Outdoors

Whatcom County fishing lake profiles

BIG-FIVE TROUT LAKES

LAKE PADDEN (7)

Well-stocked Padden, with the broadest access of any Whatcom waters and the largest dose of trout of the four hatchery-supplied lakes in the county, hosts hundreds of boat and bank anglers and seldom disappoints opening day visitors.

City park lands surrounding Padden coupled with two fishing docks, a revetment and circumlake trail provide the most and best opportunity in Northwest Washington for boatless anglers.

During the first day free-for-all, almost anything works from bait floated off the bottom with marshmallows to trolling with any of a wide array of lures.

Surface area: 152 acres.

Angler amenities: Two floating docks and trail access around the entire lake, a fully accessible paved revetment for disabled fishers on the northwest shore. Whatcom Transit bus service runs hourly, too.

Stocking for 2015: 22,000 catchable hatchery rainbows (April 2015), 800 triploid rainbow, 10,000 cutthroat fingerlings (fall 2014) and kokanee in 2011 and 2012.

In your catch: Primarily hatchery rainbow trout, maybe the occasional kokanee or coastal cutthroat trout and a hefty triploid.

Past years catches: On the opener kept rainbows per angler 2014 – 4.0, 2013 – 3.8, 2012 – 3.8, 2011 – 3.1, 2010 – 3.4.

Boat launching: Bellingham Parks — single ramp puncheon, suited for car-toppers, also carry-ins only at northwest and southeast shores.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Boating rules: By city ordinance: gas motors not allowed.

Getting there: Drive about two miles south on Samish Way from Interstate 5. Parking is available on the golf course (east) side of the park or near the tennis courts (northwest side). Launch parking spills over to the golf course lot.

SILVER LAKE (11)

A crown jewel in the Whatcom County Parks system plus an ample stocking of trout, make Silver one of this county’s easiest trout waters on which to limit. Anglers will be treated at the county park to a one-stop fishing opening day experience with an early-morning trout derby, a pancake breakfast and row boats for rent plus fishing supplies for sale for the unprepared.

The sun takes its time peeking over Black Mountain Saturday morning to warm anglers, but fishing can be good very from dawn on. Though Silver is the biggest of the county’s hatchery stocked lakes, it still can be crowded around the break of day, so trollers should come prepared to still-fish for a time in the morning until the angling fleet thins out.

Surface area: 173 acres.

Angler amenities: Ample access along the county park’s shoreline, and there is a fishing foot-bridge. Boat rentals, some tackle sales as well as an angler’s breakfast put on by the Kiwanis Club and a free trout derby opening day in the morning at the park.

Stocking for 2015: 16,000 catchable hatchery rainbows (April, 2015) and 10,100 cutthroat fry (October 2014) .

In your catch: Hatchery rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, bass, sunfish and maybe an occasional eastern brook trout.

Past years catches: Rainbows caught per angler 2014 – 3.3, 2013 – 3.0, 2012 – 4.7, 2011 – 2.9, 2010 – 1.6.

Boat launching: WDFW at north end where ramp accommodates small, trailered boats. At the south end, Silver Lake County Park access area is small-trailered capable, too.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Boating rules: Motors are allowed, all hours, a whole lake idle/no-wake rule is in effect from opening day to May 20.

Getting there: Drive east on Mount Baker Highway to Maple Falls, then north on Silver Lake Road about four miles. The county park access is at the lake’s south end, and the fish and wildlife department access is off a side road at the north end.

TOAD LAKE (4)

Toad rarely lets its still- and troll-fishing faithful down. Tucked out of the way northeast of Bellingham, it gets less attention as an angling hotspot, which is just the way Toad’s angling faithful like it.

Its cozy confines easily accommodate 50 to 80 trolling boats and dry-foot anglers will find another scarce commodity at Toad, a public fishing dock. Do be aware that there is no public access on the southwest shore down Pebble Beach Road in Emerald Lake Estates. Trespassers there could be cited.

Surface area: 29 acres.

Angler amenities: A floating dock and some bank slots at the WDFW access area.

Stocking for 2015: 5,000 rainbows (April 2015) plus 300 triploid rainbows (April 2015).

In your catch: Hatchery rainbows with the occasional lunker that’s either a new triploid or a carryover rainbow.

Past years catches: Rainbows caught per angler 2014 – 2.9, 2013 – 4.2, 2012 – 4.6, 2011 – 4.3, 2010 – 2.6.

Boat launching: WDFW, graveled and suitable for car-toppers and small, trailered craft. There is limited maneuvering room here.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Boating rules: By county ordinance, gas motors and wakes are not allowed.

Getting there: Toad’s sole public access is at the end of Toad Lake Road, up from Academy Street off North Shore Drive. The parking area fills quickly, and late-comer vehicles spill over well up the narrow gravel entry road.

CAIN LAKE (9)

Another of Whatcom’s locals lakes, Cain has perked up in recent years on its opener, so much so that in 2014 its anglers led the first day take-home catch chart.

Besides good-sized hatchery rainbows, a few naturally spawned kokanee have adapted to the lake and could end up on the end of troller lines. Perch and largemouth bass start biting later in the spring.

On your way out to Cain or Whatcom from Bellingham, stop by and enjoy a pancake breakfast at South Whatcom Fire Authority’s Station 22 on Lake Whatcom Boulevard at Sudden Valley. This is put on by the Fire Fighters Association.

Surface area: 72 acres.

Angler amenities: Probably the least crowded on the Whatcom opener, Cain’s a quiet out-of-the-way place to fish.

Stocking for 2015: 9,500 hatchery-reared rainbows.

In your catch: Rainbow trout and occasionally kokanee now, then later in the spring and summer, largemouth bass and perch.

Past year’s catches: Rainbows caught per angler 2014 – 4.3, 2013 – 4.0, 2012 – 4.1, 2011 – 2.8, 2010 – 2.7.

Boat launching: WDFW, graveled and can accommodate up to small, trailered boats.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Boating rules: By county ordinance, gas motors not allowed, no wake.

Getting there: Take Lake Whatcom Boulevard east from Bellingham through Sudden Valley or drive south on Interstate 5 to Alger, then drive east on Cain Lake Road until it curves back into Whatcom County. Turn left on Camp 2 Road, drive about 0.2 miles to access at outlet. Off-road parking is very limited.

LAKE WHATCOM (6)

Of the natural lakes in the county, at more than 5,000 acres, Whatcom is the biggest and deepest. From an ecological (including the fish) perspective, it has a growing reputation for being troubled waters. The once-vaunted native cutthroat population is now an unknown quantity, and its famed kokanee continue to face risks from Middle Fork Nooksack diversion-delivered diseases. Concerns about general water quality as well as invasive plant and shellfish species persist and to pile on, the smallmouth bass, perch and crawfish have been tabbed with state/county health advisories due to increased levels of mercury.

That said, enjoy trolling for kokanee or prospect casting in-shore for smallmouth bass. But, for their sakes, release all cutthroat trout.

A moderate April can bring the silvers up for plankton and on the bite early. The tried and true method of pulling gang trolls through Agate Bay or the western basin in search of the silver hordes will yield the first results. Angling methods designed to take the deep-dwelling cutthroat (down-riggers, big spoons, herring strip) are banned by regulation.

Boat inspections are now required. For details on how to make your watercraft launch and use legal on the lake, visit cob.org/services/environment/lake-whatcom/aquatic-invasives.aspx.

Surface area: 5,003 acres.

Angler amenities: Fishing from the East Bank Trail can be fun, but that mainly targets the off-limits cutthroat trout.

Stocking for 2015: Millions of kokanee fry in 2012 and 2011 sustain the annual sport catch .

In your catch: Early on, kokanee and cutthroat trout; by May smallmouth bass plus largemouth bass and perch.

Past year’s catches: No catch info compiled.

Boat launching: Bloedel Donovan City Park is an asphalted double ramp. A WDFW graveled ramp is located next to the fire hall on South Bay Drive at the far south end. Boat inspection permits are required.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Boating rules: By county ordinance, two-stroke gas motors are now banned. Also, the maximum speed on Whatcom is 40 mph. Some areas at Sudden Valley proper are off-limits to boats. All boats must be certified aquatic plant and mollusk-free.

Getting there: Take Lakeway Drive east from Interstate 5. Turn left on Electric Avenue and drive to Bloedel Donovan City Park. For the south end access point drive south on Lake Whatcom Boulevard to South Bay.

MORE WATERS

LAKE TERRELL (1)

Regaining its reputation for big largemouth bass, sprawling, weedy Terrell also has become in recent years a bastion for introduced whopper trout, this spring again is receiving several loads of 11/2-pound triploid rainbows.

A new, fully accessible dock near the ramp offers boat-less anglers an improved and comfortable opportunity, but given Terrell’s relative lack of depth, trolling or prospecting for fish from a floating platform is your best bet.

Surface area: 438 acres.

Angler amenities: A fully accessible, well-built fishing pier is located north of the headquarters/main boat launch area. The largemouth bass in this lake are good-sized, with a few at trophy weight. The triploid rainbow trout plant is sometimes split between April and May.

Stocking for 2015: 800 triploid rainbows (May) and 15,000 cutthroat fry (fall 2014).

In your catch: Largemouth bass, cutthroat trout, big rainbows, channel catfish, brown bullhead (the native catfish), yellow perch and pumpkinseed sunfish.

Past year’s catches: Not compiled.

Boat launching: At headquarters area, a WDFW concrete ramp with dock (no fishing from that dock) and to at the east end of the shore road a gravel ramp.

Season: Year-around.

Boating rules: By WDFW rule and county ordinance, no wake on the whole lake.

Getting there: Take the Axton Road exit from Interstate 5 and drive through the city of Ferndale onto Mountainview Road heading west toward Alcoa’s Intalco Aluminum plant. Turn right onto Lake Terrell Road.

WISER LAKE (2)

Despite not being stocked, Wiser can contain profuse numbers of yellow perch and pumpkinseed sunfish and, though they’re on the smallish side, they will provide amusement for kids. Occasionally, hot summer days coupled with bacteria loads and lots of organic material will drive up demand for the already low amounts of dissolved oxygen in the warm water, and that will cause localized fish kills. Report them to state fish and wildlife authorities at 425-775-1311.

Surface area: 123 acres.

Angler amenities: Easy access, and with a red No. 35 Hotshot, lots of fish. The west end of the lake, under the bridge, will get you away from afternoon water skiers.

Stocking for 2015: None.

In your catch: Largemouth bass, brown bullhead, pumpkinseed sunfish and yellow perch.

Past year’s catches: Not compiled.

Boat launching: WDFW with shallow concrete ramp, lots of parking.

Season: Year-round.

Boating rules: By county ordinance, the whole lake is an idle-speed, no wake zone until noon each day. In spring and summer water skiing permitted to 8 p.m. No wake all the time west of SR 539.

Getting there: Drive north from Interstate 5 on State Route 539 (Guide Meridian) toward Lynden. The Guide crosses Wiser Lake on a broad causeway. Turn right on East Wiser Lake Road and immediately take another right onto the access driveway.

FAZON LAKE (3)

When they were introduced more than 14 to 15 years ago, tiger muskies were intended to change the face of bass and bluegill fishing by cropping the overly abundant populations of largemouth and sunfish, enabling those survivors at Fazon to get bigger. None of these toothsome predators persist, but their affect might still be noticeable. Special size and limit rules protect any remaining tiger muskies (statewide regulation) as well as channel catfish (special regulation for Fazon).

Surface area: About 32 acres (marshy, indistinct shoreline).

Angler amenities: Fazon unfortunately does not have any bank fishing space that is publicly accessible, nor is there a public dock. But if you can get out on a boat, it’s a near sure bet you’ll catch something.

Stocking for 2015: 3,000 brown trout (November 2014).

In your catch: Bluegill, pumpkinseed, channel catfish, largemouth bass, tiger muskies and possibly a few brown trout.

Past year’s catches: Not compiled.

Boat launching: WDFW, shallow concrete ramp with maneuvering loop and parking.

Season: Year-round.

Boating rules: Currently no restrictions.

Getting there: Drive east on Mount Baker Highway about five miles (from Interstate 5) and turn left on Everson-Goshen Road. Drive north to East Hemmi Road, turn right. The access road is about a quarter mile east on the left.

SQUALICUM LAKE (5)

The fly fishing-only rule here is meant to foster stable lunker cutthroat, brown (legacy carry-over), triploid rainbow and tiger trout populations. As its waters warm, the cutts will be stirring and the browns and tiger’s will rouse for the bite as well. There is no public shore fishing at Squalicum, so pack in a belly, pontoon or cart-able boat.

Angler amenities: Because of its fly fishing-only regime and the care with which fish are released, Squalicum has some nice, but often quite finicky trout lurking in its waters.

Surface area: 33 acres.

Stocking for 2015: 150 triploid rainbows (May 2015).

In your catch: Cutthroat trout, brown trout, triploid rainbow trout and tiger (a hybrid) trout.

Past year’s catches: Not compiled.

Boat launching: Walk-in WDFW access from parking area on Mount Baker Highway at Y Road intersection.

Season: Year-round.

Boating rules: By state regulation all motors are disallowed.

Getting there: Drive east on Mount Baker Highway from Bellingham to Y Road, and the access parking area is on the south side of the highway.

LAKE SAMISH (8)

A variety of gamefish and a few foodfish species are found in these year-round waters next to Interstate 5 south of Bellingham including several trout species, landlocked sockeye and a number of warmwater species and lesser-sought fish, including a few finny surprises. April trollers can do well for wild cutthroat trout releasing those catches under the 14-inch minimum size limit.

By June (earlier in a warm spring), the kokanee will start to bite in earnest, but anglers often must go deeper, 20 feet or more, for them. Chumming or feeding for the silvers is forbidden here to preserve water quality.

Surface area: 814 acres.

Angler amenities: The county park provides rowboats for rent starting in June. You can get them for an hour or a day and can mount electric or small gas motors (up to a 10-horse). You’ll need a fire extinguisher if you go internal combustion.

Stocking for 2015: Kokanee fry from 2011 and 2012.

In your catch: Native cutthroat trout, kokanee, largemouth bass, yellow perch, peamouth chub.

Past year’s catches: Not compiled.

Boat launching: WDFW concrete puncheon ramp on East Lake Samish Drive accommodates large trailered boats and is now in good working condition

Season: Year-round.

Boating rules: No wake under county bridge.

Getting there: Drive south on Interstate 5 to Nulle Road, exit there and head north on East Lake Samish Drive about 1.2 miles to public access. For the county park, take North Lake Samish exit and drive downhill to North Lake Samish Drive then west along the lake to the county road bridge.

CANYON LAKE (10)

Stunted descendants of original Montana black-spotted (Westslope cutthroat trout) plants in the 1930-40s now dominate this foothills slide-made lake with its many obstacles including floating logs and standing snags.

Repairs have yet to be made to damage done to the private access road in a storm more than five years ago, so Canyon remains a walk-, bike- or horseride-in water-body. The area at the lake is under county park jurisdiction, but camping is not allowed.

Surface area: 25 acres.

Angler amenities: Canyon is out of the way and not fished too much, so be prepared for lots of small, but hungry trout. Its population can stand some thinning, so take a limit home for appetizers.

Stocking for 2015: None.

In your catch: Cutthroat trout, possibly with a few eastern brook trout.

Past year’s catches: Not compiled.

Boat launching: A carry-in, rough launch just east of the county park’s road end parking area.

Season: Year-round.

Boating rules: No ordinance restrictions.

Getting there: Drive east on Mount Baker Highway about 18 miles to Welcome, turn right on Mosquito Lake Road and drive east across the Nooksack North Fork to Canyon Creek. Turn left, just before crossing the bridge, onto the gravel road, which, turns intoa logging road. This road is now gated near the last house, and there is little parking available. An alternate road comes in from the Racehorse Creek side to a private timber company gate. This gains some elevation and cuts down the distance, but this hike is still four to six miles.

BAKER LAKE (NOT ON MAP)

Spectacular Baker Lake on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is one of the most popular destination camping/fishing lakes in Northwest Washington. It’s the uppermost of two Puget Sound Energy reservoirs holding back the Baker River.

Long known for its obliging kokanee, Baker’s summer season now includes an in-lake fishery for adult sockeye salmon (when they are delivered) and also offers some challenging opportunities for catch and release on native char (Dolly Varden and bull trout). Anglers could, on rare occasions, also bring to hand cutthroat trout or sleek rainbow trout, though stocking of them as well as liberation of chinook salmon and summer-run steelhead has ended.

Fishing from the shore is most profitable on the south side of the upper dam itself. Unlike many lowland lakes, you may chum or put feed in the water to attract your quarry.

Surface area: 3,316 acres.

Angler amenities: Old Tarr’s Resort, mid-way up the reservoir, has been prepared for reopening as a concessionaire-run Forest Service (named Swift Creek) campground. Improvements have been made to the launch ramp. Dock space and some sundries will be available under the new regime as well as new improved camp-spaces.

Reported level: As of Friday, April 17, Baker was at 711 feet above sea level and rising. This is about 16 feet below full pool.

Stocking for 2015: Not stocked with gamefish; fish populations are from natural production or import of anadromous fish.

In your catch: Kokanee, adult sockeye, a few cutthroat trout and rainbow, native char (Dolly Varden and bull trout).

Past years catches: Not available.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Boat launching: When the lake is at lower levels, Baker’s launches can be a little rough, especially at the main West Pass and Horseshoe Cove ramps — two of the more heavily used launches. When the reservoir is full, the Swift Creek CG ramp may be the best bet for larger trailered boats at the upper end of the lake.

Boating rules: Currently, no ordinance restrictions, although is it unlawful by U.S. Forest Service rule to operate motor vehicles anywhere on the exposed lake bed except at launch ramps.

Getting there: Drive east on Highway 20 from Interstate 5 to Birdsview. Turn left on Baker Lake Road and continue north for 16 miles. The Baker Lake dam access and the West Pass boat launch road intersection on FSR 11 has moved. There also are accesses at Horseshoe Cove, Panorama Point and Shannon Creek. Other older informal accesses have been closed to motor vehicles.

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