It's time to buy your ticket to the biggest game in the state: the opening of Washington lowland lake fishing season on April 24.
That's the word from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials, who estimate that at least 300,000 Washingtonians will be casting lines on opening day in hundreds of waters stocked with millions of fish.
The ticket needed to join the game is a Washington freshwater fishing license, valid April 1, 2004 through March 31, 2005, and available to resident adults for $21.90 over the Internet (http://www.fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov), telephone (1-866-246-9453) or at hundreds of license dealers across the state.
"It's still one of the best entertainment values around," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "With kids under 15 fishing for free, it's a recreational bargain for the whole family, available throughout the spring, summer and fall."
Most of the lakes that open to fishing on April 24 remain open through October. Of Washington's 4,500-some lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, more than 600 have WDFW-managed public access sites, 252 of them on lowland lakes that open April 24. These sites include boat launches, dock and shoreline fishing, and areas accessible for persons with disabilities. Other state and federal agencies operate hundreds more.
WDFW fish hatchery crews have been busy stocking these waters across the state, some in lakes that are open year-round or that opened March 1 in eastern Washington, but most in those that open the last Saturday in April--the traditional start of Washington's most intense fishing activity. A total of more than 25 million fish are stocked this way:
* 7,010,800 trout fry, now of catchable size, were stocked into 379 lowland lakes last year
* 12,795,000 kokanee fry, expected to show in this year's catch, went into 39 lakes
* 4,201,486 catchable-size trout are being stocked now into 379 waters
* 51,311 triploid "trophy" (one-and-half-pound) rainbow trout are being stocked into 80 lakes
* 20,306 two-year-old and surplus hatchery broodstock trout are being stocked in 77 lakes
* 324,000 warmwater species fish stocked in 20 waters are expected to show in this year's catch
Details about fish stocking are available on WDFW's website in the Hatchery Trout-Stocking Plan.
"Opening day is often the best time to catch some of these fish," said Koenings, "but that also means that many lakes with our improved access facilities can be very crowded. Fishers should be patient and they should also play safe by making sure they use personal flotation devices for everyone in boats and children on shore."
Every fishing license buyer receives a free Vehicle Use Permit, which must be on any motor vehicle parked in a WDFW fishing access parking lot. The permits are transferable between up to two vehicles. Additional permits are available to license buyers for $5 each; non-fishing or hunting users of the areas can purchase the permits for $10.
Koenings also encouraged fishers to seek out some of the less crowded fishing spots across the state by perusing the Washington Fishing Guide ("Where To Catch Fish In the Evergreen State"), is available on the agency's website and at WDFW offices.
"Have fun, but know the rules, too," Koenings said, noting that copies of WDFW's annual Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet are available at WDFW offices and on the website.