Time to pull out that over-stuffed tackle box inside the shed and untangle the fishing line on your rod and reel. Saturday marks the opening day of the 2012 lowland lakes season and anglers can expect to reel in trout that decidedly bigger this year.
With opening day approaching, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has released 3 million hatchery-reared trout averaging 11 to 13 inches – three inches longer than the fish that were released last year.
Those fish will join millions of other trout that were stocked last year and have grown to catchable size in lakes around the state. Many of those lakes have also been stocked with triploid and jumbo trout weighing a pound and a half to 11 pounds apiece.
“We have made some changes in our trout hatchery rearing programs in response to the feedback we heard from anglers who really enjoy catching larger fish,” said WDFW Director Phil Anderson. “With these fish, our state’s biggest fishing day of the year just got better.”
At least 300,000 anglers typically turn out for the first day of the lowland lakes season, which remains open into the fall. Although many state waters are open year-round, the April opening marks the start of the state’s most popular fishery.
To participate, anglers must have a current Washington freshwater fishing license valid through March 31, 2013. Licenses can be purchased online at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, by telephone at 1-866-246-9453 or at hundreds of license dealers across the state. For details on license vendor locations, visit wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/.
Freshwater fishing licenses cost $27.50 for resident adults 16 to 69 years old. Fifteen-year-olds can buy a license for $8.25, and seniors 70 and older can buy an annual fishing license for $5.50. Children 14 years of age and younger do not need a fishing license.
“Our license fees are lower this year for youth, seniors and people with disabilities,” Anderson said. “So, whether you fish from the bank, a pram, or a boat, this fishery is tailor made for a great family outing.”
Because of the popularity of trout fishing in Washington, WDFW put a higher priority on its trout-rearing program over the past year, said Chris Donley, the department’s Inland Fish Program Manager.
“For one thing, we invested in more hatchery feed to grow our fish larger,” he said. “We hope anglers see the increase in the quality of our catchable trout on opening day.”
Hatchery crews also spent the past year stocking lakes across the state with more than 10 million fry and fingerlings, which have grown to eight to 12 inches in length.
“With all of these fish ready and waiting in statewide lakes, everyone has an excellent chance of catching some nice fish,” Donley said. “Come on out and join the fun of opening day.”
The fishing should be solid at lakes around Federal Way starting Saturday. Steel Lake was stocked with 8,500 rainbow trout eight- to 12-inches long earlier this month, Lake Geneva got 5,500 rainbows, Five Mile Lake got 3,200, Lake Killarney received 3,500 and Lake Fenwick was stocked with 2,000 trout. Other area lakes that will be open Saturday will be North Lake, Lake Holm and Star Lake.
“With our biggest fishing crowds out on this opener, it’s especially important for everyone to be patient and safe at boat launches and docks,” Donley said. “Everyone in boats, and all children on shore, should use personal flotation devices.”
Anglers parking at WDFW water-access sites are required to display on their vehicle the WDFW Vehicle Access Pass that is provided free with every annual fishing license purchased. The passes are transferable between two vehicles. Anglers who use Washington State Parks or Department of Natural Resource areas need the $30 annual or $10 daily Discover Pass.