American Fly Fishing

A Chance for Trophy Trout
By Mike Benbow

Back in the 1970s, Lenore Lake was barren because its waters are too alkaline to support most fish. But in an experiment, fisheries biologists caught a few Lahontan cutthroat that that were already thriving in the alkaline waters of Omak Lake on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state and put them in Lenore. They survived.

            So Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fisheries biologist Bill Zook sent to California for some eggs from Lahontans, the largest-growing subspecies of cutthroat trout. Alkaline waters can be good for insect life, so the fish grew quickly in Lenore and fishing for them was popular, especially in the lake’s north end, where the Lahontans, in their seasonal spawning mode, gathered in spring near a fish trap that WDFW had set in an inlet creek to collect eggs. WDFW used the eggs to spawn trout, and then reared them in a hatchery, restocking the long, narrow lake with some 70,000 fingerlings each fall. The lake attracted crowds of anglers each spring, causing some to refer to the fishery as a “zoo” because of all the fly fishers crowding the north end.

            A friend of mine called the other day…he reminded me of the days 10 or so years ago when we went to Lenore and caught 20 to 30 fish between us at the north end. He said the Lahontans reminded him of a smaller version of Skagit River chum salmon. They don’t jump much, but they are a strong, powerful fish, he said.