Okanogan County Lake 2014 profiles

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 3, 2014 

When the North Cascades Highway is cleared of snow by Washington State Department of Transportation crews this month, the Okanogan's lucrative trout waters will be as close in terms of time and distance as they're going to get to Bellingham.

North central Washington's dry pine forest and scrub sage settings are always an interesting change for us wet-side anglers and the spring fishing there is every bit as good as and occasionally even better than it is here.

Notes for the lakes listed below include their status with regard to the two-pole endorsement. Holders of the $14.80 freshwater licensing add-on may fish for gamefish with two rods on all lakes and reservoirs in the state except for a group of special waters that are exempted.

And though anglers may deploy dual sets of fishing gear with the two-pole endorsement, they are still allowed only one legal daily limit of gamefish. The good thing if you like trout is that all the money that this special license earns goes to support the department's freshwater hatchery program.

Anglers will be familiar with the commonplace regulations strategies governing these eastside waters including the six-month spring/summer season and 12-month or 'year-round' regimes. But there are several twists applying to a few Okanogan lakes that make for a more varied angling fare and require trout enthusiasts to be discerning readers of the rules.

Here's a rundown of 22 well-stocked, northern tier waters scattered from the Winthrop area of the Methow River Valley east to the Sinlahekin and Okanogan valleys that will be either destinations or tour stops for many Western Washington anglers this spring, through the summer and into the fall:

PEARRYGIN LAKE (1)

Multiple public accesses including a state park, private resort and a fish and wildlife department ramp at Pearrygin Lake prompt many westside anglers doing a spring trout tour of the Okanogan to make these Winthrop area waters their first stop. It's well stocked to handle the fish pressure and produces good early catches when fished in the spring and again in October.

Size: 192 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbows

Stocking for 2014: 66,074 rainbow fry (May 2013) plus 357 triploid rainbows (April 2014)

Boat launching: WDFW and state park, both will handle most trailered boats

Angler notes: Besides the boat launch capacity, the state park has a fishing dock accessible to wheelchairs. This spring's yearling rainbows are about 10-13 inches, carryovers are 15 inches.

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Sept.30

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to Winthrop, after crossing the Chewuch River go straight on Bridge Street which turns into Bluff Street and East Chewuch Road, continue to a right turn onto Bear Creek Road to the state park and WDFW ramp.

PATTERSON LAKE (2)

On the road out of Winthrop to Sun Mountain Lodge, Patterson warms quickly as the Methow's winter chill wears off. But its waters yield fair catches of several different species for spring anglers. Planted rainbow trout fry have to compete directly with Patterson's perch, so a change in strategy last year saw the stocking only of the ferocious hybrid tiger trout and for this year Patterson has gotten kokanee fry and a smattering of larger rainbows.

Size: 160 acres

Angling quarry here: large- and small-mouth bass, yellow perch, kokanee, black crappie, hybrid tiger trout, and perhaps an occasional rainbow or cutthroat trout.

Stocking for 2014: 400 jumbo rainbows (Spring 2014) and 16,000 kokanee (April 2012)

Boat launching: WDFW gravel ramp for small-trailered boats about half way up the east shore

Angler notes: A resort provides access and boats here. Fish early for kokanee (10-11 inches), holdover tigers and a few large rainbows, then for perch (6-8 inches) and largemouth bass in the weedy hot summer mornings and evenings. Cutthroat, rainbow and tiger trout stocking has been discontinued.

Two poles: allowed

Season: year-round

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to Winthrop, after crossing the Methow River eastbound on Highway 20 turn right on Twin Lakes Road and drive 2.5 miles to Patterson Lake Road. Turn right and drive two miles to Patterson Lake.

BIG TWIN LAKE (3)

Popular among Winthrop locals and knowledgeable passers-through, Big Twin is managed under selective fishing rules and a one-fish-a-day limit on yields of bigger rainbows in the early summer and fall when its cooler.

Size: 65 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbows

Stocking for 2014: 4,000 rainbow trout (June 2013) and 100 jumbo rainbows (Spring 2014)

Boat launching: public access with graveled ramp for most small-trailered boats

Angler notes: There's a lakeside resort here. Expect the rainbows to run in the 10 to 18-inch range. Gas motors are banned.

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to Winthrop, after crossing the Methow River eastbound on Highway 20 turn right on Twin Lakes Road.

LITTLE TWIN LAKE (4)

Little Twin's confines are now available to anglers only seasonally with a one-fish per day take-home and selective gear rules applying. Internal combustion motors are not allowed.

Size: 19 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbows and eastern brook trout

Stocking for 2014: 350 catchable rainbows (April 2014). Catchable rainbows are stocked as a contingency if winter kill has occurred.

Boat launching: WDFW with a graveled ramp

Angler notes: Expect the rainbows to be from 12 inches. Eastern brook may be present.

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to Winthrop, after crossing the Methow River eastbound on Highway 20 turn right on Twin Lakes Road.

DAVIS LAKE (5)

Davis is one of two Winthrop area lakes on a split year-round schedule that is intended to combine spring catch and release fishing with a winter cropping of trout to make room for next year's fish. No triploid rainbows this year.

Size: 39 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbows

Stocking for 2014: 1,500 (April/May 2014) catchable and 3,000 fry (June 2013) rainbow plants

Boat launching: WDFW with a graveled ramp

Angler notes: This spring, the grown-in-lake yearling rainbows should be about 10-14 inches. Also, some carryovers and a tiger trout or two. Selective gear here and gas motors are banned

Two poles: allowed

Season: Year-round (April 1-Aug. 31, catch and release and selective fishery rule, then Sept. 1 to March 31 catch and kill)

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to Winthrop, before crossing the Methow River get on Castle Avenue and drive southeast, turn left on Bear Creek Road drive up to Davis Lake Road and turn right.

LEADER LAKE (6)

Perched above Highway 20 just west of Okanogan, Leader's waters are held in place by two dikes. Before summer's heat takes hold, fishing is good for rainbows, then as the reservoir level drops angling transitions to Leader's sunfish and bass. Also Leader is now legally fishable 365 days a year.

Size: 155 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbow trout plus black crappie, bluegill, brown bullhead, small and largemouth bass

Stocking for 2014: 4,000 catchable (April 2014), 4,353 fry (May 2013), 300 jumbo (Spring 2014) all rainbows

Boat launching: a gravel ramp

Angler notes: Washington Department of Natural Resources operates the campground in the Loup Loup State Forest. Reservoir shore access is good and there is a float for fishing. Rainbows this year range from 11 to 14 inches. Crappie and bluegill catches into the summer months. Leader is subject to significant drawdowns by the fall.

Two poles: allowed

Season: Year-round

Getting there: Take Highway 20 east from Twisp through the Loup-Loup and just before entering the Okanogan River valley proper, turn left on Leader Lake Road.

CONCONULLY LAKE (7)

This fiord-shaped impoundment, like its companion waters to the southwest, gets heavy fishing pressure throughout the season. But it is stocked to sustain angler catches. Expect yearling rainbows 10 to 12 inches with carryovers to 15 inches, kokanee between 10-13 inches and later triploids to two pounds.

Size: 292 acres

Angling quarry here: catchable and triploid rainbows plus largemouth bass

Stocking for 2014: 18,750 catchable (all season 2014) and 32,452 fry rainbows (summer 2013), and 357 triploid rainbows (Spring 2014) plus 19,987 kokanee fry (April 2013)

Boat launching: state parks ramp

Angler notes: A resort and state park launch provide accesses. Also please keep the bass caught up to the limit to reduce competition on trout and silvers

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 into Okanogan, stay on Second Avenue to Pine Street and right onto Orchard Grade that turns into Conconully Road northbound to the Johnson Creek valley where the road heads northwest to Conconully.

CONCONULLY RESERVOIR (8)

The pear-shaped reservoir at the confluence of three forks of Salmon Creek also is stocked to accommodate large crowds throughout the spring with both grown-in-the-lake yearling fish and spring planted catchables. The rainbows will run 10-12 inches with carryovers to 15 inches with some even larger triploid rainbows. The kokanee will be around 12 inches. Anglers are encouraged to keep up to the legal limit for bass to help the trout.

Size: 382 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbows, eastern brook, kokanee, large- and small-mouth bass and a few brookies

Stocking for 2014: 18,750 catchable (all season 2014) and 32,452 fry rainbows (summer 2013), and 357 triploid rainbows (Spring 2014) plus 19,987 kokanee fry (April 2013)

Boat launching: State parks ramp

Angler notes: Two private resorts plus a state park, which wraps around the head end of the lake in town, provide access and accommodations. (all season 2014)

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 into Okanogan, stay on Second Avenue to Pine Street and right onto Orchard Grade that turns into Conconully Road northbound to the Johnson Creek valley where the road heads northwest to Conconully.

FISH LAKE (9)

One of the venerable waters of the Sinlahekin, Fish historically has been a good first angling stop on a belly boat tour of this out-of-the-way valley. Fish was rehabilitated in 2011 to remove the spiny ray challenge trout production. It's expected to yield a range of rainbows from 10- to 15 inches from three different stock regimes.

Size: 101 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbows

Stocking for 2014: 2,300 catchable (April 2014), 250 jumbo (Spring 2014) and 30,000 fry (Spring 2013) all rainbows.

Boat launching: four WDFW gravel ramps scattered around this mile-long lake.

Angler notes: Expect the bulk of the catch to be 10-12 inchers, with a few bigger rainbows bulked up at the hatchery. Ample camping space is available. Fish makes a good base camp for more angling in this locale.

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. Drive north from Omak past Riverside and turn left on Pine Creek Road. Drive west to the lake.

BLUE LAKE (10)

An old reservoir turned keystone fishing lake in the Sinlahekin Valley, this Blue (one of three so-named in the Okanogan) is managed for yields of brown and rainbow trout (one-trout-a-day is now the bag limit) from among its spiny ray denizens.

Size: 205 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbow and brown trout, plus sunfish

Stocking for 2013: 7,000 rainbow and 1,000 tiger trout fry

Boat launching: a graveled ramp is at the south end

Angler notes: Use of smaller lead sinkers is banned here. The selective gear rule still applies and internal combustion engines are not allowed. Expect some of the browns to verge on 18 inches and two ages of rainbows running 10-12 and 13-15 inches long.

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. Drive north from Omak past Riverside and turn left on Pine Creek Road. Drive west to Fish Lake and head north on Sinlahekin Road about four miles

FORDE LAKE (11)

One of several Sinlahekin Valley lakes to host them, weedy Forde was infused with an unusual hybrid trout that is a cross between a brown trout and an eastern brook trout. The tiger trout has a skin pattern faintly reminiscent and noticeable enough to earn its given name. They're also said to have a temperament matching that of their namesake.

Size: 24 acres but shrinks to 8 non-weedy acres

Angling quarry here: wild eastern brook, a few rainbow trout and maybe a tiger trout plus spiny rays

Stocking for 2014: 300 tiger trout fry (June 2012)

Boat launching: WDFW gravel launch at north end

Angler notes: Forde is shallow and gets weedy later in summer, but fish the edges.

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. Drive north from Omak past Riverside and turn left on Pine Creek Road. Drive west to Fish Lake and head north on Sinlahekin Road about seven miles.

CONNERS LAKE (12)

Also noteworthy historically for a string of plants of experimental tiger trout, Conner has some holdover eastern brook that may be quite bulky by now. Like Forde fish it early.

Size: 58 shrinking to 34 non-weedy acres

Angling quarry here: eastern brook trout and maybe a tiger trout

Stocking for 2014: 350 triploid eastern brook fry (Spring 2013)

Boat launching: WDFW gravel launch at north end

Angler notes: Shallow and, like Forde, can get weedy later in summer. Camping space nearby.

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. Drive north from Omak past Riverside and turn left on Pine Creek Road. Drive west to Fish Lake and head north on Sinlahekin Road about seven miles. Conner is about a mile north of Forde.

PALMER LAKE (13)

With its breadth of fish species, Palmer might be the Alice's Restaurant of Okanogan lakes. Anglers may be able to get just about anything they want from its expanses including large- and small-mouth bass, crappie and kokanee in the summer and in the winter, perch (6- to 10 inches) or burbot. It's one of a handful of Washington lakes with a fishable freshwater ling population. Its outlet probably lets in a few trout from the Similkameen River.

Size: 2,032 acres

Angling quarry here: Kokanee, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, carp, yellow perch, sunfishes, several chub species, whitefish and burbot (freshwater lings)

Stocking for 2014: 118,361 kokanee fry (2011)

Boat launching: A BLM (federal) access with a concrete ramp at the north end and a DNR (state) gravel ramp at the south end

Angler notes: Kokanee are running to 11-13 inches. A small resort has boats for rent. Palmer is quite deep, 79 feet, for its geophysical location in a cutoff channel of a river valley (Similkameen).

Two poles: allowed

Open: Year-round

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. At Tonasket drive north on the west valley highway, turn left on the Loomis-Oroville Road drive to Loomis and turn right on Sinlahekin Road and drive north about five miles.

SPECTACLE LAKE (14)

For decades a destination trout fishing lake in the Okanogan, Spectacle and its fishery are suffering through the reintroduction of nuisance spiny rays. It's now in post-rehabilitation phase but the bluegill and bass persist.

Size: 313 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbow and brown trout plus largemouth bass, sunfishes and yellow perch

Stocking for 2014: 12,000 catchable rainbows (March 2014)

Boat launching: WDFW with a concrete ramp

Angler notes: The catchables averaging 11-12 inches with a few carryovers to 15 inches. Three resorts plus camping space at the state access offer plenty of room for over-nighting and boat rentals.

Two poles: allowed

Season: April 1 to Sept. 30

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. At Tonasket drive north on the west valley highway, turn left and drive west on Loomis-Oroville Road drive to lake.

AENEAS LAKE (15)

It's fly fishing only here and restrictions also prohibit all motors (electric included). The daily limit is one trout and the tigers may still be around to pounce on dry flies.

Size: 61 acres

Angling quarry here: a trout trifecta including rainbow, browns and tigers

Stocking for 2014: 500 brown trout fry (Spring 2013) and 1,069 rainbow fingerlings

Boat launching: WDFW gravel ramp on east side

Angler notes: Campsites available. Rainbows 12-15 inches are fairly common early until hot weather drives them deeper in the 60-foot center hole. The browns are running to 16 inches. Gets weedy and blue-green algae blooms can occur.

Two poles: not allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. South of Tonasket turn left on Highway 7 and drive north to Pine Creek Road. Turn left and drive up to lake.

WHITESTONE LAKE (16)

Largemouth bass tolerate the alkaline water in Whitestone's long, shallow confines. Management is aimed at producing fair-sized bass.

Size: 147 acres

Angling quarry here: largemouth bass, carp, smallish sunfish plus some channel catfish

Stocking for 2014: no trout. Some warmwater stocking has been done in the past

Boat launching: WDFW, the access and launch are improved for disabled anglers, mid-way up east side

Angler notes: Camping is permitted here and the access is rated level 2 for disabled fishers. A warmwater assessment report is also available on-line. Very weedy from May to fall.

Two poles: allowed

Open: year-round

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. At Tonasket drive north on the west valley highway, turn left on the Loomis-Oroville Road drive about two miles.

CHOPAKA LAKE (17)

Its 2,900-plus-foot elevation occasionally renders Chopaka chilly on the opener with its trout a little stand-offish. However, the relative isolation more than makes up for slow starts and contributes to its reputation as one of this state's premier fly fishing waters. Motors of any kind are banned and the governing rule is fly-fishing only.

Size: 133 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbow trout

Stocking for 2014: 5,00 rainbow fry (Spring 2013) and 500 catchable rainbows (May 2014)

Boat launching: BLM & WDNR access for carry-in (car-topper) boats on west side mid-way up

Angler amenities: Camping is permitted. Rehabbed in 2007, Chopaka now boasts an excellent crop of rainbows the bulk ranging from 14-18 inches with quite hefty carryovers.

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. At Tonasket drive north on the west valley highway, turn left on the Loomis-Oroville Road drive to Loomis and turn right on Sinlahekin Road. Drive just over two miles to a left turn onto Toats Coulee Road and watch for the Chopaka road several miles up.

WANNACUT LAKE (18)

A slightly saline water chemistry (from magnesium sulfate) can create a dead (no oxygen) zone in the lower reaches of its 158-foot depths, but the grown-in-lake rainbow trout and now eastern brook trout still do fairly well in the top-water. Anglers also might still dredge up a leftover Lahontan.

Size: 428 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbow, eastern brook, a rare Lahontan cutthroat trout perhaps and largemouth bass

Stocking for 2014: 50,000 fry (Spring 2013), 2,600 catchables, 357 jumbo and 250 triploids (all 2012), all rainbows

Boat launching: WDFW (south end) and private resort east side mid-way up

Angler notes: Last year's rainbow fingerlings are 10-12 inches with carry-overs to 14 inches. Limited shore access, best fished afloat

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. At Tonasket drive north on the west valley highway, turn left on the Loomis-Oroville Road drive to Enterprise. Turn right on Wannacut Lake Road and drive to south end of lake.

BLUE LAKE (19)

The northernmost of three so-named lakes in the central Okanogan, this Blue's waters are alkaline enabling it to support the Humboldt Basin's Lahontan cutthroat. Selective gear rules are in effect and anglers may take only one of the trophy cutts away each day.

Size: 119 acres

Angling quarry here: Lahontan cutthroat

Stocking for 2014: 2,044 Lahontan cutthroat fry (Fall 2013)

Boat launching: WDFW gravel ramp

Angler notes: The Lahontans run up to 14-18 inches, but some real lunkers are reputed to be in the lake. Gas motors not allowed.

Two poles: allowed

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. At Tonasket, drive north on the west valley highway almost to Oroville. Two miles before the Similkameen River bridge turn left on Golden Road and then left again on Blue Lake Road.

SIDLEY LAKE (20)

Known for both its shoreline access (thanks to the paved highway), a rarity in the Okanogan, Sidley also is a winter ice-fishing mecca. The daily trout limit is two. Sidley used to have Lahontan cutthroat because of its alkaline chemistry, but at only 22 feet deep it was and continues to be subject to fish kills in the summer.

Size: 109 acres

Angling quarry here: rainbow trout are the main fare with some lingering Lahontan cutthroat and golden trout

Stocking for 2014: 2,500 catchable (May 2014) and 4,000 catchable rainbows (Fall 2014).

Boat launching: WDFW gravel ramp middle north side.

Angler notes: Expect most of the trout to be in the 10- to 12-inch range.

Two poles: allowed

Seasons: year-round. Holds thick ice well, so remember it for winter fishing

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River valley. Drive north on Highway 97 to Oroville then east on Oroville-Toroda Road. Turn left on Molson Road and drive to lake.

GREEN LAKES (21)

This stair-step pair of coulee-type sliver lakes northwest of Omak is uniquely managed for combination summer-winter fisheries. In the summer anglers may catch and release only, then through the winter they're allowed to take home some trout.

Size: 54 total acres (45 and 9 acres)

Angling quarry here: rainbow and eastern brook trout and maybe an old cutthroat

Stocking for 2014: Big (upper) Green, 10,000 fry (Fall 2013) and split (summer/fall 2014) 1,000 fish catchable rainbow plants fry and Little (lower) Green, 2,000 fry (Fall 2013) and 200 catchable (spring 2014) rainbows

Boat launching: Big Green has a WDFW launch and Little Green is a WDFW carry-in gravel site with steep paths.

Angler notes: Rainbows in both Greens should run 11-13 inches with carryovers to 15 inches. Little Green also will produce eastern brook between 10-11 inches.

Two poles: allowed both

Seasons: year-round (April 1-Nov. 30, catch and release, selective gear rule applies and Dec. 1 to March 31 catch and kill, no selective rule)

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan Valley, cross the river and drive north on Conconully Road. Turn left on Green Lake Road just after crossing Johnson Creek.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of three stories profiling spring trout lake fishing in Northwest and North central Washington. You can also find these lake profiles and maps plus similar information for Whatcom and Skagit county lakes on line at Herald Outdoors.

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