I was fortunate enough to learn this fishery a few years ago and I have not looked back since. This is a great fishery that not many people choose to fish. Lake Washington is close to Seattle and only has a dozen people that fish the lake regularly.
Lets talk about the basics for the Lake Washington trout fishery. This is a troll fishery that requires nothing more than a downrigger and a good light action trout rod. My rod of choice is an Okuma SST Kokanee rod 7’6″ in length with a palm size reel spooled with 10lb P-Line.
Herring is my bait of choice for these winter trout. Sockeye smolts are present in the lake from winter to spring and these trout gorge themselves on them. I like to run orange label herring in a basic salt brine. To make the brine, I use kosher salt and distilled water and then add the frozen herring to the brine eight hours prior to fishing. I put two buckets in the bait cooler, both with the salt water brine. In one bucket I will sometimes throw in some green bait dye to color up the herring. On a tough day of fishing the addition of color to your bait can often put more fish in the net.
The set up for these trout could not be more simple. Run the herring on a solid mooching rig with hooks to match the bait size. From your main line tie on a six bead-chain swivel then tie on your leader. Add the herring and your off and trolling.
These trout seem to be real boat shy so let your gear out 100′ and then attach it to your downrigger clip. As far as the downrigger clips go be sure to switch over to the small trout size clips because the trout can’t pull the line from the big salmon size clips. This might seem like a small detail but details catch fish and being lazy won’t.
With the lake temperature dropping the fish will begin to slow and not want to use much energy to find a meal, so you need to put the bait right in the path of the fish. Watch your electronics close and keep working your gear to stay in the money zone. I like to start out fishing at about 1.4 to 1.9 mph and adjust accordingly. If you’re marking fish and not getting bit, switch something up. Speed up or slow down, switch out your bait or add some new scent. You need to keep working to keep catching.
I hope this inspires you to try something new this year and you never know, you might just help save a few steelhead from the dinner table!