Washington’s 1997 fishing opener will go down in the record books as one of the most unusual since World War II.
Consider these facts:
Five lakes within 40 miles of Spokane produced limits for the majority of fishermen, making the Spokane area one of the hottest fishing spots in the state.
Loon Lake, which has been miserly with its mackinaw trout the last few years, gave up at least 18 of the big fish, including a 20-pounder, probably the largest trout caught in the state on opening day.
Fishermen couldn’t drive to or fish more than a dozen lakes in northeastern Washington because of snowdrifts, downed trees and water over roads and high and unusually cold water or ice on several lakes.
“All in all, it was an excellent opener,” commented fisheries biologist Bob Peck. “It was the best I’ve seen in a long time.”
Fisheries biologists, who probably kept their fingers crossed, had predicted good fishing at Fishtrap, West Medical, Williams, Badger and Amber. Those five lakes proved to be among the best trout producers in the state.
Several thousand anglers fished Fishtrap, the most popular lake in the Spokane region. Hundreds fished off the resort docks, cast bait and lures from cliffs surrounding the lake and fished from every type of flotation device, including float tubes and canoes. Anglers averaged 4.7 of the 10- to 11-inch rainbows each.
As usual, West Medical got off to a slow start, but began yielding 10- to 11-inch yearling rainbows and a few carryover fish at a fast rate during afternoon hours. Many fished from shore, including those who crawled through a big hole someone cut in the chain-link fence. Anglers averaged four trout each. If the brown diatom bloom that slows fishing develops the next week or so, fishing may be tough at West Medical for a while.
Badger and Williams, rehabbed two years ago, joined the list of top producing lakes. Nearly all anglers limited at both lakes. Fishing was so good that even anglers who fished within a few feet of boat-launch ramps pulled in fat 10-inch rainbows. For once, Badger was the top producer in the region, yielding an average of 4.8 of the 10-inch rainbows per angler. The rainbows in Williams were slightly smaller than those in Badger; average was 4.7 per angler.
Fishing was so good at Amber, a selective fisheries lake, that some fly fishers bragged of hooking and releasing more than 30 trout that averaged 10 to 11 inches long. A few carryover rainbows to 17 inches were taken. At one time, there were 75 float tubes and pontoon boats on the lake.
Jim Hough, a retired Spokane police officer who fished with Don Ostlund, caught two mackinaw trout at Loon Lake. His 20-pounder probably was the biggest trout caught in the state on opening day. His other mack weighed 11 pounds. Ostlund caught 16- and 9-pounders. All four macks were caught on plugs trolled 5 to 9 feet under the surface.
The fishing for macks was so good that Clyde Hudson, a longtime Loon Lake resident who had fished occasionally over the years, caught his first mack, an 8-pounder. Some other anglers who caught macks: Anita Whitmore, Spokane, 19-pounder; Christine McCullach, Spokane, 11 pounds, and Matt Fechter, Spokane, 10 pounds.
Fishing was slow at Silver but anglers hooked numerous 18-inch brown trout at Clear.
Fish and Wildlife Department representatives checked a few lakes in Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties. Fisheries biologist Curt Vail of Colville said some lakes were still ice-covered. Snowdrifts and downed trees blocked access to such lakes as Swan and Long.
Averages and trout sizes for a few lakes: Rocky, 3.6 each, 9 inches; Ellen, 2.7, 9-inch yearlings, few carryovers to 13 inches; Deep, less than one rainbow, cutthroat or brook trout each; Starvation, 3.3, 9 inches; Davis (Pend Oreille County), 3.8, 9 inches, and Marshall, 4.2, 9 inches. Cutthroat made up one third of the trout caught at Deep; they were 12 to 13 inches long.
Dry Falls, a selective fishery lake southwest of Coulee City, disappointed most anglers who fished the lake on opening day. Fishermen, most of them fly fishers, reported hooking an average of only 2.8 trout each. The yearlings are 12 to 14 inches; carryovers are 16 to 19 inches.
Blue and Park, rehabbed last fall, were planted with 10-inch-plus rainbows last month. The rainbows were hungry and anglers averaged four each at Park and 3.1 at Blue. Largest trout, running 11 to 12 inches, are in Park.
Pearrygin was one of the top producers in Okanogan County, anglers averaging 4.7 each.
, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.