Eastern Washington: Some of the region's best trout fishing will begin at the end of the month with the lowland lakes season opener on April 26. Randy Osborne, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said most waters around Spokane will be well-stocked and ready to go, including Williams, West Medical, Fishtrap and Clear lakes.
"A couple lakes that should fish well for the opener are West Medical near Medical Lake, and Fish Lake near Cheney," Osborne said. "A new aeration system was installed at West Medical to ease the harsh winter conditions there, and Fish Lake should be in really good shape following the 2012 rehabilitation."
Many trout lakes in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties are also good bets on opening day, said Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist. They include Waitts, Cedar, Rocky and Starvation lakes in Stevens County; Ellen Lake in Ferry County; and Diamond and Marshall lakes in Pend Oreille County.
But anglers don't have to wait until the end of the month to catch fish. There's plenty of good fishing to be had in lakes that opened March 1 or that are open year-round.
A prime example is Amber Lake in southwest Spokane County, which has been giving up some nice rainbow and cutthroat trout under selective gear rules (no bait, artificial flies and lures only, knotless nets). Fishing at Amber Lake is catch-and-release until April 26, when it shifts to a catch-and-keep season with a daily limit of two trout measuring at least 14 inches. Rainbows with clipped adipose fins caught at Amber must be released even after April 26.
Other popular lakes open all month in Spokane County include:
Liberty Lake, which started out slow after the March 1 opener, but should offer good catches of brown and rainbow trout as the season progresses. Once the water warms, it also provides some of the earliest yellow perch and crappie fishing in the area.
Downs Lake, which is planted with "catchable-size" rainbow trout, but should also fish well this month for largemouth bass, yellow perch, and crappie.
Medical Lake, near the town of the same name, has brown and rainbow trout.
In Lincoln County, Coffeepot Lake is producing rainbow trout, mostly on flies. Coffeepot is also under selective gear rules, with a minimum size limit of 18 inches and a daily catch limit of one trout.
Deer Lake in southern Stevens County, which opened March 1, is warming up and producing catches of rainbow and lake trout, with bass, crappie, perch catches not far behind.
Rock Lake, open year-round in Whitman County, is consistently a good spot for catches of both brown and rainbow trout.
At the south end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments on WDFW's Wooten Wildlife Area have been producing nice rainbow catches since their March 1 opener.
Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes are all well-stocked with hatchery trout and warming up as spring advances, said Kari Dingman, manager of the wildlife area.
Anglers are reminded that all fishing rules in the 2013-2014 regulations pamphlet apply throughout the month of April. New rules take effect May 1, 2014 and will be available online and at license dealers throughout the state later this month.
Meanwhile, all 2013-2014 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers over 15 years of age must purchase a 2014-15 license. Licenses and permits are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.