By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
Better than a quarter million Washington sport fishermen will say a fervent “good riddance” Saturday to the infamous “rainbow runt,” that piddling 8-inch hatchery trout that for decades was the unfortunate mainstay of the state’s put-and-take fishery.
This opening day will see the culmination of a two-year switchover to rainbows raised long enough to be an ordained 11 to 12 inches when released — bigger, heavier, sportier trout — in every planted lake in the state.
The larger trout are the result of polls conducted among anglers by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife that showed a strong desire for bigger fish, even if it means fewer of them. Innovative work by the state’s hatchery division pretty much achieved both larger rainbows and roughly similar numbers.
Additionally, the department continues to purchase privately pen-raised triploid rainbows averaging 11/2 to 2 pounds but going considerably larger, which are planted in selected lakes to spice up the catch.
All this is in addition to plants of rainbows between 12 inches and 10 pounds purchased by various organizations and fishing clubs for kids’ fish-ins and other events.
Here’s a quick rundown of what are expected to be the most productive lakes around north Puget Sound on Saturday, the opening day of Washington’s general trout fishing season:
Wagner Lake: This small lake, located two miles northeast of Monroe, was planted this month with 2,700 of the new “catchables” and is a good prospect for the opener. Creel checks last year showed an “encounter” rate (both kept trout and those released) of 6.5 rainbows per angler. State access is on the southeast shoreline.
Lake Stickney: Year-around lake with multiple species. Located northeast of Lynnwood, with public access on the east shoreline. Planted with 3,000 catchables this month. Put out 6.3 trout kept and released per rod on the 2012 opener.
Lake Howard: This smallish lake could be one of the best bets Saturday morning. It received plants this month of 3,500 catchables and 500 triploids. Always known for good-sized, high-quality trout, Howard put out 4.5 fish per person on last year’s opener. Lake Howard is in the “Resort Lakes” group northwest of Marysville, just west of the north end of Lake Goodwin.
Lake Riley: Has had a good opener three years in a row (4.4 trout per rod last year) and should repeat. Received a plant of 3,500 catchables this month. This small, shallow lake east of Arlington has access on the southeast corner.
Crabapple Lake: Another small but productive water in the Lake Goodwin area, Crabapple is deep and can be cold on the opener. Produced an average of 4.3 rainbows per rod last year, and was planted with 3,000 catchables this month. Often puts out a scattering of carryover rainbows in the 15-inch range on the opener.
Lake Bosworth: Received a big plant of 9,500 catchables this month, duplicating the numbers from the past couple years, so Bosworth should again be a good bet for three to four fish per person. Located south of Granite Falls, with access on the northeast side.
Storm Lake: This popular lake east of Snohomish put out an average of 3.4 rainbows per rod in 2012 and has received a nice plant of 9,200 catchables this month. Public access is on west side.
Martha Lake (Alderwood Manor): Had a good opener in 2012 at 3.3 trout per person and received 7,200 catchables this month and 291 triploids prior to that. Good access, a state ramp, a county park and two fishing piers make Martha a popular spring fishery.
Lake Ki: No longer gets the triploids that were so popular there for a couple of years, but still a very productive opening-day prospect. Received a plant of 12,000 catchables and put out an average of 2.8 trout per person on the 2012 opener. Located northwest of Marysville, off I-5 through Lakewood, with county road access on the north side. Little bank fishing access.
Lake Armstrong: This small lake north of Arlington off Highway 9 put out just 1.5 rainbows per person on the 2012 opener, the second disappointment in a row. Has received a plant of 4,000 catchables.
Lake Erie: It was nearly limits all around in 2012 on this fish factory just south of Anacortes, and it almost certainly will produce at that level once more. Stocked this month with 4,500 catchables and 350 triploids. Scenic area with large access on the east shore and pretty fair bank fishing access.
Heart Lake: Lies just south of Lake Erie and is just as productive. Average of 4.1 trout per rod in 2012. Stocked this month with 6.500 catchables and a big plant of 600 triploids. Access is on east shore. If there’s a lake in Western Washington where you can put money on catching trout, this is it.
Lake Sixteen: Small lake east of Conway can be up and down on the opener, probably depending on the temperature. Had a good opener last year, with an average of 4.0 rainbows per rod. Stocked this month with 6,500 catchables.
Lake McMurray: Dependable producer of fat rainbows on opening day and for several weeks thereafter, McMurray has been about as consistent as a trout lake can be. Put out an average of 3.9 fish last year. Has been stocked with 17,000 catchables this month. Primed and ready to go.
More state-purchased triploids averaging around 2 pounds each have or will be planted in the following lakes: Deer Lake (Whidbey Island) 204 fish in April; Silver Lake (south Everett) 590 fish, some in March and the balance in May; Lake Tye (Monroe) 212 fish in March, plus a bunch more for the kids’ fishing day on Sunday; Flowing Lake (Snohomish), 390 state fish in April, plus more by the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club; Blackmans, 250 state fish scheduled for June, but many more already in the lake from sportsmen’s club plants; Lake Campbell (just north of Deception Pass) big triploid plant of 1,071 fish in April and June; Lake Cassidy, 460 fish in March; Lake Roesiger, 517 fish in March; Gissberg Ponds (Twin Lakes), 660 state fish in May and June, plus a lot more in early May, prior to the May 18 kids’ fishing event on the north (juveniles only) lake.
Recommendations? Absolutely: 1. Lake McMurray; 2. Heart Lake; and 3. Lake Howard.
You heard it here first.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.