Anglers, fish aplenty on opening day

The numbers boggle the mind.

More than 300,000 anglers are expected to cast a line Saturday, which is opening day for most Western Washington lowland lakes.

A few lakes - Offut Lake and Black Lake are good examples - stay open all year, but 300,000 anglers are on fire to fish water that's been closed since November.

The 4 million trout recently stocked into those lakes - and the 6 million trout fry and 11.8 million kokanee fry stocked into lakes last spring and fall - have no idea what is about to happen to them.

A hailstorm of PowerBait nuggets, worms, lures and even a few flies will pelt the water, and the fish will bite. That's what opening day is about for most anglers - a limit of hatchery trout and a fish lunch or dinner later in the day.

And that's what hatchery fish are for.

Most of our lowland lakes don't have the feeder streams trout need for spawning, so hatchery fish are the only way to have trout in many waters.

The tidal wave of millions of trout, hundreds of thousands of anglers - and countless, Day-Glo bottles of Power Bait - boggle the mind, but I find that memories mean more than the numbers.

The people

The people I meet are my biggest catch on opening day.

I'll never forget the twin fishing dynamos at Long Lake in 2005.

I'm always pumped to go fishing, but Jacob and Joseph Spancic - who were 8 at the time - were beady-eyed wired.

Jacob and Joseph decided to help me with my work - while still keeping an eye on their rods.

The boys raced from one angler to another to see fish, comment on lures and make friends.

It took the boys about 15 seconds to make friends with me - and deliver the scoop.

"The fish are biting on several varieties of PowerBait colors," Jacob reported. "They are biting on green and pink or green and orange, but mostly green and pink."

Joseph explained their system for fishing and socializing.

"Our dad is watching the rods," Joseph said. "He has a signal for us - it usually is 'Fish On.' "

Dad - Joe Spancic - watched his boys, grinned and kept the hooks baited.

I've always wondered whether the boys' mother had a nice, relaxing morning at home while her energetic sons fully embraced opening day.

So, I called Kaylee Spancic on Wednesday and asked that two-year-old question.

"Those boys are so special and we're such a close family,' " she said. "We have so much fun, so I miss them when they're not around - I miss them more than I enjoy the peace and quiet."

Joseph and Jacob landed pretty good parents about 10 years ago.

Another opening day introduced me to rabid angler Steve Roldan - and his fishing kids Salvador and Emily.

Steve Roldan knows how to catch fish - and how to hook kids on fishing.

Steve had plenty of drinks and snacks for the kids, and he'd pored through the state Department of Fish and Wildlife fish stocking reports - they're online atwdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/index.htm - to find a place with lots of big fish.

Emily caught her biggest trout ever - a 15-inch rainbow. Steve didn't snatch away the rod - which is a common affliction of fishing parents - so Emily had all of the chills and thrills of bringing in her fish.

"It felt like it was going forward - it was just tugging on my line," Emily said. "I've been fishing before, and this is probably my biggest fish."

Steve and I have talked a lot about fishing since that morning a couple of years ago, and I always learn something new. But I'll never forget watching the joy that he shared with his kids.

For all ages

Last year, I watched a white-haired man slowly set up his gear at Long Lake.

The cold, damp air slowed the man's fingers as he rigged his tackle.

But his stiffness vanished - for a moment - when he drew back his fishing rod and gracefully lobbed his bait far out into the lake.

Then the man slowly lowered himself into his chair.

He might have been the oldest person on the water that morning, but his eyes were clear and young - especially when a biting trout twitched his rod tip.

That man - like just about every angler on the planet - wasn't thinking about numbers at that moment.

His heart was beating a little faster, and he was thinking about that trout.

It was opening day, after all.

Outdoors columnist Chester Allen can be reached at 360-754-4226 or callen@theolympian.com.