April 24, 2000
In some parts of the country, it's called "Fishmas," an odd springtime holiday combining Christmas and trout.
Around here this year, Fishmas falls on April 29. That's the date you and a half million other trout-seeking kiddies will awaken early, wander down to the Evergreen state's lakes and reservoirs, and see what Santa Claus--played by the guys driving the state stocking trucks--have left for you.
And what the state's jolly elves have left this Fishmas is a whole lotta rainbows all awaiting your baited hook. Because our own fishing efforts last year were dismal at best, and also resulted in numerous encounters with police, we decided to get you some professional advice on how to fill your stringer on opening day.
We contacted Joel Shangle, the Washington editor of Fishing & Hunting News, for help on all the intricacies of fishing for stocker trout.
"Go where the numbers are if you just want to catch fish," said Shangle, who has been editing the issue for a year and knows the state inside out. "The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife loads billions and billions (OK, maybe only 2.7 million) of trout into lakes so you can catch them. Of the 24 such lakes in Snohomish County, Lake Ki (near Smokey Point) is far and away the Lord of the Trout Dump and Dash; nearly 16,000 rainbows get plunked in here between April 14 and April 27. Storm Lake gets 9,500, Roesiger gets 8,000. In King County, Rattlesnake takes a shot of 12,000, and Pine says hello to another 12,000."
Other local lakes receiving stocks include: Cottage, 5,000, mid-April; Langlois, 6,000, mid-April; Echo Lake, 1,000, early May; Flowing Lake, 14,000, early May; Lost Lake, 1,000, early May; Wagner, 2,500 14-inch-and-up rainbows, early April. (Unless otherwise noted, the above stocks are 8- to 12-inch rainbows.)
Shangle said that stockers are neither bright nor adventurous in their new homes. "The first few days after a stock, you'll find them milling around release areas (usually WDFW boat ramps), looking for the feeder to spray food pellets into their waiting mouths," he said. "They'll stay near the surface until the sun starts to turn their new homes into a giant bathtub, at which time they'll move out to deeper water. Fish near the surface early."
If you're fishing from shore or a dock, Shangle suggested outfitting yourself with worms, jars of Power Bait, salmon eggs, and marshmallows.
"If you fish bait, you want to either suspend it below the surface via a bobber or float it off the bottom," he said. "If you choose the latter, rig up with a sliding (egg) sinker and a glob of either a floating jar bait (Power Bait, Sierra Gold, etc.) or some other floatant (marshmallows, etc.) and a chunk of worm or egg.
"If you don't want to get your hands stinky, cast and retrieve small spinners like Rooster Tails, Mepps Black Furies, Panther Martins, Kastmasters, or Daredevils. Almost any small, spinny, shiny lure will do, cast out into the lake and slowly retrieved," he said.
For those of you with a boat, Shangle advised trolling fluttering-type spoons, spinners, or plugs that imitate minnows.
"If you're going to troll, you have to have some sort of flash," he said. "The classic old Wedding Ring spinner tipped with a nightcrawler has probably accounted for more fish dinners than Mrs. Paul, but there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of flashy little lures that are magic trolled at slow speeds: Needlefish, Sparklefish, Dick Nites, Triple Teasers, FlatFish--all of them work."
Troll out in front of the docks at Cottage and Pine lakes; still-fish the area near the first house off the launch at Langlois and troll along the steep shore near the Girl Scout camp there.
In addition to the tons of up-to-foot-long rainbows the state has stocked, they've also thrown in "triploid" trout here and there. Though the state's description of how they create these monster fish makes it sound as if they're dabbling in alchemy, Shangle said there's no reason for alarm.
"Without going too deeply into biology or witchcraft, a triploid trout is just basically a sterile fish," he said. "What this means to you is that they don't waste any of their energy trying to breed--everything they eat goes directly to their bodies for growth. They get big in a hurry. They're not radioactive, and you do not need rubber gloves to handle them, at least not the smaller ones that can't bite your finger off."
Pine Lake on the Sammamish Plateau has been stocked with 1,985 of these fish. Hit it later in the year.
A lot of the tradition of opening day of trout season is getting kids involved in the sport. Doing so can lead to a lifetime of enjoyment for a young one as well as for yourself. But Shangle warns not to overdo it.
"You've heard of the KISS principal? My philosophy on introducing kids to fishing is KISS OFF DAD: Keep It Simple, Stupid; Offer French Fries; Don't Spend All Day," he said. "Stick with simple equipment: closed-faced reels, short rods, simple baits until they learn the mechanics of casting, etc. This should be something they enjoy, so don't be afraid to throw in a trip to McWhopperMeisterInTheBox to start or end the day. Wrap the fishing in as much pure enjoyment as you can. And most important of all, do not keep a budding angler on the water for 10 hours at a time. I can barely keep my focus for 10 hours; my 5-year old is lucky to stay anchored for 10 minutes. Make those first outings short and sweet."
Before you go, you'll need a freshwater license ($20 for ages 16 and up, $5 for 15-year-olds; available at Fred Meyer, Sportees); you must also have an Access Stewardship Decal (free) if you use state sites. State officials remind you to be courteous to fellow anglers, as well as wear life jackets if you're in a boat.
Have a happy Fishmas!