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Bass Fishing Washington / Oregon

Thurston County Bass

September 29th, 2010 1

Western Washington’s Thurston County, home of the state capitol and the governor’s mansion, is also home to 108 lakes, many of them with populations of black bass.


Photo by Ron Sinfelt

By Robert A. Johansen

For the bass aficionado with the urge to explore, Washington’s Thurston County may be a good place to start. With 108 lowland lakes, many with public access and thriving populations of largemouth bass, it may be enough to cause an avid bass angler an uncontrollable desire to hunt for Ol’ Bigmouth in its bountiful waters.

I have been fortunate enough to have time and opportunity to fish most of Thurston County’s lakes that host populations of black bass – and that have public access. Here are a few of my favorites. Remember, there is a slot limit on bass on all of these lakes. Only bass under 12 inches or over 17 inches may be kept, and no more than one over 17 inches. Better yet, release all the bass and keep a few perch or bluegill for table fare.

McIntosh Lake: This 116-acre lake is quite shallow with a maximum depth of only about 11 feet. It is however, deep enough to provide bigmouth with everything they need in life, including plenty of small perch and a few planted trout to dine on. The lake also provides lots of bass habitat, such as pad fields, overhanging brush and trees, old logs and wood in the water. There are also some old pilings and private docks that provide additional shade, shelter and ambush points.

Pubic access is provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The large access area has lots of parking space, pit toilets and two good concrete plank boat-launching ramps. McIntosh Lake is open to fishing from the last Saturday in April through Oct. 31.

To get there from Olympia, travel south on I-5 to the 93rd Avenue exit (Exit 99). Follow 93rd Avenue east for 3.4 miles to Pacific Highway SE. Turn right and follow Pacific Highway SE. for 6.6 miles to the town of Tenino and intersection with Highway 507. Turn left and follow Highway 507 east for 3.1 miles to Military Road and the brown sign reading “Public Fishing – McIntosh Lake.” Turn left onto Military Road for a short distance to public access on the right.

Deep Lake: This little 66-acre lake is an ideal destination for the camping fisherman with a small boat. Public access is through Millersylvania State Park. The launch area has a sign reading, “Hand Carried Boats Only.” There is a large parking lot and a fishing dock. Bank fishing is also available along the shoreline of the state park.

On numerous occasions, I have cast floating lures from the shoreline during early morning hours or late evening hours and hooked numerous bass.

Deep Lake has lots of shade and shelter for the largemouth bass, including some overhanging brush and trees, pad fields, submerged logs and wood and a few private docks. Numerous bluegill and planted rainbow trout provide the bass with a plentiful food supply. Deep Lake is open to angling from the last Saturday in April through Oct. 31.

The park has many other amenities, including camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, and modern restrooms. The park has 120 standard camping sites among old-growth trees and an additional sites with full hookups.

To get there from Olympia, travel south on I-5 to the Little Rock-Maytown exit (Exit 95). Follow the Little Rock-Maytown Road east to Tilley Road. Turn left and follow Tilley Road to the state park entrance on the left.

Offutt Lake: This 192-acre, stained-water lake has the reputation for producing some of the largest rainbow trout in Thurston County. Many trout anglers are attracted to the Offutt Lake Resort to fish for these lunker trout from their fishing dock.

The lake also hosts some lunker largemouth bass in the 5- to 7-pound class. Smallmouth bass are also reported to be living in the lake, although I haven’t caught one as yet.

Prime bass habitat for the bass in Offutt Lake includes lots of overhanging brush and trees, old logs and wood in the water, large pad fields and some private docks and floats.

Public access is provided by the WDFW. The access has limited but usually adequate parking space, pit toilets and a good concrete plank boat ramp. Look the ramp over before driving down to it. The turn-around area is quite small for maneuvering a full-sized tow vehicle and boat trailer. You may want to back down to the ramp from the top. Offutt Lake is open to angling all year.

To get there from Olympia, travel south on I-5 to the 93rd Avenue exit (Exit 99). Follow 93rd Avenue east for 3.4 miles to Pacific Highway SE. Turn right (south) onto Pacific Highway SE. for about 2 miles to Waldrick Road. Turn left onto Waldrick Road for 1.3 miles to Walona Street. (Watch carefully, this street is easy to miss). Turn right onto Walona Street for only .1 mile to WDFW public access area.

Munn Lake: Two lakes connected by a shallow, narrow channel actually make up this little 30-acre lake. Lake Susan is only listed as 3.5 acres but contains the same lunker largemouth bass as Munn Lake.

On my first trip to Munn Lake, I used my electric motor to go through the channel and fish Lake Susan. I noticed a large school of fry milling near the lake surface and cast a floating Rapala into the middle of them. Bam! A 3.5-pound bass with only one working eye smashed the lure. She was weighed, measured, wished good luck and released.

Munn Lake also hosts a lot of bluegill and some planted rainbow trout.

Prime bass habitat in this lake includes overhanging brush and trees, pad fields, old logs and wood in the water and a few private docks.

Public access to both lakes is provided by the WDFW with the excellent concrete plank ramp on Munn Lake. The access provides limited but usually adequate parking space and a pit toilet. Munn Lake is open to fishing from the last Saturday in April through Oct. 31.

To get there from Olympia, travel south on I-5 to the Airdustrial Way exit (Exit 101). Turn left, east, onto Airdustrial Way for 3.4 miles to Pacific Highway SE. Turn left, north, onto Pacific Highway to Henderson Street for 1.5 miles to 65th Avenue. Watch carefully for this turnoff. It’s easy to miss and in the Olympia traffic it may take a few miles to find a place to turn a tow rig and bass boat trailer around. Anyway, turn right onto 65th Avenue for only .3 mile to the WDFW public access.

Patterson Lake: This 257-acre lake is almost like two lakes in one, separated by a shallow, narrow channel under railroad tracks. It is quite well known for its lunker largemout
h bass but also hosts, rock bass, yellow perch, black crappie and rainbow trout.

I have fished Patterson Lake only a few times but have caught largemouth to almost 7 pounds. My best fish, a 6-pound, 10-ounce fish, hit a white spinnerbait and another lunker of 5 pounds, 12 ounces hit a black plastic worm.

The fish that hit the spinnerbait was a treasure to catch. The water was clear and I saw her dash out from under a log and chase the lure. “Hit it! Hit it!” I pleaded silently. She did and I was able to watch the entire underwater battle. She was thanked for the memories and gently released after a very brief photo session.

Prime bass habitat in Lake Patterson, includes overhanging brush and trees, old logs and wood in the water, pad fields, shoreline reeds and private docks and floats.

Public access is provided by the WDFW. The large access area has plenty of parking space on both sides of 58th Avenue SE, pit toilets and a good concrete plank boat-launching ramp. Maximum speed on the lake is 5 mph; neither water skiers nor hot rodders will bother you. Patterson Lake is open to angling from the last Saturday in April through Oct. 31.

To get there from Seattle, travel south on I-5 to the Nisqually exit (Exit 114, just north of Olympia). Exit onto Martin Way for 4.2 miles to Carpenter Road. Turn left onto Carpenter Road for 1 mile to Kagy Street SE. Turn onto Kagy Street SE for .5 mile to 58th Avenue SE. Turn right for .5 mile to WDFW public access on the left.

Chambers Lake: This 73-acre lake is quite shallow, about 8 feet. It does however, host a variety of fish species, including largemouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie, warmouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, a few cutthroat trout and some grass carp.

Prime bass habitat is mostly pad fields and aquatic vegetation. This is a good bass lake to try early in the season during those first warm days in March. Later in the season, it becomes quite weedy, which limits lure selection. My best Chambers Lake bass hit a floating Rapala during a calm windless day in April. Other productive lures include spinnerbaits and Texas-rigged worms.

Public access is provided by the WDFW. The large access area has plenty of paved parking spaces for tow rigs and trailers, pit toilets and a good concrete plank boat-launching ramp. Chambers Lake is open to year-round angling.

To get there from Seattle, travel south on I-5 to just north of Olympia and take the Martin Way exit (Exit 109). Turn right onto Martin Way .2 mile to College Street. Turn left onto College Street for 1 mile to 14th Avenue. Turn right onto 14th Avenue for .7 mile to WDFW public access on the left.

Black Lake: There’s 576 acres of stained water here that hosts a variety of fish species, including largemouth bass, rock bass, yellow perch, black crappie and rainbow and cutthroat trout. Prime bass habitat in this lake includes lots of pad fields, reeds, overhanging brush and trees, old logs and wood in the water, old pilings and private docks and floats.

Public access is provided by the WDFW. The large access area has lots of parking space for tow rigs and trailers, pit toilets and two good concrete plank boat-launching ramps. Black Lake is open to year-round angling.

To get there from Seattle, travel south on I-5 to just past Olympia and take the Black Lake-Trosper Road exit (Exit 102). Turn west onto Black Lake-Trosper Road for 2.8 miles to Black Lake-Belmore Road. Turn left, south, onto Black-Lake-Belmore Road for 1 mile to 66th Avenue SW. Turn right onto 66th Avenue SW for .7 mile to the WDFW public access area.

Summit Lake: This big, deep, clear-water lake covers 523 surface acres and has depths of up to 100 feet. The gin-clear water is so clean that over 300 families use it for drinking water.

Fish species include rainbow and cutthroat trout, yellow perch, brown bullhead catfish and largemouth bass. Although better known as a great trout lake, the lake now contains some lunker largemouth bass. On one trip, while fishing with son Donald, I got an up-close look at a big beauty that was just a tad shy of 5 pounds that liked the looks of his black quarter-ounce black jig.

Prime bass habitat in this lake includes pad fields, overhanging brush and trees, lots of private docks, a few old pilings and a few old submerged logs.

Public access is provided by the WDFW. The large access area has lots of parking space for tow rigs and trailers, a pit toilet and two good concrete plank boat-launching ramps. Summit Lake is open to angling from the last Saturday in April through Oct. 31.

To get there from Olympia, travel west on Highway 8 for about 10 miles to Summit Lake Road. Exit onto Summit Lake Road for 1.8 miles to the “Public Fishing” sign pointing right. Turn right for .4 mile to WDFW public access on the left.

Long Lake: Characteristics of this 311-acre lake include the word shallow – only about 20 feet. Fish species include largemouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie, warmouth bass, and rainbow trout.

Prime bass habitat in Long Lake is similar to most western Washington lakes with some overhanging brush and trees, pad fields, old logs and wood in the water, and private docks.

Public access is provided by the WDFW. The large access area has lots of parking space, pit toilets and a concrete plank boat-launching ramp. Long Lake is open to angling from the last Saturday in April through Oct. 31.

To get there from Tacoma, travel south on I-5 to the Nisqually exit (Exit 114). Exit onto Martin Way for 4.2 miles to Carpenter Road. Turn left onto Carpenter Road for 2.8 miles to Boat Launch Street SE. Turn left onto Boat Launch Street for only .1 mile to WDFW public access area.

Hicks Lake: A number of fish species, including largemouth bass, rock bass, yellow perch, black crappie, warmouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, brown bullhead catfish and rainbow and brown trout inhabit this 171-acre lake.

Prime bass habitat and tempting casting targets include some overhanging brush and trees, old logs and wood in the water, pad fields and private docks and floats.

Public access is provided by the WDFW. The large access area has plenty of parking space, pit toilet and a very good concrete block boat ramp with a paved approach apron. Boat speed is limited to 5 mph from opening day of fishing until May 15 and during non-water skiing hours, which are from 11 a.m. to one hour before sunset. Hicks Lake is open to angling from the last Saturday in April through Oct. 31.

To get there from Seattle, travel south on I-5 to the Nisqually exit (Exit 114). Exit onto Martin Way for 4.2 miles to Carpenter Road. Turn left onto Carpenter Road for 1.9 miles to Shady Lane. Turn right onto Shady Lane for .7 mile to Lilac Street. Turn left onto Lilac Street for only .1 mile to 25th Avenue. Turn right onto 25th Avenue for only about 50 f
eet to Hicks Lake Road. Turn left onto Hicks Lake Road for .3 mile to WDFW public access on the left.

OTHER THURSTON COUNTY LAKES

Other Thurston County lakes where I have enjoyed catching a few largemouth bass includes 244-acre Lake St. Clair, located about 6 1/2 miles northwest of Yelm; 329-acre Lawrence Lake, about 6 miles south of the town of Yelm; and 339-acre Clear Lake, about 10 miles south of Yelm.



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  • Chuck

    Please be aware: Munn Lake is a SELECTIVE GEAR FISHERY with SINGLE BARBLESS HOOKS ONLY and NO BAIT OR ATTRACTANT ALLOWED ON LURES. It its CATCH AND RELEASE ONLY. The lake also forbids internal combustion motors. This lake has been set up to become a trophy lake for both trout and bass. Please respect the regulations and help make this lake a special place to fish.

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