Urban Freshwater Fishing
"The Fish Journal" Issaquah Press, Published May 25, 2010

By Dallas Cross

Having lived in several cities during my working career, I've been able to take advantage of fishing opportunities that abound near urban areas. I believe that we in the Puget Sound metropolitan area are privy to one of the best settings for urban fishing in the country.

Lake Washington has the biggest fishing menu for urban fishers. The docks are prowled by large- and smallmouth bass; the shadows of the bridges are cruised by rainbow and cutthroat trout; and the piers and logs hide perch and panfish. The bottom of the lake is swept by carp, catfish and an occasional sturgeon seeking the signal crayfish, a palatable crustacean in its own right.

You can also fish for at least three species of salmon in Lake Washington. Most notable of these is the sockeye salmon when the lake acquires a fiberglass frosting of fishing boats in July. Visitors are uniformly incredulous when informed that fishermen drinking Starbucks while watching Seattle's rush-hour traffic whiz by on the lake bridges catch these salmon on bare hooks.

Adjoining Lake Washington is Lake Sammamish, surrounded by suburban cities. It echoes most of the fishing opportunities in Lake Washington but adds a promise of hope with a remnant colony of native kokanee salmon, now absent in the bigger lake.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife dramatically enhances fishing success with their plants of hatchery-raised trout in local lakes. This is attested by throngs of fisher persons at the opening of the lowland lakes fishing season in April.

In King County, freshly trout-stocked lakes are Angle Lake just South of Sea-Tac, Beaver Lake in Sammamish, Green Lake in Seattle, Lake Sawyer in Black Diamond, and Meridian Lake southeast of Renton. The department continues trout stocking in all of these lakes throughout the year and occasionally puts in some lunker trout from their breeding or hybrid stock.

I once lived and worked in urban Detroit and after purchasing a small sail boat with oars, I started to fish in the hundreds of nearby small lakes. I discovered new fish to seek and catch, most quite different from our western fresh-water fish. There were bass and bluegill, of course, but when I brought in a northern pike, and especially a needle-nosed gar, it was a unique fishing experience. I also first caught walleye within the reflections of the buildings of Detroit in Lake Saint Clair, the smallest of the Great Lakes.

The trophy fish in Lake St. Clair is the muskellunge, one-third mouth and two-thirds torpedo. Occasionally, I would see them sunning on the lake surface, but never got them sufficiently agitated to attack one of my ugly lures manipulated by troll or cast past their toothy mouths. The Detroit musky of urban legend was named Jingles. He was purported to be six feet long with so many broken off lures hanging from his mouth that they jingled when he broke the surface of the water

.Ben Morrow is a fishing buddy of mine from when I lived in Kansas City, Mo. He now works part-time for the Missouri Department of Fish and Wildlife. Ben is a surveyor, monitoring and conducting census of fish caught in the Kansas City Urban Fishing Program. The department generally plants channel catfish in urban lakes that are surrounded by older residences. Last fall, they also planted trout, which were a big hit with local fishermen, especially when they could ice fish for them.

Ben and I visited several Kansas City urban lakes last year and it was evident that some of the neighborhoods had drug and gang activities that were being conducted in the lake parks. Ben informed me that the fishing was so valued by the residents that they asked those conducting such "business" to restrict it to places away from the lake. Ben also got a local pass from the residents, as he has assured them that he only wanted to count fish and fishermen and not conduct any fishing regulation enforcement.

The amazing thing is that the dealers and gangbangers moved away from the fishing areas, permitting folks to fish in relative safety for what is for some their only source of fresh protein. It's a wonderful, but unexpected social benefit from what started out as an urban, recreational fishing program.

Whether to vary your protein source, to quietly recreate or to enjoy a family outing, there are lakes with fish waiting for you nearby. Find a friend with a small boat, grab a thermos of coffee, dig some worms or put on a bare, red hook, and seek the treat of catch and consume as offered by your fish and wildlife department.

Urban fishing
Dallas and Ward Harris urban fishing in Lake Sammamish, Washington

Reach Dallas Cross at FishJournal@aol.com.
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