The 2021 Trout Derby, put on by the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), opened last Saturday, April 24th.
Ironically, I spent most of that day prepping my 12-foot, 1999 Olympian fiberglass boat for sale, which mostly involved pulling the little plug thing from the back so 1000 gallons of collected rainwater could drain out dramatically. Oh, and making sure the 1999 Mercury 9.9 horsepower outboard still runs (it does) and pumping up the tires on the Kingston trailer.
(Ah, boat ownership. But wait, are you interested? Contact me through this site – I’ll cut you a deal – but don’t tell Oregon Sports News – and we can conduct the transaction via your preferred cryptocurrency of choice, the more obscure, the better.)
Back to the derby. Who doesn’t like a derby? When was the last time you were in any derby, go-kart, fishing, horse race, or otherwise? 1959? I thought the word was extinct. We should put on a derby together, you and me—some weird new kind of derby.
Anyway, what WDFW does is partner with about 70 businesses to create some cash prizes represented by little orange tags they brutally staple onto the trout’s teeny tiny little fins – you can hear the trout screams clearly emanating from the genetic engineering factories they’re imprisoned in, deep in the woods, during the weeks before the event. The WDFW folk wear big leather aprons and creepy masks and everything; it’s a super weird agency. Just saying.
So you getta the tag, you getta the prize, which is why I’ve invested in 20,000 orange tags in total, with fifteen size and shape variants coupled with 79 water-resistant fonts to scam the whole system, much in the way Washington State Employment Security got scammed out of $600 million by that international fraud scheme out of Nigeria during the beginning of the pandemic. Not long after, the head of that agency, Suzi Levine, somehow got promoted to a job with the Biden administration.
Speaking of which, lately, I’ve been encouraging my 12-year-old so to go into meteorology, especially here in the Pacific Northwest, because outside of baseball, it’s one of the few industries you can “miss” 70% of the time and not only keep your job but be considered for promotion/pay raises/Presidential administrations. Maybe I’ll advise him to look into working for Employment Security as well.
Where were we? Oh! The WDFW Trout Derby ties directly to the “Lowland Lakes Season Opener” – i.e., it’s a way for the State to advertise that you can now buy a license for the 2021-2022 fishing season and go catch some trout. And bass. And perch. And with some additional coin, some salmon, later in the summer, when the season starts – as well as crab. Yum. Oh, and razor clams.
Which reminds me of two insane guys I know who like to fish for surf perch and dig razor clams. It works like this:
- Drive to the Washington, or possibly Oregon, coast. Although if you go to Oregon, you have to watch out for the gas stations because they get really mad when you try and pump your own gas in Oregon. They’ll come out and stop you and everything. Literally, no one knows why.
- If digging razor clams, your drive and overall activity can take place in the middle of the night, in a driving rainstorm with gale-force winds, because accessing the clams is directly related to the tide, and humans have yet to learn how to control supernatural forces like tides, although Elon Musk is working on it.
- Oh, the razor clam season is announced almost without warning. It lasts for like a day, then closes, then a week later re-opens; somehow, it’s related to either conservation or WDFW employees wanting lots of time off (which is why I’m also encouraging my son to explore a career with this department).
- If fishing for surf perch, and this may blow your mind, put on some chest waders (it’s like wearing a human-sized condom), or if you’re a real badass, don’t, then walk into the surf with your (you guessed it) surfcasting pole and take a bunch of breakers to your face as you cast and retrieve for hours on end hoping to snag one of the (delicious) little beasts, which are prone to attacking your feet in huge swarms, just warning you.
- I think this perch thing can happen in the middle of the night too, not sure, but my friend Rick said he does it at certain tidal moments, which again we cannot yet dictate the behavior of. Come on, Elon, we’re rooting for you!
Once you’re filled your hand-woven seagrass basket with this ocean bounty, gather your family around on the beach, regardless if it’s 3:00 a.m., start a fire, clean and debeard the clams, fillet the perch, then run to the store to buy some bread and corn and have a good ol’ beach picnic. Even if the winds are onshore and blowing at 30 miles per hour, they’ll thank you for it later, I promise.
For full disclosure, I’m far too cowardly to participate in such demonstrations of classic rugged American individualism, which is why my family and I like to go to Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park in Washington (this sentence sponsored by Grant County Tourism Council).
The short version is this:
13,000 years ago, it was cold and icy across most of northern North America, 365 days a year. Just like Oregon’s refusal to let the public pump their own gas, no one knows why. And we’re talking freezing – like Vermont cold. Or maybe Winnipeg. God. Everything was covered with at least a foot of snow from Washington to Montana and some places more. But it was also a glorious time. The dinosaurs were finally tamed, so things were way safer, and you could find Neanderthals riding Great Woolly Mammoths from cave-dwelling to cave-dwelling, spreading the day’s news.
Then, tragedy struck. No one saw it coming, although cave records show Neanderthal women TOTALLY knew what was going on and kept trying to tell the men and/or their husbands they were just blown off/given an eye roll and maybe a (not so) sly thumb pointing gesture from the head dude Neanderthal who also kind of gave that “getta load a dis broad” expression to his pals. They all got a good chuckle out of it, but the women Neanderthals were really steamed about the bad treatment, and they kind of got together and talked about it. If you follow the genealogy, this group of Neanderthal women is direct decedents of Gloria Steinem.
And the pay gap was even worse back then. If you can imagine.
So anyway, what these cavewomen knew was that the Clark Fork river got plugged with some non-meltable snow and made something called Glacial Lake Missoula. Then, that non-meltable snow melted all at once on an unseasonably warm July day, and Glacial Lake Missoula had grown super big in the meantime, so the “dam” in the Clark Fork river that made the lake in the first place was pretty much suddenly gone.
So the water raced across Idaho, Washington, and Oregon until it hit the Pacific Ocean. But what you don’t know is that given Glacial Lake, Missoula spanned 3000-square miles and reached depths of 2000 feet, and given the terrain, some of the floodwaters were roughly 1,130 feet high and traveled a robust, albeit legal, 65-miles an hour.
These were called the Missoula Floods, and they happened many times. It killed the poor newly tamed dinosaurs and wiped out the complex, albeit sexist and potentially misogynistic Neanderthal society, thereby eliminating sexism and misogyny forever. Thank goodness, who needs that in 21st Century America?
Oh, more importantly, in Eastern Washington, these floods not only carved out a series of mini-Grand Canyons and left behind a chain of mini-Glacial Lakes within which the State Government likes to plant Rainbow Trout, but also created Sun Lakes Resort, located at, you guessed it, Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park.
- RV park/campsites (if you’re insane)
- Cabins with bathrooms and showers (if you’re normal)
- Pool (cold)
- Mini-golf course (putt putt)
- 9-hole golf course (pretty much real)
- Water Wars (water balloon team fight course thing)
- Fishing Dock (I haven’t caught anything from it)
- Boat launch (I’ve caught plenty of trout from the boat while drinking – I wasn’t driving)
- Paddle Boards, Aqua-Cycles
- Duke’s Diner (snack shack I love snack shacks)
- Grocery Store (a.k.a. beer/wine/cigarettes)
Now that’s my kind of fishing.
This place is totally worth a visit. And compared to standing in the Pacific Ocean at midnight taking breakers to the face, it’s a total cakewalk. I’ve heard in July it turns into a party-stop for 18-28 year-olds, with lots of weed and hard seltzers and premarital sex and drunken boating, so maybe go before then.
It’s worth it even if there’s not a trout derby going on.