Armada vs Sockeye
Baker Lake (located in Concrete, WA about 2.5 hrs from Seattle) has to be the most scenic fishing lake in our state. It looks as if Bob Ross airbrushed Mount Baker as the back drop for this majestic lake. While Baker Lake holds it’s share of rainbow trout and large dolly vardon, the larger crowds don’t flock until the July opener for sockeye season. When I say crowds – I mean an armada of a couple hundred power boats (and a handful of kayaks) all trying their luck at catching a tasty red.
What’s odd about this fishery is that the lake is cut off from the Skagit River by a large dam, making it impossible for these fish to make it to the lake to spawn. Several thousand fish are netted in the Skagit, then trucked around the dam and dumped in the lake over a period of months. It’s primarily a before the crack of dawn fishery . If you’re lucky to find a camping spot on the lake, the sound of power boats screaming across the lake at 4am becomes your morning alarm clock. It was a fishery my buddy, Todd Switzer, and I always wanted to try, so we competed with the power boats on two separate trips to Baker.
The basic set up for catching these fish a size 0 silver or silver /brass dodger followed by a 12-14 inch leader containing a spinning smile blade, a couple of beads, a pink rubber squid (hoochie) and two red 3/0 hooks snelled 3 inches apart. Each hook gets tipped with a cured coon stripe shrimp or sand shrimp for flavor.
Most boats are using down riggers. Our method of fishing is lead core line that can get your presentation down 15-40 feet in front of the fish. Keep in mind this fish can be very finicky. Look for schools of fish. If you can catch one, you can probably catch another. When the bite is on; it’s on and when it’s off, it’s painfully off.
Todd was able to get in a couple of days of fishing the first week of the opener. He was successful; catching his limit of two fish. The largest was a 10 lb buck. We returned to the lake two weeks later, fishing two solid days with poor results. I was able to get one large sockeye along side my kayak, only to break it off before I could get it in the net. I could hear the sighs of powerboats around me after losing the fish.
Should you wish to tackle this fishery-good luck. You have to feel comfortable weaving in and out of boaters fishing multiple rods off the back of their boats. My lead core line was able to hook into two nice sized power boats along the way. As crowded as this fishery was, you couldn’t ask for better scenery.