Two recent experiences suggested the need for a learner’s guide to fishing. “How often do you use sun screen?” my doctor asked, as he parted the thinning hair above my left temple.
“I put some on last week when I went fishing,” I replied. “That was a first though. Anglers don’t like strange scent on their hands. It might chase fish away.”
His next question had nothing to do with telltale signs of solar abuse. “Where does one take their kids to catch fish from the bank,” he asked.
“”Depends on how old they are,” I replied.
“Two and five. The five-year old can cast. I have to keep my eyes on the two-year old though.”
“ Scootenay Reservoir can be good for yellow perch,” I said. “Or you might try Cargill Pond for bluegill sunfish. Both places afford easy access for bank anglers. Put a worm on a No. 8 hook three feet below a bobber and see if a bluegill bites.”
“What about the Yakima River?”
“Flows are too high now, but I’d try for smallmouth bass in early summer with a casting bubble and fly, a small jig, or a spinner.”
The topic of where-to, how-to came up again during a class that I teach for Kennewick Education called “Let’s Fish.” The attendees included three generations of family: grandmother, mother, and 10-year old daughter. They owned spinning rods and a tackle box filled with hooks, sinkers, and various lures, but had no idea where to develop their skill. I couldn’t help think, where is dad and grandpa? Although my father had little interest in fishing, Grandpa Harry picked up the slack.
One option for anglers new to the area or to fishing is to join a club. Several local angling clubs welcome new members with open arms: Columbia Basin Fly Casters, Richland Rod & Gun Club, Walleye Anglers Unlimited, and Tri-City Bass Club. Go to a monthly meeting, find out what the club is all about, and take part in a member fishing activity. While not all seasoned anglers will share their “secret spot,” most are happy to teach the basics to someone new to the sport.
Another great source of information is the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/). Topics covered include regulations, access, stocking reports, and places to go. There’s also a suite of informative instructional youtube videos. Local tackle shops that include Griggs Ace Hardware, Sportsman Warehouse, and Ranch and Home, have knowledgeable staff willing to outfit you with gear and provide helpful hints. Local fishing guides can also get you started on the right foot. There are no dumb questions when it comes to fishing.
Several area lakes were stocked by WDFW with catchable-size trout beginning in mid-March. Those closest to the Tri-Cities include Dalton, Hood Park, Fishhook and Quarry Pond. Bennington Lake near Walla Walla is also popular. An hour and a half down the road takes you to the Tucannon Lakes: Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring, and Watson. Most trout lakes involve spinning gear and fishing Powerbait or worms on the bottom, although Big Four Lake in the Tucannon area is fly fishing only. Banks Lake and Potholes Reservoir offer miles of shore fishing, along with boat launch sites, for more species of fish than you can count on one hand. Southeastern Washington streams, including the Tucannon and Touchet Rivers, open for trout fishing on May 25.
Note that some areas require a WDFW Vehicle Access Pass (provided free with a fishing license). Anglers who use Washington State Parks or Department of Natural Resource areas need a Discover Pass. All anglers age 15 and older require an annual fishing license. Salmon and steelhead anglers must have a salmon-steelhead punch card.
The most important thing about family fishing is to ensure that everyone has a good time. Find a relaxed setting close to home and don’t make time on the water an endurance test. The training ground for my children and grandchildren has been the Umatilla River – a small coldwater stream that flows near our log cabin in northeastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains. Closer to the Tri-Cities, backwaters of the Columbia and Snake Rivers provide a safe haven for young anglers. Catching crayfish, floating homemade boats, hunting agates, and stacking rocks all provide useful diversion when fish aren’t biting. The importance of having plenty of snacks and drinks cannot be overstated. Sunscreen is also highly recommended.