North Central Washington: April 1 fishing opener: Dozens of the region's lakes open to fishing April 1, including many in Adams and Grant counties of the Columbia Basin. These include lakes on the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in the Pillar-Widgeon Chain (Pillar, Snipe, Cattail, Gadwall, Poacher, Shoveler, Lemna, Hourglass, Sago, and Widgeon lakes), Upper and Lower Hampton lakes, and North and South Teal lakes.
Chad Jackson, WDFW Columbia Basin district fish biologist, says North Teal Lake should be especially good this year with rainbow trout in the 12 to 20-inch range. Access at North Teal is good for both shore and boat anglers, with a simple gravel launch suitable for small boats. Both of the Hampton lakes should also offer good opportunity for 12-inch rainbows.
"Often some of the best fishing on the April first opener is at Dry Falls Lake in the north end of Grant County near Coulee City," Jackson said. "Dry Falls is a selective gear rule fishery with an internal combustion motor prohibition and a one fish daily catch limit, so there's a lot of catch-and-release fishing. Rainbows in the 14 to 16-inch range are common at Dry Falls, but there are also some nice brown and tiger trout."
For anglers interested in warmwater species fishing, Hutchinson and Shiner lakes on the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in Adams County also open on April 1. These connected lakes have lots of nice sized largemouth bass and are best fished from a small boat, canoe, or float tube/pontoon boat. Internal combustion motors are prohibited.
Two Okanogan County lakes that also open April 1 are Spectacle Lake, just south of Loomis, and Washburn Island Pond, a diked oxbow lake off the Columbia River near Fort Okanogan State Park, east of Brewster.
Ryan Fortier, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist, says anglers can usually expect to catch rainbows in the 10- to 14-inch range at Spectacle. Washburn Island Pond is a warmwater fishery that provides opportunities for largemouth bass, bluegill, and the occasional channel catfish. Combustible engines may not be used while fishing Washburn.
Other Okanogan County rainbow trout fisheries shift to catch-and-release only fishing under selective gear rules on April 1. These include Campbell, Davis, and Rat lakes.
"With a more snowpack this year, ice at Okanogan County lakes is melting out much later than last year," Fortier said. "While late-melting ice may require patience from anglers, the generous quantities of water at many Okanogan lakes should provide improved conditions compared to last year's hot, dry summer."
April 22 fishing opener: The single biggest statewide fishing season opener of the year includes some northcentral region hot spots.
In Chelan County, try Wapato Lake and the Wenatchee Heights lakes: Clear, Black, Lilly and Beehive. Travis Maitland, WDFW Chelan/Douglas district fish biologist, says these lakes have been, or will be, stocked mostly with rainbow trout and should be "fast" fishing for 12-inch range trout as well as a few larger "carryovers" and "jumbos" available.
"Look for the Wenatchee Heights lakes in the catchable trout stocking reports posted on our website twice a week now," Maitland said. "A cool start to spring, coupled with an above-average snow pack, may cause impassable road conditions for our fish planting trucks, so it's possible these lakes won't get stocked until after the April 22 opener. But as soon as road conditions allow, all of these lakes will be stocked as usual."
Maitland says fly fishermen will want to try Upper Wheeler Reservoir in the Wenatchee Heights area on the April 22nd opener.
"This lake is strictly catch-and-release, fly-fishing-only and has some quality trout available to put up a good fight," he said. "However, at over 3,500 feet in elevation, this lake is the highest of all of the Wenatchee Heights lakes that we stock, so it's possible that this year it won't be accessible right away for our hatchery trucks, due to snow or poor road conditions."
In Douglas County, Jameson Lake is still a popular fishery and there should be some good-sized "carry over" rainbow trout available.
In Okanogan County, best bets may be Pearrygin Lake, near Winthrop; Conconully Lake and Reservoir, within the town of Conconully; Alta Lake, just west of Pateros; and Wannacut Lake, near Oroville. District biologist Fortier says anglers can expect to catch rainbows in the 10- to 13-inch range, along with carryover fish ranging from 15 to16 inches, at most of these lakes. The Conconully waters and Alta Lake also have 10- to 13-inch kokanee.
Other open trout waters: Several trout lakes in the Columbia Basin are finally opening up from the icy start of the season and providing good opportunities for anglers. These include Martha, Upper Caliche, Quincy, Burke, and Dusty. The "Quincy Walk-in Lakes" (Crystal, Cup, Upper and Lower Spring, and Cliff), west of Evergreen Reservoir on the Quincy Wildlife Area, offer good fishing for anglers who prefer to hike into smaller lakes to fish with fewer people. Lenice Lake, north of Mattawa, has been fishable from the start of the season and continues producing catches of rainbow trout ranging in size from 14- to 20-inches.
Lakes open year-round in the Columbia Basin, such as Blythe, Canal, Chukar, Corral, Heart, Windmill, and North Windmill, are worth a try now, too.
Lake Chelan, also open year-round, has improved kokanee fishing this month. "It looks as though we have a higher percentage of smaller two-year-old kokanee being caught so far this year," said Maitland. "But a few plump fish ranging in size from 12- to 16-inches are also being caught now. Angler success should increase throughout the month with warmer water temperatures and fish moving farther down lake near Manson and Lakeside. That's where they're more accessible to anglers fishing from boats of various sizes."
Warmwater fish species: April is usually a good time to fish for walleye and yellow perch in year-round-open Banks Lake, the Columbia River reservoir that stretches between Electric City and Coulee City near the Grant-Douglas county line. Anglers also usually find a few bass, burbot, and whitefish at Banks now.
"All boat launches on Banks Lake are usable now except Coulee City Park," said Aulin Smith, WDFW fish technician. "But I urge caution on the lake because of floating sheets of ice. Anglers are catching rainbow trout from the shorelines around the north end of the lake. Marshmallow and worm seem to be the best choice of bait. Walleye fishing has been slow but should heat up as the water temperatures do. Walleye anglers have also been finding some large perch."
Walleye fishing should also be picking up this month at Moses Lake, the big year-round water near the town of the same name in the Columbia Basin. Mike Schmuck, WDFW warmwater fish biologist, reports Moses Lake will soon get increased flows from Crab Creek when the local irrigation district turns on the water to the East and West Low canals. The higher flows coincide with the walleye spawning migration into Crab Creek which typically occurs in early April.
"Shore fishing for walleye along Crab Creek will be hot in early to mid-April," Schmuck said. "Anglers should use a three-inch, dark-colored, curly-tail grub attached to a jig that can vary in weight from ¼- to ½- ounce, depending on the velocity of the water flow. Anglers will want their jig to be in contact with the bottom of the creek in order for walleye to see it. This is essentially drift-fishing with a jig and grub."
Schmuck also reports good shore angler success on walleye with a worm and bobber in the Cascade Valley area of Moses Lake's extensive shoreline.
"The outlets of Moses Lake, where water enters the Potholes Reservoir, can be a great place to target pre-spawn, migrating walleye this month," Schmuck said. "This is a jig and grub drift-fishing opportunity and can be especially good at night, although this shore fishery is also often more crowded at night. This is a great time of year for shore anglers to catch limits of walleye."
Potholes Reservoir's Lind Coulee arm at the east end of the reservoir and the Crab Creek channel are two of the best locations for walleye in April, Schmuck says. Pre-spawn walleye are abundant there this month and anglers trolling bottom bouncers with a night crawler will find plenty of hungry fish.
"Bank fishing can also be great for trout along the east shore of Potholes Reservoir," he said. "There's great access via Road M to provide shore anglers plenty of area to fish for trout, walleye, and smallmouth bass."
Stan Coffin Lake, in the Quincy Wildlife Area, can be excellent fishing for largemouth bass in spring. Bass in this lake are targeting yellow perch in early spring and anglers should have good success fishing just offshore in eight to ten feet of water.