Lake Stevens Fishing: Close in Kokanee, Plus Bass & More

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It’s not a very well-kept secret that Lake Stevens often has some of the very best kokanee fishing in the Puget Sound area, if not in fact some of the better catches of these landlocked sockeye salmon across Washington.

The lake, a short drive from Everett, also has bass, trout, yellow perch and a few other fish for anglers looking for variety when they drop a line.

We’ll tell you about all of the Lake Stevens fishing in this article.

Located mainly in the town of Lake Stevens, in a very suburban setting, the lake offers good shore access and has several boat launches perfect for a fishing day trip.

Catching kokanee and being able to run to the dry cleaner for the significant others on the way home is a massive plus to this lake in western Washington. 

Beautiful scenery, great fishing and being close to home make Lake Stevens a go-to destination for kokanee anglers.

A bit more of a surprise that it isn’t a more vaunted bass fishery, as they are in here in pretty decent numbers and they can grow big. 

Lake Stevens is the kind of lake that you can limit out on kokes in the morning and spend the afternoon waterskiing. It’s a very welcoming place, and at just over 1,000 acres in size, it’s sure to hold something for the entire family.

Kokanee Salmon Fishing at Lake Stevens

April and May signal the beginning of what is considered one of the better kokanee fisheries in the state.

Lake Stevens is home to multiple kokanee tournaments, with bigger than average fish being caught consistently. 

Planting of fry takes place on a consistent basis, though kokanee can be frustratingly cyclical, so some years will bring a dip in the catchable numbers compared to others.

So, the question you may have is, “Where do I go to catch these kokanee?” That’s a great question.

We may know the best ways to catch kokanee (if you’re still in the learning curve, check out our article with the favorite kokanee fishing techniques), but where to start on a lake like this?

First, get on the water as early as possible. These feisty kokes enjoy an early breakfast.

If fishing in the spring, target the northeastern arm, which has a flat area that runs between 30 and 50 feet deep. The southern arm stays shallow further out from shore, making it a good spot in the spring as well.

As the water warms, the kokes go deep.

However, keep a lookout for the cable by the aerator. It runs 75 yards or so to a buoy. It’ll happily grab your downrigger if you troll east-west, so avoid that. 

For the dog days of summer, shoot for 60 to 90 feet deep, and target the kokes around 1.4 – 1.6 mph. If that’s not working, sometimes kokanee like a decidedly slower troll, so play around with boat speed until you dial in the day’s preference.

The lake’s center drops to over 140 feet, but if you go around the center, circling in water closer to 90 feet deep, you should have good success.

Trout Fishing at Lake Stevens

Anglers fishing from a long dock at Lake Stevens, near Everett Washington.
Snohomish County photo

Lake Stevens has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the trout hatchery.

In some recent years that we’ve checked, though, fishery managers have favored the kokanee and sent the stocking trucks to other lakes (see below).

Yet, there continue to be both cutthroat and rainbow trout in the lake. You may be able to find well-fed trout ready for the grill.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbows are in there, though they aren’t as consistently stocked as they used to be. In the past triploid rainbows have been introduced, so there may or may not still be some big triploid ‘bows out there.

Unless the stocking trucks return, we aren’t going to say this is a lake to visit if you’re looking for trout limits.

Generally, the trout in Lake Stevens are most often caught while targeting kokanee, as both fish strike small colorful lures including spoons, spinners and hootchies.

Standard trout approaches will work here. 

If you catch a ‘bow, keep at that depth and speed up your troll to 1.6 – 1.9 mph, which is faster than most kokanee anglers run the boat. You may catch several trout in quick succession.

If rainbow trout are your primary target, there are quite a few lakes in the Snohomish County area that are nicely stocked with them and have higher trout catches, especially in the early season.

Among your options are: Lake Ballinger, Flowing Lake (Three Lakes), Lake Goodwin (and Lake Shoecraft), Lake Ki, Lake Roesiger and Storm Lake.

Cutthroat Trout

The cutthroat story is close to the same as the rainbow trout. They also aren’t stocked here.

They also may be caught while targeting kokes, but unlike rainbows, they are somewhat rarer here and are more likely going to be a fairly uncommon incidental catch.

Cutthroat feed heavily on insects, and fly anglers sometimes will often target them specifically, though this is not a numbers lake for cutthroat. Fall can be a good time to try as trout try to fatten up.

The cutties here are the coastal cutthroat trout native to western Washington. They put up a decent fight and can get to good sizes in lakes but don’t hold the numbers that the rainbows and kokes do.

How to Catch Trout

If you want to increase your catching, take a read through our simple how-to guide to trout fishing.

Bass Fishing at Lake Stevens

Lake Stevens has its fair share of bass to catch.

Largemouths here occasionally can get up in the 6- to 8-pound range, though usually bass run quite a bit smaller.

There also are even better numbers of smallmouth bass here, and also some big specimens of these bronze battlers.

There are several great spots to test your luck for bass, but just remember that every water changes over time. If you catch something there this week, the next trip still may leave you skunked.

Largemouth Bass

Largies aren’t here in huge numbers, and they are found mostly in the shallower portions of the lake and they might be the largest fish you catch in the lake.

An excellent place to try is the swimming area docks. Early in the day, these are usually empty, so take advantage and catch some big bass.

There also are largemouth bass holding on some of the downed tree cover just offshore. 

Try along the east side and chuck a variety of lures into the weeds, and you are probably going to get a few takers.

The northwest section and the southern end are both good for largemouth as well.

Smallmouth Bass

Try at the same swimming areas as for largemouth bass, but expect better numbers of smallmouths, which are the dominant bass by numbers in the lake.

You’ll find the sandy bottom around the swimming piers is full of happy smallmouth bass waiting for a tasty snack.

There have been smallies up in the 5- to 6-pound range taken along the piers, though of course most smallmouths aren’t that hefty.

Remember, though, put the giants back, and you’ll get more giants in the future. Eat the dinks, throw back the hogs.

Troll along the eastern shore in 5-10 feet with a lure, and you may get a fat smallie. They can be found in good numbers from Sunset Cove Park up the eastern shore from there.

Take your time and hit any submerged boulders you find, as smallmouth bass are especially fond of holding in rocky structure.

Want to figure this fishery out? Try our simple guide to how to catch bass.

Yellow Perch

Tired of catching 50 yellow perch but none over 7 inches? Come to Lake Stevens. 

Perch are extremely tasty and they grow to big-than-average sizes here, with a good number over a foot in length. For a yellow perch, that’s huge!

Target perch in the southern end and the northwest corner. They also hold just off the shoreline around the lake in 10 to 20 feet of water.

The main trick to catching perch is finding perch, so keep looking until you locate a school of nice-sized fish. Then stick with them as long as possible.

Use worms and jigs if targeting from a boat, and bait from shore. Small bait hooks are in order as perch have little mouths.

There are times in the fall and early winter that fishing for perch can be prolific.

Other days you’ll swear there isn’t a fish in the entire lake. Keep at it until you have the patterns down, and you’ll consistently do well here.

Read our article with more specific tips and techniques on how to catch yellow perch.

Other Fish in Lake Stevens

Crappie fishing is available, though it does seem very hit and miss. Like kokanee, crappie can run in boom-and-bust cycles.

The southern end and any weed beds in 5 to 15 feet of water may bring a few to your net.

Use the standard crappie fishing techniques, and you will either catch some crappie or, more likely, the more numerous yellow perch in the area.

Another easy but often overlooked fishing option here are bullhead catfish.

Don’t overthink this one: Take some bait and chuck it out, let it sink to the bottom, then wait. After a few minutes, you should have a bullhead on your line.

Reel it in, repeat the bait chucking, and catch another one.

If you’re not getting any bites, move to a different area. There are bullheads throughout the lake, so you can definitely find them in there with the right catfish bait and fishing techniques.

Planning Your Trip

Lake Stevens has several things going for it. It’s close to civilization, or rather, pretty much right in civilization, as it’s just outside Everett.

That makes it a popular place to cast a line for many anglers in the Seattle area.

Where is Lake Stevens?

Lake Stevens is located about 40 miles northeast of Seattle, and most lake access spots are under 10 miles to the east of Everett.

This is a suburban area location and the lake is largely surrounded by private homes, most with boat docks.

There’s no lack of services around the area.

Bank and Boat Access

The City of Lake Stevens has several parks that all provide fishing access, including two with good boat launches. Since the majority of fishing spots in this lake are reached by boat, these are the popular starting spots for most anglers.

One of those is Davies Beach (formerly the county’s Willard Wyatt Park) located on the west side of the lake.

The other is Public Boat Launch on the northeast corner of the lake, right in the City of Lake Stevens. The latter also can be called North Shore Boat Launch or simply Public Boat Launch.

Bank access is available at the multiple city and county parks around the lake, including Sunset Park, a.k.a. Sunset Cove, on the east side of the lake. It’s very small but like the city parks also has a fishing dock.

Accommodations at Lake Stevens

There are quite a few places to stay in the area, especially in Everett.

Camping isn’t available at Lake Stevens itself but can be found in the general vicinity, mostly in more rural areas east of the city.

Lake Stevens is a lake that is more of a “commuter lake,” so the surrounding area is more residential than recreational. 

Food and lodging are prevalent in the area, so finding a hotel shouldn’t be a problem, though you’ll most likely have to drive several miles to the lake.

Lake Stevens offers great kokanee fishing, bass fishing, and some excellent family recreation options. Swimming, waterskiing and more are available here, so bring the family along and have a great day on the lake.

Washington Resources

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