Sockeye, Kokanee, Dolly Varden, Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout
Last Saturday in April. Sockeye salmon opening date dependent on run.
Closing date: October 31st.
North of Concrete in the Mount Baker National Forest
Take Highway 20 east from Interstate 5. About five miles east of Hamilton, turn left (north) on Baker Lake Road and follow it about 17 miles to the first of several roads leading right toward the lake.
U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and boat ramps are located at Horseshoe Cove, Panorama Point, Park Creek, and Shannon Creek, all on the west side of the lake, and Maple Grove, on the east side of the lake. The nearest food, gas, tackle, and lodging are back on Highway 20 in Hamilton and the town of Concrete.
Baker Lake, River, and the damn information:
Baker sockeye are native to Baker Lake and Baker River, tributary to the Skagit River. Baker sockeye have been exported to other waters of the state including Lake Washington. Artificial enhancement began in 1896 when the state built a hatchery on Baker Lake. The natural run at that time was estimated to be approximately 20,000 fish. Lower Baker Dam, which was constructed in 1925 creating Lake Shannon, blocked access to the lake. A ladder and “elevating contrivance” was constructed to provide passage. Adults were released above the dam to spawn naturally.
Construction of the Upper Baker Dam, completed in 1959, inundated the valley that included the natural Baker Lake. Artificial spawning beds were constructed at the upper end of the new Baker Lake to mitigate for loss of natural spawning beaches. These “beaches” were first used in 1957. A newly refurbished sockeye spawning beach will be used in 2011, near the new (2010) hatchery facility located below Baker Lake. The entire escapement of adults is now trapped below Lower Baker Dam and transported above the dams. Some are placed in the artificial spawning beaches, some are used for hatchery production, and others are released into Baker Lake to spawn naturally. Natural spawning takes place for the most part in seeps and springs at the head end of the lake and in the lower Baker River. Sockeye may also enter other tributaries. Fry from the artificial spawning beaches and from hatchery production are released into Baker Lake and Shannon Lake, where they rear naturally. At the smolt stage, sockeye are captured at both dams and released downstream below lower Baker dam to complete their seaward journey.
Adult Baker sockeye enter the trap from mid June to mid August. Numbers peak in mid-July. Spawning occurs from late September through December, peaking from late October to late November. The preseason forecast for the 2012 return is 35,366 sockeye salmon.
Recent research indicates that a significant portion of the kokanee salmon or “silvers” taken in the Baker Lake sport fishery may in fact be “residual” sockeye. These are offspring of sea-run parents that have not gone to sea after a year of rearing in freshwater and may spend their entire life in a lake. True kokanee are self-sustaining freshwater populations. Successful spawning by residual sockeye or kokanee has not been documented in Baker Lake although individuals presumed to be residuals have been observed with adult sockeye in spawning areas.
Fishing Baker Lake:
2012 Kokanee trapped count on Baker Lake: 27,559. Total transferred to the lake: 16,666. Kokanee/Sockeye draw most of the attention on this 3,600-acre Baker River impoundment, where kokanee anglers can be rewarded generously. The waters down around the south end of the lake, near the two dams, often produce the best kokanee catches, but if you pay close attention to your depthsounder/fishfinder as you explore the lake, you may find a school of these little salmon almost anywhere. Popular techniques for catching Baker Lake sockeye salmon include trolling, both with the use of downriggers or without. The fish can usually be found from as deep as 70 feet up to the surface, with the depth often depending on light conditions and time of day.
Popular lures for catching Baker Lake sockeye are a bare red/pink hook or trimmed pink hootchie, trolling .6 – 1.0 mph, behind a chrome or pearl (0/0 to 0) dodger with a 8 – 14″ leader. Downrigger works best, 35 – 50 feet deep, otherwise a 6 or 8oz sinker 25 to 35 strips down (60-80 feet of line). Early morning and late evening are the most productive times.
Special rules: Waters within 200-foot radius of pump discharge at south end of lake closed to all fishing. Keeper trout (kokanee, rainbow, cutthroat) must be 6 inches minimum, but no longer than 18 inches maximum. Daily trout limit is five. Chumming (feeding to attract fish) is permitted. For other gamefish statewide rules apply. Salmon, native char (bull trout and Dolly Varden) and wild steelhead may not be retained.
As with kokanee, you might find a respectable rainbow trout or dolly varden almost anywhere on this big reservoir, but I recommend fishing around the mouths of the many streams that flow into the lake. You may find the fresh, moving water, lake that near the mouths of Sandy, Little Sandy, Boulder Park, Shannon, Noisy, Anderson, and other creeks entering Baker Lake. We troll triple teazer’s Dick Nite, Canadian Wonder, or similiar wobbling spoons in silver/red head, and don’t be afraid to troll in the middle depths of the lake, or even deeper if you are looking for trophy sized rainbows. The view is simply amazing.