The trout will be sparse

Fishermen taking to South Whidbey lakes for the April 30 trout opener will likely not get as many strikes at their hooks as in the past, but the fish they do catch should be bigger than usual.

Cut throat trout stocked in Goss Lake in 2004 and almost 593 oversized, sterile triploid rainbow trout in Lone Lake will be the big prizes on opening day for fishers both savvy and lucky.

Unlike in past years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is not heavily stocking Whidbey Island lakes in 2005, bringing just the triploids to Lone Lake. Otherwise, anyone casting a line into Deer and Lone Lake on South Whidbey will be going after existing stocks, planted prior to 2004. Last year, Fish and Wildlife stocked Goss Lake with 10,032 cut throats. Those which survived last year’s fishing season and natural predators, including eagles and herons, are expected to be 7 to 10 inches long this month, according to promotional material put out by Fish and Wildlife.

The lack of stocking may have something to do with the declining popularity of Whidbey Island as a fishing destination. Dave Johnson, a Clinton resident who has been fishing in Deer Lake for 34 years, said opening-day crowds are far smaller than they used to be.

“It used to be you could almost walk across the boats on Deer Lake,” he said.

Checking out the fish on a visit to the lake last week, Johnson saw several large fish in the water, but noted few fish breaking the surface of the water. In the past, when Fish and Wildlife stocked the lake with fish, thousands of young fish spent their first days in the lake at the surface.

“We didn’t see the normal amount of small ones,” Johnson said.

The fish that remain in area lakes will likely find themselves under a solid assault from local fishers, as licenses are being bought up at an increasing rate as opening day approaches. Frank Parra, owner of Sebo’s Do-It Center hardware store at Bayview, estimated that he sold 350 fishing licenses in the first 14 days of the month. Since the state moved the start of freshwater fishing license sales in 2004 from the traditional Jan. 1 to April 1, Parra said he expects to do the bulk of his license sales in the two days leading up to the opener.

“We will do so many license sales, It’s cuckoo,” he said Thursday.

With this week’s halibut opener, Jim’s Hardware in Clinton was seeing more traffic in saltwater licenses than freshwater this week. But store owner Jim Harwell said he, like Parra, expects freshwater license sales to spike near the end of April.

This year, a freshwater fishing license for anyone ages 16 to 69 costs $21.90. Children 15 and under may fish without a license. Licenses for fishers 70 and over cost $5.48. Out of state fishers pay the highest license fee, $43.80.

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