Just north of Kalama, Kress Lake is one of the premier spots in Southwest Washington to fish for channel catfish, largemouth bass and trout without ever leaving the Interstate 5 corridor.
An old gravel pit that’s long since been filled in as a year-round lake, Kress Lake covers about 25 acres in Cowlitz County, in between Kalama and Carrolls.
The lake is regularly restocked with channel catfish, rainbow trout and more. Salmon from hatcheries can be caught as well on occasion.
The perimeter of Kress Lake is walkable, with good shore access for fishing. A trail circles the entire lake.
Kress Lake Trout Fishing
For many anglers, the main attraction at Kress Lake will be rainbow trout. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife keeps the lake well-stocked with rainbows from November into May, and that’s when trout fishing will be best.
A smaller number of brown trout are often stocked at Kress Lake. Check the stocking schedule linked below to look for about 2,000 catchable brown trout that might be planted in the lake in about March.
Stocked trout will fall for the usual offerings, including baited hooks suspended below bobbers or fished closer to the bottom. Artificial lures and flies also will definitely fool trout.
Brown trout in particular like to feed on smaller fish, so crankbaits or other lures that resemble this favorite prey can be effective.
For more information about catching these fish, read our article Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Salmon and Steelhead Fishing
While you won’t find them in the numbers or with the metronomic regularity of rainbow trout, surplus salmon or steelhead from hatcheries are also planted during fall and winter months at Kress Lake when available.
Landlocked salmon rules apply, so if you’re fortunate enough to reel one in, taking surplus salmon from Kress Lake is legal.
Adult salmon and steelhead are typically much larger than trout. Try trolling for these large fish in the open water with wobbling plugs or spinners, or entice them by suspending bait such as egg clusters under a float.
Kress Lake supports a pretty good largemouth bass population for its small size. These popular game fish are best sought in the late spring and summer.
Most of the bass here won’t be much more than about 12 inches, but if you work at it you could land fish in about the 5-pound range at Kress.
There are excellent fishing prospects for largemouth bass from June through September. The shoulder months of May and October often offer decent or better opportunities as well.
Specially designed bass jigs and other lures that appeal to large predators make the ideal lure for largemouth bass.
If you’re going with a simpler setup, bass will also bite on live bait like crawfish or worms, but live baits tend to lead to more fatal hookups and most dedicated bass anglers prefer to release their catches.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also regularly stocks Kress Lake with channel catfish, which are a favorite game fish for warmwater anglers.
The season for these warmwater fish is similar as bass, excellent from June through September with good prospects in May and October, too.
Catfish are not picky about what they eat. A classic bait for channel cats is chicken liver, but it’s by no means the only bait they’ll take.
Pieces of shad or other oily fish are also a popular bait, and a simple nightcrawler rig will definitely do the job but also will likely attract other types of fish, which might be a nuisance if you’re after big cats.
Bluegill and Other Panfish
Kress Lake also has excellent fishing for bluegill, with the best fishing in the warm months from June through August.
Remember that bluegill have much smaller mouths than largemouth bass or channel catfish, so use a smaller hook.
Small worms or pieces of nightcrawler are a favorite bait. Make sure your bait is secure on the hook, as bluegill are known for stealing bait off the hook if they get the chance.
Other catchable warmwater fish at Kress Lake include brown bullheads and pumpkinseed sunfish, crappie and warmth, which also are most commonly caught during warmer weather but available year-round.
Where is Kress Lake?
Kress Lake is just off Old Highway 99 South. It’s about three miles north of the city of Kalama, across the Kalama River. It’s only about 15 minutes south of the Longview-Kelso area.
Take exit 32 off Interstate 5 and head east on Kalama River Road. In short order, you’ll take a left onto Old Highway 99 South. Kress Lake will be on your right heading north on the old highway.
Fishing on Kress Lake is year-round. A wheelchair-accessible trail encircles the lake, with plenty of great fishing from shore. You can take a small boat out onto the lake, but gasoline motors are prohibited.