Uniquely situated on either side of a psychiatric hospital, Medical Lake and West Medical Lake are two popular trout fisheries just outside of Spokane.
Although they’re less than a mile away from each other, the Medical Lakes are very different when it comes to fishing styles.
West Medical Lake is a traditional, regularly stocked trout lake that allows bait fishing and trout harvest. Brown trout and rainbow trout are both stocked in the lake, and they can grow to be quite large.
Medical Lake, however, is a (mostly) fly fishing paradise. Restrictive rules allow only artificial lures and flies, motorized boats are not allowed, and the fish in the lake can grow to be more than 5 pounds.
Both Medical Lakes offer something different – we’ll break down each lake as well as the different techniques you’ll need to know in order to catch fish!
West Medical Lake Fishing
In 2018, West Medical Lake had a goldfish problem. The invasive medallion-sized fish were plentiful in the lake, and their presence was causing problems for the game fish populations in the lake.
Fortunately, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was able to chemically eradicate the invasive goldfish, but the process required purging the lake of all fish.
The lake has since rehabilitated and stocking resumed in 2019 and heavy plants of hatchery trout are now the norm again.
West Medical Lake is more of a typical put-and-catch fishery, but some of those hatchery trout can grow to 20-plus inches in this lake.
WDFW stocks the lake each spring with thousands of catchable rainbow trout as well as some brown trout, including large browns.
Additionally, 200-plus acre West Medical is very heavily planted every year with smaller trout of both species that grow by eating the lake’s natural forage.
Because of the popularity of the fishery – and the relaxed restrictions – most fly fishermen avoid this lake, but it’s popular with conventional fishermen looking to catch a couple nice trout.
The opening day on West Medical Lake can be one of the most productive in the state, with many anglers coming home with limits of trout.
Fish grow quickly due to the fertile insect life in the lake, and fishing the lake in the early fall right before the closure after September is a great time to catch some big brown trout.
The usual trout-fishing techniques will work on these trout, including still-fishing with bait and trolling with lures or bait.
Brown trout will often strike fish-shaped plugs, especially in low-light conditions.
Fly fishing is also good here, though not as popular as at Medical Lake. See below for some tips that will work at West Medical as well.
For more specifics about how to catch these fish, read our guide Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Medical Lake Fishing
Of the two lakes, the slightly smaller Medical Lake is geared more for sport and less for harvest.
Medical Lake gets lighter numbers of stocked fish, is subject to stricter regulations, and overall has bigger fish.
The harvest is limited by numbers and size, and you also can’t use any type of motor on this lake, as you can on West Medical.
On the flip side, Medical Lake has a longer fishing season that takes in those early spring hatches and the excellent fall brown trout bite, while the season is shorter at its sister lake.
Definitely read the regulations carefully before fishing here, especially the selective gear requirements limiting you to artificial flies and lures with barbless, single hooks and absolutely no bait.
Like West Medical, Medical Lake is stocked with both rainbow and brown trout, primarily smaller fish that gorge themselves to keeper and trophy sizes in the rich waters.
Fly fishing is the most popular technique on Medical Lake.
Chironomids are a great option, but a variety of other nymphs worked well when fished near the bottom of the lake.
Streamers are great in the spring and fall, and can be particularly deadly in October and November to catch some of the lunker brown trout in the lake.
If you’re not fly fishing, spinners – such as Rooster Tails – are an excellent choice.
For most store-bought trout spinners and other lures, that will mean replacing the treble hook that usually comes on it with a barbless, single-point hook.
Location and Access
The Medical Lakes are a favorite among residents of Spokane, as they’re located and easy 15-mile drive to the southwest near the city of Medical Lake.
There are multiple public access points along the banks.
If you’re a bank fisherman, West Medical Lake is the better option of the two – there are fewer trees crowding the shoreline, and because bait is allowed, you can cast far out into the lake and let your bait sit.
Your best bet here is heading to the WDFW access at the south end off West Fancher Road. Here you’ll find a ton of bank access and very nice boat launch facilities.
Also note that if you’ve fished West Medical Lake in the past and got to the shoreline through private access at the north end, that property has now been closed to public access. WDFW said the access was abused by litterers and is posted “No Trespassing.”
If Medical Lake is your lake of choice, you’ll find it tough to catch many fish without a boat, pontoon or float tube.
There is bank access at the lake and fish can be caught from the shore, but you’ll find many areas tough to cast from and the bank can get crowded at times.
The largest bank access is at Medical Lake Waterfront Park on the south end of the lake, especially if you need to launch a heavier boat (no motor though!).
There are additional public access points and a trail system, with several spots you can easily drop into a tube or other watercraft, but there also is more development along the shoreline, especially on the city side (east bank).
The Medical Lakes are an Eastern Washington gem, and each lake is unique, making them a great opportunity whether you’re a bait fisherman, a fly fisherman, or both.
If you’re near Spokane and want a convenient spot to fish, the Medical Lakes are worth checking out!
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.