More than 300,000 anglers are expected to turn out this weekend when trout season opens April 27.

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Bigger trout.

That is what anglers will find lurking in more than 500 lakes and ponds when the statewide trout fishing season begins Saturday. .

“We had a vision two years ago in our trout-stocking program to boost the size of what we call catchable trout,” said Chris Donley, the state Fish and Wildlife inland fisheries manager.

“We laid out a challenge to our hatchery folks to do this in a cost-effective manner,” Donley said. “They sharpened their pencils, and found a way to produce the same number of trout, yet increase their size. That is a massive gain and very impressive.”

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This season, 2.39 million of these chunky catchable trout (averaging 10 to 12 inches) are being stocked for more than 300,000 anglers expected to turn out this weekend.

“No more 7- (to) 9-inch swimming hot dogs,” said Bruce Bolding, a state Fish and Wildlife fish program manager. “All catchable plants are standardized to be at least 10 (to) 12 inches, which is a really nice fish.”

“We want to make sure 100 percent of lakes with catchable plants met that size goal (up from 90 percent last year),” Bolding said. “People noticed the difference (last year), and it certainly helped with a higher happiness factor and helped anglers have a better experience. That is what opening day is all about.”

To boost the jubilance further, trout plants will also include 110,131 “jumbos” averaging 13 to 16 inches.

Fisheries purchased from private growers another 52,000 triploid trout averaging 1 ½ pounds apiece to be planted in 114 lakes and ponds. Triploids are sterile trout that can grow rapidly during their first year.

Add to the mix more than 14.7 million trout fry, fingerlings and smaller-sized trout stocked last spring and fall, which should now be 8 to 12 inches long. Survival rate of these fish largely depends on water conditions.

A good number of lakes east of the Cascade see good fry survival rates.

Following a trout stocking crew

FEDERAL WAY — The hatchery trout-stocking truck rumbled through the North Lake entryway just east of I-5 with water spilling from its tank as it gently rolled over the speed bumps.

The truck loaded with about 1,800 pounds of rainbow trout resembled a huge four-wheeled fish aquarium equipped with two large oxygen tanks fitted to three aerators and three supersized air stones.

The Puyallup Hatchery truck (one of three at the facility) will cover thousands of miles throughout many counties in the Puget Sound region this spring, filling 280,000 trout into lakes and ponds.

It is a busy time for hatchery crews, who make at least two trips daily to various lakes (four to five times a week during the height of spring and early summer), and are a welcome sight for happy anglers looking forward to catching these fish.

“I enjoy coming to work every day and really like my job, and when we deliver these fish it just gets everyone excited,” said Jason Smith, the Puyallup Hatchery manager who has worked at state Fish and Wildlife for 12 years. “This is definitely a busy time of the year, but we’ve kept to our schedule in making sure the fish get planted.”

This past week, Smith along with Doreen Merrill, a state Fish and Wildlife staff member for almost 25 years, made two trips to North Lake to ensure 9,500 trout got planted in time for the popular statewide lowland lakes trout opener this weekend.

“It is such a thrill to see the excitement on people’s faces when they see our truck arriving at the lakes,” Merrill said.

At the hatchery facility, the crew gently loads the trout from the pond into a large netting as a crane picks it up. The crew quickly weighs the total amount of fish in the netting, and then places them into the truck’s holding tank.

When the truck arrives at the lake, it is backed up near the shoreline or boat launch. Then the rear latch to the tank’s pipe is opened. It takes just a few minutes before thousands of trout are emptied into the lake.

The process of rearing these fish is almost like raising your own fish in an aquarium tank, but on a much bigger scale.

The trout arrive at the Puyallup Hatchery facility as eggs each fall, and are raised and fed for 16 months until they reach the “catchable size” of 10 to 12 inches long.

When North Lake opens this Saturday, it will be crowded with hundreds of anglers spread out along the shoreline and in boats trying their luck at catching these feisty trout.

State Fish and Wildlife will be stocking 562 bodies of water throughout the state with 2.39 million catchable-sized trout, plus thousands of larger-sized trout.

In the Puget Sound region, 35 lakes in King County will be stocked with trout; 26 in Pierce County; 10 in Skagit County; 29 in Snohomish County; 16 in Thurston County; five in Island County; nine in Jefferson County; nine in Kitsap County; 28 in Mason County; and four in San Juan Island County.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or