Fly fishing gear

Hatchery Trout and PowerBait in Lowland Lakes: Great Times for Tens of Thousands in WA

There is the mythical adventure of trekking down a mountain river, fly rod in hand to catch wild trout. All taking place, of course, in a poetic setting where nature speaks to you.

Then there is the trout fishing which more than 30,000 anglers, mostly in 200 lowland lakes this side of the mountains, practiced on the opening day of the fishing season on Saturday 23rd April.

This is fishing off a dock at Martha Lake Park in Lynnwood, just past the busy traffic on the 164and Rue Sud-Ouest, not far from Walmart.

The state issues 650,000 to 700,000 freshwater fishing licenses each year, about 75 percent of which are used to fish for trout, a “high proportion” done in lowland lakes, according to the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. state wildlife.

It’s an outdoor experience that might not be related to many in a digital city and for whom fishing is an experience left to the Outdoor Channel.

But then, for this young couple, the kids come and things change.

At the giant Hooked on Toys & Sporting Goods store in Wenatchee, tackle shopper Johnny Stavenjord says he sees these young families walk in. And why not ? The store is a must stop for many traveling to nearby recreation areas.

“This state has a lot of trout-populated lakes, and they’re pretty biting,” he said.

According to a 2020 report by the Outdoor Industry Association, 50 million Americans fished in 2019, the highest number in a decade, with 3 million first-time anglers that year, including 1.2 million children aged 6 to 12 years old.

Many of us are familiar with this kind of outdoor experience.

We know all about stacking the family in the van, filled with kids and rod and reel combos you can pick up for as little as $20.

These beginner trout fishermen also quickly discover the modern way to catch these trout: bait fishing using a product called PowerBait, or one of its lesser-known competitors, an artificial paste saturated with smells and flavors.

Forget digging for earthworms.

The paste, which you mold around a hook, is irresistible to trout. It floats, so it can get over the weeds at the bottom. You certainly don’t conjure up a young Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It.”

On this Saturday morning in Martha Lake, you can find Beth Lyson, 60, of Everett, a regular. The platform is crowded with a dozen adults and children. Some brought lawn chairs.

In many cases on the dock, even after years, many regulars at this informal social club do not know each other’s surnames. It is sometimes a question of someone who no longer comes, the disease having caught up with him.

She started fishing with her husband, Al Lyson, a few years ago. He died in 2018 at age 68. She misses him a lot, remembering how long they were together. “Almost 26 years old.”

After his death, she continued to fish. “It helps me cope,” she said.

The group is thrilled when Lyson pulls up a string of water with a 17-inch trout she caught earlier. “Nice.” “A beauty.”

Some of them know his grief. They don’t make it a topic of discussion. This is not a place for in-depth philosophical discussions, but rather where to launch to avoid getting caught in the water lilies.

This morning, Randy Myers, 41, of Bothell, is as if at the dock. It’s been three years since he kept bumping into Lyson on the dock, but, he said, “I’m not too personal.”

A duty manager at a pest control company, Myers said he shows up at the dock most Saturdays and Sundays until the end of trout season at the lake on Oct. 31.

“It’s relaxing, it takes me away from the hustle and bustle of life,” he said. Myers donates much of the trout he catches to elderly neighbors.

Just then, high up in a tree on the shore, he sees two eagles. “They are huge!” The rest of those on the platform look up. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

To satisfy all those trout anglers, this year in 750 lakes the state will plant more than 2.1 million “catchable” trout and kokanee. The latter is a trout-sized form of sockeye salmon that does not migrate.

Then, to give fishermen the hope of having bigger fish, 147,000 “jumbos” will be planted. These trout are over 14 inches tall and each weigh over 1 pound. For good measure, they also planted 14 million little fish that will grow into adults.

Savvy trout anglers know how to type “wdfw fishing reports” into Google.

This takes them to a link showing when hatchery trout were released into a lake – date, number, sizes (usually 10-11 inches, with a few larger ones).

For Martha Lake, this shows that just over a week before opening day, 6,814 trout were dumped.

Without being stocked, this 61-acre glacial lake fed by two small streams could not sustain the kind of heavy fishing it has, according to the state.

And catching trout is what it’s all about, when you’re David Oliphant, and his wife, Claire Oliphant, and their two boys, Andrew, 5, and Ben, 3.

The couple live in Mill Creek and it was a short drive from Martha Lake on opening day. The father had previously spent a few minutes showing the children how to throw.

In Spokane, “I grew up fishing,” he said. Now he wants to convey that interest.

“No, we didn’t catch any fish. Its good. We had a wonderful time,” Claire said. Since then, they have gone fishing from the dock twice more, also without success.

“We’ll catch something eventually,” she said. She remembers the first fish she caught when she was a child. She was expecting a trout; she caught a catfish. “I was so excited, and he was this really ugly fish.”

Previously, trout fishing in one of these lakes involved the use of a worm, salmon roe, insect larvae, or another type of traditional bait. It is still the case, sometimes.

But, in 1988, Berkley Inc., based in Spirit Lake, Iowa, introduced PowerBait. It quickly became a marketing phenomenon and can be found in almost every sporting goods store.

In a 1990 Seattle Times article, Berkley’s director of fish biology recounted how the company had set up aquariums with different types of fish.

Then, his researchers dropped cotton balls soaked in various ingredients, ranging from mashed worms to known fish food compounds, and observed what the fish did. Along with the compounds that trout really love, Berkley infused them into PowerBait batter at levels “significantly higher than in nature.”

The use of this artificial bait bothers some purists. It even comes in a brown color and a flavor that mimics hatchery food.

“Does PowerBait Fishing ‘cheat'” is a forum topic on Yes, no, maybe hiring a fishing guide is cheating? were part of the answers.

Buzz Ramsey, 72, of Klickitat, is a longtime columnist for Northwest Sportsman who worked for years in the fishing lure industry. He designed different types of lures.

For this story he provided a sketch of the easiest way to use PowerBait in a lake.

Ramsey said of those who disparaged the dough: “It’s a group of naysayers.”

Yes, you can take a boat and use trolling gear to catch a trout.

“A lot of people live in apartments. They don’t have a boat,” Ramsey said.

He said it can be quite overwhelming to walk into a sporting goods store and see all the different types of equipment.

Instead, what a novice can do is buy a simple rod and reel combo, “a few jars of PowerBait” and a few basic items such as hooks and weights,” and it’s time to get started. catch fish”. he said.

Justin Spinelli, a state fisheries biologist in Bellingham, grew up in that town and as a child fished at Whatcom Falls Derby Pond in the town park.

“It was exciting to see a bobber go underwater, to be out there. When I was in high school, I decided I wanted to handle fishing,” he said.

Now married, 42, with an 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son, he takes them to the same pond.

“We usually use decoys. They have become good at throwing and retrieving. My personal philosophy is that if I don’t harvest fish, I don’t use bait,” Spinelli said.

Sometimes they use bait. Spinelli said he fully understands all of those people who show up at lowland lakes.

You get out, you have fun, it’s a nice and cheap day trip. Not so bad.