Beardslee Rainbow Trout, Lake Crescent Cutthroat, Kokanee
North of U.S.101 at Sappho
Take U.S.101 north from Forks or west from Port Angeles, and you can’t miss it. Lake Crescent is that deep, clear lake that’s right outside your car window.
Log Cabin Resort is on the north end of the lake and has a single lane boat ramp, rental cabins, tent sites, RV sites, a fishing dock, a store, and boat rentals. You can reach it by taking East Beach Road at the east end of the lake. Fairholm Resort is at the west end of the lake, just off of the highway, and offers similar facilities. In the middle, right alongside the highway is Lake Crescent Lodge, which has a single paved boat ramp with floats and a restaurant with great food. Gas is available along U.S.101 between the lake and Port Angeles.
The Rainbow trout subspecies known as the Beardslee rainbow trout is endemic only to Lake Crescent, and have been known to grow to 15 to 20 pounds in weight, with a few even reaching 22 pounds in weight.
Rules and Regulations:
Responding to a proposal from Washington Trout, Olympic National Park has announced an emergency change to fishing regulations on Lake Crescent. On May 24, Park Superintendent David Morris announced that Lake Crescent and all its tributaries will be open for catch and release angling only. The rule change prohibits the use of down riggers, and requires that anglers use only artificial lures with single barbless hooks and no more than two ounces of weight. The emergency rule took effect June 1, the day the lake opened for fishing.
The new rules are designed to protect Lake Crescent’s population of Beardslee rainbow trout, which has declined to a critically low level. Beardslee trout are a unique form of rainbow trout, native to Lake Crescent, and found nowhere else on earth. They spawn in late winter and early spring in only one small area of the Lyre River, near the outlet of the lake. Washington Trout conducted independent spawning surveys on the Lyre this past spring and found alarming evidence of very low numbers of spawning fish, indicating that the population has experienced a severe decline. This evidence was supported by counts made by Park Service crews that officially counted only 35 spawning redds (slightly higher than WT’s count), the lowest number since official redd counts were begun in 1989.
Fishing Lake Crescent:
It’s rare to find a body of water that boasts a unique species of game fish all its own, so the fact is Lake Crescent has two such species is indeed special. This 5,000 acre gem near the north end of the Olympic Penninsula is the only plave in the world where you can find Bearslee rainbow and the Lake Crescent cutthroat trout. Both are native to the lake and sustain themselves without any supplemental help in form of hatchery plants or artificial propagation, and both grow to impressive size. The largest Beardslee trout ever caught reportedly weighed 23 pounds and was caught by Theodore F. Rixon, an early local engineer and surveyor, who lived for a while at Fairholm. The Crescent Cutthroat record weighed in at 12 pounds. Fish that size need a big meal, and both species feed on the lake’s abundance of kokanee.
To catch the big guy’s troll large plugs and spoons, using downriggers to take your lures into the 90-120 foot range where fish are most commonly found. As in any trophy fishery, though, don’t expect to catch fish every time out, you’ll get skunked more times than not. Although it doesn’t happen often, every once in a while someone casting from shore or around one of the many creek mouths manages to hook into a big fish.
As for kokanee, they’re small but abundant in this cool, clear lake. Trolling accounts for most of them, and when the sun is high on the water, you may have to go nearly as deep as you do for big trout.
Beardslee rainbow trout were originally called Bluebacks because of the deep indigo blue color of the backs of the fish.
Lake Crescent Beardslee Trout 1895
This photograph, shows (left) Lester A. Beardslee, Rear-Admiral, United States Navy, and (right) Michael J. Carrigan, Port Angeles, WA newspaper publisher, real estate developer, and Mayor elected in 1896. The caption says “Bluebacks from Lake Crescent, Washington; Two Hours Work, October 28, 1895”.
Rear-Admiral L. A. Beardslee fished for Bluebacks at Lake Crescent during visits of the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet to Port Angeles, in 1895 and 1896. Rear-Admiral Beardslee wrote to Dr. David Starr Jordan about the fish and enclosed photographs with the mail. At the time, Dr. Jordan was the leading American ichthyologist and the first President of Stanford University. After further investigation, Dr. Jordan named the trout after Rear-Admiral Beardslee.