Tackling trout: Lake fishing warming up on Whidbey, Fidalgo

By Ron Newberry

Salmon fishing might be king around Whidbey Island, but it wasn’t what lured Phil Roorda to the island’s edge recently.

Roorda drove from his home in Ferndale to Pass Lake near Deception Pass to fish the freshwater for trout.

He’s hooked on fly fishing and has found that Pass Lake on Fidalgo Island and Lone Lake on South Whidbey offer some of the best opportunities to catch trout on a fly in the North Puget Sound region.

He tried Pass Lake on a sunny day in mid March, knowing anglers in float tubes and pontoon boats will be more abundant in April when the water warms up.

“The fishing can be good here,” Roorda said. “It’s just a little bit too cold.”

Surrounded by seawater, Whidbey and Fidalgo islands are best known in the angling community for their salmon fishing.

But one of the islands’ best kept outdoor recreation secrets is the quality of lake fishing that can be found for trout and several warmwater species.

Nine lakes on Whidbey and Fidalgo islands are stocked annually with trout and, in some cases, other species by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Five of these lakes are open year-round, while the other four don’t open to anglers until April 23, the weekend generally considered the trout season opener for Western Washington’s lowland lakes.

The quality of lake fishing on the two islands is “very decent,” according to Justin Spinelli, a regional fisheries biologist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife who’s based in La Conner.

He is responsible for Region 4, which extends from King County to the Canadian border.

“When you look around the whole region, you have two of the four selective-gear, catch-and-release style opportunities in the region, and good harvest fisheries and a couple of opening-day fisheries — and you don’t have a whole lot of people,” Spinelli said. “It’s actually a phenomenal fishing area in my opinion.”

Catchable-size rainbow trout are stocked in eight lakes on Whidbey and Fidalgo islands, starting in February. Whistle Lake on Fidalgo gets coastal cutthroat planted instead.

Some waters such as Lake Campbell, south of Anacortes, which hugs State Highway 20, already received a planting of 880 trout in mid February.

“And man, they fished it hard,” said Marsha Phillips, manager of the Lake Campbell Lodging, indicating that such news travels fast.

Lake Campbell is one of the more intriguing lakes around as it’s home to trout, cutthroat, resident largemouth bass and bluegill, crappie, sunfish and bullhead catfish, yet has next to zero public access for shore anglers. Boats are essentially a must there and are the best bet for all of the lakes on Whidbey and Fidalgo that the state supports with its stocking program. Only a few of these lakes offer ample shore opportunities.

The state even stocks Lake Campbell with channel catfish, which can be caught without a boat.

Phillips will never forget the monster a friend landed from the dock in front of the lodge a few years ago.

“After he gutted it and filleted it, he got 33 pounds of meat,” she said. “It was a big, big catfish.”

Ron Newberry photo
Neil Harmsworth of Oak Harbor gets his boat ready for a late afternoon of trout fishing at Cranberry Lake in Deception Pass State Park in mid March. The lake is open year-round to fishing and is expected to be stocked with rainbow trout in April. Many other lowland lakes in Western Washington that are limited to seasons will be open from April 23 to Oct. 31.

Here’s a look at nine lakes to catch trout and other species on Whidbey and Fidalgo islands. Unless otherwise noted, the daily limit is five trout with no size restrictions. Also, a state freshwater fishing license is required:


Deer Lake

Location: One mile west of Clinton. From State Highway 525, follow Deer Lake Road west to lake.

Season: Opens April 23.

Species: Rainbow trout, coastal cutthroat, largemouth bass.

Access: There’s a gravel boat ramp and parking area off Deer Lake Road on the northeast corner of the lake.

The scoop: Trout fishing is generally considered excellent the second half of April and in May. The state will stock 8,000 catchable-sized trout and nearly 500 jumbo-sized trout in time for the opener.

Goss Lake

Location: Langley. From East Harbor Road in Freeland, travel east on to Goss Lake Road, south on Pintail and enter Goss Lake Loop Road.

Season: Opens April 23.

Species: Rainbow trout, coastal cutthroat.

Access: There is a gravel boat ramp and parking area at the east end of the lake off Goss Lake Loop Road.

The scoop: The first three months of the season are the best time to hook a trout before temperatures rise. About 4,000 catchable-sized trout will be planted in the 53-acre lake by the state before the opener. No motorized boats allowed.

Lone Lake

Location: Langley. From State Highway 525 near Bayview, travel north on to Bayview Road, take left on Andreson Road and left on South Lone Lake Road to reach public access area.

Season: Open year-round.

Species: Rainbow trout with some introduced yellow perch, brown bullhead, largemouth bass.

Access: There is a large public access area on the lake’s north shore, which includes a concrete boat ramp, parking area and restroom.

The scoop: Only one trout a minimum of 18 inches is allowed to be caught per day and anglers must follow selective-gear rules, which call for artificial lures with a single point, barbless hook. April and May are the best months to catch trout. The lake is 90 acres with an excellent public access area. Motorized boats are allowed.

Cranberry Lake

Location: Inside Deception Pass State Park.

Season: Open year-round.

Species: Rainbow trout, brown trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch.

Access: There is a fishing pier on the lake’s east shore and small gravel boat launch on the northwest corner of the lake. There is excellent shore access to fish.

The scoop: Thousands of trout will be stocked in April. Internal combustion motors are prohibited. Since the lake is in a state park, a Discover Pass is required. Jets from nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island can be seen soaring in the distance.


Lake Campbell

Location: Four miles south of Anacortes, just west of State Highway 20. To get to boat launch, coming from Whidbey, travel west on Campbell Lake Road, go a half mile, then turn left at public fishing sign to enter public access site.

Season: Open year-round.

Species: Rainbow trout, channel catfish, largemouth bass, coastal cutthroat, yellow perch, bluegill, crappie, bullhead catfish, sunfish.

Access: There is a public boat launch and restroom off Campbell Lake Road.

The scoop: The best lake to catch warmwater species on Whidbey and Fidalgo with a wide variety to choose from. The state stocks trout and channel catfish in this 390-acre lake, which requires a boat to fish unless you’re staying at the lodge across the highway. Customers may use their dock.

Lake Erie

Location: Three miles south of Anacortes, just west of Heart Lake Road and north of Rosario Road. From Whidbey, travel like you’re going to Lake Campbell boat launch but stay west on Campbell Lake Road a short distance and you’ll run right into Lake Erie.

Season: Opens April 23.

Species: Rainbow trout, largemouth bass, yellow perch.

Access: A concrete boat launch is located on the lake’s west side accessed from Rosario Road.

The scoop: Excellent fishing for trout in late April and in May. Late fall tends to be a good opportunity for trout as well.

Heart Lake

Location: Two miles south of Anacortes, along the west side of Heart Lake Road, north of Mount Erie Park.

Season: Opens April 23.

Species: Rainbow trout, resident largemouth bass.

Access: There is a gravel boat launch and restroom off Heart Lake Road.

The scoop: Trout fishing is best the first two months of the season. Resident largemouth bass also are pursued.

Pass Lake

Location: Just north of the Deception Pass bridge; State Highway 20 hugs a portion of the lake’s southern shores.

Season: Open year-round.

Species: Rainbow trout, brown trout.

Access: A gravel boat launch is accessed from the lake’s southwest corner at Rosario Road near State Highway 20.

The scoop: This is a trophy fly-fishing-only, catch-and-release-only lake with no motor boats allowed. The best fishing tends to occur from March through June. Anglers use float tubes, pontoon boats or other non-motorized boats. A popular method is to troll a chironomid pupal fly near the lake bottom. The fly is supposed to look like fly larvae and resembles a skinny worm.

Whistle Lake

Location: About three miles south of Anacortes on City of Anacortes Forest Lands, east of Mount Erie Park. Whistle Lake Road ends at lake.

Season: Open year-round.

Species: Coastal cutthroat trout, resident largemouth bass, yellow perch.

Access: Can only be reached by walking or biking a low gradient road for a quarter-mile. No boat launch.

The scoop: This small, remote lake is stocked with coastal cutthroat trout and has excellent shore-fishing access and trails all around it. May and June are generally good months to fish the lake as well as September and October. The lake is only 37 acres.