The winter trout season kicked off on Black Friday, with several local lakes stocked with larger than usual rainbow trout for the event.
The Black Friday lakes will soon be joined by other lakes and ponds as the WDFW plants trout across southwest Washington waters to give anglers something fun to fish for during the cold months of winter.
Most of the stocked lakes did well on the unofficial opener. The state does not close the Black Friday lakes in advance as they used to, and anglers can get after the fish as soon as they are stocked.
In a bit of a surprise, some of the stocked lakes did not see much effort. Others did the usual amount of business, and anglers tended to do well. There were some exceptions.
Iconic Northwest angler Buzz Ramsey likes to target Rowland Lake in the Columbia River Gorge, and he has tested the lake every year since they started receiving the Black Friday plants. This year was no exception, but he reports the lake did not perform well.
“It was planted Wednesday, and we went Thursday morning,” Ramsey said. “It was really slow. The lake was turning over, and the water had kind of a brown cast to it. We caught three, and hooked some more.”
The bank anglers had a tough time of it.
“The guys on the bank did not do well,” he continued. “We saw one guy with one trout. And, there were not many people there.”
Ramsey received a report from a friend that the fishing was still slow on Friday, although improving a little bit.
Most lakes will turn over in the spring and fall, as the changing temperatures disrupt the thermal layers of water, which results in those layers breaking down and mixing. This brings water to the surface with lower dissolved oxygen from the bottom of the lake. This tends to have a negative effect on the fish, making for a tough bite.
Once the turnover is complete, those stocked fish should turn on, offering late comers some fine fishing. The turnover should be over fairly quick, now that the rain and wind are coming back to the Gorge.
Other lakes did better.
Stacie Kelsey, of the WDFW Inland Fishes program said fishing was very hot for a few days after the stockings at Klineline Pond, with most anglers taking out limits. It has slowed since, and effort has fallen off a bit.
She noted that Rowland was stocked in early November, and that stocking was listed on the WDFW trout stocking report, but anglers did not seem to get the message.
“I went out the weekend before Black Friday to do a creel survey,” Kelsey said. “I went to Battle Ground Lake, Klineline and Rowland. It was shocking, on a Saturday, that no one was fishing Rowland.”
She went out later, and once again found no anglers at Rowland. That means most of those larger-than-usual trout are still available to catch.
She noted that Battle Ground Lake fished very well on Black Friday, and it has still maintained a good bite. However, things have been a little off this fall overall.
“Water quality has been completely off,” said Kelsey, noting that the lakes have seen an unusual year. “The turnover happened way later in the spring, and the bite has been really weird this year.”
She said anglers at Battle Ground Lake have been making good use of the new fishing dock. It extends into the deep water, giving shore-bound anglers a better chance at the fish.
Most of the bite at Battle Ground has been on natural baits, such as salmon eggs or worms, although small spinners have been working, too.
Anglers using the new dock have learned to bring long-handled landing nets, since the dock sits up above the water a bit.
At Klineline most anglers are fishing Berkley Powerbait, but Kelsey warns the trout can get shy of that.
“If everyone is fishing Powerbait, the water can develop a sheen. Then the trout want some other kind of bait.”
Natural baits work when the Powerbait shuts down. Worms, eggs, and other offerings will bring bites. However, Klineline does not seem to produce well for anglers casting lures.
Other lakes stocked ahead of Black Friday include the Fort Borst Park Pond, and Kress Lake, which has also been receiving surplus steelhead as well. The lake is fishing better now that the milfoil has been treated, and the lake is mostly weed-free.
Lakes that will be planted during the next few months include Icehouse Lake and Little Ash Lake near Stevenson. Icehouse Lake, located at the Washington end of the Bridge of the Gods, is usually heavily stocked beginning in January, and it fishes well unless the otter family that lives there is ranging over the pond.
Most days the otters avoid the busy side of the lake, and the fishing stays good. But, if they move into the main lake area, it shuts the bite down.
Sacajawea Lake in Longview will get its stocking ahead of Christmas once again, and that lake also receives larger trout as well as trophy-sized brood trout up to 10 pounds.
Lacamas Lake, near Camas-Washougal, will also receive winter plants of catchable rainbow trout.
For more information, and a report on which lakes have been stocked, you can check the WDFW trout stocking report at: https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/stocking/trout-plants