June 20, 2024

Hardcore Game Fishing

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Lake Washington Fishing Guide Complete

USA, Washington State, Bellevue. Newport Shores neighborhood, Lake Washington and floating bridge in autumn, with Seattle in distance.

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Fishing at Lake Washington is a must-try experience for every freshwater enthusiast. Nestled between Seattle and Bellevue, this rich body of water is known for its vastness and accessibility. This 22-mile-long freshwater expanse is a celebrated haven for both novice and seasoned anglers, no matter their skill level.

With 22,000 acres of fishable waters, Lake Washington is marked by its two renowned floating bridges, and also boasts the majestic Mercer Island at its heart. Lake Washington caters to a wide range of fishing opportunities. Its numerous piers, docks, and access points make it a perfect choice for urban anglers seeking a fruitful fishing escape.

In this guide, we’ll dive into the heart of Lake Washington’s fishing scene. You’ll learn the best seasonal strategies and prime spots, as well as all about the diverse fish species that populate its waters. This guide is your key to unlocking the rich angling potential of one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier freshwater fishing destinations. So, gear up and get ready!

Top Lake Washington Fish Species

Lake Washington’s angling scene is as diverse as it gets. Its fishing menu keeps the local community coming back for more – and we’re sure you’ll want to, too. You’ll get to elusive Green Sunfish, sturdy Largescale Sucker, and the ever-present Common Carp, among more. Here’s our pick of the fish you won’t want to miss out on:


A man and a woman each holding two Black Crappies on a sunny day with a lake's water behind them
Image courtesy of Eric’s Elite Guide Service–Branson

Lake Washington’s Black Crappie are among the best species to introduce novices and younger anglers to fishing. These fish average 7–9 inches in size but can reach up to 15 inches when the conditions allow. Lake Washington actually holds the state record for Black Crappie, with a catch weighing 4.5 pounds recorded back in 1956!

You can typically find Crappie around underwater structures like pilings and stumps, especially near the mouths of feeder streams. They hang out in areas with ample vegetation. Successful Crappie fishing often involves small jigs and soft plastics, but you can also try fly fishing. During the cooler months, tipping lures with live bait can increase your chances of a successful catch, while night fishing can also be productive.

Crappie respond best to slow-moving lures. In shallow waters, a simple yet effective technique is to suspend a tube jig or curly-tailed grub under a bobber, adjusting the depth to match the location of the fish. These fish have thin mouths, so a gentle hookset is crucial. For larger catches, you should play the fish carefully to prevent tearing the hook free.


Three anglers aboard a boat on a lake on a sunny day, with the angler in the center of the image holding two Coho Salmon
Image courtesy of Wind Knot Charters

Salmon fishing in Lake Washington is another significant draw. Here, you can hunt for Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, and landlocked Kokanee. Although not stocked in the lake proper, Kokanee – also known as Silver Trout – are actually Sockeye Salmon that never migrate to the ocean.

Coho Salmon are the biggest stars of the show here, with schools concentrating in the north of the lake. These fish often exceed 30 pounds and are typically targeted by trolling with downriggers. However, mix and match your approach, and you could find any one of the four Salmon species on the end of your line!


A closeup of angler's hand holding a Cutthroat Trout that's still attached to the fishing line and rod. The angler's orange rain jacket is visible in the background

Lake Washington is also home to a healthy population of resident Coastal Cutthroat Trout. You can identify these Trout by their unique red slash marks under their jaws and small teeth on the back of their tongues. While they average somewhere between 7 and 9 inches, Cutthroats can grow up to double that size. 

Coastal Cutthroat Trout in Lake Washington can be targeted effectively from both the lake’s public fishing docks and by boat. The open waters of mid-lake, where Cutthroat tend to concentrate in the upper 20 feet of the water column, offer some of the best opportunities. In general, the entire lake is a potential hotspot for these Trout, especially areas like Magnuson Park in North Seattle and the southern end near Mercer Island and Renton.

Cutthroat fishing tactics vary, but, generally, you’ll find them in shallower areas during cooler months and deeper spots when it’s warmer. Trolling is a popular method but fly fishing can also be productive, especially during the hatch seasons along gravel beds where they spawn. 


A closeup of a cooler full to the brim of Yellow Perch, with the sun shining on the fish
Image courtesy of JOB Fishing Charters

Yellow Perch fishing in Lake Washington presents a delightful opportunity for all kinds of anglers. Much like Crappie, these fish are small – usually measuring between 4 and 10 inches – and also make for a delicious meal. Typically found in schools around weedy areas or rocky shallows, Perch are most active during dawn and dusk, and are a great target on small jigs or live bait like minnows.

Their tendency to school and actively feed makes them an ideal target. Areas like Mercer Island’s shores, the shallows near Bellevue, or the docks and piers around Kirkland are some of the best Perch spots on Lake Washington. But, truth be told, you can find them pretty much anywhere. 


An angler in a raincoat on a lake on a cloudy day holding a large Smallmouth Bass with the boat's motor and water in the background
Image courtesy of Upstate Guide Service

Last but not least, we have some of the most popular game fish on the planet. Lake Washington’s Bass fishing scene has surged in popularity over the last decade, with Smallmouth Bass stealing the show. The lake’s urban shoreline, with its docks, bulkheads, and beaches, provides an ideal habitat for Smallies. 

Largemouth Bass, while less prevalent, are still a significant part of Lake Washington’s Bass population, especially in the extreme north. Both Bass species bite best in spring, and then again in September or October. If you’re after a larger catch, look for the shallower waters around the lake’s edges during these times. As the season progresses, Bass will divide their time between active hunting in shallower waters and resting in deeper or shaded areas.

How to Fish Lake Washington

Now that you know what to catch, it’s time to get technical. How you go fishing in Lake Washington depends on several factors, including what species you’re after. But let’s introduce you to some of the most popular methods to catch fish here:

Lake Washington Pier Fishing

A view along a fishing pier and dock towards a woman casting a line on Lake Washington as the sun sets against an industrial background

Pier fishing on Lake Washington is perfect for those who just want to check what’s biting in the company of like-minded anglers. From the bustling shores of Seattle to the serene parks of Bellevue and Kirkland, there’s a spot for everyone. The fishing menu is also impressive. You can land Perch, Crappie, and Bass right from a pier.

The lake is encircled by a variety of popular spots. In Kirkland, the piers at the Waverly Marina and Old Ship Museum Parks are local favorites. Gene Coulon Memorial Park in Renton and Seward Park on the southwest side of the lake are also popular spots. Alternatively, head out to Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island. We told you there was no shortage of places!

Lake Washington Shore Fishing

The shoreline of Mercer Island on Lake Washington on a sunny day in the winter with ducks swimming in the water and houses in the background on the opposite shore

Piers aside, the lake’s extensive shoreline, parks, natural areas, and various public access points offer a lot of opportunities for shore anglers. You can explore different points along the lake, such as Matthews Beach Park and Seward Park. It’s not just the fish that are enticing, the views are also gorgeous!

The key to successful shore fishing on Lake Washington is mobility. Try different locations and practice several tactics. Some of the most effective methods include casting spinnerbaits or soft plastics for Bass, or bobbers and live bait for Perch and Panfish. For Trout, light spinning tackle or fly fishing can be very effective, especially during the early morning or late evening.

Lake Washington Night Fishing

A happy angler in a camouflage jumper with sunglasses around his neck holding a large Catfish with one hand in its mouth at nighttime
Image courtesy of Mike Salamon Guide Service

Night fishing on Lake Washington is an exciting challenge – a chance to target species that are more active after dark. Catfish and Carp, for instance, feed more aggressively during the night. Of course, heading out with a local guide is the best idea, especially when you’re planning to fish in the dark.

Preparing for night fishing usually involves some extra gear, such as headlamps, glow sticks, and extra safety equipment. Locals typically set up near feeder streams or areas with underwater structure. If you’re heading out around midnight, consider packing bait such as nightcrawlers, liver, or dough for Catfish, along with sweetcorn for Carp.

Lake Washington Charter Fishing

An aerial view of a single motor boat crossing Lake Washington on a sunny day next to a grassy shoreline

Booking a Lake Washington fishing charter opens the door to a perfect fishing experience guided by seasoned experts. These charters provide everything from top-notch equipment to insider knowledge of the lake’s honey holes.

Choosing a charter also means accessing parts of the lake that are less crowded and more productive. You can explore areas around Mercer Island and the deeper waters of the northern basin, where larger fish are known to roam. Trips vary in length and can be customized to fit your preferences. Remember to book in advance, especially during peak seasons!

Top Lake Washington Fishing Spots

An aerial view of small marina on Lake Washington at sunset with Seattle in the background and a number of charter boats in the foreground

Such a big lake naturally offers a myriad of fishing spots. But few bodies of water are blessed with such diverse neighborhoods right on their shorelines. From deep waters to sheltered coves, let’s cover some of the top spots on Lake Washington where you can cast your line:

  • Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. Situated on the southern shore of Lake Washington in Renton, this is not just a family-friendly location but also a popular fishing spot. Its easily accessible fishing pier and boat launch make it perfect for targeting Bass, Perch, and even seasonal Salmon.
  • Kirkland City Dock. Located in downtown Kirkland, this dock offers urban shoreline fishing with potential catches including Bass, Crappie, and Perch. It’s a great spot for a quick fishing trip without venturing too far from the city.
  • Seward Park. This park on the southwest side of the lake is known for its scenic fishing pier and boat launch. It’s a prime location for anglers targeting Trout and Perch, with gorgeous views of Mount Rainier on clear days.
  • Magnuson Park. This well-known spot for boat fishing is located in Sand Point, on the northeastern shore of the lake. Anglers usually come here for a healthy dose of Bass.
  • Luther Burbank Park. Head to Mercer Island to reach the next spot. It has all you need to land Trout and Panfish, including a fishing pier and boat docks. The serene island setting adds to the fishing experience.
  • Yarrow Point Beach Park. A hidden gem on the lake, this is where locals come for a peaceful fishing experience. It’s less crowded and perfect for those seeking to spend a couple of hours with their rod and reel.
  • Madison Park. Seattle anglers enjoy this park on the western shore of the lake. It’s easily accessible and offers good fishing for Trout and Bass along its shoreline and nearby docks.

Lake Washington Fishing Seasons

An aerial view of a pedestrian floating bridge on Lake Washington with autumnal trees in the background

So, when’s the best time for a Lake Washington fishing trip? While the fish are abundant, they show up in greater numbers at different times of the year. Let’s delve into the seasonal nuances of fishing in this urban lake.

Spring marks the start of the Bass fishing season, with Smallmouth and Largemouth moving into shallower waters to spawn. This period offers the best opportunity to catch these feisty fighters, particularly near the shoreline and in coves. It’s also prime time for Crappie fishing, as these Panfish congregate in shallower areas for spawning.

As the temperature peaks in summer, so does fishing for Bass. This season also sees an uptick in fishing activity around the numerous piers and docks, since almost everything is biting. However, the arrival of fall transforms Lake Washington’s fishing landscape. As the water cools, Trout become more active, while Salmon return to the lake, too.

While many fishing spots in the region slow down during winter, Lake Washington maintains a steady pace. The colder months are ideal for targeting Yellow Perch, as they school up in deeper waters. If you’re willing to brave the cold, you can also try ice fishing!

Lake Washington Fishing Rules and Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of Washington state, a vector of a boat, and the FishingBooker logo, along with text stating "Lake Washington Fishing Regulations: What You Need to Know" against a blue background

Before we let you go, there’s just some housekeeping in order. First of all, all anglers aged 15 and older must have a valid Washington State fishing license to fish in Lake Washington. These permits can be purchased online at the WDFW website or at various authorized dealers throughout the state.

As well as that, there are certain bag and size limits for each species. In some cases, catch and release is encouraged or mandatory, particularly for certain species or during specific seasons. Plus, there are zone-fishing closures along the floating bridges, along with a minimum size regulation to protect juvenile Trout in the spring. Consult with the WDFW for the latest rules.

Lake Washington: City Waters, Country Soul

A view towards the river from Lake Washington's shoreline with small waves on a sunny day, along with evergreen trees in the background

Every season brings in a new fishing adventure and every angler can find their stride in Lake Washington. From fly fishing for Trout to the thrill of landing a large Bass, Lake Washington’s fishing scene is as dynamic as it is rewarding. If you’re all set for an unforgettable experience, book a charter and head out. Tight lines!

Have you ever been on a Lake Washington fishing trip? What’s your favorite fish species to go for? Let’s chat in the comments below!

The post Lake Washington Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Lake Washington Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/lake-washington-fishing/
Published Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2023 11:11:58 +0000

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