TOLEDO — It’s calm, wet and overcast at South Lewis County Park Pond south of Toledo as a few retirees take a morning stroll with their dogs along the walking path. Eight muscovy ducks, which are not native to the Pacific Northwest, pick around in the grass looking for slugs near the water’s edge. All is peaceful until the silence is interrupted.
A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) tanker truck arrives and backs slowly down the boat launch. WDFW fish hatchery specialist Mario Troche steps out and pulls a lever as rainbow trout come flying out of a chute and into the pond.
It’s part of the WDFW’s yearly restocking effort, a 6,000-fish program that has evolved from being an exclusively Black Friday event. Normally, the ponds would close for the two days prior to Black Friday, when it would open up for a big fishing event used as an alternative to the bustling holiday-shopping extravaganza.
But this year, the WDFW didn’t want to close the ponds, instead deciding to plant them on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Black Friday so people can fish the days leading up to it as well.
“It gives people a few more options as far as days they want to fish,” said Tim Summers, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery specialist, who has been stationed at the Mossyrock Hatchery for 11 years.
These Goldendale rainbow trout were raised from eggs by the Mossyrock Hatchery. South Lewis County Park Pond and Fort Borst Pond are each receiving 2,000 rainbow trout. Kress Lake in Kelso will also get 2,000.
Both the 14-acre South Lewis County Park Pond and the 5-acre Fort Borst Pond are typically open year round, and Summers said people can fish while the trout are being restocked from a tanker truck. On the first tanker load, there were no fishermen around while the fish were being unloaded. That may change as a few spectators wandering by gathered near the truck to watch the restocking.
This year’s stocking will consist of “catchables,” “jumbos,” and “fry/fingerling” fish, with some trout weighing in around three pounds.
The WDFW plans to stock a total of 16.5 million trout and kokanee across 546 bodies of water statewide by the end of the year. That includes 2.19 million catchables. The average size of catchables on opening day will be larger than in previous years, going up from a typical eight inches to closer to 11 inches. Also, 146,559 jumbo trout, those averaging longer than 14 inches in length and weighing more one pound, are also being stocked statewide.
The trout stocked at South Lewis County Park and Fort Borst Pond are from eggs the hatchery received in December 2018, so they’ll be nearly two years old when they hit the ponds. Each pond received two tanker trucks full of fish, one each on Tuesday and Wednesday, each holding 1,000 pounds of fish. The fish stocked this week averaged a pound each.
That’s a bit larger average than for the annual season opener weekend each April, where each fish averages two to three pounds, equaling about 3,000 trout per tanker truck, Summers said.
The Mossyrock Hatchery also has a net-pen program for salmon on Mayfield Lake, a two-million fall Chinook program. The hatchery also keeps the Endangered Species Act-listed summer and winter stocks of steelhead for the Kalama River.
For more information on fish stocking around the state, visit wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/stocking.
There is a daily limit of five and no minimum size restriction for both the South Lewis County Park Pond and the Fort Borst Pond. Two-pole fishing is also allowed at both ponds. Anyone age 15 or older is required to have a freshwater fishing license. More information on rules and regulations can be found on the WDFW’s website at www.eregulations.com/washington/fishing.
Fishing licenses can be purchased online at wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/fishing, or at hundreds of fishing license dealers around the state, including at 22 locations in Lewis County.