Brad and I hit Omak Lake from May 30th thru June 3rd with the goal of landing one large Lahontan Cutthroat trout each after the opener on June 1st to count toward our AOTY points and feed our desire for catching these fantastic fish. The idea was to arrive early and pre-fish the lake, locate the best supply of large fish and work those areas when the Saturday opener came around. We expected a small fleet of boats on the water during the Saturday opener, we got the opposite. During days of fishing this lake we saw 2 power boats that were fishing and a couple of flyfishermen in pontoon boats.
We had fished this lake in early April and were surprised that we didn’t see a single boat on the water for two long days of fishing although several fishermen were shore fishing each day. Knowing that this is one of two lakes in Washington that have breeding populations of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (LCT), the largest subspecies of the cutthroat trout, we expected more fishing pressure. What we got was solitude on a jewel of a lake and days of some of the best fishing either of us have experienced.
This trip started off much like our last one ended with nearly perfect weather conditions and one fish after another hitting the lures. Although I must admit they seemed to like Brad’s setup a bit more than mine. We started counting and it was apparent that Brad was outfishing me about 3-to-1. I even bet him a beer that if we swapped rods without changing anything, that I’d get a fish. I lost that bet in about 3 minutes, then he proceeded to make my rig work while his setup failed to produce for me. I didn’t have a bad day and was well into double digits of fish by the early afternoon, but Brad was having an outstanding day and counted 47 fish by the end of it.
We explored some areas of the lake we didn’t go to in April and started naming some of our favorite areas. Cricket Banks was one great area where almost all the fish caught would spit out crickets at the boat, and the chirp of crickets on the hillside filled the air. Another area we called Pig Bay as it seemed to hold a lot of larger fish in water that was slightly deeper than the area around it.
On the June 1st opener we fished those more remote areas of the lake and Brad picked up his personal best 25.25″ cutty. I didn’t have the same luck, getting some decent fish but I wanted a bigger one. On June 2nd we took it easy and got a late start, the weather had turned. We were both feeling the strain of fishing for 12+ hours per day covering over 20 nm of water at trolling speed each day. The days were getting hotter and the winds were picking up. The conditions were taking a toll on us. By 9 in the morning we were on our way to smaller lakes to fish rainbows, bass, walleye or just about anything but Lahontan Cuttys.
Brad called it a trip and headed back to Seattle, but I still wanted that one big cutthroat that would make my trip complete. I headed back to Omak on the morning of June 3rd and worked it from the south end of the lake. The winds were still up and coming from the north at about 12 to 15 knots. I battled up the shoreline for the first hour landing a few fish up to about 22 inches but not the fish that I wanted. I kept working the best producing areas only to find smaller fish, many were less than 14 inches. Late in the afternoon I took a break back at the truck. I ate a small meal as the winds calmed and dozed off for a while. I woke about 430 in the afternoon and the lake was glassy calm. I hit the water again heading for a deep dropoff area.
My fish hit softly, not unlike any other fish, but the weight of it on the line was different. These fish aren’t great fighters most of the time, although a few can put on a show. Most of the time they don’t react until the see the boat, then they take off like a shot. This one just let my haul it right up to the boat without putting up much effort to get away. When it finally notice the boat it turned and gave a head shake and a short run. I brought it back to within about 10 feet of the boat and it thrashed on the surface with a more violent head shake. If it was going to come off it would have been right at that point, but the hook held. I gave it once final pull toward the net and it flopped over the rim of the net.
This fish was a monster compared to the others I had pulled in over the past several days at 26.75 inches. I know there are much larger fish in the lake, but I felt satisfied that this one was as big as it would get for me on this trip. I tried to measure it and take a photo but it just wouldn’t lay still. Every time I laid it in the measuring trough it would flop so violently I had to use both hands to keep it from flopping right out of the boat. The only choice was to take it as my one keeper for the day and take proper measurements and photos. It was difficult to watch the light fade out of this beautiful fish, and the combination of physical strain of paddling over 125 nm in search of this fish and the final act of taking it was enough for me. At that point I knew my trip was done. I fished on the way back and landed a couple more nice fish, one even went 22 inches, but my thoughts were on the trip home at that point.
When I got home and uploaded the photos and measurements this fish was the largest kayak caught cutthroat trout on record for the Kayak Wars and North West and Northern California Kayak Angler websites. Since Lahontan Cuttys are only found in a few areas of Northern California and two lakes in Washington, I was satisfied that this is the largest cutty on record. Although I don’t expect this record to last it’s nice to hold it for a little while. These fish have been measured up to 39 inches long and it is likely that my record will fall in the next year or two. And I hope to be one of the kayak fisherman out there trying to break it. Tight Lines!