Some of the best bass fishing in Eastern Washington is in a shallow lake in the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains north of Spokane.
Eloika Lake regularly produces good-sized largemouth bass, and good numbers of bass to boot.
Five- to six-pound largemouths are reported every summer. These are big bass for the eastern edge of Washington, where long, cold winters shorten the growing season.
Eloika Lake not only is one of the better largemouth bass spots in the Inland Empire, it’s also a very good lake for panfish and has a decent brown trout fishery, among other angling opportunities.
For most of the fish in the lake, good prospects kick in about mid-spring and last to early fall. There is potential for a spike in the action again in about January for ice fishing.
The 662-acre lake also supports brown trout, bullhead catfish and several other fish species.
The natural lake is by the West Branch of the Little Spokane River. The lake mostly runs north to south, with a maximum depth of only about 15 feet and an average depth of under 10 feet.
Some people have reported that Eloika Lake gets its name from a Native American term meaning a lake with Dolly Varden, although that may no longer be an accurate description. (More on trout and char later.)
Largemouth Bass Fishing
Eloika Lake is a prime spot for bass anglers, among the best largemouth fishing lakes in Washington. Ole bucketmouth loves the shallower waters and the weed beds along the lake edges.
Bass fishing is best in spring and summer though early fall, when these fish are spawning and actively feeding.
You can cast from the bank here, but your chances of getting a big one are nearly always better from a boat or canoe.
How to Catch Bass
Bass fishing is best in the evening. Plastic worms, silver-sided crankbaits and spinnerbaits are top lures.
For some real excitement, throw topwater plugs like a JitterBug or a buzzbait.
When topwater fishing, it’s best to wait until you feel the fish to set the hook.
If you try to set the hook when the bass explodes on the lure, you’ll snatch it away from the fish. Savvy anglers won’t look at their lure when fishing topwater for this reason.
Double your excitement by fishing for bass at night. Noise-making lures like the legendary Sputter Buzzer or Devil’s Horse are excellent. Fish slow.
Bass will often strike at the sound at night, and they frequently miss your lure.
That is why you need to fish something that moves slow. In-line buzzbaits work well in the lower light of evening, but not in the black of night.
The sides of the lake, with the sharper inclines, also hold bass. Use diving crankbaits here. Cast either to the shore and retrieve it back or parallel to the shore.
These lures should run three to six-feet deep.
You should come stocked with a variety of colors to catch bass. Green is a top producer, followed by black and chartreuse.
Find the color the bass are hitting by trying out different shades or checking with other anglers. Rainbow trout patterns on crankbaits and soft-side lures can be excellent producers.
Fly fishermen should use streamers or eel imitations below the surface. On top, white mice and big grasshoppers will often draw strikes.
Because the lake is shallow, you can do nearly all your fly fishing with a floating line. If you need to get deeper, use flies with a bit of weight and a longer leader.
When to Catch Bass
For much of the season, the bigger bass will be in the deeper water until late in the evening. They come to the shallows to feed.
Bass like to spawn over sand or small gravel in spring. Bass fishing is red-hot during May.
You might be able to sight fish for them at this time of year. Look for a bass hovering over a depression on the bottom.
To convince them to strike, throw a plastic worm, lizard or crawdad past the bed. Pull it to the bed and wait.
Quite often a bedding bass will gently grab the lure and move it. You will not set the hook if this happens.
Cast again. Eventually, the bass will inhale the lure. Set the hook.
Release the bass as soon as possible so it can return to the bed and protect the eggs.
Bass grow slowly at Eloika Lake and a six-pounder may be 8-10 years old. Catch and release is recommended to maintain the fishery.
Post spawn, the male bass tend the fry for a few weeks. Look for minnows playing at the surface in the weeds. Those are baby bass.
Daddy is certainly nearby. Cast the lures you used for bedding bass and hang on.
Weeds and lily pad fields are common in summer. These areas hold bass.
You need weedless lures like a Texas or Carolina rigged worm to fish there. Use at least 10-pound test to horse the bass free.
Trolling for bass also can be extremely effective. It is so good, trolling is not allowed in major pro bass fishing tournaments.
Follow the edges of the lake, pulling your lures through water about six feet deep. Bass will rise and swim down to attack your offering.
Largemouth slow down a lot as the water cools. Cut bait or a slow presentation that stays in the same area for a while can draw strikes.
These ideas should offer you plenty of opportunities to catch bass at Eloika, but read some more pointers in our simple bass fishing how-to article.
The lake has a 9-inch size limit and 10-fish creel limit on crappie to help maintain a quality fishery, which we rate an honorable mention on our rundown of best crappie fishing lakes in Washington.
The specks here are black crappies. They are as good fried as the white crappie.
Crappie are most easily caught on small rubber jigs, spinnerbaits and tube baits. Worms are the top live bait. Cast around structure.
Tiny silver spoons can be retrieved or jigged over structure.
At the beginning of spring, crappie will head to each end of Eloika Lake and to the small sloughs along the sides. They gang up in a pre-spawn ritual.
Two-pole fishing is allowed with the permit. That’s a good option for crappie anglers. You can run a pole from either side of a boat as you troll looking for a school.
Night fishing is excellent. Minnows are attracted to lights, which draws in the predator fish like crappie.
If you chase them with a fly, try a tandem rig. Use a tiny plain minnow imitator first. The second fly should be larger with some mylar for flash.
Peak crappie fishing months are April and May then October and November, although they also can be caught through the ice.
Learn more about catching these fine fish in Crappie Fishing: Simple Techniques and Tips.
Perch is a great fish for beginners. Kids can quickly catch a limit. When you find one, more are sure to be nearby.
Wigglers and other worms, even a short section of a nightcrawler, are standard fare for perch fishing anywhere.
But if you can get your hands on maggots or mealworms, though can be even better for perch.
On Eloika, you can fish baits under a cork due to the shallow waters, though perch schools are often closer to the bottom. Try fishing deeper if the bobber isn’t working.
Morning and evening are the best times to catch these fish. They feed when the light levels are lower.
If you chase perch with a fly rod, try a wooly bugger or a streamer with some mylar tied into it.
May and June are the best warm months while yellow perch are one of the easiest fish to catch ice fishing in the winter, if the ice conditions are safe.
If you plan to catch a stringer full of these excellent eating fish, take a look at our simple yellow perch fishing techniques.
When we talk about trout fishing at Eloika, we’re primarily talking about German browns.
WDFW stocks browns into the lake, typically in the form of several thousand smaller fish. The survivors among that group can grow into large trout, but they are relatively low in numbers for a large lake.
Brown trout can be among the harder trout species to catch.
Small browns feed on insects and larvae. Ants, caddis and stonefly nymphs are top flies.
When they get bigger, brown trout tend to focus on smaller fish as their prey. For fly anglers, larger streamers and wooly buggers are the go-to choices.
Browns take shallow to mid-running crankbaits trolled along the ledges and inclines. Using spoons or still-fishing with worms or PowerBait are options as well.
In summer especially, fish for them in the evenings as brown trout feed in lower light and nighttime conditions.
You may find them feeding closer to the surface in cooler water as well.
As the water cools, they run shallower and will hit topwater more readily during the middle of the day.
Brown fishing starts in earnest after ice-out around March, peaks in April and stays good in May. The rest of the year is hit and miss, although sometimes fall trout fishing is good.
While WDFW emphasizes the brown trout, various sources also talk about the presence of a smallish but catchable resident population of both rainbow and brook trout at Eloika Lake.
Rainbows are native to the Spokane River drainage and brook trout are widely distributed in the colder waters of Washington.
Both rainbows and brookies love artificial flies, so pay attention to the hatches.
At the north and south end where you get some moving water, try caddis and stonefly nymphs. Bead head streamers are also effective.
Trout also can be caught on a variety of lures and baits. You can follow our simple trout fishing guide to learn more.
About those Dolly Varden: While even the name’s meaning isn’t without controversy, official and well-researched sources tend to leave dollies off the list of gamefish available at Eloika Lake.
Even if these fish are present (and more likely today would be considered bull trout because Dolly Varden are the close cousins that live in coastal areas), they are protected throughout out Washington. If you accidentally catch one, it must be released.
Generally speaking, WDFW often notes the presence of protected species in popular fishing waters.
That said, many an angler has confused the native Dolly Varden and/or bull trout with the non-native brook trout. Both are actually on the char arm of the salmon and trout family tree and have some similarities in appearance.
Brown Bullhead Catfish
The brown bullhead, sometimes called a speckled cat or brown cat, likes the bottom. You need to fish on or just off the bottom to catch these fish.
Liver, worms, crickets and cut bait are ideal. If you use cut bait, trim strips off your baitfish.
In spring, bullhead will often move into the shallows, especially the reeds and cattails. If you see the reeds moving gently and there’s no wind or wave, that’s a bullhead easing its way along.
Gently drop a bait a foot or two ahead of the moving vegetation to catch it.
Fishing is best in May and June but these fish will bite well through summer and into early fall. In the winter, the catfish pretty much go dormant.
Crazy about catching catfish? Read Catfish Fishing: Simple Techniques and Tips.
More Eloika Lake Fish
Pumpkinseed sunfish are another resident at Eloika Lake.
These colorful sunfish have a variety of names. They are fun to catch but tend to run small in Washington waters.
Tiny spinnerbaits, tube lures and jigs are excellent choices for lures. Worms, maggots and crickets lead the list for natural baits.
If you use worms, thread the worm on tightly to the hook. Pumpkinseed tend to nibble at the bait and steal it, rather than inhale it like a bluegill.
Fish the edge of weed lines and around trees hanging over the water.
Fly fisherman should use small popping bugs, spiders or nymphs. Used No. 12 or smaller hooks because the pumpkinseed has a small mouth.
April to September is your best chance at catching these tasty panfish.
Anglers report irregular catches of other fish, even including grass pickerel, which is a fairly unusual catch in Washington if you’re looking to add to your bucket list.
These small members of the pike family are aggressive and strike anything that moves.
Planning Your Trip
Eloika Lake makes a great day trip from Spokane or nearby communities or can be part of a larger fishing trip to the Inland Empire region.
Where is Eloika Lake?
Eloika Lake is at the northern edge of Spokane County, about 30 miles (45 minutes) north of downtown Spokane and less than 20 minutes northeast of Deer Park. There’s a tiny community on the east side known as Elk.
The lake is located just west of U.S. Highway 2.
Bank and Boat Access
Bank access is very limited here, with perhaps your best bet at Jerry’s Landing Resort on the east side of the lake.
You’ll do much better with a boat, whether you haul a bass boat or paddle a canoe or kayak.
You can launch at Jerry’s, but there’s also a WDFW access at Grays Landing on the southeast corner of the lake, reached by taking East Bridges Road from U.S. 2.
Where to Stay
There isn’t a public campground at Eloika Lake, but Jerry’s Landing rents camper and RV spots and cabins.
There are a number of other private RV parks and resorts in the general area, plenty of lodging around Spokane, and some regional campground sites including Mount Spokane State Park, though it’s a little bit of a drive.