Like trout fishing? Then you’ll love Williams Lake.
It’s all about the trout at this slender, 300-acre lake southwest of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. Three types of trout are stocked annually, with no other fisheries of note.
Unsurprisingly, Williams Lake is well-trafficked despite its relatively remote location (about 45 minutes south of Spokane).
The lake has an improved concrete boat launch and a number of resorts with fishing piers, so getting on the lake is reasonably easy.
The lake is managed seasonally, opening the fourth Saturday in April and continuing through Sept. 30 before closing for the fall and winter.
Since trout dislike heat and tend to be harder to find in the summer months, the lake is at its busiest (and most productive) in the spring and then again in September as temperatures begin to cool from their summer highs.
Rainbow Trout Fishing
At our most recent check, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s stocking schedule called for 5,000 catchable-size rainbow trout to be planted in Williams Lake in March and April (along with a few hundred “jumbo” trout).
WDFW follows that up with truckloads of 90,000 fry and fingerlings in May to grow for future seasons.
Rainbow trout are a popular fish enjoyed by beginners and veteran anglers alike. They can be caught with a variety of methods.
On Williams Lake, most anglers bring boats and opt to troll rather than still fishing from the shore, where there is limited lake access.
Experiment with different lures, baits and attractors at different speeds to find the combination that’s catching fish for you.
The season opens in late April, and weather-wise, this cool season is often the best time of year to fish for trout. Expect the lake to be busy as soon as fishing begins.
Rainbow trout tend to become scarcer, at least close to the surface, by mid- to late June as the weather gets warmer.
While it’s still possible to catch rainbows during the summer, it requires more patience and often different techniques. A fish finder can be very useful to find deeper trout when they aren’t readily biting at shallow depths.
Right near the end of the season in September, rainbow trout prospects tend to be back on the upswing.
Cooler temperatures mean the fish are more comfortable hunting for insects near the surface of the lake.
If they have survived the summer, young trout have grown and put on good weight. These pink-fleshed trout make for especially good eating, so September tends to be a popular month on Williams Lake.
Cutthroat Trout Fishing
The type of cutthroat trout planted at Williams Lake is the westslope cutthroat trout, a common trout in the inland Northwest.
Cutthroats are stocked in smaller numbers than rainbow trout at Williams Lake, but still in good quantity.
A recent check found that WDFW planned to stocked more than 20,000 juvenile trout to be stocked, most of them as fry and fingerlings in June.
Opinions vary on when the best time to fish for cutthroat trout is. It’s hard to argue with September, as the season winds down, but April and May are fine fishing months as well for cutthroats that held over from the previous year or two.
While you won’t as often find them feeding at the surface in the heat of summer, you can find them fishing the deeper and cooler waters.
Use natural baits to fish for westslope cutthroat trout. The classic earthworm (or nightcrawler) bait works well.
Lures and artificial flies also will catch cutthroats and rainbows alike.
Tiger Trout Fishing
A sterile hybrid of the brown trout and the brook trout, tiger trout are unfamiliar to many anglers, but Williams Lake is one of the places to introduce yourself to one.
They won’t be as common as the rainbows or even the cutthroats, but tiger trout offer a somewhat different challenge for anglers.
The very act of stocking tiger trout is something of a balancing act.
Tiger trout can’t reproduce, they must be bred with hatchery help — so they’ll never have a self-sustaining population.
But unlike rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, which primarily eat insects and other invertebrates, tiger trout prey extensively on smaller fish.
The state’s stocking schedule has called for some 10,000 tiger trout to be planted as fry or fingerlings in May and October, meaning one year’s plantings are likely to be next season’s catches.
Try fishing with Rapala or another type of lure that imitate small prey fish. Like other trout varieties, tiger trout can also be caught by fly fishing or bait fishing.
And like other trout, too, tiger trout aren’t fond of the summer heat. They’ll hunt near the surface in the spring and fall but will more often be hiding out in cooler water near the bottom in the summer.
Anglers out on the lake on summer evenings and nights may have some luck encountering tiger trout coming up into the shallows to hunt smaller fish as the temperature drops.
How to Catch Trout
We hope the tips in this article will give you some good ideas, but we also suggest that you check out our simple how-to covering Trout Fishing: Basic Tips and Techniques.
Where is Williams Lake?
Williams Lake, not to be confused with a smaller body of water by the same name in Stevens County, is located about a 45-minute drive southwest from Spokane.
The nearest population centers of note are Sprague, to the west, and Cheney, to the north.
The lake is a few miles southwest of the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.
Public lake access is maintained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has a concrete boat launch on the north side of the lake, off West Williams Lake Road.
Bunker’s Resort, Klinks Resort and Fischer’s Retreat are private resorts on the lake that also offer access.
To reach Williams Lake from Spokane, take Interstate 90 and Highway 904 south to South Cheney Plaza Road in Cheney.
That road will take you south through the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, eventually becoming South Rock Lake Road.
Finally, take a right onto West Williams Lake Road and follow it directly to the state lake access or to your resort of choice.