Tucked in a coulee between famous fishing holes like Potholes Reservoir and Banks Lake, Billy Clapp Lake might fly under the radar but provides excellent angling prospects for walleye, rainbow trout and more.
The 1,000-acre reservoir filled a natural canyon with the construction of Pinto Dam to become part of the region’s massive irrigation project, which slakes the thirst of one of the nation’s best farming areas while also feeding the hunger of anglers who like to catch lots of fish (most of them quite tasty).
Located less than an hour north of Moses Lake, near the community of Stratford, the lake has naturally reproducing walleye, smallmouth bass and panfish as well as stocked rainbow trout and kokanee salmon.
The trout and kokanee can top 20 inches here.
Most of the reservoir’s shoreline is steep and has towering basalt walls.
Water from the Main Canal of the Columbia Basin Project creates Summer Falls. A big draw to Billy Clapp Lake is the Summer Falls State Park.
Summer Falls is definitely worth the price of daytime admission, and the park is well-maintained.
This is also the best area on the lake to gain easily accessible shore access, although don’t plan to jump in due to unsafe currents that resulted in no-swimming rules.
Walleye Fishing at Billy Clapp Lake
Walleye fishing can be excellent, especially in the spring.
Since Billy Clapp Lake is not as well-known as some other walleye fisheries in this area, it gets less pressure during the spawn.
The anglers you’ll encounter while out on the water are more likely to be locals than anglers traveling to fish here.
The north end of the lake tends to be the most productive.
While there is a limited area of shore access at the state park, the best walleye fishing will be via a boat.
The techniques for catching walleye here are similar to those found in other productive walleye lakes and reservoirs in the region.
Slowly troll with worm harnesses and Slow Death hooks. You’ll want them down on the bottom to target walleye.
The contours of the lake are significantly different than other walleye lakes in the area that have more gradual slopes and lots of shelves and flats.
For the most part, Billy Clapp Lake drops off to 60 to 90 feet of water just a few feet from shore. There are occasional flats at depths of 10 to 40 feet.
Other areas to target for walleye are toward the north end by the power station.
Watch out for snags, as the bottom can really tear up your gear. It’s a good idea to focus on depth management to avoid snags as much as you can.
There aren’t a lot of accessible shorelines other than at the state park.
With that in mind, the areas that are accessible should provide decent access to walleye that are holding a bit shallower.
Since the bank mostly drops off very fast, in many places just 10 to 15 feet off shore you’ll encounter a straight drop off.
Cast out as far as possible, then let the jig sink.
Keep your hand on the line to feel for bites, then when the reel stops giving line, reel in two or three times. Jig this depth, and you may bring in a few.
Bank fishing tends to be more successful for rainbow trout and smallmouth bass.
Check out our simple guide for more walleye tips and tricks.
Rainbow Trout Fishing
Rainbows have typically been planted in Billy Clapp Lake several times each year, using spring and fall, and both as fry and in catchable sizes.
The fry planted in the fall are generally in the 10- to 12-inch range by spring, and there are substantial numbers of trout that are larger holdovers.
It’s fairly common for anglers to net that elusive 18- to 20-inch rainbow here.
As with other species, targeting trout from a boat is your best option at this lake, due to the lack of accessible shoreline.
Trout here are eager to snap up a trolled lure.
Once you hook into a rainbow and know where to fish and what they’re biting, you’ll start getting more hits right away, so be prepared.
Rainbows tend to school up a bit and travel throughout the water column in search of food.
Trolling works well, covering large sections of water pulling pop gear with worms or lures.
Since the walls make shore access difficult, if you do manage to get to the shore away from other anglers, you may have an excellent day of catching rainbows, and maybe smallmouth bass as well.
Rainbows typically hold around the edges of the drop-off, waiting for bait to swim by.
Trout are always moving, looking for their next meal. They will greedily take a lure or spinner.
Use red, white and blue or rainbow Berkley PowerBait and a bobber to set your depth. Worms work as well.
Once the bobber starts acting odd, set the hook. A rainbow will try to swallow immediately, so be quick about it if you are practicing catch and release while bait fishing.
Brush up on all of the best trout fishing tactics.
Smallmouth Bass Fishing at Billy Clapp Lake
Smallmouth are very abundant here, and some of them are beasts. Fish weighing over 4 pounds are relatively common in the spring spawn.
Most smallmouths are caught between spring and early fall.
Smallmouth bass typically hold in rocky structure that is abundant at Billy Clapp, including off rocky points.
A boat will provide access to more fish-holding areas, including the island in the lake, which has excellent cover for bass.
Use Senkos, Ned rigs, and other finesse techniques here, and you’ll surely catch a few.
Use buzzbaits in the morning and cast right into shore.
Horizontal casts along the bank will work as well. You’ll be able to cover a lot of water this way and catch some pretty decent smallies.
Smallmouths also hold fairly close to shore, making them a possible target for bank anglers at Billy Clapp.
There aren’t too many shore access points, so being able to target smallmouth successfully can make the trip worthwhile without a boat.
You might hook an occasional largemouth bass here as well, but smallmouths are dominant.
Standard bass fishing gear will earn you quite a few fish, and read our article Bass Fishing: Simple How-To Techniques and Tips to increase your odds of success.
Billy Clapp Lake Kokanee Fishing
Kokes are around in the lake, though realistically you’ll need a boat to get to them.
Kokanee fishing here can be very good at times … or non-existent.
Success depends on the time of day, the temperature, the month, the year, the guy’s mood at the bait shop, and what you had for breakfast that day. In other words, they are notoriously finicky here.
Kokanee here can run larger than average, with fish of 20 inches and larger showing up in catches some many seasons.
The early season from late winter into spring can be very good for kokanee, and at that time these landlocked sockeye salmon might not be holding as deep.
Come summer kokanee often move deep, and down riggers or weight are a must to reach them if you’re trolling.
Trolling with standard koke gear will be your best bet, with bright colors and a moderate trolling speed.
Look for a school on your electronics and set your depth a few feet above them.
If they are interested, they’ll snap up your offering.
If not, do a couple of passes, adjust the depths and lures a bit, then move on to another school.
Ideally, your group will have three or four rods in the water with different dodgers and lures, including hootchies and other popular kokanee lures. (A two-pole endorsement can be used here.)
Tip the lure hooks with white corn, and you’ll likely be in business.
Tip the odds in your favor by reading Kokanee Fishing: Simple Techniques and Tips.
Crappie, Bluegill and Yellow Perch fishing
These panfish species can be found throughout the lake and at present fall under the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s typical harvest guidelines.
Bluegill and crappie are readily available and will bite worms, small jigs and other lures and natural baits.
These fish often hold within casting distance of the bank and make good targets for kids looking for fast action.
Rounding out the fish populations here are lightly fished populations of lake whitefish and common carp.
Planning Your Trip
This sometimes-forgotten Central Washington spot is worth a try, whether making it your destination or fishing it for half a day while taking advantage of the incredible number of fishing spots in the Grant County area.
Where is Billy Clapp Lake?
You can get to Billy Clapp Lake in under two hours from Spokane or Yakima. From Seattle, it takes closer to three hours. Take Interstate 90 and State Highway 28 to get there.
Bank and Boat Access
There is a concrete boat launch on the northwest side of the lake and another launch at Summer Falls State Park, which is strictly a day use park.
The state park offers bank fishing access, and there’s also a bit at the other launch, but otherwise the shoreline is difficult to reach.
Where to Stay
There are no local campgrounds at the lake. If camping is your preference, look to the Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park at Park Lake or Steamboat Rock State Park at Banks Lake, both less than an hour from Billy Clapp. Potholes State Park at Potholes Reservoir is about an hour to the south.
If other types of lodging suit your needs, Soap Lake, Ephrata and Moses Lake are nearby and between them have RV parks, motels and other lodging options as well as any food, gas and supplies you might need.