Up to half a million people may be casting for more than 17 million fish on Washington waters Saturday, April 28 – the opening of statewide lake fishing season.
"Washington has lots of different kinds of fishing at many different times of the year, but this fishing season opener is by far the biggest," said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) director Jeff Koenings. "With our extensive hatchery fish-stocking program, fishing opportunities are good in many of our 4,500 lowland lakes and reservoirs."
WDFW fish hatchery crews have been busy since last spring stocking hundreds of waterways with:
- 7.3 million trout fry (2 to 3-inch), now catchable size (7 to 9-inch)
- 6 million kokanee fry (2-inch when annually stocked), now catchable size (8- to 10-inch)
- 2.9 million yearling or catchable size (7- to 9-inch) trout
- 582,000 warmwater fish species such as walleye and bass
- 84,000 triploid rainbow trout (1 ½-pound average)
- 39,800 surplus hatchery broodstock trout (2- to 5-pound)
Fishers are reminded to buy their 2001 annual licenses early to avoid delays. This year, the new computerized Washington Interactive Licensing Database (WILD) system offers the option of in-person or telephone recreational license purchases. The system began operation March 1 at license dealers statewide. While faster than the old manual licensing system, delays can occur while dealers and customers continue to become accustomed to the new procedures. To avoid frustration, fishers are encouraged to avoid last-minute license purchases and to consider telephone licensing (available at 1-866-246-9453 by credit card only). Those purchasing licenses by telephone will immediately be issued an authorization number allowing activities which do not require a catch record card. They should allow five business days to receive their actual license document in the mail.
Some of the fish are stocked in fishing waters that are open year-round or that opened March 1 in eastern Washington. But most of the catchable-size and triploid trout stocking are scheduled just before the lake opener the last Saturday in April; the opener signals the traditional start of Washington's most intense fishing activity.
pening day surveys in recent years have shown that as many as half a million people are out plying the fishing waters that weekend alone.
"This opener always brings out the fishing spirit in even the most casual anglers," Koenings noted. "Even our year-round or earlier-opening waters get much greater pressure then. It's a tradition, especially for families. It's also the best time to catch fish."
Koenings explained that trout fishing, especially for rainbows in lowland lakes, is usually best in spring when water temperatures are low. Local favorite fishing holes are often smaller waters that produce best early in the season when water is colder, compared to larger, deeper lakes that can be good for trout all year. Hatchery-stocked trout also tend to remain in the top three to five feet of water for up to a week after stocking, so opening-day anglers of all ages are successful in catching them with bait hook-ups or shallow-trolling small lures.
WDFW angler surveys have consistently shown that trout are preferred by more people across the state, and trout fishing is best early in the season. Warmwater species such as bass, crappie and catfish become better targets as water temperatures rise later in the year.
"For all these reasons, opening day of fishing season can be very crowded at some lakes, especially where we operate public boat launches, " Koenings said. "I urge everyone to be patient, courteous, and careful out there. Remember to use personal flotation devices for everyone in boats and for children on shore."
Resident anglers 16 years of age and older must have a valid freshwater fishing license, available for $20 at hundreds of license dealers across the state, all WDFW offices, and over the telephone (1-866-246-9453). All resident and non-resident children 14 years of age and younger fish free; 15-year-olds fish on a $5 license.
Every fishing license buyer receives a free Access Stewardship Decal, which must be on any motor vehicle parked in a WDFW fishing access parking lot.
Copies of WDFW's annual Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet, Hatchery Trout-Stocking Plan and Washington Fishing Guide ("Where To Catch Fish In the Evergreen State") are available on the agency's Internet website, at WDFW regional offices and at WDFW offices in Wenatchee (509-662-0452), and Olympia (360-902-2700).
Lakes with public access that have been well-stocked and offer good opening-day fishing opportunities include, by county: