Gains will offset few losses at Munn Lake

TUMWATER - I've babbled about fishing in this column for years, but I've never revealed a favorite fishing spot.

Until now.

My favorite crappie fishing hole is Tumwater’s Munn Lake, also known as That Little Lake Near my House.

There are some whopper, dinner-plate-sized crappie in that lake! I also have good luck casting floating popping bugs for largemouth bass from late May through early October.

Usually I wouldn’t share this kind of information in the newspaper, but there’s a good chance that Munn Lake will be a year-round, catch-and-release, artificial-lure-only fishery in 2010. That also means I’ve probably eaten my last pan-fried crappie fillet from that charming little lake – and so has everyone else.

That’s what I will lose if Munn Lake goes catch-and-release. But I – and most other fish-addled South Sounders – will gain so much more:

 • A year-round fishery for larger trout – including a few big brown trout that survive arriving in the lake as fingerlings.

Anglers give up fish dinners – and mobs of pan-sized hatchery rainbow trout – when a lake becomes a catch-and-release water. But returning trout back to the lake – yeah, even the ones we suspect won’t make it – means a lot of big, bright, hard-fighting fish close to home.

 • We’ll get a nice year-round fishery, and that’s good. A fairly shallow lake, such as Munn, tends to fish well for trout throughout the winter. Anglers will have to become familiar with the midge family of insects – they look like mosquitoes but they don’t bite and suck down human blood – but that’s OK.

Winter brings lean times for freshwater trout anglers in South Sound, and a quality lake close to home makes it easy to jump onto the lake for an hour or two on a nice day.

 • The lake will not be limited to fly anglers. Lure anglers can still fish the lake – and catch a lot of fish – if they have a single, barbless hook on the line. That means bass addicts can still creep a plastic worm through the tangle of a sunken alder tree, and kids can cast crappie jigs under a float.

 • Finally, we all get a chance at seeing whether Munn Lake’s pretty good fisheries for largemouth bass, yellow perch and bluegill will pop some bigger fish.

Larry Phillips, our local state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, visited the South Sound Fly Fishers meeting last week to talk about Munn Lake’s possible future. Phillips said the bass and panfish populations will probably balance themselves out, and we might see some bigger bass, bluegill and crappie.

No one knows how big the trout will get, but the lake will still need some stocking, as there is no inlet stream for trout spawning.

Phillips was the mastermind behind last spring’s early opening of Munn Lake for a nice catch-and-release fishery. The lake was catch-and-release only for a few weeks before the lowland trout season opener on the last Saturday of April.

Lots of anglers, including myself, rowed or paddled onto the lake for some really good fishing.

I was out there one afternoon and watched a very good spin angler hook and release some nice trout on a single-hooked Roostertail spinner.

It was kind of weird to see lots of rowboats and pontoon boats easing around Munn Lake in March, but it was kind of cool as well. I recall hitting the lake at the end of a stressful day in March – my 401(k) was melting fast, and I needed a little bit of time to forget about it all.

Watching a pod of nice trout rise to a mixed hatch of mayflies and midges pushed the stressful world far, far away.

The big response from anglers prompted Fish and Wildlife to propose changing the rules at Munn Lake, and the state Fish and Wildlife Commission is taking comments on all rule changes.

I hope that you write in with your comments – whether you favor the new rule or really want to keep Munn Lake the way it is.

I do hope that the lake becomes catch-and-release, as most of the Northwest’s best fisheries require anglers to let their fish go. It’s kind of a tradeoff – more and bigger fish, but with no chance of fish dinners.

I can live with that, and we have a lot of other lakes to take a limit of trout or panfish.

I’m just going to have to start looking for another secret crappie hole.

Chester Allen: 360-754-4226