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  Great Washington Getaways Home  |  Curlew Lake and Ferry County
Curlew Lake State Park is one of the state’s most relaxing campgrounds. Photo by Jason Wettstein
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Local Attractions
  FerryCounty.com
  Ferry County.com: Fishing Guide Map to Curlew Lake
  Curlew Lake State Park
  Stonerose Interpretive Center and Eocene Fossil Site
  FerryCounty.com: Curlew Lake Resorts
  Eagle Track Raceway
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Adrenalin-anglers’ bliss:
Chasing tiger muskies and rainbows at Curlew Lake
No need to choose between Zen and adrenalin while fishing at Curlew. Photo by Jason Wettstein
A seven mile body of secluded liquid beauty rests peacefully between glacier carved hills near the city of Republic, in north central Washington.

Look closely around Curlew Lake and you may see great blue herons, geese and osprey in spring through fall.

Beyond plentiful and varied birding in the region, the lake provides opportunities for kayaking, camping, a dip in cool water, canoeing, and nature hikes through serene landscapes.

And then, there is fishing.

Not just any fishing, but pursuit of a fish that combines the ancient heritages of two top predators—muskellunge and northern pike. At WDFW, we call them tiger muskies.

Placed in Curlew lake to help control— i.e. eat—some of the over-populated northern pikeminnow, tiger muskies provide a world-class fish-fighting opportunity for anglers who are up to a chase.

Voracious predators, adult tiger muskie have a compressed duckbill-shaped head, with vertical stripes or bars on a light background running across their bodies. The adult fish can reach over four feet long and weigh more than 30 pounds.

Tiger muskies, like their parent stock, “true muskies,” are known as “the fish of a thousand casts.” It can take days to hook one, but once on the line, few fish beat tiger muskies for fishing exhilaration.

Like their other parent stock, northern pike, they inhabit shallow weedy bays near the tops of weed beds. They can also be found near or under hard structure such as logs or docks, or near underwater shelves or steep drop offs.

From these hiding places, they strike upon smaller fish, or, every so often, upon the lucky anglers’ offering. With Curlew’s clear water, anglers who see them may also have the option to sight-cast to the toothy lunkers.

Nothing good is easy

Catching the mighty tiger muskie is a remarkable fishing experience.
Photo by Jason Wettstein

A fish this big is strong—and following on the hook end is a creature with fearsome teeth and a belligerent attitude.

A 7'6" fast-action, medium-heavy rod that can handle 3-ounce lures is a good all-around muskie rod. For the main line, 20 to 30 pound monofilament or braided line works well, plus, a short length of wire, or fluorocarbon leader. Taken together, this solid gear enhances the chances of landing the sharp-toothed fish.

Successful anglers sometimes use large lures to mimic large prey that muskies prefer. Other lures such as bucktail spinners, spinnerbaits, glide baits, jerk baits, and wooden or plastic plugs work well. Some anglers have had success with large casting spoons as well. A variety of colors will work well but some of Washington’s best tiger muskie anglers prefer darker colors or black.

While tiger muskies typically bite best at Curlew from mid-May through October, many anglers choose to fish the lake in autumn to experience some of the best angling Washington offers before the onset of the winter.

Tigers are elusive, and people can spend days working to catch just one. Because catch rates are low, anglers might typically fish several days during the warmer months of the year for a single strike, but they may see several "follows" daily.

Often, these fish will not strike until the lure is right next to the boat so many anglers perform a “figure 8” with their lure and rod-tip in the water, believing that this increases their angling success.

After the fish is brought to the boat, most Curlew anglers who are lucky and skillful enough to catch a trophy-sized muskie will release it to fight another day. The minimum size to keep a tiger muskie in Washington is 50 inches.

Rainbow trout: aggressive
and abundant at Curlew

Rainbow trout, a northwest favorite, provides excellent table fare. Photo by Jim Cummins

While tiger muskies are exciting, they also can require enormous reserves of patience and time to catch. Luckily Curlew offers abundant and comparatively easy to catch rainbow trout – along with a wide diversity of other gamefish like perch, smallmouth and largemouth bass.

Rainbow trout are renowned for their scrappy nature when on the end of a fishing line and are a favorite meal among outdoorspeople throughout the Northwest.

Rainbows can be identified by their bluish-green back, silver sides and belly, and black spots on the body and on the caudal, dorsal, and adipose fins.

They prefer to eat small aquatic and terrestrial insects, but larger adults will also prey on other fish. Rainbow trout will strike on a wide variety of bait options, both natural and artificial, including: corn, salmon eggs, dough, cheese, night crawlers and powerbait.

Artificial lures such as spinners, spoons, jigs, flies, wedding rings and plugs are also highly effective, and it is not unlikely to catch a rainbow while targeting other Curlew fish.

When fishing during the spring and fall, the water is cooler and trout will often be found near the surface, and may be more active. Trolling is a common tactic as well as suspending bait from the surface.

When the water warms during the summer months, rainbows become a little more sluggish and seek deeper, cooler water. Anglers will want to fish with bait slightly suspended off the bottom, or troll with the lure near the bottom.

Options for dinner, or fish on . . .

While waiting for that muskie bite, Curlew offers acrobatic small and largemouth bass, perch and rainbow trout (see article to right) for the campfire or dinner table. Some anglers seek these game fish on a second pole, while others alternate between fishing muskie and smaller fish with one pole. If you plan to fish with two lines in the water at the same time, be sure to purchase a two-pole endorsement.

For those who do not know the meaning of “too much fun,” night fishing is also allowed on Curlew Lake and can be more productive than daytime fishing. Ultimately though, the choice to bite is up to trout, bass or wily muskie.

In addition to heavy line and pole, a very large, "knotless" net or cradle is important when landing a large fish, as well as a pair of long handled needle-nose pliers for removing hooks from the mouth of the fish. Care must be taken as muskie teeth are razor sharp.

Tiger muskies in Washington are managed as a trophy opportunity with a low bag limit and a high minimum size.

Most tiger muskie anglers practice CPR; catch, photo, release, and those with experience in catch-and-release techniques keep the fish in the water as much as possible, wet their hands or gloves before handing, and support as much of the fish as possible if it must be lifted from the water. A big tiger muskie may be heavy, lengthy, cranky, and more than a decade old.

The best orientation while holding a muskie for a photo is almost horizontal in front of your chest, with the head slightly higher than the tail. Do not hold the fish vertically or at a steep angle. That can injure the lanky fish.

Beyond fishing—journeys through time and stillness

Curlew Lake State Park, one of Washington’s most relaxing and quiet campgrounds, offers swimming, two miles of trails for hiking and biking, a boat ramp, and camping opportunities for both tent and RV during summer months.

Active bald eagle, osprey and heron nesting areas are within sight of the park, providing a taste of the extensive birding opportunities in this part of the state.

Curlew offers terrific bird-watching too. Photo by Jason Wettstein

Camping is available by reservation, with reservations available nine months to the day in advance of arrival. Call 1-888-CAMPOUT or 1-888-226-7688 to reserve a spot.

For those who prefer not to camp, there is also a variety of resorts on the lake, many featuring cabins, docks, boat rentals and other amenities.

If most of the family is fished-out, and mom wants to persevere in pursuit of that giant muskie, she can send the family on a journey through time at Republic’s Boot Hill fossil site where specimens from 48 million years ago can be found in the Eocene era fossil beds. Visitors to Boot Hill must first check in at the Stonerose Interpretive Center and Eocene Fossil Site, also a great place to gain visitor information.

Back to our regularly scheduled adrenalin

While wildlife viewing and natural history are great ways to gain deeper appreciation for some of Washington’s most awe-inspiring landscapes, some visitors just want to kick up a little dust.

If that describes you, Republic’s Eagle Track Raceway is the place to see it done.

The facility features powerful stock car and dirt-track racing rigs moving at tremendous speeds. Visit their website for race times and dates running from May through September.

Ferry County also is a prime target for hunters, with opportunities for mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear, and turkey in season. Visit Ferrycounty.com's hunting page and the hunting section of WDFW’s website for information useful for planning a hunting trip.

Licenses, supplies, groceries and some powerful coffee can be purchased in nearby Republic. For more description of area attractions and events visit Ferrycounty.com.