Summit Lake is one of the closest places to Olympia for reliable kokanee fishing, and it’s also quite a good trout and warmwater lake, so there’s usually something biting here.
The lake, just north of Highway 8 and south of Highway 101, is managed for the cold water fish but also offers both largemouth and smallmouth bass and several types of panfish.
Summit Lake covers more than 500 acres and plunges to depths of about 100 feet, which is part of the reason it makes a good kokanee lake.
As you plan your trip, note that Summit is a far better boat fishery than bank fishery, due to limited shore access.
The lake is best fished for trout when it opens in late April and into May, because the trout like the cool surface temperatures of spring.
That, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife dumps hatchery rainbows into the lake by the thousands each spring.
There also are a smaller number of coastal cutthroat trout inhabiting the lake.
Trout are well-distributed around the lake and will fall to the usual tactics, such as trolling bait, lures or flies, or a lure-bait combo. Many anglers run their offering behind a set of attractor blades or dodger.
Still-fishing with bait, either beneath a bobber or deeper into the water column, also will result in reliably good trout catches, especially in the spring.
Read our suggestions in Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
As the trout fishing starts to fade with the arrival of summer, the kokanee fishing is just getting good at Summit. Usually kokanee fishing holds up pretty well throughout the summer and into the early fall.
True, the kokanee (land-locked sockeye salmon) will start dropping into Summit’s deeper water as the surface warms, but this tends to concentrate the fish.
Anglers usually troll for kokanee. Depending on the depth, boaters are likely to employ weight, leaded line and often down-riggers to get to these tasty fish.
Popular lures for kokanee include Wedding Ring-style spinners, small spoons and small hootchies or squid-type lures.
Most anglers will tip the lure’s hook with a piece of corn or a maggot, and run the lure and bait combo behind flashers or a dodger to get the kokanees’ attention down in the depths.
A fish-finder will really come in handy out on the lake, both in terms of locating the deeper water and the schooling kokanee.
The 90- to 100-foot depths where kokanee will likely spend the hottest months are primarily near the central part of the lake.
WDFW seeds Summit Lake with roughly a quarter million young kokanee per year, which helps keep this fishery consistently reliable.
Bass and Panfish
Summit Lake also is home to a collection of warmwater fish that, unlike the rainbows and kokanee, naturally reproduce in the lake.
While hot weather kokanee go deep, these other game fish will be found in shallow to moderate depths, often closer to the bank than the middle.
Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are found here and hit many of the same types of lures, including those that look like crayfish, smaller fish, frogs and other prey for these aggressive predators.
Generally speaking, bass like to hide out around structure, including docks, weeds, rocks and points. Largemouth often gravitate to coves and weedy areas, while smallmouth prefer rockier habitats.
Other gamefish here include yellow perch, pumpkinseed sunfish and brown bullhead catfish. There also are northern pike minnows.
Access and Location
Much of the lake is surrounded by private property (including the Camp Thunderbird Boy Scout Camp at the west end).
The public access is primarily at a WDFW boat ramp and parking area near the southwest end of the lake, off Summit Lake Shore Road NW.
Yes, there is a very limited amount of bank to fish from here, but it’s in a place where the water is shallow well out into the lake, so reaching any prime fishing water is difficult.
Again, a boat is really the best way to fish Summit Lake.
To reach the lake, take highways 101 and then 8 to the west. Turn right on Summit Lake Road NW, and then it’s a couple more miles to Summit Lake Boat Launch.