SPOKANE - Thanks to a local fishing organization, anglers can again look forward to catching "jumbo" trout in at least 20 lakes and ponds in southeast Washington - many of which open for fishing March 1.
The Tri-State Steelheaders (TSS), a sport-fishing and habitat-enhancement group based in Walla Walla, agreed to help fund the cost of rearing the oversized fish after funding for the popular program was eliminated by state budget reductions.
In recent years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has raised about 4,000 jumbo rainbows - each measuring 14 inches or larger and weighing about one-and-a-half pounds - at its Tucannon and Lyons Ferry fish hatcheries.
By comparison, the standard "catchable-size" rainbow trout reared at the hatcheries generally run eight to 12 inch inches long.
But jumbo trout require about 14 months of rearing and more fish food to reach the larger size, said Jon Lovrak, a WDFW hatchery complex manager.
"When we had to cut the program, the Tri-State Steelheaders stepped up to provide $4,400 to cover the extra fish food necessary to grow them to that popular bigger size," Lovrak said. "Without their help, we would not have been able to raise jumbos this year."
This year’s jumbo trout stocking, which will begin this month along with the stocking of catchable-size fish, is the result of funds provided by TSS in 2010. Trout designated for 2012 stocking are currently being reared at the Tucannon Hatchery, and are supported by another $4,400 TSS donation.
Lakes and ponds scheduled to receive jumbos this year include Dalton Lake in Franklin County; Quarry Pond and Bennington Lake in Walla Walla County; Blue and Watson lakes in Columbia County; and West Evans and Golf Course ponds in Asotin County.
TSS is a state-designated Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group that also sponsors an annual kids fishing day at Bennington Lake in Walla Walla County during Free Fishing Weekend in June.
"We understand the benefits of continuing the jumbo trout program for sport fishing enthusiasts," said Mike Bireley, TSS executive director. "We work in a variety of ways with the department to provide enjoyable fishing opportunities for visitors and residents alike in southeast Washington."