Easy access and friendly small-town life make this a road trip to get away and fish, relax, and leave the hustle and bustle of the city. All these lakes are within an hour’s drive or less from each other. 


This is a road trip where you can fish a new lake or two each day and catch a lot of fish. 


Trout fishing is often a staple to anglers, both young and old. For most of us, it is the fishery we learned on and grew our passion for angling with. Oftentimes we expand our fishing for other species and only trout fish once or twice a year before moving on to salmon or other fish. But then there are the “trout purists” that never leave rainbow, brown, or cutthroat waters. Either way, trout are part of our angling lives and if it has been awhile since you picked up that trout rod, or you are just looking for a few new places to try and catch some of the most popular fish species then a road trip to North Central Washington is a good starting point.

The furthest Northwest state in the lower 48 has some great fishing, but even more interesting is the variety of climates this state offers. From rainforest on the coast to arid sage covered hills to the northeast. The Palouse flats of wheat, canola and native grasses fill the fields that are cut with basalt cliffs where water cut through the plains of the North Central part of the state and its rich trout lakes. Water here is “hard” and often filled with alkaline making it difficult for fish to live, with the exception of a few trout species. Rolling hills at the base of the Cascade mountains offer views, solitude and good fishing in spring and even better in early fall.



With the rural counties of Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan in North-central Washington the angler can find solitude and good trout fishing. Easy access and friendly small-town life make this a road trip to get away and fish, relax, and leave the hustle and bustle of the city. All these lakes are within an hour’s drive or less from each other. Another reason why trout fishing here should be a “destination” fishery.

Roses Lake is nestled behind the small town of Manson that sits on the shores of Lake Chelan. This is one of four lakes that were supplemented with water through a collection from streams that flowed out of the mountains and caught by a wooden flume. The water was then used to irrigate the apple orchards in the valley. Once a winter only lake Roses went to a year around regulation several years ago, but it still gets most of its yearly trout plants in November and early spring.


Some lakes are popular with anglers and boaters while others are almost void of anyone.


The lake is 178 Acres and has a WDFW access site that was just revamped this past spring. It now has handicap fishing access with a bulkhead that is ADA accessible. There is a single lane cement boat launch and small dock to help with launching boats. Shore fishing is available at the public access site, but the shore has a lot of cattails and other shrubs that make it hard to fish from the bank. This lake is perfect for small rowboats, medium-sized power boats and those that like to fish from float tubes, pontoons, and kayaks.



Rainbow trout are the primary target here but there are other species of fish including some tiger trout and brown trout which were planted to keep the invasive species down. This lake also offers catfish, bass and sunfish when they sneak up from Dry Lake and the connector stream from the irrigation days. The lake is no longer used for irrigation and does have a natural spring located in the northeast corner. The northwest corner is a deep hole and both of these places are good to fish when the weather turns warm. This lake fishes best in the winter but late fall is another good time to hit the lake.

Wapato Lake is within a mile of Roses Lake and is a spring-time opener with a closing date of October 31st. This lake is very popular with the lowland lakes state-wide trout opener as it is planted yearly with catchable trout. There are two fishing “resorts” on the lake that offer camping and some shore access. For the bank angler there is access along the south side of the lake down a very steep embankment, but this lake is mostly a boat access lake. There is a public boat launch with limited park-ing, and it can get busy in early spring but is almost void of any boats in the fall which is a good time to fish this lake.



Antilon Lake is the first lake formed by the Manson Reclamation District that also formed Wapato, Roses and Dry lakes. It is located primarily on Forest Service land and offers great bank access. This lake has German brown trout and crappie and is a good lake for a car topper, kayak, or float tube. There is no improved launch and the road to Antilon is a rough dirt road. There is no way to launch a power boat at Antilon and the road is rough enough that it will tear up your trailer. That is what makes this lake so perfect for the trout angler trying to get away from the crowds. Electric motors are allowed and a small boat trolling a spoon, Promise Keeper spinner, Sonic Bait-Fish, MagLip 2.0 in frog pattern, or other lure is a good way to spend an afternoon catching browns. Fly fishing is also popular here. The shoreline is often lined with cat-tails, though there are several spots where you can camp lakeside and fish. Be aware of rattlesnakes at this lake as the surround-ing area has a lot of them. It is not uncommon to drive the dirt road that goes along the north side of the lake and see more than one snake using the rocky roadbed to keep warm in the evening.


Small spinners and spoons work well in these lakes. It’s a good idea to try a variety of colors.


The best thing about Antilon lake is the camping. Since the lake sits on Forest Service lands and is lined with an unimproved campground on the north side there are plenty of places to camp away from other people. It is best fished early in the morning, but it also has a good evening bite. The lake is shallow and the waters often warm up by mid-summer, fish this lake in the spring and fall. Be sure to check the regulations including those posted by the Forest Service for any additional camping or parking passes needed such as the Northwest Forest Pass for the improved area at the northwest side of the lake.



Alta Lake is located just outside of the small town of Pateros about twenty miles north of Lake Chelan and eight miles south of Brewster. One of the best things about Alta Lake is that it lies north and south with a large cliff along the east side of the lake and Billy Goat mountain on the west side. This means it has a shade line until mid-day that extends the summer fishing by a few hours. Then in early afternoon the shade hits the west side of the lake and makes for a comfortable evening fishery. The lake offers both rainbow trout and kokanee.

As you drive through the small valley just before the lake you will notice a public golf course. This is a great way to spend the hot summer afternoons between fishing early morning and evenings. Alta Lake State Park offers access as well as good camping. This lake is often overlooked as a place to stay and fish because most that head to this part of the state are fishing the famed Brewster Pool sockeye and Chinook. Alta is a good “base camp” for a family vacation as you can fish and enjoy the lake, then head to the small town of Winthrop about an hour away, which is an old cowboy frontier town. The Methow River flows nearby for some great fly fishing and there are several other lakes nearby.



Rat Lake is just north of Alta Lake and is closer to the town of Brewster. This lake, like Roses Lake, used to be a “winter only” fishery but in 2018 it became a year around lake. At 62 acres it offers a public boat ramp and good trout fishing for both rainbows and brown trout. This lake is surrounded by sage covered hills and gets hot during the summer. It is best to fish this lake in the fall when you will find solitude as most anglers have moved on to other fisheries in the area.


In lakes were bait is legal adding scent to lures and flies will increase catches.


Jameson Lake is large at 457 acres and sits along the rolling Palouse eight miles south of the tiny town of Mansfield. This is a very popular trout lake and receives good plants of rainbows. Anglers head here in early spring and then return in the fall. This lake is probably the most popular of lakes in the fall but that is because it has good fishing and two resorts with one on either end of the lake. Camping is very popular here as well and weekends get very busy, especially around opening day in springtime. This lake gets a large plant of fingerlings in late spring which grow to catchable size by the closing at the end of October. This allows for trout to grow all winter and carryover fish are the main staple come opening day in late April.

For the fly angler Northcentral Washington offers several great fisheries and some unique trout to chase after. Lahontan cutthroat from Pyramid Lake in Nevada have found home in the region’s alkaline rich lakes. These fish grow large and are very aggressive for the fly angler. In some desert lakes WDFW has planted tiger trout which is a hybrid of brown trout and brook trout. These unique fish were first bred in hatcheries in the 1970s through a process where they “heat shock” the fertilized eggs. This adds an extra chromosome making the fish sterile. Tiger trout are known to be aggressive towards other fish and are often planted in lakes where spineyrays are present to decrease their numbers through predation.



For the Lahontan cutthroat head to Grimes Lake in Douglas county and near Jameson Lake. Grimes is fairly large and can be intimidating at 187 acres, but fishing is good along the shoreline that is lined with cattails. Here small boats, pontoon and float tubes are needed to get past the shoreline. Some anglers will troll lures as this lake is not restricted to fly fishing only. The Lahontan’s are known to be big and readily biters but during the heat of the day they often go deeper to colder water. Early in the day try choronomids and emergers and in the evening a dry fly hatch can create a fun fishery. For lures the most popular are Pee Wee Wiggle Hoochies and various Smile Blade spinners which were perfected by local guide Jeff Witkowski.

Dry Falls Lake is very popular with the local fly fishing groups and for good reason. Here you can catch rainbows, brown and the tiger trout. At 88 acres it is a good lake for a float tube or pontoon. The area around Dry Falls lake is basalt rock so don’t venture to far into the surrounding sage as there are a lot of rattlesnakes that live in the area. The lake has good access and lies within the Sun Lakes State Park. Be sure to read the regulations and additional passes, such as the Discover Pass, might be needed since it is in a state park.



Nearby Lake Lenore is probably one of the most known lakes in the region due to the Lahontan cutthroat that call it home. In the late 1980s and through the 1990s this lake was known to produce huge trout. It was fished all year and ice fishing for the big fish was popular. Unfortunately, a poaching ring took most of the brood-stock fish as they swam up feeder streams to catch basins that the WDFW used to collect eggs and milt for hatchery enhancement of the lake. Since then the lake has rebounded, but the fish haven’t grown to the pre-poaching days. Fortunately their numbers are increasing. This is a good lake to fish in early spring as ice comes off or in the fall when the temperatures cool down and the fish cruise the shallows on both the north and south end of the long lake. There are WDFW access sites along the lake, but no internal combustion motors are allowed so it is popular with float tubes, pontoon and car toppers with electric motors.



This is a road trip where you can fish a new lake or two each day and catch a lot of fish. You can enjoy a variety of species and vistas—from rainbows in a lake surrounded by pine trees to tiger trout and basalt cliffs. If you like to fly fish or throw lures each of these lakes can offer you the opportunity to catch trout. Some lakes are popular with anglers and boaters while others are almost void of anyone. It is time to hit the road and find a lake or two that suits you and enjoy what this part of the region offers.




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Robert Andres

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