If you’ve driven state Highway 14 on the north side of the Columbia River between White Salmon and Lyle, then you’ve actually driven across Rowland Lake.
What you might also have missed is all the trout and bass swimming beneath you.
The lake is actually a cove of the Columbia River that’s been diked off from the main channel of the river. The state highway divides Rowland Lake itself into two parts.
Only the north half of the lake is stocked with rainbow trout.
In the south part, closer to the river, you may also encounter naturally occurring warmwater fish like bass and bluegill, although access can be tricky.
Nearly 20,000 rainbow trout can be slated for stocking in the north part of Rowland Lake during a calendar year, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Of that number, the vast majority are catchable fish, but several hundred larger trout such as giant broodstock fish are also put into the lake every year.
Restocking takes place from late December through April or May, a few times per season. Remember, only the north part of the lake is stocked with rainbow trout, so focus your trout angling attention there.
Shore access around Rowland Lake is limited, and the terrain is rocky. If you’re not especially mobile, it might be wise to avoid it.
There is a boat launch operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on-site for the north part of the lake, although it’s shallow.
The launch was upgraded a few years back, so don’t be scared off by if you see a department website describing it as “rough” and “unimproved.”
Rainbow trout will often bite bait, lures and artificial flies.
A simple approach is casting a baited hook beneath a bobber as rainbow trout will often feed near the surface. At other times, fishing closer to the bottom will result in good action.
Bass and Panfish Fishing
Rowland Lake is diked off, but it’s still part of the Columbia River system, and that means river-dwelling fish occur in the lake as well.
Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are popular warmwater game fish here. While smallmouths are the most common bass in the mainstem, Rowland can turn out some surprisingly good largemouth bass as well as impressive smallies.
Most serious bass anglers use lures that imitate these predators’ favorite prey, which includes smaller fish and crayfish.
Bass are very structure-oriented, and they use cover to ambush their meals. Very broadly speaking, smallmouth bass often prefer rockier structures while largemouth like siltier bottoms and woody or plant structure.
But Rowland is relatively small, and both species can stake out different holding spots.
Our typical suggestion with bass fishing is to have a good battle and then release them unharmed, maybe after a quick photo.
Bass are long-lived fish and bigger specimens aren’t particularly good for eating but are great for making more bass, so releasing them helps maintain this fishery for everyone.
Bluegill can also be caught. These spunky sunfish have much smaller mouths than bass.
A small worm or mealworm on a smaller hook (often fished under a float) is usually effective for these bug-eating fish.
Artificial flies and small lures are sometimes a blast for bluegill. They are often fished using floats.
Bluegill like to be near plants, branches or other structure and may be surprisingly close to shore during the spring spawn and into the summer months.
Where is Rowland Lake?
The nearest community to Rowland Lake is Bingen, Washington, about five miles to the west of the lake in the Columbia River Gorge, not far from Hood River in Oregon.
It takes a bit over an hour to reach Rowland Lake from Vancouver, and a 10-minute drive from White Salmon heading east on state Highway 14, which actually bisects Rowland Lake.
Once there, Old Highway 8 splits off from Highway 14 and circles around the north part of the lake for access.
There’s no camping or overnight parking allowed at Rowland Lake.
The U.S. Forest Service maintains the Catherine Creek Recreation Area just east of Rowland Lake. It has some popular hiking trails and great wildflower viewing in the spring. The area is day use only and has no running water on-site.