Ross Lake an odyssey worth the taking

Getting to water’s edge on 24-mile long Ross Lake is a bit of an odyssey in and of itself in that there are just two main ways to get to this North Cascades reservoir. Its lengthy shoreline remains today mostly road-less and even trail-less along most of its west side.

For self-contained RV or tent-billeted fishers towing their own boats, the north approach via British Columbia into Ross’s north or up-lake end is the most convenient and therefore appropriate.

The Ross Lake National Recreation Area that encompasses Ross Lake in the United States is part of the North Cascades National Park complex administered by the U.S. National Park Service.

At the north end of the lake, the park service operates Hozomeen Campground and Winnebago Flats for first-come, first-served drive up use. If these camps are full there is usually space available at fee sites on the B. C. side.

The British Columbia provincial forestry and parks agencies manage the road access to Ross Lake’s north end as well as a large recreational camping complex on the B. C. side of the border in the Skagit Valley. The occasionally rough Silver-Skagit Road leaves the pavement of the TransCanada Highway just west of Hope, B.C.

Because of the area’s popularity and the desire of its managers not to see it ruined by indiscriminant use, access to and camping along the reservoir’s more remote shores is regulated.

Boat-in or eastside trail travelers may depart from Hozomeen for points south, but they must make sure they have acquired the necessary backcountry permits required to use the developed lakeshore campsites.

No overnight stays on Ross Lake’s shores outside the developed sites are allowed.

North end visitors may get backcountry camping permits from the Sedro-Woolley park headquarters office. Would-be lake camp visitors entering Ross Lake National Recreation Area from the south may get their permits from the park service’s Wilderness Information Office at Marblemount.

Backcountry permits for any of the 19 lakeside (boat- or walk-in) camps are issued to in-person applicants only on the day of or day before use starts. Due to the demand, no reservations can be made nor can these permits be self-issued.

For more details about a Ross Lake backcountry visit or stay call:

- the park’s Wilderness Information Office at Marblemount (360) 854-7245.

- North Cascades park headquarters office (360) 854-7200.

- or visit on line the nps.gov.noca Web site and check out its Ross Lake National Recreation Area Web pages.

Ross’s business or south end (where Seattle City Light’s gravity dam/hydroelectric facility holds back the Skagit River) is the alternate, accessible via the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20), offering visitors an unusual pilgrimage option to these trout-filled waters.

Ross Lake Resort, a unique floating accommodation in the wilds of the North Cascades, offers its patrons all the comforts of home.

And if you don’t come so equipped, it doubles as a full-service fishing camp providing all the gear necessary to pursue Ross’s burgeoning rainbows.

Reservations are essential for these accommodations and are highly recommended for boat rentals and special transport services as well. Call 206 386-4437 or log on to rosslakeresort.com.

Check next week for more details about the resort as well as tactics for tying into these wild rainbow trout.


It now looks as if the lower Skagit’s one-month long in-river personal use option for Baker River ‘reds’ will run its projected course, reports state fish and wildlife department district fish biologist Brett Barkdull.

Daily landing rates to date (since the mid-June opener) are at a pace that’s not likely to reach the season guideline of 20 percent of the overall non-treaty allocation of the harvestable portion of the run.

The two-phase fishery (early in-river and later in-reservoir non-treaty opportunities) was recommended by sport fishers at the North of Falcon season-setting talks was subsequently adopted by the state and then accepted by tribal negotiators.

Barkdull said that so far anglers seem to be doing the best on the high tides when the sockeye in the lower river seem most eager to move.

The Skagit’s unusually low flow volumes and good clarity of the past weeks have been hampering angler efforts to target the fish along the thread of the river in which the homing adults like to migrate.

Bait is permissible here with anglers assembling terminal tackle rigs mainly of wingbobbers (sizes 4 and 6) and sand shrimp, said Barkdull. Somewhat atypical this year is the fishes’ seemingly added taste for off-colors (chartreuses and oranges) along with the standard reds and pinks liveried lures.

A potential game changer for lowdown anglers this week with the hot weather is the opening up of the Suiattle’s glacial spigots that is just now delivering latte-like water to Skagit Bay. Barkdull said that heretofore Skagit flows had been unusually clear making plunking much more problematic.

As the waters color up to zero visibility anglers may want to add a scent enhancement to their end-of-line offerings.

Early trap counts at Puget Sound Energy’s Baker Project facility at Concrete are giving an indication that the run is coming in as forecast, but an in-season update assessment of fisheries coming in a few weeks will confirm if the 2015 46,268-sockeye-strong projected return will pan out.

Treaty fisheries have been open in the lower river and Upper Skagit tribal fishers are expected to start their directed sockeye harvest activities Wednesday, July 1.

Baker Lake, currently open for gamefish including kokanee (the landlocked form of sockeye salmon), will become ‘legally fishable’ for adult sockeye, 18 inches and longer, beginning Friday, July 10.

Following a 16-day lay-off beginning July 16, the lower Skagit will reopen Saturday, Aug. 1 for the personal use odd-year pink and coho fishery.


Salmon fishing leads off the 2015 second half with the reopening following the spring hiatus of major sections of Puget Sound waters at least for the summer and in some cases longer. Marine areas 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 are involved. Remaining areas 8.1 and 8.2 inside Whidbey Island from LaConner to about Mukilteo open Aug. 1.

Along with this, updated permanent fishing regulations for the coming 366 days (July 2015 to June 2016) also take effect. The pamphlet is now available at and fishing and hunting license dealer as well as in digital (pdf) form on-line at

These serve as the basic guide governing personal use or recreational fishing. But to avoid embarrassing and perhaps expensive mistakes, diligent anglers should also from time to time check the department’s Web portal for rules for emergency orders that modify or supersede the permanent rules.

Crabbing also takes center stage here in mid-July as the so-called south end of Marine Area 7 opens for the taking of Dungeness and red rock crab. Continuing on the July calendar are the spot shrimp opportunities in a sub-area of northern inland waters known for shrimping parlance as West Marine Area 7. The illustrating charts are found on page 137 in the regs pamphlet.

On the freshwater side close to home, the Skagit’s two early salmon fisheries continue, one as mentioned for sockeye in the lower river from Mount Vernon to just above Sedro-Woolley running until July 15 and the other for hatchery chinook from Rockport up to Marblemount including the lower Cascade River also open through mid-July.

Nooksack River pink salmon, the first of Puget Sound’s humpy stocks to enter their natal streams, become fair game July 16 in the mainstem from the state bridge at Everson downstream to the Lummi Nation boundary.

Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald’s outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at bellinghamherald.com/outdoors-blog.

This week’s Skagit hatchery and flow info

FACILITY (Stock/Species)

Marblemount Hatchery (Skagit spring chinook): 793 adults as of June 12. Same week total in 2014 – 533 spring chinook.

Baker Lake Hatchery (Baker sockeye): 1,646 sockeye trapped & transferred (1,460 to Baker Lake, 186 to hatchery) as of June 26. Same week total in 2014 – 19 adult sockeye to hatchery.

FLOW – Skagit River Marblemount Gauge

Recent: 3,200-3,400 c.f.s. range about 4,100 c.f.s under median daily flow for Saturday, June 27, there has been a significant drop to steady flow with no daily fluctuations in the last seven days.

Forecast: No prediction for this up-river gauge, but the Skagit elsewhere is forecast to raise by about 2,000 c.f.s. through Tuesday June 30.