Bringing the Great Lakes experience home to Washington state, Lake Erie in Skagit County is about 0.0015% the surface area of its more famous Midwestern cousin, and a bare fraction of that by actual volume.
But Lake Erie, Washington, offers a great trout fishing experience on its 111 acres of water, as state game authorities keep it well-stocked and it is seasonally managed to ensure top quality of fishing.
Largemouth bass and yellow perch also live in Lake Erie’s waters, although their fisheries aren’t quite up to the standards of the robust trade in trout at the lake near Anacortes.
Motorized boating is allowed on Lake Erie, and the state maintains a concrete boat ramp for ease of launching.
Trout Fishing at Lake Erie
If you’re fishing Lake Erie, there’s a good chance you are angling for trout.
Rainbow trout are stocked by the thousands for Opening Day, which is the fourth Saturday of April every year.
At last check, the state’s stocking schedule called for 13,000 catchable trout to be planted in April.
Trout prospects are excellent from through the end of May, with June also offering fair to good prospects.
For what it’s worth, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends trying the lake again toward the end of the season.
Trout become more active as the heat of summer recedes and any fish that have been in the lake since at least spring have had a chance to dine on their natural prey and swim freely for several months, which leads to trout that are higher-quality for catching and eating.
The last day of the fishing season on Lake Erie is Oct. 31, typical for other seasonal lakes in this part of Washington.
Rainbow trout are pretty straightforward to catch, making them appealing for new anglers as well as old pros.
Baiting a hook with an earthworm and suspend it beneath a bobber is a simple way to go about it, especially when trout are feeding near the surface. If trout have moved deeper, trade the float or a weight.
Alternatively, fly fishing is a popular method to catch trout. Make sure to “match the hatch,” selecting a fly that imitates rainbow trout’s natural diet. Local fishing supply stores should be able to offer good recommendations.
For more suggestions, read our Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Bass and Panfish Fishing at Lake Erie
Though they don’t bring as many anglers, warmwater fisheries are the other option at Lake Erie.
A good rule of thumb for fishing largemouth bass or yellow perch, the two notable resident sport fish of Lake Erie, is that as the trout season is winding down, their season is picking up.
In essence, that means late May through high summer (August or September) is an ideal time to fish for bass, or for perch.
Largemouth bass are among the state’s most popular introduced sport fish, and many anglers prefer to catch and release these slow-growing trophies instead of keeping their take for dinner.
If you’re not planning to sup on your fresh-caught bass, do not fish with a baited hook.
There are lures, including specialized bass jigs, that you can use which are less likely to hurt your fish. Bass are greedy and often indiscriminate eaters and will slurp down a baited hook in an instant, which can lethally injure them.
Bass are most active in the mornings and evenings, often becoming lethargic and scarcer to find during the day.
Yellow perch are schooling fish, moving and feeding in groups, and often most actively feeding from at least late spring through early fall.
They’re not big fish, but a patient angler with a full bait chest can easily bring in enough of these tasty panfish to make up for it.
Try fishing for yellow perch with small hooks baited with pieces of earthworm. Weighting your line to fish closer to the bottom can work wonders.
Once perch start biting, keep at it! Chances are good that once you reel in one perch, more will follow.
Tips and Tricks
Lake Erie unfortunately has a history of algal blooms and fish kills. Invasive plants have a foothold in the lake and have resisted efforts by Skagit County and the State of Washington to dislodge them.
From time to time, Lake Erie is stocked with grass carp introduced to control vegetation. It’s a good rule of thumb to be able to identify grass carp and throw them back if you reel in one by accident, since taking grass carp is prohibited here.
Water access is on the west side of the lake. There is a resort on the south shore with swimming areas. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid swimmers when fishing or boating.
Where is Lake Erie?
Lake Erie — this one, anyway — is about three miles south of Anacortes, Washington, on the west side of Fidalgo Island.
The lake neighbors slightly larger Campbell Lake, which is under the same fishing stocking management system as Lake Erie.
From Highway 20, you can take Campbell Lake Road west and then north on Heart Lake Road. Water access is off Rosario Road, which branches out to the west from Heart Lake Road.
Expect about an hour and a half’s drive from Seattle, or about 50 minutes from Bellingham. From Anacortes proper, it’s only about a 15-minute drive.