By Tom Rohrer
It’s the idyllic childhood memory. Bundling up on a cold, winding river or hopping into a boat in the middle of a vast, forested lake or dangling feet in the water off a dock in attempt to cool off during a hot summer day. Through those memories, you remember who you fished with: it could be a longtime friend, a parent, or if you were lucky enough, an enthusiastically cheerful grandparent.
Trout fishing is synonymous with the American outdoor experience. Fish are found virtually throughout the country in a variety of fresh-water habitats. The Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department stocks local watering holes for Thurston County residents. Saturday, April 27 marks the day trout anglers have been waiting for – the statewide opening of lowland lake fishing.
According to Larry Phillips, the District Fish Biologist for Thurston and Pierce Counties, there are more opening day lakes within the area than any other region in the state.
“We have a high density population of developed populations on or near these lakes,” Phillips said. “These are popular fisheries with folks, so there are different opportunities. Some residents have docks, but there are public piers, boat launches, and I think at some lakes in particular, more shore access to fish from.”
Phillips noted that there are about 100 fish per surface acre within district lakes, giving those throwing a line in the water a better chance at having a successful day on the water.
“That’s the beauty of trout fishing and the excitement of opening day,” Phillips said. “We’ve spread out a lot of fish in high density, and we want people to have success, particularly children.”
Despite the high number of lakes in the area, participation in the sport was down, and Phillips believes that trend will start to reverse moving forward.
“(Thurston/Pierce County) have the lowest participation rate per capital in the state, and yet we have more opening day lakes than anywhere in the state,” Phillips added. “There was some re-allocating of resources to some areas to make improvements and this area was one of those selected. The sports fishing community has responded. We are excited and we’ve made a conscience effort to make sure that information on where to fish, what types of fish are in each lake and the layout of each area is provided online.”
Fishwa.com provides that information to aspiring anglers.
“(This site) shows what species are at lakes, where a good boat ramp is located, when it’s a good time to go fish,” Phillips said. “This helps people who may not be comfortable with taking kids out or may not have a lot of experience fishing for trout.”
Phillips mentioned several locations that would be worth a stop on opening day of trout fishing season.
- Long’s Pond, located on Woodland Creek Community Park, offers year round fishing for those 14 years and under and the opportunity to hone their fishing skills.
- Five miles northwest of Yelm is St. Claire Lake, a 245 acre lake with three types of trout known to inhabit it. There are two public access points, one with a boat launch, and limited shoreline access due to the high influx of homes on the water. There is a 5 mph speed limit on the water, providing a calm setting for families and younger fisherman.
- 300-plus acre Long Lake, just east of Olympia, also has boat and shore access, along with holding every type of trout within its waters.
- Deep Lake, located in Millersylvania State Park, is a real popular fishery and one that holds a public fishing pier, which is rare these days according to Phillips. Camping is also available on this lake.
- McIntosh Lake, just east of Tenino, has significant shore access for exploring, while Summit Lake, has high amounts of rainbow trout, but limited shore access.
Moving west to Grays Harbor County, where despite the high interest in salt-water fishing, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a day on the lake.
Unlike Thurston County, Grays Harbor has long had high stocking numbers for trout, and according to Mike Scharpf, the District Fishing Biologist for the county, there is around 70 fish per surface acre, and around 10-20 “jumbo sized” fish per the same measurement.
“We haven’t seen too much change up or down in the past, but there is still a demand for fishing opportunities,” Scharpf said.
Scharpf cited Vance Creek Pond number 1, located near Elma, which is open only to juveniles, seniors and holders of a disability license. Vance Creek Pond 2, also known as Bowers Lake, is open to all anglers and has great shore access, and trails all the way around it. It is stocked with fish heavily according to Scharpf.
Lake Sylvia State Park located near Montesano, has 15,000 feet of shore access and a bridge near the center of the lake that can also be fished off of.
Lake Aberdeen will be another crowded location on opening day, as the 64 acre body of water is located just three miles from Aberdeen, has a boat launch, and a large selection of 10-plus inch rainbow trout.
“I think those will be your three best places to go,” Scharpf said.
For all fishing opportunities, tips and most importantly, rules and regulations, visit www.fishwa.gov