Up to 300,000 Washington anglers will celebrate spring with the fishing party of the year April 30, the statewide opening of lowland lake fishing season.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish hatchery crews have been preparing for this opportunity since last year by stocking hundreds of waters with millions of fish.
"We have other fishing season openers during the year, but this one is by far the biggest, because so many families and casual anglers participate statewide," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "The lake opener is a rite of spring and a social event- a good time for families and friends not only to catch fish but to catch up with each other."
The traditional start of Washington's most intense fishing season, the lowland lake opener is always held on the last Saturday of April. This year's last-day-of-the- month opener should extend good fishing opportunities well into summer, provided drought conditions don't get worse, say WDFW fish biologists.
Most "lowland" lakes remain open through October. Unlike high-elevation lakes that are stocked later in the year, many lowland lakes were stocked last spring and fall with 3-inch trout fry that grow to catchable size by the opener. Others are receiving catchable size, 8- to 12-inch trout now. Right before the opener some get a few bigger fish, including sterile, triploid rainbow trout capable of growing to trophy size. Among the total of 22.4 million fish stocked are:
- 7,387,000 trout fry, now of catchable size, that were stocked into 396 lowland lakes last year
- 11,868,000 kokanee fry, expected to show in this year's catch, that went into 38 lakes
- 3,042,000 catchable-size rainbow, cutthroat, brown and eastern brook trout now being stocked in 380 waters
- 62,000 triploid (one-and-half-pound) rainbow trout being stocked in 91 lakes
- 24,000 two-year-old and surplus hatchery broodstock trout being planted in 82 lakes
Trout and kokanee stocking details, by county and lake, are available in the Hatchery Trout Stocking Plan on WDFW's website.
"Opening day is usually the best time to catch these fish because water temperatures are cool and the fish are hungry," said Koenings. "But that also means many lakes can be very crowded. I urge everyone to be patient and careful at boat launches and docks. Everyone in boats, and all children on shore, should use personal flotation devices."
Of Washington's some 4,500 lakes, ponds and reservoirs, more than 600 are can be accessed through WDFW-managed access sites. Among those sites are 275 access points on lowland lakes that open April 30. These sites include boat launches, dock and shoreline fishing, including areas accessible for persons with disabilities. Other state and federal agencies operate hundreds more such facilities.
Fishing spots, listed by county and water, along with this year's fishing prospects, can be found in "Washington Fishing Prospects, Where To Catch Fish In the Evergreen State," available on the agency's website and at WDFW offices. Copies of WDFW's annual "Fishing In Washington" sport fishing rules pamphlet are also available at WDFW offices and on the WDFW website.
Visitors parking at WDFW fishing access sites are required to display a WDFW Vehicle Use permit on their vehicle. Every fishing license buyer receives a free Vehicle Use Permit. The permits are transferable between up to two vehicles. Additional permits are available to recreational license buyers for $5 each and to other users of the areas for $10.
The Washington freshwater fishing license, valid April 1, 2005 through March 31, 2006, costs $21.90 for resident adults (16- 69 years of age). Seniors (70 years and older) and 15-year-olds can buy a fishing license for $5.48. Children 14 years and younger do not need a fishing license. All licenses can be purchased over the Internet (http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov), by telephone (1-866-246-9453) or at hundreds of license dealers across the state. A list of retail license dealers is available on the WDFW website.