Spring has sprung, at least some of the time. Then there are the odd days when you get pummeled with hail and wet snow while chasing early season bass on Terrell or have to don fleece gloves on Pass Lake through the entirety of a day as ambient air temperatures straddle the fence between liquids and solids. I certainly like fishing out of a Dogfish Boat or pram this time of year and keeping the numbness out of my lower extremities. The good news is that fishing is finally happening on a somewhat consistent basis, even if it now competes with time spent mowing the lawn. It's mostly a lake show right now and there's some good, if not great fish to be had both locally and on the other side of the hills. If you're a river dweller, BC's got some open options while our moving water options outside of a long drive south, east or west remain somewhat grim in the greater Puget Sound area. We get roughly 1.7 million phone calls and questions a day about whether the Skagit is open this season or not. The portion below the Memorial Highway Bridge to the mouth is open if you want to do the cutthroat/bull trout thing. The much anticipated steelhead catch and release season that everyone was all fired up about earlier this year is perpetually in limbo. It's a safe bet that if it hasn't happened yet, it's unlikely we'll see it this year.
If you'd like a connection to Skagit steelhead that doesn't involve sore-lipping them and hanging on for the ride of your life, our North Sound TU Chapter is doing steelhead spawner surveys at least through May on some of the middle Skagit tributaries. As much as I do enjoy wandering the creek bed, peering into the depths and talking to myself, it's great to have some company along for the experience. The timeline is a little helter-skelter based on water conditions and mostly my eclectic schedule but if you're flexible and want to participate email me and I'll get you on the short list to investigate what's happening out there.
On a bright note, WDFW just announced our upcoming salmon fisheries for 2018. Whether you pursue salmon on the fly or not, these fisheries have constricted our ability to fish for gamefish species in a number of rivers like the Skagit and Sauk over the last few seasons. The good news is that it looks like we'll have an Area 9 coho fishery once again this year through September as well as fisheries on the Skagit too. For more detail on our salmon season, check the WDFW NOF announcement on their website. In the meantime, get out there and enjoy some of those nicer days on the water.
Many of our open lakes have been fishing well over the last several weeks. The water temps in the lowlands hover in the 46-50 degree range and trout are active and feeding. Save for a few off days here and there, Pass has been fishing pretty consistently of late, with various chironomid pupa patterns producing, along with black, brown or olive leech imitations. If you’re fishing chironomids, depth can be key. Start near the bottom and work your way up in 1-2 foot increments with your presentation. We’ve been finding a lot of active fish in the mid water column lately. Effective patterns have been Olive/Black Ribbed UT Chironomid, Black/Red Rib, the Vidmid, Grey Anti-Static Black or Red Rib and the Chromie, mostly in sizes 14-16. Leech patterns like the Hale Bopp, BH Mini Leech, Ruby Eyed Leech or Black/Red Simi Seal Leech on slow sink lines are getting it done as well, is are Balanced Leeches under an indicator. The rainbows at Pass are very well-conditioned and strong this year, averaging 15-17″.
Squalicum is on a similar program, with a variety of chironomids and really small black Slight Leeches working well. As water temps warm a bit look for bass and bluegill to become more aggressive and enter the mix on lakes like Terrell, Fazon and Wiser. Small leech and damsel imitations often work well when fished in amongst the shoreline structure. April 28th marks the general lowland lake opener for Washington, an annual frenzy of dumping truckloads of hatchery trout into a large swath of public waterways for anglers of all walks to indulge in. While you can “match the hatch” and catch plenty of fish, you’ll often do better to toss attractor patterns like Carey Specials in peacock, red or olive, Pop’s Buggers, BH Olive Woolly Buggers and other similar patterns. Keep your presentations near the surface for the first several weeks following the opener as this is where the fish tend to be. If you want to have some fun on the surface, Parachute Adams and Tom Thumbs work quite well. The combination of longer days and lots of open nearby stillwaters makes getting out on the water after work pretty manageable for lots of folks.
South of the BC border, the Skagit below the Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon down to the forks has been producing cutthroat and bull trout when the flows are down and visibility is decent. It’s also really the only moving water open right now short of driving several hours. Chum and pink fry patterns, BH Black, Olive or White Woolly Buggers, BH Rolled Muddlers in Olive or Gold and Kiwi Muddlers are working for a few fish. Much of the Olympic Peninsula shuts down for steelhead by April 15th, but the Quillayute system rivers like the Sol Duc remain open through the end of the month. To the north, the Vedder continues to crank out some wild steelhead, as well as a few coming out of the Squamish. This is a great time of year to exploit the fry outmigration on the Squamish, Stave, Harrison and Lillooet Rivers in BC as bulls, cutthroat and resident rainbow trout hunt down an easy meal. The general river opener this year falls on the Saturday before Memorial Day this year so we’re not too far off from having more options.
Hood Canal and the South Sound continue to shine for sea run cutthroat, and we’re beginning to find a few more showing up closer to home in the North Sound. Fry imitating patterns like Chum Babies, Epoxy Fry and even Marabou Clousers have been pretty steady as we’re seeing more and more juvenile salmon fry congregating near the beaches. That’s not to say you won’t also pick up fish on attractor patterns like BH Olive Woolly Buggers, CH Squids in olive or white and small Gurglers, but it’s well worth your while to have a variety of fry patterns on hand through the end of May as this remains the primary food source for foraging cutthroat this time of year. On the home front, the sea run bull trout fishery has been spotty along Whidbey and Camano Islands but a few fish are coming to hand on large Deceivers, Half and Halfs and Stinger Clousers when they happen to be around.