Washington’s big late April trout opener is just eight sleeps away and Westside lakes are sure to be packed.
While there may be fewer lowland lakes in Eastern Washington, it’s just as big doin’s as west of the crest, and not just for rainbows.
We checked in with a pair of state fisheries biologists to get their thoughts on how this year’s season will go in two of the best regions on the Eastside.
PERHAPS SOME OF THE BEST PROSPECTS can be found in Spokane-based biologist Randy Osborne’s district.
“I would guess that Badger is going to be one of the better trout lakes this spring,” he said about the upper Channeled Scablands lake which was rehabbed in 2015 and then restocked with a very heavy hand. “There’s a lot of fish there to be caught.”
“Williams Lake should fish good as well,” he adds. “West Medical – we killed that after last fall, but it will be stocked with a healthy dose of catchables and broodstock fish to get it going.”
Yellow perch are starting to cut into the productivity at Fish Lake near Cheney, but it still should fish “OK” this season, forecasts Osborne.
He also expects Clear Lake near Medical Lake to be consistent.
Osborne also has two year-round options: Lake Spokane/Long Lake, which has been producing good trout fishing this past winter and last year.
It also has walleye, and he encourages anglers to target them. “We’ve sampled some to 10 pounds.”
And Pacific Lake, north of Odessa, for rainbows.
“I went out there last year and it was crazy good,” says Osborne. “I was just sampling with rod and reel and in two hours caught 36 fish. They ranged from 14 to 17 inches. When the ice gets off, it should be good.”
YES, RAINBOWS GET A LOT OF ATTENTION, but they’re far from being the only fish to catch in spring, especially in the Okanogan.
That’s where Ryan Fortier is based, and he gave us his best bets for this season.
“Kokanee fishing has been gaining in popularity, with Alta and Conconully Lake being the two most popular and consistent fisheries,” the WDFW District 6 fisheries biologist says.
“The Alta pressure is getting a bit heavy, but Conconully can handle the larger crowds well. Patterson Lake near Winthrop has a good age-class coming up this year compared to the last five years. The other stocked lakes are Bonaparte, Spectacle and Conconully Reservoir. Palmer is not expected to have a fishery for another two more years.”
On the spinyray front, there are plenty of options too.
“Palmer, Leader, and Washburn Island Pond have been the most popular fisheries,” says Fortier. “There are lots of campers staying at the DNR campgrounds at Palmer and Leader who fish and swim on the lakes. Washburn Island was stocked with some largemouth two years ago and has produced some good sizes.”
But if your sights are set on trout, he has options for those too. He expected Pearrygin, Alta and the Conconullies to produce as usual at the opener last month, and that is likely to continue into May.
“Wannacut near Tonasket has produced the largest fish on average over the previous two summers,” he says.
Unfortunately, Fish Lake, not too far to the south, is “in need of a rehab” to get rid of overabundant bullheads, Fortier says.
It sounds like he expects quality trout waters like Aeneas, Blue, Chopaka and Davis to continue as they have, but there are two other lakes to start plugging into your radar.
“Buzzard (Loup Loup Pass) has been growing in popularity, and Campbell (Winthrop) has received low pressure despite better than usual sizes since the 2014 fires,” he hints.
Speaking of fires, Black Pine Lake high in the mountains west of Carlton was closed much of last summer due to wildfire activity, so it “should probably have some good carryovers for cutthroat when the snow clears in late May,” Fortier says.
And if you’re looking for something a little exotic that affords a chance to break a state record, you could do worse than Bonaparte Lake and its brook-brown hybrids.
“The tiger trout sizes reported in the lake have been bordering on tall tales,” says Fortier. “We will try to do a more intense survey this year to get an idea of what has changed and if the rumors are true.”
And don’t forget Lake Rufus Woods! It will be stocked with 22,000 2-plus-pound triploid trout between March and June, according to tribal managers’ plans.