By Lee Horton
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Throughout the closures of Anderson Lake and Gibbs Lake, Lake Leland has continued to plug along.
Despite being overshadowed by saltwater fishing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and shrimping on Hood Canal, Lake Leland has not wavered.
While the weather lowers the rivers to what Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim calls “a trickle,” Leland still has water and still has fish.
The lake hype hardly lasts more than one weekend on the North Olympic Peninsula, the lowland lake opener at the end of April, but the year-round Leland has been productive all spring and summer.
Beyond its reliability, Leland is an interesting lake because it is home to so many species of fish.
According to fishing tackle wholesaler and former fishery biologist Ward Norden, the catchable fish in Leland are: native cutthroat trout, rainbow trout (plus the triploid version), largemouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie, bluegill and brown bullhead catfish.
That’s quite the selection for 100 acres of lake.
“The reason for the variety is that Lake Leland . . . exists in a unique micro-climate,” Norden said.
“In a normal year [Lake Leland reaches] a water temperature of 80 degrees, and it stays that way for a month.
“Lake Leland, however, has cold underwater springs where the trout can hide to arise in the late summer as waters cool like they are now.
“There are only a handful of lakes in Western Washington where these conditions exist to support crappie and bluegill.”
Norden adds that the catfish have been in Lake Leland since at least 1885, according to the “old Quilcene newspaper.”
In his book Washington Fishing, Terry Rudnick wrote of Lake Leland: “The lake has one of the healthiest populations of big bass to be found anywhere in western Washington, making it perhaps the state’s best-kept secret as a largemouth lake.”
The fall bite
Menkal said lake fishing happens less once the summer ends, but fall fishing on Leland is good to those who do it.
“As the lakes cool off, fish get more aggressive, as a rule,” Menkal said.
The fall is more favorable to anglers, too, because the crowds diminish and the weather is more comfortable.
“You’re not baking in a boat,” Menkal said.
Norden reports the fishing remains good on Leland.
“The fall ‘bite’ at the lake remains good for bass, crappie, and trout,” he said.
“Bass fishing should taper off in a couple weeks, but trout fishing should remain good until almost November.”
There might even be some surprises in store.
“While most of the trout are pan-sized, I have been hearing a persistent rumor of a 7-pound rainbow taken at the lake,” Norden said.
“Although I can’t confirm, a couple years back the state planted a bunch of triploid rainbows that grow huge, since they are sterile, and that is how big those fish should be by now.”
While the fishing continues on Lake Leland, the campground closed earlier this month.
But next summer, put camping at Lake Leland on your to-do list.
Norden calls the campground “the nicest on-water campground on the [North] Olympic Peninsula,” and credits volunteers Tanya and Curtis Royer for maintaining the campground, collecting camp fees, dumping trash and arranging to have potholes on the boat launch fixed.
Location — Lake Leland is located in Jefferson County, just 4.5 miles north of Quilcene, just off U.S. Highway 101.
Leland isn’t the only lake to visit while you’re waiting for rain to raise the rivers or send the coho down the Strait.
Menkal reports that Lake Sutherland has great kokanee fishing this time of year.
But from what I hear, Sutherland isn’t the best place to be when nature calls because the bathroom options are extremely limited.
Outdoors columnist Lee Horton appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.