Want to catch some trout for the table? Washington stocks some 375 lakes each year with planter trout from fry and catchables to jumbo triploids. (March 2009)
Every year, as the last Saturday in April approaches, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issues a press release to announce opening day.
Washington is full of trout-fishing opportunities, from redbands in the east to sea-run cutthroats in Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of David Paul Williams.
The release contains information on how many anglers typically hit the water for the opener, the number of trout the WDFW will be planting and when they will be released.
The newspapers and television stations that get the releases usually put in a small notice on the week of the opener. Also, they usually send a reporter to the nearest popular lake and print a feature article about opening day -- which usually includes a photo of a family with smiling children holding up a big rainbow trout.
That's the way it is on opening weekend in the Evergreen State, and it's been that way for a long time. Opening day of trout season is one of the year's most popular sporting events. Thousands of happy anglers return home with trout that are pan-sized or better, and enjoy succulent Saturday fish dinners.
To that end, the WDFW releases trout in 374 lakes, planting 3.5 million "catchable" rainbows, most around 8 inches, as well as many 1 1/2- to 2-pound jumbo trout.
The agency also releases approximately 20 million trout fry, primarily into nutrient-rich lakes east of the Cascades. In recent years, the state has also planted triploid trout in dozens of lakes. Triploids are modified so they put all their energies into growing rather than spawning.
REGIONAL TROUT ACTION
What kind of trout fishing can anglers expect this season?
Here's a look at specific regions in Washington.
The dichotomy between naturally occurring trout fisheries and put-and-take hatchery operations is nowhere more obvious than in Puget Sound.
Each March, wild sea-run cutthroat drop down to the tidewater from their late-winter spawning creeks. Ranging from 10 to 20 inches, these fish prey heavily on the chum salmon fry that also appear in estuaries in early spring, as well as on a host of other marine crustaceans and baitfish.
Wild cutthroat also roam 20-mile-long Lake Washington, and anglers with powerboats and downriggers take fish up to 5 pounds.
In the north sound, the Skagit River also hosts a thriving population of wild bull trout, some weighing more than 6 pounds.
All cutthroat taken in Puget Sound must be released, but anglers can keep Lake Washington trout and Skagit River bull trout, although most do get released.
Anglers more interested in hatchery fish can find them from metropolitan Seattle's Green Lake to the Cascade foothill's Rattlesnake Lake to Island County's boggy Cranberry Lake.
If you live in Seattle and have a youngster who wants to catch a trout, Green Lake is actually a pretty good choice. It receives around 20,000 catchable fish between March and May and it's open year 'round.
Other King County lakes with more traditional surroundings and substantial rainbow plants include Pine, Langlois, Margaret and Morton.
Along with around 15,000 rainbows, Meridian Lake gets 750 triploids and 50,000 kokanee. Rattlesnake Lake is planted with catchable rainbows, 500 triploids, and rainbow and cutthroat fry. Wilderness Lake usually gets around 15,000 catchable rainbows and 25,000 kokanee.
Snohomish County's lakes Bosworth, Goodwin, Ki and Roesiger have each received between 10,000 and 15,000 rainbows recently.
Goodwin also gets 35,000 cutthroat fry, while Roesiger is planted with 500 triploids.
Fertile Cavanaugh Lake, which is planted with only cutthroat and rainbow fry, and McMurry Lake, which receives around 17,000 catchable rainbows, are two of Skagit County's most popular early-season trout destinations.
Whatcom County's Paddon and Silver lakes receive around 17,000 rainbows. (Continued)
In the south sound, Pierce County's Kapowsin, Ohop, Spanaway and Tanaway lakes are planted heavily with catchable rainbows.
Ohop, Spanaway and Tanaway also get several hundred triploids.
Kokanee are usually the main show at American Lake, but 55,000 net-pen rainbows are released as well.
Around 20,000 rainbows are planted in Thurston County's Long, Pattison, Summit and Offut lakes.
Offut also receives 60,000 cutthroat fry and around 200 triploids.
Early-season anglers who fish the Kitsap County side of the Puget Sound tend to favor Panther, Kitsap, Island and Wildcat lakes.
Wild trout are also abundant here. Saltwater beaches along Hood Canal, Admiralty Inlet, and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca provide excellent fishing for sea-run cutthroats between March and the end of November.
On the other side of the peninsula, wild cutthroat are also the attraction at sprawling Lake Ozette.
Lake Crescent's unique Beardslee rainbow and crescenti cutthroat have reached 20 and 12 pounds, respectively, in the past and still have the potential to reach 5 pounds plus. However, Olympic National Park has implemented rules to protect the fish. Various regulations -- such as mandatory release, a delayed opener on June 1 and no weights more than 2 ounces -- have now effectively eliminated downriggers, the traditional method to take this lake's largest trout.
In addition to planted rainbows and cutthroats, Lake Quinault is the only water on the peninsula where you could legally target bull trout.
The lake is controlled by the Quinault Tribe, and you'll need one of their permits to fish it.
As for hatchery fish, the eastern third of the peninsula contains the most trout lakes and receives the largest plants of hatchery fish.
For decades, the Port Townsend area's Anderson L
ake was a traditional destination for opening day, but it has recently experienced toxic algae blooms and has been closed to public several times.
Similar problems and closures have occurred at Gibbs Lake, which receives triploid plants, and Lake Leland, which usually gets the county's largest plant of catchable rainbows. The waters in these lakes usually clear over the winter.
Before heading out, call the Jefferson County Public Health Department at (360) 385-9400.
Sandy Shore, Ludlow, Teal and Horseshoe lakes have remained open and all receive hatchery fish.
Mason County anglers have plenty of lakes to choose from on opening weekend. Benson Lake receives more than 8,000 rainbows and 300 triploids, while Haven Lake gets 7,000 and nearly 400 triploids.
Phillips Lake is planted with around 7,000 catchable rainbows, 11,000 cutthroat fry and triploids.
Though it's most often thought of as a summertime destination for bass fishing, the Shelton area's Nahwatzel Lake is open year 'round and tends to turn out the county's largest trout on the weekend of the traditional opener.
Lake Sutherland, which occasionally gives up trout in the 4-pound range, is among Clallam County's most heavily stocked lakes, with annual releases of around 14,000 rainbows.
Grays Harbor County's Aberdeen Lake is stocked with 9,000 catchable rainbows and 125 triploids in April and May. Sylvia Lake, which is located within Sylvia Lake State Park, gets approximately 5,000 rainbows, as well as brood stock and triploids.
Southwest Washington is where the coastal cutthroat was first described scientifically, but most of the trout fishing here is directed at rainbow and brown trout in lakes.
The Vancouver area's Klineline Pond is stocked with more than 30,000 rainbows, as well as jumbo trout and triploids. Lacamas Lake gets 12,000 brown trout and 16,000 rainbows, in addition to brown and rainbow fry. Between December and June, Battle Ground Lake receives a whopping 29,000 hatchery rainbows.
Cowlitz County's popular Horse-shoe and Kress lakes are heavily planted with adult rainbow and brown trout and triploids. Longview's Sacajawea Lake, located in a city park, is very popular with kids and families. It receives around 12,000 brown trout and 14,000 rainbows.
Mineral Lake, Lewis County's still-water gem, is one of the most heavily planted lakes in western Washington. It receives thousands of adult brown, cutthroats and rainbows, along with more than 70,000 rainbow fry and 700 triploids.
The trout turn on later at Mayfield Reservoir, which gets around 55,000 rainbows between April and June.
For decades, the March 1st trout opener in Grant County's lakes attracted anglers from all around the state. That's because the lakes here turn on earlier than in other regions and produce excellent trout growth.
In recent years, however, the WDFW has delayed opening day until April 1 in many of the popular Seep Lakes, the network of small lakes downstream of Potholes Reservoir. The agency has argued that the lakes actually yield more fish after they warm up a bit. But massive Potholes Reservoir, the Lenice Lake Chain, Lake Lenore, and a handful of Seep Lakes still provide March fishing for anglers who simply must have a taste of pink trout filets.
Created when O'Sullivan Dam was build across Crab Creek, 22,000-acre Potholes Reservoir puts out everything from largemouth bass to walleye to perch. But during the early season, it's primarily a trout-fishing destination. Rainbows are the quarry here, and around 150,000 of them are released from net-pen operations on the lake. Most of the action is centered around the dam and Medicare Beach, on the lake's eastern shore.
With more than four dozen lakes to choose from, the Seep Lakes provide anglers with a wide range of opportunities. The state stocks rainbow trout fry in most of the lakes, where they wax fat on the insects and invertebrate life in the Columbia Basin's nutrient-rich waters.
The large lakes closest to roads -- Soda, Upper and Lower Goose, as well as Blythe, Corral and Windmill -- attract the most attention and receive the heaviest stocking.
However, anglers more interested in solitude usually must hike only a half-mile or so to find water they can fish all by themselves.
The Widgeon-Pillar Chain of Lakes, located on the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, are especially popular with flyfishers.
Blue and Park lakes at Sun Lakes State Park are popular destinations after the traditional late-April opener.
Blue Lake turns out excellent year-old and holdover fish from the nearly 200,000 rainbow fry and smaller plants of brown trout fry.
For decades, Lake Lenore, with its hefty Lahontan cutthroats, has been a popular late-spring destination. It's managed under a two-tier system, with catch-and-release angling from March through May, followed by a one-fish daily limit from June 1 to November.
Being located at a slightly higher elevation and farther north, the lakes in Okanogan County tend to come on a little later than the Potholes or Seep Lakes. Usually they are fishing well around the first of May.
However, early-season anglers can connect with trout at Spectacle Lake, which opens in April, although it may not be ice-free at that time. It's planted with more than 100,000 rainbow fry and about 10,000 juvenile brown trout.
Bonaparte Lake is open year-round. Its mackinaws are more active at cooler temperatures because they are char, and not true trout. This is a destination worth considering as soon as it's ice-free.
Year-in, year-out Conconully Reservoir and Conconully Lake are two of the region's most popular early-season destinations for rainbow trout. They usually turn out good numbers of fish as soon as they open on the last Saturday in April.
One of the main attractions of trout fishing in Okanogan County is that so many of its large lakes are located within state parks or have full-service resorts along their shores.
Alta Lake, which is within Alta Lake State Park, receives around 58,000 rainbow trout fry. Pearrygin Lake, within the state park of the same name, gets around 50,000 rainbow fry and 5,000 brown trout fry.
The WDFW employs a variety of stocking strategies in the eastern third of the state. Ferry County's Curlew Lake, one of the state's most remote lakes, is also one of the most heavily planted, receiving more than 150,000 fingerlings. This provides excellent fishing for 10- to 12-inch f
ish and carry-overs to 4 pounds. Despite its location in one of the least-populated corners of the state, the lake is served by a number of resorts.
Little Pend Oreille State Park's lakes contain good numbers of hatchery cutthroat, while Rufous Woods Reservoir is planted with around 70,000 rainbow trout fry.
Adams County's Sprague Lake receives around 155,000 rainbow fry and 300 triploids.
Douglas County's Jameson Lake gets 160,000 rainbow fry. Jameson is a nutrient-rich lake, and the fry grow quickly, turning into robust first-year fish along with a considerable number of hold-overs. However, the lake also gets a thick algae coating in summer, and is best early and late in the season.
There isn't a lot of lake fishing in the southeast corner of the state, but between February and June, Asotin County's Golf Course Ponds get 20,000 rainbows, along with 400 jumbo trout.
Some of eastern Washington's most scenic and productive lakes are located in Pend Oreille County.
Diamond Lake is one of the most heavily planted, with 23,000 rainbow fry, 10,000 brown trout, 500 14-inchers and 1,000 triploids.
Sacheen Lake gets 5,000 adult rainbows, 100 jumbo Eastern brook, 20,000 rainbow fry and 10,000 tiger trout fry.
Cutthroat fry are the trout planted in Marshall and Yocum lakes, which receive 46,000 and 15,000 fry, respectively.
Many of the smaller, forested lakes in the county such as No Name, Muskegon, Mystic, Halfmoon and Brown also receive cutthroat fry.
Find more about Washington-Oregon fishing and hunting at WOgameandfish.com