Outdoors

Okanogan lakes set for spring trout fishing

With the North Cascades Highway cleared of snow by Washington State Department of Transportation crews early in April, the Okanogan’s lucrative trout waters are as close as the road drives to Bellingham when area lakes open for fishing on Saturday, April 25.

Here’s a rundown of 21 hatchery stocked waters 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 fishing pressure and produces good early catches when fished in the spring and again in October.

Size: 192 acres

In your catch: Rainbows.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 2,500 catchable (April 2015), 13,850 large fingerling (fall 2014) and 70,000 fry size (April 2014) rainbow trout plus 475 triploid rainbows (April-May 2015).

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: April 25 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. Its waters yield for spring anglers fair catches of several different species. Planted rainbow trout fry compete directly with Patterson’s perch, so a change in strategy two years ago saw the stocking of the ferocious hybrid tiger trout and later sterile eastern brook trout. For this season Patterson also has kokanee coming on plus a smattering of larger rainbows.

Size: 160 acres.

In your catch: Large- and small-mouth bass, yellow perch, kokanee, black crappie, hybrid tiger trout and perhaps an occasional rainbow or cutthroat trout.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 2,000 rainbow catchables (spring 2015), 6,550 tiger trout fry (spring 2014), 11,400 triploid eastern brook (spring 2014) and 70,000 kokanee (April 2014).

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, turn right on Twin Lakes Road and drive 21/2 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.

In your catch: Rainbows.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 4,000 rainbow fry (June 2014) and 100 jumbo rainbows (April 2015).

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 12- to 18-inch range. Gas motors are banned.

Two poles: Allowed.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to Winthrop, after crossing the Methow River, 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.

In your catch: Rainbows and eastern brook trout.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 250 catchable (April 2015) and 200 large fingerling (fall 2014) rainbows. 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: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to Winthrop. After crossing the Methow River 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.

Size: 39 acres.

In your catch: Rainbows.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 2,000 catchable rainbows (October 2014, April 2015), 3,000 rainbow fry (June 2014) and 250 jumbo rainbows (fall 2014).

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 under catch and release and selective fishery rules, then Sept. 1 to March 31 catch and kill)

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to Winthrop. Before crossing the Methow Rive,r get on Castle Avenue and drive southeast. Turn left on Bear Creek Road and drive 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.

In your catch: Rainbow trout plus black crappie, bluegill, brown bullhead, small and largemouth bass.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 2,000 catchable (October 2014), 4,000 catchable (April 2015) and 200 jumbo (spring 2015) 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 draw downs 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.

In your catch: Catchable and triploid rainbows plus largemouth bass.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 8,250 catchable (October 2014, April 2015), 2,676 large fingerling (fall 2014) and 20,000 fry rainbows (summer 2013), and 350 triploid rainbows (spring 2014) plus 25,000 kokanee fry (April 2014).

Boat launching: State parks ramp.

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

Two poles: Allowed.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Getting there: Take Highway 20 into Okanogan. Stay on Second Avenue to Pine Street, and turn right onto Orchard Grade, which 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 and even some 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.

In your catch: Rainbows, eastern brook, kokanee, large- and small-mouth bass and a few brookies.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 8,250 catchable (October 2014, April 2015), 1,500 large fingerling (fall 2014) and 20,000 fry rainbows (summer 2013), and 350 triploid rainbows (spring 2014) plus 25,000 kokanee fry (April 2014).

Boat launching: State parks ramp.

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

Two poles: Allowed.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Getting there: Take Highway 20 into Okanogan and stay on Second Avenue to Pine Street. Turn right onto Orchard Grade, which turns into Conconully Road northbound to the Johnson Creek valley. Here 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.

In your catch: Rainbows.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 2,000 catchable (April 2015), 200 large fingerling rainbows (fall 2014), 200 jumbo (spring 2015) and 11,000 fry (spring 2014) 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: April 25 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.

In your catch: Rainbow and brown trout, plus sunfish.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 1,000 catchable rainbows (fall 2014), 7,000 rainbow fry (June 2014) and 1,000 brown trout fry (April 2014).

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: April 25 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 is occasionally 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.

In your catch: Wild eastern brook, a few rainbow trout and maybe a tiger trout plus spiny rays.

Stocking for 2015: Not planted.

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: April 25 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.

In your catch: Eastern brook trout and maybe a tiger trout.

Stocking for 2014: 350 triploid eastern brook and 350 tiger trout fry (spring 2014).

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: April 25 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.

In your catch: Kokanee, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, carp, yellow perch, sunfishes, several chub species, whitefish and burbot (freshwater lings).

Stocking for 2015: 118,000 (2011) & 115,000 kokanee fry (2012).

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 10-13 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’s fishery suffered through the reintroduction of nuisance spiny rays. In post-rehabilitation phase two, ages of rainbows, kokanee and brown trout are now or will be its mix with bluegill and bass persisting.

Size: 313 acres.

In your catch: Rainbow and brown trout plus largemouth bass, sunfishes and yellow perch.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 10,000 catchable rainbows (April 2015), 10,000 rainbow fry (April 2014), 125 jumbo rainbows (May 2015 and 80,000 kokanee fry for later.

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 still are around to pounce on dry flies.

Size: 61 acres.

In your catch: A trout trifecta including rainbow, browns and tigers.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 1,000 brown trout fry (spring 2014), 1,000 tiger trout fry (spring 2014) and 1,000 large fingerlings rainbows (fall 2014).

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: Allowed.

Season: April 25 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 (four-pound) bass.

Size: 147 acres.

In your catch: Largemouth bass, carp, smallish sunfish plus some channel catfish.

Stocking for 2015: No trout. Some warm water 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 warm water assessment report is also available online. 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 and drive about two miles.

CHOPAKA LAKE (17)

Its 2,900-plus-foot elevation occasionally renders Chopaka chilly on the opener and 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.

In your catch: Rainbow trout.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 4,000 rainbow fry (spring 2014) and 750 large fingerling rainbows (fall 2014).

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

Angler amenities: Camping is permitted. Chopaka boasts an excellent crop of rainbows the bulk ranging from 14-18 inches with a few really quite hefty carryovers.

Two poles: Allowed.

Season: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River Valley. At Tonasket drive north on the West Valley Highway and 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.

Size: 428 acres.

In your catch: Rainbow, eastern brook, a rare Lahontan cutthroat trout perhaps and largemouth bass.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 50,000 fry (spring 2014), 2,000 catchables, 3,000 large fingerlings (fall 2014), 150 jumbo and 125 triploids (May 2015), 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: April 25 to Oct. 31.

Getting there: Take Highway 20 to the Okanogan River Valley. At Tonasket drive north on the West Valley Highway and turn left on the Loomis-Oroville Road and 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 multiple ages of the Humboldt Basin’s famed Lahontan cutthroat. Selective gear rules are in effect, and anglers may take only one of the trophy cutts away each day.

Size: 119 acres.

In your catch: Lahontan cutthroat.

Stocking for 2015: 5,000 Lahontan cutthroat fry (fall 2014).

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: April 25 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’s subject to fish kills in the summer.

Size: 109 acres.

In your catch: Rainbow trout are the main fare with some lingering Lahontan cutthroat and golden trout.

Stocking in 2014 and 2015: 3,000 rainbow fry (June 2014) and 6,000 catchable rainbows (Fall 2014 and April 2015).

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 (22)

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).

In your catch: Rainbow and eastern brook trout and maybe an old cutthroat.

Stocking for 2015: Big (upper) Green, 300 fish catchable rainbows and Little (lower) Green, 100 catchable rainbows (spring 2015).

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.

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