When life hands you lemons, make lemonade — or at least in this case, a fish fry.
As Curlew Lake transitions from a rainbow fishery to one gradually being overrun by perch, it provided good angling for both species for members of the Han family of the Tri-Cities area.
They were making their annual pilgrimage to Washington’s northeastern corner over Memorial Day Weekend.
“Curlew may be a great destination for trout, but my parents and kids sure do love the perch fishing there!” says Jerry Han, a Kennewick dentist.
Getting in on the action was his 90-years-young uncle P.P. Han who has just started getting into fishing this spring.
“He is turning into a fishing machine,” reports Jerry. “He caught the biggest trout of the day and got into a kayak for the first time to try kayak fishing.”
Jerry reports rainbows to 17 inches, perch to more than a foot long.
“The trolling for trout is pretty standard with dodgers and Wedding Ring spinners with a chunk of nightcrawler. Easy limits of great-tasting pink-meated trout,” he says.
Afterwards, he switched everyone’s rigs up to target the perch using 1/16-ounce jigheads and 1 1/2-inch crappie tubes tipped with a piece of worm or strip of belly from an already caught perch.
“The perch belly is way more durable if the perch are biting aggressively, but a crawler will get bites guaranteed,” Jerry tips.
As for tube colors, he says red/chartreuse was tops, followed by all chartreuse.
Han says that using his sidefinder he located a “huge” perch school mainly in 12 to 16 feet of water and suspects similar gatherings be found in the lake’s shallower bays.
In the short term, the yellowbellies are adding to Curlew’s plethora of species to fish for, which also include largemouth and smallmouth bass and tiger muskies — Jerry says he saw several 3-footers lurking in the shallows — but state fishery biologists don’t expect it to last after the illegal introduction of perch around 2011.
But WDFW has also changed its tune, promoting the fishery, though their collective teeth might be gritted about the likely demise of one of the state’s destination trout fisheries, not unlike what happened to Oregon’s Phillips Reservoir.
“We anticipate that over time perch will become overabundant and may stunt to sizes that are not favorable to anglers. In addition, we expect to see trout survival and growth negatively impacted by the presence of perch,” an agency spokesperson stated on WDFW’s Facebook page in a post this past winter pimping ice fishing for perch.
They said it was likely the number of rainbows would be reduced to account for competition with perch, though it’s possible trout sizes could be increased as part of that.
“Anglers should expect trout catch rates to go down as perch abundances increase,” WDFW said. “Anglers can help with the trout fishery in Curlew by removing as many perch as they can. The bonus is that perch are pretty darn tasty.”
That, no doubt, is exactly what the Han family is finding on their return home, and that’s what the Walgamotts will be doing when we camp here for a week later in summer.
Besides the state park, there are three resorts on Curlew — Black Beach, Tiffany’s and Fisherman’s Cove.