Spinning Rod? Check. Tackle box? Check. Fishing license? Check. Lucky fishing cap? Check. There’s just one small problem, I haven’t fished in a long time or ever!! What do I do?!! Never fear! Your ‘very basic get you on the lake’ guide is here!! The first thing you need to do is pick a lake to go to. You can check out lakes in your area by going to this link. You can search by county or even by species!!

Now let’s use a very nice easy to start lake in Cowlitz County called Horseshoe Lake. It’s located in the city of Woodland with a lot of great shoreline access. There are a lot of fish stocked there and you can get updated stocking information by going to: Again, you can search by lake, county or even species. At the time of this article, Horseshoe Lake was last stocked April 28 with 3,000 rainbow trout!

So, we have our lake now what?

The most important thing prior to any fishing trip is, ‘know before you go’. This means, understand what regulations there might be at the water you are wanting to fish. You can pick up a regulation pamphlet at any sporting good store or you can download it from the WDFW website here: One important thing to keep in mind is a new regulation cycle will be starting July 1, 2021 so grab those when they come out in June. Most lakes follow a 5 trout limit, no minimum size. If a lake has regulations other than the basic statewide rules, it will be listed in the pamphlet.

BaitYou don’t have to have a fancy rod or reel to enjoy some trout fishing at the lake. Your basic ZebCo can be purchased at Walmart to get you started until you decide what kind of fishing you want to do. Whether that is in lakes or streams, rivers or the ocean. You can start out very simply with a bobber, a size 10 hook and container of worms. If you’re not the wormy type, Powerbait is a great go-to for trout. You can get Powerbait in many forms. The nugget form is generally a lot easier to work with. They come in every color you can imagine! Grab a few different kinds. Other types of bait include corn, marshmallows, biscuit dough, cocktail shrimp and much more:

You can also use lures but for sake of this guide, we’ll be focusing on bait. You can learn more about lures for trout here:

You’ve got your hook baited and you are ready to roll! Now you just have to get that hook in the water and let the magic begin. You send that hook out from the shore and it plops in the water. And nothing happens. This is the fishing part of fishing!

TroutMaybe you feel some ‘nibbles’… then BAM! Something hit your hook. Now you’ve got to ‘set the hook’. You can feel the weight of the fish trying to swim off, so you pull the rod up quickly which in turn sets the hook in the fish’s mouth. Now, of course, sometimes the fish spits out the hook. They can be very clever! But more times than not, you’ve got yourself a fish!

Don’t reel in too fast! Some fish will just give up and go slack but some will fight you all the way to the shore. They will jump and try everything they can to remove that hook. But yours stays and you get that fish to shore! You put it on your stringer and imagine just how yummy it’s going to taste!

Now that you have that awesome trout you might be wondering if you should clean it here at the lake or at home! Well, both ways work. You can clean the fish and toss the guts back into the water to be eaten by other critters in the lake, or you can take the fish home to clean and toss the guts in your garden or flower bed for some pretty cool compost!!

Trout DerbyWait a minute you say? That’s all there is to it? Nope, you could write a million blogs on trout fishing and never hit everything. We are just getting you out on the lake and getting started. There are a lot of things you can research. Learn more about the fish you want to go after. Maybe it’s not even trout but warmwater fish. Learn their habitat and where they like to hang out in the water. Then there’s the whole other side of cleaning, filleting and cooking! Or, if you prefer, Catch and Release  – releasing the fish to catch it another day. There are tons of resources online. Find  a few below  to get you started.

One last word, if you catch a fish in a Washington lake with a tag, there is a statewide trout derby occurring! You can call the number on the tag and find out what prize you have won. Check out this fun link for further info on what lakes have tags left in them!
The most important thing is to have fun and take a friend fishing!!


Take Me Fishing – one of the best websites for all things fishing!

Basic Fishing Techniques for Trout in Washington

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife