April 19, 1999
Thirteen may be an unlucky number, but when there are 13 million keeper-sized trout swimming around in Washington's lakes, it will be the seriously hexed angler who doesn't come home with any fish this Saturday.
So untangle your reel, find a coffee can, and dig up some worms and head on out for the traditional April 24 opening of lowland lakes fishing season. With any luck, you'll be back home by lunch and have fresh-caught trout for dinner.
Overall, WDFW biologists estimate that millions of trout fry they planted last year are now approximately nine inches in length. Couple that with the 2.5 million trout "ready for the frying pan" planted in 350 lakes statewide this spring, and you've got a shot at catching a stringer of fat fish opening day.
"The fish should be there," said Jeff Koenings, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife director. "And I can't think of a better way for a family to spend some quality time together."
Your best local bets are Pine Lake on the Sammamish Plateau, Lake Langlois east of Carnation, Lake Margaret east of Duvall, Rattlesnake Lake south of North Bend, and Flowing Lake north of Monroe. These lakes were planted with thousands of fish recently, have boat launches, and some shore access (though Langlois' is extremely limited).
The key to a memorable opening day is finding where the fish are. If you aren't catching 'em doing what you're doing, look around and see what tactics others are using.
The old standbys--salmon eggs, flavored marshmallows, doughball baits, and worms--ought to work well. According to WDFW, planted trout will stay within the top three to five feet of water for a week or so after being released. That's because they're used to getting their food from above. This also makes them easy pickings for bobber fishermen. As the fish discover where their feed naturally comes from, they'll head deeper. It should also be worth fishing off the bottom with a weight and dab of any color Power Bait on a hook for carryovers.
Anglers in boats should try trolling small spinners like Rooster Tails, FlatFish, and Wedding Rings, or perhaps fly patterns such as Carey Specials or leeches. Fly fishermen, don't get too fancy. If you've got anything that looks like a hatchery pellet, tie it on and toss it out there and let it sink. And if you don't have it (the patterns I've seen have brown bodies crosshatched with green thread), tie one up.
At Pine Lake, the state is planting a total of 9,000 rainbow trout in April and May. Pine is where the television crews go on opening day to film people catching fish it's so good. There is an L-shaped pier here that fills up fast during the morning. Many anglers fish off the bottom here. Launching a boat can be a bit of a pain, but I've had good luck off the southern shore in the past. Pine is located off 228th St. SE which can be reached from the Redmond-Fall City Road. Turn right at the Gray Barn and head up the hill. The entrance to the lake is signed.
Over at Langlois, the state has planted 5,000 rainbows in the recent weeks, so there should be many young'uns on top. Watch the osprey, if they're there. The white-breasted fish eaters may show you where trout are schooling on top when they dive for their meals.You also might try going deeper with trolling gangs to catch holdovers who haven't seen such gear since last fall.
Last year, the WDFW also planted "triploid" trout, genetically altered rainbows that grow quite long, in Langlois. The second day of the season, a friend of mine hooked one about 40 yards off the southwestern shore trolling a Prince Nymph on a sinking flyline. There's no word on whether the state will plant them again.
Langlois can be reached by taking State Route 203 south out of Carnation. Take the second left after crossing the Tolt River Bridge and go about two miles.
The state has also planted or plans to stock these lakes with rainbows: In King County--Cottage, 4,500; Margaret, 5,500; and Rattlesnake, 12,500. In Snohomish County--Armstrong, 5,000; Blackmans, 7,200; Bosworth, 9,500; Flowing, 14,000; Ki, 18,000; Storm; 9,400; and Wagner, 1,500.
Anglers in search of ... well, lakes with fewer anglers, might make the trek up to electric-motor only Spada Lake north of Sultan, or hike in to Wallace Lake off of the Wallace Falls trail. A word of warning on the latter: there is logging going on off the trail to the lake, and signs at the trailhead strongly suggest taking an alternate route.
If you don't want to catch fish, hit Lost and Echo lakes near Maltby. According to the WDFW's website, zero rainbows have been planted in these lakes this spring. I haven't had any luck on either for a couple years, though I did catch a pretty good buzz on Echo one summer day which required two 40-ouncers and a pinch of chewing tobacco.
Don't get discouraged if the fish aren't biting. Sure, we outdoor writers hint there's the possibility of big limits (though you'll notice we're doing other things opening day, like helping friends move), but you'll need some patience, your powers of observation, and a little luck to bring it home.
Moms and dads, you'll need a freshwater fishing license ($20). Kids under 15 fish free. If you park at a state boat launch, you'll need an Access Stewardship decal which you'll get when you buy your license. The daily limit for trout in lakes is five per day, with no size limit, though some waters have different regulations. Be sure to reread the fishing regs before going out. Good luck!
Andrew Walgamott is a former staff reporter for the Woodinville Weekly. He is following his love of the outdoors as a copy editor for Fishing & Hunting News in Seattle.