Mayfield lake ranks as one of Washington’s premier recreational lakes, and for good reason. Located in the foothills of the Cascades, Mayfield is a 2,200 acre reservoir formed by the damming of the Cowlitz river. The reservoir is fed primarily by the Cowlitz, the Tilton, and Winston creek. The lake is mostly undeveloped, although there are houses and a resort (Mayfield Lake Resort) on the SW end of the lake. To the north is Ike Kinswa State Park, and to the east is a nice county park. Ike Kinswa has a small, 2 two lane ramp on the NE end of the lake. On the west side of the lake is a much better county ramp. Mayfield Lake Resort also has a boat ramp and moorage (guests first use).
One could spend days enjoying the various recreational opportunities on this lake. But a word of caution - during prime season the parks fill up fast, so advanced planning is helpful. Don’t expect a secluded experience. But if being around others having fun on the water is your cup of tea, you’ll feel right at home on Mayfield.
One area in particular that I would highly recommend is the two river canyons on Mayfield. The larger of the two is the Cowlitz branch, the smaller is Tilton. What’s so special about these river branches, you ask? How about exploring a virtual rainforest environment in central Washington? As you work back into the Cowlitz and Tilton canyons the rock cliffs rise to either side of your boat. Ferns and hanging vines of multiple shades of green strike the eyes. It’s cooler back here as you travel father along. Below you the water depths drop to 90 feet in areas. But be cautious - you are on a river, and although the surface looks smooth there is a definite current. Enough that if you don’t pay attention you may find your boat turning sideways to the current and becoming a hazard for everyone else working their way up the canyon.
So what about fish? Mayfield has the usual fair - rainbow, cutthroat, perch, crappie, bass, brown bullhead. But what it is renown for is a new species, planted several years ago. Mayfield was the first lake in our state to be planted with hybrid Tiger Muskies. Called the fish of a thousand casts, the muskie is as challenging a fish as any to swim in our Washington waters. Not just for the challenge of hooking one, but for the effort in catching it! Muskies are incredibly strong, fast, and will give you a workout you won’t soon forget. And with fish swimming in the twenty-five pound range they are a worthy adversary indeed. But please, if you are fortunate enough to catch one, release it safely for the next lucky angler. These fish are sterile - they don’t reproduce. So taking them out means one less fish to be caught. And if this sounds like too much work, the trout will be happy to cooperate with your fishing efforts.
Mayfield lake - a true Washington destination lake!
A Nice Guide to Muskie Gear, By Don Wittenberger:
Fished with a friend who caught a 38-inch tiger musky on a jerkbait in mid-afternoon. This fish followed a spinnerbait earlier in the day, and was ready to feed. Contrary to some reports, tiger muskies are still stocked here and we saw numerous small ones. Tiger muskies are hard to catch and you have to work at it. They hang out in warm shallow water and eat squawfish. Mayfield’s two structure types are weeds and wood. The large weed flat opposite Tilton Cove holds the majority of this lake’s tiger muskies. Weeds in Winston Cove also hold fish. Look for shoreline areas with underwater stumps and logs. The best time is mid-week on cloudy days. Tiger muskies are catchable until early October. Musky tackle is not available locally, and I buy mine on trips to the midwest or from Rollie and Helen’s Musky Shop on the internet. My boat is a Tuffy Esox Magnum, a favorite of midwest musky anglers, that I purchased in Wisconsin. I use 7-foot bucktail rods with Garcia reels and 30-lb. Cortland Musky Mono line, wire or Smity hard-mono leaders, and small to medium size bucktails, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and twitch baits. I use a salmon net to land fish. You’ll need a file to keep hooks razor sharp and pliers to extract hooks from fish (and occasionally yourself). Mayfield’s water is very clear, so subdued lure colors are best, except red and red-black are good bucktail and spinnerbait colors here. Black is a good color for low-light conditions. In turbid or muddy water, try bright colors like chartreuse. I prefer nickel blades. Tiger muskies are attracted by flash and vibration. The figure-8 technique can turn follows into strikes. Mayfield does not offer night or topwater action. For basic information about musky tactics, get Saric and Heiting’s book, “Complete Guide to Musky Hunting,” from Rollie for $15.95. Although oriented to midwest fishing, much of the information applies to Mayfield’s tiger muskies. Please release all muskies!
Mayfield Lake is a hydropower reservoir on the Cowlitz River. Mayfield Dam is owned by Tacoma City Utilities and generations enough power for about 57,500 homes. Construction began in 1955 and was completed in 1962 at a cost of $44.5 million. The dam is 250 feet high (from bedrock) and 850 feet long.
Water enters Mayfield Lake from the Mossyrock Dam (backing up Riffe Lake) above, and exits through the turbines or (rarely) over the spillway of Mayfield Dam into the Cowlitz River below. Under normal reservoir operating conditions, the maximum water level fluctuation is 10 feet. There are two safety barriers above the dam, consisting of a log boom and a steel pontoon boom. Watercraft are not allowed in the restricted zone between the log barrier and the dam.
The reservoir is 13 miles long, averages about 1/2 mile wide, covers 2,250 surface acres, and has 33.5 miles of shoreline, which is partially developed. At full pool, the surface elevation is 425 feet above sea level, and the maximum depth is 190 feet in the vicinity of the dam. It is situated in an old river canyon, and is fed by snowmelt from the surrounding hills and mountains. Consequently, the reservoir is narrow, deep, generally with quickly dropping shorelines, has no midlake structure, and the entering water is cold year-around. As a reservoir with water flowing through it, the lake does not develop a thermocline; but there often is a very pronounced water temperature change at a depth of about 6 feet which you would notice if you dived off a swimming dock into deep water. This is caused by the sun warming the surface layer, while the cold water entering from Riffe Lake above tends to sink to the bottom.
The physical structure of the lake is complex. It has two major arms, Winston Cove and Tilton Cove, at opposite ends of the lake. In addition, there is a section of river between the head of the lake and Mossyrock Dam above. The original river channel meanders on the bottom, swinging from one shoreline to the other. In the lower (west) half of the lake, it hugs the north shoreline and averages about 90 to 100 feet deep. In places along the lake, the shoreline drops quickly into deep water, but this lake also has a very large, shallow, weed-covered flat opposite Tilton Cove. There is relatively little shoreline wood (stumps, downed trees), and the major musky-holding structures are weed beds, flats, and dropoffs. Much of the shoreline is undeveloped, but there are some homes and docks along the shore, especially in the area between the highway bridge and Winston Cove.
Mayfield Lake received its first tiger musky stocking in 1988. Apparently these fish did not survive, and the first stocking that "took" was in 1989. The current state record of 31.25 lbs. came from this lake several years ago, and occasionally 25 to 30 lb. class tiger muskies are caught here. In the very early years of the fishery, when the fish were still small, most were caught on bass-sized black-and-silver floating Rapalas. By the mid-1990s, small red bucktails were highly effective. In more recent years, a variety of bucktails and crankbaits have taken fish, and larger sizes of lures are now frequently used here. The most popular tiger musky fishing areas are the two major coves, the big flat across from Tilton Cove, the entire shoreline from Mayfield Lake Park to the state fish hatchery at the entrance to the upper river arm, and the shoreline at Ike Kinswa State Park.
It is generally best to fish this lake in the middle of the week, not only because of crowded boat ramps and heavy boat traffic on weekends, but also because Tacoma Power may release water over the spillway on weekends to put water in the river below for recreational fishermen. This draws off the warm surface layer and puts the muskies down. My experience with this lake has been that weekend fishing usually is a fruitless endeaver; and over the years, I've caught nearly all of my muskies from this lake at midweek.
The best time to fish Mayfield for tiger muskies is from mid-June into September, although the tiger muskies remain catchable until early October. Radio tracking studies indicate they suspend in deep water and are inactive in winter and early spring. WDFW stomach content studies showed they feed almost exclusively on northern pikeminnow (a/k/a) squawfish.
Access and accomodations are available at one private resort and two parks/campgrounds open to the public.
1. Mayfield Resort is located on Winston Cove and has rental cabins, camping spaces, and a boat launch.
2. Mayfield Lake Park is located just off Highway 12, a short distance after crossing the bridge across the lake, and has restrooms, picnic areas, a swimming area, boat launch with large paved parking area, and 54-space campground with a boat trailer parking area. This park used to be operated by Cowlitz County and is sometimes called "the county park," but is now operated by Tacoma Power. New in 2007 is water and electricity hookups. The fees listed for the 2007 season are $20 for waterfront sites and $16 for other sites. It can be difficult to get a camping space without reservations during the summer, especially on weekends.
3. Ike Kinswa State Park is located on State Route 122, which you turn onto before reaching the Highway 12 bridge across Mayfield Lake. If you cross the lake, you went too far. The turnoff has a sign. This is one of the more popular campgrounds in the state park system, so you'll usually need a reservation in the summer, and premium fees are charged here, ranging from $19 for a standard campsite to $24 for a utility site (water and power). There is a $5 boat launching fee. The boat ramp here has a large paved parking area but is steeper and more difficult to launch from than the Mayfield Lake Park ramp. The state park as 103 campsites.
Note: If you stay in a waterfront campsite at either park, don't make the mistake of parking your boat on the bank and tying it to a tree. REMOVE YOUR BOAT FROM THE WATER AT NIGHT OR YOU MAY FIND YOUR BOAT HIGH AND DRY IN THE MORNING because of water level fluctuations ... I speak from experience.
Driving directions to Mayfield Lake Park boat launch: From I-5 about 10 miles south of Chehalis take Hwy. 12 east about 20 miles. After crossing the bridge over the lake, there is a small store to the left, and the turnoff to the park is just after this. If you go into the town of Mossyrock, you went too far. Gas and groceries are available in Mossyrock.
If you find a black Windel's bucktail in a tree 50 feet above the water just north of the swimming area in Tilton Cove, it's mine. It's been there about 15 years.