A well-stocked trout lake just north of Seattle, Lake Ballinger was once the backdrop to a nine-hole golf course.
Tee time is over now, and since 2013, the former golf course is managed as a city park in the Seattle suburb of Mountlake Terrace.
Lake Ballinger itself is about 100 acres in size, with an island in the middle.
It’s stocked each year with rainbow trout: often several thousand in the spring, and then a few thousand “jumbo” trout in the fall.
Besides the stocked trout, anglers at Ballinger may also encounter full-time resident fish species including coastal cutthroat trout, largemouth bass and brown bullheads, as well as some panfish including yellow perch and black crappie.
The lake is open to fishing all year. Public access is available through Ballinger Park on the east side of the lake.
Trout are the main fishing game at Ballinger Lake.
Prospects are best in the spring, especially soon after stocking resumes for the year, but fishing opportunities may continue into the fall, when any surviving fish will perk up again with cooler temperatures and a fresh planting of larger fish may join them.
At our most recent check, state game authorities planned to stock 8,000 catchable rainbow trout in Lake Ballinger in April, plus 3,000 jumbo-size rainbow trout in November.
Coming from the hatchery, rainbow trout don’t develop a whole lot of guile, so they’re easy marks for the experienced angler and a good learning opportunity for amateurs, who also can catch plenty here.
Still-fishing with bait is a time-tested and simple way to catch rainbow trout.
If the trout are near the surface, fishing with your bait dangling 2 to 3 feet beneath a bobber is a good bet. When trout move into deeper water, fishing closer to the bottom may do the trick.
For boaters, trolling is also popular. Ballinger Park has a boat launch on the lake, but gasoline-powered motors are not permitted.
Lake Ballinger is also home to coastal cutthroat trout. These wild trout tend to be wilier than their hatchery-reared cousins, but similar methods can work well.
Fly fishing is a popular way to fish for trout, especially cutthroat trout. Imitation flies that mimic the fish’s natural prey work best; this technique for selecting flies is widely known as “match the hatch” in the fly fishing community.
Bass and Panfish Fishing
Opportunities for fishing in the high summer at Ballinger Lake do exist, although they’re less notable than the trout fishery.
Trout tend to become less active in the hottest part of the year.
The summer season is generally considered one of the best times, however, to fish for warmwater species like largemouth bass, yellow perch and black crappie.
Despite the “warmwater” moniker, these fish still tend to seek refuge during the hottest and brightest of days, favoring cooler and shadier waters.
Expect to find them in shady spots or swimming in deeper parts of the lake in the heat of the day. Mornings and evenings are usually regarded as the best times of day to fish for bass, in particular, but also for other species during hot weather.
Yellow perch and black crappie are schooling fish, meaning they tend to move and feed in large groups or clusters.
If perch or crappie start biting, stay in that lucky spot unless the whole school moves along. Chances are very good you’ll get more bites after your first.
Bass and crappie in particular are cover-oriented fish, and they’ll often be found near structures including docks, fallen trees or branches, and other places that give them places to hide behind something or in the shade.
Where is Ballinger Lake?
Lake Ballinger is barely on the Snohomish County side of the boundary with King County, home to Seattle and many of its largest suburbs.
Ballinger is in the city of Mountlake Terrace, a Seattle suburb of a little over 20,000 people.
The lake itself has residential homes lining its western and part of its southern shorelines, while the north and east sides are less developed and lined with shady trees.
Lake Ballinger is located smack-dab in between the area’s most notable north-south routes, with Interstate 5 to the east and Highway 99 to the west. From I-5, take exit 178 onto Lakeview Drive and follow the road west into Ballinger Park.
Ballinger Park wraps around the north end of Lake Ballinger and down partway around the east side. The eastern shore of the lake is where the boat launch is located. There is also a swimming beach.
Ballinger Park is a full-service Mountlake Terrace city park with other park amenities.
As with many fishing holes in the Seattle area, those amenities include a swimming area, so if you are fishing or boating, be mindful of your surroundings and avoid conflicts with swimmers.
For anglers who prefer to stay on dry land, a fishing pier extends into the lake. Shoreline access is available as well.
Parking and restrooms are on-site.