Sports

Trout beware: Lake fishing opens today

y CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Time to pull out the bright-orange tackle box, put the rod and reel back together and figure out what ugly hat will adorn the top of your head.

Today marks opening day of freshwater lake fishing in Washington, and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is expecting as many as 300,000 anglers to make their way onto the state’s 4,500 lowland lakes.

“This fishing season opener is a rite of spring for many Washington residents,” said fisheries director Jeff Koenings. “You don’t have to be an avid angler and you don’t have to go far from home to enjoy this opportunity.”

The last Saturday in April is the annual opening of freshwater lake fishing in Washington. It is a day that has sort of lost its luster because numerous lakes are now open for fishing year-round, but it still ranks as a big day for a fisherman.

According to the fisheries department, only 275 of Washington’s lakes actually open today, and most river and stream fishing remains closed until June 1 to protect migrating spawning fish.

Several local lakes are preparing for the influx of anglers today, including Steel Lake, Angle Lake, Lake Dolloff, Five Mile Lake, North Lake, Lake Fenwick and Star Lake.

Bites should be in large supply today. Fisheries officials have prepared for opening day by releasing tens of millions of fish into lakes – most of which were trout and kokanee, or silver, salmon. A bulk of the trout were rainbow, Washington’s most popular game fish, but cutthroat and brown trout were also released.

Fish hatchery crews “sweetened the pot,” according to Koenings, with large trout last week in preparation for opening day. Some 49,268 rainbow trout weighing 1-1/2 pounds or more have been stocked in 78 lakes, including 650 in Federal Way’s Steel Lake and 500 in Seatac’s Angle Lake.

The sterile rainbows were raised at a private Troutlodge facility in Soap Lake and were purchased by the state with funds specially allocated by the Legislature to provide additional opportunity for today’s big crowds. The trout are triploids because they have a third chromosome, compared to the normal two.

They are voracious feeders and have the potential to grow to trophy size if not harvested the first season and if sufficient food is easily available.

Most went into the lakes this week, although some were stocked last month and some are scheduled for later in May to extend fishing opportunity.

The reason for the extra effort in stocking lakes is not only for anglers to enjoy catching fish, but the sport is a fairly substantial windfall for the state’s budget.

According to Koenings, fishing puts money into local economies when anglers buy equipment, bait, fuel, food and other items to participate. The latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey results show Washington ranking eighth nationally in spending by sport fishers – with $854 million spent in 2001.

A bulk of the money comes from the purchase of the numerous licenses to participate.

Freshwater fishing licenses for Washington residents 16 and older cost $21.90 annually. Resident and nonresident children 14 and under can fish free and 15-year-olds must pay $5.48. Licenses are good April 1 through the following March 31.

Licenses are sold by hundreds of dealers throughout the state or over the Internet (http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/) or by phone at 1-866-246-9453.

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