Black Friday bites at rainbow trout season opener

Anglers fight trout instead of shopping crowds

By Terry Otto, Columbian staff writer

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The Black Friday trout bite was going strong for just about everyone, except me.

Fishermen along the bank east of the boat ramp were catching nice rainbow trout by fishing bait near the bottom.

Most anglers fishing from boats were doing well, too. And, the other two rods in the boat I was fishing in were catching fish.

But my rod seemed neglected.

I was trolling around the east end of Rowland Lake in the Columbia River Gorge with my hosts for the day, Buzz and Wade Ramsey. We were taking part in Washington’s Black Friday Trout Opener on Nov. 24.

The event is only a few years old and proving to be very popular judging from the numbers of fishermen trying their luck at the lake. The fall opener gives folks the chance to fight trout instead of crowds on Black Friday.

I was getting worried, though. “You guys will have your limit before I get my first trout,” I complained.

“Drop your plug further back another 10 feet or more,” said Buzz. “Sometimes you need to let that center plug trail behind the others.”

I knew what he meant and let the line out immediately. I have seen Buzz employ this tactic before when salmon fishing. The other baits pass through the schools of fish and get them excited, but sometimes they don’t key in on a bait and hit it. Then this trailing plug comes dinking along while the fish are still excited, and they often strike.

It works on trout, too. I had barely let out the extra line when the rod doubled over and I fought a fat rainbow to the boat. Sticking with this plan I soon caught up with the others. We finished strong with five-fish limits of chunky rainbow trout.

The trout stocked for this fall event are much larger than the average trout stocked in the spring, which tend to run from 9 to 12 inches. These fall-stocked trout have had another six months to grow and tend to run up to 15 or 16 inches, and even more. A five-fish limit of these bruisers puts some serious meat in the freezer.

The lake was stocked with over 2,200 rainbow trout on Nov. 20 and 21.

We had been trolling with the Yakima Bait 2.5 Maglip, a very popular plug for trout. The fish seemed to prefer the patterns that sported a little red. Other fishermen were trolling Maglips as well and a few were using cowbell lake trolls with bait. All seemed to be catching fish.

Bank Fishing Tactics

Bank anglers were fishing near the bottom with dough baits such as Berkley PowerBait. The floating bait is fished about 18 inches below a weight and when cast out the baits suspend just off the bottom.

Bank anglers were also taking trout by casting spinners. Popular choices included Rooster Tails in brown or other dark colors.

Buzz Ramsey, who lives in nearby Lyle, has spent years fishing Rowland and has learned a thing or two about its nuances. For instance we had not gathered to fish until 9:30 a.m. This lake fishes best once it has had a few hours to warm up a bit.

A lot of other anglers knew this too. The numbers of fishermen swelled about mid-morning and a lot of the late arrivals did not take long to fill their limits. However, early morning bank anglers had little trouble getting their trout, too.

Rowland is just one of many lakes across Washington that take part in the Black Friday event. Most of the lakes are closed to angling for the week prior and all are stocked very generously with good-sized rainbow trout.

In response to a great turnout over the last couple years in Southwest Washington, the Black Friday event has been expanded to include some lakes in the Puget Sound area and in eastern Washington.

Lakes close to Vancouver that take part in the event include Klineline Pond and Battle Ground Lake. Kress Lake in Cowlitz County is stocked for the event as are Fort Borst Park Pond and South Lewis County Park Pond.

The lakes should fish very well for another 2 or 3 weeks.

There is a five-fish limit, and anglers at Rowland Lake must have a WDFW parking pass, as well as a Discovery pass. Always check the regulations before fishing any body of water.