Next stop: premium panfishing
When the wind is on good behavior, an angler would be hard-pressed to waste precious fishing time by cruising on I-90 past the Sprague exit.
Rehabilitated in the fall of 2007 to restart a fishery that was terribly out of balance with carp, stunted panfish and uncooperative walleyes, Sprague Lake is blooming into a heart-stopping fishery.
Channel catfish, largemouth bass, bluegills and black crappie were stocked in various sizes last spring. The oldest among them should be pulling off their first spawn this spring. Premium panfishing is just a few years off.
To keep anglers busy in the meantime, the lake since last spring has been stocked with more than 500,000 trout of various sizes that are growing like feeder pigs on the lake’s annual bumper crop of aquatic insects, particularly chironomids.
“We’ll not see in my career another lake that will grow fish like Sprague Lake,” said Chris Donley, Washington’s district fish biologist.
The lake is open year-round.
“We’ve had growth rates greater than a 12 inches in the year after first putting these trout in the lake,” he said, noting that some of the trout are running a thick 20 inches.
“Don’t expect to catch a fish on every cast or in every corner of the lake,” he said. “Take a boat and use your fish finder. On a good day you should catch five to 10 fish, and some will be very nice.”
The trout have been stocked in various sizes, including the initial jump-start of 3,000 triploid rainbows that averaged 1.5 pounds when released last spring.
Subsequent plants included roughly 80,000 fish running 6-11 inches and 250,000 fry.
Last fall, the Fish and Wildlife Department seasoned the lake with 55,000 “fall fry” in the 5-inch range. Most of the trout are rainbows, but the fall plant also included 80,000 Lahontan cutthroat.
The most recent plants of about 35,000 catchable-size rainbows and 3,000 triploids occurred just last month.
The lake is served by Sprague Lake Resort on the east end and Four Seasons Campground and resort on the northwest side.
In addition, there’s a public launch (WDFW parking permit required) on the south side and a private launch area that charges a self-serve $3 parking fee.
Cow Lake, which is downstream from Sprague Lake, was treated with rotenone at the same time and restocked with rainbows. The waters also are rich with insects that enable trout to grow large.