Beginners guide to trout fishing — helpful tips for a successful day on the water

Spreading out trout plants creates a buzz of excitement throughout most of the year — especially during spring

Trout fishing is a fun way to get kids, friends or the entire family hooked on an exciting spring-time outdoor activity. Pictured is a youth showing off a rainbow trout caught at Duck Lake near Ocean Shores. (Photo courtesy of Jack Meyers)

If you’re itching to go fishing, then early-spring is one of the best times to take advantage of the many year-round lakes already teeming with rainbow trout.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) hatchery staff have been busy since last month planting rainbow trout for anglers to get a head-start on spring fishing.

“People enjoy the many different types of trout fisheries, and we stock a lot of trout in lakes across all six regions,” said Steve Caromile, inland fish manager for the WDFW. “The early spring opportunities allows someone to get out and have fun during a time when it’s not raining as much and not as dark and gloomy outside.”

“The year-round trout fishery is just one of the many diverse tools we have in our toolbox,” Caromile said. “By spreading out trout plants across certain time periods, it creates a buzz of excitement throughout most of the year especially during spring.”

Anglers can find a year-round lake to fish in each of the 39 counties across Washington where millions of catchable-size trout averaging around 10- to 12-inches long are being planted.

To sweeten the deal is more than 147,000 “jumbo” trout weighing 1 pound or more are destined to several year-round lakes. Millions of other fish were planted one or two years ago as juvenile size fish and should be in the 8- to 12-inch range or even bigger.

Anglers try their luck at Green Lake in North Seattle, a popular year-round fishing location, that was recently planted with trout. (Photo courtesy of Andy Walgamott)

“Our stocking of lakes has been going fast and furious over the past few weeks, and it is going to get even busier for our hatchery staff as we head into the next couple of months,” said Justin Spinelli, a WDFW Puget Sound regional fish biologist.

Spring is usually the best time of year to catch trout when water temperatures are cooler, and the fish tend to be more active and willing to bite.

While the emphasis is on trout a good number of these lakes also provide decent catches of warmwater fish like yellow perch, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish.

How to catch trout

The type of fishing gear to use is a simple lightweight, limber rod in the 6- to 8-foot range, and a medium-sized spinning reel with 6- to 8-pound test monofilament fishing line.

Add one or two size 8 or 9 egg sinkers to the mainline with a round rubber bumper attached above a small barrel swivel. Then tie an 18- to 30-inch leader with 3- to 8-pound test monofilament fishing line to a size 8 or 10 egg or worm hook. Some anglers avoid the inexpensive store-bought leaders and prefer to tie their own.

A happy angler holds up a big trout. (Photo courtesy of James McCurry)

The most popular bait is soft, moldable dough baits, which come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.

The best fail-safe choices for bait or lures are worms, maggots, salmon eggs, scented marshmallows or small spinners, jigs, and spoons.

From a boat try trolling a gang-flasher with a bait laced to a piece of scented dough bait or salmon egg or a single yellow corn. You can also use a small spoon, spinner, or a weightless marabou fly.

From the shoreline cast a bobber and if the fish are deeper then go without a bobber and let the bait hang a few feet off the bottom. When using a bobber place a couple split shot weights to your leader and bait. Adjust the bobber setup to the proper depth depending on the where the fish are congregating. Casting and slowly retrieving a small spoon or rooster tail from the bank also finds its share of trout.

Freshly stocked trout tend to lurk just under the surface in 3 to 5 feet of water and tend to stay in the same vicinity of where the hatchery trucked unloaded them into the lake. It usually takes a week or two before they eventually spread out and move to deeper sections of a lake.

Thousands of rainbow trout are being planted by WDFW hatchery staff into hundreds of statewide lakes to boost spring and early summer fishing prospects. (Photo by WDFW)

Remember a new fishing season is underway, so make sure to purchase your 2022–2023 recreational hunting and fishing licenses. The 2021–2022 licenses expired on March 31. Recreational licenses are available by phone at 866–246–9453 or online. Anyone age 15 and older must have a valid license. A Discover Pass is required to park a vehicle at many state lands, including the state park system, WDFW lands, and the Department of Natural Resources lands.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program would also like to remind angler to take a boater safety education course, if you haven’t already, to be prepared for spring and summer. In Washington, boaters who operate a vessel with a 15-horsepower engine or greater must carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course.

These trout were all caught on a red glitter dough bait at a Skagit County lake. (Photo courtesy of Mark Yuasa)

Lastly, keep in mind that wearing a flotation device saves lives. Drowning is one of the leading causes of fatalities especially among young children.

The statewide lowland lakes trout opener is April 23–24 and coincides with the WDFW Trout Derby from April 23 through Oct. 31. This season, hundreds of lakes will receive tagged trout and individuals who catch one are eligible for donated prizes in the derby. In 2021, about 55 percent of the tagged trout were turned in for prizes. Click on the trout derby link for more information.

(Here is a statewide county-by-county list of year-round lakes receiving catchable-size rainbow trout. Many plants occur in spring on a weekly basis but the timing of when each lake receives fish varies month-to-month. Visit the WDFW website for a complete stocking schedule.)

Asotin County — Golf Course Pond, 15,500; Headgate Pond, 1,000; West Evans Pond, 15,500; and Silcott Pond, 1,000.

A smiling youth poses with a large rainbow trout. (Photo courtesy of Brian Dickison)

Columbia County — Blue, 16,000; Curl, 8,000 (opens Saturday before Memorial Day); Dayton Pond (open for juvenile youth only), 1,400; Deer, 3,000; Orchard Pond, 1,600; Rainbow, 15,300; Spring, 11,000; and Watson, 12,000.

Ferry County — Ferry, 2,500; and Fish, 450.

Pend Oreille County — Leo, 2,200.

Spokane County — Bear, 1,500; Clear, 9,500; Liberty, 4,000.

Stevens County — Deer, 3,500; Gillette, 2,700; Heritage, 4,000; Jumpoff Joe, 4,700; Sherry, 1,450; and Thomas, 9,000.

Walla Walla County — Bennington, 17,000; Fish Hook Park Pond, 4,000; Hood Park Pond, 6,000; Jefferson Park Pond, 3,000; Lions Park Pond, 400; and Quarry Pond, 18,000.

Whitman County — Garfield Pond, 2,000; Gilchrist Pond, 1,000; Pampa Pond, 6,000; and Riparia Pond, 500.

Chelan County — Fish, 15,000; and Roses, 2,000.

Douglas County — Big Bow Pond, 7,000Hammond Pond, 4,000; Pit Pond (Kids), 4,000; and Putters Pond (Rock Island #4), 10,000.

Grant County — Upper Caliche, 1,000; Canal, 3,000; Corral, 3,500; Heart, 1,000; Lenice, 2,337; Martha, 1,500; Nunally, 2,750; and Windmill, 2,500.

Okanogan County — Aspen, 75; Beaver (Big), 300; Beaver (Little), 100; Bonaparte, 400; Buck, 350; Campbell, 300; Cougar, 150; Dibble, 50; Ell, 75; Green (Big), 500; Green (Little), 150; Hess, 200; Molson, 1,000; Sidley, 2,000; Spectacle, 10,000 and 5,200 tiger trout; and Starzman (Middle), 75.

This young girl holds up a rainbow trout she caught from the shoreline of a lake. (Photo courtesy of Brian Thompson)

Benton County — Columbia Park Pond, 6,000.

Franklin County — Dalton, 16,000; and Marmes Pond, 1,500.

Yakima County — Clear, 17,225; Dog, 7,000; Firing Center Pond, 300; Granger Pond, 1,400; Indian Flat Pond, 800; I-82 Pond #1, 1,500; I-82 Pond #2, 2,000; I-82 Pond #3, 1,000; I-82 Pond #4, 6,450; I-82 Pond #6, 5,950; Lost, 3,500; Myron, 500; Rotary, 7,620; Reflection Pond Sarge Hubbard Park (juvenile youth only), 6,600; Tieton Ranger Pond, 1,000; and Tims Pond, 5,500.

Island County — Cranberry, 10,000; and Lone, 3,500.

King County — Alice, 3,600; Angle, 6,200; Beaver, 6,500; Bitter, 1,500; Boren, 1,500; Deep, 3,600; Desire, 8,000; Dolloff, 2,000; Echo, 1,000; Fenwick, 1,800; Fish, 1,500; Fivemile, 3,000; Green, 10,500; Haller, 1,300; Holm, 1,700; Killarney, 2,500; Meridian, 11,800; Morton, 5,000; Rattlesnake, 3,500; Sawyer, 2,000; Shadow, 4,300; Spring, 6,800; Star, 3,300; Trout, 1,800; and Twelve, 4,000.

Kittitas County — Cooper, 3,000; Easton Ponds, 6,100; Fio Rito, 9,000; Kiwanas Pond, 1,800; Lavendar, 4,500; Mattoon, 9,000; McCabe Pond, 3,000; Milk Pond, 300; Naneum Pond (Juvenile youth only), 2,400; Quartz Creek Pond, 600; and Woodhouse Pond, 300.

San Juan County — Egg, 600; and Hummel, 1,000.

Skagit County — Clear, 6,000; Grandy, 5,300; Pass, 500; and Vogler, 1,000.

Snohomish County — Ballinger, 7,600; Blackmans, 6,700; Cassidy, 3,500; Chain, 1,000; Flowing, 7,400; Gissberg Ponds (North), 1,500; Gissberg Ponds (South), 3,000; Goodwin, 6,000; Ketchum, 2,000; Loma, 1,500; Lost, 1,500; Martha (AM), 6,700; Martha (Warm Beach), 3,000; Panther, 1,500; Roesiger, 6,000; Shoecraft, 4,800; Silver, 6,700; and Tye, 3,500.

Whatcom County — Squalicum, 1,500; and Terrell, 2,000.

A youth proudly holds up a big brown trout caught at Mineral Lake in Lewis County, which opens April 23 through Oct. 31. Mineral is being planted with 32,850 rainbow trout plus 5,000 brown trout in April to boost fishing. It was also planted with 100,000 fingerling trout in the fall of 2021. A private group and local fishing resort also spices it up with trout released from a net each year. (Photo courtesy of Damien Panich)

Clark County — Battleground, 26,633 plus 3,000 cutthroat; Klineline Pond, 31,600 plus 3,000 cutthroat; and Lacamas, 15,000.

Cowlitz County — Horseshoe, 18,461; Kress, 13,711 and 2,000 browns; Merwin, 93,000 kokanee; Sacajawea, 16,644 and 2,000 browns; and Silver, 9,200.

Klickitat County — Maryhill Pond, 900.

Lewis County — Chambers, 1,000; Fort Borst Park Pond, 7,800; Scanewa, 20,000; Long, 1,000; Knuppenburg, 1,000; Mayfield, 72,000; Plummer, 3,000; South Lewis County Park Pond, 8,000; and Swofford Pond, 20,000.

Skamania County — Council, 3,331; Goose, 6,000 plus 9,500 cutthroat; Icehouse, 6,000; Little Ash Lake, 4,500; Takhlakh, 3,332; and Tunnel, 2,000.

Clallam County — Carrie Park Pond, 2,800; and Lincoln Park Pond, 1,500.

Grays Harbor County — Duck, 4,700; Sylvia, 4,500; Vance Creek Pond #1 (open for juvenile youth only), 1,550; Vance Creek Pond #2, 2,000; and Swano, 500.

Jefferson County — Leland, 7,000.

Kitsap County — Island, 2,000.

Mason County — Island, 4,400; Jiggs, 500; Lost, 4,900; Spencer, 12,644; Tee, 2,700; Trails End, 3,700; and Twin, 760.

Pacific County — Black, 13,100; Cases Pond (juvenile youth only), 3,400; South Bend Mill Pond (juvenile youth only), 600; Snag (Radar Pond), 4,950; and Western (Radar Pond), 4,950.

Pierce County — American, 19,500; Bonney, 1,000; Bradley, 5,000; Florence, 4,000; Harts, 1,346; Kapowsin, 30,000; Louise, 1,500; Ohop, 5,000; Spanaway, 18,000; Steilacoom, 5,000; Tanwax, 5,000; Wapato, 4,000; and Whitman, 2,000.

Thurston County — Black, 40,000; St. Clair, 24,000; Lawrence, 25,000; Long, 29,200; Long’s Pond (juvenile youth only), 4,600; and Offutt, 5,000.

Spring is a special time to get out and try your luck at catching a trout plus you might even find some solitude along with good action. (Photo courtesy of Jason Wettstein)

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.