For decades, Okanogan Country’s “Lakes of Legend” have attracted families from across the state to come and experience the excellent trout fishing the region’s lakes and rivers have to offer. The memories have multiplied over the years: sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, all have looked forward to their next trip to the Okanogan. It’s where memories begin.
Note: Please check all current rules and regulations at www.wdfw.com. Please plan ahead, pack extra food and water and emergency supplies, as many places may be closed or operating at limited capacity. Make reservations in advance as lodging and campgrounds are operating at limited capacities at this time. Please do not choose any extreme or dangerous recreational activities as local Search and Rescue resources are limited due to COVID-19. Please practice social distancing, wear a mask when in public and understand that our small, rural communities are working hard to reopen and keep our residents, hospitality workers and public safe.
The Methow region
The Methow Valley is renowned as an outdoor recreation paradise. The rivers that flow through the region offer enjoyment for anglers of every style, be it spin casting or fly-fishing. Chances at rainbow or cutthroat abound, with both being of exceptional size. Spring is when the real trophies can be caught, but they might also be landed throughout the summer with a little bit of luck. The Methow Valley offers great kayaking and springtime whitewater rafting, as well as spectacular hiking and biking trails.
The valley is dotted with many lakes that offer exceptional rainbow trout. One of these lakes is Davis Lake, where selective gear is required (no bait). The limit is just two, but they will most likely be whoppers. A favorite of many families is Pearrygin Lake, near the town of Winthrop. Twin Lakes, Alta Lake, plus quite a few others in the valley are worth exploring during your visit.
In the heart of the Okanogan
For that year-round fix, there are many options to satisfy the dedicated angler. One of the best-kept secrets in the whole state is the quality of the smallmouth bass fishing on the Okanogan River. There are huge areas of good bass water and an abundance of bass to be caught in the vicinity of Omak and Okanogan. The best fishing for the real monsters is in the early spring. Although the water is murky, sizable smallmouth bass will hit large plugs and big, bright jigs and plastics.
One of the favorites of the locals is Leader Lake. It’s a multispecies lake so you can catch perch, bluegill and largemouth bass; but rainbow trout are the species most anglers are after.
Two of the most popular trout lakes in the state are in Conconully. The Conconully Reservoir is circled by family-friendly resorts and many groups have been returning to the annual opening for decades. Conconully State Park is another access point on its north shore. Next door is Conconully Lake. Both lakes are widely known for their excellent trout fishing plus tons of kokanee and bass. The area also attracts hunters in the fall and snowmobilers in the winter, as there are excellent roads and trails to explore. You can even drive your four-wheeler and snowmobiles in town.
The Columbia River region
Both the Okanogan and the Methow rivers flow into the Columbia, and it makes for some incredible fishing. The Brewster Pool offers fishing for Chinook, sockeye, and in some years, steelhead. These migrating species bring hundreds of anglers to the region in the summer, fall and winter.
Just outside of Brewster, Rat Lake offers some quality fishing. It is a selective-gear lake with a daily limit of two, so expect to catch some very nice rainbows. There is good shore access to the lake with a nice boat launch and vault toilet.
An even bigger attraction to trout anglers is the size of the rainbow available at Rufus Woods Reservoir. The current state record was pulled in at the reservoir, and weighed in at 36 pounds 6 ounces! Most anglers who visit Rufus Woods aren’t expecting to break the record, but they are trusting to land a rainbow that weighs several pounds. There is a convenient boat launch above Chief Joseph Dam, and many shoreline fishing spots complete with fireboxes and picnic tables. Big kokanee are often landed here and it is even more likely to catch quality walleye at the top end.
North Okanogan region
Anglers looking for extremely good fishing waters in Okanogan Country just need to follow the Okanogan River north to Tonasket. Even before you reach this town, a quick side trip to Aeneas Lake promises really big rainbows for fly fishers. The lake opens to fishing the fourth week of April and most of the time is uncrowded. Just a short distance from here is Spectacle Lake, which has attracted trout fishers from all over the state for decades. Despite being a rather small lake, it supports two resorts. Nearby Wannacut Lake also has a resort and is known to produce larger-than-average rainbow trout. Just to the east of Wannacut is Palmer Lake. This multispecies lake produces nice rainbow trout, kokanee, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and perch. In the hills above Palmer, Lake Chopaka is a statewide favorite of fly fishers and opens the fourth week of April.
Straddling the Canadian border in Oroville is Osoyoos Lake. This is one of the most popular smallmouth bass fishing lakes in the state, and it’s open year-round. To the east of Oroville in the Okanogan Highlands are Sidley and Molson lakes. Both of these lakes are open year-round and most famous for being the site of the annual Northwest Ice Fishing Festival in mid-January. A little further east puts you at Beth and Beaver Lakes. Complete with a campground and boat launches on either side, get ready to catch some of the prettiest tiger trout you’ve ever seen.
Sunny skies year-round and friendly folks are here to ensure your visit to Okanogan Country is memorable. Happy fishing and plan your next vacation with the free guides and maps at www.okanogancountry.com!