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By Pete Rosko
Lake Crescent is the second-deepest lake in Washington state, at 624 feet, with Lake Chelan being the deepest at 1,486 feet. Located in the North Olympic National Park, Lake Crescent is 17 miles west of Port Angeles.
The Beadslee rainbow trout is native to Lake Crescent and is found nowhere else on earth. The lake record is reputed to be 23 pounds. The Crescenti cutthroat trout is a distinct species of the coastal cutthroat and it holds the Washington state record of 12 pounds.
Usually, my annual July article is devoted to Chinook salmon since July 1 is opening day for Chinook in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I will still mention salmon, especially since this is the odd numbered year for pink salmon arriving in the Strait along with the Coho salmon.
Lake Crescent water temperature, in June and early July, ranges from the mid-50s to the low 60s. As a result, the trout will be feeding near the surface. This is a good time to flatline troll. Towards August, a well-defined thermocline usually starts occurring between 80- and 90-feet of water. This is an excellent time to vertical jig for larger trout.
By late August and early September, the Lake Crescent trout will be in the competition with the pink and silvers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. What lures are needed to fish these four different species? From my experience, only one lure would be needed. That being the Sonic BaitFish (SBF) Blue/Silver.
During June and early July, flatline trolling is very productive with the Sonic BaitFish 1/4 oz. Almost always, I will add a small nickel- or silver-plated Indiana blade to the tail for extra flash and harmonics (sound of the blade striking the hook shank). I attach the blade to the tail wire insert with a small snap, similar in design to the one included in the Sonic BaitFish package (and attach the small of the snap to the blade). The blade should always be placed on the wide opposite the hook point so it has only the shank to work against and does not interfere with the hook set. Do not use a swivel because this will cause a 360-degree blade rotation instead of a more productive side-to-side blade action. It’s okay for the blade to slightly extend beyond the end of the hook. Keep an eye out for diving eagles as they will let you know where baitfish and trout are active on the lake.
As summer progresses and the surface water temperature increases, baitfish and trout migrate to cooler and deeper water. This is the thermocline which provides the best source of temperature, oxygen and food. Where I usually fish on Lake Crescent, the thermocline stratifies between 80- and 90-feet in about 135 feet of water. This band of prime water is readily seen on the fish finder, especially when increasing its sensitivity. A slow drift and vertically jigged Sonic BaitFish 1 oz. in Blue/Silver down into the thermocline layer should result in almost non-stop action. Fishing with a line-counter reel enables you to position your Sonic BaitFish immediately above the trout marks behind views on your fish finder. This is the type of precise presentation that can result in a fishing memory that is unforgettable.
Finally, it’s early September and it’s time to fish for pink and Coho salmon in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Whether cast, jig or troll, all three techniques are very effective for these two salmon species and Chinook salmon. Casting a Sonic BaitFish 1/4 oz. in Blue/Silver is my favorite casting size and finish for both salmon species. Pink is a favorite finish for many pink salmon anglers. However, it is my experience that a bright Sonic BaitFish Blue/Silver is more productive, especially when Coho salmon are in the mix. I use this technique especially when salmon are “boiling” on the surface. Once the cast is made, keep a tight line for better hooksets, slower fall and increased side-to-side darting action. Follow the lure down with a twitching motion of your rod tip. Once the line becomes vertical, retrieve quickly and repeat casting. When vertical jigging, a line counter reel is an asset when targeting suspended fish.
In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, 45-feet down is a productive depth for both species, but keep a constant eye on your fish finder as fish will fluctuate their depth. I always try to fish with the lighest lure to effective reach my target fish because minimal effort is required to “bring it to life.” When trolling, whether flatlining or adding attractors, I also like to add a small tail blade for extra flash and vibration.
In many of my past articles, I stress the importance of the most terminal portion of your presentation. That being the condition of your hook. Many, if not most, of the fish lost are due to a hook that is not “surgically” sharp to facilitate a complete hookset! This is best accomplished with a fine-tooth carbon steel file that is free of rust. Gently stroke the file towards the hook point until all rough surfaces are removed. File all three side of the triangular form of the hook point. Then, give it the “job well done” test on your thumb nail. Lightly stroke the hook point over the surface of the thumb nail. To pass the test, the hook point must dig into the nail and not slide over it. Freely lubricate the file to prevent rusting. A rusted file is useless in attaining optimum sharpness. Two hook types are included in the SBF package – single and treble. For most of my fishing, I prefer a single hook because of its wider gap and deeper throat. Especially when barbless hooks are required, these two design features help in preventing larger fish from dislodging the hook.