Lake Whatcom

At 5,003 acres, it's the biggest and deepest of the natural lakes in the county. Whatcom is also the most troubled of area waters. Its once-vaunted native cutthroat continue to languish. And the famed kokanee could be in peril from Middle Fork diversion-delivered diseases in the future. And water quality arguably is getting worse. That said, enjoy trolling for kokanee or prospect casting in-shore for smallmouth bass. Heed warnings not to eat the smallies or perch. And, for their sake, release all cutthroat trout.

With it's native cutthroat population still facing an iffy future, and a continuing health warning about eating mercury contaminated smallmouth bass (and other fin-fishes and crawfish), Whatcom's kokanee will be the chief focus of the opening day faithful. This spring's chilly airs may put the silvers off until late May or June, but early fishers might try pulling gang trolls through Agate Bay or the western basin in search of the silver hordes. Angling methods designed to take the deep-dwelling cutthroat (down-riggers, big spoons, herring strip) are banned by regulation.

Season: fourth Saturday in April to Oct. 31.

Angler amenities: fishing from the East Bank Trail can be fun, but that mainly targets the off-limits cutthroat.

Surface area: 5,003 acres.

Stocking for 2008: millions of kokanee fry in 2005 and 2006 provide this year's catch.

In the catch: kokanee and smallmouth bass plus largemouth bass, perch and cutthroat trout.

Special rules: seasonal opening, release all cutthroat trout, all tributaries and lake west of Electric Avenue closed to all fishing, otherwise statewide bag and size limits.

Boat launches: Bloedel Donovan Park is an asphalt double ramp. A fish and wildlife department gravel ramp is located next to the fire hall on South Bay Drive.

Getting there: take Lakeway Drive east from Interstate 5. Turn left on Electric Avenue and drive to Bloedel Donovan City Park. For the south end access points, drive south on Lake Whatcom Boulevard to South Bay.