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Break out the poles, it's time to go fishing

That time of year for the avid outdoorsman has finally arrived-fishing season.

The 2005 fishing season will be celebrated Saturday, April 30 when as many as 500,000 men, women and children are anticipated to be casting for fish in waters around Washington state.

While many lakes in Washington are usually opened year around, the last Saturday in April marks the traditional start to the most intensive fishing activity of the season.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has made sure that plenty of fish will be available to catch on opening day. Some of the numbers for the opening day of fishing season include 7,386,486 trout fry (2-3 inches) being stocked into 396 lowland lakes statewide last spring and fall, and are now catchable size (7-10 inch). State officials also stocked some 338,173 warmwater species, such as walleye, crappie, tiger muskie and channel catfish into waters across the state and they are now ready to be caught.

The state will be stocking 91 different lakes around the state with triploid trout, averaging 1-1/2 lbs. each, this spring. The trout is expected to grow to trophy size if not harvested after the first season. Some of the Yakima County lakes that will be stocked with this trout include Clear Lake, Dog Lake, Leech Lake, Mud Lake, Myron Lake and Wenas Lake. State officials will also be stocking Columbia Park Pond in the Tri-Cities in April with triploid trout.

Juvenile anglers under the age of 14 can fish with no license for all species during the open fishing season. However, juveniles must still have a free catch record card for steelhead, salmon, sturgeon, halibut and dungeness crab.

Cost for fishing licenses vary, depending on the age and what an angler is trying to catch. For more information on the state fishing license fees go to the fish and wildlife department's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov. Anglers are also required to have a vehicle use permit when accessing most fishing areas. A decal permit is issued free with each fishing and hunting license purchased in the state. Outdoorsmen will have to pay extra costs for additional decals.

Washington also offers anglers a free fishing weekend, which is held during the weekend of the first full week in June, coinciding with the last two days of National Boating and Fishing Week. This year, the two free fishing days will be June 11-12. Anglers must still have a record catch card.

The fish and wildlife department will be holding its annual series of free fishing events for children ages 5 to 14 this year. A total of 13 free fishing events for juveniles is scheduled to be held around the state. One such event will be held for young anglers on Saturday, May 14, at Sarg Hubbard Park Pond in Yakima. For more information visit www.castforkids.org.

Fish and wildlife officials are also issuing a warning involving freshwater bass, which is a popular species to catch in Washington. A study of bass in 20 Washington lakes and rivers have found levels of mercury that are a cause for concern. As a result, the state department of health has issued a statewide advisory for bass consumption. Children under the age of 6 and women of child-bearing age should not eat more than two meals per month of either largemouth or smallmouth bass.

Washington provides more than ample opportunity to fish at beautiful locations across the state. Yakima County has some of the richest spots in the state to fish.

Bear Lake covers five acres 15 miles west of Naches. The area is not accessible by vehicle until late April or early May because of rough roads. Bear Lake provides ample opportunity to catch sporting size rainbow trout.

Bumping Lake is another good spot to go fishing. Bumping Lake is open year-round and produces good kokanee fishing for six-to-nine-inch fish starting in mid-May. About eight-to-11-inch rainbow trout can also be caught.

Bryon Ponds sits about four miles south of Grandview on the Sunnyside Wildlife Area. The ponds are open to fishing year around and provide angling opportunities for sunfish and largemouth bass. Another good local place to catch sunfish and largemouth bass is at the Horseshoe Ponds, four miles northwest of Mabton.

Yakima County also has a stretch of ponds along Interstate 82 from Zillah to Union Gap that provide good fishing opportunities. The fish available at these ponds include everything from rainbow trout to channel catfish to largemouth bass.

The Yakima River also provides excellent fishing opportunities for everything from rainbow trout to spring chinook to coho salmon.

For more information on the Washington state fishing season, call the fish and wildlife department's regional office in Yakima at (509) 575-2740 or visit the agency's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov.

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