It’s true that fishing is an activity that varies by season.
Some fish are at their most plentiful in the spring, sometimes because of their spawning activity but often because that’s when fishery managers stock the lakes.
Some fish come out to feed in numbers in high summer, moving from shallows to deep water throughout the day. And in the fall…
In the fall, you might consider a fishing trip out to Nahwatzel Lake northwest of Olympia.
It’s a year-round lake noted for its big trout.
Trout are historically planted in Nahwatzel Lake as deep into the season as late September or early October, a relatively unusual schedule for western Washington.
Of course, fall isn’t the only time to fish at Nahwatzel Lake.
The biggest rainbow trout stocking time of the year typically takes place in April or May, and trout are released into the waters of the 280-acre lake as early in the season as March.
Fishing is allowed year-round at Nahwatzel Lake.
In between trout stockings, there’s a long stretch of good fishing for largemouth bass in the warm middle months of every year, and overall fishing prospects are decent at least into winter, too.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife doesn’t saturate Nahwatzel Lake with rainbow trout at any point in the year, but the way it staggers plantings makes it an attractive year-round destination.
With trout stockings beginning in March, prospects are excellent at least by April and May, and then again in mid- to late September and October as more fish are planted.
You will have a good chance to catch a rainbow trout in the first half of June and even in November, too, when many anglers are thinking about wrapping up salmon fishing or getting an early start on winter steelhead.
Many of the plantings at Nahwatzel Lake — and, in fact, often all of them — are of “jumbo” trout commonly weighing a pound but with some up to 8 pounds. Come prepared with strong line and equipment.
Coastal cutthroat trout also inhabit Nahwatzel Lake.
Cutthroats are particular favorites of fly anglers, as they tend to respond well to imitation nymphs and other eye-catching flies at or near the surface of the water.
All trout can also be caught with a standard bait-fishing setup, either fished beneath a float when trout are feeding near the surface or closer to the bottom when they have gone deeper.
Trolling is another popular way to catch trout. Anglers pull lures, bait and combinations of both, often behind a set of lake troll attractors.
Although it’s predominately a trout lake, Nahwatzel Lake is also home to a population of largemouth bass.
These popular sport fish tend to come out as the weather gets warmer. They’ll often feed in the shallower water in the morning, then retreat to deeper waters later in the day.
From mid- to late May well into October, the chances of encountering a largemouth bass at Nahwatzel Lake are pretty good.
It’s not among Washington’s prime spot for bass, but the season is long, the lake is lovely, and you’ve still got a good chance to catch a fish.
Fish for largemouth bass with any number of bass lures or jigs.
Nightcrawlers are also effective for largemouth, but if you plan to release your catch be careful with bait fishing. Bass are more likely to swallow bait, causing often-fatal injuries.
You’ll want to use a larger hook and a while nightcrawler for big bass, but you may also attract the attention of trout.
Where is Nahwatzel Lake?
Nahwatzel Lake is in Mason County, on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
From Olympia, head northbound on U.S. Highway 101. In Shelton, exit the highway onto West Shelton-Matlock Road. Just follow the road west to Nahwatzel Lake.
From Shelton, it’s about 20 minutes. All told, it’s about a 40-minute drive from Olympia.
From Aberdeen, take U.S. Highway 12 east to Brady, then turn left onto Middle Satsop Road, also known as Matlock-Brady Road. Follow the road north to Matlock, then take a right onto West Shelton-Matlock Road, which leads to the access for Nahwatzel Lake. Expect about a 45-minute drive.
From further to the north (Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Sequim, etc.), follow U.S. Highway 101 south to Shelton and get onto West Shelton-Matlock Road there. From the Salish Sea coast, your drive will be closer to two hours.
There’s a concrete boat launch on the south side of Nahwatzel Lake. There are on-site restrooms, but no camping is allowed.
There are cabins and other lodging available for rent both at the lake and in Shelton to the east.
Shore access for anglers is limited to the area around the boat launch.