Looking for a nearby lake that’s a little off the beaten path, for boating, fishing, a picnic — or free overnight camping? Yes: free! Jones Lake might be the answer.
The dammed BC Hydro lake is close to full capacity now and is really a gem for its natural beauty, with the majestic mountains towering on all but the northern end of the lake. You should aim for mid-week so that you’ll have more elbowroom to enjoy the peace and quiet, away from the din of rail and freeway traffic.
Access to Jones, or Wahleach Lake is via a gravel road at the western end of Laidlaw. You’ll need to be on the old highway, so take exits 153 or 160 and look for the Jones Lake sign at the east side of the Jones Creek bridge.
Thanks to logging activity in the area, the road is maintained — though it’s no drive in the park. You’ll be climbing more than 600 metres over the eight or nine kilometre trip and the road is often peppered with coarse, fist-sized rocks. A front-wheel drive car can make it, but take your time and pick your best lines.
When you get to the top, you can turn left or right, with camping and picnic sites in both directions. For anyone hoping for flush toilets: tough luck. Remember, it’s free.
Nick Basok, of Chilliwack Dart & Tackle has fished the lake many times this year and figures a one-way trip at 30 to 45 minutes.
“There’s no rush. Take your time,” he said, last Monday. “I’ve seen a few motor-homes, trucks with campers and cars up there — and I trailer a 16-foot boat in there.
“You can fish from shore but a boat gives you more advantages.
“The fishing’s been really good,” he added. “There are small rainbows, from eight to 14 inches and cutthroat to three pounds. There are kokanees as well, eight to 10 inches. Nice little fish.”
Crayfish are becoming popular too, said Basok.
“You’re allowed 25 a day and they’re in six to 20 feet of water, generally. People use fish heads or cat food in a tin as bait. We have some traps for sale at the store.
“There’s been a regulation change this year, so now you’re allowed four trout a day, with one being over 40 centimetres — as well as up to five kokanees of any size.”
The rainbows and kokanee spawn at the lake but 1,000 cutthroat are stocked each year by Freshwater Fisheries BC, said Basok.
“The cutthroat are ‘triploid,’ or sterile,” he added. “They’re put in there to control the stickleback population and fisheries didn’t want them taking up any of the spawning room. They can live up to five or six years, so they get pretty big.
At this time of year, Basok recommends using flies that mimic minnows, such as muddler minnows or fry patterns. In September, try leech patterns on a wet fly line.
Basok can be reached at the store, Saturday through Monday at 604-793-9922. Other days, he’s out doing his “research.”