Trout, weather favored anglers in opener

With the weather dawning mild and the trout in a biting mood Whatcom County anglers enjoyed a successful inaugural morning of the 2014 lake trout fishing season.

Two of this area’s four lowland lakes stocked with hatchery-raised rainbows were among seven in Northwest Washington where anglers posted a four or more fish take home rate Saturday morning. Weather at both dawned partly sunny and calm, which helped anglers focus on their quest trout.

Trout seekers checked at Cain Lake were found leading the way keeping an average of 4.3 rainbows each while from Lake Padden anglers went home with four ‘whole’ rainbows on their stringers.

At Silver and Toad lakes, the other two waters here with ‘fortified’ trout populations, anglers averaged 3.3 and 2.9 rainbows each, respectively.

Noteworthy in opening day catch figures provided by the state fish and wildlife department is the fact that anglers by the numbers appear to be continuing the practice of releasing a considerable part of their trout catch.

In the opening day creel census the 293 anglers interviewed reported they let go, collectively, more than one-third of the trout they landed _ this at lakes that were not recipients of hefty triploid plants this spring.

When these ‘reprieved’ fish are factored into the catch tally, fish-brought-to-hand averages range from 5 to 6 1/2 rainbows among these four lakes.

The daily limit for trout in most lakes statewide is five fish unless there are trophy-sized specimens, sensitive wild populations or other management concerns warranting the paring of bag limit.

Early morning fishing pressure (numbers of anglers) was reported below last year’s attendance rates at lakes Toad and Padden, with more anglers arriving later in the morning at Padden only to have their leisurely approach to the day somewhat foiled by a 10:45 a.m. rain-shower.

One county to the south on Skagit area waters weather reportedly played a role in the results of the day literally damping angler success.

From McMurray, Erie, Heart and Sixteen checked anglers retained 2.3, 2.6, 2.6 and 3.2 rainbows each, respectively, on the morning’s effort. WDFW observers at all four lakes reported more persistent rainfall during the four-hour creel check period from 7-11 a.m. including a brief of downpour at Sixteen that was said to have driven anglers off the water.

Fishers in a forgiving mood at Heart and Sixteen said they, too, gave reprieves to a portion of the trout they caught that when added to their take home raised the overall per angler interaction rate to 5.2 and 4.3 trout each, respectively.

Annette Hoffmann, Region Four Fish Program Manager said that the department was following through on its goal of increasing the average size of the rainbows it releases (WDFW’s hatchery standard is now 2.5 trout per pound) for the spring opener.

Saturday’s creel reports indicated trout lengths ranged from 11.5 to 14.5 inches and observers noted positive angler comments about the heftier fish, she said.

Another noticeable facet to the opener here and other Northwest Washington lakes was the number of carryovers seen in catches or reported informally.

In half of the 30 lakes monitored from King County to Whatcom County on the opener WDFW creel census personal tallied one or more rainbows longer than 15 inches. The lankiest was a 23-inch bow landed at Snohomish County’s Riley Lake near Oso.

At least one 16-inch rainbow was among catches tallied at Lake Padden with several more encounters reported by fishers there, while Toad served up at least one 16.5-inch trout. Eighteen inch keepers were reported out of both Erie and Heart on Fidalgo Island in Skagit County.

Hoffmann said that the Saturday morning inaugural in greater North Puget Sound basin upland waters was remarkably calm with anglers everywhere demonstrating both sound judgment and patience, however one incident at Lake Howard in Snohomish County did exemplify the need for being safety conscious.

Two people fell into the water there and had to themselves be fished out with no injuries reported, a reminder, said Hoffmann, to wear personal flotation and exercise care when on or over the water.

Anglers at Lake Padden also were entertained by the fishing prowess of at least one of the three osprey that attended the opener there.

With the numbers of rainbows, cutthroat and kokanee in area waters anglers can expected good to excellent fishing well into May and June, before these waters warm.

Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald’s outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at bellinghamherald.com/outdoors-blog/.