Lake Sammamish happens to be the second largest lake in King County, yet its fishing opportunities remain the well kept secret of local anglers. Its lack of fame may be due to the relatively small number of public access points on the lake. I mean, for a lake that is 8 miles long and an hour’s drive of a million people, one would think that there would be numerous boat launches, lakefront parks and countless hush-hush shoreside spots ripe for discovery. Yet, the reality is that for all that shoreline on a big lake like ours, there is but one boat launch and four parks that offer any sort of fishing from shore. But fishing can be awesome nevertheless!
It is part of the Lake Washington watershed and its main tributary, Issaquah Creek, empties into Lake Sammamish’s south shore at the state park. Its outlet is the Sammamish River, which connects it to Lake Washington. The lake is best known for its Coastal Cutthroat Trout, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Yellow Perch and Pumpkinseed. However it is also the spawning destination for thousands of salmon. Sockeye, Coho and Chinook Salmon all migrate into Lake Sammamish to the many small tributary creeks, or return to Issaquah Creek where a salmon hatchery is located.
The purpose of this post is to share with you all that Lake Sammamish has to offer to anyone looking to explore this Eastside jewel of a lake and drop a line.
Best Lake Fishing near Bellevue, Redmond and Issaquah
Lake Sammamish is high on my list of best fishing lakes in East King County. Many small lakes dot the landscape, but Lake Sammamish stands out on a map for its sheer size. Redmond’s Marymoor Park on the north shore and Lake Sammamish State Park on the south shore bookend the lake. Back in the day, the Lake Sammamish area was wooded and rural. Many middle-class families in Seattle maintained small lakefront cabins for short weekend trips across the lake.
Nowadays, Lake Sammamish waterfront is a coveted asset and the shore is lined with impressive homes. Almost every home on the lake features a dock, and why that is exciting to a fisherman like me is covered later in this post.
Cutthroat Trout Fishing in Lake Sammamish
I have spent many a winter day on Lake Sammamish trolling for Cutthroat. The lake is wonderfully void of boat traffic during the prime trout fishing months of October through April. I have found that the majority of trout in this lake spend their waking hours cruising the open waters of mid-lake near the surface, seeking out any prey they can chase down. I usually troll, and if I have a couple people with me, try to diversify my offerings across my trolling spread. Downriggers are great because they give you the exact depth and work deeper if you choose. I’ve come to believe in the old-timer’s ways, and run my gear far back behind the boat, over 100’, so that the noise of the kicker motor doesn’t spook them. A light action kokanee rod with a bait-caster spooled with 10 pound mainline is perfect for downrigger fishing or flat-lining, but a little under gunned for lead-core.
Where to fish for Lake Sammamish Cutthroat Trout
I have spent most of my trout fishing time here fishing the southern third of the lake. My focus area starts near the mouth of Issaquah Creek. There is a 100 yard fishing closure near the creek mouth during fall months. I usually start somewhere in front of the creek and troll my way to the weather station. Or I will troll in a zig-zag pattern around until I find a few willing takers. I’ve fished the northern extent of the lake but haven’t found fishing to be any better or worse, so I’ll save some gas and stay closer to the launch in the south end.
How to catch Cutthroat Trout
There are a number of rigs that will catch Lake Sammamish Cutthroat. My favorite is a 4/0 Dodger with 12”-18” leader and a Mack’s Wedding Ring. I tie my own leaders with a double size 8 baitholder hook and use a small worm as bait. This is the most deadly-effective setup I have discovered for this lake’s trout. Other great options are small crankbaits such as the Rapala Floating Minnow size 5 or 7, Rapala Jointed Minnow size 5 or 7, Berkley Flicker Shad, or Yakima Baits Maglip 2.0. Small trolling spoons like Luhr Jensen’s Needlefish or Dick Nites are local favorites.
If your boat has no downriggers, you are still in the running for a great day of Cutthroat fishing. I often use leadcore line in lieu of my downrigger, which sinks your offering deeper the more you let out. Lead-core line is multi-colored, one color per 10 yards, as a way to indicate how much line you let out. I usually let out 3 to 4 colors but have gone much deeper. I almost prefer lead-core or a flat-line set-up over downriggers, but that’s one man’s opinion.
One of Washington’s Best Bass Lakes
It would be rare to spend a day at the Lake Sammamish State Park boat ramp and not see at least one bass boat launch and retrieve. But for all the miles of shoreline, the hundreds of docks, lily pad coves, and gravel beaches, the lake never seems overrun with bass fishermen like some of the states more revered locales.
It does host bass tournaments a few days a year. Like Lake Washington, the majority of the shoreline here has been developed.
Lake Sammamish Smallmouth Bass
With all the manicured gravel beaches, Smallmouth Bass are the dominant species in the lake. You can catch them everywhere in the spring, and fishing remains good through the fall. My preferred techniques are fishing with jigs and trailers, pitching weightless Senko’s under docks, and searching with jerk-baits and spinnerbaits.
Bass anglers do head out in the winter and catch a few Smallmouth as well, drop-shotting over their favorite rockpile in 40’-50’ of water.
Lake Sammamish Largemouth Bass
A more natural and muddier shoreline still exists near Issaquah at Lake Sammamish State Park. Another spot is in the northwestern end of the lake near Redmond, known as the Sunken Forest. Largemouth Bass can be found in greater numbers at these two spots than anywhere else in the lake. One of my favorite things is to in the summer is head to these areas right before dusk and spend a couple minutes fishing for Largemouth with frogs and other topwater lures. The take is vicious! Beware that you will need to race against the clock to hit the boat launch before it closes at dusk.
Fishing for Perch, Sunfish and More in Lake Sammamish
Yellow Perch are an easy catch year-round. They are great for kids or if you are in somewhat of a fishing slump and need a little confidence-building.
These fish are not picky eaters. In fact they will even eat their own kind! I prefer to fish with a small chunk of nightcrawler, but some anglers will fillet the first Perch they catch and use small pieces as bait. Apparently it works really well.
In winter they can be found in large schools in open waters or 30’ to 80’ depths, either in the hundreds or the thousands! The only challenge of winter fishing is finding the schools. Once you find them, you will catch. In the spring, the lake waters warm and vast patches of weeds grow in the shallows. The large schools of Yellow Perch disperse and the fish move into the protection of the weeds. They can still be easy to catch!
Panfish such as Pumpkinseed, Sunfish and Bluegill are also found in good numbers during spring and summer near weed lines and under docks.
You can catch and keep as many Yellow Perch as you want, as there is no limit.
Lake Sammamish Salmon and Kokanee
Sockeye Salmon migrate back to Lake Sammamish in the summer to spawn. Some migrate up tributary streams like Laughing Jacobs, Tibbets, and Issaquah Creek to spawn, some spawn in the lake. Sockeye are unique, as you will never find a population of Sockeye in a watershed that does not have a lake in it; their biology requires their first year of life to be spent in a lake foraging. Currently, there isn’t a Sockeye Salmon fishery in the lake.
Sockeye Salmon that residualize in the lake and never make it to sea are called Kokanee. There is a population of Kokanee in Lake Sammamish. And if you are trolling for Cutthroat there is a good chance that you will catch one! However, as of the writing of this post, the numbers have been up and down and we need to continue to toss these back until their stocks rebound.
Chinook and Coho Salmon can be found milling around the lake near the mouth of Issaquah Creek in September and October. Issaquah’s Salmon Days celebrates the returning salmon. During this early October festival, you can view returning salmon splashing around in the creek. Best vantages are the Sunset Way, Dogwood Steet, Juniper Street and Gilman Boulevard Bridges in Central Issaquah. Occasionally, we will get a fishing season in-lake for Chinook and/or Coho, if the returns are big enough. Trolling with salmon plugs like Kwikfish, Maglips, Mag Warts and Brad’s Wigglers are most effective.
Where is Lake Sammamish?
Lake Sammamish is located in King County, Washington. It is located 15 miles east of Seattle. Redmond is north of Lake Sammamish. Issaquah is south. Bellevue is west and Issaquah is east.
Best fishing from shore
Lake Sammamish has several public parks that offer lake access. Keep in mind that these parks are popular during summer months and may only provide solitude early in the mornings. Redmond’s shore fishing option is Idylwood Park. Marymoor Park is Redmond’s largest park, but its shoreline is swampy and not suitable for hiking out to the lakeshore for fishing. Sammamish’s lakeside park is Sammamish Landing. Bellevue’s only public lakeside park is Timberlake Park. Issaquah’s Lake Sammamish State Park is the largest park on the lake that offers good shoreline access for fishing.
Best boat launch
Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah offers the only public boat launch on the lake. It has multiple paved ramps with docks and ample parking. This is a fee launch, and a Discover Pass allows you to launch at a discounted rate. From Interstate 90, take Exit 17 and travel north on East Lake Sammamish Parkway 2.4 miles. Then turn left into the boat launch entrance.