huge, huge fish. I may have to make my way there this year. Love that country...and bluegills on a fly rod are great, especially if they're hitting poppers.