By Mike Benbow Special to The Herald
Most of the state’s steelhead rivers have closed early this year except for those on the Olympic Peninsula.
What’s a diehard angler to do?
You can drive to the peninsula, but that’s an expensive trip. Of course there’s the gas, which has been rising in price these days. Then there’s the expense of food and a motel, not to mention the cost of a guide if you’re unfamiliar with where to go on the rivers.
And if you think it’s rainy here, try fishing in a rain forest. Not only is wet, but it’s more likely to snow on the peninsula as well.
Thinking you’ll just wait until trout season opens up in late April?
There’s another option? There are a number of lakes in western Washington that are open year-round or that open early. Fishing there will get better in the weeks ahead as the winter warms a little and bugs start to hatch, making fish more active.
Here are five lakes to consider if you really have the urge to go fishing now:
1 Lake Martha
There are several lakes named Martha in Snohomish County. This one is in the Seven Lakes area south of Stanwood.
At more than 60 feet deep in the center, Lake Martha is among the county’s deepest lakes. It covers about 59 acres.
Many years ago, someone started secretly stocking it with bass, crappie, and perch. The state would then poison the lake and restock it only with rainbow trout because the other fish were considered undesirable.
That happened for several different cycles until the state gave up and started stocking it with brown trout and fewer rainbows.
Browns, which love to eat other fish, have thrived in Martha. There are quite a few in the lake, with a few that are two feet long and longer. There are also some big bass in the lake, but anglers don’t catch many until later in spring.
Martha fishes well for browns and rainbows in February and March.
There is a public boat launch on the north side of the lake, and that’s a good place to start fishing. Much of the north side is wooded and undeveloped. Put flies or lures near sunken logs and other structure along the shoreline.
If you do take a boat, know that gasoline motors aren’t allowed on the lake.
2 Lone Lake
Located about 2.5 miles south of Langley on Whidbey Island, Lone is very popular with fly fishers, who fish it throughout the winter.
To fight a serious weed problem in the lake, the state planted some sterile grass carp in Lone several years ago. The lake is now stripped of vegetation. I don’t think there’s one bit of weed left.
But that apparently hasn’t hurt the rainbow trout, at least for now. The rainbows appear to have plenty to eat and grow to decent size.
Lone is perhaps 20 feet deep at it’s deepest point.
Fly fishers do well with small leeches or woolley buggers or with a bloodworm or chironomid.
The lake has a boat ramp and restroom.
3 Blackman Lake
Usually referred to as Blackman’s Lake, Blackman is located in Snohomish.
The 57-acre lake isn’t particularly different from many others, but it does have some nice facilities. It’s also occasionally planted with larger than average fish.
It was planted last week, so that may be reason enough to check it out.
Blackman has a boat launch on the west side. On the east shore is Hill Park, the nice park that includes two long fishing piers for people without a boat. The piers are accessible to the handicapped.
Fishing is frequently better on the north end.
4 Pass Lake
Located near Deception Pass linking the Anacortes area with Whidbey Island, Pass is one of the state’s few lakes designated only for fly fishers.
It, too, has brown trout, which have grown quite large due to the lake’s population of small minnows. It’s not unusual to catch a brown of 20 inches or more in the lake.
Pass also has nice rainbow trout. Anglers are allowed to keep only one fish a day.
Pass is good sized at 100 acres. It helps to have a depth sounder to locate fish and places where they’re likely to be.
The lake has a parking lot and boat ramp. There is little bank access, so count of fishing with a boat or float tube.
Fish typically are still pretty deep in March. Successful fly fishers typically use chironomid patterns or bloodworms now and fish them in depths of 15 to 25 feet.
Every once in a while this time of year, flying ants looking for a new place to live get blown into the lake creating an “ant hatch” on the water’s surface. Definitely have a few black flying ants, say in size 12, just in case you’re there when it happens.
5 Lenice lake chain
The Lenice chain of lakes is located in a desert coulee just across the Columbia River in the community of Beverly. Lenice begins the chain and Nunnally ends it. In between is some former lakes that have been filling in with sand in recent years but often contain fish.
This bug factory can be great fishing in March, especially on sunny days when warmer temperatures stimulate insect hatches. Lures or flies are allowed, but need to have single, barbless hooks so the fish can be released more easily.
Lenice and Nunnally have parking areas and restrooms, but you have to walk through the desert for some distance to get to the lakes. That means you need to carry in a float tube or have a pontoon or other boat with a tire attached to push it though the sand.
Lenice can be subject to high winds, so definitely bring an anchor if you want to continue fishing.
The winds and desert walks can be worth it in this chain, which has fish that grow well above 20 inches long. Bloodworms and chironomids are popular this time of year, fished just along the bottom.
A bit of caution. Lenice has had a problem for years of people breaking into cars in the parking lot because the lakes are far away. That has never stopped me from going there, but I don’t leave my wallet or an expensive rod or reel in my vehicle.
More advice. Lenice is busy on weekends. Go doing the week if you can. The chain is a better two-day trip, but it’s possible to do it in one day if you start early.