Cascade Lake at Moran State Park is often the best fishing lake in the San Juan Islands.
The Orcas Island lake can be stocked with more than 100,000 rainbow trout each year, matching many of the bigger lakes on the mainland.
Now, before you get too excited, the great majority of those fish are young trout that first have to survive life in the lake to make it to catchable size, but another 6,000 or so (at last check) go in as legal-sized fish.
The 175-acre lake also is home to smaller numbers of resident coastal cutthroat trout and kokanee, and in recent years there was an unauthorized introduction of largemouth bass.
Unlike the rest of the San Juan Islands fishing lakes, Cascade Lake is seasonal, opening to fishing on the fourth Saturday in April and closing at the end of October.
You can buy the two-pole endorsement if you want to double your odds of catching trout or other fish here.
Trout and Kokanee Fishing
Trout fishing will be best during the early season each spring, when the cooler water and best fish numbers of the year combine for fast action.
Fishing will be a more casual pursuit by mid-summer, when swimmers and kayakers are more common and bites are harder to come by but still possible.
Both trout and kokanee will tend to move into deeper water during the summer, so make sure you’re fishing where the fish are.
The deep water at Cascade Lake is located in the northwestern part of the lake, where there is plenty of water in the 50-foot range and a small hole plunging to about 70 feet on the far side of the lake across from the boat rental and concession stand.
Trolling should be a good approach for trout and also a top method for catching the kokanee, which are a good summertime fish when you can find them and if you have the equipment to reach them.
Down riggers are a good bet for reaching deep kokanee, but weights or weighted line also can do the job if you don’t mind pulling in all that bulk.
Bait fishing will be good from the shoreline and fishing dock when the trout are in shallower water.
If you are fishing for trout in hotter weather, try that northwest corner to get within casting distance of cooler water. There are steep banks and rocky shorelines in this area.
Look for the trout fishing in particular to pick up again all over the lake in September and October, as the cooler water and coming winter prompt the savvier cutthroats and surviving rainbows to feed more heavily.
Tourism also will be down considerably once Labor Day passes and the fall rains arrive.
Bass and Panfish Fishing
If you want to try for the new fish on the block, the largemouth bass, these predators often hunt for crayfish, smaller fish, insects and other forage in shallower waters.
The south end of the lake is generally shallow. There’s also a cove on the west side near mid-lake (behind the foot bridge where it connects to the main lake) that might be worth at least a quick look.
Anglers also report catching pumpkinseed sunfish in Cascade Lake.
These sunfish tend to be small, but they are fun and easy to catch.
While both species are non-natives and can have a negative impact on trout and kokanee, on the bright side these fish are more active in the summer when cold-water fishing is tougher.
Also, both bass and sunfish tend to be in shallow water near weeds and other structures, more easily in reach for bank anglers.
Fishing at Mountain Lake
While you’re thinking about fishing at Cascade Lake, you’ll be close to the other lakes in Moran State Park.
The other big lake is Mountain Lake, is just up the road and actually a bit larger than Cascade Lake.
Mountain Lake isn’t stocked as heavily as Cascade Lake, but it at times can be quite good for trout and perhaps kokanee.
At last check, Mountain Lake was modestly stocked with cutthroat trout.
You might also catch some rainbows and Eastern brook trout.
There’s also a nice campground with sites right on the water, and this is a cool kayaking lake.
The smaller Twin Lakes in the park may offer some modest trout fishing opportunities as well, but they are not stocked as regularly as the big lakes.
If you’re on a hike to these little lakes, maybe throw in a rod and see what happens.
Planning Your Trip
A half day of fishing at Cascade Lake makes a nice addition to your visit the San Juan Islands.
Where is Cascade Lake?
The pretty lake is located along Olga Road near the main entrance to Moran State Park on Orcas Island, three or four miles driving beyond Eastsound, the major commercial area on the island.
The lake is right on the way for visitors heading up to the popular viewpoint atop Mt. Constitution.
Fishing and Boating Access
Bank anglers will find plenty of spots to fish from shore from a hiking trail that encircles Cascade Lake.
There is a nice fishing dock right at the day-use area, near the concessions stand, that should be productive in the early season and potentially again in the early fall.
You can rent a small watercraft in the same area or launch your trailered boat from the campground area a little farther south on Olga Road.
Camping and Amenities
Moran State Park has three camping areas on Cascade Lake alone, in addition to camping on nearby Mountain Lake and elsewhere in the park.
There also are resorts, other rentals as well as food and supplies in Eastsound and elsewhere on the island, which is served by Washington State Ferries.