A small, shallow lake just off U.S. Highway 101 in Ilwaco near the Long Beach Peninsula, Black Lake is a good spot for rainbow trout fishing in the early season.
With its small size, easy access and smorgasbord of trout, Black Lake is notable for being beginner-friendly.
The lake traditionally hosts a kids’ fishing derby in the spring, typically around what previously had been opening day here. The lake is now open year-round, but trout fishing will be best in spring and fall.
Unfortunately, Black Lake has some drawbacks.
Warmwater fish including largemouth bass and yellow perch are present but not abundant, with fair to middling prospects throughout the season.
The boat launch is, as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife describes it, “primitive,” which makes it more acceptable for launching a car-topper, kayak or other small craft.
And into the summer season, the lake is usually dense with weeds, which can make both trolling and fishing from the shore a challenge at times.
Grass carp have been planted in the past, but they had little success in controlling the invasive vegetation.
Rainbow trout prospects are good in April and May after the season opens, although they fade quickly after that.
There’s not many (if any) trout to catch in Black Lake from July into September, when the water will be too warm for trout.
State game authorities stock the lake virtually to saturation; a recent stocking plan called for more than 14,000 rainbow trout to be planted during a year, most of them during the spring.
The stocking truck often is scheduled to return again in October, once the weather has cooled again, to stock the water for a nice little fall fishery.
While most trout stocked here are typical legal-sized keepers, a smaller number that WDFW plants may be the agency’s jumbo-sized trout, which can put a fierce bend on a light trout rod.
The numbers of trout stocked here are particularly impressive when you consider the lake is just about 30 acres in size and not very deep.
Since the lake is small, near to civilization and a popular coastal destination, and caters to families, you may find yourself cheek-to-jowl with other anglers, especially at the start of the season.
Thankfully, there are two fishing docks to allow anglers to space out a little bit and at times help avoid the dense vegetation at the water’s edge.
Still fishing with most common baits works very well to catch rainbow trout. Try using a colorful bobber to attract their attention, since trout typically look for food at or near the surface of the water. In shallow lakes, surface fishing can be even more effective.
Fly fishing is also a good way to catch trout. Insects make up much of a trout’s natural diet, so they are predisposed to attack imitation flies and nymphs that resemble the insects they eat.
For more about this type of angling, read Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Tips and Techniques.
Bass and Panfish Fishing
Largemouth bass have a resident population at Black Lake.
While bass become more active in the summer months, Black Lake is shallow, and bass dislike direct sun and high temperatures. Expect to find them lurking in the shade of vegetation and structure where they can.
Fishing in the morning and near sundown will often be your best bets for summertime bass.
Overall, fishing opportunities are characterized as fair at best throughout the season for bass.
Yellow perch are also present, but not in great numbers. But if you find a school of perch, you can do well for these smallish fish, especially in the summer.
Largemouth bass have, true to their name, large mouths that tend to vacuum up whatever is in front of them.
Many anglers prefer using artificial lures that imitate natural prey such as smaller fish, crayfish and frogs.
Bass, which many anglers catch and release for sport, will too often deeply swallow a natural bait like a still-fished nightcrawler. The deep hookset can often be fatal for these long-lived fish, which is particularly a loss in smaller waters with relatively few larger bass, like Black Lake.
Yellow perch, conversely, have very small mouths.
Try using small hooks with pieces of earthworm to entice them. Once you get a bite from a perch, odds are good that more will follow, since they travel and feed in schools.
Like many fishing lakes, there also is a population of brown bullhead catfish at Black Lake.
Where is Black Lake?
Black Lake is in Pacific County, in the small port city of Ilwaco near Cape Disappointment State Park.
The lake lies just north of Ilwaco High School, and access is available through a city park, Black Lake Park. The city also has a boat launch on the northeast shore, although it’s nothing to write home about.
Gas-powered motors are not allowed on Black Lake. Parts of the lake are not navigable at times due to Brazilian elodea, an escaped aquarium plant that has turned into an ecological menace. Efforts to control the weeds are an ongoing battle.
The Black Lake Fishing Derby is a very popular springtime event that has been running for almost 30 years now. The derby is open to children up to age 14 and is hosted by the Ilwaco Parks & Recreation Department.
Note that Washington has a half dozen Black Lakes with fishing opportunities, including Black Lake Near Olympia.