5 Easy-Access BC Destinations for Quality Fishing:
Article and Photos by Todd Martin
You’re looking for a place to take a relaxing fishing holiday in BC. You don’t want an expensive fly-in trip that will break the bank account, and you want to take your own boat while not bouncing it around on questionable roads. Perhaps the family is tagging along and you need to rent a cabin, or you’ll be pulling the RV and want a reputable clean campsite to stay in. Where do you go? We’ll, you’re in luck. Easy access, quality fishing opportunities abound in BC, if you know where to go.
Over my years of exploring BC fisheries, it has become a crusade of mine, to identify quality fisheries that have easy paved road access, good campsites and resorts that don’t push you to the edge of the fiscal cliff. I have never found the need to travel long stretches of pot-hole ridden gravel to find good lake fishing in BC. Sure the back road adventures to new locations are fun and often rewarding, but right now you prefer something easy on your vehicle chassis while not causing the kids in the back seat to turn a sickly green color. You don’t want an arduous journey, you want to pull in, unload and start fishing. This I understand completely and we are going to explore several of my favorite fishing lakes in BC that meet these criteria.
The lakes we will be exploring are all quality fisheries that have paved road access right to the water’s edge, or have very short distances of good gravel road. All of these lakes have resorts from which you can rent cabins or campsites to park your own rig. All have public access day-use boat launches as well. There are dozens of lakes in BC that meet these requirements, but the five we will review in this article are my personal favorites that I want to share with average Joe fisherman and our BC Outdoors readers. These lakes are Timothy and Bridge Lakes in the South Cariboo, Loon Lake and Lac Le Jeune in the Thompson - Nicola, and Mabel Lake in the North Okanagan.
Timothy Lake is 14 kilometers east of the town of Lac La Hache. It can be reached on the fully paved and scenic Timothy Lake Road which branches off Highway # 97 and travels along the northern shoreline of the lake. This lake offers three full service resorts including the recently re-opened Timothy Lake Resort. There is also a public access boat launch half way down the lake. Timothy is a medium sized lake of 444 surface hectares with an average depth of 40 feet and maximum depth of 85 feet. It has been well stocked and cared for by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.
The lake is annually stocked with the Blackwater rainbow trout strain which is picsivoruos and loves to feed on minnows. Recently, the FFSBC has also been stocking several thousand 3N sterile triploid kokanee into Timothy Lake each year. This provides a bonus to the robust trout fishery and gives the angler fast growing, non-reproductive, aggressive kokanee to pursue. The Blackwater rainbows are my preferred rainbow trout strain to chase as almost anything resembling a minnow will catch them. I prefer using small minnow imitating flys or brass and silver trolling spoons. I had my best success at Timothy long line trolling a silver minnow fly on the surface with over 80 yards of line out.
The Timothy Lake shoreline rapidly drops off around most of its circumference, which provides quick access to deeper water. The lake is narrow and ‘S’ shaped and feels smaller than its size due to its bays, shoals and creek inlets that give fly casters good opportunities to anchor and experiment. Trolling zigzag patterns along the drop off is very productive. Although I preferred trolling minnow imitations, locals were doing well with brown half-back flys. For the kokanee, you’ll need to troll small pink and red lures baited with corn, and use an 18 inch leader behind a silver dodger. My time at Timothy was productive even though I was plagued with a low pressure weather system that made the fishing challenging. Other anglers that had better weather described nonstop action and great fun whenever they wet a line.
A little further south along the famous fishing highway # 24 is Bridge Lake. This is another quality fishery that offers private resorts, a provincial park campsite, a few bed & breakfasts and paved road access with many public boat launches. Bridge Lake is a large body of water that feels smaller that its weight class due to its extensive shoals, small bays and wind sheltering islands.
Bridge Lake provides anglers a smorgasbord of fish to chase with healthy populations of rainbow trout, lake trout, kokanee and burbot. No matter your chosen style of fishing, Bridge Lake gives you ample opportunity to fish deep open water or small protected bays sheltered from the wind. Trophy sized fish are present in Bridge lake as each year it surrenders lake trout in the 30 pound class, both spring and summer deep trolling and jigging through the ice in winter being very effective methods. Kokanee are present with good numbers of them in excess of two pounds and rainbows to five pounds are a regular occurrence. No matter the time of year or your location on the lake, you are sure to find one or more of the fish species present active and looking to feed.
The lake trout and burbot are naturally reproducing while the FFSBC annually stocks the lake with Blackwater rainbows and kokanee to keep this family fishery productive for anglers of all skill levels. After several years at a one fish per day catch quota, the daily lake trout limit has recently been increased to three per day.
Fishing Bridge Lake requires careful study of the bathymetric depth chart. The uneven bottom quickly plunges to depths in excess of 100 feet and then rises out of nowhere to less than five feet. Be cautious and alert when trolling for partially submerged shoals, especially near the two largest islands. For the fly caster, Bridge Lake provides a target rich environment. There are numerous islands, channels and protected bays to get away from the wind and still be within easy reach of productive weed beds and marl shoals. Remember this is a large body of water so you may need to move around a bit to find an active group of fish.
There are several lakes of this name in the province but for this article we’ll be exploring Loon Lake in the Thompson Nicola region half way between the towns of Cache Creek and Clinton on highway # 97. Paved road access to the lake is gained via the Loon Lake Road 17 kilometers northeast from the highway junction.
This is a true family fishery with generous numbers of naturally reproducing rainbow trout being present. No supplemental stocking is required here. The fish are not overly large as a 15 inch trout would be the average size, but they make up for that with their ample numbers and eagerness to bite on almost anything. Loon Lake is tailor made for trolling as it is long, narrow and deep. There are no open-water obstructions or surprises here like Bridge Lake. Even in mid-summer, fishing here remains fairly productive due to the cool depths and shaded shorelines. Fly fishers do not find this Lake to be especially productive as the entire shoreline around the lake quickly falls to 60 feet and there are limited shoals from which to anchor and cast, except at the opposite ends of this long lake.
Loon Lake has clear emerald green water and is 13 kilometers long but less than 500 meters wide. You can spend all afternoon trolling in one direction down the lake. The lake has four resorts that offer both cabins and campsites, a few bed & breakfast outlets and easy shoreline access along Loon Lake Road where car top boats can be launched almost anywhere.
My most productive fishing was with a green or black and yellow colored Lucky Bug lure trolled between ten and 20 feet in depth. Good success was also attained with Flatfish / Kwikfish and Needlefish lures. The old standby of a willow leaf lake troll, wedding ring lure and worm works great here and keeps the kids entertained and you busy while you net their fish. Both ends of the lake are known as hot spots but my best success was along the southeast shoreline between the four and six kilometer mark. There are some signs in the trees on this far side of the lake that note the kilometers from the start of the lake which act as a poor man’s GPS and help anglers navigate this productive lake.
Lac Le Jeune:
We now move to the heart of the Thompson Nicola region and Lac Le Jeune. This fly fishing hot spot is 25 minutes south of Kamloops and a short five kilometer drive from the Coquihalla highway. There is a resort that offers cabins and boat rentals, and a provincial park with a paved boat launch and 144 campsites. If Loon Lake was better suited to trolling, Lac Le Jeune is a fly fishing mecca. This lake is annually stocked with the Pennask strain of rainbows which are known to be focused on an aquatic insect diet with a reputation as hard fighters and jumpers. Lac Le Jeune offers pristine clear water with extensive shoals and weed beds that provide rich trout habitat and fly fishing opportunities. That said, trolling through the middle portion of the lake and in the deeper western end is also very productive. The lake can be fished well with chironomid, sedge, mayfly and damselfly imitations at various times throughout the year.
A 250 foot wheelchair accessible dock was constructed at the provincial park site a few years ago, and offers great access to open water for anglers of all ability levels. Paved road access is available throughout the park and campsite area. Lac Le Jeune sits at an elevation of 1276 meters so it is one of the last lakes in the area to be ice free in spring which also keeps the mid-summer temperature’s slightly cooler than other lakes in the area. Lac Le Jeune does get busy in the summer months, so be selective with your trip timing, but it also yields angler’s great access to a quality fishery.
Mabel Lake is one of my personal favorites that I cannot wait to return to. It is regarded as a jewel of the North Okanagan and is situated 30 kilometers east of Enderby. This lake is visually stunning with its deep green waters and lushly forested shorelines. It’s a large body of water that is more appropriate for trolling due to its average depth of 400 feet and length of 35 kilometers. Access to the main resort area and small town of Kingfisher is via the Enderby-Mabel Lake road. This road is paved the entire length from downtown Enderby and takes you to the central part of the lake near the mouth of the Shuswap River. The Mabel Lake Resort even has its own golf course and airstrip! How’s that for amenities? Access to south end of the lake and the provincial park site is from Vernon and then Lumby. This access road is 33 kilometers from Lumby and is paved most of the way with the last short section being good gravel surface.
Mabel Lake presents some unique fishing opportunities that can be wildly productive if you time your trip here properly. Mabel does not need stocking as it has a very healthy population of native rainbow trout. It also has a significant lake trout population and smaller numbers of kokanee and bull trout. The lake trout here get in excess of 20 pounds and several of these behemoths are caught each year. The key attribute that makes this fishery special is the considerable run of chinook salmon that access the lake via the Shuswap River. The Chinook present a fishery for salmon that average 20 to 25 pounds with some going much larger from July to September. Mid-August usually brings the peak of the Chinook migration and a large group of regular angler’s descend upon Mabel Lake every summer to enjoy this opportunity. Standard ocean tackle of trolling flashers with various lures and hoochies are used for the salmon.
The Chinook spawn in the creeks in the northern end of the lake and when the fry hatch in the spring, you can have wild action for chunky rainbow trout. So many chinook fry hatch in the lake that bait balls can be seen on the surface. Trolling through schools of chinook fry provides aggressive gear testing strikes from the Mabel Lake rainbows that average three pounds with many exceeding eight pounds. I found silver or brass FST spoons worked well as did Lefty’s Deceiver buck tail flys. The majority of the chinook fry are in the upper lake from the Shuswap River outlet to the north end of the lake near Noisy and Wap Creeks. A local hot spot in May is the Tsuius Narrows where large numbers of chinook fry congregate. Mabel Lake also experiences a prolific black ant hatch in mid-May which makes the trout very selective for a short period of time. Locals troll for big lakers in the southern end near Lumby and near the Cottonwood Beach recreation site. Lyman and Apex lures seem to be the local favorites on a deep troll for the Lakers.
So now you are equipped with knowledge on five lakes that offer both quality fishing and easy access. There are infinite others that I could have highlighted here but these are my preferred waters and they all have plentiful campsites, boat launches, cabins for rent and easy shoreline access. These five lakes are favorable for a restful fishing excursion and are equally suited for a family vacation where you can entertain the kids yet sneak away for a few hours of fishing. If none of the highlighted lakes peak your interest, do your own research and find similar lakes in your region of BC. So the next time your neighbors come home with a broken shock and cracked windshield from their latest rough road adventure, show them the photos of your trout limits from BC’s easy access, quality fisheries.
To begin planning your next Canadian excursion, visit our Adventure Match to find the perfect lodge to suit your personal fishing or hunting preferences.
Author Bio: Todd Martin is a well known outdoor writer and angler who lives and writes about the wild splendor of British Columbia, Canada. Todd resides in Maple Ridge and specializes salt water and fresh water fishing for Salmon, Trout, Char and Kokanee. Visit him at www.martinoutdoors.ca
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