Washington State has one of the most diverse fisheries in the world. You can target salmon in coastal waters and walleye in the desert… all in the same day! With so many fishing options, it’s no wonder that yellow perch get overlooked by so many anglers.
While perch certainly don’t garner attention like bass and trout, they are well worth the effort. Once you find a large school, the action is non-stop and 10 to 12 inch perch are a blast to catch on light tackle.
Most lakes in Washington State have abundant populations of yellow perch that are easy to catch with basic gear. They are delicious eating too. You can target them year round but July through October is the best time to find fat perch in 20 to 30 feet of water.
Not all lakes are created equal though. Big perch grow in big lakes. If you’re looking for a new perch hot spot, this article is for you. To make it easier to choose, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite perch waters in Washington State. Each one offers the highest quality perch fishing around.
Here’s a quick look at the 9 best lakes for perch fishing in Washington State:
- Lake Washington
- American Lake
- Lake Sammamish
- Lake Stevens
- Lake Kapowsin
- Moses Lake
- Potholes Reservoir
- Curlew Lake
- Scooteney Reservoir
1. Lake Washington
Seattle isn’t called the Emerald City for nothing and Lake Washington is its crown jewel. Over 3.5 million people live within a one hour drive of this 22,000 acre natural lake. Even so, you won’t find much competition for yellow perch here.
Bass and trout fishing generally steal the show but more anglers are learning that yellow perch are very abundant and grow to impressive sizes in Lake Washington.
12 inch perch are common and 2 pounders aren’t unheard of. It’s even believed that the next state record will be caught in Lake Washington. The current state record is 2.75 pounds which was caught in Skagit County over 50 years ago.
One of the great things about perch fishing is that the action is good all day. Even heavy boat traffic does little to hamper the appetites of these bottom hugging fish.
Lake Washington boat traffic is like a rush hour commute on warm weekends when the sun shines.
The lake holds concentrated schools of perch just about everywhere but summer time anglers need to seek out weed edges in 30 to 40 feet of water. Union Bay, Juanita Point and around the floating bridges are well known spots for big perch.
Simple fishing tactics work well everywhere in Lake Washington. Small drop shot style setups with worms or soft plastics are effective. We like to use a small 1/8 ounce jig head and a piece of nightcrawler. Bigger fish are singled out using jigging raps or spoons.
Lake Washington also has 29 public fishing piers allowing for shoreline anglers to reach deeper water. You can see a complete list of pier locations here. If you have a boat, use it. Sometimes you need the ability to move from spot to spot to find pockets of fish as they roam.
Boat launches are dispersed around the lake but popular launches include Gene Coulon Park on the south end and Magnuson Park on the northwest shore.
Be advised that the Department of Health has issued fish consumption advisories and recommends eating only small amounts of yellow perch each month due to pollution.
2. American Lake
American Lake is a 1,090 acre lake situated south of Seattle in the city of Lakewood. Washington’s beauty is once again showcased on this urban lake. The yellow perch fishing is pretty good as well.
American Lake is heavily stocked with rainbow trout and kokanee and you’ll find that most anglers on the water are not after perch. The perch in this lake are self-sustaining and the WDFW indicates that perch fishing here is the best in Pierce County.
Fish average 10 to 12 inches and the bite is best during June and July, although you can catch perch all season. We recommend targeting deep water (20 to 40 feet) points and weed edges off the north side of Silcox Island as well as areas around the south end of the lake.
A fish finder is worth its weight in gold for locating moving schools of fish. Bottom fishing techniques produce reliable catches. Use a drop shot rig with a 1/4 ounce weight suspended 12 inches below a baited hook or crappie jig.
Bordered mostly by a military base, there is limited shore access but a WDFW boat launch is located on the south bank. American Lake Park to the north also has a fee boat launch with a well maintained ramp and plenty of parking. Harry Todd Park is a popular place for bank anglers as well.
American Lake is a great fishing spot for families and kids who will enjoy watching for the frequent flights of military aircraft.
3. Lake Sammamish
Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Lake Washington is another excellent perch producer. Lake Sammamish covers 4,853 acres of prime mixed-species fishing water.
Perch are not native to this water body and feed heavily on young kokanee. As a result, perch populations have exploded and the once abundant kokanee salmon populations have plummeted.
In an effort to curb out of control yellow perch populations, Trout Unlimited hosts an annual Perch Derby in May. This one day event is fun for the whole family and there are prizes offered for most fish, longest fish and heaviest fish.
If fishing derbies aren’t your thing, you can certainly catch buckets full off nice sized perch April through October. Good fishing occurs just about everywhere on the lake. Once again, tracking down perch involves finding weed edges and structure in 20 to 40 feet of water. Electronics go a long ways in simplifying your search.
Bank fishing is pretty much limited to Lake Sammamish State Park at the south end; a large multi-lane boat ramp is located there as well. Be prepared for crowded boat ramps on summer weekends.
You can avoid most of the chaos and congestion at the boat ramp by using portable fishing boats and kayaks. Early mornings during week days are the best times to avoid crowds.
4. Lake Stevens
At 1,003 acres, Lake Stevens is the largest natural lake in Snohomish County near the city of Everett. It also happens to be one of the most overlooked quality fisheries in the region.
Well known for pumping out plump kokanee in early spring, it also has a large cult following for large and smallmouth bass that hide among the docks and weeds that ring the urban lake.
Summer heat draws droves of play boats and jet skies to the lake and makes most fishing difficult except during early morning or late evening hours. However, perch fishing is excellent in all conditions.
May through September yields the best catches. Smaller 8 inch fish predominate but yellow perch up to 14 inches are often hooked by experienced anglers. One thing is for sure, everyone can catch perch on Lake Stevens.
Standard perch techniques yield decent catches. Smaller fish are easily caught near pilings and docks using a slip bobber and worm. This is a great method for kids. Find larger perch along weed edges from August through September.
Willard Wyatt Park on the west shore has a great fishing peer, which happens to be where I got my start perch fishing. There is also a nice launch at the park. A WDFW boat ramp is located on the east arm of the lake and several surrounding parks provide limited bank fishing access.
5. Lake Kapowsin
This relatively shallow, stump infested lake is still one of the best kept secrets for warmwater species in Pierce County. Lake Kapowsin regularly yields largemouth bass over 5 pounds and both perch and crappie over 10 inches are not surprising.
Most of this 490 acre lake is less than 25 feet deep and warms quickly in spring and summer. Surrounded entirely by forest land, the banks are brushy, log riddled messes perfect for targeting bass and panfish.
Perch fishing peaks in June and July. Target deeper pockets for fat fish perfect for the frying pan. Just be cautious during your hunt for schools of perch. Countless stumps hide just beneath the surface and we don’t recommend traveling fast.
A newer WDFW boat launch is located on the north shore but it shows signs of neglect and vandalism in this sparsely populated area. There are also a few bank fishing opportunities at various points along Orville Road which parallels the southwest bank.
6. Moses Lake
Our first stop on the east side of the Cascades is Moses Lake. This long, narrow lake spans over 6,700 acres and delivers some of the best perch fishing in Washington State.
Perch populations fluctuate from year to year but catching 20 to 30 fish in a 3 or 4 hour period is normal. Perch in this lake are above average size too. 12 inch fish are frequent and true jumbos pushing 15 inches long are a possibility every day.
Don’t let the size of this lake intimidate you. Historically, the best perch fishing is had along, and under, the I-90 bridge that crosses the lake near Blue Heron Park and along the rip rap shore of Pelican Horn crossing.
You can also escape heavy boat traffic in the main lake by fishing the Parker Horn area. There is plenty of excellent perch habitat among the small islands. Low water levels in late summer scatter fish so a good fish finder is key.
Fall and winter perch fishing is the best time to catch limits of fish without the crowds. Some years the lake freezes and winter ice fishing for perch is second to none.
Bank fishing is available in several parks around the lake but boat anglers see more consistent success. The Blue Heron Park, Linden and Cascade Valley boat launches provide excellent access to the majority of the lake. The north end of the lake is best accessed by the Connelly Park boat launch.
7. Potholes Reservoir
Regardless of the species, Potholes Reservoir seems to be on everyone’s “top fishing spots” list. This premier fishery boasts walleye, trout, bass and a full assortment of other mixed species.
Perch rank high on many anglers’ agenda when fishing Potholes and some years the fishing is phenomenal. During winter months, when the lake sometimes freezes, anglers catch fast limits of big perch near the Lind Coulee Arm.
For a convenient fishing option, stop at Mar Don Resort on the south shore adjacent to the O’ Sullivan Dam. Pay a small day use fee to fish from the dock where you can expect to catch perch over 12 inches and the occasional slab crappie.
You can also access the main lake at Potholes State Park. The weed lines immediately to the north of the park supply abundant schools of perch worth chasing. Smaller boats can sneak a ways up the Frenchman Hills and Winchester waste ways for a more isolated fishing experience.
Please be aware that the wind on Potholes Reservoir is dangerous and picks up during most summer afternoons. Boating experience is a must.
Ample public bank access is scattered all over this huge 27,800 acre reservoir. Best shoreline fishing occurs when the reservoir is at full pool mid-spring. Try the Lind Coulee Island, Sampson Pit, Blythe or Crab Creek public access sites.
8. Curlew Lake
After an illegal introduction of yellow perch to Curlew Lake in 2011, the population has exploded into one of the top producing perch waters in North Central Washington.
Curlew Lake, near the town of Republic, is an 861 acre mixed-species lake that is a popular summer recreation area for boaters, campers and anglers alike. Bass, trout, tiger muskie and perch provide ample opportunity to hone your angling skills.
Most of the other fish populations are suffering a downturn because of over crowding issues from the perch. There is no catch limit for perch and the WDFW encourages you to harvest all you can eat.
In the near future, the perch population will grow to a point where fish growth will become stunted. However, right now 10 to 13 inch perch are average so get them while it lasts.
An easy technique for catching perch at Curlew simply requires a light 1/16 to 1/8 ounce jig and a small soft plastic crappie tube tipped with perch meat or worms. Any color plastic will work but favorites include red and chartreuse. Winter ice fishing is gaining in popularity using similar tactics.
It’s tough to pick a bad spot to find perch but a reliable hangout seems to be in 30 feet of water between Wiseman Island and Curlew Lake State Park. You’ll find clean camp sites and a nice boat ramp at the state park.
There are also 3 private resorts around the lake; Black Beach, Fisherman’s Cove and Tiffany’s Resort.
9. Scooteney Reservoir
Last but not least on the list is the 710 acre Scooteney Reservoir in Grant County, Washington. Situated only 9 miles south of Othello, Scooteney Reservoir is a popular multi-species fishery among locals.
Smallmouth bass and walleye draw a fair amount of attention as do nice sized trout but perch are probably the most prolific species in the reservoir. Perch average 8 to 9 inches with the occasional 10 inch plus fish thrown in.
You’ll find most yellow perch schooling in 15 to 25 feet of water around numerous points and island edges. Spring through fall are consistent times to target perch and just about any other species of fish in Scooteney.
Ice fishing is also very popular for perch. Most winter anglers like to ambush cruising perch in the channel that separates the northern portion of the reservoir from the smaller southern portion.
Scooteney Park and Campground on the east bank provides excellent camping amenities as well as a good boat launch. Shore fishing is well dispersed for those willing to walk.
Summing it up
Many more lakes in Washington State have excellent populations of yellow perch but these are just a few of our tried and true fishing spots. Hopefully, you’ll give one a try and find your new favorite fishing destination for perch.
Winter is one of the best times to catch big perch in Washington State. Want to find out where you can target perch through the ice? Then take a look at our Washington State Ice Fishing Secrets ebook to learn more.