5 Overlooked Lakes for Big Trout in Washington State

As avid anglers, we are always on the hunt for monster trout.  Whether we are targeting giant rainbows or chunky browns, Washington State has an abundance of opportunities for huge trout.  

Every year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks hundreds of lakes with millions of trout.  While most anglers fill their limits with dinner-sized stocked trout from local lakes, savvy anglers make their way to lesser known trophy lakes in search of giants.

We all dream of catching big trout that consistently blow past 20 inches and weigh several pounds or more.  Through research and experience, we were able to find some of the best trout fishing lakes in the state.

Here is a quick look at 5 overlooked lakes with big trout in Washington State.

1.  Rock Lake

2.  Bonaparte Lake

3.  Omak Lake

4.  Lake Chelan

5.  Potholes Reservoir

If you’re looking to hook into huge trout without the crowds, then keep reading to find your next trout fishing hot spot.

1.  Rock Lake

For those who have their sights set on giant browns, look no further than Rock Lake.  As the largest natural lake in eastern Washington, Rock Lake covers 2,189 acres and stretches for nearly 7 miles through the desert landscape. 

Rock Lake is situated one hour south of Spokane.  A single boat launch is located on the southern end.  Bank fishing is limited to the boat launch area so this lake is best fished from a boat.

Brown trout consistently top 10 pounds with a few documented at surpassing 15 pounds.  However, there are also plenty of browns in the 18 to 20 inch range to fill the voids.  To sweeten the pot, big rainbow trout up to 24 inches long swim in these waters too.  Most have impressive girths that will put a smile on your face for sure.

Rock Lake has a tendency to muddy up with run-off from farms and precipitation.  The quality of fishing depends on timing.  Late February through March is an excellent time to hit the water if you can stand the cold.  Fishing can be good through late spring depending on the weather.  Rock Lake shifts to a decent warm water fishery as temperatures rise and the trout move deep.  Trout fishing picks up again in the fall as temperatures cool.

Just about any fishing technique works to pull trout from this lake.  However, trolling is the tactic of choice for anglers looking to net a few kype-jawed browns.  

Rapala crankbaits, spoons, spinners and flies all work.  You can simply adjust the depth to match the situation.  Most of the big trout are hanging near the rock drop-offs that are common along the steep edges of the lake.  Just like its name, Rock Lake is studded with rock humps that are dangerous to boaters.  Exercise caution and stick to the center of the lake when traveling at speed.  

2.  Bonaparte Lake

If fishing picturesque mountain lakes teaming with large rainbows, brook trout and record sized tiger trout isn’t your thing, then you should skip this lake.  

Bonaparte Lake produces some huge trout indeed.  In 2015, this small 151 acre lake produced the Washington State record tiger trout that weighed in at 18.49 pounds.  But this wasn’t the last big trout to get pulled from the clear, pristine water.  Each year both boat and shore anglers yard in 20 plus inch trout on a regular basis.  

It’s a long journey from the Seattle suburbs to Bonaparte Lake.  As a result, only a handful of anglers dot the lake on any given day.  However, the fresh mountain air and stunning scenery makes the long drive to north central Washington worth while.  

A private resort on the west shore offers quaint cabins and partial hookups for campers.  A nice restaurant and bathroom with showers rounds out the amenities for anglers looking to spend a long weekend on the lake.  A gravel boat ramp provides access to the main body of the lake as well.

Other primitive USFS camping is available on the south end.  Drinking water, flush toilets and a boat ramp are within easy walking distance of the campsites.  Keep in mind that the boating speed limit is 10 mph.  This is a lake best fished with smaller boats and electric trolling motors in order to fool these wary trout. 

Bonaparte Lake is excellent year round.  Several feet of ice covers the lake from January through March but that doesn’t keep anglers from hauling giants through the ice.  5 pound trout are not uncommon.  Spring and early fall yield the best catches as trout cruise the shallows for small minnows and insects.  

Troll along shallow edges that skirt deep water with minnow imitations like cranks, spoons and flies.  Early morning and late evening is prime time for shoreline anglers using bait.  Lead weights measuring less than 1 and 1/2 inches are prohibited to protect the summer loons that flock to the lake. Use steel sinkers instead. They are available for purchase at the resort shop.

3.  Omak Lake

Tropical blue water and giant Lahonton cutthroat trout await the intrepid angler on a visit to Omak Lake.  This 3,244 acre gem sits within the boundary of the Colville Indian Reservation and is the largest saline lake in Washington.

The high salinity of Omak Lake makes it the perfect habitat for the Lahontan cutthroats that were first stocked back in 1968.  While other trout species can’t tolerate the water here, this special strain of cutthroat thrives and reaches impressive sizes.  The current record is over 18 pounds but 5 to 10 pound trout are common.

Despite being known as a trophy trout lake among anglers, Omak Lake still grants solitude on most days early in the season.  One reason is that it requires a special tribal fishing license.  This can be purchased at most sporting good stores or the Walmart in the town of Omak and costs $10 for a one day license.

Public access is permitted at boat launches located on the northwest end of the lake.  However, shoreline access is prohibited for non-tribal members on land surrounding the lake, except for the boat launch areas.  Respect all tribal rules during your visit.

Most of the fishing season is catch-and-release until June when three fish can be retained (only one over 18 inches).  Only artificial flies and lures with barbless hooks are allowed.

Trolling large plugs, spoons and spinners is the most used tactic.  Stick to the shoreline in early spring and fall where you can expect to find large cutthroat holding near submerged rock structure in depths of 20 feet or less.  Later in the season, this lake transitions to a deep water fishery best enjoyed using downriggers.

Fly anglers also do well with streamers that mimic small minnows and sculpin which provide prolific forage for predatory trout.

Stiff winds create heavy chop so be cautious when fishing from a small craft.  

4.  Lake Chelan

Visit Lake Chelan on any summer day and it’s apparent that this lake is far from secret.  As one of the most popular water recreation areas for Washington residents, you won’t be alone on this 50 mile long playground.  

Although, that doesn’t change the fact that it is still an overlooked fishery for huge lake trout.  It’s also only one, of a handful of lakes, in the state that offers a chance to catch one of these denizens of the deep. 

Anglers target lake trout in deep water using downriggers all year and good fishing is expected during most of the season.  The state record lake trout, caught in 2013, weighed over 35 pounds.  

Trolling attractors like dodgers and lake trolls are the best way to entice big fish to strike.  Follow that with a spin-n-glo or spoon and you’re all set.  Downriggers are essential for tracking down lake trout in Lake Chelan.  At its deepest, the lake is 1,500 feet but most lake trout are found in 50 to 110 feet of water.

Most anglers that target lake trout also catch decent sized cutthroat and rainbow trout reaching 18 to 20 inches.  On rare occasions, you may hook into land locked chinook which are hard to come by and a welcome treat.

Several public boat launches are available along the southern end of the lake but shoreline fishing is extremely limited.  Camping is available at two state parks; Lake Chelan and 25 Mile Creek.  Several resorts and plentiful cabin rentals also cater to tourists looking to enjoy a long weekend of fishing.  

Most of the lake is surrounded by beautiful, steep mountains and sightings of mountain goats, deer and bear are common for anglers hitting the water early in the morning.  Watch out for frequent winds that rip down the deep canyon on most afternoons.  

5.  Potholes Reservoir

It’s hard to beat Potholes Reservoir when it comes to fishing success for countless fish species.  Most of the excitement each year is focused on the exceptional warmwater fishery of bass, panfish and walleye.  Yet, only a small group of anglers know what Potholes has to offer for anyone searching for big trout.

Located only 7 miles south of Moses Lake, the 28,000 acre reservoir consistently pumps out rainbows averaging 3 to 5 pounds with some hitting 10 pounds.  Winter and early spring are the best times to target trout on this lake.  Water temperatures rise quickly in the desert and trout move to deeper water by early June.  

Most trout fishing occurs from boats.  Medicare Beach, along the reservoir’s east shore, is a prime starting spot for anglers looking to troll up some trout.  The area surrounding MarDon Resort also boasts good trout fishing through late spring.  

Trolling dodger and flashers with a Wedding Ring style worm harness is a favorite.  Later in the season, as trout move below 30 feet of water, downriggers and electronic fish finders are necessary to consistently locate trout cruising just off shore.  

Plenty of lodging or camping is available around the area.  Boat launches are scattered around the lake.  Bank fishing for big trout is possible with sliding egg sinkers, worms and powerbait.  MarDon Resort has some of the better bank fishing with a day-use fishing pier available.

Conclusion

You never know where your next trophy trout may come from.  Sometimes you just have to get out and go fishing.  Try one of these 5 lakes and enjoy some solitude, great fishing and maybe a new personal best trout.