The bull trout is essentially the magnum of trout. The species gets noticeably bigger than other trout and bears a striking resemblance to salmon. Once classified as a Dolly Varden; a member of the char family, this species was reclassified as bull trout in the 1980s. Moreover, bull trout are a rare species that are out of this world and fun to target. Here’s a list of the 10 best places to take your chances at targeting one of these big boys.
1. Chilko Lake – British Columbia
Some fish are hard to find in America, so go outside the US for a better bet. Chilko Lake is in central British Columbia, Canada, and has what might be the healthiest population of bull trout anywhere. It’s a big lake, so bring a boat or rent one. Don’t forget to grab some sockeye salmon while you’re in the neighborhood.
2. Diablo Lake – Washington
This spot probably boasts the best, steady population of bull trout in Washington State and the lower 48. Diablo is a reservoir and the controlled lake levels aid bull trout reproduction. The scenery around Diablo Lake is incredible, and it’s one of the few places with a sustainable cutthroat trout population to go with the bulls.
3. Lake McDonald – Montana
Here’s your perfect excuse to go to Glacier National Park. Lake McDonald is the biggest lake in Glacier National Park and has enough bull trout to keep you busy your whole visit. Shore fishing is the easiest bet at Lake McDonald, and it’s important to carefully read through all the regulations regarding fishing before tossing your line in the water. Things get tricky in National Parks, so be flexible.
4. Wallowa Lake – Oregon
The weather is pretty darn nice most of the year in Oregon, so why not go fishing? Wallowa Lake is a great spot for bull trout in addition to lake trout, and the occasional sockeye. This is the perfect place to break out the fly rod and fight one of the big lunkers while the leaves are changing color.
5. Alouette Lake – British Columbia
This one is worth checking out simply because it looks like a super-sized version of Lock Ness. Coincidentally, Alouette Lake also has monsters lurking in it, but they’re mutant-sized bull trout. You’ll want some heavier gear for this pond, and probably a boat to get the most out of the trip. Don’t let the big ones drag you in.
6. Snake River – Idaho
At some point, every angler should find a reason to fish the Snake River in Idaho. It’s like the Grand Canyon, but without all the hoards of tourists. The only rub with the Snake River, is that bull trout are strictly catch and release. This may vary from year to year depending on bull trout populations, so always check regulations in advance. But, if you can’t bring the fish home, you can keep the pictures forever.
7. Hungry Horse Reservoir – Montana
This reservoir is on the South Fork of the Flathead River. The controlled water levels of the lake help bull trout breed and keep the sediment to a minimum. It’s a handy place to take your boat, and one of the few places you can keep the bull trout you reel in. There is plenty of rainbow trout to be had, too.
8. Swan Lake – Montana
There are fewer places with more bull trout than Swan Lake. That being said, this lake is a trout angler’s dream with many varieties available. You can pull rainbow, cutthroat, brook, and bull trout out of Swan Lake. There are also yellow perch and northern pike for the taking. Plan to stay awhile on this lake.
9. Lake Koocanusa – Montana, and British Columbia
That’s right, this one crosses the border. It’s also the only lake around with an acronym for a name. There’s plenty of bull trout to be had from Lake Koocanusa, but you’ll want to make sure your fishing license is in order. Things get a bit weird when you’re on a lake in two different countries. Bring your fly rod and your passport.
10. Jarbidge River – Nevada, and Idaho
This spot is included here simply because the Jarbidge River is the spot farthest south you can find a bull trout. Although, if you do catch one, you better throw it back and identify it properly. The bull trout of the Jarbidge River are on the Endangered Species Act list, so be cool and do the right thing while fishing in the desert. You can keep plenty of other species if you’re starving.
A Few Final Thoughts
Bull trout fishing is a great time, but if you intend to do much of it, you’ll want to keep up with the current regulations. Species, like bull trout, will hang on to or will be close to sustainable population levels. Further, teetering between being harvestable or catch and release fish only. It is crucial to know what kind of area you are fishing in before baiting your hook. Stay current.