One of the North Sound’s best trout fishing ponds, Deer Lake is stocked annually with both rainbow and coastal cutthroat trout.
It’s not an exaggeration to say this is a great spot for trout lovers between Seattle and the Canadian border, especially those heading to Whidbey Island.
This Deer Lake, not to be confused with several others in Washington by the same name, including the big Deer Lake in Northeastern Washington, is about a mile west of Clinton at the southern end of Washington’s largest island, sitting just off the mainland.
Deer Lake is seasonally managed. The fishing season opens on the fourth Saturday of April and continues through Halloween.
There is a boat ramp on the northeast shore of the lake, as well as parking.
The lake has shoreline access at the boat ramp, although the lake itself is mostly surrounded by homes and businesses, including horse stables on the lake’s southeast side.
Trout are the name of the game at Deer Lake.
The lake is stocked with high numbers of catchable-size rainbow trout and as well as cutthroat fry and fingerlings, on the order of about 10,000 cutthroat planted in May, at last check.
That’s a lot of fish for a roughly 80-acre lake.
The best time to fish is the spring if quantity is what you’re after.
But fall, as temperatures begin to cool, can be a great time to catch trout that slipped the angler’s hooks in the spring and have been swimming and feeding in their natural habitat for at least a season.
The end of April and May are excellent months to fish for rainbow trout at Deer Lake. June, September and October are solid as well.
For cutthroat trout, April through June are good months, and September and October again offer good prospects after the quality of fishing drops off in high summer.
Trout are very popular in the fly fishing community, as a staple of their diet is insects and they tend to go wild for imitation flies that match the appearance of the bugs they like to eat.
But whether you’re a beginning angler or you’re more traditional in your methods, trout are still very accessible.
A standard baited hook with an earthworm or other bait, sometimes paired with the classic red-and-white bobber, is often irresistible for a trout on the hunt. A variety of lures work as well.
Deer Lake does have a resident population of largemouth bass, and that makes a summer fishing trip worthwhile even when trout fishing has slowed down.
Bass, including some to good size, can be caught at virtually any point from opening day to the end of the season, although prospects fade somewhat by October.
Fish for bass in the morning or evening hours. They become less active and harder to find during the day.
A variety of lures will tempt bass, which feed on smaller fish, crayfish and other live critters.
While it’s tempting to fish for bass with natural bait such as a whole nightcrawler, if you plan to release your catch (as is the case for many bass anglers), artificial lures are a safer bet. Bass are more likely to swallow bait more deeply, and those big hooks can tear up the fish’s insides and kill them.
Where is Deer Lake?
Deer Lake is toward the south end of Whidbey Island, northwest of Seattle.
The lake is just west on the creatively named Deer Lake Road from the town of Clinton, which is linked by ferry to Mukilteo or the long drive down Whidbey Island from the north. Plan for a trip of between an hour and two hours from Seattle.
The boat ramp at Deer Lake is made of concrete, but it’s aging and eroded. In 2019, a state project to build a new boat launch was approved for funding, but it likely won’t be finished until at least late 2022.