Deep Lake Fishing at Nolte State Park

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Deep Lake is overall a smaller fishery than many of the lakes we feature on this website, but it has quite good fishing in a great family-friendly setting that’s surprisingly close to home for Puget Sound residents.

So we couldn’t resist.

Unlike many low-elevation lakes in the area that are at least partially surrounded by private homes, the nearly 40-acre lake is located entirely in Nolte State Park and feels like you’re much farther away than just 10 minutes past Enumclaw.

Deep Lake indeed has fairly deep water that is great for its cold-water fisheries, including good numbers of rainbow trout stocked in the spring, some resident coastal cutthroat trout, and a decent population of kokanee.

Not only that, Deep Lake also has a variety of warmwater fish species, including yellow perch, black crappie and largemouth bass.

While this is the Deep Lake in King County, there are multiple Deep Lakes around Washington, including one not that far away in Thurston County at Millersylvania State Park south of Olympia.

This article will take a look at the major fishing prospects in Nolte State Park’s Deep Lake.

Trout Fishing

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks Deep Lake with thousands of catchable rainbow trout each spring.

While the lake is open all year, trout fishing will improve dramatically once those fish are delivered, which at last check was planned during May. Use the links below to find fresh trout stocking information.

Hatchery trout are a very popular fish because they are easy to catch for both beginners and seasoned anglers, they bite a variety of baits, lures and flies, and many people like to eat them.

Bait fishing is one of the most effective and popular methods of catching these trout, and it’s definitely the go-to method for bank fishing.

You can fish sinking baits a few feet beneath a bobber, which may help draw in fish that are feeding near the surface and definitely helps you watch for bites.

Good baits for float fishing include nightcrawlers or other types of worms, salmon eggs and prepared baits intended to sink.

Trout anglers also still-fish with bait closer to the bottom, often employing a sliding sinker above a swivel and a leader below. The setup allows a fish to take the bait without feeling the weight.

Floating baits work very well for this bottom-fishing approach, because the baits rise up off the bottom for the length of your leader (24-36 inches is usually about right) and into the path of deep-cruising fish.

Many commercial varieties of trout doughs, marshmallows and other prepared baits are designed to float. Berkley PowerBait is very popular and there are others.

Some anglers instead employ mini-marshmallows to float up another bait, or inject air into a nightcrawler.

Bait anglers often find that trout swallow their hooks deeply, resulting in injuries that quite regularly result in fatal injuries, so we typically recommend bait fishing for anglers who plan to keep their catches.

Boat anglers may use still-fishing bait techniques to catch trout, but many also turn to trolling, which is one of the most efficient ways to draw strikes because you will cover lots of water.

Trollers typically employ smaller spinners or spoons or plain bait such as a nightcrawler, or they will tip the hook of a lure with bait such as a piece of worm.

Trout trollers often use an attractor several feet in front of their lure or bait. A shiny set of small blades or larger dodgers may look like other fish feeding and tends to bring trout closer to investigate.

You may need to add weight to your trolling rig to reach deeper trout.

Slow-trolling an artificial sinking fly like a wooly bugger or leech pattern is another way we’ve caught lots of trout when they are fairly close to the surface. Still, it might take a little weight to drop the fly several feet beneath the surface and into the strike zone.

Both boat and bank anglers also can cast lures and artificial flies, which are more active and challenging ways to catch trout but which sometimes result in larger or wilder catches.

Fly fishing can be an excellent way to catch wild cutthroat trout, which are accustomed to feeding on insects rather than fish hatchery pellets.

Cutthroat are available all year, but fall is often a great time to entice them to bite as they try to fatten up before winter.

We have quite a bit more on catching trout in our simple guide, Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.

Kokanee Fishing

We wouldn’t say Deep Lake is one of Washington’s premier kokanee fisheries, but at times anglers can pick up several of these land-locked sockeye salmon, which are feisty fighters and which a fair number of anglers prefer eating over trout. (I like them smoked!)

Kokanee may run fairly close to the surface when the water is still on the cold side, like in the spring, but more trout likely will bite at that time.

As trout fishing fades into the hotter months, it’s a good time to try out the kokanee fishing.

Summertime kokanee are likely to be in the lake’s deeper areas, but fortunately Deep Lake has a fair bit of water deeper than 50 feet toward the center, with a hole deeper than 70 feet in the south-central part of the lake north of the swimming beach.

Trolling with brightly colored small lures, including spinners, spoons and hootchies (mini plastic squid) is the most common method of catching kokanee. Pink is often a hot color, but bring some different shades, including chartreuse, to test out what the fish want that day.

Trolling is a little trickier at Deep Lake, though, because motors are prohibited, but if you have a kayak or canoe set up with a rod holder, you can make it work.

To get down to the fish in the summer, you will very likely need a good bit of weight, weighted line or down-riggers.

As with trout, and even more so with kokanee, anglers typically see better results using a set of trolling blades or a dodger ahead of their offerings. Kokanee are a schooling fish, and seeing multiple flashes in the deep water sends them into feeding mode.

Some anglers will tip their lure hooks with a small piece of bait, such as a maggot, piece of worm, corn or prepared kokanee bait.

Some anglers also still-fish with these types of baits, and in some places jigging with brightly colored metal jigs also will result in strikes.

A fish-finder is helpful for finding schools of kokanee and marking depths, if you have one that works with your portable boat.

More information: Kokanee Fishing: Simple Tips and Techniques

Bass and Panfish

While this is a cool, clear lake that speaks to cold-water fishing, Deep Lake actually has a pretty diverse warmwater fishery as well.

While this is perhaps not a premier largemouth bass lake, a modest number of these powerful predators are on the prowl in Deep Lake.

Since there are no private homes along the edge, most of the holding structure is natural. You’ll find fallen trees, overhanging branches and some aquatic plants along the edges, along with shallow areas and drop-offs moving out.

Try working bass lures that look like smaller trout or perch, crayfish or other common bass prey around structures and drop-offs.

Black crappie may also tend to stage around fallen trees, and like the bass are likely to move into shallower water to spawn around May and June and then move into slightly deeper water in the hotter months.

Crappie jigs and tubes work well for crappie, although other small lures also can do the job at times. Crappies prefer to prey on small fish, so small jigs and lures that resemble minnows are usually the best.

Yellow perch are a schooling fish but not as structure-oriented as crappie or bass.

They are frequently found closer to the bottom at various depths. A small hook baited with a redworm, piece of nightcrawler, mealworm or similar natural bait is usually irresistible to perch.

Perch and crappie are excellent eating fish when you can catch a number of decent-sized fish.

The lake also holds brown bullhead catfish, which some anglers scoff at but which are actually pretty good eating when caught from cleaner and cooler waters like Deep Lake.

Still-fishing worms also will catch these bottom-feeders, as will cut fish, pieces of prawn, chicken livers and prepared catfish baits.

Location and Access

Nolte State Park is 111 forested acres and completely surrounds Deep Lake, its centerpiece attraction.

The park is a day-use facility, so if you’re looking to camp you’ll be heading elsewhere.

But if you’re looking for a fun day out close to home in King County with a variety of activities, this is a great bet.

Besides fishing, this is a great spot for a picnic and a game of horseshoes, and swimmers and rafters will dot the water when the weather gets hot in the summer and people are looking for cool relief.

Anglers, particularly in the summer, might do well to start fishing fairly early in the morning when the lake is at its quietest.

Fishing access is excellent.

Bank anglers will find a one-mile trail that completely encircles the lake and leads to numerous casting spots.

You can launch a small portable boat, but you’ll have to be able to carry it to the shoreline so leave your big trailered boat at home.

Also, you can’t use motors on the lake, so simply getting around and especially trolling will require paddling, rowing or kicking your way up and down the small lake.

Deep Lake and Nolte State Park are near the small town of Cumberland, off Veazie Cumberland Road SE, a quick drive northeast of Enumclaw and close to Flaming Geyser and Green River Gorge state parks on the nearby Green River, possible second stops for your day trip.

Deep Lake is only about a half hour east of Auburn and well under an hour’s drive from much of the Seattle-Tacoma area.

Find more fishing spots in King County

Washington Resources

WDFW Fishing and Stocking Reports
WDFW Fishing Regulations
National Weather Service forecasts