For many people, April 25 marks the start of the freshwater fishing season.
Sure, there are plenty of lakes open year-round, but starting that Saturday anglers will be able to fish for trout and other species in hundreds of lowland lakes for the next six months.
In addition to stocking up on Power Bait or Fire Bait, worms, lures and flies, anglers also might want to spend some time online. The state offers a number of webpages that offer information on where to go and how many fish have been planted in various locations.
Hundreds of thousands of anglers are expected to turn out opening day, said Jim Unsworth, director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“The lowland lakes season opener is the biggest fishing day of the year and with well-stocked lakes in every county, there is little to compare to fishing the opener with family and friends,” Unsworth said in a prepared statement.
To prepare for the season, state fish hatchery crews have stocked nearly 17.5 million trout and kokanee in lakes statewide. That’s 2.3 million catchable-size trout (10-11 inches long) and nearly 160,000 jumbo trout weighing up to 11 pounds apiece. Anglers also will have the chance to catch survivors of the millions of smaller trout that were stocked last year that have grown to catchable size.
In the last two months, the state has stocked 10 Pierce County lakes with more than 72,000 catchable-size rainbows. In Thurston County, eight lakes have been planted with more than 80,000 trout measuring around 11 inches.
You can find out which lakes have been stocked and when by going to wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/statewide.
LICENSES: Anglers must have a current Washington freshwater fishing license valid through March 31, 2016. Licenses can be purchased online at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, by telephone at 866-246-9453 or at hundreds of license dealers across the state. You can the location of license vendors at wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors.
A season-long freshwater fishing license costs $29.50 for resident adults ages 16-69. Fifteen-year-olds can buy a license for $8.05, and seniors 70 and older can buy one for $7.50. Children 14 and younger do not need a fishing license.
WHERE TO GO: Anglers looking for a place to dunk a worm should check the Fish Washington website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington . The site has details on lake fishing opportunities statewide. The map-based webpage includes fishing information by county, lake and fish species throughout the state.
For those planning fishing vacations, Chris Donley, inland fish program manager, recommends Great Washington Getaways at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/vacation . It is another agency homepage feature that showcases some of the state’s best family travel and fishing opportunities.
WATER ACCESS SITES: The department manages almost 700 water-access sites, including areas accessible for people with disabilities. Other state and federal agencies operate hundreds more.
People using these sites are required to display their Vehicle Access Pass, provided free with every annual fishing license purchased. The passes are transferable between two vehicles.
You can learn about site locations at wdfw.wa.gov/lands/water_access.
Anglers who use Washington State Parks or Department of Natural Resource areas need a Discover Pass. Information can be found at discoverpass.wa.gov.
THE RULES: With thousands of anglers hitting the water, the department’s law enforcement officers also will be out for opening weekend.
Before heading out, anglers should check fishing regulations at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.
This year, the current fishing rules pamphlet will remain valid through June 30.