Spirit Lake


Sculpin Enterprises
Pfournier asked me a legitimate question about my C&R concerns at Spirit Lake and I think that I'm able to articulate my answer. As a scientist, I view the eruption at Mt. St. Helens as an amazing natural experiment. How large would your NSF grant have to be to achieve that much habitat change???? More seriously, what happens when a productive habitat experiences phenomenal changes in a an eyeblink? How does it recover? There has been tremendous insights into natural recovery processes as a result of the scientific research that has been conducted within the National Monument (see also Yellowstone after the fires). I would assume (but I don't know for sure) that there has been some research on Spirit Lake as well. Adding in fishing, even C&R fishing, would introduce a confounding variable that would make it more difficult to interpret the data. Like Coldwater, there would tremendous excitement among the fishing community at first - forbidden fruit and all that. But then the size of the fish would fall - see Coldwater. Now, would that decline occur because of the fishing pressure or because the productivity of the lake declined as the woody debris decayed or the mix of food sources changed through succession or some combination? Messy experiments (and "natural experiments" are already messy) lead to messy interpretation. I guess that just because a lake has fish in it, I don't feel that I have to fish it, especially when there are many others around.

Regarding C&R in general. C&R does cause mortality. We all know it. We can argue over how much mortality occurs. I'm careful, as I'm sure we all are. I'm most comfortable C&R fishing when I know that the population is strong and healthy. I take the bass fishers philosophy - if I don't kill it today, I may be able to play with it again tomorrow. I'm less comfortable when my transitory pleasure may cause a long-term degradation in a fish population, yes even an introduced fish population. These concerns have come up in the past on this site regarding fishing for searuns in the spring or native steelhead on the OP rivers or the Skagit system. Even if a fishery is open, there are conditions in which individuals may make a choice not to participate. Others may make a different decision and I respect their decisions too.



Active Member
My Mom spent much of her summers as a kid at the YWCA camp on the east shore of the lake. God, how she used to drone on and on about how freaking beautiful it was. When I was still a teenager she conned Dad into taking her and me up there circa 1978 or so. So we drove up there on a gorgeous summer day and rented a boat from Harry Truman himself (half-plowed with a beet-red nose at the time).

I was flabbergasted. It was the singular most beautiful place I have ever seen. Maybe not as "grand" as the Grand Canyon, but just as breath-taking. And yes, Dad and I took some spinning gear. You could see the white pumice shoreline recede into the depths 60 feet or more. If you look carefully you could see planter-sized rainbows cruising the shore. We caught several. Nothing big, but nice 8-10" hatchery dinks, just right for the frying pan. These were not fish you would find thriving in a frozen-over, sub-alpine creek. As I remember they looked like any other planters, with a chunky build and rounded fins.

I have a hard time believing anything other than native cutthroat (or possibly brookies) could winter over in the feeder creeks, - let alone survive the eruption. It shouldn't be difficult to determine if the fish in there are native or not. If they are I believe we should leave Spirit Lake alone as a gigantic natural experiment. If they were planted, the experiment is already tainted and we might as well enjoy the "new" lake. The old one certainly wasn't conducive to fishing being so pure (devoid of nutrients). The new lake has plenty with all those magnificent trees (some 8' -10' in diameter) floating in it. Not to mention the influx of nutrient rich volcanic mud. No suprise the fish in there now are steelhead sized. Should it be opened I would argue for FF only to keep bait out of the lake. Some yahoo's using live shiners like has happened at Diamond lake in OR, is the last thing we need to happen there.

If they open it, I'll be dragging my toon or driftboat up there in a heartbeat. Hopefully that will happen while I still have a chance to take my Dad.


Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater
I had always heard that some fish survived in creek valleys that were in the lee side of the eruption. Not sure if that is true or not.

Either way, I agree with Silverfly. One of the most beautiful places ever before the eruption. I never did fish the lake, but we caught steelies in the North Fork Toutle above the lake in the 70's.
I know there are numerous opinions on Spirit Lake but can anyone tell me what the current official line is?

Is the possibility of fishing 'under review' or out of the question at present? Is there any active lobbying of the decision makers going on or are people generally prepared to abide by whatever the powers-that-be decide?

Stuck in England, it won't affect me either way but it is an intriguing debate. As an aside, what do the scientists among you say to an opinion I've read elsewhere that if scientists can't assess the effect of volcanic eruption on a body of water inside 30 years, then maybe they're in the wrong line of work...?
yup spent a lot of time there as a kid caught mostly good sized cutts there best thing was harry truman always talking with us kids and to be careful of the bears, one day we caught him in a bear suit:rofl: first bear i ever heard cuss when he tripped:rofl: like antthing we get to do there is always a minority that will either force it to remain closed or not use it unless you are willing to put up with ll the extreme rules and policies:beathead:
thanx smitty
Open it to selective gear rules that are actually enforced, control the access and number of rods on the water by permit... maybe a lottery system, you apply to fish the lake, you get accepted and then you choose what day or days you get to fish.
If you can't make it your slot go's to someone on the standby list.
The state would need to manage it like a trophy water and atleast pretend that they were trying, there are tons of extremely well managed private waters all over the country that have excellent fishiing that is sustainable becuase they are well managed and not abused.
Anyone caught poaching or fishing illegally gets to walk up and down the access road wearing nothing but a sandwhich board sign that explains the consequences of breaking the law!

With that said, where do I sign up to catch some mutant fish that apparently fell from the heavens into the lake?