Spokane is blessed with 76 regional lakes, and all of them harbor some combination of game fish. This can make choosing which lake to fish a little bit of a challenge. My family has had a degree of success fishing for steelhead the past two years at Rock Lake, which is located about 40 minutes south of Cheney near the small town of Ewan, Washington.
Steelhead are not your typical lake fish, but a last-minute lawsuit in 2015 prevented the release of hatchery raised steelhead smolts in Western Washington rivers, so biologists had to act quickly to find these fish a home. As a result, some 250,000 juvenile steelhead were released in Rock Lake, and the result has been some pretty fantastic fishing. Because they are landlocked fish, they are no longer considered steelhead but are treated as trout in your freshwater catch limit. That first summer, it was easy to catch the 7-9 inch fish by throwing spinners from the bank at the public access point on the south end of the lake.
We returned the following spring of 2016, and by this point the fish had grown to a very respectable 11-14 inches and were still very plentiful. Lacking a proper fishing boat, I rowed our whitewater raft out onto the lake and used my arms for a trolling motor! The fish didn’t mind, and they continued to attack brown and metal colored spinners and spoons regularly. A subsequent trip later that summer was a bit more humbling, however, as we ended a pretty full day with just two fish. Speaking with others who had experienced more success I learned the reason why. Because the weather was warmer, by this point in the season the fish were found deeper in the water—at about 30 feet—while we had been trolling the surface.
If you are like me and don’t have a good fishing boat, then Rock Lake will present some challenges. The public land is limited to a small area near the boat ramp, and the lake in this area is quite shallow – not good as the warmer weather comes. If you do have a small craft, be cautious heading out as strong winds can whip up the whitecaps in no time. Also, some rock formations just under the surface of the water on the east side of the lake can give unsuspecting boaters a nasty surprise, so pay attention and be safe.
Fishing 101: How to Catch Fish at Spokane Area Lakes
If you are researching for places close to Spokane to fish with or without a boat, be sure to check out the resources on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website (wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/Washington). The website has been updated to allow searching for access sites by county and by species of fish, and they also provide a schedule of when local lakes will be stocked and with how many fish. There are also a number of videos that will teach you basic fishing techniques and another “Fishing 101” section with tips on methods, knots, equipment, and cleaning your fish. When it comes to finding the right lake, here are a few lakes close to Spokane that provide decent access to shore fishing.
- Long Lake, also known as Lake Spokane, is the dammed section of the Spokane River downstream from the city of Spokane. As you drive along Highway 291 northwest of Spokane, pass the town of Tumtum where you will find a number of turnouts that provide public access to the water.
- West Medical Lake is located near the town of Medical Lake west of Spokane and close to Cheney. This lake is one of the best producers of trout on opening weekend, but the fishing stays solid for a long time due to the large amount of stocked fish. There is also good bank access.
- Silver Lake, Newman Lake, and Liberty Lake all have good numbers of fish and also have public fishing platforms that get you closer to the action. // (Harley McAllister)