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.
Ken with the first trout caught that day
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.
After a slow trip at Rattlesnake Lake earlier in the week, I decided to check fish stocking reports and go where they had been planted in June. The heat makes any lake trip a gamble, but Lavender’s fish were biting. It took me around two minutes of sitting on my truck bed with a line in the water to hook and land the one in the picture below. Many of the trout were bigger, in the 1-2lb range, with some smaller ones in the mix too. They weren’t biting flies or spinners and only bottom fishing from the middle of the lake produced strikes. The lake is not deep but is full of long grass on the bottom and some pockets of really shallow water in spots where you wouldn’t expect it.
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.
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.
I made him this little draw-up of the sliding rig I used and have since passed it on to a couple other friends who have had success with it.
Camped up at Lake Takhlakh for Labor Day weekend and the fishing was consistent if not abundant. The stocked rainbows were on the small side although I caught two brood stock fish that were close to two pounds each. I left the pontoon moored on the shore of the lake all weekend.
Camped and fished Lost Lake in Kittitas County with a buddy and our pontoons. We figured to slide into a camp site empty after the 4th of July weekend and were lucky enough to have the entire site and lake to ourselves. Fishing was great on Sunday night with lots of action and we looked forward to more of the same on Monday morning, but unfortunately the bite died down as the winds and temperature increased. It seems to be an evening fishery at Lost Lake during summer months, at least for the type of fishing we were doing with spinning gear. I bet a fly fisherman working the shore in the evening would see even more fish in the net.