Don’t be fooled by the name — you won’t have to leave civilization to visit Lake Wilderness in King County.
The lake, also known as Wilderness Lake, has a suburban setting and character. It’s accessed from a park of the same name, which is operated by the City of Maple Valley.
At 66 acres, the lake can get pretty full of fish when stocked with 12,000 rainbow trout in April, when the fishing season opens.
Kokanee have also been stocked in the past, and the lake has a resident population of largemouth bass.
There’s a public boat launch at the south end of the park, but motors aren’t allowed on Wilderness Lake. Take a car-topper or inflatable watercraft if you’re looking to go out on the lake.
Alternatively, shoreline access from Lake Wilderness Park is good around the northeast lake bank. There is also a fishing pier.
Trout Fishing at Lake Wilderness
Lake Wilderness is a great spot for fishing for trout, especially on opening day and in the early weeks of the season.
Fishing opens on the lake on the fourth Saturday of April.
While fishing is allowed through October, trout anglers are best advised to strike while the iron is hot and get out to the lake in late April or May.
June and July offer fading prospects — potentially still good, but not peak and slowing down week after week.
August, September and October offer poor to fair prospects, although trout remaining in the lake by that time will have had several months to eat a natural diet and swim in open water, which can make for pinker flesh and better eating.
There’s no special trick to fishing for hatchery-raised rainbow trout. They’ll bite on most popular trout lures and baits for them.
Still-fishing with bait can be as effective as anything else, and easy to master.
Trout eat a lot of insects, so it’s no surprise fly angling is a popular way to fish for trout for anglers with more advanced skills.
Rainbow trout tend to respond well to imitation nymphs and other particularly eye-catching flies.
To learn more about simple trout catching methods, read our guide, Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
At times the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has stocked Lake Wilderness with kokanee fry, although we couldn’t find these typically pan-sized land-locked sockeye salmon on their most recent stocking schedules.
When available, kokanee are often most easily caught during the summer, when they school up, often in the deepest parts of lakes like this one.
Try trolling small spoons, spinners or hootchies (plastic squid), usually behind a set of lake trolls or dodger to attract the fish.
You might also bait your hook with a maggot, piece of corn or artificial kokanee bait, and this rig is fairly likely to work well on the rainbow trout even if you can’t find the kokanee.
The other fishery of note at Lake Wilderness is largemouth bass.
Prime time for bass fishing picks up in May and June and continues through September.
Although they’re typically called warmwater fish, largemouth bass don’t necessarily care for the high temperatures and bright sunlight that comes in the heat of summer.
They will often retreat to deeper water or shady spots by around midday, so the best fishing is usually done in the morning or around dusk.
Largemouth bass are somewhat notorious for swallowing hooks, especially those baited with a nightcrawler or other natural baits.
It’s strongly recommended not to use a baited hook if you’re planning to throw back your catch, as many sporting bass anglers prefer.
Bass may not survive being deeply hooked if they suffer internal injuries from swallowing the hook, and fishing with moving lures that tend to hook bass near the edges of their mouth are a safer bet.
There are an extremely wide variety of good bass lures, many of which are designed to look like common bass forage species including smaller fish, crayfish and frogs.
Soft plastic worms, grubs and swimbaits are a good bet, as are crankbaits, spinner baits and even topwater lures.
Where is Lake Wilderness?
As noted in the introduction, Lake Wilderness isn’t really a wilderness lake, although it’s not very close to the big city, either. It’s in Maple Valley, one of Seattle’s easternmost suburbs.
The lake is semi-developed, with homes on part of the shoreline but trees lining other parts.
The lake is rivaled in size by the land portion of Lake Wilderness Park.
This park, 117 acres in total, has lake-fishing access and also features an arboretum, a disc golf course, wetland areas and regional trail access, among more typical park amenities.
There is a WDFW boat launch at the south end of the park to launch a small boat, but keep your gas motor at home because no combustible engines are allowed here.
If you’re heading to the lake from out of the area, turn south from state Highway 169 onto Witte Road Southeast. A left on Southeast 248th Street will take you into the spacious city park.
From Seattle or Bellevue, Maple Valley is about a 40-minute drive.