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Lowland lake fishing season opens April 24

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SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - Although Jan. 1 might be the start of the new year for many, it's the third weekend in April that fisherman consider the true holiday. On April 24 the lowland lake fishing season officially begins in Washington.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials estimate that more than 300,000 Washington residents will hit the water on opening day.

Of Washington's more than 4,500 lakes, ponds and reservoirs, about 600 have WDFW managed public access sites, 252 of them on lowland lakes. These sites include boat launches, dock and shoreline fishing, and areas accessible for persons with disabilities.

A freshwater fishing license is required for those age 15 and older. The license is valid from April 1, 2004-March 31, 2005, and is available to resident adults for $21.90. Those 15 years old, seniors and disabled persons, including disable veterans, qualify for a reduced fee license.

Licenses are available on the Internet at www.fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, by telephone at (866) 246-9453, or at license dealers across the state.

"It's still one of the best entertainment values around," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "With kids under 15 fishing for free, it's a recreational bargain for the whole family, available throughout the spring, summer and fall."

WDFW officials have stocked more than 25 million fish in lakes across the state in preparation for the opener.

Among those fish are triploids. These fish get their name because they have three rather than the normal two chromosomes. Because the fish are normally sterile, they put their time into feeding and grow larger than the average planted fish.

More than 51,000 triploid "trophy" (1 1/2 pound) rainbow trout are being stocked in 80 lakes in the state. Rattlesnake Lake in North Bend is to receive 1,000 of the triploid fish.

Trout plants have fish ranging in size from at least seven inches long on opening day to jumbo surplus hatchery broodstock that tip the scales at several pounds, according to WDFW officials. For information, visit the hatchery trout stocking plan at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/index.htm.

"Opening day is often the best time to catch some of these [stocked] fish," said Koenings, "but that also means that many lakes with our improved access facilities can be very crowded. Fishers should be patient and they should also play safe by making sure they use personal floatation devices for everyone in boats and children on shore."

* For information on local lakes and regulations, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov.

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