Fly Fishing Green Lake Seattle Washington | Steve B Howard
What are you saying? Fly fishing in Green Lake? You mean Green Lake in Seattle? Yes, this is. I imagine the idea of fishing in Green Lake might seem really strange to anyone who has been there. If Funky Town, USA had a lake it would more than likely look like Green Lake in Seattle, I think.
Green Lake is more of a glorified urban farm, not a proper lake. At just under three miles long, you can walk around it in under an hour. That’s all fine you say, but what’s the appeal? On almost any sunny day, Green Lake is a bustling madhouse. If you’re casting from the beach, you’re as likely to associate unicyclists, mimes, buskers, or stone-obsessed hula hoppers as you would a fish.
but why? Why, when there are so many other great lakes and rivers that have much better parking and are often deserted even on sunny days. Well, rainbow, 10 to 12 inches on average. not impressive? How about Brown, 14 to 18 inches? Better, but not good enough to risk ruining someone’s day by jumping hoops with your back? What about Steelhead? 27,000 of which were planted in 2016? Yes, you read that correctly, STEELHEAD was freaking in the 7 to 10 pound range in FREAKING GREEN LAKE!!!!
But the back throws, “You moan.” Well, how about floating tubes or pontoon boats? Both are allowed in Green Lake. Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Steelhead on a small lake that can easily be caught from a float tube or pontoon boat Still not enough for you? Yes, me too actually. That was until I read a little article about Green Lake around 2002, I think it was. I apologize, this is straight from my less than perfect memory.
Green Lake was dug or dredged, depending on where you read it, in 1905 as part of a Seattle parks project. Since then it was buried and dug up again until it was finally left alone in the 1960s at its current size. Its fishy history I’m sure, but at some point a rainbow trout was put in there. I don’t know exactly when they started adding Browns into the mix, but they’ve been adding a lot for many years now.
But at some point, perhaps in the 1980s, it is believed that some Midnight Large Mouth Bass biologist enthusiast added enough of these to poor Green Lake to tip the balance to the point where trout were having a hard time. On top of that, there have been some very hot summers that have caused destructive algae blooms that have reduced oxygen levels making it more difficult for trout to catch. I think I remember reading that the lake was culled to reduce the population of the Big Mouth. But the algae was still too much of a problem, so carp were introduced to the lake to help devour them and improve Green Lake’s oxygen levels.
Carp boomed. So much so that they themselves are now becoming a problem. So what does the Washington Department of Fish and Game do? What do you do? Add Tiger Muskies to the mix, of course!
This is where my Green Lake adventure began. Tiger Muskies are a mix of Northern Pike and muskellunge, but are spayed, so there is no risk of them breeding and becoming Green Lake’s new ruling fish. Only 150 lakes were introduced to Green Lake, and those introduced at that time were about 18 inches long. But they are fierce game fish and the WDFG predicted they would all reach 36 inches in a year or less.
I’m a big fan of catching exotics on a fly rod, so I hit Green Lake in the spring, usually on weekday mornings when there are no crowds, with a vengeance. At the time I didn’t know much, so I brought a cheap ten-weight rod with a more expensive reel with good drag loaded with ten-weight float line. I have read that Tiger Muskies, although spayed, will still attempt to breed in the spring when the water is warm enough. At this time they are also very aggressive and will strike at poppers. Having spent many years fishing for Large Mouth and Striped Bass in the California Delta, I decided to go with a Large White Popper for Striped Bass. I added some long black marabou to the tail and tied about five of them.
I’ve also read that Tiger Muskies have very sharp teeth and a strong bite is required. I used 40 pounds of test line I had on hand instead and just did an eight foot roll that I hoped would work.
And it did, to an extent. After about forty minutes of tossing around Green Lake, I delivered my perfectly slammed Tiger Muskie popper. Unfortunately, my house did not survive the sharp teeth and I lost it while trying to bring it close to the shore and onto the net. Despite this, I managed to get my fly back and it was also torn to pieces. On the back site I think it might have been a good thing because I also didn’t have a pair of needle nose pliers with me and I might have ended up with some really ripped fingers if I tried to free that fish.
Although I continued to try Muskies for a few more weeks at Green Lake, I didn’t quite get the hang of another. But I got the right sting set up and a few extra giant streamers from a local fly shop and have picked up a few since at other lakes including one in the video below. Tiger Muskies are definitely one of the most exciting fish I’ve ever caught, although relationships with them can be very rare.
And 2021 may be the last chance because Tiger Muskies only live to be about 20 years old, and as far as I know, there’s only been 150 people adding that at once. But Lake Merwin Lake, Lake Tapps, and Mayfield Lake are some of the other lakes that also contain Tiger Muskies, so even if the chance to catch them at Green Lake passes away, there are still plenty of other places to try your luck.
This is a really great video on how to fish for Tiger Muskie in Washington State by WDFG itself. Not Green Lake, but all of these tips and techniques will work there, too.