Lake Padden Fishing: Catch Trout, Kokanee

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With excellent fishing for rainbow trout, opportunities for kokanee and cutthroat trout, and even a small resident population of largemouth bass, there’s a lot to like about Lake Padden.

For one, the roughly 150-acre lake is located entirely within an eponymous city park in Bellingham, and shoreline access is simply excellent.

For another, the lake has a boat launch to get out on the water (although gasoline-powered motors aren’t allowed) to reach even more fish.

If you live in the Bellingham area, Lake Padden Park is a good place to take young and beginning anglers for a friendly, close-to-home fishing experience.

Trout Fishing

Unlike most lakes in Whatcom County, Lake Padden has a defined fishing season. Opening day is the fourth Saturday in April, and the fishing season extends to Halloween. The lake is closed to fishing between Nov. 1 until it opens again the following late spring.

Lake Padden is stocked with three different species of game fish, including two trout species, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

At last check, a whopping 20,000 catchable-size rainbow trout were scheduled to be put into Lake Padden near the opener.

Additionally, the lake is stocked with some 10,000 cutthroat trout fry and fingerlings in the winter and grow to catchable sizes in the lake.

As you would expect, rainbow trout are at their most plentiful for angling through June. After that high season, July can still be fair but there likely won’t be great trout catches by August and September.

Rainbow and cutthroat trout catches could perk up again in the fall before the lake closes for the season.

Fishing opportunities are fair throughout the season, with a roughly equal chance to encounter them in every month that Lake Padden is open to fishing.

The same is true of cutthroat trout. Stocked in relatively small numbers, cutthroat trout don’t have a standout month at Lake Padden, although a lucky angler may encounter these fish with the red slash at the jawline at any time during the open season.

Generally speaking, most anglers will find the more plentiful rainbow trout to be the easiest fish to catch on Lake Padden, followed by cutthroat trout, and then by kokanee and bass and panfish.

Catching stocked rainbow trout can be simple.

Still fishing, trolling and fly fishing are all entirely viable techniques for catching them.

Cutthroat trout, growing to maturity in the lake instead of being reared completely to adulthood at a hatchery, where they feed on pellets.

The minority cutthroats that survive to adulthood may be somewhat more cunning, but they tend to be attracted to similar baits and imitation flies as their rainbow cousins, although natural baits and fly presentations may matter more with the cutts.

Sometimes even more than rainbows, cutthroat also often tend to offer a really nice fall fishery in addition to the spring bite.

For some additional suggestions of how to catch these fish, read through our simple guide, Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.

Kokanee Fishing

Although immature kokanee are stocked in considerable numbers at Lake Padden, in the neighborhood of 100,000 per year, this isn’t always a top-tier site to fish for these pan-sized landlocked sockeye salmon.

Kokanee tend to seek out cooler water in the lake’s deeper areas as the summer heat comes on, but these schooling fish can be easier to locate at that time.

The oldest class of fish also will be full size, although full size for these lake-bound salmon at Padden tend to be in the 10-12 inch range.

Many anglers believe that the best way to fish for kokanee is, simply put, get their attention and perhaps even make them angry.

When fishing from a boat, trolling with dodgers or trolling blades ahead of your lure or bait (or lure-bait combo) can fire up these feisty fish. Brightly colored lures such as fluorescent pinks and chartreuse tend to do well.

You might also catch kokanee incidentally while targeting trout, especially while trolling.

Bass and Panfish

Warmwater fish such as largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish and yellow perch also live at Lake Padden, although these tend to be somewhat minor fisheries here, especially compared to the trout.

Try a variety of bass lures around structures to find larger bass, which most anglers release unharmed after perhaps snapping a pic.

Smaller hooks and baits will often do the trick for bluegill and perch.

These latter two species, along with smaller bass, can be great options for kids as well, especially in the summer when trout success tends to fade too much for the patience of young anglers.

Sunfish and perch species tend to be found within easy casting distances of shore and will bite readily on a hook baited with a worm or other natural baits, fishing beneath a bobber or sometimes in deeper water.

Where is Lake Padden?

Lake Padden is located, fittingly, in Lake Padden Park on the south side of Bellingham.

The park lies along the east side of Interstate 5, and it’s bounded to the north by Samish Way and Wilkin Street. Lakeshore Drive is the access road into the park itself.

Lake Padden Park has good amenities. There’s a fenced-in dog park, a golf course, hiking trails, picnic areas, public restrooms, sports courts, kayak rentals, and more.

While Lake Padden is the park’s dominant feature, there’s quite a bit more to the park than just the lake, making it a great family destination.

Boating is allowed on Lake Padden, with a city-maintained boat launch. Internal combustion engines aren’t permitted on the lake, but electric motors are allowed, as are non-motorized watercraft.

There is also a fishing dock.

Find more fishing spots in Whatcom County

Washington Resources

WDFW fishing and stocking reports
WDFW fishing regulations
National Weather Service forecasts