Best Trout Fishing in Washington (2023 Angler’s Guide)

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Washington anglers have an amazing variety of trout to catch in a landscape that ranges from moss-draped temperate rain forests on the Olympic Peninsula to scorched desert near the Idaho border.

This article briefly highlights some of Washington’s very best trout fishing for a variety of trout species found across the state.

This article primarily serves as a jumping-off point, where you can link into more detailed information about the specific trout fishing topics and locations that fit your interests.

Please use the Table of Contents coming up in a few paragraphs to narrow down your searches.

As you explore, you’ll want to click the links in this article to discover more detailed information about places where you can catch your favorite type of trout, or where you can check off another less-common trout species from your bucket list.

There’s another link toward the bottom that will take you to a simple guide to the most effective trout fishing methods.

Generally, I’ve organized this overview by trout species, including those that are easily caught across wide stretches of Washington, plus some that will take some more doing to find and catch.

Rainbow Trout Fishing in Washington

Fishing for trout in a small lake in Washington state.
Photo by digidream (Depositphotos)

This is the most common species of trout caught in Washington, in large part because rainbow trout is the most common species of trout stocked in Washington.

But Washington also has some tremendous fisheries for wild rainbow trout. Met me at the Yakima River, anyone?

If you’re looking for easy-to-catch trout limits, a good bet is to simply see where the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stocking trucks go.

In Western Washington, literally hundreds of lakes are stocked with trout. There are just too many to mention, so check out our county-by-county coverage linked from our Washington page if you’re looking for something near home.

The lakes in this first section are places where you’re very likely to do well dunking some bait such as a nightcrawler or PowerBait, trolling around with some pop gear like flashers ahead of a Wedding Ring lure, or sometimes casting lures or flies.

Western Washington Rainbow Trout

Heading roughly south down the Interstate 5 corridor, here are some of the top options we recommend, in part because they’re loaded with catchable rainbow trout:

Central Washington Rainbow Trout

In Central Washington, check out the following hot spots:

Eastern Washington Rainbow Trout

In Eastern Washington, these are some lakes that tend to be heavily planted with rainbows:

Rainbow Trout Fly Fishing Lakes

If you’d rather fling flies at rainbow trout, we suggest you check out:

These lakes aren’t stocked as heavily and most of the lakes we’ve already mentioned, but their fly fishing rules and conservation-minded regulations keep them full of big, feisty trout.

Rainbow Trout Fishing Streams

Maybe you’d rather match the hatch on moving water?

Check out our complete guide to the best fly fishing rivers in Washington.

If chasing rainbows, as they say, you’ll especially want to take a look at the Yakima River and Rocky Ford Creek in Central Washington are superb rainbow trout fisheries. Don’t overlook the Cedar River right under many noses in King County or the Spokane River on the other side of the state.

By the way, if you have sea-run rainbows in mind, we’ve covered the best steelhead fishing rivers in Washington in a separate article.

The lakes and rivers we’ve already mentioned have typical stocked and native rainbows, but WDFW also plants some lakes with triploid rainbow trout, especially in east of the Cascade Mountains.

Triploid Rainbow Trout

Triploid rainbow trout are hatchery-created with an extra set of genes, which makes them both sterile and able to grow faster than the typical trout. The biggest specimens can outweigh steelhead.

Lake Roosevelt stretching from central to northern Washington is the granddaddy of triploid rainbows, which are often both big and numerous in this massive Columbia River impoundment. This would be our top choice for “trips.”

The next reservoir downstream from Roosevelt is Rufus Woods Lake, which has produced the Washington state record rainbow trout, a triploid tipping the scales at nearly 30 pounds.

Some additional central and eastern Washington lakes that have boatloads of triploid rainbow trout include:

  • Roses Lake in Chelan County.
  • Diamond Lake in Pend Oreille County
  • Rock Lake in Whitman County

On the west-side, Riffe Lake on the Cowlitz River was stocked with some surplus triploids a few years ago and are good-sized and still numerous at last report, mixing in with the lake’s famous landlocked coho salmon. However, these triploids will run their course unless more are stocked.

Cutthroat Trout Fishing in Washington

There are three primary species of cutthroat trout found in Washington.

Coastal cutthroat are a native species generally located west of the Cascades and into the lower Columbia River and its tributaries, while Westslope cutthroat are found east of the Cascades (the Westslope in the name refers to their location west of the Rockies).

Also, in a few select waters, Lahontan cutthroat trout that are native to inland areas of Nevada and California (notably Pyramid Lake in Nevada) are stocked in a handful of Washington waters that fit their unique needs.

Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Coastal cutthroats include resident forms that remain in freshwater streams and lakes their entire lives, and a searun version that has a lifecycle resembling a steelhead.

Searuns, also known as harvest trout, don’t spend as much time at sea as steelhead, instead feeding in bays and near-shore areas to feed on shrimp and other forage before returning to their home streams.

Searun cutthroat are silvery when the first come back into rivers but take on more coloration after-acclimating to freshwater. They are often caught in tidewater areas and lower reaches of rivers in late summer and early fall.

Resident cutthroat are found in a range of habitats, including slower valley streams, lowland lakes, and higher-elevation creeks and lakes.

Some of the best coastal cutthroat trout fishing lakes include:

Lake Washington, the mammoth natural lake between Seattle and Bellevue, produces some of the larger cutthroat trout around for those who learn the secrets.

Given the size of this lake and the need to cover water, trolling is the usual ticket to success.

The old standby Wedding Ring spinner with a nightcrawler on the hook a pretty common tactic. Pulling a small sinking crankbait like a Rapala or a variety of other lures can bring in the big ones, too.

Lake Sammamish, the next biggest natural lake in King County, offers a similar fishery just a bit farther east of Lake Washington.

Lake Sammamish often can out-fish its larger neighbor for numbers, although at times the average trout here will be a bit smaller. Start at the state park.

Wild populations of coastal cutthroat trout are found scattered around the streams and lakes of Western Washington, and a fair number of lakes in this region are stocked with hatchery-reared cutthroat.

Some of those stocked waters (many covered with in-depth articles) include:

  • Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond in Clark County
  • Deer Lake and Goss Lake in Island County (on Whidbey Island)
  • Margaret Lake and Rattlesnake Lake in King County
  • Mountain Lake in San Juan County (on Orcas Island)
  • Campbell Lake and Cavanaugh Lake in Skagit County
  • Goose Lake in Skamania County
  • Goodwin Lake and several smaller lakes (Blackmans, Crabapple, Howard and two Martha lakes) in Snohomish County
  • Lake Padden and Terrell Lake in Whatcom County

As mentioned, coastal cutthroat including the sea-run variety also are widely distributed in streams around Western Washington.

Some waters, such as the Cowlitz River, also are stocked with searun cutthroat trout. However, the populations in most coastal streams are wild. Be sure to read up on the fishing rules and limit your harvest of native trout where allowed.

Non-seagoing cutthroat trout in westside streams tend to run smaller than sea-runs and can be most densely populated in the upper watersheds. For example, in a river with salmon and steelhead in its lower reaches, try fishing for cutthroat upstream from waterfalls and dams.

The 12-pound state record coastal cutthroat was caught more than a half century ago in Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. The Park Service now protects its Lake Crescent coastal cutthroat (and its equally unique rainbow trout variety) with special regulations including catch-and-release rules.

Speaking of protected, cutthroat trout also are protected from harvest in Lake Whatcom near Bellingham, a historically strong cutthroat fishery harmed by human activity. (The big lake remains a hot spot for kokanee and bass fishing, however.)

Westslope Cutthroat Trout

In Eastern Washington, Westslope cutthroat trout also are found in both native and stocked populations, especially on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains and across the mountains of northeastern Washington.

The famous Lake Chelan in recent years has been stocked with generous numbers of these cutthroat trout, and cutthroat of excellent size are being caught.

Other lakes with good numbers of westslope cutthroat trout planted include:

  • Long Lake in Ferry County
  • Kachess Lake in Kittitas County
  • Blue Lake (Wannacut) in Okanogan County
  • Davis Lake, Marshall Lake and several smaller lakes in Pend Oreille County
  • Badger Lake in Spokane County (plus a few others with modest plants)
  • Pierre Lake in Stevens County

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Lahontan cutthroat trout aren’t native to Washington.

Rather, Lahontans come from the Great Basin area that stretches from western Nevada into northwestern California and southeastern Oregon, where they have adapted to high-alkaline waters that most other trout can’t tolerate.

There are a small handful of lakes that match that description in Washington where these jumbo-sized cutthroat species can thrive.

The best-known Lahontan cutthroat trout fishery in Washington is Lake Lenore in Grant County. A friend catches giant Lahontans the size of steelhead at the lake.

The only real rival to Lenore when it comes to Lahontans is Omak Lake on the Colville Indian Reservation in Okanogan County (southeast of the city of Omak).

That puts it a little off the radar, but the public can fish Omak Lake with a tribal permit. This lake produced the state record 18-pound Lahontan.

Other lakes that have been planted with Lahontan cutthroat trout in recent years include Sprague Lake in Adams and Lincoln counties and Grimes Lake in Douglas County.

Albright and Blue lakes in Okanogan County have also been stocked at times.

Brown Trout Fishing in Washington

Close up of a brown trout after being caught.
Photo by bhaslam (Depositphotos)

These European natives, a.k.a. German brown trout, have made their home in a fair number of Washington’s lakes and streams, thanks both to stocking programs and natural reproduction in some waters.

The state record 22-pound brown trout came from Sullivan Lake in the far northeastern corner of Washington (Pend Oreille County). This is still a lake with trophy trout potential for several species, but seeing as that record has stood since 1965, it’s probably not going to be easy to top.

Sullivan Lake is not stocked with brown trout these days, but a number of waters around Washington are planted with these fish on the char branch of the trout family tree.

Here are some regular brown trout stocking sites across Washington:

  • Merrill Lake (fly fishing) in Cowlitz County
  • Antillon (Lower and Upper) and Fish Lake in Chelan County 
  • Blue Lake and Park Lake in Grant County
  • Cranberry Lake in Island County (on Whidbey Island)
  • Green Lake in King County (Seattle)
  • Mineral Lake in Lewis County
  • Diamond Lake in Pend Oreille County
  • Pass Lake in Skagat County
  • Martha Lake (Warm Beach) in Snohomish County
  • Clear Lake and Medical and West Medical Lakes in Spokane County
  • Jumpoff Joe and Waitts Lake in Stevens County
  • Fazon Lake in Whatcom County
  • Aeneas Lake and Blue Lake (Sinlahekin) in Okanogan County
  • Rock Lake in Whitman County

Some of the streams that at times can fish well for brown trout, and might be worth exploring, include Crab Creek (Lincoln, Grant and Adams counties), Colville River (Stevens County), Rock Creek (Adams and Whitman counties), and Spokane River (Spokane County).

Lake Trout (Mackinaw) Fishing in Washington

Here’s another non-native char, though it hails from the other side of the country in the Great Lakes and up into Canada, rather than the other side of the globe.

Mackinaw are among the biggest trout family species that spend their entire lives in freshwater. The official world record for a sport-caught lake trout is 72 pounds, but even larger lakers have been recorded.

While Washington’s record is about half that world’s best size, a nearly 37-pound trout is nothing to sneeze about.

Lake trout like cold, deep lakes with abundant sources of food. Kokanee and smaller trout are often on the menu in Washington.

The state record comes from Lake Chelan, which meets all of the lake trout requirements with its cold, impressive depths and abundance of kokanee, cutthroat trout and other forage. It’s definitely our top choice if you are hoping to boat a big mack.

Fair to occasionally quite good fisheries for lake trout also exist in northeastern Washington, specifically at Deer Lake and Loon Lake in Stevens County and Bead Lake in Pend Oreille County.

Another lake with established lake trout populations is Cle Elum Lake in Kittitas County, where WDFW truly wants you to catch and keep as many mackinaw as possible because they eat the baby sockeye salmon that biologists are trying to restore.

As a bonus, it’s only about 45 minutes beyond Snoqualmie Pass from the Seattle area, or a similar distance driving northwest from Ellensburg.

Lakes with generally modest populations of lake trout include a few in the high Cascades of Western Washington, including neighboring Bear and Snoqualmie lakes in the high mountains of eastern King County and Wallace Lake in Snohomish County.

Additional east-side lakes with some mackinaw reported are Bonaparte Lake in Okanogan County and Horseshoe Lake in Pend Oreille County.

Brook Trout Fishing in Washington

Another eastern U.S. native, Eastern brook trout are widely dispersed around Washington.

Technically another char species, brookies have quite taken to clear and cold streams and lakes in Washington’s more mountainous areas, where they reproduce and at times can threaten native species by outcompeting them.

WDFW also stocks brook trout in some waters, including some hatchery reared triploid brookies that, like triploid rainbows, are sterile and faster-growing than fertile trout.

The state record, a 9-pounder, was caught at Wobbly Lake, a high-country hike-in spot between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams.

Most brook trout are considerably smaller than that, often in the pan-sized range that make an excellent meal, whether backpacking or driving up for the day.

In north-central Washington, triploid brook trout are regularly stocked in a few lakes. Some reliable spots to catch them often include Beehive and Lily lakes in Chelan County and Bonaparte, Crawfish and Lost lakes in Okanogan County.

In northeastern Washington, Sacheen Lake in Pend Oreille County, Fish Lake in Spokane County and Deer Lake and Madgett Lake in Stevens County are among lakes stocked with good numbers of typical brookies.

Honestly, there are hundreds if not thousands of high lakes and streams with brook trout in them. Many aren’t publicized much, but one place to start your search is WDFW’s brook trout page, which lists selected fisheries by county.

Golden Trout Fishing in Washington

Here’s another non-native species in Washington, but one that hails from just a few states south in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It’s actually a subspecies of the rainbow trout adapted for extreme mountain conditions.

As with California, golden trout in Washington are found in high-elevation waters that in most cases will involve a hike for you to reach. Golden trout haven’t appeared on stocking schedules recently, and numbers may have dwindled in some waters.

However, if you’re up for a long walk in the high mountains, it could be a fun way to check off another bucket list fish. If not, you’re still like to catch brook, rainbow or cutthroat trout along the way.

Golden trout have been planted in select high-elevation lakes on both the west and east sides of the Cascades. They also are present in a small number of Olympic Peninsula high mountain lakes.

Find a list of potential fishing holes at WDFW’s species page for golden trout.

Catch More Trout

Now that you have a pretty good idea of where you’d like to go trout fishing, check out our free guide to easy trout fishing techniques and tips to help you actually catch them when you get there.