With the black cloud of economic downturn still hanging overhead and gas at four bucks a gallon, it’s downright obliging that opening day of the state’s general lowland lake trout fishing season on Saturday, April 28, is almost the definition of a “staycation.” Visit a tackle shop for the location of a lake in your area with bank or pier access, or a launch ramp for a small boat, then spring for a license and a jar of floating bait and have at it. Rest assured it has almost certainly been planted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and local fishing clubs, with rainbow trout, fat and ready to rumble.
State biologist Justin Spinelli said the fish will be of basically two sizes this year, rather than the usual three. The largest will be “triploid” rainbow of between 1 and 2 pounds, planted in modest numbers in selected lakes to sweeten the fishery. The rest will be “catchables” averaging a nice 11 inches in length — larger and of higher quality than the 8- or 9-inch tiddlers of years past. To accomplish that uniform size and quality across the state by 2013, Spinelli said, hatcheries have stopped raising what were locally called “jumbos” – half-pound rainbow planted in the past in some, but not all, local lakes.
Plants of catchables this year are similar to the 2011 opener, but the number of big triploids is down – from last year’s 16,000 fish in Region 4 (Pierce County north to the Canadian border) to about 12,000 fish this year.
New to the area, or don’t know how to fish?
Local tackle shops are there to help. They will be glad to show you what to use, how to rig it, fishing techniques, and where to go. We don’t have room to list every retail outlet for fishing gear in the area, but the following are longstanding members of the local sportfishing community: Ed’s Surplus, Lynnwood, 425-778-1441; Holiday Sports, Burlington, 360-757-4361; Hook Line &Sinker, Smokey Point, 360-651-7304; John’s Sporting Goods, Everett, 425-259-3056; Ted’s Sport Center, Lynnwood, 425-743-9505; and Triangle Bait and Tackle, Snohomish, 360-568-4276.
TOP 10 TROUT LAKES FOR OPENING DAY 2012
1. LAKE RILEY is a small, marshy lake east of Arlington with little bank fishing access. The lake has scored at or near the top of the area’s opening day waters for two years in a row, including 4.6 trout per person in 2010 and 5 trout per person last year. No triploids here, and the catchables plant is down this year from 4,000 fish to 3,500.
2. LAKE ERIE, south of Anacortes in Skagit County forms, with its neighbor Heart Lake, a pair of the best trout lakes in northwest Washington. Anglers there took limits around in 2010, and 3.4 trout per rod last year on the opener. Triploid plant is down substantially, from 1,445 fish in 2011 to 850 this year, but catchable plant is up from 7,500 to 12,000 fish, about 108 per surface acre.
3. HEART LAKE, smaller than Erie, got a plant of 123 catchables per surface acre and could be the better bet of the two scenic lakes. Put out 6.3 trout per person in 2010, kept or released, and 3.4 trout kept last year. Got 600 triploids this year, only half of the number planted in 2011.
4. LAKE KI dropped off the top 10 last year from a dismal showing on the 2010 opener, but rebounded in 2011 with an average of 3.14 rainbow per rod. No triploids this year, but the plant of 7,500 catchables is a good one. Ki is in the group of lakes between Lakewood and Warm Beach, has very little beach access and a rough, crowded, often chaotic, boat launch.
5. LAKE BOSWORTH produced a nifty per-rod average of 5.6 fish on the 2010 opener, and 3.0 fish per person last year. No triploids, and the plant has been reduced from 11,000 trout last year to 9,000 this season. Lies a couple of miles south of Granite Falls, with a launch on the northeast side.
6. STORM LAKE tends to be up and down on the trout opener, but the last two years have been good, at a 5.7 per-person average in 2010 and 3.0 in 2011. It lies in the group of lakes north of Snohomish and should be a good bet again this year on an increase of planted rainbow from 7,100 last year to 9,200 this year. No triploids. Holds up well through early part of season.
7. MARTHA LAKE (near Alderwood Manor) is popular with bank anglers, boasting park access and two fishing piers. Was pretty good on last year’s opener, at 2.6 trout per person, but the plant for this year has been cut from 10,000 fish to 6,000. No triploids.
8. LAKE SIXTEEN is a small lake, two miles east of Conway in Skagit County and usually – but not always – a good opening day bet. Last year was a disappointment, at 1.1 fish per person, but biologist Spinelli said it will receive a good plant this year of 155 rainbow per surface acre which should produce top fishing.
9. LAKE MCMURRAY is one of those trout fisheries you can usually take to the bank, but it failed miserably last year at about one and a half fish per rod, and anglers complained. The plant has been bumped up from 13,600 to 16,000 fish (no triploids) and Spinelli said it should be much more productive. Good-sized lake on Hwy 9 between Arlington and Sedro-Wooley in Skagit County, with a usually-crowded ramp/access. Be careful where you park.
10. LAKE HOWARD is a small, scenic water lying a mile and a half past Lake Goodwin in the “resort lakes” group northwest of Marysville. Sometimes relatively uncrowded, offering a high quality fishery, it put out 3.8 trout per person in 2010 and 2.15 per person last year. The plant, at 3,500 catchables and 500 triploids, is down a little from 2011, but not substantially.
The state purchases pen-raised triploid rainbow going 1 to 2 pounds for planting in selected lakes, and the schedule – local lake, number of fish, and month of planting — is as follows:
Snohomish County — Lake Cassidy, 458 trout this month; Flowing, 398 trout this month; Gissberg Ponds (Twin Lakes), 409 trout in May; Howard, 500 trout this month; Martha (Warm Beach), 291 trout this month; Roesiger, 517 trout this month; Silver (south Everett), 589 trout in April-May; and Tye, 212 trout this month.
Skagit County — Lake Campbell, 821 trout in April-May; Clear, 718 trout this month; Erie, 850 trout this month; Heart, 600 trout this month; and Pass, 162 trout in May.
Island County — Lone Lake, 204 trout in May.
YOUTH FISHING EVENTS
Kids’ fish-ins each year offer a good opportunity not only for youngsters, but for novice family members as well, to learn the basics of trout fishing from expert fishing club members in attendance. Following are a few of the largest/longest-running such events in the area:
April 29 at Lake Tye — Next to Fryelands Boulevard, on the west side of Monroe, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for youngsters 12 and under, free. This is a big event, so get there early. Some loaner tackle available, or bring your own. Fishing is in a net pen on the lake’s south end, and includes a good number of big triploid rainbow to 10 pounds or so. Adult derby after the kids’ event for a $10 entry fee. Big trout wins $250, and there’s a tagged fish worth $500. Call Gary Bee, Sky Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, at 206-818-2991, or Jeff Shirley at 425-359-7756.
May 5 at Jennings Pond in Marysville, 8-11 a.m. — Twentieth year for this event, which is free and open to ages 5-12. Food donations accepted for local food bank. More and larger trout than ever, and significant prizes – bikes, rod/reel combos. Prizes awarded by drawing, so not necessary to catch winning fish. Lots of helpers on hand, and there will be tackle to borrow. Call John’s Sporting Goods at 425-259-3056.
May 12 at Silver Lake, south Everett — Sullivan Park on the west side of the lake, 7:45 a.m. To 2:30 p.m., in 45-minute increments pre-assigned. Pre-registration necessary by calling Everett Parks and Recreation at 425-257-8300, Ext. 2 and paying $7 fee by Mastercard or VISA, or at the lake May 12 with cash only. Open to youngsters 5 to 14. Fishing in netted area, well stocked and attended by fishing club members.
May 19 At North Gissberg Pond (Twin Lakes County Park) — West side of I-5 via Exit 206 from I-5 at Smokey Point, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., free, ages 5-14 (the north lake is open, by law, to juveniles only), Everett Steelhead &Salmon Club members on hand to assist, loaner tackle available or bring your own. Prizes for all the larger fish. The lake will be heavily stocked with trout, including some large triploids. Call Jim Brauch at 425-745-0444.
Young people 14 and under fish free; everyone else needs one of the 2012 freshwater license options: $24 for an annual adult license; $11 for 15-year olds and persons with disabilities; and $8 for seniors 70 and older. Licenses may be purchased on the Internet at http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, by phone at 1-866-246-9453, or at most marinas, tackle shops and other vendors around the state. Parking at Department of Fish and Wildlife access areas is covered by the Vehicle Use Permit included with purchase of a license, but if you intend to fish from, or leave a vehicle at, property owned by another state entity (Dept. of Natural Resources, State Parks, etc.), you must purchase a Discover Pass, also available at license vendors.
Generally the per-person daily trout limit on lowland lakes is five fish with no minimum size, but there are numerous exceptions. Pick up a free regulation pamphlet at any license vendor.