It’s roughly 570 acres in size, it’s close to Olympia, it’s open year-round for fishing, shore and boat access is good, and it’s well-stocked with trout.
There’s lots of reasons to love Black Lake.
Thurston County’s largest natural lake (and one of its most popular fishing spots) is a great place to catch rainbow trout, and it also has good prospects for both largemouth and smallmouth bass during the warmer months.
Black Lake also supports a natural population of coastal cutthroat trout and some panfish, including black crappie, yellow perch, and even the occasional rock bass, which are actually sunfish and found in a number of local lakes but usually less familiar than bluegills.
Black Lake isn’t used only for fishing.
In warmer months, expect to share the lake with large numbers of power boaters, and at this time of the year fishing likely will be far better early and late when the water is quieter.
There also are roped-off swimming areas at Kenneydell and Columbus parks that anglers should avoid.
Also, take a moment to appreciate the rich history of Black Lake.
The area around the lake was a hub of logging activity during the early years of Washington statehood. Decades before that, the lake was fished for generations by Native peoples, likely of the Upper Chehalis or Nisqually tribes, or even both of them together.
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife doesn’t skimp when it comes to stocking Black Lake.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks the lake with close to 40,000 rainbow trout starting early in the season, often between March and May, as well as a few thousand “jumbo” trout in November.
Fishing is allowed year-round at Black Lake, although the best prospects for trout fishing are during the spring and fall, when the water is cool and new trout have been planted.
Traditional angling techniques obviously work as well, including still-fishing with bait and trolling with lures.
For more information on how to catch trout, read our Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Coastal cutthroat trout also inhabit Black Lake and occasionally appear in catches, often incidentally for anglers focusing on rainbows. Note that there are special size limits for wild trout, so check the latest regulations before fishing.
While all trout make good sport for fly anglers, cutthroat trout are especially susceptible nymphs and other patterns, including dry flies on the surface.
Bass and Panfish Fishing
Some lakes in Washington are known for largemouth bass. Some are known for smallmouth bass. In Black Lake, you can catch both.
Largemouth bass, true to their name, have wide mouths that love to clamp down on larger lures that resemble their prey, such as smaller fish, frogs and crayfish.
Smallmouth bass have a similar diet (and especially like crayfish), but they do have those smaller mouths, so lures are often a bit smaller as well, often 2 inches long or less.
Soft plastics, jigs, crank baits, spinnerbaits and a variety of other lures will catch both types of bass.
Nightcrawlers also make effective bass bait, especially for smaller specimens, but be aware that fish tend to swallow natural baits more deeply, which in turn makes fatal injuries more common. If you plan to release bass, which most anglers do, artificial lures are a safer bet.
There’s good fishing for bass here once the water warms a bit, typically ramping up around by mid-spring and going strong into the summer.
Keep in mind that the later you get into the summer season, and especially during the hottest and brightest times of day, bass tend to move into deeper water.
However, during the hot summer bass sometimes will come up to the surface and thunderously slam topwater lures, especially in the low evening light.
Several sources note that the weedy south end of the lake is one spot to hunt for bass, especially the largemouths.
Fishing also can be decent here for yellow perch, crappie and bullhead catfish, in addition to the bass and sunfish species, so you can catch quite a variety of fish during an outing at Black Lake.
There also are common carp in the lake, and these big fish can put up a heck of a fight.
Where is Black Lake?
Black Lake is located only about 10 minutes southwest of downtown Olympia and immediately west of Tumwater.
Take exit 101 off Interstate 5 onto Tumwater Boulevard Southwest, heading west. From there, take a right onto Littlerock Road Southwest, then a left onto 70th Avenue. You’ll follow that road and hang a right onto Kirsop Road Southwest, then turn left onto 66th Avenue and follow it to Kenneydell Park.
There is a boat launch at 7045 Fairview Road Southwest, just south of the main Kenneydell Park area.
If you haven’t fished Black Lake in several years, you’ll find that this access area underwent major improvements in 2016. There’s a new two-lane boat launch, restroom facilities and more parking available.
Nearby Kenneydell Park has amenities as well, including picnic areas, playgrounds and a lodge that can be reserved in advance. The park is administered by Thurston County.
The Black River that flows out of the lake is home to some cutthroat trout (including sea-runs) and bass. Black Lake Ditch Creek also has some cutthroat trout.