Located in Seattle’s backyard, Lake Washington covers 22,138 acres, is over 15 miles long and offers a vast array of recreational opportunities for its visitors. It is the largest of the three major lakes in King County, and the second largest natural lake in the State of Washington. The lake holds most all species of spiny rays as well as several species of trout. In addition there are runs of salmon and cutthroat which go through the lake as they return to their native streams. Lake Washington is surrounded by residential properties and during the summer months the lake is a hotspot for recreational watercraft.
When it opens, Lake Washington’s sockeye salmon fishery is one of the most popular fisheries in Washington. Starting as early as mid-May, every year fisheries managers count the fish returning through the Ballard Locks to see if there are enough returning fish to support a recreational fishery. The result is often a derby-style opener in early to mid-July that can last for as little as 24 hours and as long as a couple weeks. With it’s proximity to Seattle, Renton and Bellevue city limits, the crowd that gathers to fish Lake Washington sockeye can be quite large with anglers commandeering any vessel imaginable to get in on the bonanza. The intense fishing pressure is a minor deterrent as the fish can and often do bite most anything. In fact, the most popular lure utilized for Lake Washington Sockeye is literally a dressed-up bare hook! Unfortunately, the last decade has only produced a few open seasons for sockeye, so an open season for these fish is definitely not something to be counted upon.
Here are some tips for locating and catching fish on Lake Washington:
- The mouth of McAleer Creek is a good trolling area for cutthroat trout in spring months. Cutthroat migrate from the main lake into McAleer to spawn in the spring and can be targeted by trolling the shallows with minnow-imitating lures like Rapalas, Needlefish spoons or Panther Martin spinners. Yellow seems to be a common color theme no matter what lure, with colors imitating perch, smelt or salmon smolt being best.
- Juanita Point is well-known as one of the top spots on Lake Washington for trophy trout. In fact, the lake record cutthroat weighing almost 15 lbs was caught near here. Troll along the point bar that juts out into the lake, as well as the steep shoreline north to Champaign Point. Most trout will be caught between 30 and 100 feet, depending on the time of year and water temperature. Troll a two-hook rigged orange or yellow label herring or No. 9 perch-colored Rapala for your best shot at a trophy fish.
- The 100-foot deep shelf off the northwest corner of Mercer Island is a popular sockeye salmon trolling area when there is a season. Troll for sockeye using a bare 3/0 or 4/0 red hook tied 13 to 16 inches behind a Gold Star 0 Dodger. Troll slowly, approximately 1 mph, at 50 to 60 feet in early morning. Slowly drop your depth by 5 or 10 feet every hour, so by late morning the gear is fishing at 85 to 90 feet.
- There is a deep hump that rises to 36 feet out of 120 feet of water just north of the east end of the Evergreen Point Bridge. This is one of the more pronounced structure features on Lake Washington and a great fishing spot for all types of pelagic fish, with rainbow trout, cutthroat and sockeye salmon being the most targeted. Fish can be anywhere on this structure feature, so keep an eye on the depth sounder for concentrations of bait or suspended fish.
- Rainier Beach is a good trolling area for rainbow and cutthroat trout. This shoreline drops quickly, giving fish access to the deep water they need to hold in the area year-round. Most anglers troll spoons or Rapalas between 30 and 100 feet with a downrigger, but great results can be had when surface temps are relatively cool by trolling multi-colored lead core line in 12lb test to get down to 30 to 60 feet deep. Tie a 40-foot long 10 lb fluorocarbon leader to the end of the lead core line before tying on your lure.