Wildcat Lake near Bremerton is a great place to open the season.
The popular fishing lake is kept well-stocked with hatchery rainbow trout, and the area is well-developed with a concrete boat launch and easy shore access from Wildcat Lake County Park.
The lake is popular with opening day trout anglers starting on the fourth Saturday of April.
Beyond rainbow trout, Wildcat Lake has two resident salmonids of note: coastal cutthroat trout, which are especially popular with fly anglers, and coho salmon, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic fish.
The lake also has fishing opportunities for largemouth bass and brown bullheads, especially later in the season.
Trout and Salmon Fishing
The season opens strong near the end of April and fishing prospects are excellent for May and early June.
Trout fishing falls off pretty sharply after that, and the rest of the year isn’t a very good time to angle for rainbow trout at Wildcat Lake.
The state’s recent stocking plans call for over 9,000 rainbow trout to be planted in Wildcat Lake in April and May.
State authorities often do another significant restocking event a few weeks after opening day to replenish the catchable fish population while the season is still young.
This lake is very popular, and at times quite crowded, especially on weekends. If you can go during the week, that will help a little but there always will be a fair number of fishers during the early season.
And while you won’t have to be there the first weekend to catch rainbows but you also won’t want to hold off until after Father’s Day.
In addition to rainbow trout, Wildcat Lake also hosts a resident population of coastal cutthroat trout.
These native trout are a little trickier to catch than hatchery-raised rainbow trout, which usually aren’t difficult to entice with a bit of bait or an attractive lure.
Cutthroat trout respond very well to artificial flies and anything else that resembles their natural prey, which is primarily insects both near the surface and submerged.
For more details about the easiest ways to catch trout, read our simple guide: Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
They’re less common than trout, but coho salmon also have had a presence in Wildcat Lake, although reports suggest the population is up and down.
These salmon are landlocked, unable to carry out the traditional life cycle of a salmon, which will spend part of their lives in freshwater and part in the ocean when given the chance.
Landlocked salmon are usually smaller than ocean-going salmon. Most are pan-sized or potentially a bit larger than the average trout.
Landlocked salmon are often caught incidentally in a lake where most anglers are chasing trout, as they will strike lures and baits including nightcrawlers. Trolling with lures or bait is popular for lake-bound silvers.
As on most other major fishing lakes in Washington, two-pole fishing is allowed on Wildcat Lake. This is useful for maximizing your bites, and your odds of hitting your limit quickly.
Bass and Panfish Fishing
Largemouth bass can be caught at Wildcat Lake, also, even if they’re overshadowed by trout fishing.
While there’s no truly spectacular month for bass fishing at Wildcat Lake, in general, May through August offer fair to good prospects. Avid bass anglers can do well in September and October as the season winds down and fewer people will be fishing at Wildcat.
Spring bass tend to be in shallower water during the spawn and largemouth often venture into shallower water at other warm times of the year to feed in lower light, but in the full sunlight of summer you’ll want to search them out in a bit deeper water.
Know your goal for the fish you catch when fishing for bass.
Many bass anglers prefer to release their catches, which take a long time to reach prime trophy and breeding size. Larger bass also have a tendency to build up natural toxins in their flesh.
If you plan to release bass, you won’t want to use bait such as a nightcrawler, because these gluttonous predators have a tendency to hoover in baited hooks and fatally injure themselves when taking bait.
Bass feed on moving prey including smaller fish, crayfish, frogs and really anything that swims that they can fit into their bucket-sized mouths. Use artificial soft plastic lures, hard-bodied crank baits, spinner-baits and other lures to catch them.
Wildcat Lake also supports brown bullheads. These small catfish are bottom-dwellers, and like most catfish, they’ll eat pretty much anything.
Try a sliding sinker to fish for bullheads. Use whatever bait you prefer, since they’re not picky, although chicken livers are popular because they tend not to entice other game fish.
Nightcrawlers and garden worms, cut fish and prawns, and prepared catfish dough baits are among other effective catfish bait options.
Where is Wildcat Lake?
Wildcat Lake is on the Kitsap Peninsula, just west of Bremerton.
From Bremerton, take Kitsap Way out of town, then follow Seabeck Highway Northwest to Wildcat Lake Park. It’s just a 15- to 20-minute drive.
Wildcat Lake Park is off Holly Road, on the north side of the lake.
This Kitsap County park has restrooms, picnic tables, a playground and other common amenities. There is fishing access from the park.
Keep in mind that there may be swimmers at Wildcat Lake, especially when the weather is nice.
Boating is allowed. There is a concrete boat launch, and for good measure, life jackets are available at the park.