Some trout flipped and flopped on the surface, bursting with new life in a giant, new world.
Most, however, seemed a little uncertain at what to do with themselves. They huddled in the shallows, dazed, until David Whitmer stepped in the water and gently prodded them along with a broom to get them out to greater depths.
“It’s a big event for them. They get a little disoriented,” said Whitmer, a fish hatchery specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We try to help get them oriented to their new environment.”
Whitmer and Will Irwin drove two tanker trucks full of rainbow trout to Whidbey Island Monday to make fishing a little more alluring at two South Whidbey lakes in time for Saturday’s season opener.
Deer Lake in Clinton and Goss Lake in Langley are the only lakes on the island managed by the state that have defined fishing seasons. The other two managed lakes on Whidbey, Cranberry Lake at Deception Pass State Park and Lone Lake in Langley, are open year-round.
Deer Lake received a planting of 492 triploid trout about a pound and a half apiece Monday, while Goss Lake got 4,000 catchable-sized trout, which are about a half pound and between 8 and 12 inches in length.
The trout came from the state’s Arlington hatchery.
Since March, the state amped up trout stocking leading to the state’s lowland lakes opener, April 23.
“This time of year, we’re on the road nonstop,” said Whitmer. “There’s a big push two weeks prior to opening day.”
Upon arriving at a lake, the tanker truck backs up into position and releases the fish through a large hose that sends the trout cascading into the water.
Deer Lake already had received a planting of 8,000 catchable-sized trout last week. Cranberry Lake got 6,000 trout in early April and Lone Lake got just over 3,000 in late March.
Anglers must follow selective gear rules at Lone Lake and may only keep one trout per day that must be no smaller than 18 inches. At the other three lakes on the island, the daily limit is five trout with no size restrictions.
A state freshwater fishing license is required.
Another popular lake not far from Whidbey is Pass Lake, located along Highway 20 on the north side of Deception Pass bridge.
Pass Lake is a catch-and-release, fly-fishing only lake where motors aren’t allowed.
Although they’re around trout everyday, Whitmer and Irwin still enjoy getting out with a pole and chasing fish during their time away from work. Irwin knows where he’d go on Whidbey.
“I’d definitely be going to Deer and going after those triploids,” he said.