Watched by an eager crowd, two trucks backed carefully toward Green Lake, their tanks awash in black water and something more. It’s time to plant trout.
It might not seem sporting, but the large rainbows that were pumped into Green Lake last Friday provide some city dwellers their only chance to fish – and it’s practically in their own back yards, said David Whitmer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He and co-worker Scott Meechan had just driven their tanker trucks down from the state hatchery in Arlington.
“If we stopped putting fish in Green Lake ... eventually there would be none,” said Tom Quinn, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington.
Planting fish at Green Lake is part of a tradition that goes back more than a century in Washington. The state’s first fish hatchery was built in 1895 on the Kalama River. Today, 82 hatcheries produce about 18 million trout and 140 million salmon annually to be planted in Washington lakes and rivers. (See a list of weekly plants in state rivers and lakes.)
It’s part of $1.8 billion in economic activity related to fishing in this state. But aside from giving people something to catch, does planting help individual species?
“Depends on whose Kool-Aid you drink,” said Chris Donlee from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There’s some who think hatcheries are bad. Some think they’re good. We’re somewhere in the middle.”
Last spring an environmental group successfully sued to stop the state from planting steelhead in rivers.
Back at Green Lake, there was no controversy as the trucks released hundreds and hundreds of fish within 30 feet of anglers’ rods.
Russ Toman stood nearby, but he already had six nice fish in his bucket.
Is it sporting to catch these fish?
“To me, no. I like to catch a couple just because they’re fun to catch,” Toman said. “It’s fishin’ but it’s not fishin’.”