Millions of trout have been planted in statewide lakes.
More than 16 million trout have been planted in statewide lakes for the April 22 lowland lakes trout opener, which is by far the largest angler attraction of the year.
“We’re really excited about opening day, and a lot of the lakes we stock will provide folks with some good opportunity,” said Larry Phillips, a state Fish and Wildlife regional director. “Certainly, opening day is one way to determine instantaneous success, but we have a lot of others who like to wait and go out to fish later on. Our goal is to try and match the people’s desires to make each of the lakes we plant fish well.
“The triploid (sterile trout that grow rapidly during their first year that are purchased from private growers and average a hearty 1½ pounds) plant will be down a little bit.”
If you go
You don’t have to spend big bucks, with a rod and reel ranging from $30 to $60. Length of a rod should be 6 to 7 feet, and relatively light action, in the 4- to 10-pound range. Get a medium-sized spinning reel that can hold more than 100 yards of 4- to 6-pound test fishing line.
Add a number 9 egg sinker and a small barrel swivel tied to a 3- to 6-pound test leader that is 20 to 30 inches long. Use a No. 14 or 16 treble hook or size 8 to 10 egg hook.
Scented dough baits are the most popular bait since they simulate food fed to trout at hatcheries. Others use worms, salmon eggs, maggots, scented marshmallows or a black or black-and-olive color Woolly Bugger fly in a size 8 or 10 tied to a small swivel, and 5- or 6-foot leader. Try trolling or casting small spoons or a wedding ring. Trolling a gang-flasher with a worm, maggot or salmon egg smothered with a tiny piece of scented dough bait is another good setup.
Freshly planted trout tend to stay near the surface early on, so trolling a weightless fly is a good tactic. Fish will also hang around an area where they were planted, generally close to shorelines, boat ramps and docks. Then they will disperse as the season goes on.
A fishing license is required (kids under 15 fish for free) and a Discover Pass for parking.
This “bigger fish” vision was initiated by state Fish and Wildlife four years ago in its stocking program, which has been well received by anglers looking for a better experience by catching a larger fish.
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Once the dust settles from hatchery trucks hitting roads around lakes, anglers can expect 2.3 million catchable trout averaging closer to 11 inches long (instead of those four years ago that averaged 8 inches); 130,371 large-sized trout averaging about 1 pound apiece; and 17,509 triploid trout waiting to be caught.
To kick it up a notch, more than 12.3 million smaller trout were stocked statewide last spring and fall as 2- to 8-inch-long fish that should now be 8 to 12 inches. Survival rate is largely dependent on each lake’s water conditions.
The outlook for catching trout on opening day should be fairly decent as long as the weather holds up. The Puget Sound region lakes from King County to the Canadian border will get 450,000 catchable-sized trout.
“I’m expecting the weather will have an impact on how opening-day success goes,” said Justin Spinelli, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist for the Puget Sound region. “If it warms up quickly, that could quickly change things.
“The exciting thing is these cooler water temperatures will set us up for a nice spring and early summer fishery that could extend consistent catches of trout well into July.”
In the Puget Sound region, 37 lakes in King County will be stocked with trout: 23 in Pierce County; 11 in Skagit County; 12 in Whatcom County; 30 in Snohomish County; 16 in Thurston County; four in Island County; nine in Jefferson County; nine in Kitsap County; 28 in Mason County; and four in San Juan Island County.
Most eastern Washington lakes are managed with the smaller fish-fry plants, since their survival rates are much better compared to west side lakes that rely on catchable-sized trout plants.
Those who can’t get out on opening day won’t miss out as the vast majority of fish planted will continue to provide good fishing well into late spring through summer.
Lastly, anglers who want to get a head start can already head to a number of year-round lakes planted with thousands of trout. Folks should check the regulation pamphlet to see which lakes are open. Enforcement will be monitoring lakes closed until opening day.
Season-long derby returns
Opening day marks the start of state Fish and Wildlife’s trout derby that runs through Oct. 31.
“The response after the first derby season last year was great, and we have a total of 1,500 prizes worth up to $29,000,” Phillips said. “It is unique and exciting to not only catch some trout, but maybe get a prize as well.”
Last year, anglers caught about 50 percent of the tagged fish.
To improve the number of tags turned in, state fisheries accordingly stocked 100-plus waterways. In some instances, they planted more tagged fish in lakes near vendors who helped sponsor the derby.
State fisheries officials say lakes in the Puget Sound region with tagged trout will be similar to last year, which was about 200 fish.
The derby is free, and anyone with a fishing license can try their luck. To claim a prize an individual must call a 24-hour hotline at 360-902-2464 and provide tag information.
• The free Sky Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited Trout Fishing Day is April 23 at Lake Tye in Monroe. Children under age 12 can fish for free from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. There will also be an adult fishing derby 2-5 p.m. Details: 206-818-2991 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Black Lake Fishing Kids Derby is 7 a.m. on Saturday in Ilwaco, and is open for youth ages 2 to 14. Register at www.ilwaco-wa.gov/forms/fishingderby.shtml.
• The “Hooked On Fishing” Opening Day Trout Derby is Saturday on Lake Wilderness. Fishing begins at 12:01 a.m. with a late-night pancake breakfast. Details: www.maplevalleychamber.org/hooked-on-fishing.
• A Youth Fishing Event is set for 8 a.m. Saturday at Reflection Pond at Sarg Hubbard Park in Yakima. Open for youth ages 5 to 14. Register online at http://www.yakimagreenway.org/kids-fish-in or 509-453-8280.
• There is an All-Ages Fishing Derby at daybreak to 10 a.m. on Saturday at Vance Creek Ponds 1 and 2 in Grays Harbor County. Details: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/kids/events.html.
• A Kids Fishing Derby is daybreak to noon on Saturday at Cases Pond in Pacific County. Open for youth up to age 14. Details: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/kids/events.html.
• The Kids Fishing Derby is 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday at Lake Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County. Open for youth age 3 to 15. Details: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/kids/events.html.
Top 2016 statewide lakes
Here are the lakes that produced a catch of 3.5 or more fish per rod during last season’s opener (catches vary year to year). The daily limit is five fish.
Chelan County – Wapato, 4.62 fish per rod. Jefferson – Sandy, 4.38. Kitsap – Horseshoe, 3.686. Klickitat – Rowland, 5.40 (over-limit catch average). Lewis – Carlisle, 4.25. Mason – Aldrich, 4.23; Benson, 3.62; Clara (Don), 4.82; Devereaux, 4.71; Howell, 4.07; Phillips, 3.49; Robbins, 4.11; and Wooten, 4.92. Pierce – Bay, 4.9. Skagit – Erie, 4.2; and Sixteen, 6.2 (over-limit catch average). Skamania – Kidney, 5.67 (over-limit catch average). Snohomish – Howard, 3.5; Martha, Alderwood Manor, 4.2; and Wagner, 3.6. Stevens – Cedar, 4.58. Thurston – Pattison, 3.76; and Summit, 3.69. Whatcom – Cain, 3.9.
2016 King County opening-day catches
Cottage, 57 anglers with 127 trout (64 released) for 2.2 fish kept per rod; Geneva, 33 with 130 (21) for 4.6; Langlois, 65 with 184 (152) for 2.8; Margaret, eight with 37 (26) for 4.6; North, 54 with 219 (58) for 4.1; Pine, 64 with 212 (seven) for 3.3; Steel, 20 with 98 for 4.9; Walker, 22 with 46 (17) for 2.1; and Wilderness, 76 with 203 (138) for 2.7.