OLYMPIA -Trout fishing in Washington hits full throttle April 26, when several hundred lowland lakes - stocked with millions of fish - open for a six-month season.
Although many waterways are open year-round, the fourth Saturday in April marks the traditional start of the lowland lakes fishing season. Hundreds of thousands of anglers are expected to turn out for the big day.
"The lowland lakes season opener is the biggest fishing day of the year," said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "Lakes in every county are well-stocked, so there should be good fishing opportunities close to home."
To participate, anglers must have a current Washington freshwater fishing license valid through March 31, 2015. Licenses can be purchased online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov ; by telephone at 1-866-246-9453; or at hundreds of license dealers across the state. For details on license vendor locations, visit the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/ .
Freshwater fishing licenses cost $29.50 for resident adults 16 to 69 years old. Fifteen-year-olds can buy a license for $8.05, and seniors 70 and older can buy an annual freshwater fishing license for $7.50. Children 14 years of age and younger do not need a fishing license.
To prepare for opening day, WDFW fish hatchery crews have been stocking nearly 16.5 million trout and kokanee in lakes on both sides of the Cascades. Those fish include 2.3 million catchable trout, nearly 115,000 jumbo trout weighing up to 11 pounds apiece, more than 50,000 triploid trout averaging 1½ pounds apiece, and millions of smaller trout that were stocked last year that have grown to catchable size.
"Opening weekend should provide terrific opportunities for catching fish," said Chris Donley, WDFW inland fish program manager. "Whether fishing from shore or boat, using spinning rods and bait, or casting fly lines, plentiful fish provide excellent reasons to get out there and enjoy Washington's lakes."
Fish stocking details, by county and lake, are available in the annual stocking plan on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/statewide/ .
WDFW has been working to expand Internet-based resources to suit anglers of all skill levels, said Donley, who encourages anglers to check the "Fish Washington" feature at the department's homepage wdfw.wa.gov for details on lake fishing opportunities. The map-based webpage includes fishing information by county, lake and fish species throughout the state.
For those planning fishing vacations this spring or summer, Donley recommends Great Washington Getaways, another WDFW homepage feature that showcases some of the state's best family travel and fishing opportunities.
And, for those who prefer the show-and-tell approach, Donley recommends the department's YouTube page http://www.youtube.com/thewdfw , with "how to" fishing videos designed to introduce techniques for both new and seasoned anglers.
Of more than 7,000 lakes, ponds and reservoirs in Washington, nearly 700 have WDFW-managed water-access sites, including areas accessible for people with disabilities. Other state and federal agencies operate hundreds more.
Details on water access site locations can be found on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/water_access/ .
"We expect the biggest crowds of the year on this opener, so it's especially important for everyone to be patient and careful at boat launches and docks," Donley said. "Everyone in boats, and all children on shore, should use personal flotation devices."
Anglers parking at WDFW water-access sites are required to display on their vehicle the WDFW Vehicle Access Pass that is provided free with every annual fishing license purchased. The passes are transferable between two vehicles. Anglers who use Washington State Parks or Department of Natural Resource areas need a Discover Pass. Information on the pass can be found at http://discoverpass.wa.gov/ .
Before heading out, anglers should check fishing regulations on WDFW's webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .