Silver Lake Bass

By Mike Carey

I guess it’s the popular World Series poker that’s on TV. Maybe that explains it. Who would have thought my kids (and wife!) would be rooting for poker players? In a similar way, I have been impressed by a phenomenon that has occurred on this web site over the past few years. Maybe I should call my observation "Local Anglers Make Good". I guess I should have seen it coming a while back when our first web generated fishing legend appeared. I’m referring to Carl Costenbader. His pictures and reports triggered a number of e-mails to my In Box asking for his advice and fishing expertise. And requesting trips to learn his methods. Our latest local angler-made-good is familiar to anyone that has logged on to WashingtonLakes.com on a regular basis. His name is David Newby, and his reports and pictures from Silver lake in Cowlitz county have, I dare say, revitalized that fishery and introduced hundreds if not thousands of bass and non-bass anglers to this trophy lake in our southwest corner of the state.


I remember Dave’s reports from previous years, but this year with the new upgrades and the ability to post pictures with reports things have really changed. Suddenly we got to see Dave’s pictures along with his reports. And as you all know, Dave has some great bass shots! I like many others I’m sure, added Silver lake to my list of "lakes I need to check out". And as good fortune would have it, Dave was available on a day that my friend Tom and I got off to check out this Washington bass factory.


Tom and I arrived at Silver lake on a Sunday afternoon. We had planned to target the crappies first and then the next day would be pure bass fishing with Dave. I was expecting to fill buckets with tasty crappie. Unfortunately, things never turn out quite the way you plan. A cold front had rumpled through and we still had the effects lingering on the lake. The crappie fishing was total shut down. I managed one or two light taps but no bucket-o-fish for us that day. Still, it was good to be on the water and away from work and family responsibilities.


We met up with Dave the next morning at daybreak. He came over and introduced himself and I must say he is as pleasant in person as his reports led me to believe. In no time we were talking strategies and plans of attack on the lake’s bass. We would be fishing out of two boats, Tom and I in mine and Dave in his. To my happy surprise this arrangement actually worked quite well. Some areas our boats fished side by side and in others we would start at opposite ends and work toward each other.


Our first stop (and in the interest of disclosure I will not be too specific) had us fishing a long channel with large lily pads to either side of us. It was here that I saw first hand that Dave does indeed know his lake. He had set us up with instructions on how to fish the area and given us some of his secret bass scent (good stuff!). Well, Tom and I started casting and I managed a tap tap, but we watched Dave in fairly quick succession land three nice 2-3 pound bass. "They’re hitting white spinners", he called out. Quick! Where’s my white spinners? Dave gave way and let us work deeper into the channel while he covered water we had hit. We had no success, but he caught one we missed. Bass clinic 101 and I was the student.


We moved on to various other spots and for the most part it was the same story. Dave would catch one or two, often in spots we thought we had covered. The best fish of the day came from a spot that I swear would not have held a bass. But he used a pig n jig and flipped into the little hole as smooth as could be - bam! Fish-on.

Dave was a little disappointed in the day's fishing, saying that he too thought the front had slowed things down. I will say this, he took us to a ton of different spots on the lake and we fished a variety of lures and techniques. The lake itself is a shallow (15-20 ft max) lake with poor visibility and a ton of bass habitat. Everywhere you looked you would see bassy habitat. But it is quite different from the deep, clear lakes that I have been fishing in the Puget Sound area. Not a bad thing, just a new bass environment to learn. I enjoyed the day thoroughly. Oh, final score? Tom one, Dave ten, Mike - zip, nada, nothing. Will I be back? You bet! This lake is a bass angler’s challenge. There are some real hogs in the lake and they ain’t dumb. You could do worse than spend a day on Silver lake.


Here’s Dave with a little information about himself and Silver lake.


I don't look at myself as a expert angler for I strive to learn something new every time I fish. I started fishing Silver lake way back in the 80's with a little 8 foot john boat with a small stern mount electric motor. After a few years of taking, which seemed like a half a day, to get to the fishing spots that I first found on those early days of Silver lake fishing with my 8 foot john boat I picked up a 3.9 Mercury gas outboard. Now I could fish 3 times as many spots in one day as before. After a couple of years at this power option I acquired a 14 foot john boat and a 15 horse outboard which got me around pretty good. Today I fish Silver Lake with a 16 foot Lowe modified vee which I built myself the interior to suit myself with an 25 horse outboard.


Back in the early 90's I went to work for Silver Lake Resort as an maintenance man and a bass guide for one summer. I still launch and communicate about my catch at the end of the day with the owners at Silver Lake Resort.


I have seen lot of changes on Silver Lake in the last 12 or so years from the introduction of the Grass Carp, which is supposed to be a plant only eating fish, put in to control the milfoil and hydrilla plants that were beginning to take over the lake in spots. My opinion was that there were to many of the carp planted which ate up all of the milfoil and hydrilla which was OK but after eating up this foreign plants they proceeded to eat up the vast pencil reeds, dollar pad lily fields, and eating on the regular lily pad fields which used to be so thick that you couldn't see the water in spots underneath. This eradication of the plant life from the lake changed the tactics of slop fishing (weedless lures) to a crank bait, spinnerbait, trout troll lake. Also there has been an increase of jet ski and ski boats on the lake in the last few years which is not a problem for me for lake use is for everyone.


A few years back the regulating dam had water flow under the spill way and the lake had to be drained almost to about the 3 foot from about the 10 foot level to fix the problem. The result of the low water level created a drying out of the submerged brush and stickups which made them really brittle and when the water was back up to normal levels the first wave action broke up and washed away the structure which helped changed the fish tactics. One good advantage of the low water condition for the home owners around the lake was for them to repair the docks and cement walls which were in need of repair. One other good thing that created more fish structure was with the low water condition the owners had a chance to create rip rap coming out from shore by picking up the rocks and boulders which were stacked by hand into walls which were accessible to be readily picked up. During this time of low water fishing the pilings were spectacular. They were just about the only structure left except a couple of rock piles, and had large fish on them, maybe in the 5 or 6 Pound range. One thing that helped me was to get a good view of the lake at low water which I also got to take video so my memory can be refreshed.


Some of my lure choices for fishing Silver lake include: spinnerbait in white ,black, single blade brass or copper in color Crankbait- Bass, Tennessee Shad, Firetiger which is really productive for me in the Bandit lures in the 100 series Jig and Pig- black and blue combination for pork and black with blue glitter in the skirt. Lately the smoke with black flake in magnum tube has worked flippin in the brush and the 4 inch black with blue glitter and pumpkinseed in the Sink-o style plastics off of logs.


Today I think Silver is making a comeback for a few years ago it seemed that the lake produced a lot less quality fish.

Editor's Note - this article was originally published in 2005!