Outdoors

OUTDOORS: Profiles of Skagit County lakes

If diversity is what you're after, a more finicky fish that'll test your skills, tastier fare for the fry pan or perhaps scarcer but bigger quarry, there is a broad selection of other fishing lakes from which to choose in our neighboring county.

Skagit County's managed gamefish waters break out into a cluster of well-known waters on Fidalgo Island at the county's west end and two groupings of lakes in the south central and mid-eastern foothills areas.

West end waters are a mix of year-round and seasonal hatchery-stocked lakes with Heart and Erie topping the list of hot spots now awaiting anglers.

Lake Campbell features warmwater species and convenient Pass is the premier managed fly fishing waters in Skagit County. Though it's actually in Island County, Cranberry Lake (Deception Pass State Park) is close enough to these other two to merit mention because of its lurking brown trout.

For a little exercise, try the walk-in waters of Whistle Lake, south of the City of Anacortes, in the community's unique forest.

If you are out for Skagit's cache of pound and a half triploid rainbow trout this spring they have been released in lakes Erie, Heart, Campbell and Pass as well as Clear and Vogler.

Here's is the line-up for Skagit County lakes with the hot hatchery-stocked waters, Heart, Erie, McMurray and Sixteen leading off, for those obliging put and take rainbows.

WESTERN SKAGIT COUNTY

To see a map of western Skagit County lakes, click here.

HEART LAKE (1)

Possessed of a homier feeling than its nearby neighbor, smaller Heart is boat-for-boat and angler-for-angler just as crowded but no less rewarding than larger Erie Lake. There is more shore access here and its beach-borne fishers do almost as well as those in stationary boats. Don't be surprised if a few tiny bluegill nibble at your bait, their illegal introduction prompted the ending of young rainbow fry plants.

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31.

Size: 61 acres.

Gamefish present: rainbow trout, illegally introduced bluegill.

2010 stocking: 7,144 catchable rainbows and 2,420 triploid rainbows.

Launch: Anacortes city parks, concrete pad ramp with shallow drop off. Ramp will accommodate up to small trailered craft.

Boating rules: by city ordinance: speed limit is 5 mph, also no-wake rule in effect.

Angler amenities: excellent shore fishing access at park ramp. Anglers often sit along the county road on the lake's east shore or pioneer into park woods surrounding lake.

Getting there: take Heart Lake Road north from Lake Erie Road or drive south from 11th Avenue in Anacortes. Some off-road parking, with spill-over onto county road, where sheriff's deputies will ticket fog-line straddlers.

WHISTLE LAKE (2)

Though a walk-in lake, Whistle is not way up in the backcountry, it's found on Fidalgo Island within the City of Anacortes's unique forest lands. It's probably best fished in the spring and late fall.

Season: year-round.

Size: 29 acres.

Gamefish present: cutthroat trout, largemouth bass and yellow perch.

2010 stocking: cutthroat trout fry in 2008 and 2009.

Launch: carry-in craft only, though the road turned trail is flat.

Boating rules: no city ordinances.

Angler amenities: fishing activity is limited by the steep, brushy nature of the shoreline combined with the half mile walk. Casting spot accesses are available at intervals off the circum-lake trail. There are likely to be some good sized cutts and perhaps some fair size bass here.

Getting there: drive west on Highway 20 from I-5 at Burlington through Sharp's Corner, taking Anacortes spur. At Commercial Street and Highway 20, drive south on Commercial to Fidalgo Ave turn right go one block O Avenue. Turn south on O Avenue to a left turn onto Spradley Road. Drive east to Whistle Lake Road and a right to the city forest lands gate.

LAKE ERIE (3)

One of the two top-four Skagit lakes on Fidalgo Island, Erie has, in its history, served up some beautiful specimens rainbow (four to five pounds) grown from fingerling size in its rich, albeit shallow, confines. However, predation by cormorants and competition from an illegally introduced perch population have put an end to that fish management regime. The main angler take is now hatchery-reared fish on the opener, but they still uphold Erie's reputation for fine opening day catches. Get here early and, with the crowds, plan to still-fish for a while.

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31.

Size: 113 acres.

Gamefish present: rainbow trout, illegally introduced perch.

2010 stocking: 7,280 catchable rainbows and 2,300 triploid rainbows.

Launch: Fish and Wildlife, gravel with shallow drop-off but will accommodate small trailered boats. Limited maneuvering room.

Boating rules: by county ordinance, no wake zone within 150 of shoreline.

Angler amenities: Lake Erie Resort operates at the lake's southeast shore providing fishing tackle, ice and fee access to the shore, but alas no more boats.

Getting there: drive west on Highway 20 from I-5 at Burlington through Sharp's Corner. Take Lake Campbell Road west from Highway 20 about two miles. Very limited off-road parking, with much spill-over onto adjacent county road, where sheriff's deputies will ticket fog-line straddlers.

LAKE CAMPBELL (4)

One of several Northwest Washington stops on annual tournament trails, Campbell sports some championship largemouth bass and, though they don't figure in any weigh-ins, now lunker rainbows thanks to the triploid program. Fishing rules also set a minimum nine-inch size and ten-fish daily limit for Campbell's crappies.

Season: year-round.

Size: 367 acres.

Gamefish present: largemouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie, bullhead catfish, cutthroat trout and triploid rainbows.

2010 stocking: 805 triploid rainbows, 4,977 rainbow fry and 46,040 cutthroat fry plants.

Launch: WDFW, concrete puncheon accommodates larger trailered boats.

Boating rules: no city ordinances.

Angler amenities: fish it shallow. The deepest part of Campbell is a postage stamp-sized hole 16 feet deep immediately to the south of the island. Campbell's average depth according to ecology department information is eight feet.

Getting there: drive west on Highway 20 from I-5 at Burlington through Sharp's Corner. Take Lake Campbell Road west from Highway 20 about 1/2 miles.

PASS LAKE (5)

It's angling faithful credit the catch and release with fly fishing gear only rules plus close monitoring through the years for creation of what is considered by many to be the best trophy coldwater-type fishery in Northwest Washington. The average trout size is 15 inches with some ranging to 28 inches. At only 20 feet deep, these waters warm to summer time highs that can make the trout lethargic, so fishing is best in early to mid-spring and late fall. Surrounded by either state park lands or state highway the shoreline is unencumbered by settlement.

Season: year-round.

Size: 98 acres.

Gamefish present: brown, cutthroat, rainbow trout and lots of red-side shiners.

2010 stocking: 4,000 brown trout fingerlings and 162 triploid rainbows.

Launch: State parks, gravel, accommodates up to smaller trailered boats.

Boating rules: motors not allowed.

Angler amenities: the trout here speak for themselves.

Getting there: drive west on Highway 20 from I-5 at Burlington through Sharp's Corner. Drive west on Highway 20 to Pass Lake along highway one mile before Deception Pass Bridge.

CRANBERRY LAKE (6)

Tempered by the ever-present marine environment, unlike many other year-round waters, anglers can expect action on this Cranberry Lake all 12 months of the year. While rainbows, including some nice carryovers, are the norm in fall and winter months, the browns, together with the bass, tend to perk up in late spring. State park lands ring these shallow waters and help meter access.

Season: year-round.

Size: 128 acres.

Gamefish present: brown and rainbow trout, plus yellow perch and largemouth bass.

2010 stocking: 5,600 catchable rainbows and 10,000 brown trout fingerlings.

Launch: state parks, gravel, accommodates car-topper and small trailered boats. There are several north shore points where belly boats may enter.

Boating rules: gas motors not allowed.

Angler amenities: there is a public dock in park on east side of lake.

Getting there: drive west on Highway 20 from I-5 at Burlington through Sharp's Corner. Continue driving west on Highway 20 to Deception Pass. Look for state park entrance about one mile south of pass bridge.

SKAGIT FOOTHILLS WATER

In the south central foothills of Skagit County lakes, McMurray and Sixteen are the two main sources of those obliging put and take hatchery rainbows.

Big Lake holds largemouth bass, together with some crappie that should verge on 11 inches, in its long, shallow reach. There's a limit on these sunfish as well as a minimum size.

Further east, much sought-after kokanee are the angler staple in one Skagit County lake nee reservoir, Puget Sound Energy's Lake Shannon.

For a destination camping/fishing trip with the kids, try road-handy Grandy Lake or Texas Ponds in the Cascade foothills for cutthroat trout.

EASTERN SKAGIT COUNTY

To see a map of eastern Skagit County lakes, click here.

GRANDY LAKE (1)

A local's lake on heavily driven Baker Lake Road, but not on very many anglers radar, Grandy boasts a resilient naturally reproducing cutthroat trout population that persists in the face of angling pressure and the presence of largemouth bass. This is a combination fishing and overnight camping destination for kids.

Season: year-round.

Size: 56 acres.

Gamefish present: native cutthroat trout and largemouth bass.

2010 stocking: none.

Launch: county parks, gravel, accommodates cartopper and small trailered boats.

Boating rules: by county ordinance a no wake zone within 150 feet of shorelines.

Angler amenities: lakeshore county park campground provides a one-stop fishing/camping opportunity.

Getting there: from Interstate 5, take Cook Road east to Sedro-Woolley, continue east on state highway 20 to Birdsview. Turn left onto Baker Lake Road and drive northeast five miles to Grandy Lake.

VOGLER LAKE (2)

If you don't mind a quiet, catch and release lake with some potential for having your arms tugged out of their shoulder sockets, Vogler's fly fishing only waters are good for a spring venture.

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31.

Size: 3.5 acres.

Gamefish present: rainbow trout.

2010 stocking: 175 legal rainbow annually and 59 triploid rainbows in May.

Launch: gravel with capacity for small trailered boats, carry-ins and certainly belly boats.

Boating rules: by county ordinance no wake within 150 feet of shore.

Angler amenities: all catch and release under fly fishing rule. Vogler is shallow, warms quickly, skip during the hot summer, but try again in October before it closes.

Getting there: take Cook Road east from Interstate 5 to Sedro-Woolley. Then continue east on Highway 20, turn left on Baker Lake Road and drive past Grandy Lake to Burpee Hill Road. Turn right and go to the top of the hill (about a half mile).

LAKE SHANNON (3)

The lower reservoir in the Baker River valley, Shannon once was renown for its prolific kokanee population and great sport catches. But changes in the overall management of both reservoirs and their salmon have "chilled," this once hot angling spot. There's now a slot size limit on trout (minimum 6-18 inches maximum) and bull trout are off-limits altogether. Opening day yields can be good for kokanee especially down-lake near the dam, if you chum (feed) up the waters. If you value solitude more than hot fishing, Shannon's expanses are for you. And with 14 miles of lake to work, pulling gang trolls at several depths is easily doable and may take a fish or two. Beware of windy afternoons.

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31.

Size: 2,148 acres.

Gamefish present: kokanee with some rainbow, cutthroat and eastern brook trout.

2010 stocking: none.

Launch: Puget Sound Energy provides launch access at the old Lone Star Cement location.

Boating rules: by county ordinance, no wake zone within 150 feet of shoreline.

Angler amenities: some shore fishing at the launch. The ramp is wide and graveled but can be rough when the reservoir is low. At present, Shannon is raising at 406 feet above sea level now at 36 feet below full pool.

Getting there: take Cook Road east to Sedro-Woolley, then continue east on Highway 20 to Concrete. Cross the Lowell Peterson Bridge and take the next left turn, take another left at the stop sign and then the uphill right before crossing the old bridge. This will take you to either the dam or past Everett Lake to the power-line right-of-way and the left turn downhill to the launch.

TEXAS PONDS (4)

Out-of-the-way waters on a forest road, Texas Ponds makes for a nice, (from here) day-long outing in the woods. Though its fish see a lot of angling pressure, it's on an annual stocking list so there are always

Season: year-round.

Size: 6 acres.

Gamefish present: cutthroat trout.

2010 stocking: stocked with cutthroat fry in 2008.

Launch: USFS, carry-in boats only.

Boating rules: none.

Angler amenities: several campsites in wooded area. Ponds are in hour glass shape, some bank fishing spots.

Getting there: from Interstate 5, take Highway 20 east to Rockport, then drive south on state highway 530 south across the Sauk River bridge to the Christian Camp Road. Turn right drive uphill to Forest Service Road 2811. Turn left continue uphill to ponds.

CAVANAUGH LAKE (5)

Well off the beaten path, Cavanaugh has long been a remote, summer-home-by-the-lake type place. It's open year round and historically has held both cutthroat trout and kokanee, though the silvers are on the smallish side. You'll also find rainbows (excess hatchery program trout) some holdover cutthroat trout down deep, an occasional eastern brook and a few largemouth bass. Unfortunately no triploid rainbows will be put in this year. You may chum or feed for kokanee when still-fishing.

Season: year-round

Size: 844 acres.

Gamefish present: kokanee, rainbow, cutthroat and occasionally an eastern brook trout.

2010 stocking: 9,400 rainbow fry and 16,030 cutthroat fry releases.

Launch: WDFW gravel on the southeast side of the lake, best approached by taking the lakeshore drive around the southwest side of the lake .

Boating rules: by county ordinance no wake within 150 feet of shoreline.

Angler amenities: best fished now before the weather and water warms and skier and skidoo set starts churning up the lake. Try fishing deep for the cutthroat.

Getting there: drive from Interstate 5 to Highway 9 somewhere around Mount Vernon and drive south along the east side of Big Lake and watch for the Lake Cavanaugh Road on the left. It's about 14 miles of black-top road, though it'll seem you're driving deep into the woods

LAKE MCMURRAY (6)

The largest of the hatchery-rainbow stocked lakes in Skagit County, McMurray draws a cosmopolitan crowd from several counties out after its opening day trout. There is usually room to troll here especially in the lake's deeper middle section or anglers can anchor at either end and still-fish to their heart's content.

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31.

Size: 160 acres.

Gamefish present: rainbow trout, native cutthroat and coho; on the warmwater ledger, perch, crappie, largemouth bass and perhaps a landlocked salmon or two.

2010 stocking: 13,216 legal rainbows.

Launch: Fish and Wildlife, gravel, but will accommodate small trailered craft.

Boating rules: by county ordinance: speed limit is 5 mph on entire lake.

Angler amenities: there are several private group access points if you are willing to join a fraternal or community club.

Getting there: take Highway 534 east about five miles east from Conway. The public access is on the lake's southeast end. Parking spills over on to narrow access road out to highway.

LAKE SIXTEEN (7)

Another of the out-of-the-way "locals" waters, Sixteen not only yields a fair crop of big imported rainbows, discerning anglers will notice a few wild cutthroat turning up in their creels, usually the result of trolling in close to the weedy shoreline. Unfortunately, parking is limited. Don't park on the county road.

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31.

Size: 41 acres.

Gamefish present: hatchery rainbow predominate with some native cutthroat trout.

2010 stocking: 4,883 catchable rainbows, plus natural sea-run cutthroat spawn.

Launch: Fish and Wildlife, gravel, handles up to small trailered craft.

Boating rules: by county ordinance: gas-powered motors banned, speed limit is 5 mph on entire lake.

Angler amenities: there is some shore fishing space at ramp area. Sixteen's faithful are almost always well-mannered.

Getting there: take Highway 534 east from Interstate 5 at Conway, turn left on the gravel access road. Parking space fills quickly here.

LAKE TEN (8)

Once more easily access, this foothills lake is now surrounded by private timberland, so to get to it you must walk in. In its history, Ten has produced a few nice trout, but you must be in good shape as well as persistent to enjoy its offerings.

Season: year-round.

Size: 16.4 acres.

Gamefish present: hatchery cutthroat trout stocked as fry, rainbow trout and possibly some eastern brook.

2010 stocking: 700 coastal cutthroat fry.

Launch: no public access except across private property from state timberland on the Devil's Mountain Road.

Boating rules: by county ordinance: no wake within 150 feet of shore.

Angler amenities: this now 'remote' foothills lake may produce some nice sized trout, but be prepared to fish afloat.

Getting there: take Blackburn Road east from Interstate 5 and continue east as it turns into Little Mountain Road. Turn right onto Amick Road and drive to DNR gate (do not block). Hike up to second switchback and look for faint angler trail downhill to right. It will take you to the ridge above the lake.

BIG LAKE (9)

Known principally as a warmwater haunt, Big is another of Northwest Washington's shallow lowland waters to regularly hosts bass angling contests. Because of development on its shores aquatic activities have significantly transitioned away from fishing. To foster its crappie population there's a minimum size (nine inches) and ten-crappie daily limit.

Season: year-round.

Size: 545 acres.

Gamefish present: largemouth bass, yellow perch plus some nice crappie with an occasional naturally produced cutthroat trout.

2010 stocking: none.

Launch: WDFW, concrete puncheon accommodates trailered boats.

Boating rules: by county ordinance a 150-foot now wake zone along the shoreline.

Angler amenities: Look for natural, weedy transitions of the shoreline at the very south end. Despite its lanky fjord-like appearance, Big's maximum depth is only 23 feet with an average of 14 feet.

Getting there: Drive east from Interstate 5 on state highway 538, then south on state highway 9 from Big Rock about three miles to West Big Lake Drive. Turn left and drive along the west shore of the lake to the 19000 block and the public access.

BEAVER LAKE (10)

If you are looking for a little change of pace in your warmwater fishing, try this out-of-the-way, weed-lined pan in the Nookachamps River basin. It produces fair largemouth bass and lots of crappies and perch during the hot summer.

Season: year-round.

Size: 73 acres.

Gamefish present: yellow perch, crappie and largemouth with an occasional cutthroat trout.

2010 stocking: none.

Launch: WDFW, gravel, accommodates car-topper and small trailered boats.

Boating rules: by county ordinance a no wake zone within 150 feet of shoreline.

Angler amenities: if you like fishing poppers among the lily-pads there is plenty of that habitat here.

Getting there: from Interstate 5, take Cook Road east to Sedro-Woolley, then drive south across the Skagit River on Highway 9 through the town of Clear Lake, turn left onto Beaver Lake Road and drive 1 1/2 miles southeast to Beaver Lake.

CLEAR LAKE (11)

Known as a spiny ray haven for the better part of its sport-fishing existence, Clear Lake's shallows become a smorgasbord of gamefish.. It now it gets a dose of cutthroat trout fry, a nice dollop of rainbow fry, an occasional side of catchable rainbows when state hatcheries have leftovers and a good helping of triploid rainbows with which trout anglers to break up the spring monotony. It's open year round, so the trout when active are fair game at the time. Regional bass clubs pay attention to this Clear Lake in the spring and fall. Try spinnerbaits now or top-water lures mid-summer may be worth carrying.

Season: year-round

Size: 223 acres. Mostly shallow.

Gamefish present: cutthroat, rainbow, largemouth bass, yellow perch and brown bullheads.

2010 stocking: 10,000 cutthroat and 26,000 rainbow fry plus 702 triploid rainbows.

Launch: WDFW, located on the north side of the lake off Old Day Creek Road.

Boating rules: by county ordinance: within 150 feet of shore now wake otherwise speed limit is 25 mph, personal watercraft not allowed.

Angler amenities: there is some shore fishing from the ramp area that juts into the lake.

Getting there: take Cook Road east to Sedro-Woolley, then drive south across the Skagit River on Highway 9 to Clear Lake, turn east on Old Day Creek Road.

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