They say variety is the spice of life. If it’s variety you’re looking for, Lake Lawrence in Thurston County is a can’t-miss fishing hole.
The 340-acre lake south of Yelm is stocked with plenty of rainbow trout and channel catfish, two of the Pacific Northwest’s favorite game fish planted in lakes.
Additionally, the lake supports naturally reproducing populations of multiple warmwater fish species, including popular sport fish like largemouth bass and bluegill.
The lake has a boat launch maintained by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and multiple points with shore access. It’s open to angling year-round.
State game authorities regularly stock Lake Lawrence with rainbow trout, with recent stocking plans showing about 25,000 trout planted per year.
Stocking typically happens from March to May. In the fall, when the water cools again, a small amount of “jumbo” trout may also be planted around October.
The season is open year-round at Lake Lawrence, but the best fishing for trout is seasonal. There are excellent prospects for rainbow trout from March to May or June, with some opportunities in other months.
If there are plenty of trout around, anglers will nearly always find success fishing with natural or artificial baits, either fished beneath a bobber when trout are feeding close to the surface or closer to the bottom when they are seeking cooler water.
Trout often like to prey on insects at or near the surface of the water. If you see them feeding and you’re casting a fly rod, try an imitation nymph or other pattern resembling insects found on the surface or just underwater.
For more ideas of how to catch trout, read our simple guide: Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
If you’re looking for channel catfish, Lake Lawrence is a good place to look.
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife recently began stocking channel catfish in the lake, which at this writing is actively being developed as a new fishery for channel cats that begins to get good around the time trout fishing tends to taper off.
The best opportunities to reel in a channel catfish are in the summer months, from June through September, but they can be caught all year.
Brown bullheads also maintain a natural population in Lake Lawrence.
These smaller members of the catfish family aren’t as well-regarded for their eating as channel catfish, but they will bite the same baits and may be easier for beginning anglers to catch.
Remember, catfish are bottom-dwellers that search for their meals near the lakebed.
They’ll eat pretty much anything, including baits that won’t interest most other fish in the Pacific Northwest, such as chicken livers, cut fish and even prepared “stink baits.”
Then again, catfish also love fresh worms and nightcrawlers, like many freshwater species.
Bass and Panfish Fishing
Lake Lawrence is home to several warmwater fish species, which live out their full life cycles in the lake.
Largemouth bass inhabit Lake Lawrence and are a blast to catch.
These fish are best sought in the warmer months and may vary their behavior throughout the day, as they like the water warm but not too bright.
They’ll likely be found in shallower water in the morning and retreat to deeper water by the afternoon.
When fishing for largemouth bass, many anglers prefer using larger lures that resemble their prey, which can include smaller fish, crayfish, frogs and really just about anything they can swallow.
They’re called largemouth bass for a reason.
Bluegill, on the other hand, have smaller mouths but are aggressive biters and impressive fighters for their small size.
They’ll try to make off with any bait that’s not firmly secured to a hook small enough for them to bite on.
Fishing for bluegill peaks in the summer months.
Both bass and bluegill often can be found hiding around various types of structures, which at Lake Lawrence includes docks, overhanging and fallen trees, and aquatic vegetation.
Other fish species in Lake Lawrence include pumpkinseed sunfish and yellow perch.
Where is Lake Lawrence?
Lake Lawrence is several miles south of Yelm, and under an hour’s drive from either Olympia or Tacoma.
From Tacoma, head south on state Highway 7 onto Highway 507. Just after crossing the Nisqually River, turn left onto Vail Road Southeast and then left again on Bald Hill Road. Follow signs to the lake.
This route takes about 45 minutes from Tacoma to Lake Lawrence.
From Olympia, you can get there taking Yelm Highway Southeast. Past Yelm follow the Tacoma directions coming in from Bald Hill Road. Another route that might be a few minutes faster is heading out Rainier Road Southeast through the community of Rainier and then east on several roads to reach the lake.
It’s roughly a 40-minute drive from Olympia.
Lake Lawrence has a state-operated boat launch with shore access and restroom facilities. There is also Thurston County parkland adjacent to the lake that offers shore access.
A good part of the lake is surrounded by private homes, but the south end with the boat ramp and park land is less developed.
Lake Lawrence only 10-15 minutes west of Clear Lake, another Yelm-area fishing destination.