Fishing: WDFW Columbia Basin district fish biologist Chad Jackson of Moses Lake says some of the best and most popular lakes in the state that open April 24 are in Grant County.
"The best of the bunch are the large lakes," Jackson said, "like Park, Blue, Warden, and Deep lakes. But don’t overlook the smaller waters like South Warden, Perch, and Vic Meyers lakes. They offer some excellent fishing, too. "
Jackson says all lakes have been stocked heavily with rainbow trout in preparation for the big opener. Overall, anglers should expect good to excellent fishing for yearling and carryover trout. Catch rates should be around three to four fish per angler at most or all of the opening day lakes.
"Anglers fishing opening day at Warden Lake the last two years have averaged 3.5 fish each," Jackson said. "Warden Lake should fish well again on the opener for fry origin and catchable rainbow trout, now ranging from 11 to 13 inches in length. Carryovers averaged 11.5 percent of the total trout checked in the creel during the last two years and ranged from 15 to 18 inches in length. Hopefully, this trend will occur again for the upcoming opener. Tiger trout are also planted in Warden Lake and should run 12-20 inches by the opener."
South Warden Lake is a much smaller water body at just 24 acres, Jackson says, and those interested in fishing it must make a short hike to the lake from the access site at the south end of Warden Lake. Rainbow trout fry stocked in the spring should average around 12 inches in length. South Warden Lake is best fished from a small hand-carried boat or float tube, but shore fishing can be effective as well.
"Since they were rehabilitated in 2006, Park and Blue lakes have been fishing quite well the past couple years," Jackson said. "Anglers fishing these lakes in 2008 and 2009 averaged near limits of trout, and I expect them to be good again this opening day with three to four trout per angler. Boat anglers usually have higher success than shore anglers at both lakes. Yearling rainbow trout should average a very robust 12 inches with carryovers being at least 15 inches. To sweeten the pot, we’ll be adding a small number of 15 to 20-inch triploid rainbow trout just prior to opening day."
Jackson says Deep Lake is probably the region’s most unpredictable late April opening fishery.
"For some unknown reason," he said, "Deep Lake anglers either average near limits of trout or less than one trout per angler. Hopefully, anglers fishing Deep Lake this year will experience excellent fishing for fry origin and catchable rainbow trout ranging from 11 to 13 inches."
Jackson noted an extra 2,500 catchable rainbow trout and 221 triploids will be planted into Deep Lake just prior to opening day. A total of 5,000 rainbow trout fry and 7,500 catchables were already stocked, plus 40,000 kokanee fry.
"Kokanee can be anywhere from 12 to 16-plus inches," Jackson said, "and they’ll take many of the same fishing gears used to catch rainbow trout. However, the better kokanee fishing usually occurs later in the spring through summer from June through August."
Perch and Vic Meyers lakes are usually pretty constant producers on opening day, Jackson says, both averaging three to four fish per angler. Both are mostly fished from shore, although small hand-carried boats or floats can be used. Yearling trout caught at both fry-stocked lakes usually average around 12 inches in length. The catch rate for carryover trout of 15 inches or greater is considerably better at Vic Meyers Lake.
WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports some of the best production trout waters on the April 24 opener are Pearrygin Lake near Winthrop, Conconully Lake and Reservoir and Alta Lake near Brewster, Fish Lake on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, and Wannacut Lake near Oroville.
Good opening day selective gear waters are Big Twin Lake near Winthrop and Blue Lake on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area. Two popular fly-fishing lakes opening April 24 are Chopaka near Loomis and Aeneas near Tonasket. Rainbow trout are the predominant species in all four of these lakes.
Jateff also reports that Spectacle Lake, which opened April 1, continues to provide good fishing for rainbow trout 11-13 inches.
"Most of these Okanogan County lakes have received some larger rainbows in the one to two pound range," Jateff said, "in addition to their normal fish plants. Year-round Patterson Lake in the Winthrop area will get a plant of catchable size rainbows, as will Leader Lake in the Okanogan area. These two lakes are managed as mixed-species fisheries, so both could also provide some good spiny ray fishing early on."
In Douglas County, Jameson Lake's water quality has improved over the last several weeks, Jateff reports. That means WDFW hatchery crews will be able to stock upwards of 20,000 catchable size rainbow trout in Jameson prior to the April 24 opener.
All details of fish stocking by water and by county are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants and complete information about all lakes is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/prospects/ .
Hunting: WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin of Winthrop expects improved spring wild turkey hunting, which opened April 15 and runs through May 31.
"The mild winter should have translated into less than average winter mortality for turkeys," Fitkin explained. "It also could mean better than average access for hunters. The birds, however, may be more spread out on the landscape this year with more snow-free ground than usual. Overall I am anticipating a modest improvement in turkey harvest over last year in the Okanogan District."
Fitkin reminds turkey hunters they must report hunting activity after the seasons and harvest should be reported within 10 days of taking a turkey. For all the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/game_species/turkey .
Another kind of popular "hunting" in the spring is for the shed antlers of deer. WDFW biologists say deer and other wildlife are still "winter-weary" and should not be unduly disturbed during the increasingly popular quest for "sheds."
WDFW ungulate research biologist Woody Myers says deer are foraging day-long on newly-sprouted grasses and forbs in grasslands, pastures, low or mid elevation forest meadows, and other open areas of southern exposure.
"They’re just now finding the opportunity to reverse the energy deficit they’ve been in all winter," Myers said. "Plus, the does are entering their third trimester of pregnancy, a time of increased energy demands. Any disturbance now might mean the difference between life and death for both adults and youngsters yet to be born. Adults can still be lost as a result of starvation this spring and weight at birth has been correlated to fawn survival."
Wildlife viewing: This is an excellent time to visit the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge south of Moses Lake in Grant County. Hundreds of bird species are now gracing the refuge and surrounding area with spring mating and nesting underway. It’s great place to drive around to see green-winged and cinnamon teal, northern pintails, gadwall, American wigeon, redhead, lesser scaup, common goldeneye, bufflehead, ruddy duck, black-crowned night heron, American avocet, least sandpiper, common snipe, Caspian and Forster’s terns, bank, cliff and barn swallows, rock and marsh wrens, savannah, grasshopper and white-crowned sparrows, red-winged, yellow-headed and Brewer’s blackbirds , and many other species. To learn more and plan a trip, visit the refuge's website at http://www.fws.gov/columbia/ .
Some recently returning migrant song birds are still looking for nest sites. Secondary cavity nesters - those that will use, but not create for themselves, nests in tree cavities - will readily use man-made nest boxes, including bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches and swallows . For detailed information about building and placing bird nest boxes, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/backyard/nestboxes.htm .