Washington Trout Outlook
September 29, 2010
The Evergreen State boasts excellent river, lake and stream fishing for trout. Check out these hotspots for 2010. (March 2010)
Washington has an abundance of trout fisheries, and although other angling often attracts more attention, trout fishing is huge. Over 25 million fry, fingerlings and catchable trout and kokanee are stocked every year. There are streams full of wild trout and high-country lakes teeming with scrappy fish.
Washington offers excellent trout fishing for anglers of all skill levels.
Photo courtesy of Washington Forest Service.
Region 1: Eastern Washington's desert trout
Washington's high desert region is speckled with good trout waters, although it has few good trout rivers. Numerous lakes and ponds are well stocked with trout.
Lake Roosevelt is the impoundment above Grand Coolie Dam, and according to WDFW biologist Chris Donnelly, it's well worth trying if you have a boat. "It's a phenomenal trout fishery," says Donnelly. "It's full of trout from 15 to 24 inches."
Most fishermen troll for the big rainbows and a few brown trout with Kwikfish and wobblers. The south end of the lake is usually best for trout.
Rock Lake is another large lake that produces some excellent catches for anglers with boats. The trout population here is dominated by brown trout, and there are a few rainbows as well. Trolling is the go-to method here.
Sprague Lake is a huge, open, shallow desert lake that treats trout very well. "It's a very productive desert lake with incredible growth rates," reports Donnelly. "Those trout will grow to seven pounds in just 2 1/2 years." The lake is in the prime of the rehab cycle, and fishing should be great here for the next few years.
For mid-sized lakes, eastern Washington anglers can target Williams Lake near the town of Cheney. The lake was rehabbed in 2003 and will still be good this year. Stockings of catchable rainbows and fingerlings of rainbows and west slope cutthroats are joined by strong plantings of the larger triploid rainbows and big holdover fish. Boat anglers can troll just about anywhere and bank-anglers can pay to fish from private resort docks where quick limits are the norm.
Good mid-sized lakes that are heavily stocked include Badger Lake and West Medical Lake. Fish Lake is a good place to intercept browns and brookies.
With single fish limits and selective gear rules, the local quality lakes offer excellent fishing for much bigger trout, although it's mostly catch-and-release fishing. Look to Amber Lake for big rainbows and west slope cutthroats, Coffee Pot Lake for big rainbows, and Medical Lake for rainbows, brown trout and tiger trout hybrids.
For anglers with a hankering for moving water, the Spokane River offers a shot at redband rainbows from June through August. Rock Creek and Trout Creek also offer good stream trout action during the high-water months in spring and fall. Flowing mostly through private lands, fishermen will have to ask to gain access.
For more information, call the WDFW at (509) 892-1001.
Region 2: North country trout
This region in north-central Washington has some of the best trout fishing in the state. There are over 200 lowlands trout lakes and over 400 high-mountain lakes that hold trout.
In Grant County, a handful of Seep Lakes below Potholes Reservoir offers some excellent trout fishing. These include the popular Lenice Lake chain, and Lake Lenore. WDFW fish biologist Jeff Korth describes these as "The jewels of trout fishing" in this district.
The Lenice Lake chain includes Lenice Lake itself, as well as Merry Lake and Nunnally Lake. All of these lakes are quality lakes with a one-fish trout limit. Anglers can find rainbows, browns and tiger trout here.
Lenore Lake produces big Lahontan cutthroats from 2 to 4 pounds with some trophy fish to 10 pounds showing up. It's a slow start, but fishing is good from April through the fall. Blue Lake near Wannacut Lake produces Lahontan cutthroats to 18 inches, while the Blue Lake in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area produces big rainbows and browns.
Region 2 also offers plenty of catchable trout action in the heavily stocked lowlands lakes. Okanagan County's Spectacle Lake and Pearrygin Lake offer great fishing for 11- and 12-inch rainbows as well as carryovers to 15 inches. Pearrygin Lake also has some brown trout.
Chopaka Lake is six miles north of Loomis, and is fly-fishing only and was rehabilitated in 2007. Fishing this year should be good for 12- to 18-inch rainbows.
Palmer Lake and Bonaparte Lake are both stocked with kokanee. The Palmer Lake fish tend to be larger and average 12 inches or more, while Bonaparte kokes tend to run from 8 to 12 inches.
For more information, call the Region 2 headquarters at (509) 754-4624.
Region 3: South Central Washington's wild trout country
Referred to as the best resident trout river in central Washington, the Yakima River offers great catch-and-release fishing for rainbows and a few cutthroats. According to WDFW fish biologist Eric Anderson, the reach above Roza Pass is dominated by 9- to 11-inch rainbows, but some can be found to 16 inches. The Naches River is a tributary of the Yakima that offers excellent catch-and-release fishing for native cutthroats. There are also a few keep-able brook trout in some sections. Both of these streams are popular with flyfishermen. The best fishing will happen in March, before the snowmelt, and then again in the fall.
The area also has plenty of lowlands trout lakes that are heavily stocked, including Clear Lake and Dog Lake.
"In addition to plenty of catchable rainbows, they are also stocked with lots of triploids," says Anderson.
Clear Lake has good fishing for larger, holdover rainbows and eastern brook trout in addition to stocked trout. In 2009, anglers will start to see the tiger hybrid trout that were planted in 2007.
Chelan Lake, at 33,000 acres in Chelan County, is the largest natural lake in the state and offers fishing for trophy mackinaw and wild rainbows, as well as planted catchable rainbows and kokanee.
The Fio Rito lakes are open all year. Fishing should be good for 8- to 14-inch rainbow trout. A few broodstock rainbows in the 6- to 12-pound range are stocked in the late fall.
also likes to make trout anglers aware of all the highland lakes in his region that have good populations of trout. These require a hike in, but it can be worth it. The lakes are either stocked with fingerlings or have self-sustaining trout populations. The Region 3 Web site offers a listing of these lakes and what is available there.
"It's more like a wild trout experience because the fish act more like wild trout," says Anderson. Look to the White Pass and Snoqualmie Pass areas for some of the best action. The lakes have rainbows, cutthroats and some golden trout as well.For more information, call the Region 3 headquarters at (509) 575-2740.
Region 4: Puget "Sounder" trout
Washington's Puget Sound is better known for salmon, but there is great trout fishing here.
"There's quite a bit of good trout fishing in this region," says Chad Jackson, a biologist with the WDFW. "We have a lot of good fishing for native trout, too." Jackson points to Lake Washington as a source of good trout fishing where there are no stockings. The lake gets good runs of coastal cutts as well as some good rainbows.
Jackson also points to the Skagit River and its many tributaries as places where coastal cutthroats and bull trout can be found. Anglers can even keep two bulls over 20 inches as part of their daily limit. Single egg patterns fished below salmon spawning beds in the fall produce most of them.
Jackson also points to the upper reaches of all the forks of the Snoqualmie River and the upper Tolt River for good cutthroat action.
Jackson also points to three popular trout fisheries on Whidbey Island. Lone Lake, which is managed as a quality trout fishery, and offers year-round fishing for rainbows. Catchables and triploids are both stocked to augment the natural population, and carryover trout provide excellent fishing in the spring. Large patterns rule here, such as leach flies and minnow-imitating plugs. Deer Lake is usually good for stocked rainbows in May and June, and there are a few carryovers and cutthroats. Cranberry Lake in Deception Pass State Park has year-round fishing for stocked rainbows and browns, although Cormorants can be a problem.
Green Lake in the heart of Seattle is stocked with rainbows and triploid rainbows. Brown trout are also present.
Langendorfer Lake, also known as Stossel Lake, is open year 'round and has good fishing for sea-run cutthroats of both native and hatchery origin.
Alice Lake is a good source of catchable rainbows in the spring as well as eastern brook trout.
Cascade Lake on Orcas Island is a favorite of San Juan County trout anglers and offers fine fishing for cutthroats, rainbows and kokanee.
For more information, call the Region 4 headquarters at (425) 775-1311.
Region 5: Lower Columbia drainage trout
Washington's Region 5 is peppered with trout lakes and ponds. There are some river fishing opportunities, but most trout anglers target the stocked lakes and ponds. There are good lakes in urban Vancouver and Longview, and plenty of lakes out in the country. There are some excellent lakes along the Columbia River Gorge, including Rowland Lake, a favorite of Legendary Gorge fisherman Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Baits. The lake gets planted with rainbows and triploids, and a few bonus brood trout up to 10 pounds when available. "After they have been in the lake for a while, those brood rainbows get to looking like steelhead," says Ramsey. He reports that the lake is very popular on opening day as anglers try for the triploids and brooders, and they get a lot of them early. The lake has a park and a rough boat ramp.
Other good Columbia Gorge trout lakes include tiny Icehouse Lake, Little Ash Lake, and Horsethief Lake.
Several big lakes and reservoirs provide good trout action. Look to Merwin Reservoir and Yale Reservoir for excellent kokanee fishing. Yale also has a bull trout population, but all bull trout must be released.
Sacajawea Lake within Longview's city limits provides good urban fishing for planted rainbows and browns. It has good bank access throughout the city park.
Battle Ground Lake inside Battle Ground Lake State Park is open year 'round. Rainbow, cutthroat trout and triploid rainbow trout are stocked.
Lacamas Lake offers year-round fishing for rainbow and brown trout.Kress Lake is stocked with rainbow trout, broodstock rainbows and triploid rainbows, as well as brown trout. Steelhead from local rivers are also heavily stocked in the lake.
Other good stocked lakes include Horseshoe Lake and Klineline Pond.
For stream fishing enthusiasts, Skate Creek is a popular stream near Packwood that is stocked with catchable-size rainbow trout for the June 1 opener and throughout the summer. Canyon Creek, a tributary of the North Fork Lewis River, will also be stocked with rainbows.
The Cowlitz River has the only remaining run of hatchery sea-run cutthroats along the Columbia River. These fish arrive in the late summer and fall. A few flyfishermen target the run with some measure of success, but the fishery is definitely underfished.
The White Salmon River has nice wild rainbows above Northwestern Lake, which is stocked with catchable rainbows.
For more information, call the Region 5 headquarters at (360) 906-6700.
Region 6: Washington's coastal trout
Washington's northern coast offers plenty of trout for the taking. WDFW biologist Rick Ereth reports that local anglers have some excellent trout lakes to choose from. He points to Failor Lake near Elma as an example.
"It's a beautiful lake with a good launch," says Ereth, "and it has some real nice trout." Ereth notes that in addition to catchable rainbows, holdover rainbows, resident cutts and triploid rainbows, the lake receives stockings of trophy rainbows raised by the Lower Chehalis Basin Task Force and the Elma Game Club that run from 4 to 10 pounds. "They are beautiful fish," says Ereth. "They have real nice fins and they look like small steelhead. They put a few hundred of these into all the local lakes."
If that's not enough to get your trout blood boiling, Failor and other lakes also receive excess steelhead smolts that run from 12 to 16 inches.
Another lake that receives these nice fish includes Aberdeen Lake, a storage reservoir near the town of Aberdeen.
Silvia Lake, near Montesano, is a popular lake that is stocked similar to Aberdeen and Failor. It is open for trout fishing all year.
The Vance Creek Ponds also offer great trout opportunities, and Pond No. 1 is open only to youths, seniors and disabled anglers. It has a stocking regimen similar to the other lakes listed.
Duck Lake near Ocean Shores is a popular put-and-take rainbow fishery.
Clallam County's Ozette Lake in the Olympic National Park offers good fishing for resident cutthroats, but is catch-and-release only and has special gear rules.
The Olympic Peninsula offers great river fishing for sea-run cuts and bull trout, as well as resident trout in the headwaters. For good summer and fall action on these trout, look to the Hoh River, the Queets, the Quillaute, Bogachiel, Sol Duc and the Nisqually River. Ereth warns would-be cutthroat anglers not to use bait in catch-and-release waters. The fish tend to suck bait right down, and many are killed by the deep hooks.
For more information, call the Region 6 headquarters at (360) 249-4628.