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Fully Stocked

by Mark Yuasa

May is a spectacular time to get out on the water, especially so, given all the spring fanfare surrounding trout fishing in our Washington waterways.

Over the past couple of months, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) hatchery staff has been busy trucking millions of trout and planting them in hundreds of lakes across the state’s 39 counties. (Fun fact: Washington state has one of the biggest fish hatchery systems in the world and produces millions of fish annually.) WDFW’S 2022 stocking plan reveals around 2.1-million catchable trout averaging 10- to 12-inches long are heading into lakes and another 147,357 “jumbo-sized” trout weighing 1 pound or more to boost the excitement.

Great Lakes

In the Puget Sound region, look for a plant of 432,350 catchable trout headed into King, Snohomish, Skagit, San Juan, Whatcom, and Island county lakes. Some of the top lakes in western Washington are Geneva, Meridian, Green, Desire, Steel and North in King County; Heart, Grandy, McMurray and Sixteen lakes in Skagit County; Goodwin, Roesiger, Howard and Serene in Snohomish County; Summit Lake in Thurston County; American and Spanaway in Pierce County; and Mineral Lake in Lewis County.

Top lakes in eastern Washington include Rocky in Stevens County; Fishtrap and Sprague in Lincoln County; Conconully Lake and Reservoir and Pearrygin in Okanogan County; Jameson in Douglas County; Williams and West Medical in Spokane County; and Wapato Lake in Chelan County.

In central Washington, Columbia River reservoirs like Roosevelt and Rufus Woods are the top destination spots for large-sized rainbow trout and/or Kokanee. In late March, the Colville Confederated Tribes Resident Fish Program stocked 23,157 rainbow trout averaging 1.4 pounds apiece into Rufus Woods, and more plants are planned in May to boost late spring-time fishing. Lake Chelan is another go to spot for Kokanee, lake trout, and Chinook salmon.

If you’re traveling by boat to marinas and anchor destination spots around Whidbey Island and San Juan Island County, be sure to pack along the trout fishing gear as each county offers plenty of nearby freshwater options. On Island County, try Cranberry Lake in Deception Pass State Park; Deer, one mile west of Clinton; Goss Lake, west of Langley, or Lone, southwest of Langley. In San Juan Island County, try Cascade Lake in Moran State Park; Egg, on the northeast side of San Juan Island; and, Hummel on north end of Lopez Island. Mountain Lake, 4 ½ miles southeast of East Sound in Moran State Park, gets a decent annual plant of cutthroat trout.

For a statewide stocking schedule and planting updates, go to: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports.

Tackle the Job

  • Trout fishing gear is mainly a lightweight, limber rod in the 6- to 8-foot range, and a medium-sized spinning reel with 6- to 8-pound test monofilament fishing line. Add two size 8 or 9 egg sinkers with a rubber bumper tied to a small barrel swivel. Leaders should be 18 to 30 inches in 3- to 8-pound test and a size 8 or 10 egg or worm hook.
  • The top choice for bait is the soft dough baits like Berkley Power Bait that comes in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Other anglers prefer to use worms, maggots, salmon eggs or scented marshmallows. From a boat, troll a gang-flasher with a bait laced with a piece of scented dough bait or a small spoon, rooster tail, spinner, or a weightless marabou fly. When still fishing from an anchored boat, use a bobber if the trout are lurking near the surface or let your bait hang a few feet off the bottom. You can also cast and retrieve a small spoon or rooster tail.
  • Freshly stocked trout tend to be located under the surface in 3 to 5 feet of water and will reside in spots where the hatchery trucked unloaded them into the lake. It takes about one to two weeks before they spread out and move into deeper sections of a lake.
  • Your time spent on the water can also come with special prizes by participating in the WDFW Trout Derby, on now through October 31. Last year, about 55 percent of the tagged trout were turned in for prizes. This season, more than 100 lakes will receive tagged trout and individuals who catch one are eligible for hundreds of donated prizes from participating businesses across the state. For derby details, visit: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/contests/trout-derby.

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