Lake Crescent By Debbie Kay
Eight thousand years ago, a landslide on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state dammed up Indian Creek, an ancient stream full of cutthroat, steelhead, salmon, and many other species of fish. It changed the drainage of Indian Creek, and created two separate lakes, Crescent and Sutherland, who each had separate drainages to the ocean. As this happened, the trout and salmon in the streams became landlocked, and created a kokanee population along with two unique genetic populations of trout in Lake Crescent.
Fishing Lake Crescent for the Beardslee trout (rainbow) and Crescentii cutthroat is a great chance to catch something that is found nowhere else on the planet.
These “bluebacks” are considered the rarest of all the salmonids on the Olympic Peninsula, and are nicknamed due to the deep indigo color on the backs of the trout. In order to protect the species, fishing here is catch and release only, as there is little visual difference between the Beardslee and the Crescentii when they are not spawning. The Beardslees only take on rainbow colors during their spawn in the nearby Lyre River, so it is easy to mistake a cutthroat for these endangered fish.
These native cutthroat are considered by some to be a distinct genetic subspecies, while others consider them just a genetically isolated population. They can be distinguished from other cutthroat in a lab because they have more gill rakers than other species (the pink arches underneath the gill covers). They have traditionally spawned in nearby Barnes creek, though a few spawning populations have recently expanded into Lyre creek, and created a small population of cutbows in Lake Crescent. These genetic hybrid species are common in other regions where rainbow trout have been introduced into a cutthroat stream system, though this was one of the rare natural occurrences of the hybrid.
Fishing Lake Crescent
This five thousand acre lake sits entirely within the border of Olympic National Park. The lake is over a thousand feet deep in places, due to its glacial origins, though the official depth listed in the USGS is 624 feet, which was the limit of the Furuno depth sounder’s range used in 1960 to establish a depth. Crews laying power cable across years later were able to show depths over 1000 feet, but no official low has been re-measured. Beardslees in the depths have been shown to weigh into the low twenty pounds, the cutthroats are up to about twelve pounds, and the kokanee are just slightly smaller, and provide a great food source for the trout. Slightly deeper when the sun is high. There are three park-owned places to stay right on the lake, the Lake Crescent Lodge, Lake Crescent Cottages and Log Cabin Resort. A number of private cabins are on the lake as well, many of which are used as vacation rentals.