Prime Time for Alpine Lakes

by John Kruse, August 09, 2020

Looking for a way to cool off during the heat of the summer? Head to a mountain lake and be sure to bring a rod and reel because trout fishing can be fast and furious this time of year!

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife there are some 2550 lakes sitting at an elevation of over 2500 feet in our state. Most are located in the Cascade Mountain Range and while not all of them have fish in them, many do. The primary fish you’ll find in these lakes are rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout.

If you are interested in finding high lakes to fish there are two great resources available. One is the high lakes fishing page at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website The other place to go is This popular website is full of fishing reports and is the creation of Mike Carey, an avid alpine lakes angler who has contributed a size-able body of high elevation lake reports over the years.

When it comes to mountain lakes in our state there are those you can drive to and those you hike to. As you might imagine, drive-in lakes get a good amount of pressure though frequent stockings often keeps the fishing good through the summer. The hike-in lakes are infrequently stocked or have self-sustaining populations of fish. Generally speaking, the further you hike, the better the fishing becomes and quite often, the bigger the fish get.

Assuming you hike in resist the impulse to cast from the first place you reach where the trail hits the lake. This is the place that sees more angling pressure than anywhere else. Instead, size up the body of water. Look for sunken trees or large rocks that provide cover for trout that are looking to ambush an easy meal. The inlet and outlet streams of the lake are also good bets since both provide food sources for fish.

Lures and flies both work well for alpine trout. I strongly recommend staying away from bait. These lakes are pristine places and discarded jars of eggs, cartons of worms and colorful Powerbait takes away from the natural beauty found around these waters. I also suggest releasing most of the fish you catch. A shore lunch or dinner of trout wrapped in foil and cooked over a campfire is delicious but if you are not going to eat your fish during your trip let them go. The meat never holds up well after a multi-mile hike and many of these self-sustaining populations of trout are fragile.

With that in mind consider using lures with single barbless hooks. Spinners work quite well (Mack’s Promise Keepers, Blue Fox, Mepps and Rooster Tails are all excellent choices) as are spoons such as Dardevles, small Krokodiles and what may well be the super weapon lure for this kind of fishing, the Acme Kastmaster.

As for fly fishing, if you brought a spinning rod use a casting bubble to get that fly out there into the lake. Dry flies like a Royal Wulff or a Parachute Adams are always good choices but so are streamers and nymphs. Just try to match the hatch and if you are there when the fish are rising, you’ll likely be in business.

If you are using a fly rod look for a rock to stand on or shallow area you can wade out into so you’ve got enough room to cast for distance. Another way to really get at the fish that are in the deep part of the lake is to pack in a float tube. Several companies make lightweight ones, the lightest of them coming in at three pounds from Wilderness Lite.

Put it all together and you’ve got the information you need to hit the trail, head to an alpine lake, soak up some scenery, and catch some trout this summer!

John Kruse – and


A cutthroat trout caught and released with a spinner – J. Kruse
Stuart Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness – J. Kruse


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