Scores of lakes in the region have been restocked with thousands of rainbow trout. Local resorts have been cleaned up and received a new coat of paint. Tackle shops have filled their refrigerators with night crawlers and stocked their shelves with a rainbow of dough baits, tried-and-true lures and the latest in trout-catching gear.
All this has been done in preparation for Saturday, the opening of the lowland lake trout fishing season. State officials estimate that 300,000 people will go fishing this weekend.
Why the anticipation, especially when there are many lakes open year-round?
The reasons might vary from angler to angler, but the fourth Saturday of April always represents the unofficial start of the fishing season in Washington.
One of the biggest reasons might be the 2.39 million catchable-size rainbow trout that will be stocked throughout the state. Another bonus is the size of those trout. In previous years, catchable trout measured an average of 8 inches in length. This year, the fish will be closer to 11 inches.
Of the catchable trout, 80,000 extra fish have been planted in lakes in Pierce, Thurston, King, Mason, Jefferson and Snohomish counties, said Madonna Luers of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Those catchable-size fish are just some of the 17.1 million trout and kokanee the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is stocking in 562 bodies of water this year. Those fish include jumbos weighing from 1-11 pounds, triploids that weigh an average of 1 pounds, put-grow-and-take fish measuring 2-8 inches, 1- to 3-inch fry, and 4- to 8-inch fingerlings.
The fry and fingerlings were planted last fall so they would be large enough to catch this year.
Come Saturday, in some places a tick after midnight, anglers will hit early-season hot spots, such as Mineral Lake near Elbe, Tanwax Lake north of Eatonville and Phillips Lake northeast of Shelton.
“We open for fishing at midnight,” said Dave Potter at Rainbow RV Resort on Tanwax. “I’m expecting a pretty good year. The fish are bigger and the bird predation has been a little lighter, so I’m hoping for a good year.”
Potter said resort staff members raised 25,000 trout over the winter and the fish will be between 10-12 inches long when released. In addition, the state stocked the lake with 200 1-pound trout this month.
At Henley’s Silver Lake Resort in Eatonville, owners Bill and Amy Kenney had a busy off season.
“We did a lot of upgrading, fixing things, painting things, fixing the dock — all the things required to keep this place open in the summer,” Amy Kenney said.
They also have been busy feeding the 30,000 rainbow trout kept in their pens. The fish already weigh ª pound each, she said. Crews from the state’s Puyallup hatchery also put 100 1ß-pounders in the lake.
Anticipation is such that the resort’s six cabins are already booked for opening weekend. But Kenney said they have some camping and RV spots open.
Because they spent the winter repairing the dock and improving the road in front of the cabins, the Kenneys haven’t had a lot of time to think about plans for the summer. One idea they hope to bring to fruition is starting a fishing derby.
“We’re just too busy to do one on opening weekend. It’s in our minds, just not on paper yet,” Amy Kenney said.
Back for another season are resort veterans Carol and Charlie Parsons of Harts Lake Resort and Deli. They owned the Roy resort for 12 years before selling it in 2011. But they were forced out of retirement midway through last summer when the new owners defaulted on the deal.
“We’ve been trying to get the place looking good for this summer, get the yard mowed, things picked up,” Carol Parsons said. “It will be business as usual this season.”
She said she plans to open the deli no later than opening day.
Stocking plan: Anglers can find out how many fish went where at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/statewide.
Licenses and permits: There are a number of license options for trout anglers. A license is required for all anglers 15 years and older. Among the most popular licenses is the resident adult freshwater license at $29.50. Licenses are available at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, by toll free phone at 866-246-9453, and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state. You can find a list of vendors at wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors.
Fishing tips: To find when, where and how to catch trout in the state, go to the Fish Washington website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington. It provides a brief synopsis of lakes across the state, what species are likely to be caught and what type of access there is.
Take part in a derby
One tradition for opening day is a trout fishing derby. Here are some to consider:
Mineral Lake: American Legion Storm King Post 171 will hold its 20th annual Fishing Derby on Friday and Saturday at Mineral Lake. Entertainment will run 6 p.m.-midnight Friday, with the fishing derby running from 12:01 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday. The weigh-in will be at 12:30 p.m. at the Legion post. There also will be a raffle. Proceeds from the event will benefit wounded soldiers and their families through the Lions Project New Hope Northwest. Food will be sold both days. Derby tickets are $2 each. Tickets are being sold at the post and other locations in Mineral.
Offut Lake: The annual opening day weekend derby held by Offut Lake Resort will be Friday through April 28. It is open to any resort customer. The entry fee is $1 a day. The weigh-in will be 6 p.m. April 28.
Ilwaco: The 21st annual Black Lake Fishing Derby, an opening-day trout-fishing derby for kids, will take place 7-11 a.m. April 27. The free event is hosted by the City of Ilwaco Parks and Recreation Commission. Children ages 2-14 can compete for the biggest rainbow trout. In addition, prizes, awarded in each of several age groups, will be given for the highest aggregate weight of a participant’s catch. Pre-registration by Monday guarantees a T-shirt. Onsite, event-day registration closes at 9:45 a.m. with the last weigh-in at 10 a.m. Each registered participant will be offered free refreshments and a small gift. Online registration is available at ilwaco-wa.gov/forms/fishingderby.shtml.
Other derbies: VFW Post 224 youth derby at Aberdeen Lake, the Elma Game Club derby on Vance Creek Ponds, the Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce derby on Lake Wilderness, the Maggie Lake Maintenance Corporation youth derby Saturday, and the Maggie Lake Activities Committee derby on April 28, the Pioneer Kiwanis Club of Mason County derby at Spencer Lake, and the Eatonville Lions Club youth derby on Smallwood Lake.