Category Archives: Western Washington Lakes

Beaver Lake Trout, Again

It is that time of year. I am especially privy to select “special events” in local fishing. The Puget Sound pink salmon run is a notoriously popular special event, but besides the obvious I’ve come to look forward to many other public and personal fishing events on the calendar each year. Chum salmon on the Green in November, annual floats down the Upper Yakima in July, October Coho, and various annual/unique trout stockings throughout the region are only a few I can count on and that will be added to over the years.  Always on the calendar is the annual November stocking of Beaver Lake by the Issaquah Hatchery. This year for an unknown reason the hatchery stocked the lake a month early on October 14th and so yesterday I went out to try and land a few of the 2,493 trout, averaging 2lbs each, that they planted.

It was supposed to dry out a bit, but it was cold all day with sporadic squalls keeping us wet. Two of us took the rowboat out and started on the northwestern shore of the lake. I knew from experience that you needed to find these fish and they weren’t scattered like a group that was planted in March or later. They were freshly planted and the water was cold. I saw maybe ten fish surface over the course of the day, which told me that there was not a lot of movement happening on their end of things. We fished the first spot for twenty minutes and then moved on farther south. My buddy caught a 14″ trout and I, with my bait in the water, used my other rod to cast a gold Mepps spinner. I caught a tiny bass. Things died down and we trolled back north along the shore with a wedding ring until we anchored at the wooded bend in the very top northwestern corner of the lake. With bait off the bottom about 2 feet we cast towards shore and landed four more in about an hour’s time. The largest was 2lbs plus some change and none were under a pound.

We launched at 9:30am and were off the water by 4pm. It was a cold day and a bit back-breaking due to the fact that we were two grown men in a tiny rowboat all day, but the fishing was fun and the big trout put up a hell of a fight. One in particular peeled off 30 feet of line and then jumped straight out of the water, far enough way to make my friend think that it was a different fish than the one on the end of my line.

Lake Takhlakh Early July

I booked a campsite over 4th of July weekend at Lake Takhlakh back in February. I had visited the lake last year late in the summer and we had a day of monsoon rain and a final clearing of the clouds right when we were packed up and leaving. This time around we camped only the second weekend the site was open for the season and it had been a mild winter with little to no rain over the two weeks leading up to the 4th. As soon as we arrived we set up camp and drove down to the launch to get the pontoon and an inflatable kayak in the water so that we could ferry them across the lake to moor at a spot where we had easier access from our site. As soon as we pulled up to the lake we had a visit from the resident Hoodoo host who cryptically asked us if were camping or day tripping and then, without further inquiry, told us to go look at the lake and that “it’s doubled in size since I first saw it” We had no idea what he was referring too so we went down to the lake and saw a smoke plume rising out of the forest very close to the campsite.

View of the Horseshoe Fire on Mt. Adams over Lake Takhlakh.
View of the Horseshoe Fire on Mt. Adams over Lake Takhlakh.

The fire covered 250 acres and caused much of the surrounding area near Lake Taklakh to be restricted forest, closed to public access. We were very lucky to be on the outside edge of this boundary. Here is a view of the fire from the southern face of Mt. Adams.

Smoke plume rising from Horseshoe Fire  as viewed from high on the slopes of Mount Adams  (photo credit:GPNF)
Smoke plume rising from Horseshoe Fire as viewed from high on the slopes of Mount Adams (photo credit:GPNF)

Below is the map of the restricted area released by the forest service. Lake Takhlakh is just beyond the far northern tip of the restricted area, with the fire located in Horseshoe Meadows in the central portion of the map at the base of Mt. Adams.

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The fire was contained and the smoke plume dissipated after only a couple of hours. There were lots of rumors swirling around camp about whether or not we were safe or able to stay.  The camp host did not have any communication with any fire teams or the forest service and was telling people that they should probably go. I did my best to ease Katlin’s worries and we waited until officially hearing that the fire was being contained. It was burning between two lakes, we would have at least a couple hours notice if we did need to leave, and most importantly, we could stay.

On the northern side of the lake looking east.

So with the boats in the water and camp set up we got into what would become our daily routine of cooking quick meals and taking about 3 trips a day out onto the water. The fishing was best mid-morning or evening, with the bite dying with the brightest sun, close to 2pm each day.

The lake had just been stocked the week prior with some 3000+ rainbow trout. Two hundred of these were big, 4lb brood stock fish that I could see rising and porpoising all over the lake. There were also resident Westslope Cutthroat in the lake that I caught a couple times, using small #0 or #1 bronze Mepps spinners with either blue or red dots on the blades. These spinners were my go-to fishing tactic all weekend. Of the many fish that I did catch, most hit the spinners hard and fought well on my ultralight gear.

I did try fly fishing but it was a tough go. There were a few other fly fishermen on the lake who were having luck with the smaller fish (I caught one on a grizzly-hackled black woolly bugger) but no such luck landing the larger brood stockers that seemed to be jumping all around us. I stuck with the spinners for the most part as they seemed to provide the biggest chance of landing a cutthroat.

One of the few Westslope Cutthroat I caught.
One of the few Westslope Cutthroat I caught.

The fishing was great I would say, given the bite was generally on and I didn’t have to resort to using bait. The view from the water is one of the best in the world as far as I’m concerned. There is a trail that leads around the lake and that has numerous bank access spots as well.

Bank fishing from the day-use beach
Bank fishing from the day-use beach

The black flys and bugs were out in full force and a smoky fire, citronella candles, and well-placed DEET applications helped a little. When I return to Takhlakh again this early in the season I’m bringing an upgraded kitchen tent with a netting that can keep the bugs out. There’s no water at Takhlakh and I’m glad that we brought plenty. We were also happy to have a new toy, the Goal Zero Switch 8 and Nomad 7 backpacking solar charger for our devices that worked well in the clear sun up that high.

View of Mount Adams from the road out of Takhlakh
View of Mount Adams from the road out of Takhlakh

Twenty at Rattlesnake

I fished at Rattlesnake twice over this past week. On Sunday I fished from the bank, hooking two on a red spinner and struggling when I tried to fly fish due to wind, minimal room for backcasting, and a generally amateurish level of skill at this part in my fly fishing development. My friend and I then drove up to try the middle fork of the Snoqualmie, only to be greeted by the road closure that has much of the best water off limits to everyone except those prepared to hike in (which I may do here in the next couple weeks). Yesterday I headed back to Rattlesnake with my pontoon ready and had a lot of success in both catching fish and honing my fly fishing skill set. I landed about fourteen trout in the first ninety minutes and then committed to staying until I got to twenty, which took about four more hours as I tried different patterns I’d tied up and took some shore breaks for lunch and for watching the show being put on my a couple ospreys who were diving and catching their own lunches. The fly of the day was a woolly bugger with black maribou, grizzly hackle, olive green dubbing on the body, wine-colored thread, and a brass bead. I posted a picture of it below, slowly unraveling and beaten down by the ten trout who had tried to swallow it. I’ve never had to pluck hooks on artificial presentations that were as deep as these buggers got in the fish. They were all barbless and not that small (size 8), but the bigger fish were nearly swallowing these things. I take it as a good sign as Rattlesnake has been a selective gear, catch and release fishery for most of the past year and these bigger planters are starting to feed voraciously on the natural foods available to them in the lake. I hope that as WDFW continues to regulate this lake with these selective gears rules and continues to periodically stock the lake that we’ll see, if they can sustain it for 3-4 years, really big and colored fish roaming about.

Deception Pass & San Juan Halibut

I was invited to fish for halibut by a friend and his girlfriend’s dad and dad’s co-worker. I stayed in Anacortes Thursday night and we checked out at 4am to meet Steve and drive to the launch at Washington Park. There we met Rydell, whose boat we would be taking out and who proved to be an incredible guide. He’d live in or very near to Anacortes all his life. His system for fishing halibut was very dialed in and meticulous. From the choice of waters to the anchor system to the chum-on-the-downrigger. We anchored in about 113 feet of water (shallower than I expected) and Rydell got all the gear in the water promptly after a lesson on rigging the herring and the rational behind using both octopus and herring (rigged to look like the octopus is attacking the herring). Our phone service was alternating between towers in Canada and the US. We hooked two big halibut before 11am. I reeled in a 61lb fish and Perry, about an hour later, a 45lb fish. In checking in with the fish checker we learned that these were the two biggest fish caught at least two of the launches in the area. I’d like to think they were the two biggest fish in the state caught that day.

After being on the water for 12 hours, we docked and Perry and I went to Deception Pass where he and I would stay for a night and he left in the morning. I had three more friends coming up to meet me from Seattle and they arrived close to 11am and we tried fishing for searun cutthroat underneath the Deception Pass Bridge and then loaded up the pontoons to try and fish Pass Lake.

Three Pontoons In A Truck

Pass is a flyfishing-only lake that we were undergunned for. The fish were deep and our flys were not. I also fished Cranberry Lake and hooked about three fish and landed none. Trout fishing was finicky but the trip was good recon and I’ll be better prepared next time.

Cranberry Lake

Cranberry Lake

Last Casts at Cranberry Lake

Rattlesnake Lake

I fished for fours in a downpour today at Rattlesnake Lake. The plan was to hike the shoreline, but once I arrived and the wind was minimal, I assembled my pontoon and headed out about 150 yards from the boat launch. I caught my first trout on a fly. A red beaded, grizzly hackled, brown tailed wooly bugger that I cast and stripped back in. My casting is improving and I learned a lot today. I used that fly all day and landed four on it. I also had my ultralight spinning rod and was getting bites every other cast on a red Mepps spinner. I landed another five on the spinner. The lake was very active with trout, they were jumping all around all afternoon. The water was bright green and not as murky as would be expected with all of the rain. A great day fishing and I’m glad to have made despite the last two days of rain.  There was only one other angler on the water and he was catching his share too with a nymph below an indicator.

Offut Lake February 2015

With the weather as nice as it’s been I packed up my pontoon and headed an hour south back to Offut Lake in Tenino, Washington. I just recently purchased my first fly rod and reel and wanted to practice some casting, and perhaps get into one or two of the 900 Eells Springs Hatchery Cutthroat that were stocked in mid-January. While casting the flyrod I had another line in the water fishing from the bottom with bait for some of the rainbow trout that are put in the lake by both WDFW and the stocking program at Offut Lake Resort, who have their own pen at their dock. Thankfully my casting greatly improved over the course of the day as I recalled the large amounts of information gleamed from Youtube videos and got into a rhythm. Biggest challenge is being aware of where both my hands are at all times. I’m hoping that the difficulty added to the learning process by the fact that I was sitting down on the water all day will contribute to marked improvement once I get the chance to practice again while standing. I didn’t get any takes on the fly rod.  All I was doing was casting woolly buggers and letting them sink a bit before stripping them back in jerkily and I wasn’t expecting much this first time actually getting my fly line wet. I did however manage to get three rainbows in the net and missed one on an early hook set with my spinning rod/bottom fishing set-up. I have to say I’m pretty happy with the way that my trout fishing has developed since last spring when I really started going at it again. I’m seriously looking forward to moving beyond the bait and wait game and take my developing skills with fly fishing up into the alpine lakes this summer and eastside rivers this spring.

Beaver Lake on Veterans Day

Two years ago I fished Beaver Lake after WDFW stocked it with, if my memory serves me right, 3000 brood stock rainbow trout and landed one big one. This past Tuesday, Veterans Day, I fished Beaver again. WDFW had stocked it over the last week with 3-5 lb trout and I was on them all morning. It was cold and windy on the lake and twice my anchor was pulled by the wind and I found myself drifting steadily along, anchor swinging or dragging below me. I steadily caught fish from 8am to 1pm and had to keep my limit as I was using bait. These are true football trout and they fought well, peeling line off on multiple runs at times. A couple of the larger ones, with one of my keepers in particular, being responsible for the longest fights I’ve ever had while fishing for trout. I was using 4 lb test mainline strung on an ultralight St. Croix 2-piece and my bottom fishing trout rig. I was fishing from my pontoon and the wind would have been trouble without the anchor system and Minn Kota trolling motor.

Green Lake Seattle

I have a love/hate relationship with fishing in urban settings, although I concede that here in Seattle anglers are lucky to have access to excellent opportunities for catching trout, salmon, and steelhead within a half hour drive of the city or even within the city limits.  Green Lake is a typical urban recreation and water sport mecca and was stocked with 40000+ trout in October. The 3 mile path around the lake is busy with joggers, strollers, and rollerbladers.  The shores are lined with fishermen in their camp chairs and rod holders, and unfortunately the waters yesterday were filled with rowers competing in a regatta.  I headed down yesterday afternoon with my ultra-light trout rod, a backpack full of powerbait, and a camp chair. Using my sliding cannonball set-up, I started with a fairly long leader and some rainbow trout nuggets without much success. I figured that there would be long grass on the bottom of the lake and that I needed to get my bait floating above it. In reeling in I noticed that the grass and milfoil that I was bringing in at times was short and not as abundant I I expected. Normally in adjusting my rig I like to change one variable at a time: first I change the leader length to see if that is the issue, then the bait choice, and then I’ll try casting hardware to see if the fish are hitting spoons and spinners on the surface. I changed two variables yesterday and immediately started getting bites. A shorter, 1-1.5 foot leader and sherbet trout nuggets were the key. I pulled in 3 cookie-cutter planters and lost a couple more. I’ve always used barbed, #6 or #8 red Gamakatsu bait hooks but am starting to crimp the barbs as I struggle with getting the hook out of these small fish without bloodshed. I have no interest in eating a stocker trout (or really any fish taken from fresh water) and a barbed hook makes the release difficult. These fish are nearly always hooked in the throat or tongue as they gulp the bait and a barbed hook is redundant if one plans to release them. I also worry about leaving a hook I can’t remove in a fish. The fish will likely live a shortened life with the metal in it and become dangerous food for water fowl or eagles. This worry was confirmed yesterday as I watched a bald eagle come down a hundred yards from where I was fishing and snatch a trout (one I just released?) off the surface of the water.