During harvest, the old timers gather each Friday before the sun comes up, at Zip’s, the local greasy spoon, to share war stories, small town gossip, and political banter. I figured it would be my best shot at getting any info I could before setting off to find Bonnie Lake, a remote, uninhabited lake in Eastern Washington, known for its sheer cliffs and monster largemouth.
“Bonnie Lake?” A man in his late 70’s, said loudly, “I don’t think you can fish it anymore. It’s been off limits for years.”
“And even if you were to find it, you would have to contend with the rattlesnakes and beaver dams.” another man chimed in, wiping gravy from his beard. “It’s not worth it.”
Bonnie Lake, a lake so inaccessible that only a kayak stands a chance of making it.
First there is the launch. If you can find it, the launch is rumored to be a boulderous 45 degree slope that drops 20’ into a shallow stream. But no one can say exactly where that access point would be. It’s apparently near a remote farming road.
If you make it past the launch, you have to contend with the stream. In the spring, the stream flows rapidly between Bonnie, and Rock Lake. It is only about 6’ wide, and not nearly as deep. It is said to be too narrow for a boat, and too weedy for a pedal drive. The only option is a one mile upstream paddle, with a stiff current fighting against you.
And then there are the beaver dams. Rumor has it that the final obstacle between any potential fisherman and the prize of the untouched waters of Bonnie are the beaver dams that will stop any kayaker dead in their tracks.
A trip worth taking? Maybe. A potential worth exploring? Definitely.
Looking at a map, there seemed to be only one road that would be a potential launch point. So I loaded up my Lure 11.5 at 3:15 am and headed out.
Turning off the highway, the pavement quickly became a gravel road, which T’d into another and then another. The gravel gave way to dirt, and the dirt became narrower and more impassable. After driving for nearly 5 miles across a tree covered plain, I reached the edge; a vista that gave up many secrets. Before me lay a canyon, and a stream, and the road began to lead me down near its waters. I actually got chills.
Slowly making my way down the steep one lane road, I pulled over for a local farmer to pass by and wave; Eastern Washington’s finest. Then I saw what I thought I was after. Could this be the launch?
I got out of my truck. Daylight was just starting to eclipse the canyon walls. It was silent. No wind, no birds. Nothing. Just me and my thoughts. Could I actually get my kayak down the steep rocky bank in front of me? There was only one way to find out.
Fifteen minutes later, I had my Feelfree in the stream. I parked it along the bank, and snapped a quick picture, as you ought to. I had no way of knowing what lay upstream, but to paddle. And so paddle I did. My shoulders and core were burning with each stroke. Four feet forward, and then two feet back as the stream tried its best to prevent me from reaching the fishing shrine that was now so near.
The first beaver dam I came to, I rammed as hard as I could, as if I were beaching my kayak in a storm. The front end became lodged in the bramble of the dam. I surveyed the situation and used my paddle to push and pull myself one inch at a time across the dam. I did the same at the second and third dams I encountered.
Then it happened. Through the reeds, the winding stream gave way to what seemed to be a shallow cove. That cove led to a weedy bay that opened up into the lake itself with its sheer basalt bluffs and lilypads.
I fished for what seemed like an hour without any luck. Topwater, jigs, wacky rigs, crankbaits, nothing was producing. A crop duster buzzed the canyon walls as the sun’s edge crested edges of the cliffs. I crossed 100 yards over to the shady side of the lake and threw a red craw swim jig 8’ from the craggy water’s edge. My line crept across the water until the lure hit the bottom, and the braid went slack. Then it began to move again. This time faster than before. I reeled up the slack and set the hook. The 6’8” rod flexing parabolically as I could feel that I had something good on the other end. I kept the rod tip high to steer the fish out of the weeds. I grabbed the net, and as I landed the monster, let out a yell that echoed off the canyon walls. I had researched and battled, figured things out and overcome, and in the end it made that catch so much more significant.
In the end I caught a total of 6 fish. I explored just as much as I fished. The lake was beautiful, with a huge campable island in the center. It contained both pelicans that roamed the waters in pairs, and vultures that circled high above. It was pristine, untouched and silent. Its waterfall, clear rocky bays, and dark deep channels begged me to return.
And return I will.
Bobby's Adventure Gear List
Written and edited by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member