Anglers have extra incentive to go fishing at a few choice waters this season.
Several contests have the potential to pad wallets along with boosting egos.
A contest open to all anglers and sponsored by Cabela’s involves three lakes in Idaho and four in Washington.
The Wanna Go Fishing for Millions contest started May 5 and runs through July 8, featuring tagged fish good for prizes ranging from a $50 gift card to much more.
Most anglers would agree their odds are better for catching a tagged fish than for matching a string of random numbers in a lottery.
Washington and Idaho are among 19 states that allow the contest.
In Washington, state Fish and Wildlife biologists add a degree of verification by tagging the fish for the contest, as required by state law.
On April 20, fish were captured so fluorescent spaghetti tags could be inserted near their dorsal fins. The fish had to be a reasonable size because the tags are quite big and long.
Species tagged in Washington included largemouth, smallmouth, walleye, channel catfish, rainbow trout and cutthroat trout.
The waters and the number of tagged fish are: American Lake, nine; Lake Washington, 15; and Potholes Reservoir, 13. Biologists tagged nine fish in Sprague Lake, including rainbow trout and smallmouth bass.
At Lake Washington, warmwater fisheries biologist Doug Garrett said he tagged and released 12 smallmouth bass and three cutthroat trout.
Cabela’s reports about 3,000 Washington anglers registered to participate in the contest in 2011. They caught a total of 10 contest fish – about a fifth of the total number of fish tagged. That’s impressive.
Despite the size of Lake Washington, three tagged smallmouth bass out of the 15 fish tagged last year were caught by contest anglers, Garrett said.
Other Washington lakes producing tagged fish last year were American Lake (four tags returned), Potholes Reservoir (two tags returned) and Sprague Lake (one tag returned).
Idaho lakes involved in the Cabela’s contest are CJ Strike Reservoir, Cascade Lake and Lake Coeur d’Alene.
In 2011, more than 1,500 anglers registered for the contest in Idaho.
“Surprisingly, Idaho was the only state with just one winning tag last year,” said Patricia Zeman, Cabela’s events manager, noting the fish was a smallmouth bass caught in CJ Strike.
Tagging numbers are harder to come by for Idaho, since the state Fish and Game Department allows Cabela’s staffers to do the tagging.
Last year it was revealed, after a lot of pesky questions, that no fish had been tagged and released in Lake Coeur d’Alene by the time the contest was opened. It wasn’t made clear when the fish were tagged and released.
This year, once again, local company officials did not want to disclose information about the Coeur d’Alene fish until Idaho Fish and Game officials said come on fellas, cough up some info because your permit requires you to make it public by July 1.
Pete Marion of the Post Falls Cabela’s then reported that on April 22 his crew tagged and released 16 smallmouth and largemouth bass in Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Tagged smallmouth bass were caught during the Bass Federation Regional Qualifying tournament at C.J. Strike Reservoir two weeks ago.
Anglers who think they’re good enough or lucky enough to catch a tagged fish should register on the Cabela’s website for a chance to double their winnings.
Review the rules. Each fish must be photographed with the spaghetti tag still in its back. Then the tag must be cut off regardless of whether the fish is kept or released.
The tag number must be reported along with the photo, the lake and date it was caught.