Ross Lake's special four-month-long fishing season opens Sunday, July 1, with the likelihood that some of its vaunted wild rainbow trout will reach and perhaps surpass sizes reminiscent of their 1950s forebears.
A prodigious red-sided shiner population is responsible for the resurgence of these rainbow, which feed voraciously on large schools of young of the forage species.
Bull trout, another native, now land-locked salmonid species found in Ross, is also prospering in the midst of shiner plenty according to reports. Not only are the char much more numerous in the reservoir, the apex (largest) specimens of this long-lived and protected (under the federal Endangered Species Act) fish are said have reached the 30-pound benchmark.
This change in the piscatorial dynamics at Ross also has fostered a broadening of angling tactics.
Though the tried and true combination of a gang troll (i.e. willow leafs or cowbells) trailed by a jittery or fluttery lure such as a Bingo Bug, Dick Nite or Needlefish still attract their share of strikes, a new technique is emerging as the favored method for hooking up with Ross trout.
In the past two years, more fishers are turning to a simpler fishing rig including a long fly rod, a fast sinking fly line and a selection of wet fly patterns including bucktail streamers, woolly buggers or egg-sucking leeches. These set-ups work effectively either trolled or classically presented.
In both cases, anglers are working much closer to the reservoir's shoreline.
The minimum length for the three allowable daily keeper trout (rainbow, cutthroat and eastern brook) at Ross is 13 inches. There is no maximum length.
As mentioned, all bull trout/Dolly Varden must be released.
Also, bait and scents are banned under the umbrella selective gear regulation that applies to Ross waters. Only single barbless hooks may be used and fish may be removed from the water only with knotless dip nets.
Anglers may catch and release to their heart's content in a season that lasts through the end of October.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Ross Lake Resort, accessible only on foot or by boat, opens for overnight stays one month before the fishing season starts and has an array of accommodations to suit all patrons.
Besides the comfortable modern cabins with electric heat, showers and kitchens as well as linen service, there are smaller rustic wood-heated alternatives together with private bunkhouse-style and multi-story home-style accommodations.
While it does not have a restaurant or grocery store, you can buy fishing licenses, tackle and boat gas from a small store as well as rent motorized kickerboats for fishing or canoes and kayaks for paddle excursions. There are rod, reel and line combos available for rent, too.
Day-trippers and backcountry campers, accessing the lake from the trail down from State Route 20 (North Cascades Highway) at Happy Flats, can rent boats for the day or multiple days if they intend to voyage up lake to camp. It is best to reserve a boat for these two purposes since the resort's fleet is made available to its own overnight patrons.
For more details about Ross Lake Resort, visit rosslakeresort.com or call them for information or to make reservations at 206-386-4437.
Anglers may also access Ross' north end by coming in from Canada to the U.S. National Park Service's Hozomeen complex at the lake's north end in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. It is part of the North Cascades National Park Complex.
While use of individual park service lakeshore campsites up and down the reservoir requires a backcountry permit for each day of occupancy, the Hozomeen facility accommodates all types of camping arrangements from RVs to tents on a first-come, first-served basis with no need for paperwork.
There are several boat launches there and on the truly busy weekends there is plenty of room just across the border in British Columbia's large recreational complex.
The most convenient border crossing for the trip to Hope and the 40-mile Silver Hope Road access to Ross is at Sumas.
Be sure to check ahead of time for rules governing the transport of foods, firearms and pets into Canada and be sure to have the requisite documents for returning to U.S. territory after a Ross Lake north end visit.