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The “Pay to Play” Lakes Of Eastern Washington

The “Pay to Play” Lakes Of Eastern Washington

It was over 12 years ago now that I first paid to fish a pond. I was traveling home to Seattle with my daughter, who was about six years old at the time, and when we passed a U-Fish sign outside of Cle Elum I turned off the highway. My daughter hooked and landed a 22-inch rainbow all by herself, and when we were leaving she said, “Gee Dad, now I’m a real fisher just like you!” I’ll never forget how she beamed at me with pride, and I think this is why so many anglers will visit pay to play lakes: memories.

The list of clients that frequent the pay to play lakes that I have become familiar include combinations of fathers and daughters, fathers and sons, good friends, and of course business associates. No matter what the combination, the aim of the outing is to have a day of trout fishing that will be remembered for a long, long time.

I had a chance to visit several of these lakes in Eastern Washington this past season, and if you have ever had the desire to give one a try, this is what is available.

Isaacs: Anyone who has inquired about these kinds of lakes would know about Isaacs. It has been around a long time and has been visited by hundreds of anglers. There are two lakes here actually, in a class high desert setting. It is located on the plateau between Mansfield and Banks Lake. One lake is managed for size, with rainbow to 14 pounds having been landed here, and browns to 30-and-a-half inches. The second lake is managed for numbers, and when I visited Isaacs on a cold and wet day in June, I caught 2 to 4-pound rainbow till my casting arm cramped. To learn more about Isaacs, contact Darc Knobel at the Blue Dun Fly Shop in East Wenatchee at (509) 884-4070 or e-mail him at

Here’s an example of an Isaacs Lake Rainbow

Baseline: Constructed as a private water ski club, Baseline is long, narrow, and shallow. Located just off I-90 outside of George Washington. Baseline offers lots of shoreline with plenty of room for back casts. It also offers lots of big triploid rainbow trout, and added brown trout to the mix this past season. Triploids are being used in many of these pay to fish lakes, as they grow very fast and are also very aggressive. Baseline trout can reach 10 to 12 pounds, with lots of fish ranging from 3 to 7 pounds. Information on Baseline can be obtained again through the Blue Dun. On a hot summer our family enjoyed the shade of the shelter and the nearby Port-A-Potty. Ask for Jeremy Kendall, or e-mail him at

Baseline trout grow big and healthy!

Moccasin Lake: Moccasin is another that has been around for a long time, and is now managed through Sun Mountain Lodge. It is located just a few miles from the lodge outside of Winthrop. Moccasin offers high mountain scenery and ice often remains here through April. There is good access for casting along the shore, and there are boats available, too. Rainbow to 30 inches can be taken in Moccasin, but most will be smaller, and there are some very nice browns in the lake as well. The lake also sports a nice shack for a mid-day rest. To book a trip here, you can dial 1-800-572-0493.

Moccasin has been a popular quality fishery for years

Andrews Lake: This is a new lake operated by Dick Caryl at Cascade Outfitters in Omak. The lake isn’t too far from the town of Omak, and is on the “back forty” of a working ranch. On my first visit here we spotted two different black bears on the far end of the lake, and a nice whitetail buck. This is a very scenic spot with a real feeling of seclusion, although not far from town. Caryl planted the lake this past spring with triploids of 3 to 12 pounds, and they have thrived. Anglers can expect to wear themselves out casting from the limited shore access, or do the same paddling around in the small Livingston provided.

Dick has added a couple of picnic tables and a Port-A-Potty for the comfort of anglers. To arrange a visit to Andrews call Dick at Cascade Outfitters at (509) 826-4148.

Andrews grows big trout and boasts some of the best scenery

Walker Lake: This is another of these that offers beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife, including a pair of nesting bald eagles, and something the others don’t—a large lodge right beside the lake. Walker is at about 4,000 feet above the small (don’t blink you’ll miss it) town of Wauconda, which is about sixteen miles from Republic. The lake can be fished from shore, but most prefer to use the small boats that are available. Walker offers both rainbow and brown trout to about 22 inches. The lodge is a real attraction, with a huge, stone fireplace, large kitchen area, and plenty of room for sleeping and lounging during the mid-day break. To check on conditions and book a trip to Walker Lake Fishing Camp, call Araia at (509) 486-1270. She can also be reached via e-mail at

Crumbacker Lake: Crumbacker can be reached by driving about 12 miles north of Omak. It can be seen just below the highway on the left. When you drop down to the lakeshore, though, you enter a world of quality fishing. Troploids to 30 inches are cruising this pond, and some of the prettiest brookies you will see in North Central Washington. Brookies to 16 inches are possible here this season. Crumbacker isn’t a large lake, and can be covered thoroughly from a tube or pontoon boat. It has enough depth to allow for healthy fish and plenty of natural food for the kind of growth that Okanogan County lakes are known. Crumbacker is definitely more than meets the eye. For a very special getaway to Crumbacker Lake, call Dick at Cascade Outfitters at (509) 826-4148.

Crumbacker anglers can expect brookies like this and larger

Blackstone Lake: This 13-acre lake is located just outside the town of Ellensberg, and although I fished it on a cold, mid-February day, the rainbow were eager and feisty. Don Dicken, who owns the lake, manages it to assure lots of action. He keeps the lake loaded with rainbow that average over 18 inches and adds a generous number of fish that are much, much larger. Rainbow over 10 pounds are a possibility here. Blackstone can be covered very effectively from a float tube or pontoon boat, but I fished it from the shore and by walking along a small ismus and did just fine.

This Blackstone rainbow barely fit into my net

I was using a floating line and a bead head Wooly Bugger style fly and caught 10 fish in the first hour. A sink tip line is something that Dicken recommends, and when the water warms I can understand that this would be a benefit.

The lake is typically open from about mid-March through June, and then again from about October through November. The number of rods allowed on the lake, like all others, is controlled to assure the best possible fishing experience for those who visit the lake.

To learn more about Blackstone Lake and arrange a day of fishing on, anglers can call (425) 990-1220.

These lakes are quite various. Some more scenic than others. Some offer amenities that others don’t. One thing that is common with them all. They are all managed to limit the number of anglers allowed a day, and how often anglers are even allowed to fish. They are all designed to provide anglers the best possible fishing experience that can be offered.

Although they definitely appeal to fly fishers, they aren’t necessarily exclusive to fly-fishing. It is important to call first and learn about the specifics of the policies of each lake. It is also important to note that some lakes will open or close earlier than others, depending on the weather conditions, and most all of these lakes will be closed during the heat of summer to avoid over-stressing their fish. Catch and release is also the rule on almost all of these lakes. I should also mention that most all of these lakes serve a list of clients that return year after year, and available dates can be scarce. Be sure to call early in the season to establish availability.

People will visit a pay to play lake for many reasons. For many it’s the same reason they will hire a guide when fishing unfamiliar waters. They just want the maximum experience that their time and money can get them. For whatever reason you may have to visit one of these lakes, be confident that they are all designed to give you a fishing experience that you will talk about for years to come. The delight of my daughter’s experience at even a lowly U-Fish pond is one I’ll never forget.