Crappie are a top game fish all across the country and for good reason. They are easy to catch with basic tackle and are some of the finest table fair from the water.
Washington State touts some of the most renowned fishing opportunities in the country and while it’s not well known as a crappie hot spot, many lakes host bountiful schools of slab crappie just waiting to bite your bait.
Before heading out to your local lake, take a look at our list of the 10 best crappie fishing destinations around Washington state. You may find the next hidden hot spot for lunker crappie.
Here is a quick look at our top 10 crappie fishing lakes in Washington State:
- Moses Lake
- Lake Washington
- Silver Lake
- Bonnie Lake
- Black Lake
- Potholes Reservoir
- Leader Lake
- Shiner Lake
- Sprague Lake
- Lake Sawyer
1. Moses Lake
This long, narrow lake covers 6,815 acres of top tier fishing habitat. Walleye, trout, bass and panfish are well distributed in Moses Lake and anglers looking to cash in on some of the finest fishing in Washington should look no further.
While well known as a top producing lake for walleye, the panfish population is still in recovery. Years ago, liberal limits on crappie enticed illegal sales of the over-harvested fish around the state. A few years back, a 9 inch size restriction and 10-fish limit has helped crappie populations return.
Now, crappie fishing is much better from year to year and quality sized fish up to 14 inches are more common.
Spring and fall are the fishing prime times on Moses Lake for all fish including crappie. The water temperatures are perfect for spawning fish and boat traffic is still low. Later in the season, residents looking to beat the summer heat far out number anglers and it can be darn near impossible to find a quiet pocket for fishing away from boat traffic.
Numerous boat launches surround the lake. Popular launch points include Blue Heron Park near I-90 to the south and Connelly Park towards the north end. You can also find plenty of bank fishing at abundant city and state parks.
Look for schools of crappie holding tight to docks and submerged trees all along the lake. As water temperatures start rising, crappie begin spawning and are found in high numbers around brush and structure in the Parker and Pelican horns.
2. Lake Washington
Lake Washington is the largest lake in western Washington. At 22,138 acres, it is the playground of Seattle. It also produced the state record black crappie, 4.5 pounds, in 1956.
To this day, Lake Washington supplies the greater Seattle metro area with some of the finest crappie fishing in western Washington. It is an exceptionally large lake with depths up to 209 feet deep so finding schools of good sized crappie is a bit daunting.
Fishing heats up in May and June but can remain good all year in the right spots. Focus on dock structure early in the season. Docks around the I-90 bridge area are popular spots for spring crappie in 10-20 feet of water.
Also, consider areas with weed lines and submerged trees like Union Bay. Lake Washington also has 26 public piers dotted around the lake that anglers regularly haul nice crappie from.
Gene Coulon Park, on the south end of the lake, is an exceptionally popular boat launch on weekends but plenty of other boat access is available through surrounding cities.
3. Silver Lake
This western Washington gem covers 1,424 acres and is home to some of the best largemouth bass fishing on the west side of the Cascades. At a maximum depth of 10 feet, it warms up fast and produces fine fishing well before other surrounding lakes.
In addition to the excellent bass fishing, panfish are abundant and easy to catch. Crappie are smaller in this lake due high population competition. However, the shear numbers make this a great crappie destination for families looking for fast fishing.
There is plenty of fishing pressure from local bass clubs but crappie are relatively untouched. Spring and fall provide consistent catches. There is a 9 inch minimum and a 10-fish limit so you will need to go through a few fish before settling on some keepers.
The north end of the lake is a hot spot for fall crappie. The numerous channels, islands and weed-lined shores are packed with fish in October and November and it’s not uncommon to catch over 100 fish a day.
The primary boat access is operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on the north shore off SR-504. The small ramp and dock is easy to miss so plan your drive on Google maps. Shore access is limited.
4. Bonnie Lake
Located in the beautiful channeled scablands, Bonnie Lake is considered the top producing warm water lake in Washington State. This eastern Washington icon lies one hour south of downtown Spokane and is a must-fish destination for any serious panfish and bass angler.
Crappie are easily caught along shoreline structure all around the lake. Fallen trees, weed beds and rock humps hold the most concentrated schools of crappie. Even with it’s popularity, it won’t be hard to find your pocket of solitude on this 327 acre lake.
May, June and October are the best months for targeting crappie in Bonnie Lake. Plenty of slab fish, up to 14 inches, are catchable but you may need to sort through a few small ones too.
Launching a boat is a challenge and requires navigating up the narrow channel of Rock Creek for over a mile before entering the main lake. Boats over 14 feet are not recommended. The launch is located off Belsby Rd which is only accessible because of agreements with private land owners. Respect their property so we can all enjoy the fishing. Shoreline access is not possible.
5. Black Lake
Black Lake offers a mixed bag of quality fishing opportunities only 4 miles from Olympia, the state’s capitol city. The 573 acre lake attracts mobs of summer swimmers and boats. Spring and fall however are the time anglers want to be chasing crappie.
You won’t be alone on the water but schools move around and there are plenty of fish for everyone. Fish around docks in early spring and search a bit for suspended schools using a fish finder when the water temperature heats up.
The 9 inch minimum size and 10-fish limit is strictly enforced by wardens to maintain the quality fishery. Don’t get caught keeping small ones and only keep enough for a meal.
The WDFW provides a boat launch on the southeast shore with two toilets available. There is also really good bank access at the boat launch area and Kenneydell Park.
6. Potholes Reservoir
No fishing list is complete without mentioning Potholes Reservoir. Potholes is the hub of fishing in the Columbia Basin and draws thousands of anglers every year for its excellent mixed-species fishery. Walleye, bass, trout and panfish provide ample opportunities for anglers looking to experience top notch fishing all year.
Crappie fishing has been stellar lately but is not always consistent from one year to the next. However, more often than not, you will experience some exciting crappie action on the water.
The reservoir is the largest on this list at nearly 28,000 acres when full. It is therefore a daunting lake to fish when targeting crappie. Luckily, these fish are well dispersed and a few consistent spots hold fish most of the season. There is a 9 inch minimum and a generous 25-fish limit.
Potholes has a maze of small islands dotting the north end that create excellent habitat for large slab crappie. Reports have also been good at the east shore near the outlet of the Winchester waste way. The Lind Coulee and Crab Creek areas are spring and summer spots for good catches. Weed edges and submerged brush hold schools of crappie. Travel up the Crab Creek inlet to find a spot away from major fishing pressure.
Several boat launches serve the lake. Lind Coulee launch and Potholes State Park are the easiest launches for most. Mardon’s Resort, on the south bank, is also available for launching and lodging.
Beware that stiff winds slam the flat expanse of Potholes Reservoir. Use the utmost caution and stay current with weather forecasts. Many small vessel sink on the lake each year. Know your boating limits and get off the water if the wind starts picking up.
7. Leader Lake
This small, 155 acre lake is a favorite among locals. Located in Okanogan County just west of the town of Okanogan, Leader Lake produces decent sized crappie and numerous other species.
Most anglers target small schools of crappie May through July along the many brushy shorelines that surround the lake. Pick your way along the north shore and the small island that sits near the center. If those spots don’t yield good catches, work your baits along the southern tree-lined shore where fallen trees pierce the edge.
A DNR campground and small launch are located on the southwest bank. Leader Lake is also a popular ice fishing destination now that it is open year round. Winter ice fishing for crappie is relatively untapped and worth exploring on this lake.
8. Shiner Lake
Shiner Lake is a very narrow lake covering only 81 acres, making it the smallest entry on the list. It is one of 50+ lakes fed by seep water that flows through the porous riprap impoundment of Potholes Reservoir.
The fishing on Shiner Lake really shines soon after its March 1st opening. Trout draw the main crowd of anglers early in the season but don’t miss the warm water opportunities that peak in April and May.
Thick schools of crappie are found suspended near underwater vegetation. The rocky banks don’t give away many clues to what lies beneath. Take your time and search for healthy weed pockets that lie in the east and south end of the lake in small coves.
A small channel connects to Shiner’s neighbor, Hutchinson Lake, which is another good lake worth investigating. Shoreline access can be had after a short hike.
Only small boats and kayaks are allowed to launch from the WDFW maintained site and internal combustion motors are not permitted. Take note that late summer brings heavy vegetation growth that restricts boat and shoreline fishing.
9. Sprague Lake
Further to the east near the small town of Sprague sits the 1,840 acres of Sprague Lake. The lake is bordered to the north by I-90 and is shared between Adams and Lincoln county. It is a popular destination for anglers all year and one of the best fishing destinations in the area.
The majority of the lake is 15 feet deep or less and warm water fishing kick starts early in the season. Be advised that Sprague Lake has seasonal closures in specific locations around the lake. Check the regulations before heading out. Most of the northern lake is open year round and has good off-shore structure and weed lines that hold plenty of crappie.
Boats can be launched at the WDFW boat launch on the southwest end and at two private resorts. Shore access is possible at these locations as well.
10. Lake Sawyer
Tucked away in the backyard of Auburn is a local hangout, Lake Sawyer. A popular summer boating destination, Lake Sawyer encompasses 286 acres of superb mixed-species fishing.
Everyday is crowded on Lake Sawyer during the summer but a boating curfew limits speeds to less than 5 mph at all hours except mid-day, which brings much needed peace to fishermen and residents alike.
Spring and fall however see notable drops in boat traffic and good fishing is to be had most days. May, June and September are particularly good for average sized crappie. They may not be huge but they do form large schools early in the season that bring constant action to patient anglers.
The south end has the best fishing near lily pads and brushy channels. Small islands also are a safe bet to find pre-spawn crappie. Residential docks get hit hard by bass anglers looking to pluck out a new personal best but the crappie in these spots are willing to take the right bait.
A fee boat launch is available at Lake Sawyer Park on the west shore. Shore access is limited to the park and at the south end of the lake. Parking is difficult on busy weekends but early spring or fall weekdays see little fishing pressure.
Washington State crappie tactics
Washington State crappie are just like other state’s crappie populations. Simple baits and standard crappie tactics yield good results. Here, we will just touch on the basics that will get you well on your way to catching loads of crappie.
Tackle and gear
Crappie are one of those fish that are easy to please. They will readily take almost any lure or bait. Favorites include small plastic tube jigs and twisty tail grubs fished slowly beneath a bobber.
Small bass lures and spinners are also effective when fish are more active during the pre-spawn and fall. However, few lures are going to surpass the simple effectiveness of a garden nightcrawler below a slip bobber.
Crappie feed up from beneath their prey so suspend your bait just above the depth where fish are holding. Regardless of bait choice, slow retrieves are the key to higher catch rates. Crappie don’t make a habit of chasing down fast moving prey.
Light weight spinning gear is all you need to catch these fish. A 5 to 6 foot ultralight fast action rod and a small reel with 2-4 pound monofilament is ideal. A 14 inch slab crappie is a blast to catch on light tackle.
Time of year
The majority of lakes in Washington are going to fish best in early spring when water temperatures reach 55° F. Crappie are some of the earliest spawning warm water fish and this is your chance to find them in the highest concentrations near shallow underwater structure. May is consistently the best month for crappie all over Washington.
As the spawn subsides and the water warms, crappie often disperse to deeper water. Small schools can still be found suspended over deep structure near land points and weed lines. It takes more effort to chase summer crappie but it is worth the challenge.
The arrival of fall brings with it cool temperatures and, once again, you can easily locate schools back in their pre-spawn feeding grounds. September through early November are prime times for crappie after the summer heat dissipates.
How to find crappie
Locating crappie on a new lake can be a challenge to say the least. Now that you know what lakes to try, go take a look at our popular guide on how to find crappie on a new lake.
You’ll find excellent resources on breaking down a body of water to find only the most productive spots to fish.
There are not many fish that bring as much joy to anglers as crappie. These feisty fish are easy to catch and delicious on the table. When you want a break from chasing walleye or pounding the weed lines for bass, switch to a simpler tune and start fishing for crappie.
Winter is one of the best times to catch big crappie in Washington State. Want to find out where you can target crappie through the ice? Then take a look at our Washington State Ice Fishing Secrets ebook to learn more.