By Mike Carey
Imagine a kokanee lake where you can consistently catch 13-15” beautiful fat, shiny kokanee and not have one single other trolling angler around you for three straight days. And it’s only two hours away (plus 30 minute ferry ride). That’s Lake Sutherland, and this weekend JoAnn and I and our dogs Diesel and Rudy were in kokanee heaven. I was honestly surprised. I know it’s off the beaten path, but not that far away. I’m here to tell you, if you’re looking for a destination 2-3 day get-away, you really should consider this lake.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon and fished the evening, then Sunday morning/evening, and Monday morning. The weather couldn’t have been nicer – sunny, light winds, and not too many people on the lake. As noted above, until Monday morning we were about the only one fishing, and Monday maybe there were four boats.
The lake isn’t huge; it’s about 1.5 miles long, and 360 acres. The west end is a larger round area, and narrows as it goes to the east end. The lake has a nice WDFW launch with adequate parking. The depth contour is pretty straight forward, quickly dropping off from the shoreline to a maximum depth of around 80 feet or so. There are a couple unexpected underwater humps just to keep things interesting. The shoreline is ringed with vacation cabins and houses, and high, tree-covered hillside. To the south shore is Baldy Ridge, to the north can be heard the sound of cars on highway 101. It’s not bad though, and overhead bald eagles remind you that you are away from heavily populated regions. That said, Port Angeles is a short fifteen miles away for groceries and places to eat.
The one negative I’ll warn you about is the pleasure boaters and jet skis. On Saturday and Sunday during the day they were annoying to say the least. But early morning and after dinner the lake was pretty much left alone which we appreciated. Also, we had none of the “close encounters” that we normally experience on lakes in more populated areas. Perhaps they were so surprised to see people trolling downriggers in a boat they kept a respectable distance.
The lake holds kokanee rainbow, and cutthroat trout. In addition, it has a connection to saltwater via Indian Creek which flows to the Elwa River, and there is a kokanee limit of 18”, to protect wandering sockeye – yes, sockeye. I have no idea if there are any in the lake, but WDFW has the limit in place so you may actually hook one someday in your trolling patterns. So how was the fishing you ask?
First off, there is no two pole endorsement on this lake, so JoAnn and I ran two rods using traditional kokanee gear, corn, shrimp, and maggots, trying various colors and patterns as we worked to figure the lake out. From the moment I turned on the fish finder it was alive with fish marks. There was not one spot on this lake that didn’t hold good numbers of fish! They ranged from the thirty foot range down to sixty feet and deeper. I was salivating at the prospect of hooking lots of feisty kokanee, and was not disappointed (eventually). Saturday evening and Sunday morning was tough and frustrating. We caught five fish and it felt like a struggle. I went through colors and dodger/sling blade combinations searching for the “right” gear. The fish that we did catch were beautiful, shiny, plump and good sized. The lake obviously has plenty of feed and WDFW has not over-stocked. We did get into a few 8-9 inch one year fish over the weekend, but most of our fish were 13-15 inch.
Sunday evening, however, everything changed. Growing increasingly frustrated and feeling my kokanee skills being average at best, I decided to switch up and try one rod with a thin blade spoon in front of a watermelon medium sling blade, with one piece of corn on the hook. Bingo! At 6:30 pm we witnessed one of the better kokanee bites I have had. For the next hour and a half this rod was constantly dancing. The magic depth was 48 feet, and I wasn’t messing with success, keeping it there, catching a fish, dropping out gear back down, and repeat. We ended up catching six and losing six, as we got used to the wild, high energy jumps and escape maneuvers of these fish. The other rod? Nada, traditional hoochies? These fish were for the most part totally uninterested. They wanted that TBS (in fire orange/pink). We fished until 8ish and came in feeling redeemed.
Monday morning and you know what I was running. Oh, I tried hoochies just for fun, but once again the thin blade spoons (the smaller the better) were just out fishing anything else I put out there. We did run into more of the one year class fish, maybe mornings they are more active. We called it early at 9:30am after another active session of fish catching. Our finally tally for the long weekend was fifteen fat, shiny kokanee, and we lost probably around ten keeper fish besides. Pretty good fishing once we unlocked the secrets of Lake Sutherland. I hope this inspires you to give the lake a try and unlock it’s secrets as well.
*Editors Note - this article was first published on NWFR in 2015.