Riffe Lake Trout Fishing

Link to Cowlitz River / Tacoma Power Website : Cowlitz Fish.net

This lake was formed when Tacoma City Light completed the Mossyrock Dam in 1968. It is a large 23 mile long reservoir that stretches along US Hiway 12 east of Mossyrock which has a shoreline of 52 miles. It is located about 90 miles south of Tacoma Washington. Riffe Lake can be reached from I-5, turn east onto US Hiway12 and go about 20 miles to the town of Mossyrock. By the way, the name of Tacoma City Light has now been changed to Tacoma Power.

When full at a pool height of 778′ it has 11,830 surface acres of water. The water depth in places can reach 360′ when the pool is full. It initially was named Davisson Lake after an engineer overseeing the project, but local pressure prevailed and it was soon changed to the name of Riffe Lake in favor of the area that the upper lake flooded out.






This lake is an impoundment that is basically a catch basin used for flood control of the snow run off from the higher elevations around Packwood and Randle. With this in mind, the lake is lowered in the late fall in preparation to the estimated winter rains. Then in the early summer (about the middle of May) when the rainy season and any possible flooding appear to be over with, the lake is allowed to raise again for storage during the summer months.

For a link to Tacoma Power’s web-pages for this area CLICK HERE .Sorry but they are not hooked to the internet as for the daily lake height.

Boat Launches :

This park is run by Tacoma Power that has slightly over 200 family RV campsites, with many more individual tent sites. Phone number for Mossyrock Park, 202 Ajlune Road, Mossyrock WA 98564 is 360-983-3900.

Old Highway ; (1) From Hiway 12 at Mossyrock, turn south, at the Shell service station, and go into the town of Mossyrock. About four blocks you will come to a T. (either right or left) Turn left on Ajlune Road and continue past the business district and out of town for about 2 miles, go straight ahead at the intersection of Swafford Road and another mile you will come to Riffe Lake Campground, you need to turn right into the park, maybe talk to the ranger, then hang a immediate left behind the gate shack to the old road, then a right onto the old highway. The distance to the launch at full lake height, is only about 300′.

This launch is on the old blacktop highway 12 that is now covered by the lake. This highway gently slopes down into the lake behind the dam. There is small parking lot on the north side of the road /launch with a turn around into the lot above the wooden floating docks. At full lake height during the summer the dock provides access. Depending on how many others are using this launch and the lake’s level, there may be some distance to back down. At a lower lake height when the lake is drawn down, you might want to walk this old road before launching to locate possible debris and or mud. This launch is usually used by smaller boats and not recommended for larger trailered boats because of the shallower sloping road/launch. There is a Sani-Can here at the edge of the parking lot along with a couple of garbage cans.


The old highway launch just behind the Mossyrock Park entrance shack


 Mossyrock Park ; (2) Go as described in the #1 above but when you come to the Mossyrock Park. The office/gatekeeper is open during the camping season, if it is open, stop and tell them you are going to the boat launch. This road is on the right and above the campgrounds with the launch located on the SW end of the campgrounds. The upper launch is blacktop with four lanes, with concrete slabs below, and has a nice slope which enables you to back in and launch with a car, pick-up or even a motor home. It also has floating docks of about 100 ft. long on both sides of the ramp, for passenger loading into the boat when the pool is full height. This launch area has ample gravel parking, restrooms, picnic tables, a fish cleaning station and very nice toilet facilities.


Mossyrock Park launch in the summer with a full pool height of 778′ Mossyrock Park launch in early March with the lake lowered to 736′


This launch has been recently upgraded to make it usable most of the year, even when they draw the water down in the fall and winter in anticipation of the winter/spring rains. The lake height to use the dock will have to be about 760′, anything lower than that, the NW dock will be high and dry, the ramp is however still usable until the water level reaches approaching 725 feet. Even at a pool height of 735′ you might want to walk the ramp before launching to locate possible debris and or mud as shown in the above RH photo.

Extending the launch by adding about 150′ of new concrete launch pads were installed by Tacoma Power during February 2006, to about a height of 730′. They have added the concrete, and more rock below that point, and they plan on finishing it to the lower level of about 705′ in 2007

Parking for the boat launch is $5.00 per vehicle, weekends and holidays only, Memorial weekend through Labor Day weekend. Other than that no fee is charged.

The park also has a store with limited amounts of baits. But a word of advice, get bait and supplies before leaving Mossyrock. There is an outdoor store (NOW CLOSED) in town past the Tee on the right that carries tackle and can offer advise. But there is a gas station / convenience store next door that carries worms and some tackle. Also there is no gas available at the launch or park areas.

The current water level height and reservations for the parks can be obtained by calling Tacoma City Lights fishing hotline at 1-888-502-8690. It is not available on the internet.

Kosmos ; (3) This launch is on the east side off Hiway 12 past Morton on the Kosmos road. This is located in Sand Creek bed, and again if the water is too low in the fall it has it’s problems. There is ample blacktop parking, however at times of heavy use in the summer I have seen it full. This one is used mostly by fisherpersons who fish the upper end of the lake, trying to avoid the water skiers who seem to concentrate nearer the Mossyrock Park launch. The picture below it is looking across the lake toward Taidnapam Park on the point.

When the pool height gets low in the winter, the steel gates are closed and locked on the road leading into this launch, as the small creek that is left in the channel is about non-existent below this ramp at this time.


Kosmos Boat launch at full pool hight 


Taidnapam North ; (4) This was proposed by Tacoma Power to be completed by the spring of 2007. As of April, 06, some work had been started and it was completed the summer of 2008. It is constructed just northeast and near Taidnapam Park, and is to be more of a year around launch for the upper lake with the ramp extending to about the 720′ level. It will start at about 25′ above maximum pool height. It is a LONG launch, with pull-outs stationed at intervals to facilitate turn-arounds at different pool heights instead of making boaters back a LONG distance at low water.

I was there 10-20-07 and took the photos below, but construction is not yet complete. apparently because of the flooding that took place the winter of 2006/07. There is a large parking lot, nice restrooms, a prep area on the right at the top of the ramp with a blacktopped loop to the right for pulling in and then heading back to line up the trailer to the ramp. The upper section is poured scored concrete, with a lot of large pre-poured interlocking sections apparently to be used for the lower section stored in the edge of the parking lot. The smaller white hand written sign says “boat launch unusable” with a date of 10-15-07 as there is a lot of mud on the ramp at the water level.


Sign at the entrance This launch is long & has some turn arounds part way down


Taidnapam Park ; (5) The other ramp is located in Taidnapam Park, which is another Tacoma City Light facility. Phone number 360-497-7707. Go to the entry gate and pay the parking fee if applicable for that time of the year. This has a concrete ramp, fish cleaning stations and restrooms. The one thing on this ramp is that there is a major drop-off off the end. It has a concrete bumper at the lower end to stop a trailer from dropping over. There is about a 50′ drop off beyond this bumper. The bumper is it. If the lake level is being lowered, DO NOT ALLOW A TRAILER WHEEL TO DROP OVER THIS BUMPER. The end of the ramp and bumper is at about 6′ beyond the end of the floating dock. Under these circumstances I would not recommend trying to launch a large boat here unless you check it out completely first.

This ramp is generally usable late May to mid September, depending on lake level. Parking for the boat launch is $5 per vehicle, weekends and holidays only, Memorial weekend through Labor Day weekend. This ramp of course would also be not usable at a real low water level in the late fall or winter. The park rangers post signs as to the ramp being closed and they close and lock the steel gates at the top of the ramp under these conditions.

Fishing Regulations : Your trout (or landlocked salmon) limit here is 5 fish, and this lake, like all waters of the state have a restriction whereby if you use bait, any that you catch will be counted toward your limit regardless if your keep or release them. However if you are using lures, with no scent, you can cull or release them all day. For this lake, WDFW has designated it as a 2 pole lake if you purchase that endorsement.

Fish ; Many of the fish that are in the lake are silver trout, (essentially a landlocked Coho), with a size up to 20”+. With the best fishing for them starting in the early spring. This is because of the inability for downstream migrating smolt to be effectively trapped at the Cowlitz Falls dam above this impoundment.

It has also been planted with some landlocked Chinook salmon, brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, a few largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and perch. And there has been some of the planted catfish from nearby Swafford Pond take up residency here also.

The local bass club puts on a smallmouth bass derby here every May. It seems that the bass like it when the water is raising as they move up on the freshly inundated shallow shoreline searching for food.

This refilling of the reservoir usually is not that good for the trout fishermen for a few days as much of this new water is coming off snow melt and is cooler, forcing the trout down.

Boat Fishermen : These fisherpersons usually troll. A depthfinder is usually needed to locate the depth of the fish, and then troll at that depth. As the summer progresses, the water temperature rises, the fish usually go down. Usually this depth is around 50 to 60 feet. You may be able to do this with a weight on your line or a diver. However many times if you need this depth, you may need a down-rigger to achieve your desired depth.

It has been experienced that when the lake is being filled in the early summer, that the fishing is great, but the catching is not. Possibly this could be due to all the new colder water being retained, that the fish may need some time to acclimate. ???

If the wind is blowing enough so as it is hard to control the boat at a trolling speed, it is usually best to troll with the wind. Many times the wind in the morning comes from the SW and by 10AM dies down, then changes and comes from the NW. If the wind is enough as to hinder trolling, you can simply shut it down then drift with the wind, letting your lure either down to the depth you suspect them to be or attach a bobber, let it float with you and the wind. Basically you are bank fishing from a slightly moving boat.

Lures & Rigging : for the silvers and trout include–

Wedding ring or Double Whammy spinner

Rooster Tail, or #1 Vibrex spinner in gold/orange body

Flatfish, Rapella

Heidebrandt double blade spinners in size 6 or 7 with a rudder & Flatfish, Power Bait & shrimp or worm about 12” behind

Pop Geer gang troll spinners with the above bait combinations

Small dodger, or Fish Flash with a Apex Kokanee Special plug, either red or chrome, or a small rubber squid & scent

1 oz sinker is enough for fishing the top 20 or 30 feet of water

The Pop Geer gang trolls are made in length sizes of 17″, 28″ & 36″ & come with their own keel. Other spinner attractors are the Ford Fender & Doc Shelton.

Some fishermen use a small snubber on the line before the dodger when using the downrigger. This snubber is then pierced a few times on the rear, then injected with a scent. The thought here is the snubber acts as a scent reservoir and leaks the scent out over a long period of time. Don’t be bashful when using worms in trying scent also. Sometimes just adding herring scent to worms will make the difference between a fishy smelling boat or not. Cocktail shrimp work good by themselves or in addition to worms.

Don’t put one gear type on and troll it all day. Change lures or combinations until you find what works. Troll in zig-zags, slow down, then speed back up, use scent. What worked yesterday may well not work today. If you have a hit, don’t just keep on trolling, turn around and try for a bite from another fish from a possible school that you may have went thru. Try different trolling depths. Try close to a protected cove or shore that may have a pocket of food.

One friend uses a Jet Diver about 12″ in front of a Medium or Mini-Fish Flash and then a Flatfish in a watermellon or fire tiger color about 3′ behind the flasher. He trolls with about 30′ of line out.

Spiny-ray fishermen will concentrate in the shallower eastern end areas. Baits can include crawfish colored crankbaits, grubs, jigs and any of the conventional tackle.

Bank Fishermen : There are many places to bank fish on this lake, but probably the 2 most popular are at the upstream side of the dam right off Hiway 12 as shown below and the fishing bridge at the upper end of the lake near Taidnapam Park. This fishing bridge is a footbridge paralleling a logging bridge. It is reached by turning into Taidnapam Park and then taking an immediate left to the dead end at the bridge. You need not go thru the registration office area.

Most of the bank fisherpersons use a bobber about 30″ above the bait at these locations. Many still-fishermen use cocktail shrimp with a bit of Power-Bait. The shrimp are put in a micro-wave for a couple of minutes to toughen them up so they will stay on the hook better. If these fisherpersons use a boat and anchor then they have a choice of the water column, but usually the bait is about 2′ off the bottom. The use of a bobber would at the fisherpersons discretion.

Now remember that these waters are covered by a WDFW statewide rule for trout. “In lakes, ponds, and reservoir ; No min size. Daily limit 5. When fishing with bait, all TROUT (except STEELHEAD) equal to or greater than the minimum size are counted as part of the daily limit whether kept or released.” Landlocked salmon are classified as trout under these circumstances.


Fishing in front of Mossyrock Dam The lady just landed a nice one that he is holding


You will many times see eagles and ospreys on this lake, with deer along the shore.

Best Time : Information gathered from fishermen who fish this lake a lot, it seems that the best fishing occurs from late May to early August.

Swafford Pond ; This is a manmade 240-acre lake that is open for fishing year around. It has a dam at the outlet and empties into Riffe Lake. It is only 3 miles from the Riffe Lake Campground area, but is not accessible from there as you would think. Turn right off Ajlune Road before you get to the campground onto the Swafford Road and go down the hill and south across the valley. Stay on this main road, but take 2 LH turns at intersections. This will take you to the pond. It is stocked with rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. The pond also has largemouth bass, channel catfish and bluegill.

Internal combustion engines are prohibited here, however electric motors can be used. The ramp area is generally used by car-toppers only or boats up to about 16′ as the launch area is not really that good. Pontoon boats can be launched from many places along the shore. There are lots of bank-fishing areas here.


Copyright © 2001 – 2014 All Rights Reserved

Comments are closed.