Is the midterms hangover still pressing on you? Is sitting at a desk for hours staring at textbooks becoming monotonous? In need of an inexpensive yet relaxing break from all the stress? Well, a pole and some worms are all that’s needed for a Gonzaga University student to have a good time.
“Fishing is a great way to get outside, exercise and remove your mind from a lot of daily stresses,” Seth Frings said, a senior at GU that has experience fishing in the Spokane area.
But with 76 different lakes located within an hour of the city, choosing the location for the best cast can be a difficult choice to make. Not to mention, there’s a lot of factors to consider before hitting the road; accessibility, types of fish, required gear and weather conditions are just a few factors that impact an experience on the water. Some places are more suitable for bass fishing off a dock, while others tend to have an abundance of trout or steelhead that can be snagged while fly fishing.
Luckily, there’s plenty of Zags that are veteran fishermen and willing to share their insights on when and where to cast a line.
For those who may not have a mode of transportation, or simply do not wish to travel far, the Spokane River near GU’s campus has proven to be a viable spot for trout fishing, specifically rainbow and brown. These fish range from eight inches to a foot in length and can be pesky catches for any fisherman, which makes bait selection very important.
“Trout are much pickier and harder to fool than bass,” Fringes said. “As juveniles, they even see in the ultraviolet spectrum.”
To determine his lure, Fringes likes to survey the surrounding ecosystem for potential insects that may entice a big trout.
“It’s always a good idea to get familiar with the trout’s current diet before you tie on a fly,” Fringes said.
Before strolling down to the river, students are also advised to check local regulations regarding which regions are open to public fishing. This applies to other lakes as well, but due to the river’s size and popularity, the accessibility varies. Fisherman must also have a valid fishing license, which they can purchase on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
If casting ashore doesn’t do the trick, Frings suggests that more experienced fisherman, also referred to as “anglers”, may enjoy fly fishing in the river. This activity involves more technique and nuance, making it a difficult task for anyone to master. Cooper Osborn, a sophomore at GU and Spokane native, expressed that while challenging, fly fishing in the Spokane River is well worth it.
“Like any skill or trade, it takes time and practice, but you can absolutely pick it up,” said Osborn. “The river is definitely the best for fly fishing.”
Osborn, who learned the skill through YouTube videos, noted that the depth of the river in certain areas near campus make fly fishing difficult. However, students don’t have to travel far to find shallower water.
“If you go towards the west, you can find some nice spots on the lower Spokane,” Osborn said.
There’s also a heightened sense of involvement when it comes to fly fishing; rather than just waiting patiently for a bite, anglers are more engaged when choosing the right fly and moving to new spots more frequently. This process is why senior Grant Tebbs prefers this style of fishing whenever he goes to the Spokane River.
“Other fishing is more cast and wait then repeat, where fly fishing you constantly move up or down the river,” Tebbs said. “And the process of picking the right fly has a bit more style to it.”
Beyond the river, there are numerous lakes in the Spokane area that house a wide variety of fish, from smallmouth bass to the rare tiger musky. Most of these locations have access to public docks and beaches, allowing for easy casting that anyone can enjoy effortlessly. Of these lakes, Newman Lake has been acclaimed by multiple Zags as the best one.
“For largemouth bass fishing, the best spot around here is easily Newman Lake,” Osborn said. “While you might not catch the most fish there, you’ll absolutely catch the biggest.”
According to Osborn, there are only two lakes in the Spokane region where muskies can be found, one of which is Newman lake. While they are rare to catch, snagging one isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.
“They’re elusive fish and are commonly referred to as the fish of 10,000 casts,” Osborn said. “But with some skill and a whole bunch of luck, you can find them there.”
The other lake Osborn alluded to is Silver Lake, which is just over a 20-minute drive from the GU campus. Carp are most commonly found here as well, along with crappie, largemouth bass and trout in the springtime. While shoreline access is limited, there is a public boat launch with a dock.
Elioka Lake, Liberty Lake and Lake Spokane are other notable fisheries that Zag fisherman have enjoyed.
And when in doubt, local bait and fly shops are always great resources when it comes to fishing in Spokane.
“The biggest benefit of that is you can ask what flies are working and setup we should use as well,” senior Caleb Cramer said. “Those guys are the pros and they spend far more time on the water.”
So don’t add more stress in deciding how and when to fish; just get out there and cast.