Wow! I think that I have a new favorite lake. I got up at 2:30 Saturday morning for a 3:30 departure and estimated arrival at Riffe Lake by around 8:00. With the usual early am departure difficulties and a stop for breakfast we arrived at the ramp in Mossyrock Park at around 8:30-9:00. To us the water level seemed low but we don’t have a base line to work from. Boat launched and bladders empty we slowly motored away from the boat ramp, trying to avoid the largest of the floating debris. Although we were headed towards the dam we ended up starting at the point across the lake from the launch area. Running 4 kokanee rod/reel combinations we started with a variety of dodger/lure offerings. We ran four distinctly different dodgers followed by a mini squid, a custom tied spinner, a custom spin-n-glow set-up and a custom smilie blade rig. All lures were tipped with shrimp. All gear down we got to the business of locating the fish and figuring out what depth they would bite at.
The first rod to get bit was dragging a chartreuse swing blade dodger followed by a green mini squid. With this new found knowledge I swapped a couple of the other dodgers for chartreuse dodgers and continued the hunt. We did numerous lure changes and the next fish hit a green based custom tied spinner running behind a wonder bread dodger. As we approached the general dam area a pattern in the fishes lure preference was starting to develop so I changed all the lures to some form of chartreuse and chrome. In the end we were running chartreuse/chrome spin-n-glow, my custom chartreuse and chrome spinners or chartreuse smile bladed mini squids. By the time we made the first pass along the buoy line we had it dialed in and were consistently catching fish with multiple hook ups being the norm.
After some experimentation, our favored trolling speed was 1.7 mph. We metered fish throughout the water column and caught fish at various depths but the most consistent producers were 1 color on the lead line rigs and 12’ on the downriggers. We were running the rigs about 75’ behind the downrigger clips. With limits for the boat we headed for the ramp by 11:00-11:30. Our fish, a mixed species bag of 10”-22” fish. After a series of drag burning runs and aerial acrobatics we lost a much larger fish but are not sure what it was.
Fish identification in this lake can be quite a challenge. We caught fish that I am sure were Kokanee (bright silver no spots at all), landlocked coho (silver/w spots and dark tongue), rainbows and our mystery fish for the day. The fish looks like a bright just in from the ocean steelhead but it had 14 rays in its anal fin, a dark tongue and only had spots along its back. I don’t think that it was a large landlocked coho, in part because it had spots on all over its tail. The identification confusion leads me to a question. When fishing Riffe, if you catch a fish that can clearly be identified as an adult or jack a salmon or steelhead do you mark them on the appropriate catch record, or do the landlocked rules apply?
After we pulled the boat out of the water, we explored the area. We drove thru all the camping areas and boat ramps at Riffe Lake. It is quite a place and we are already planning a camping trip. I am looking forward to learning the fishery and further exploration. On the way home we stopped at the Barrier Dam and watched a guy catch a nice chinook, changed a flat tire and then stopped in Napavine to give great grandma some fish before continuing north. Overall it was a great day of fishing and exploration. Riffe Lake is solidly on our return to list.