Lake Washington offers great fishing opportunities for Cutthroat Trout, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Yellow Perch and more! If you live in Seattle, Bellevue, Renton or any other nearby city, you need to give the lake some attention as its miles of shoreline and open waters have a lot to offer for anglers. This guide is intended to showcase some of the best fishing options that Lake Washington has to offer.
Where is Lake Washington?
Lake Washington is located between Seattle and Bellevue, Washington. It is 22 miles long and traversed by two of the world’s longest floating bridges. It’s the largest body of freshwater in King County and offers 22,000 acres of water to explore!
If you are interested in all that Seattle has to offer for the angler, check out Your Guide to Fishing Seattle – The City and Beyond
Cutthroat Trout Fishing in Lake Washington
Lake Washington’s naturally sustaining population of Coastal Cutthroat Trout is healthy and offers great fishing. While it is viable to fish for these trout from any of the lake’s public fishing docks or shoreline, fishing from a boat is the most effective. I have found that the best time of year to catch Lake Washington Cutthroat Trout is from October to April. However, they can be caught year-round. Cutthroat Trout tend to prefer the open waters of mid-lake, and usually concentrate in the upper 20’ of the water column. That isn’t to say that you won’t catch a couple deeper, but I generally fish shallow.
For a full list of our favorite trout lures – The Very Best Trout Fishing Lures in the Pacific Northwest
Where to fish for Cutthroat Trout
For Cutthroat Trout, the entire lake is up for grabs. I used to launch at Magnuson Park in North Seattle, working the lake between Seattle and Kirkland with great success. Once I moved out of the city, I began launching at Bellevue’s Newport Launch and Renton’s Gene Coulon Park. The south end of the lake between Mercer Island and Renton was just as good.
The lake can get a little choppy with even a little bit of wind, but both the I-90 and 520 floating bridges act as a wind break. Use this to your advantage! If it’s a little choppy, cruise to the downwind side of either bridge and enjoy a calmer troll. I shouldn’t have to say this, but sometimes the lake’s weather conditions are rougher than Puget Sound, and fishing isn’t even an option due to safety. However, there is often places on the lake that are pleasant to fish when other parts of the lake are downright dangerous. Always error on the side of caution!
Trout Fishing in Winter
In winter months, Cutthroat feed off of midges, a small insect that rises to the surface to hatch. Matching the hatch is not necessary, and the standard trolling lures do not look much like the forage they are naturally feeding on, yet they are caught with ease. I like to troll with a 4/0 dodger, 12”-18” leader to a Wedding Ring tipped with a piece of nightcrawler. Switching to a leader with tandem baitholder hooks has increased my landing ratio tremendously.
Trout Fishing in Spring
And during the spring months, Cutthroat will gorge themselves on out-migrating Salmon smolt, which tend to migrate along the shorelines and near the surface mid-lake. Small minnow imitations work well, such as a Berkley Flicker Shad, Rapala Jointed Minnow, and Luhr Jensen Needlefish Spoon.
Whether you will be trolling with downriggers, lead-core line, or flat-line with a little weight, troll your rigs far back behind the boat. Regarding speed, I like to troll at 1mph-1.5mph.
Yellow Perch Fishing in Lake Washington
Perch fishing can be a fast-paced affair on Lake Washington. The lake has such a large population of Yellow Perch that, as of this writing, there is no limit! They can be found around the lakes many docks and close to shore near the weed lines. In the fall as the weeds start to die back, they will move out into deeper open water and school up in great numbers. When you find a school of Perch on your sonar unit, it can lead to ridiculously good fishing. Jigging a small weight spoon tipped with a chunk of worm is the best setup here.
Smallmouth Bass Fishing in Lake Washington
For decades, bass fishing in the Pacific Northwest wasn’t much talked about. In the last decade, the bass fishing scene in the Seattle area has exploded in popularity. That being said, the sheer size of Lake Washington and its abundant population of Smallmouth Bass is still underutilized. The lake’s urban shoreline, with its bulkheads, docks and gravel beaches, had allowed Lake Washington Smallmouth to gain a foothold.
Arguably, fishing here is as good as any other Smallmouth Bass lake in the state. Anglers chase Smallmouth year-round. Drop-shotting low-profile soft plastics in 20’-50’ of water is the ticket during colder months. As the bass move to the shallows pre-spawn and throughout the summer and fall, any number of techniques and lures can lead to success. Ned rig, Carolina rig, Shakey-head rig, Jerkbaits, Crankbaits, Spinnerbaits and more all will work well in the right situations.
Largemouth Bass Fishing in Lake Washington
The lakeshore has largely been developed, yet there are still many pockets of great Largemouth Bass habitat in the lake. Anywhere there are lily pads over a muddy bottom can be a prime zone for Lake Washington Largemouth. Well known Largemouth areas of the lake include the extreme north end near the mouth of the Sammamish River, Newport Shores, and the area surrounding the Lake Washington Arboretum.
Salmon Fishing in Lake Washington
Salmon return to Lake Washington by the tens of thousands. Tourists and locals alike flock to the Ballard Locks to watch them swim up the fish ladder. They enter the lake and head up the Cedar River, and into Lake Sammamish via the Sammamish River to spawn. Lake Washington’s Sockeye Salmon used to be one of Western Washington’s most awaited fishery. It was never so clear just how many people in Seattle owned boats, that is until they all showed up on the lake to catch Sockeye. Unfortunately, that fishery has fallen on hard times and we have not had a season since 2006. However, we usually have a fall Coho Salmon fishery on the north end of the lake if the run forecast is healthy enough to allow. The schools of Coho tend to concentrate from Kirkland to Hunts Point and Yarrow Point. Lake Washington Coho Salmon anglers typically troll with downriggers, using Brad’s Wigglers. Some anglers will vertical jig with metal jigs such as 1 ounce Buzz Bombs and P-Line Lazer Minnows.
Kokanee Fishing in Lake Washington
Kokanee have rebounded tremendously in Lake Washington. These resident Sockeye Salmon live their entire life cycle in the lake and never make it to sea. This year the limit was 5 per day, under 18”. As with any fishery in the state, regulations can change so always consult the WDFW Fishing Regulations for the final word. Trolling with downriggers is the most effective technique. Use a small dodger, short 12”-18” leader, and a Wedding Ring, Small Plastic Pink Squid Skirt, or God’s Tooth Spoon, each tipped with a kernel of White Shoepeg Corn. Slow trolling is key for Kokanee, as is determining where in the water column they will be. Throughout any given day, they may be at 30’ or 60’ or somewhere else!
Lake Washington Boat Launches
- Renton: Gene Coulon Park
- Bellevue: Newport Shores Boat Ramp
- Mercer Island: Mercer Island Boat Ramp
- Kirkland: Kirkland Marina Boat Launch
- Kenmore: Kenmore WDFW Boat Launch
- Seattle: Magnuson Park Boat Ramp, Atlantic City Boat Ramp
Lake Washington Shore Access
- Seattle: Magnuson Park, Seward Park, Genesee Park, Lake Washington Boulevard Park, Mt Baker Beach, Madrona Park, Madison Park Beach & Dock, Madison Park North Beach, Lake Washington Arboretum, Matthew’s Beach Park
- Kirkland: Waverly Beach Park, Houghton Beach Park, OO Denny Park, Juanita Bay Park, Marsh Park
- Bellevue: Meydenbauer Bay Park, Enatai Beach Park
- Newcastle: Newcastle Beach Park
- Mercer Island: Luther Burbank Park, Proctor Landing, Groveland Beach Park, Clarke Beach Park
- Renton: Kennydale Beach Park, Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park, Cedar River Trail Park