By Nicole Kidder-Perry, Reporter
There is nothing quite like that adrenaline rush when a fish strikes the line, followed by that heart-pounding anticipation to discover what you have hooked. Whether you are seeking a relaxing day on the water, an easy way to keep the kids entertained or the next secret spot to land a trophy fishing story, South Stevens County brims with beautiful lakes that are just minutes away.
More than 100 lakes dot the county landscape with dozens providing public access beaches, facilities, and boat launches. Bass, crappie, and perch are plentiful in the region, and there are some monster Eastern brook and rainbow trout to be found. State records on the eastside include a 34.06-pound Northern Pike out of Lake Spokane and a 17.75-pound Blue catfish from the Columbia River. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) regularly stocks lakes with a variety of species, including over 16 million trout and kokanee in the past year, their website reports.
While the pandemic presented some serious operating challenges last year, the WDFW notes that new, all-virtual processes have helped combat the unprecedented closure of fishing and hunting seasons. Officials were prepared for the season opener on April 24 with state-run boat launches seeing a steady stream of enthusiastic anglers despite the overcast weather.
Now that fishing activities are back to normal, the WDFW advises anglers to continue taking precautions. These tips include staying closer to home and fishing only with household members as well as adding a mask and hand sanitizer to the tackle box. Appropriate spacing at launches, between boats and along shorelines is also recommended.
Popular Lake Destinations in Stevens County
The WDFW website lists more than 30 lowland lakes for Stevens County residents to enjoy from public access sites. Other online resources list up to 100 lakes countywide, and hundreds more can be found throughout Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho within an hour’s drive. Parking on Washington state recreation lands requires either the WDFW Vehicle Access Pass or a Discover Pass. Shoreline fishing is accessible through limited areas around boat launches, public DNR lands and resort docks. State launch fees are $7, but private resorts can charge up to $20.
Nine Mile / Tum Tum – Still referred to as Long Lake by locals, Lake Spokane is a favorite spot for southwest county residents. This dammed portion of the Spokane River, which winds between Nine Mile Falls and Tum Tum, is home to more than 20 species of fish. Public launches are accessible at the Nine Mile Recreation Area off Charles Rd. as well as along Hwy. 291 near the Spokane House, at Willow Bay Resort and below Lake Spokane Campground near the upper dam in Tum Tum. Although it is open year-round, boat launch access is limited during the winter drawdown, but the shoreline continues to see plenty of action.
- Riverside State Park: Nine Mile Recreation Area (upriver) and Lake Spokane Campground (downriver), washington.goingtocamp.com, (888) 226-7688 (public)
- Willow Bay Resort, www.wbrvresort.com, (360) 466-4468 (private)
Loon Lake – Sparkling along Hwy. 395 about 28 miles north of Spokane, Loon Lake is another popular destination for sunny days. Known for its kokanee, brown bullheads, and bluegill, this 1,119-acre lake is also well-stocked with planted trout. Along with public access to the boat launch and swimming beach, Loon Lake resorts offer overnight options (RV & tent spaces, and cabin rentals) as well.
- Shore Acres Resort – shoreacresresort.com – 233-2474 (public)
- Granite Point Resort – granitepointresort.com – 233-2100 (public)
The similarly sized Deer Lake, three miles further north on the east side of Hwy 395, has a two-month-longer fishing season and offers an equally exceptional chase for kokanee and lake trout as well as resort camping.
- Deer Lake Resort – deerlakeresort.com – 233-2081 (public)
- Pinelow Park and Conference Center, pinelow.com/facilities, 233-0299 (private)
- Camp Gifford, campgifford.org/rentals, 233-2511 (private)
-– Or, continue just eight more miles north and hook a left on E. Jump Off Rd. Though small at just 105-acres, the trout-planted Jump Off Joe Lake, 8 miles before Chewelah, is another family-friendly spot for year-round day use and seasonal camping.
Jump Off Joe Resort and RV Park, jump-off-joe-resort-rv-park.hub.biz, 937-2133
VALLEY– Anglers and families equally love spending time on the spring-fed waters of Waitts Lake. Located 4 miles west of Valley, the 470-acre lake opened for year-round fishing in 2018. Seasonal camping is available at several private resorts and vacation rentals.
- Silver Beach Resort, silverbeachresort.com – 937-2811 (private)
- Winona Beach Resort, winonabeachresort.com, 937-2231 (private)
HUNTERS – Roosevelt Lake on the upper Columbia River is the major attraction for folks across the region. Framed by an ancient geological landscape, the 151-mile reservoir is accessible through nearly a dozen boat launches and campgrounds from Davenport to Hunters and Gifford to Kettle Falls. Since availability and fees vary throughout the year, and changing COVID regulations have impacted typical openings, consult nps.gov/laro/planyourvisit before making plans. Among the dozen options are the three public campgrounds in the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area as well the Porcupine Bay and Fort Spokane campgrounds.. Adventure seekers can even opt for primitive boat-in campgrounds or shoreline sites along the lake, which are both free but filled on a first-come basis.
Quieter days are best spent on smaller lakes, and options abound throughout the county. Favorite destinations include Potter’s Pond in Springdale and Mudgett Lake 10 minutes outside of Hunters. The quarter-acre Springdale City Pond and 29-acre Bear Lake off Hwy 2 are always open, but only youth, seniors and anglers with disabilities are eligible to catch the stocked Rainbow trout.
For a bit of fun, Washington residents can earn cash through the Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program. This bounty program starts out paying $5 per fish caught on the Columbia and Snake rivers from May through September with tagged fish worth $500. Since the program began in 2011, the Top 20 anglers have averaged $27,836 in earnings while last year’s highest-paid angler made $48,501. wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/creel/pikeminnow
More than 1,000 prizes valued at $38,000 are also up for grabs in the statewide 2021 Trout Derby. The event is open to all ages, including anyone who participates in the Free Fishing Weekend, from now until Oct. 31. Less than two dozen orange-tagged trout worth a $25-$50 gift card are lurking in Waitts and Loon lakes. Three prizes have already been claimed at Bear Lake, but eight more regional locations are participating in the hunt. wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/contests/trout-derby
Fishing Rules in Stevens County
Throughout the state, lake fishing season generally spans from the last Saturday in April through October 31, but rivers, streams and beaver ponds do not open until the Saturday before Memorial Day. Some waterways are open year-round while others are limited only to winter, flyfishing or non-motorized vessels. Fishing for some species, such as salmon on the Columbia River, are typically reduced to a few weeks, and the exact season dates are unpredictable.
Since many locations have specific rules about size restrictions, catch limits and species targeting, always consult the complete Washington Sport Fishing Rules before heading out. The booklet, which is released annually on July 1 with new regulations, is available at more than a dozen South Stevens County licensing retailers, on the FishWA app or online at www.eregulations.com.
All annual Washington fishing licenses expire on March 1. Every resident, starting at age 15, is required to have a license to fish any waterway in the state unless they are collecting relic shells or only catching carp, crawfish, bullfrogs, or freshwater smelt. Anglers cannot keep wild steelhead or lamprey anywhere in the state. Fish tagged by the WDFW, universities and Native tribes have acoustic transmitters in their body cavities. Report tagged catches to (360) 902-2700 with the tag number, fish species, date, and location.
A basic annual pass for freshwater fishing is $29.50, and endorsement fees are added for multiple poles and specialty species like shellfish and salmon. Short-term passes for non-residents start at $11.35. Purchases can be made at local retailers or online. A social security number is required along with a state-issued ID and proof of residency for 90 days. Each license comes with a Catch Record Card and
Vehicle Access Pass for all WDFW land and boat launches.
Children age 14 and younger fish for free in Washington but are still bound to all state regulations. While a youth license is not required, there is no cost, and it allows the child to fish solo. If fishing with an unlicensed adult, then the child must actively engage in the entire process.
For one weekend only, everyone can participate in the Free Fishing Weekend. Scheduled for June 12-13, 2021, as part of the initiative for National Fishing and Boating Week, residents and non-residents can also fish free at Idaho lakes (June 12 only).