If there is a more popular fishing "rite of passage" than the lowland lakes trout opener, I sure don't know what it is!
The Nelson Clan at Perrygin Lake in Okanogan County a few seasons ago…
I would venture to guess that more "first fish" are caught on this final weekend of April than at any other time of year. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters all descend on the lakes of Washington, three-hundred thousand strong. In preparation of this massive effort, the State of Washington plants these lake with literally millions of rainbow and cutthroat trout which are ready, willing and more than able to provide action as well as dinner or a smoker full of a tasty treat!
To aid in their quest this weekend, I would like to offer the following ten tips for an enjoyable opening day experience!
1. Get legal!
The WDFW licensing cycle for the year runs from April 1 to March 31. In other words, if you are not sure if your license is current… it's probably not. Which, brings us to the second item on our list:
2. Bring your crew to the store!
If you have a young bunch (and even if you don't) it's always worthwhile to bring the crew along to get their licenses, get a copy of the fishing regulations and do a little shopping. "There's that new Snoopy rod Dad, Can we try this?" Let your fishing gang get a little fired up about their new gear and in all likelihood, your opening day will get a lot easier!
3. Know your fishermen!
What size raingear do they wear? Boots? Warm coats? Can they cast? What's their favorite snack food? The correct answers to these questions are best found out well in advance of "O" day!
4. Know your gear.
Seriously now, when is the last time you opened your trout box? How old is the line on your reel? If the answer to either of those questions is "I don't know"… You know what to do!
5. Float your boat
While a boat adds to the complexity of any fishing trip is also adds productivity, mobility, comfort and convenience. In my opinion, more than a fair trade. However, the early dawn of opening morning is a poor time to find out that the batteries are dead, the drain plug is missing, the trailer lights are burned out and the tabs are expired. Just don't ask me how I found that out…
6. Rig all the rods
Another way to dodge Murphy's Law is to rig all the rods in the garage the night before…or the night before that! Trust me, it's a lot easier to tie up under a fluorescent light than a dome light.
7. Scout your location
One of my favorite opening day memories is taking my young son to our chosen opening day lake the day before the opener. The lake was stuffed to the lilly pads with rainbows that were literally jockeying for position to eat the next bug to hit the surface. Watching the surface activity was secondary to scouting out the ramp and available parking. A word to the wise: It's time well spent!
8. Friday night load up!
Get it all in the rig the night before. If its missing, you still have time to find it or replace it… 'nuff said!
9. Get 'em up easy…
Set the alarm a little early and let the gang go through a little of their morning routine. Rushing your charges out of the house so they can sit with you in a ramp line is not going to score you any points.
10. Make it fun!
Quick limits are great and are huge braggin' rights fodder… on the Columbia for springers!…. Nobody is going to stop the presses and roll evening news tape for your stringer full of six inchers. The goal on opening day is to provide your friends and family with an introduction to a sport, a way of life that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives! Let the kids handle the rods and play every one of the fish! Let another kid handle the net, sit back and enjoy the mayhem that ensues!
Opening day is like a fishy Christmas. The more you give, the more you get and what you get from a successful opener you'll never forget!