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Washington's Lake Pateros

Bob Johansen - 1/3/2012
Fall Fishing for Lake Pateros Steelhead

Lake Pateros, located at the town of Pateros, Washington. It is actually the dammed up section of the mighty Columbia River behind Wells Dam. The town of Pateros, located at the confluence of the Methow River and the Columbia River, is an ideal destination for fall steelhead anglers. Not only is the steelhead fishing quite productive, but also the Pateros area offers almost unlimited camping opportunities, motels, and great fall scenery.

Fishing for steelhead at the town of Pateros is quite a bit different than what most "west side" steelheaders are accustomed to. Pateros has a very nice city park with three fishing docks. Shoreline anglers either fish from the docks or from the manicured lawn bordering the rock riprap shoreline.

Steelheaders on the fishing dock at Pateros

Lake Pateros steelheaders leisurely stroll over to the docks wearing sneakers and carrying their lawn chairs, thermos bottles, snacks and bait. Most anglers use the same technique -- a black marabou jig, baited with shrimp and suspended under a float. Although several different types of floats are used, the proprietor at the local sports shop said that the weighted floats are most popular because they cast so well. Bobber stops are used to allow the jig and bait to be fished at 10 to 12 feet deep.

The most popular jig sizes are 1/4 ounce and 3/8 ounce. Black is the best color but other colors used include red, orange and cerise (bright pink). Most anglers use frozen shrimp that is available at the sports shop and at the Chevron Super Stop. The shrimp vary quite a bit on size. The smaller ones are best fished whole and it is probably best to use just the tails of the larger ones.

Most dock anglers use spinning gear – And, mostly on the "lighter" side. Spinning gear usually works O.K. because the fish are played in open water. The only real hazard to landing a fish is the single piling holding the fishing dock in place. "Regulars" at the docks tell of many fish lost by wrapping around the piling.

I prefer to use a casting rod with a fairly stiff backbone and a casting reel with a smooth drag. A fairly stiff rod is needed to set the hook properly. Imagine a bobber cast out about 30 to 40 feet and the lure and bait hanging about 12 feet straight below. A good hook set will move the bobber considerably but barely moves the lure. For this reason, a vigorous second hook set is recommended.

A nice Lake Pateros Steelhead

Another good reason for using a tough rod and strong line is that native steelhead caught in the Methow River, or this section of the Columbia River, must be released. Native or "wild" steelhead are those without a missing adipose or ventral fin. A fish landed quickly will have a better chance to survive if released than one totally exhausted on light gear.

A third reason in favor of stronger gear is strictly social but one that could help promote and retain camaraderie on the fishing docks. Other anglers are anxious to get their gear back into the water and become impatient with those who play their fish for an unreasonable length of time.

September and October weather at Pateros is varied. Warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights are the norm but some times rain and cool winds arrive. Come prepared with some warm clothes and maybe even some rain gear.

Camping fishermen have several options is this area. Campers can park curbside near the docks for $5.00 per night. Chevron Super Stop has a small R.V. area, with hookups, near the fishing docks for about $14.00. Call them at (509) 923-2200 for information or reservations. Quiet, peaceful camping is also available at Alta Lake State Park located only about 3 miles from the fishing area.

For anglers who would rather stay at a motel than camp there is the Lake Pateros Motor Inn, located on the lake shoreline. Reservations can be made by calling (509) 923-2203. For fishing information and the latest lures and baits call the sports shop at (509) 923-2622. If you call and get Ace Hardware, it is the right number. The hardware store, the liquor store and the sports shop are all in one place. Because they sell liquor, the sports shop is closed on Sundays.

Black marabou jig
Sliding float
Bobber stop

Park area and fishing docks at Pateros

The most popular steelhead setup at Pateros

Note: I wrote this article for a magazine several years ago and some things have probably changed. Check the current rules and regs.

By Bob Johansen,reprinted with permission