Heart Lake Fishing

Bruce Freet nets a rainbow trout Tuesday on Heart Lake.

It may be awhile before the state Department of Fish & Wildlife knows if the delayed opening day of the lowland lakes fishing season Tuesday was a success.

Local anglers already know.

"I went to Heart Lake, which I usually do on opening day. The crowd yesterday was about 60 to 70% of normal for an opening day.

"After changing flies six or more times, I moved (to a different water depth) and caught (and released) fish continuously for two hours. The rainbows ranged in size from eight to 16 inches."

That's exactly what Fish & Wildlife regional biologist Justin Spinelli wanted to hear. He was unable to monitor lakes as he has done in the past because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

"Well, the big thing is that we don't have numbers like we usually do because I'm not allowed to do field work yet," Spinelli said.

With Spinelli working from home, it means no creel counts for opening day on local lakes.

Creel counts, which are usually available on the Fish & Wildlife website, are used to estimate total angler participation, catch rate and total harvest.

"There will not be any creel counts for the opener," Spinelli said. "I don't know if there will be any creel counts at all. We will probably learn what places were popular from our enforcement staff, but that's going to be probably it ... I know there is a good chance some of my other surveys probably aren't going to make the cut this year and that's OK."

Creel counts or not, Freet and others saw plenty of action on local lakes.

"We had loads of boats on the water, but ample room to fish where you wanted and move when you needed," Bill Keeler of Anacortes said of fishing Heart Lake. "Most people caught fish with bait, gear and flies. I caught a couple of nice fish."

Spinelli believes it will be a good fishing season, He said once the decision of the opening was made, Fish & Wildlife staff was advised to stock as many fish as possible in as many lakes as possible in order to keep anglers spread out.

"We are excited about fish survival and the delay was fine for the fish and it was OK for the fishery," he said. "The delay didn't hurt. Fish were primarily fed a maintenance diet if they were to size already, so they grew a little bit.

"At a couple of our facilities, they were behind a little bit because we had a cold spring, so we got to put some growth on those fish."

Time will tell exactly what it all means for anglers.

"We are all just kind of waiting and seeing what exactly happened," Spinelli said. "We wanted to provide as much as an opportunity and as much space as possible. I think we were able to do that in most instances and we will continue to stock as planned until the fish are gone."

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