One of Washington’s premier fly fishing-only lakes, Chopaka Lake offers anglers exciting fishing in a beautiful setting.
Chopaka Lake is so close to Canada you can practically see across the border, and the remote location means that you may be able to find solitude depending on what time of year you choose to fish the lake.
Two gravel boat launches enable easy non-motorized boat access, so grab your canoe, your best fly rod, and get out on the water!
Rainbow trout are what you’ll be catching in Chopaka Lake, and they’re receptive to being caught on a wide variety of methods.
During the spring and fall, when fish are a little more aggressive, try fishing streamers through the depths of the lake and along the shoreline.
Callibaetis nymphs are the go-to if you’re deciding to try nymphing for the day.
If you’re looking for something more explosive, try fishing terrestrial patterns – particularly grasshoppers – along the banks.
You won’t catch as many fish as you would if you were trolling or stripping streamers, but there’s nothing quite like watching an 18-inch trout explode on your hopper.
The fish in Chopaka Lake aren’t trophy-size (with a few exceptions), but they’re not small.
The average fish in the lake is between 12 and 18 inches, and they’re plentiful. On a productive day, you could find yourself catching and releasing a couple dozen rainbows.
You are allowed to keep a single trout per day as long as it’s at least 18 inches, but most fly anglers here release the big trout to fight another day.
If you’re looking for more keeper trout, there are lots of options listed in the Okanogan County link at the bottom of this article.
As an example, Wannacut Lake is one spot in the general vicinity with lots of harvest opportunity as well as some fly fishing, and the county article will point you to others.
When to Fish
Chopaka Lake is open and accessible from late April through October. The bulk of the pressure on the lake is during the spring, and you’ll be fishing with plenty of company if you choose to fish in May or June.
As the warmer summer months bear down on the lake, though, the fishing pressure subsides.
This is mostly because the fishing becomes less productive during the heat of summer – the water temperatures in the lake frequently surpass 70 degrees during the day.
Fishing when the water temperatures are so high is usually unproductive, and it’s very unhealthy for fish to be hooked and fought when the water is so warm.
If you can avoid fishing the lake during the warmer parts of the day from mid-July to late August, it’s a good idea to do so.
If you do end up heading to Chopaka Lake during the dog days of summer, focus your efforts on the early morning hours and late evening hours, when the water temperatures are most bearable for the fish.
The fall is another great time to fish Chopaka Lake, as the water temperatures are cooling down and fish are preparing for winter.
Once October hits, though, keep an eye on the weather forecast – Chopaka Lake is in a region that gets quite cold and receives a lot of snow, even as early as October some years.
Location and Access
If you head out to Chopaka Lake, odds are you’ll be spending a night or two at the campground next to the lake.
It’s in an extremely remote region in north-central Okanogan County. The lake is more than 250 miles from Seattle and more than 150 miles from Spokane, and there are no major cities nearby.
The closest city of any size is Oroville, to the east at the southern end of much larger Osoyoos Lake, which is split between Washington and British Columbia. The town has a population of about 1,700, but it’s still a circuitous hour’s drive from Chopaka Lake.
There is some lodging around Oroville, but if that doesn’t suit you and you don’t want to camp, consider staying across the border in Osoyoos, Canada. You’ll be around an hour from the lake, but it’s the closest town with a couple of hotels.
The bank around Chopaka Lake is wide open, and you can have productive days bank fishing, particularly if you focus your efforts on fishing terrestrial patterns along the shoreline. Stripping leeches can also work well.
As is typical for most lakes, you’ll find the most success if you have a boat to fish from. Motors aren’t allowed on the lake, but a canoe or kayak is perfect for navigating the still waters of the lake.
Chopaka isn’t a big lake, at about 150 acres, so you won’t have to work too hard to get around.
There’s nothing quite like this scenic lake near the Washington-Canada border.
If you’re an avid fly angler and want a chance at some big rainbows in the mountains, Chopaka Lake is a great choice!
Carter Reschke is a freelance writer based in Oregon. Passionate about the outdoors, Carter is a fly fishing aficionado and spends his days on the river when he’s not writing.