OLYMPIA–Trout fishing in Washington reaches full speed April 22, when several hundred lowland lakes – stocked with millions of fish – open for a six-month season.
That date also marks the start of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) annual lowland lake fishing derby, which runs through Oct. 31.
"Although many lakes are open year-round, the fourth Saturday in April marks the traditional start of the lowland lakes fishing season, when hundreds of thousands of anglers are expected to turn out to fish," said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW inland fish program manager.
To participate, Washington anglers must have an annual freshwater or combination fishing license valid through March 31, 2018. 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/
Anglers who catch one of 1,000 tagged fish can also claim prizes provided by license dealers and other sponsors located across the state. The total value of prizes is more than $25,000. For a list of lakes with prize fish and details on how to claim prizes, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/derby/
WDFW fish hatchery crews have been stocking more than 16 million trout and kokanee in lakes statewide. Those fish include 2.3 million catchable trout, nearly 150,000 larger trout averaging about one pound apiece, and millions of smaller trout that were stocked last year and have grown to catchable size.
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/
Opening weekend is a time when success rates are likely to be higher, says Thiesfeld.
"When I was a kid, I had a difficult time sleeping the night before opening day. It's so exciting to get out there and fish, and opening weekend is just an excellent time to introduce fishing to kids and beginners," he adds.
Thiesfeld encourages new anglers to check the "Fish Washington" feature at the department's webpage (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington) for details on lake fishing opportunities. The map-based webpage includes fishing information by county, lake and fish species throughout the state.
For those who want more fishing advice, Thiesfeld recommends "how to" fishing videos also available at the department's webpage (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/videos).
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/.
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/
WDFW employees and their immediate families are not eligible to claim fishing derby prizes.