By Hannah Pennebaker
Opening day of fishing is nearly upon us at last. Many of us grew up fishing for stocked rainbow trout, so there is always a certain nostalgia associated with that day. Rainbows are one of my favorite fish to catch, since they are delicious on the smoker and put up a surprisingly good fight on ultralight tackle. Opening day is fun for the entire family!
There are two main ways to catch recently stocked trout: still fishing and trolling. Soaking dough baits that resemble hatchery pellets is one of the most effective techniques. Tossing out spinners and spoons can be deadly once the fish have acclimated to natural forage. Floating a worm, salmon egg, or corn kernel under a bobber can work well if the fish are near the surface. As for trolling, you can fish leaded line, use downriggers, or side plane. I highly recommend getting your 2 pole endorsement and running 2 downriggers and 2 side planers; the hit on a side planer is always exciting! Old Goat lures, Elgin God's Tooth spoons, and spinners all work well for trolling lures. For extra flash, don't forget a dodger or lake troll. Scent can also set you apart from the crowd on opening day. It's no secret that trout love garlic, anise, and shrimp scents. Now that we've gone over some of the basics on how to catch rainbows, let's talk about 10 lakes you can fish on opening day in Western Washington.
This lake is as dangerous as it is beautiful. Caution is advised here as the lake is dotted with stumps. It was formed after lahar from Mt. Rainier blocked Ohop Creek around 500 years ago. There are only a few houses around the lake, and it has an amazing view of the mountain on a clear day, making it a great place to enjoy the scenery of Western Washington. It was recently stocked with around 25,000 rainbow trout, so if you're willing to dodge the stumps and lose some gear, you should leave with a nice stringer of fish. Try trolling in a counter clockwise circle around the boat launch to catch the freshly planted trout. They get in the habit of circling their tank clockwise, so you should pass over more of them this way. Green wedding rings and dodgers work well here.
This aptly named lake is on the smaller side, but boasts some huge rainbows and nice kokanee on opening day. It's advisable to hit the lake early in the morning, as power boaters dominate it in the afternoon. Some nice bass and yellow perch can also be had, once you've limited out on trout. I'm a fan of soaking white marshmallows and dough bait here. It's a small, but deep lake. Try anchoring in different spots and adjusting the length of your leader until you find where the schools are. Fish finders can help you locate where in the water column they are. Because this lake is so clear, I've noticed they tend to stay close to the bottom when there is a lot of activity.
This lake has a pay to fish dock and 2 boat launches situated at opposite ends of the lake. The Rainbow Resort grows and releases their own trout into the lake. Downriggers are not needed on this shallow lake, and may actually prove detrimental due to the massive weeds on the bottom. This lake was also planted with 300 large cutthroat trout last month. Try trolling a red wedding ring and a nightcrawler around the western side of the lake.
This lake was just planted with over 20,000 nice rainbow trout. This is a larger lake and it can take some time to find the fish. I typically troll around the entire lake at around 15 or 20 feet on the wire until I mark some fish on my fish finder. There are some large holdovers in this lake, topping 20 inches. You can't go wrong with trolling spoons on a 15 to 20 inch leader here. 50/50 gold/silver patterns paired up with a similarly colored dodger work well.
Nestled between Fort Lewis and Lakewood, this large and deep lake is a good producer of rainbows and kokanee. Bill's Boathouse has rental boats and a pay to fish dock. Orange dough baits and gold spinners work well on sunny days. Try trolling at around 1.7 MPH around the VA hospital.
This lake has a pay to fish dock and boat rental station near the boat launch. This lake is on the smaller side but is usually stocked with plenty of sizeable rainbows. Anchor about 30 feet away from the lillypads and fan cast until you locate the schools. There's a good chance of hooking onto a black crappie, yellow perch, or bluegill here as well. Since the lake is small and usually populated with other fishermen, still fishing is the name of the game.
Shore bound anglers and boaters alike often have great success at this lake. Long and narrow, Ohop teems with yellow perch, black crappie, and rainbow trout. The crappie here are so plentiful that I've caught several while trolling for trout! You can park along the highway on the north end of the lake to fish several shore access points. The fish tend to stack up by the boat launch when they are first planted, and then move deeper.
This is one of the most beautiful lakes in the state, but it can get busy around opening day. The state plants around 100,000 rainbow trout fry in the fall, and thousands of adults in the spring. The fry grow up in a natural environment eating natural forage, so some anglers say they taste better than the pellet fed hatchery fish. This is one of the best lakes in the state for trout fishing. Cutthroat and brown trout are also caught on occasion. There is a small dock at the resort, but unfortunately there is not much else for shore access. This lake offers one of your best chances to land a 5+ pound trout.
If you've never heard of this lake, you're not alone. This is a hidden treasure near Yelm that's loaded with trout and channel catfish.
This is one of the most popular lakes in Pierce County for a good reason; the trout fishing can be excellent, and it's a large, open lake. Downriggers and a fish finder can really help you locate the schools if fishing is tough. There is ample shore access at Spanaway Lake Park, and a nice concrete boat launch (although there is a fee). 15-20,000 trout are usually planted here, and there is plenty of room for them to spread out. Try working the contour lines on the deeper northern side of the lake.
Remember to check your rules and regulations before you go fishing. The statewide rainbow trout limit is 5, and any fish caught with bait (whether it is kept or released) count towards your limit. As a quick reminder since game wardens are usually very active on opening day, every person on your boat must have a life jacket, and any boat 10 horsepower or above must be registered. While there is no limit on crappie and yellow perch in general, some lakes do have restrictions on crappie to protect their natural populations. So go out there and catch your limit, and don't forget to post a report on Northwest Fishing Reports!