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Thurston County Bass Lakes

Bob Johansen - 5/19/2012
WESTERN WASHINGTON’S THURSTON COUNTY, HOME OF THE STATE CAPITOL AND THE GOVENOR’S MANSON, IS ALSO HOME TO 108 LAKES, MANY OF THEM WITH PUBLIC ACCESS AND POPULATIONS OF BLACK BASS

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 it’s bountiful waters.

I have been fortunate enough to have had the time and opportunity to fish most of Thurston County’s lakes that host populations of black bass – And, 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, why not 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 ol’ Bigmouth with everything he needs in life including plenty of small perch and a few planted trout to dine on. The lake also provides lots of his favorite habitat like 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 October 31st.

To get there from Olympia, travel south on I-5 to the 93rd Ave. exit. (Exit # 99). Follow 93rd Ave. east for 3.4 miles to Pacific Highway S.E. Turn right and follow Pacific Highway S.E. for 6.6 miles to the town of Tenino and intersection with Highway #507. Turn left and follow Highway #507 eastward for3.1 miles to Military Road and the brown sign reading “Public Fishing – McIntosh Lake.” Turn left onto Military Road for 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. I have also fished the lake numerous times from a canoe and caught bass to over 3 pounds.

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 October 31st.

And, of course, the park has many other amenities including camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking and modern restrooms. The park has 120 standard camping sites among the tall old growth trees and 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 five to seven pound class. Smallmouth bass are also reported to be living in the lake although this angler has not 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 Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The access has limited but usually adequate parking space, pit toilets and a good concrete plank boat launching 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 year round.

To get there from Olympia, travel south on I-5 to the 93rd Ave. exit. (Exit #99). Follow 93rd Ave. east for 3.4 miles to Pacific Highway S.E. Turn right (south) onto Pacific Highway S.E. 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: This little 30 acre lake is actually two lakes connected by a shallow narrow channel. Lake Susan is only listed as 3.5 acres but contains the same lunker sized 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 three and a half pound bass with only one working eye smashed the lure. She was weighed, measured and 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 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with the excellent concrete plank ramp located 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 October 31st.

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 S.E. Turn left, north, onto Pacific Highway to Henderson Street for 1.5 miles to 65th Ave. Watch carefully for this turn off. 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 Ave. for only .3 mile to the WDFW public access.

PATTERSON LAKE: This big 257 acre lake is almost like 2 lakes in one, separated by a shallow, narrow channel under the railroad tracks. It is quite well know for its lunker sized largemouth bass but also hosts, rock bass, yellow perch, black crappie and rainbow trout. My best bass, 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. It was August 6, 1986, the sun was out and the water was shallow and clear. I saw the big fish dash out from under an old underwater log and chase the lure. “Hit it, Hit it,” I pleaded silently. Bam ! – She did. I was able to watch the strike and the entire underwater battle. Needless to say, 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 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The large access area has plenty of parking space on both sides of 58th Ave. S.E., pit toilets and a good concrete plank boat launching ramp. Maximum speed on the lake is 5 MPH so you won’t be bothered by water skiers or hot rodders. Patterson Lake is open to angling from the last Saturday in April through October 31st.
To get there from Seattle, travel south on I-5 to the Nisqually exit. (Exit #114 located just north of Olympia.) Exit onto Martin Way for 4.2 miles to Carpenter Road. Turn left onto Carpenter Road for 1.0 mile to Kagy Street S.E. Turn onto Kagy Street S.E. for .5 mile to 58th Ave. S.E. Turn right for .5 mile to WDFW public access on the left.

CHAMBERS LAKE: This 73 surface acre lake is quite shallow at 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 and limits the 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 Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. 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 1.0 mile to 14th Ave. Turn right onto 14th Ave. for .7 mile to WDFW public access on the left.

BLACK LAKE: This large, 576 surface acre, stained water lake 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 Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. 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 1.0 mile to 66th Ave. S.W. Turn right onto 66th Ave. S.W. 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 it is used for drinking water by over 300 families. 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 sized 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 five pounds that liked the looks of his black ¼ 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 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 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 October 31st.

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 “public fishing” sign pointing right. Turn right for .4 mile to WDFW public access on the left.

LONG LAKE: This 311 surface lake is quite shallow with a maximum depth of 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 and floats.

I was fishing solo on September 12, 1986 when I caught two nice 4 pound, 10 ounce largemouth bass from under 2 different floats. Both fish hit a black spinnerbait. I saw an attractive young lady fishing from her dock and she was snagged on bottom structure. I gallantly steered my bass boat in and retrieved her gear. She snapped a photo of the fish and I released them near her dock while she watched.
I fished the lake 9 times between July 1978 and June 2005. The last time I fished it was with Mike Carey when he caught a very nice largemouth that weighed 4 pounds, 5 ounces. The fish was 21 ¾ inches long and should have weighed more. We found that she only had one good eye – minnow hunting was probably a little challenging for her.
Public access is provided by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. 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 October 31st.
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 St. S.E. Turn left onto Boat Launch Street for only .1 mile to WDFW public access.

HICKS LAKE: This 171 acre lake hosts a number of different fish species including largemouth bass, rock bass, yellow perch, black crappie, warmouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, brown bullhead catfish and rainbow and brown trout.

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. I fished this lake many times and caught lots of largemouth bass – but nothing over 2 pounds. The last time I fished the lake was in June 2005 with Washingtonlakes.com Supreme Commander Mike Carey.

Public access is provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The large access area has plenty of parking space, pit toilet and a very good concrete block boat launching ramp with a paved approach apron. Boat speed is limited to 5 MPH from opening day of fishing sunset. Hicks Lake is open to angling from the last Saturday in April through October 31st.

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 Ave. Turn right onto 25th Ave. for only about 50 feet to Hicks Lake Road. Turn left onto Hicks Lake Road for .3 mile to WDFW public access on the left.


OTHER THURSTON COUNTY LAKES where I have enjoyed catching a few bass include Lawrence Lake, Clear Lake, St. Clair Lake, Ward Lake, Elbow Lake and Barnes Lake.

LAWRENCE LAKE: This lake is located about miles south of the town of Yelm. It covers about 339 surface acres, reaches depths of about 26 feet and lies at an elevation of 421 feet. I only fished this lake 3 times from 1979 – 1986. My best bass was 3 pounds, 2 ounces and hit a black jig.

CLEAR LAKE: This lake is located about 10 miles S.E. of the town of Yelm. It covers about 173 surface acres, reaches depths of about 25 feet and lies at an elevation of 518 feet. I only fished this lake 4 times from 1979 – 1986. My best bass was 2 pounds, 14 ounces and 17 ¼ inches long. That fish hit a Rapala 11 S.

ST. CLAIR LAKE: This lake is located about 6 ½ miles N.W. from the town of Yelm. It covers about 245 surface acres, reaches depths of 110 feet and lies at an elevation of 73 feet. I only fished this lake 4 times from 1980 – 2006. The last time was with Mike Carey in the pouring down rain in May 2006. My best bass was only 12 ½ inches caught in 1984. That fish hit a black jig.

WARD LAKE: This lake is located about 2 ½ miles south from Olympia. It covers about 67 surface acres, reaches depths of 67 feet and lies at an elevation of 123 feet. I only fished this lake twice from 1988 – 1991. My best bass was only 13 inches and that fish hit a white Spinnerbait.

ELBOW LAKE: This lake is located about 10 miles S.E. from the town of Yelm. It covers about 36 surface acres, reaches depths of about 15 feet and lies at an elevation of 479 feet. I only fished this lake 4 times between 1976 – 1982. My best bass was only an 11-¼ incher.

BARNES LAKE: This lake is located about 3 miles south south of Olympia. It covers about 14 surface acres, has shallow depths and lies at an elevation of 150 feet. I only fished this little lake one time with my son in a canoe. My best bass was a giant 8-¾ incher that hit a white Spinnerbait.

Note: This article was written a long time ago so some rules and regs may have changed. Check your rule pamphlet.

By Bob Johansen