Editors Note: This article is focused on Western Washington techniques, but applies to a large range of river and lake trout fisheries.
April trout angling in Western Washington lakes provides excellent opportunities to land that trophy trout of your dreams.
There are many lakes that are open year-round that provide plenty of action and then there are those seasonal lakes that are opening day family traditions.
Sixty percent of all licensed anglers in Washington are trout anglers making these waters especially rich with trophy trout compliments of the WDFW stocking program.
I have spent the last decade and then some chasing trophy trout all over Western Washington with many of them being in the four to five-pound range.
I am going to share ten of my favorite lakes, five of these will be open year-round and five will be seasonal in hopes of increasing not just your success on the water but also your enjoyment.
The South Sound area has long been known to be the trout angling capital of Western Washington, specifically the Mason and Thurston County lakes.
Black Lake near the City of Tumwater has long been one of my favorite year-round lakes and provides plenty of action for those that take the time to learn it.
I have always been perplexed at the lack of fishing pressure this lake receives in the early spring, in fact, the whole year. This lake has been stocked with over 43,000 hatchery trout some over a pound from January through July (Previously published - be current stocking report)
It was stocked again in October and November with another 4,500 and once again with some very nice sized trout.
This lake has a very good holdover ratio which increases your chance of bringing home a few that could reach the three to five-pound range.
This lake is over 550 acres and is only about 25-feet deep so you are able to find them holding in four to twelve feet of water year-round.
Work More Than Just The Center of the Lake
The one common mistake that I see here is folks will only work the center of the lake or continue working the same water all day without a hit.
My advice here is to work the whole lake until you locate them and then stay on them until they stop hitting your offering, once that happens to start the process all over again.
Don’t be afraid to work some of the shallower water you just might be pleasantly surprised with your results.
Like most Western Washington lakes bank angling is pretty non-existent boat angling is your best bet here unless you happen to know someone that lives on the lake.
Offutt Lake, another year-round Thurston County lake located in the Tumwater area is well known for its consistency and at times surrenders trout in the five pound range or larger.
What I find here that makes this a relaxing and enjoyable fishery is the 5-mph speed limit.
Last year the WDFW stocked around 5,400 trout from February through May some of those in the 1½ pounds or larger and in November another 1,000, add the 10,000 or so the resort releases from their own holding pens plus a holdover or two and you can see why this lake is so consistent and popular.
Trolling flies, wedding rings tipped with a piece of nightcrawler, or still fishing Power Bait off the bottom all produce action and more often than not limits.
Mason County is definitely no stranger when it comes to productive year-round lakes and April is a great time to work them. Spencer Lake, located in the Shelton area is one of those lakes that has provided me with three to five-pound trout every year for the past several years. Taking the time to learn this lake can pay off in a big way and just maybe that trophy you have been searching for. I would have to say that this is probably one of the most popular trout lakes in Mason County, lots of parking, fair launch, and some limited space for bank anglers keep folks coming back for more.
Boat anglers seem to do best here either trolling, still fishing or just drifting with the wind all produce trout here. Most popular set-ups are wedding rings and flashers, dragging Woolley Buggers, and for bait good old fashioned night crawlers or dough baits.
In March and April of 2013 the WDFW stocked 10,440 trout and in October and November added another 6,180, some of these in the three to five-pound category.
This lake always manages to have a pretty decent hold over ratio with trout reaching eight pounds or better.
Fish are caught all over this lake but don’t overlook the channel that connects this two-part lake.
Brett Malmberg with a Nahwatzel lake bow.
Nahwatzel Lake is one of my top choices for year round action...
located on the outskirts of the City of Matlock and covering roughly 260 acres. This lake was once a closely guarded secret amongst the trout anglers in Mason County, but like all secrets they soon leak out.
This lake has become a destination lake by many Western Washington anglers and with the size of trout that are taken out of here, I can’t blame them. The parking here is very limited and on a busy weekend, you may find yourself parking on the shoulder and taking a lengthy walk back to the launch.
What I recommend is if you can get a weekday off you just might find yourself with your very own private lake or you’re just sharing it with a few other anglers. Bank angling is at a premium.
Despite the amount of pressure it receives there are holdovers taken every year that reach 8 pounds or better.
My brother Brett and I have spent a fair amount of time on this lake over the years and we always manage a trophy or two for the dinner table and I’m not talking about the white meated freshly planted triploids. Although they may have started out that way we only keep the fully finned hard fighters and one other thing is we don’t get greedy, like a lot of anglers we release the fresh plants in hopes of tangling with them at a later date.
Every year the WDFW seems to be very generous in their plants. Many of these are triploids that can reach weights of up to six pounds making for some very exciting hook-ups. All the standard methods will take them, for us our choice is trolling Smile Blade Flies with our best day of hook and release fishing exceeding the 100 counts, a very fun lake to work.
The next lake is also located in the Shelton area and this one actually offers a bit more space for bank anglers with room for about a dozen. Lost Lake covers roughly about 120 acres and to my surprise, it doesn’t see the amount of angling pressure one would expect here especially after you have worked it and discovered its secrets.
One weekend I was shocked to see about a dozen other boats on the lake highly unusual to see that many boats at one time. I will admit for most folks it is a bit out of the way especially when you have so many that are close to the Shelton City limits, trust me when I tell you it is worth the 10 or so miles you have to drive.
Bank anglers do have a great deal of success unlike quite a few lakes throughout the state, floating dough baits off the bottom seems to be the number one choice.
Still fishing from boats using the same set-up seem to do a lot better than bank anglers and if you pay attention you will notice the long time locals working this lake all have their favorite spots.
Trolling hardware or flies is still the number one producer with black and green colors topping the preferred color selections.
The trout seem to winter here very well and reach some impressive sizes, although not monsters we have boated a few three pounder’s and consistently bring two pounders to hand.
Every year anglers circle the traditional opening day of trout season on their calendars, usually the fourth Saturday of April (check your WDFW Regulation Pamphlet to be sure). This day is more than fishing for most but more often than not a family tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation.
For many of the younger anglers this is their first experience and you can see the energy and excitement in their eyes anticipating catching their first trout, a memory many will remember for the rest of their lives. For the parents and grandparents, this is a time to reflect on memories from years past and to create memories for their kids and grandkids.
These next five lakes are my top choices for seasonal lakes that open at the end of April and close at the end of October.
I have chosen these lakes due to my personal experience on them and hopefully, this will help you not only catch trout but relax and enjoy the opening day experience.
Although there are several Silver Lakes in the state of Washington this one is located in Maple Falls about 30 miles east of Bellingham.
This was my home lake for several years and having worked at Silver Lake Park Campground I can honestly say I put thousands of hours on this piece of water. One season my partner Steve Buckner and I hooked and released 1500 trout. I would have to say that this is the most popular opening day lake in Whatcom County drawing close to a couple of thousand anglers throughout the day.
This lake has a 9.9 HP restriction on it making it a lot more tolerable and easier to deal with the crowds. Bank anglers you are in luck here because there is a lot of beach around the park for you to plunk your baits or cast your spoons and spinners. Boat rentals are also available.
Working the larger section of the lake beyond the cabin point is generally the most productive, still fisherman working the bottom with worms or dough bait do well and will produce plenty of action.
Don’t be afraid to try different leader lengths until you find the sweet spot.
The trollers all seem to have their favorite set-ups, flashers with Wedding Rings tipped with a piece of nightcrawler, or Dick-Nites in varying color combinations or just a nightcrawler with 18-inches of leader behind a flasher all put fish on the stringer.
For you folks dragging flies, olive or black Woolley Buggers or a combination of the two colors will produce action. Every year trout in the 18 to 20 plus inch category are added to the stringers. Chances of putting a few trout on the stringer are pretty good.
Skagit County’s McMurray Lake located about 10 miles north of Arlington is a great choice for an opening day adventure with its 5MPH speed limit you won’t have to worry about getting blown off the water by speed boats.
I have seen anglers in rubber rafts fishing quite comfortably and not in fear of their lives. Bank angling is pretty non-existent here. The small parking area fills quite quickly and you might end up trying to find a parking spot somewhere on the side of the road and hiking to the launch area.
On opening day if you are not early, an afternoon or early evening adventure will work just as well.
When you start working the lake you will notice the veterans of this lake are still fishing the bottom with dough baits and for the most part, will all be anchored around the stump about 150 feet from the launch area or around the point.
Trollers' choice of hardware here are either wedding rings tipped with nightcrawlers, Dick-Nites, or Triple Teasers trolled behind a myriad of different flashers. Fly guys work Woolley Buggers either from their float tubes or trolled behind their aluminum boats. Don’t be too surprised if you add an 18-inch to your stringer.
.08 Smile Blade in front of a Carey Special.
Mineral Lake located on the outskirts of the City of Mineral is most definitely a destination lake for the opening day anglers. Mineral is known as the “Home of the 10-pound trout”, and yes every year there are some 10-pounders taken from this lake.
This lake is an opening day tradition with quite a large crowd that I wouldn’t even want to try and put a number to. The ramp can get very crowded and busy but if you are ready to launch when it is your turn it can be quite painless. Parking, however, can be a whole nother story, it is very limited around the launch side but with the overflow parking available across the street it eases the pressure a bit.
Now I know you think I am trying to scare you away but once you are on this 8MPH lake you will find it very enjoyable.
For bank anglers there is a limited amount of space and for a fee you can fish from the resorts docks. Dough baits seem to be the bait of choice here and for the best color selection just drop by the resorts tackle shop/boat rental/snack shop, for more information give them a call at 360-492-5367. Trollers use all the usual suspects behind flashers to include wedding rings, Dick Nites, and Triple Teasers.
Small plugs like flatfish in varying colors also produce their share of the stringer. For you folks trolling flies, Woolley Buggers in black and olive do well but don’t overlook a Carey Special in emerald green with black hackle.
Every year this lake receives a very healthy planting of trout. These trout range in size from a third of a pound all the way up to 10 pounds. I think it is safe to say you stand a good chance of doing quite well.
There are several Clear Lakes in Washington and this one is located near the community of Yelm.
This lake is surrounded by development but is actually quite peaceful and I credit that to the 5MPH speed limit. Bank anglers have some access to the launch area accommodating about 10 anglers. There is parking close to the launch but on opening day expect to use the overflow parking area across the road.
This Thurston County lake is no stranger to surrendering trout up to five pounds to that persistent angler.
Bank anglers do quite well here plunking different types of dough baits with Power Eggs gaining popularity here. Like all lakes, you will have to experiment with leader lengths to find the sweet spot. Trolling with Wedding Rings tipped with a chunk of nightcrawler behind a flasher is the number one choice here.
My favorite method has always been trolling Woolley Buggers and it has paid off very nicely over the years.
When you launch take time to watch the lake and you will see the most popular trolling areas and still fishing spots, hint you will be able to tell by the smiles on their faces and full stringers. There are some very nice holdovers from previous years that seem to show up every now and then on some lucky anglers stringer.
This next lake I have worked hard over the past couple of years and have been very pleased with the results. This lake has a large parking area and ramps that are in excellent condition and room for about a dozen bank anglers or more.
Back in the day, it use to receive heavy pressure but it seems you will find more Kokanee anglers working the water than trout anglers.
Brett Malmberg with a nice Summitt Lake bow.
My brother and I have found ourselves being the only boat on the water on several different occasions. Like any lake on an opening day don’t expect to be the lone angler it does receive a pretty healthy number of fishermen.
My brother and I have brought several two to four pond rainbows to hand.
Yes, I am talking about another Thurston County lake, Summit Lake, located about 9 miles west of Olympia, covering about 5,000 acres and reaching depths of up to 100 feet.
With a lake this size, you can only imagine the possibilities of some very large holdover trout.
Every now and then you will hear of a kokanee angler working the depths with downriggers pulling up trout that are well over the five-pound mark using some kind of worm troll tipped with corn. I am happy to tell you that you will not need downriggers to get an opportunity like that.
Our favorite method here is to troll Woolley Buggers or Carey Specials with the small smile blades in a chartreuse color.
Anglers dragging hardware prefer wedding rings tipped with a piece of nightcrawler behind flashers, a hint here is to try using the same colors as the flies. Bank anglers and still fishermen seem to be successful using power eggs or a combination of nightcrawler and dough bait. WDFW stocks trout ranging in size from catchables all the way up to four pounds. With numbers like these, year after year it is hard for me to stay away from searching for my 10-pound trophy.
Here is my hint to get you started on this lake, try working the opposite end of the lake from the ramp.
- written by "Uncle Wes" Malmberg