Updated 9:10 a.m., March 27, 2019 at bottom with additional details on the impact of bass retention liberalizations on the Columbia.
Draw a straight north-south line from Oroville to Plymouth in Central Washington and it will touch the four waters producing the fattest tournament bass in the Evergreen State.
WDFW reports that the average weight of largemouth and smallmouth caught in contests at Lake Osoyoos, Moses Lake, Potholes Reservoir and the John Day Pool was 3.34, 2.74, 2.57 and 2.45 pounds.
The agency posted the rundown on its Facebook page today, and it also might help noncompetitive anglers figure out where to go catch bucketmouths and bronzebacks.
In listing the top 18 waters, WDFW said that it had crunched the weights of 146,124 bass caught during events held across the state over the past decade.
Four other Central Washington waters are also on the list:
5 Bonneville Pool, 2.36 pounds
7 McNary Pool, 2.24 pounds
10 Lake Chelan, 2.15 pounds
15 Banks Lake, 1.84 pounds
Further east, far Eastern Washington posted four:
11 Long Lake (Spokane), 2.13 pounds
13 Box Canyon Reservoir, 2.05 pounds
16 Lake Roosevelt, 1.81 pounds
18 Little Goose Pool, 1.33 pounds
But the Westside has its share of lunker lakes too:
5 Bonneville Pool, 2.36 pounds (we’re calling it a liner for two regions)
6 Lake Sammamish, 2.31 pounds
8 Lake Washington, 2.22 pounds
9 Lake Whatcom, 2.21 pounds
12 Silver Lake (Cowlitz), 2.11 pounds
14 Riffe Lake, 1.86 pounds
17 Lake Tapps, 1.67 pounds
As part of receiving a permit to hold a tournament, organizers must report how many fish were caught during the event and how much they weighed.
That Osoyoos stands so far above the other waters may (or may not) be due to the relatively few are held there, if WDFW’s 2019 fishing contest calendar is any indication. It lists just two this year on the Okanogan River reservoir that stretches from Oroville into British Columbia, so a couple events with relatively hefty catches might have pushed its average up. Or not.
A pair of Grant County lakes are particularly popular with bassers; Potholes and Moses will host dozens of events this year.
WDFW’s rundown comes as a bill in the state legislature would require the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to liberalize bag limits on bass, as well as walleye and channel catfish, in all anadromous waters of Washington to reduce predation on salmonid smolts.
That would essentially extend the current no size/bag limit regulations on the Columbia and Snake systems to places like Lakes Washington and Sammamish, where the Muckleshoot Tribe has been conducting warmwater test fisheries in recent years.
There have been no restrictions on how many or what size bass you can retain on the Columbia above Tri-Cities, the Snake and their tribs since 2013, and the Columbia below Tri-Cities since 2016.
A month or so ago I asked WDFW biologists if they’d seen any effect of that in terms of bass as well as similarly affected walleye and channel catfish, but they couldn’t say as they don’t conduct creel or population samples specifically for those species, though walleye and bass are monitored by ODFW through the northern pikeminnow program.
However, the tourney bass data does offer an unexpected window.
In responding to feedback on its Facebook post yesterday, WDFW said, “Average weights of bass weighed in tournaments have not changed significantly in the Columbia River Pools. The average since 2016 is slightly higher than the 10-year average.”