Trophy Lake Trout of Lake Chelan
Trophy Lake Trout of Lake Chelan
By Mike Carey
Located in Central Washington lies a lake more than 50 miles long. And in that lake are trophy mackinaw trout (aka lake trout) just waiting to be caught by some lucky angler. It was my good fortune to be joining Anton Jones of Darrell and Dad's Guide Service to spend a day fishing for these beautiful fish. My sons were along for the trip and were eager to fish in a "real boat" that had a TV to help pass the time in between fish.
We left Redmond at 4pm for the 3 1/2 hour drive to eastern Washington, where we were staying at Kamei Resort on Lake Wapato. We would meet Anton in the morning at the Old Mill Park boat launch.
My boys and I had visited Chelan just a week and a half earlier, and while it was a fun trip, we did not have much luck in the fishing department. In fact, all we had to show for two mornings of fishing was one lost fish and three sunburns. Plus a friend who kept saying "Fish close to shore - that's where the fish are. I read it in a book." I was getting tired of explaining to him that we were in pursuit of something a little bigger than the typical 10-12" trout.
Regardless of the bad fishing that weekend, I was still bound and determined to learn this fishery and the techniques required to catch these fish. I'd seen too many pictures of big lakers I guess.
We pulled up to the boat ramp and met Anton at 6am sharp. The weather was mild - mid 70s and partly sunny. The wind was light and variable. Perfect weather for fishing. Anton fishes out of a 24 foot Bayliner Ciera Express. He has it set up with all the gear you would expect for deep water trolling - Scotty electric downriggers, quality rods and reels, and of course a first class fish finder to spot the fish and the shrimp balls that these lake trout like to target.
We ran one rod deep, one rod for suspended fish, and two light tackle rods for the silvers (kokanees) and rainbows that can be found. "I like to touch bottom with my downrigger ball, then come up 15 feet. That puts my plug at about 10 feet off the bottom due to the plugs diving action. You have to get down off the bottom or you aren't fishing for these lakers" he explained. He also runs his plugs about 100 feet back from the downrigger ball. Anton started off with a Worden's M-2 luminescent chartreuse plug, color code LUCH. To that he added a little scent "to mask our scent".
Our first fish hit at 0620 down 187 feet off the deep rod. Lake trout hit light - the rod began tapping back and forth to signal "fish on". Matt took the rod and reeled in the first laker of the day. It was a small one - about 2 1/2 pounds, but still it was great to have the skunk out of the boat so quickly. Our second fish came at 0650, a 3 pound laker that James reeled in. With the kids out of the way, the next fish was mine. While we trolled from Wapato Point due south Anton gave me a few more pointers. I commented on my lack of success the previous week. I was using a silver horde plug in spackleback yellow/green color, one of my favorite salmon plugs. I had been trolling at about the same speed and depth so wondered why I hadn't had much luck. "First, Anton said, plugs are a great choice and work well, but the ideal speed to troll that type of plug is about 2.6-2.8 mph. Sounds like you were trolling too slow. The silver hordes target aggressive fish because of the faster presentation. The nice thing about these flatfish is they require a slower trolling speed - 1.4 to 1.6 mph. You tend to get more strikes from the less aggressive fish." I asked him if there was a better time to be out on the water for these fish and he replied that while he had his far share of fish caught early in the day, they were available all day long.
We continued trolling and at 8:30 hit our third fish of the day. At 125 feet deep on the deep rod, I brought up a 6 pound fish. Not bad for the first 2 1/2 hours of the day - three fish in the boat. As luck would have it, things slowed down after that. We continued trolling, changing the rod depths with the contours lines, now 130, then 180, then 200, back and forth we went. Anton ran the deep downrigger, constantly adjusting depth to keep the lure in that magic fish zone. At 10:50 we hit another laker on the deep rod, this time a 6 1/2 pounder that Matt brought up from 153 feet. Just as soon as he brought in his fish we hit a couple silvers on thin blade spoons trolling in the 40-45 foot zone. At 11:05 another silver, this time at 85 feet.
The action again quieted down until 1pm when we hit a nice 4 pound laker at 105 feet in 140 feet of water. This was the first and only fish we caught on the mid-depth rod. We had been using a 00 dodger and whole herring 26 inches behind. "Although the chinook fishing is nothing like it was several years ago, this is a good setup to target chinook, plus the lakers that are suspended will go for it", Anton stated. He said that while the laker population was quite strong and self-sustained, the chinook fishery had declined due to lack of spawning habitat. The lakers have been doing so well that WDFW does not stock Lake Chelan anymore.
With the day's fishing done, we returned to the boat ramp and cleaned our fish. Lake trout have a big layer of fat in their abdominal cavity, which Anton explained was due to the rich diet of fresh water shrimp these fish gorge themselves on. Which is also why it is possible to catch trophy fish in the 20-25 pound class. And that's a whole lot of fish to come out of a lake! Anton encourages all trophy class fish to be photographed and returns them to sustain this quality fishery. Although we didn't get the trophy fish I dreamed about, I now feel much more confident about coming back to lake Chelan and catching some of these lake trout on my own. And maybe, just maybe, I'll one day get to post a picture of a trophy lake trout from Lake Chelan on this web site.
Written by permission from http://www.washingtonlakes.com. Visit their site for information about Washington fishing.