Pass Lake thoughts...

Ian Horning

Powerbait Entomologist
I'm curious about the experiences other folks have been having at Pass recently.

Weeds. Across the board in Western Washington all of the lakes I've fished this year have an incredible amount of weed growth compared to years prior- Pass lake has certainly followed suit. I've only fished it for five years or so, perhaps not enough time to really observe large-scale changes in the lake's chemistry, but I have noticed a general uptick in shallow weed growth in recent years. Still, I've never seen anything like the weed growth already this year. The milfoil beds are larger than normal, in some cases by a factor of 2-3 from what I've seen in the past and encroaching further into the lake. The worst stuff, however, is this stringy grass that comes to the surface from about 7-10 feet down and completely chokes out large sections of the shallows- sometimes extending 30-40 yards into the water on some of the shoals. I don't recall seeing these weeds ever before, maybe one or two but they've never caught my eye before. My overall question; is this a "normal" seasonal variation for the lake?

Fish. Hoping other regulars will chime in here. I've noticed substantially slowed fishing compared to years prior...it's still been pretty good, but I'm not seeing as much activity as I have in the past. The rainbows in particular- I've personally caught far less of them this year, but have caught a few that have been larger than I've seen. WDFW apparently changed the stocking regime slightly to planting catchable size fish in the lake as opposed to fry a few years back... maybe this has something to do with it? Maybe just personal experience? Not to mention invasives... I haven't seen a perch this year but recently caught a few green sunfish... I seem to recall most people haven't seen them achieve large sizes in Pass. The ones I caught weren't huge, but definitely the largest I've caught. Has anyone else found this year to be a bit funky in terms of fish activity?

Here's one of the greenies I caught recently:
IMG_7280.jpg


Interested in hearing y'alls thoughts and opinions.
 

BobA

oh yeah!
I have not caught anything at Pass Lake in the 2 times this year. Usually fish for 3 to 4 hours. Water condition has been an issue too!
 

nwtroutguy

The Tug Is The Drug
I'm curious about the experiences other folks have been having at Pass recently.

Weeds. Across the board in Western Washington all of the lakes I've fished this year have an incredible amount of weed growth compared to years prior- Pass lake has certainly followed suit. I've only fished it for five years or so, perhaps not enough time to really observe large-scale changes in the lake's chemistry, but I have noticed a general uptick in shallow weed growth in recent years. Still, I've never seen anything like the weed growth already this year. The milfoil beds are larger than normal, in some cases by a factor of 2-3 from what I've seen in the past and encroaching further into the lake. The worst stuff, however, is this stringy grass that comes to the surface from about 7-10 feet down and completely chokes out large sections of the shallows- sometimes extending 30-40 yards into the water on some of the shoals. I don't recall seeing these weeds ever before, maybe one or two but they've never caught my eye before. My overall question; is this a "normal" seasonal variation for the lake?

Fish. Hoping other regulars will chime in here. I've noticed substantially slowed fishing compared to years prior...it's still been pretty good, but I'm not seeing as much activity as I have in the past. The rainbows in particular- I've personally caught far less of them this year, but have caught a few that have been larger than I've seen. WDFW apparently changed the stocking regime slightly to planting catchable size fish in the lake as opposed to fry a few years back... maybe this has something to do with it? Maybe just personal experience? Not to mention invasives... I haven't seen a perch this year but recently caught a few green sunfish... I seem to recall most people haven't seen them achieve large sizes in Pass. The ones I caught weren't huge, but definitely the largest I've caught. Has anyone else found this year to be a bit funky in terms of fish activity?

Here's one of the greenies I caught recently:
View attachment 243927


Interested in hearing y'alls thoughts and opinions.

Been out 3x this year so far. Interesting that you should mention about the weed beds. I too have noticed that weed beds have developed in places where there have been none before. However, I think that as long as it doesn't get out of hand, its a good thing because they are food factories. The water quality and clarity has been very good....I think so far. And the rainbows have seemingly been above average at 16-18". One tank I landed was 20" and what I would guess as about 3 pounds. Thought I had hooked bottom or a log until it moved. No sunfish for me in a long time.....Lucky I guess.
 

Stonefish

Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
I’ll admit it has been a few years since I fished Pass, but the past few times I fished it it left me less then impressed.
I started this thread eight years ago after fishing it, though I didn’t name the lake but it was indeed Pass.
Eight years....damn time flies.
Maybe there is some info in there that might be useful to the thread.
SF

 

Smalma

Active Member
Without a doubt the management and the resulting fishing on Pass has undergone significant change in the last decade. I thought that there might be some interesting in comparing the fishing stocking program on Pass with 2 other "quality lakes" (Lenice and Lone) some readers here might also fish. All 3 are similar size (Pass at 98 acres, Lenice at 94 acres and Lone at 92 acres) shallow water lakes (majority of the basins between 10 and 20 feet deep) that have a long history of being productive waters growing quality size trout.

The earliest planting records easily available on WDFW's web site was 2012. That year the planting plan for Pass was a 49,000 rainbow fry in the spring and 5,000 fingerling browns in the fall. For Lenice the plan call for a spring plant of 2,250 "catchable" rainbows and a fall fingerling plant of 70,000. On Lone the plan called for a spring plan of 3,000 "catchable" rainbows.

2013 was a year of management change with the Pass Lake spring fry plant reduced to 10,000 with a fall plant brown of 5,280 fingerling. Lenice plan called for continuing the spring "catchable" plant of 2,250 and the fall fingerling plant replaced with 3,000 "catchables". The Lone lake plan remained unchanged with 3,000 "catchables" plant in the spring.

Since the 2013 the plans for Lenice and Lone have remained unchanged through 2020.

In response to some angler concern about the declining condition of the Pass rainbows its plan was changed in 2016 with the number of rainbow fry spring plant reduced to 5,000 and the fall brown trout plant reduced to 2,500. The Pass 2017 plan called for a spring plant of 5,000 rainbow fry and 2,500 fall browns. In 2017 the was for 5,000 spring rainbow fry and 1,300 fall browns. In 2018 it was 5,000 spring rainbow fry and 1,400 browns. in 2019 it was 5,000 spring rainbow fry, 500 spring rainbow catchables (606 actually planted) and 5,000 browns. The 2020 plan continued the 5,000 spring rainbow fry, 500 spring catchables (339 actually planted) and 3,000 browns.

For most it is pretty clear that the Pass and its trout fishery is going through significant changes perhaps being driving by decreasing survival of the spring fry plants due to increasing numbers of competing species (sunfish-both green and pumpkinseed and yellow perch). My observation based on my limiting fishing and other angler reports is that the survival of those fry plants continue to decline this past season. I suspect the next year will see even fewer rainbows though the average size may increase which without management changes will be the future. Without a lake Rehab the Lenice and Lone lake examples indicate that recovering the Pass lake fishery will require increased "catchable" plants. While planting "catchables" will rebuild the numbers of available trout because the "catchables" at a given age are smaller than lake grown trout from fry plants the size of any carryovers (backbone of the "quality" size trout) will be smaller.

Once again it is time for anglers to discuss their desires on those quality water in that old "quantity versus quality" debate which as always will be limited to some degree by the biological limits of the water in question.

What are your preferences; the continuing Pass fry releases, the Lenice model or Lone model?

Curt
 

Kfish

WFF Supporter
Speaking for myself I would like for Pass to be more like Lone. Since I have only a few hours instead of a day to fish it would be awesome if Pass has more browns and rainbows to catch. I'm willing to sacrifice on quality a little to gain some quantity. IMO around 16 to 18 inches are a good starting point :)
 
I fished pass the last few weeks . I find that you have to but a lot time in more than a few hours or fish in the evening time . Pass is a very moody lake you may catch a lot one day and then the next day only a few. I really try to switch things up . If I can’t catch them on chronomids i will switch to trolling if that don’t work i will put on a minnow pattern cast and strip the shoreline . And of course if I see fish rising I will use a emerger pattern and cast to the rising fish. And some of the fish are huge theres a brown that chased my minnow pattern on the far side of lake it looked huge I went back to the same spot the next week and it happened again I started calling the the brown Henry . Henry seems to be always hiding in the weed beds because the minnows are in the weedbeds hiding from Henry . The rainbow are everywhere in the weedbeds and in the deep water and some are huge I hope they keep pass just how it is there is a perfect mix of rainbow and browns and lots of minnows to feed on in my opinion
 

Attachments

  • 55D3DA99-6D69-49AA-8D8C-A13FE2546631.jpeg
    55D3DA99-6D69-49AA-8D8C-A13FE2546631.jpeg
    1.5 MB · Views: 88

Smalma

Active Member
James -
I agree that the current fishery with a high percentage of carry-over type fish (both rainbows and browns) provides an interesting though challenging opportunity for anglers looking for a chance at such fish. I'm just not sure that the fishing we saw last fall and into this year is sustainable. Where are the carry-over rainbows for next year fishery going to come from?

Those carry-over fish are the yearling fish that survived for an additional year to produce those larger individuals we all enjoy at the end of our lines. Because there always is some mortality over the course of the year (from a variety of mortality causes) in a viable fishery there should be significantly more yearlings than carry-overs with the previous year's yearlings becoming this years carry-overs. A simple example would be if the yearling to carry-over survival was 50% we would expect a fishable population that was 2/3 yearlings and 1/3 carry-overs (2:1 ratio).

Perhaps because on my concern about potential survival declines of the fry planted fish because of increased competition from non-salmonids I have been paying attention to the upcoming year-class of yearlings for the last couple years. Last fall that year class of fish while the individual fish were larger there seemed to be fewer of them (even when including those from the catchable plant - adipose fin clipped). My fishing earlier this spring indicated that there were a lot more carry-overs than yearlings; maybe twice as many carry-over as yearlings - a ratio that is upside down from what I would hope to see. The potential impact for the fishing next year is huge - fewer available trout with a dramatic decline in the numbers of carry-overs - much trougher fishery for most of us.

While I hope I'm wrong I'm am expecting a fishery collapse. While I'm an advocate for proactive management - making adjustments prior to that collapse I realize most anglers are unwilling to take those sort of actions until confronted with that collapse. Regardless it is past time for those of us that have enjoyed fishing Pass to have serious discussions on management options and our preferences for the typed of fishery we desire. Equally importantly how those options and desires match with the biologically realities of that ecosystem.

Curt
 

troutpocket

Active Member
Great discussion, Curt!

I wonder if Pass does collapse over the next couple of years, what options does WDFW have to "fix" it?

The Lenice plan of switching over from fry plants to all catchables has resulted in a predictable, if underwhelming fishery. But I don't catch other species there. I have doubts that is a viable solution for Pass because the spinyrays are now well established.

I would guess the sunfish and perch problem at Pass isn't going to get better without making other changes. I've wondered for a while if the WDFW would consider going away from rainbows and instead focus on developing a brown and tiger trout fishery in a situation like Pass that already has a solid prey fish food base. It would certainly be a more challenging fishery and likely require a different approach to be consistently successful. Would a majority of the fly community buy in and have the patience to figure it out if the reward was trophy-class browns and tigers?

If not, that leaves rotenone. Tried and true when done right. But in today's world, is it still really an option to kill off a high-profile lake like Pass? It's one thing to quietly do it out in the desert. But Pass doesn't have resort owners lobbying for a rotenone treatment to bring back local business. I tend to think that left alone to make its own decisions, WDFW will choose the least cost option to keep the fishery limping along.
 

skyrise

CCA, Hatchery Wild Coexist
Bite the bullet and rehab the lake now. It will not get better with perch/sunfish in there. Everyone knows this it’s not avoidable. Can’t think of a single lake where fishing got better after trash fish were introduced. My 2 cents.
 

Ian Horning

Powerbait Entomologist
Good insight all. Thank you @Smalma for detailing the changes to the stocking regime in great detail.

I have yet to see the browns in Pass be very affected by changes in the lake. To be honest I can't recall seeing a skinny brown in pass just about ever. With the prevalence of spiny rays and of course the fathead chub in the lake, highly piscivorous browns have a good food base to work with. I know the browns are eating spiny rays because on a few occasions the larger fish I've hooked have coughed up sunfish. Not to mention, the browns seem to dial on nearshore insect hatches moreso than rainbows do. Often I'll see single fish or pods of fish (mostly browns) rising to take caddis, callibaetis and more in quite a frenzy, sometimes tucked way back under the overhanging trees. Maybe I'm goofed but the browns just seem a bit more opportunistic to the types of food available in the lake.

That aspect of Pass seems to be going well. Anyone have a different take on the browns? Fishing for them has been fairly consistent (for me at least) over the last 5 years and I try and target them specifically.

The rainbows have been the ones that have suffered in the past due to overpopulation or scarcity of food. Not to say that they don't dial themselves in on larger prey either. I target the browns and usually catch rainbows at a 3:1 or 4:1 rate comparatively to the browns. Certain times of the year (or times of the day) this changes a bit. Yet, their numbers seem to be significantly down compared to years past within the same stocking regime. The lake just feels a bit less alive now.

I think one thing WDFW could play with is stocking more browns into the lake, perhaps even doubling their fry plants. If the fry struggle to survive, catchable size browns, similar to the rainbows, may get them over their juvenile vulnerability and they can get right into being eating machines. That, or stocking other piscivorous trout into the lake. @troutpocket mentioned Tigers, which would be interesting, and I'd think that Coastal Cutthroat may be another option. Cutts can survive pretty well in warmer waters and bogs, and are highly opportunistic and piscivorous like browns are.

Other notes- anyone have thoughts on the weed growth this year? I worry that this might become the new normal for the lake- the amount to which the stringy weeds are choking out large areas of the shallows is a bit concerning.

Pass also has a family of otters living on it. I've counted as many as four. Perhaps they are also slowly thinning the herd?
 

Creatch'r

Unhinged Member
Pass is no stranger to cycling up and down. It was only a few years ago when people where complaining about catching too many small fish and that the bigger rainbows looked long and skinny. I don’t mind the quality over quantity program. When I started fishing Pass that was the way it was, maybe you didn’t catch 25 fish but you stood a chance at a good one. There are plenty of places to troll around a wooly bugger and catch 25 12-14” trout, the only fly fishing only catch and release lake in the area doesn’t need to be one of them IMO. Pass had one planting of tigers in it maybe 12 years ago, it only took a couple years before they were off the radar but it was neat while it lasted.
 

bakerite

Active Member
Pass is a lake where rotenone seems to be pretty effective. I wonder what would happen if WDFW would treat and plant many fewer fish for a couple of years to see what would happen.

There are a number of waters on the East Side and here in NEO that seem to do well with trout and Spiny Rays. Potholes reservoir comes to mind as does the Lake I fished today. It's 660 acres when full but gets drawn down to 0 some years, in fact for 5 out of the last 6. The farmers downstream own more water than the reservoir will hold. It is no more than 30 feet deep and is subject to strong winds daily. (There is a wind farm on the hill above it). Besides rainbows it holds, pikeminnows, perch, bass, crappie and catfish. They used to stock 100,000 trout fry a year, then reduced to 60,000 in the fall after the water came back. The past few years they have been stocking pellet heads in the spring because not enough fish in the fall, so this year there may be 10,000 trout in there. It is a great fishery. Today the two year old fish were 17-19 inches and the fish stocked as anemic catchables two months ago were all 12-13 inches and fat. I've caught a few perch that were 12 inches, no small ones. The biologist told me the fish grow so wellbecause the water is mixed by the wind daily and keeps cool enough for the trout. It also supports a huge bank swallow population. I think that draining it every few years keeps the spiny rays from taking over like they have at the upstream reservoir, now if it could just hold water for 3 years at a time life would be great.
 

Ian Horning

Powerbait Entomologist
I too am of the mentality that the large average size of fish / fewer fish management regime for Pass is the way it should be. When Pass is good, under the right conditions it is a phenomenal fishery. I've only ever fished it under the "quality over quantity" management and can safely say there was never a time when I thought the lake felt like it needed more fish.

This year is a bit different story... compared to as recently as this time last year the lake feels like it's at something like 1/3 or 1/2 capacity for trout. It's been a weird year.

It's my understanding that Pass was treated with rotenone a few decades ago due to a perch infestation, and it appeared to work pretty well. I'm personally not of the opinion that Pass needs to be treated again just yet as the fishing has still been pretty decent. Time will tell.
 

Support WFF | Remove the Ads

Support WFF by upgrading your account. Site supporters benefits include no ads and access to some additional features, few now, more in the works. Info

Latest posts

Top