Fishing at Horseshoe Lake in Woodland

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There are several notable fishing lakes in Washington state called Horseshoe Lake. In the case of the one we’ll be looking at today, it’s easy to see where the name comes from.

A C-shaped body of water right at the southern end of Woodland, on the west side of Interstate 5, Horseshoe Lake stands as one of the most accessible trout lakes you’ll find in Southwest Washington.

It’s friendly for the casual angler, with plenty of fishing to be done from the shoreline of a city park. If that doesn’t satisfy, there’s also a public boat launch.

Horseshoe Lake covers about 80 acres. The lake used to be part of the Lewis River, but when the river’s course was altered during the Great Depression, the “horseshoe” bend became a lake.

The lake is now separated from the Lewis River by I-5 and a frontage road called Lakeshore Drive.

Trout Fishing

Horseshoe Lake is regularly stocked with rainbow trout.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also typically stocks it with brown trout once per season.

Rainbows are put into the lake from December through May. And they tend to add up: During a recent calendar year, the state planned to plant more than 18,000 of the bright game fish.

You’ll often find the best fishing at Horseshoe Lake in the spring, with the lion’s share of the rainbow trout being stocked in April and May.

The brown trout have been stocked at different times during the spring, so it’s best to check the links below to get it on the calendar if browns are what you’re after, since their numbers at this popular fishing spot are likely limited to just a single planting.

The usual approaches will bag trout here, including lots of focus on soaking bait such as PowerBait, nightcrawlers and salmon eggs. Fish bait under a bobber so you can see the strike, or try to float the bait just off the bottom if fish are biting deeper.

Trout naturally prey on insects on or near the surface of the water, so fly fishing can work well. Imitation nymphs, leeches and woolly buggers tend to get their attention.

For more information about catching these fish, read through our article Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.

Rainbow trout fishing is fine for much of the cooler months of the year, with the absolute best fishing soon after a stocking from December through May.

Trout fishing in July through September tends to be poor at best, as the water is warm for trout and most will have been caught out earlier.

Bass and Panfish Fishing

While Horseshoe Lake is regularly stocked with two species of trout, the C-shaped lake is also home year-round to a number of warmwater fish, some of which are popular with anglers and often best fished when the trout fishing is the slowest.

Bluegill fishing is excellent in the late spring and summer months, approximately May through September. When fishing for bluegill, remember to pack smaller hooks for their small mouths.

The lake has a fair resident largemouth bass population as well, although there are better prospects not far from Woodland, including Kress Lake near Kalama and Lacamas Lake near Camas. Drive a little farther and Silver Lake is one of the best bass lakes in Washington.

Brown bullheads and yellow perch can also be caught at Horseshoe Lake. Like bluegill, the high season is May through September.

Tips for Fishing

The fishing season at Horseshoe Lake is open year-round.

Boating is allowed on Horseshoe Lake. There is a public boat launch.

If you haven’t been to Horseshoe Lake since the 2000s or earlier, you should know things have changed since then: As of 2010, Horseshoe Lake is a “no-wake” lake after residents raised concerns about boats speeding on the lake.

If you’d rather not deal with the 5 mph speed limit on the open water, you can fish from the shore. On the lake’s north side, 6.5-acre Horseshoe Lake Park offers public access to the lake and is where trout are generally stocked.

One other important note: Washington state stocks grass carp in Horseshoe Lake to control invasive aquatic plants.

It’s illegal to fish for or take grass carp. Be able to recognize these protected fish, and if you inadvertently find one on your line, be sure to put it back.

Where is Horseshoe Lake?

Horseshoe Lake is easy to find.

It’s only a little more than 20 minutes driving north from Vancouver or south from Longview.

From Interstate 5, take exit 21 in Woodland onto Lewis River Road, then turn onto Lakeshore Drive just west of the freeway. Follow the road a few blocks to Horseshoe Lake Park.

The park has restrooms, a boat launch and other amenities. It’s a city park maintained by the Woodland Parks and Recreation Department.

Find more fishing spots in Cowlitz County

Washington Resources

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