Fall Trout Whereabouts: Goose Lake offers prime mountain spot

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The author holds a chunky Goose Lake cutthroat trout. The lake’s cutthroats draw anglers to the lake in October. Jeff Otto/for the Columbian

Goose Lake is well known for its great autumn trout fishing. On our first excursion to the lake my son Jeff and I wondered: would it live up to its reputation?

It did.

Just a short walk from the truck I spotted a small school of large trout hanging just off the bank in 3 or 4 feet of water. Quickly tying a Rooster Tail Spinner onto the 6 pound-test line, I tossed it near the fish only to watch as they scattered like cockroaches when the lure hit the water.

I then cast well beyond the school to avoid spooking them and brought the spinner through the school. I was rewarded with a viscous strike from one of the larger trout. After a spirited battle, I brought it to the bank.

It was a fine looking cutthroat trout. Covered in spots and with bright colors on fins and sides, it was thick and heavy. It was just the first of many really nice trout caught during the day. Our catch included cutthroats, rainbows and brown trout.

Fall trout fishing can be excellent. As the days shorten and the waters cool the fish go on the bite to prepare for the long winter.

Goose Lake is just one of over a thousand lakes across Washington that offer fine fall fishing. There are hundreds of choices within a couple hours drive of Vancouver.

Goose Lake is in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest about 10 miles west of the city of Trout Lake. From town, follow state Highway 141 to Carson Guler Road (National Forest Road 60).

Steve Chard of Lyle was putting his boat out for the day. Three weeks earlier Chard and four friends had pulled heavy limits of trout from the lake.

He’d come back for more. His trick was trolling worm harnesses slowly around the lake. He uses no flashers or attracting spinners, just the worms. And, while the fishing was good that day he said it will only get better.

“It will really pick up after we get a frost or two. That’s when you can get the really big ones,” said Chard.

Goose Lake does hold some trophies. Brown trout over 10 pounds have been caught here.

Most anglers fish Goose Lake from small craft such as rowboats, inflatable rafts, or float tubes. The favored method is to troll slowly around the lake’s many channels with bait, flies, or lures. Some anglers toss spinners into the deeper holes.

According to Chard, Goose Lake is a shallow, clear lake and the trout are nervous about boats.

“It’s all about keeping everything back away from the boat,” he said.

Obviously, you don’t need a boat to catch Goose Lake trout. Walking the bank and tossing spinners or bait works well, too.

Goose Lake was formed when a landslide blocked a small canyon and you can still the see the ancient trunks of old-growth trees that were flooded during the lakes formation. The old flooded creek channels still exist today and give the lake a little more structure than many high elevation lakes.

Gas powered motors are prohibited on Goose Lake. The limit is five trout per day. Always check the regulations before fishing any body of water.

Forlorn Lakes

The Forlorn Lakes are just a short drive north of Goose Lake. These lakes offer fine fishing without the heavy numbers of anglers that congregate on Goose Lake.

“Forlorn” seemed like a good name. We found no other fishermen there. We did find lots of rainbows in the 5 to 6 inch range and a few tiger trout as well, including one about 14 inches long.

Most alpine lakes are rather round with gently sloping banks and that describes perfectly the Forlorn Lakes. In this kind of water a float tube or small craft will get you out to the deeper water where the larger trout hide.

Fall not only triggers a good trout bite. It also brings warm days and cool nights without the swarms of mosquitos and mid-day heat that can make summer fishing less fun. Fall also means impossibly scarlet vine maples, and bright yellow foliage on many shoreline trees.

Fall colors, fine temps, few bugs, big trout, and fewer people. What’s not to like about fall trout fishing? Just remember that the snows will come soon, and then many lakes will be inaccessible until next summer.

Black Friday opener

Several local lakes will be stocked ahead of the Black Friday (Nov. 24) trout opener. The WDFW started the fall program a few years ago, and it has been quite a success. Battle Ground Lake, Klineline Pond, Kress Lake, and Rowland Lake will all be well stocked with trout ahead of the holiday. If you are not into shopping and crowds, give trout fishing a try instead.

Buzz Ramsey’s tips for fall trout

Yakima Bait’s Buzz Ramsey loves to fish for fall trout. Here are a few tips gleaned from this Northwest legend.

• Tip your spinner, plug, or other lures with a small bit of scented soft-plastic trout worms. A 1/4 or 1/2 inch piece of Berkley “Gulp” trout worm will add some sweet scent, often just enough to trigger a strike.

“Sometimes tipping your lure with a bit of scented worm can mean the difference between a slow day and a hot bite,” said Ramsey.

• Fish shallow early, and deeper during the mid day. Ramsey reports that trout will move deep in clear water as the sun rises.

• Cloudy, rainy days can be the best time to fish during the fall. A bit of mist or slow rain can really trigger a bite.

• In clear water, dark colors work well. Ramsey likes to fish brown or black Rooster Tails when fishing gin-clear water.