Tanwax Lake might be one of the most interestingly named lakes in Washington, but what will make you smile about this Pierce County fishing hole is the number of trout and warmwater fish you can catch here.
Tanwax Lake is heavily planted for a modest-sized 173 acres.
The Eatonville-area lake receives both springtime catchable rainbows by the thousands as well as even more smaller rainbows each fall, that are allowed to finishing growing at the lake to reach keeper size by spring.
Tanwax Lake is open all year, but trout fishing in particular will definitely be best here in the spring as all of those newly planted and growing fall fish come together.
Tanwax is not a particularly deep lake, although much of the middle is about 25 feet deep with some areas closer to 30 feet.
Boaters tend to dominate the fishery here due to mostly private lands surrounding the lake, including areas with lakeside homes.
Trolling is a great way to catch trout. Use trout-sized spinners, spoons and wobbling lures. Some anglers like to run the spinners, spoons or bait (or lure and bait combos) behind a set of lake troll attractors that can increase catches.
Bank and some boat anglers will catch good numbers of trout by fishing with bait, either under a bobber when fish are near the surface, or fished up off the bottom.
Bait options include nightcrawlers or other worms, salmon eggs, marshmallows and prepared doughs such as PowerBait, among others.
Casting or trolling sinking flies or casting and retrieving lures are some active ways to catch rainbow trout, which tend to bite aggressively during the cool weather months.
For more information about catching these fish, read our simple guide, Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Bass and Panfish
Tanwax, like neighboring lakes, harbors a year-round population of bass and other gamefish.
Largemouth bass often attract serious anglers, most of them looking to catch (and release) these big predatory fish that feed on smaller fish, crayfish, frogs, worms and other forage.
Most bass anglers fish lures that imitate local bass prey or that provoke a strike from these alpha hunters.
Twitching a Senko-style bait, for example, can look like a young injured rainbow trout … and an easy meal for a hungry bucketmouth.
Bass-holding water may include lots of docks and big mats of lily pads along much of the shoreline.
Pick up a bunch of bass fishing techniques and tips in our simple how-to article.
Black crappie are also at home at Tanwax, but we should note that there are size limits and a daily bag for crappie here that is more restrictive than many lakes.
At this writing, crappie must be at least 9 inches and you can keep up to 10 per day, but definitely check the specific Tanwax rules before fishing.
Even so, crappie fishing can be really good here, which is why we’ve given it honorable mention status among the best crappie fishing lakes in Washington.
Good-sized crappie eat minnow-sized fish, so a crappie jig is an excellent choice to mimic their primary food source.
Fish jigs under a bobber or suspended deeper in the water, preferably around some sort of structure like dock pilings, submerged trees and lily pads.
Cover a fair bit of water while crappie fishing until you find where the schools are holding, which can be in deeper water at some times of the day or year.
If you’re not an expert at panfish angling, we suggest you read up on the best techniques and some extra tips in our crappie fishing how-to article.
Additional fish you might catch here include yellow perch, brown bullhead catfish and pumpkinseed sunfish.
The pumpkinseeds aren’t big, but they are beautiful to look at, cooperative biters for kids using bait under a bobber, and scrappy for their small size. Snap a photo and let them go.
Location and Access
WDFW maintains a public boat launch at the south end of the lake. You can reach it by taking Thomas Road east from Meridian E (State Route 161) and then north on State Game Road to the access area.
The access area has a paved boat ramp, dock, a bit of bank fishing and toilets, but otherwise limited facilities.
Rainbow RV Resort and Tanwax Lake Resort are also near the southern end and offer various amenities for day and overnight visitors. Camp Lakeview on the north shore is primarily used for group retreats.
Tanwax Lake is about 45 minutes south of Tacoma and less than an hour east of Olympia.
Tanwax is only about 12 minutes north of Eatonville and among a fairly tight grouping of lakes that have lots of trout and warmwater fishing. Other good fishing lakes in this area to consider include Clear Lake, Lake Kapowsin, Ohop Lake, Rapjohn Lake and Silver Lake.