by Jason Brooks, April 01, 2018
Most trout anglers in the Evergreen state wait for the last Saturday of April which is the general Lowland Lakes opener. But there is no need to wait as there are plenty of lakes to fish right now. One thing the angler needs to remember when fishing early in Spring is that the gear and how to fish for trout might be a little different than later in the month and especially later in Spring and Summer. Let’s first take a look at some tips and tactics before discussing some specific lakes.
Trolling is the best way to locate where the fish are and to catch larger trout.
Several lakes are actually planted in the fall and the fish have adapted to the natural food sources that the body of water offers. Trolling flies, especially the Mack’s Smile Blade Fly, Carey Special, Whooly Buggers, Leeches, and other attractors will lead you to the fish. Small lures such as the Cripplelure’s or Rooster Tails are also great ways to search for trout and catch any hold overs from last year’s planting as these fish tend to feed on other forage fish in the lake. The Cripplelure was from Shasta Tackle Company and now that Mack’s Lure has acquired Shasta this lure is found wherever Mack’s Lure products are sold. It is one of the best lures on the market for trout as the body of the lure holds scent really well. Top scents for trout are Pro-Cure’s Super Gels in Rainbow Trout, Trout & Kokanee Magic, and Crawfish.
When trolling be sure to watch your depth as this will show you where the thermocline is if your electronics aren’t the type that shows you on your screen. Be sure to vary the rod depths until you start catching fish. Once you start getting bites then adjust all of the other rods in the boat to that depth. Most lakes in Washington allow the use of two poles per person if you purchase the endorsement but make sure to check the regulations for the lake you are fishing. If you can use two poles per person then set up the boat to fish multiple rods. This means mounting rod holders at the bow of the boat as well as the middle and stern. If you are not using downriggers then be sure to put out the shallow rods at the front of the boat and the deeper running rods at the back. It also helps if you have varied rod lengths and use the longer ones up front to get the lures away from the boat and the shorter ones in the back since they are deeper.
Speed is a big factor when trolling. The fish are cold blooded so if the water temperature is cold you need to slow down. I rarely fish over 1.2 mph when trout fishing, especially early in the Spring and often fish as slow as .5 mph. One of the best attractor lures to fish when trolling slow is the “Flash Lites” by Mack’s lure. The mylar wings allow you to fish at very slow speeds. Trailing behind the gang troll use a Double Whammy Wedding Ring also from Mack’s as this lure, tipped with a piece of worm and some corn soaked overnight in Pro-Cure’s Bloody Tuna Anise Super Gel will get bit by any trout in the area. It is probably the most effective trout trolling set-up there is.
If you are trolling flies then be sure to go very slow. It is best to use an electric trolling motor on the lowest setting that barely pushes your boat. This might get a bit mundane but you are there to catch fish, and aquatic bugs aren’t speed demons. One of the best early Spring flies to troll is
the Mack’s Smile Blade Fly which is a whooly bugger with a small smile blade at the front. The flash attracts the trout with the best colors being brown, black or olive green. If you have a pontoon or float tube then fly fishing is one of the best ways you can use these small watercraft and catch fish. Strip in black leeches, or better yet, find a cove or warm water area such as a mud flat, and use a Chironomid under a strike indicator. When using this technique put on a dropper and use two Chironomids or one and another wet fly such as a gold bead hares ear. I like to run a size 12 Chironomid and a size 14 hares ear with the Chironomid being the bottom fly since they emerge out of the mud on warm days.
If you plan on catch and release fishing this time of year then be sure to use a long handled rubber net. The fish are just coming off of winter and are very aggressive feeders. The best way to protect them is to land the quickly and keep them in the water. The rubber net helps them keep their protective slime. Several companies make a de-hooker where you don’t even need to handle the fish. Most have a loop on the end that has an opening and you can slide it down your leader and push the hook out from the fish’s jaw. If you can’t find one then try stopping at your local fly shop as they should carry several varieties. It is a great way to keep from handling trout so they can be caught another day.
Anglers should check out their Fish and Game Department websites to see which lakes are open and their regulations. Also be sure to look at the planting reports and see if the lakes have been recently planted. For “planter” trout-ones that have been recently released-be sure to fish the top water column near the surface. The water is warmer here as well as these fish have been fed from above all of their adult life so they tend to stay near the surface for a few weeks after planting and until they discover other food sources in the lake. It is not hard to catch planter trout and I find it more rewarding to target the hold overs which are much larger and put up a good fight.
If you live in the Puget Sound region and are wondering which lakes are top producers in early April here are a few to give a try. Starting with Spanaway Lake in Pierce County. A public park offers great bank fishing as well as a boat launch. It received 17,000 rainbows in March and most will be found near the boat launch. This lake offers some good bass fishing as well along the docks of the homes. For larger trout head to the deeper waters to the middle of the lake or give the southwest portion of the lake a try as it tends to warm up. The south end is a large flat filled with milfoil and is un-fishable.
Black Lake near Olympia is fairly large at 573 acres. You are allowed two poles with the endorsement and there is a public boat launch at the WDFW access site. Be sure to have a discover pass or your WDFW access pass visible in your vehicle window. This lake received nearly 20,000 rainbows in late March which means that it is good for planter trout right now. Be sure to troll the top of the water column for the next few weeks and then switch it up to deeper depths as we near the end of the month.
Lake Meridian is located in the city of Kent and offers a public park as well as public boat launches. This is a great lake to take out a car topper boat or a float tube as well. The lake does offer Kokanee fishing along with bass and perch if the trout aren’t biting. But the trout should be biting with 12,000 recently planted.
Early April is a great time to get out for some trout. There is no need to wait until the end of the month with several year around lakes recently planted. Most boat ramps are empty and the lakes won’t have any other recreational users during the cooler weeks of April. Be sure to pick up a new fishing license as they are valid from April 1st through March 31st. Most anglers forget this when fishing early April. Load up the boat and trout gear and go fishing now!
Jason Brooks hails from North-Central Washington. The son of a fishing guide, Jason is an avid hunter, angler, outdoor photographer and published writer. He resides in Puyallup with his wife and two boys.