West Nile virus (WNV) is now endemic in the continental United States; however, our ability to predict spillover transmission risk and human WNV cases remains limited. Here we develop a model depicting WNV transmission dynamics, which we optimize using a data assimilation method and two observed data streams, mosquito infection rates and reported human WNV cases. The coupled model-inference framework is then used to generate retrospective ensemble forecasts of historical WNV outbreaks in Long Island, New York for 2001-2014. Accurate forecasts of mosquito infection rates are generated before peak infection, and >65% of forecasts accurately predict seasonal total human WNV cases up to 9 weeks before the past reported case. This work provides the foundation for implementation of a statistically rigorous system for real-time forecast of seasonal outbreaks of WNV.