Improving weather this weekend should warm up anglers and stir up the thousands of trout that have been stocked in local lakes recently.
Saturday is "opening day" of the trout fishing season, a traditional time for anglers young and old to bait hooks with worms and Powerbait and try their luck.
For years, most Southwest Washington lakes have been open to fishing year-round. But those lakes have been getting especially heavy stocking the past few weeks.
John Weinheimer, a Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist, said cold water has made stocked fish lethargic. Many of them will be near the surface of lakes, he predicted.
"This cold spring may make things a little bit tough for trout," Weinheimer said. But fishing will improve as spring temperatures arrive.
The forecast calls for sunny skies this weekend, with a high near 53 Saturday and 68 Sunday.
Despite the state's financial hardships, the number of trout stocked is similar to that in past years, Weinheimer said.
Statewide, the WDFW has stocked 3.5 million catchable-size trout in 347 waters, along with 50,000 triploid (sterile) trout averaging 1-1/2 pounds a piece, shared among 108 lakes. Hatchery trucks have also delivered 84,000 two-year-old "jumbo" and surplus hatchery broodstock trout (1-1/2 to 5 pounds each) to 172 lakes.
Last year, the agency also planted 6.8 million trout as fry, which by now have grown to 8- to 12-inch catchable size.
Despite all the hoopla over salmon and steelhead, trout fishing continues to be the most popular kind of fishing in the state. Part of the appeal is that there's a trout fishing water close to where most people live, and you don't need much in the way of equipment.
"You can take a few hours and fish and be successful," Weinheimer said.
Here are the local hot spots:
Swift, the uppermost reservoir on the Lewis River, is one of the few waters in Southwest Washington that still actually opens on opening day.
WDFW has recently planted 60,000 catchable-sized rainbows in Swift.
People also can catch small coho that have been planted in rivers upstream of Swift, Weinheimer said.
He noted that fishing stayed good at Swift last fall into November, though the weather wasn't always conducive to angling.
The Swift water level is high enough that the boat launch is usable and the area will be open to visitors as usual this weekend.
After that, however, recreation areas on Swift may be temporarily closed at times for construction of a fish-collecting facility. PacifiCorps is building a floating structure at Swift Dam to collect young salmon and steelhead heading downstream, and parts of the boat launch and adjacent camping areas will be used as staging areas to barge equipment to the dam.
Also, the dam may be closed to fishing at times. Normally, anglers can park on Road 90 and walk a few minutes down to the dam.
This lake north of Morton is among the most-heavily planted, with 8,000 browns, 29,000 rainbows, 687 triploids and 104,000 fingerling rainbow planted last summer.
Located in Onalaska, Carlisle gets 12,000 rainbows and 315 triploids.
South Lewis County Pond
This lake near Toledo gets 5,000 browns, 3,000 rainbows and 580 triploids.
With good shore access and a boat launch, this lake off Kalama River Road should be busy Saturday. It receives 11,000 rainbows, 6,500 browns and 352 triploids.
Woodland's U-shaped fishing hole gets 20,000 rainbows, 6,500 browns and 608 triploids.
Near Cougar, this fly-fishing only lake gets 224 triploid rainbows.
Merwin has been stocked with 210,618 kokanee free. It's recently been "red-hot" for kokanee, said Weinheimer, who recommended fishing near the water surface.
By the end of May, Longview's gem will have received 10,000 browns and 14,300 rainbows.
There's more than bass and crappie here. Silver Lake has been planted with 8,000 rainbows.
Anglers 15 and older need a current Washington freshwater fishing license, valid April 1, 2011 through March 31, 2012. Freshwater fishing licenses cost $26 for resident adults 16 to 69 years old. Fifteen-year-olds and persons with disabilities can buy a license for $11, and seniors 70 and older can buy an annual fishing license for $8.
Fish stocking details, by county and lake, are available in the Annual Statewide Hatchery Trout Stocking Plan on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/statewide/.
Tips on fishing areas, listed by county and water, can be found in "Washington 2011 Fishing Prospects: Where To Catch Fish In the Evergreen State," available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/prospects/.