Travelling through the interior of BC? Are you looking for family friendly and great fishing? Look no further than the city of Cranbrook and surrounding area! The East Kootenays offers tremendous fishing opportunities from world class fly fishing to some of the best family fishing experiences that can be had in our beautiful province. Here are a few of my favourite lakes to get your family started in hooking the big one!
#1 on my list is Jim Smith Lake Provincial Park due to its close proximity to Cranbrook. Only 5 km from the downtown of the city you can fish, shop, take in the sights and save money on gas all in one day!
Jim Smith lake provides up to 35 camp sites, a day use area with a beach, swimming and hiking so there is plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy. When out fishing on the lake you will come across 4 species that inhabit these waters depending the time of year. There are plenty of perch, bass and burbot; which is like a freshwater cod. Also for the 2013/2014 year rainbow trout have been re-stocked into this lake. Bring a variety of tackle but some must haves are spinnerbaits, poppers, rubber worms, panther martins and mepps spinners. Also a bobber with some bait works well too! It is possible to fish from shore but it can be quite crowded during the day so head down for an evening fish instead. This lake has a powerboat restriction but get out in your kayak, canoe, pontoon, belly boat etc. The evenings here are fairly calm and its common to see lots of fish rising. Time to bring out the fly rod and catch some of those rainbows that have been stocked. The bass will take a well presented fly as well. Some flies to have would be caddis, hopper flies, adams and some poppers. The burbot are usually more often caught during the winter. If you get lucky you could have the possibility of catching all the species in on day on the water and yes there are some big ones lurking in there.
#2 on my list is horseshoe lake. To get there from Cranbrook head north on highway #3/95 towards Fort Steele heritage town then about 300 meters past there take the first right onto Wardner/Fort Steele road and continue driving for about 11 km unfortunately there is poor signage for this lake but keep an eye out to left side for a bunch of baseball caps on the fence posts and then turn left. You can take any road they basically all join together and do a loop around the lake. Although the lake most definitely does not resemble the name it has been given, it still has lots to offer for the family. Set in some stunning scenery this user maintained recreation site has camping situated around the entire lake from sunny and open to more private and treed in. This area can be a base camp for other adventures such as backpacking, hiking and swimming. Bring out the quads, dirt bikes and rhinos and go for a back country drive in some of the most beautiful places that surround this lake. While staying here you may want to check out Fort Steele heritage town or the nip and tuck goldmine. Fort Steele store and gas station is close if you have any last minute items or run out of something. The fishing can be challenging on this lake even though it is stocked. Springtime is the best time to come here. Bring out your fly rod and go with a chironomid pattern. The water here is very clear due the spring that feeds it so the fish can be quite spooky when water is calm. Most evenings here the fish are rising like crazy for the many insect hatches so bring a good assortment of dry flies. Fishing from shore is possible but mostly during the spring when the water levels are up otherwise it is quite shallow and weedy. Yes there are rumors of rainbow trout that can reach up to 8 pounds in this lake!! This lake is a great from a belly boat or pontoon. Horseshoe lake also has a power boat restriction.
#3 on my list is Norbury Lake Provincial Park also located near cranbrook a few minutes past horseshoe lake on the Wardner/Fort Steele road, this lake provides very good signage to help you get there. Activities to do in this park include water skiing, hiking, walking trails, and swimming. A trail connects Norbury to peckams lake which is also part of the park and is a good chance to view wildlife. If you get the opportunity go and check out the Kootenay fish hatchery which is only a short 12 min drive down the road it is a great way to learn about the stocking program for the area. They also have a fish pond and pellets that you can purchase to feed those big hungry fish right by their front doors! Norbury and Peckams are both stocked with rainbow trout, small spinners work, bobbers with worms and some good dry fly fishing. With these lakes being so close to the hatchery they sometimes release a few adult rainbows just to add to the fun!
Good fishing does not stop at these particular lakes. There are many others that have some big bass, brook trout and some that have Kokanee. Sometimes a little more effort is required to reach them and a 4×4 vehicle is necessary. Pick yourself up a back roads map book to help you find them. Also I recommend checking out Cranbrook’s local fly shop the St. Mary Angler and Mountain Man Outdoors both are very willing to give you information on where the fishing is good and they both carry fishing supplies if you need a few extra things.
Please remember to check the fishing regulations before you head out. Get out there, have fun and good luck!!