This Black Friday, try trophy trout

Last year’s Black Friday catch of freshly-stocked trout at Rowland Lake, held by WDFW biologist John Weinheimer

Last year’s Black Friday catch of freshly-stocked trout at Rowland Lake, held by WDFW biologist John Weinheimer

Yeah, Black Friday is the name associated with the day after Thanksgiving when avid shoppers arrive at their favorite store at o-dark-thirty seeking swinging deals on all kinds of stuff. What with all the pushing and shoving, they arrive home exhausted after a day of shop-until-you-drop spending.

For a growing number of Washington and Washington-bound Oregon anglers, “Black Friday” has become opening day for a winter trout fishery, where the trout are big (12-to-15 inches), easy to catch and you don’t have to get up early to find what you’re looking for.

Although the program has been expanded to include more and more lakes each year, this new fishing opportunity started in Southwest Washington. According to WDFW Region 5 biologist John Weinheimer, the “Black Friday” trout opener started in 2011 as an experiment to determine how anglers might respond to a winter trout fishing opener. “The popularity of having an opening day starting the day after Thanksgiving with the fishery extending for a month or more afterward has fueled support for this program,” he said.

As mentioned above, the really good news for anglers and possibly the reason the program has been so popular is that these fish are big, averaging over a pound, which means fish measuring 12-to-15 inches or more is all you are likely to catch.

I’ve been fortunate to have fished “Back Friday” each and every year, with biologist Weinheimer no less, and although the weather can be nippy, John and I have managed to limit each time out on hard-fighting trout in just a few hours from Rowland Lake. In case you’re not familiar, Rowland Lake is located adjacent to Highway 14 between Bingen and Lyle.

Here is what we’ve learned: the fish don’t start biting well until about 10-11 a.m., when the water begins to warm. This is good because fewer anglers want to start early on what might be a cold day. And while the fish will respond to all normally used fishing methods, they react best to slow presentations. And while this is not a problem if you are still-fishing PowerBait, if you troll you will want to slow your trolling speed down considerably – to a half mile per hour or less.

While we’ve had success slow-trolling small F-4 FlatFish and while casting small spinners (my favorite is a brown or black Rooster Tail), we’ve had our most consistent success casting and retrieving a 3-inch Berkley trout worm. We just thread two-thirds of the worm onto a size 6 single hook tied on the end of our main line, making sure the worm hangs straight, and crimp a size No. 5 split shot about 20 inches above. Just cast out, hop the worm along as you retrieve and set the hook if you feel a strike or any kind of hesitation.

Keep in mind that due to the cooler water temperatures, the fish may not disperse around the lake as quickly as at other times of the year, so trying your luck near the original release site might be a worthwhile venture. If you don’t find trout near the boat ramp, try moving downwind, because the prevailing wind can sometime move trout in that direction. Also, look for winter trout near where small creeks or any kind of runoff is entering the lake.

According to WDFW state biologist Weinheimer, the same lakes as last year will close to fishing a week or so prior to the Black Friday opener to give WDFW crews a chance to plant the hefty trout. The lakes included this year will be Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond in Clark County, Kress Lake in Cowlitz County, Rowland Lake in Klickitat County, and Fort Borst Park Pond and South Pond in Lewis County.

Certainly, there are numerous lakes around the region open year around that state agencies plant with catchable trout. What’s unique about the lakes scheduled to open on Black Friday is that they offer an opening day opportunity where the fish bite better than in lakes where they have been pounded for weeks and all fish are of a decent size, 12-to-15 inches or more.

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