With travel costs going up, close-to-home recreation becomes increasingly attractive, and what could fit the bill better than Saturday’s general lowland-lake trout fishing opener? There’s bound to be a lake full of fat rainbow within reasonable driving distance, most have a public access and/or boat launch, and many provide bank or pier fishing opportunity for the boatless. A license, a rod, and a jar of Power Bait, and you’re in business.
In case you missed Sunday’s feature on opening day prospects, here’s a list of the lakes in the general area which provided the best fishing on last year’s opener: Lake McMurray, Lake Armstrong, Heart Lake, Lake Erie, Lake Ki, Lake Riley, Flowing Lake, Lake Padden, Lake Bosworth, and Wagner Lake. These waters may or may not repeat as the region’s hot fisheries, but they should at least up your chances a bit. Other good prospects include Martha Lake at Alderwood Manor, Lake Howard in the seven lakes area northwest of Marysville, and Deer and Goss lakes on Whidbey Island.
North Gissberg Pond at Smokey Point is open to juvenile fishing only, and since it should still contain many of the big rainbow planted by the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club for their annual kids’ fish-in, it would be a great choice for a youngster’s fishing experience this weekend. Take Exit 206, go west over the freeway, turn left as if going to the new shopping mall, and follow the road through the mall to the twin lakes.
Bob Ferber at Holiday Sports in Burlington said boat traffic on year-around lakes Campbell and Pass has picked up, with anglers targeting larger trout. Most fly fishermen on Pass were fishing chironimids, Ferber said.
East of the Cascades, WDFW biologist Jeff Korth in Ephrata said top bets in the Basin will be Blue and Park lakes in Sun Lakes State Park, north of the town of Soap Lake in Grant County. Korth expects anglers to score with limits of 12- to 13-inch rainbow planted as fry two years ago, after rehabilitation, and holdovers of 15-plus inches from the legals planted last year. Both lakes have also been stocked with brown trout, and Blue with 3,000 tiger trout fingerlings.
Warden Lake, east of Potholes Reservoir, is popular but suffering from sunfish and bullhead infestation. Korth said fishing will probably be only mediocre on the opener, for perhaps an average of 2 or 3 trout per rod, but that they will be nice fish of 13 to 15 inches, plus some multi-pound browns.
Farther north, biologist Bob Jateff picks Conconully Reservoir as a hot prospect for 11- to 12-inch rainbow and carryovers to 15 inches; Pearrygin a good bet for 11-inch rainbow, and Alta Lake for ‘bows to 15 inches.
BLACKMOUTH: Only one weekend left for winter blackmouth in marine areas 8-1 and 8-2, but there are at least fair numbers of nice fish remaining to be caught. Gary Krein, owner-skipper of All Star Charters in Everett said most hatchery chinook are running 8 to 10 pounds now, with a few wild-stock fish (must be released) going 12 or 15 pounds.
Either side of Saratoga Passage will produce, he said, including Elger Bay. Farther north, both Onomac and the Greenbank area are good bets.
SPRINGERS: Counts of spring chinook over Bonneville Dam on the Columbia had gone up last week to an encouraging 2,600 to 2,700 per day, but WDFW biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said the water came up and cooled down, and counts have dropped to the 1,600-fish-per-day range. The upriver spring chinook run is expected to be one of the strongest in several years, but it’s been slow to develop above Bonneville and fishing at the two usual hot spots – Drano Lake (the Little White Salmon River) and the mouth of the Wind River – has been only fair so far. Hymer said the cumulative total of springers over the dam through Tuesday was about 18,000 fish, compared to a 10-year average of about 63,000 at this point.
“It looks like the above-Bonneville fishery may be picking up, however,” Hymer said. “Checks last week showed about a fish for every eight rods or so at both spots, but early this week that had increased to a fish for every two boats at Drano, and one for four at the Wind.”
Hymer said new regulations this year are meant to encourage bank fishermen to participate in the spring chinook fishery, and the primary spot to cast plugs from shore is at Drano Lake.
“We expect the fishing there to be pretty good from the shore, and opening it up to bank fishermen above and below the mouth of the lake should help eliminate confrontation between bankers and boaters,” he said. “To access the west, downstream, shoreline, park on hatchery property and walk under both the railroad and highway bridges. For the east, upstream, side, park along Hwy 14 and cross between the highway and railroad bridges. Don’t trespass on railroad property, and don’t interefere with tribal fisheries.”
Fair fishing for springers was also reported on the Cowlitz.
YAKIMA RIVER KINGS: Yakama and WDFW salmon managers are predicting a return of about 10,000 spring chinook to the Yakima River this year, about 4,900 of which will be hatchery fish from the tribal research hatchery at Cle Elum. The Yakima will open to fishing May 1 in two sections: the lower reach, 25 river miles, from the I-182 bridge in Richland upstream to the SR 224 bridge at Benton City, and the middle reach, 20 river miles, from the I-82 bridge at Union Gap upstream to just below Roza Dam. The river between Benton City and Prosser will not be open to spring chinook fishing.
The daily limit is two adipose-clip chinook, but special gear restrictions to prevent snagging are in effect calling for one single-point barbless hook with a hook gap from point to shank of three-quarters-inch or less.
This fishery is worth a little driving and exploration, since it should be fairly productive for those who take the time to learn the river, and it’s a scenic, conveniently-sized stream to fish.
WDFW biologist Jim Cummins in Yakima said it will probably be a couple of weeks until there are enough chinook in the river to make the drive worthwhile, with a target of mid-May as perhaps the peak of the season. Early fishing will be best on the lower end, he said, and there is also more holding water in that section than there is farther upstream. The stretch from Benton City to Horn Rapids is a good drift-boat section.
“Once the fish get up to the Union Gap/Yakima/Roza area they seem to be moving faster and not holding in any one place for long,” Cummins said.
All the usual gear and techniques will take fish, he said – backtrolling diving plugs with a herring wrap (chartreuse is a popular color); drifting yarn and eggs, or Corky and eggs; or casting spoons or spinners.
HALIBUT: The first weekend of the in-Sound halibut season featured bad tides and good weather, and then it swapped ends to better tides and lousy weather. Still, anglers have found at least fair numbers of the big flatfish in Admiralty Bay, Mutiny, and several of the banks on the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Anthon Steen at Holiday Sports in Burlington said successful customers are reporting about an even split in bait/lure preference between the big, 13- to 14-inch, blue-dyed herring; octopus; and plastics.
WDFW Checks around the Sound over the weekend were generally poor, reflecting windy weather conditions. Best of the lot was at Port Angeles on Saturday, where some 31 anglers in 13 boats had 6 halibut.
GREAT TIDES: What will probably be the last razor clam dig of the spring/summer has been tentatively scheduled for excellent morning tides on May 3-7 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors, but only May 4-5 at Copalis and Mocrocks beaches. As usual, the dig is dependent on a test of marine toxin levels and clearance by the state Health Department. Tides for the proposed dig are: May 3, minus 0.3 feet at 5:27 a.m.; May 4, minus 1.2 feet at 6:16 a.m.; May 5, minus 1.9 feet at 7:04 a.m.; May 6, minus 2.3 feet at 7:51 a.m.; and May 7, minus 2.4 feet at 8:39 a.m.
DEER DISEASE: Hair loss syndrome, a problem for years now among coastal blacktail, has apparently shown up among mule deer in the area between Wenatchee and Chelan, according to WDFW regional wildlife manager Matt Monda. Biologists are discussing a proposal for a study to determine if the problem is the same as that found on the westside, and if it’s caused by the same parasite, an exotic louse.
Wildlife manager Lora Leschner at the Mill Creek office said the hairslip problem showed up here in 1996 or ‘97, and then appeared in western Oregon in about ‘98. The louse and perhaps an internal parasite causes itching, scratching, licking and other behavior contributing to hair loss and thus less resistance to cold, wet, winter weather. Leschner said the problem is likely responsible for the decline in blacktail populations since the late ’90s, but said it does not appear to have increased in severity. She said there is even evidence that the problem is not always fatal; that at least some recovery apparently occurs.