April 24, 2003 11:00 pm

Trout season officially opens Saturday, kicking off the spring and summer angling seasons. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will stock 300 lakes and reservoirs with nearly 3 million catchable trout this year, giving anglers plenty of fishing opportunities statewide.

In addition, 330 high mountain lakes were stocked with 5 million trout fingerlings two years ago. Many of those fish are now about 8 inches long and ready to be caught.

National uncertainties and an increase in gas prices may lead many Oregon families to enjoy summer vacations in state.

"Fishing for trout at a lake or reservoir near a campground requires very little equipment and can be a lot of fun — even for beginners," said Rhine Messmer, ODFW recreational fisheries manager. "I always encourage people to check with local tackle shops or sporting good stores for good information on the nearest fishing hole."

Messmer said ODFW has several resources for people new to or returning to fishing. They include:

•ODFW Web site at www.dfw.state.or.us. Information on warmwater fishing, the weekly recreation report, the annual trout stocking schedule and the 2003 Spring Fishing Forecast can be found on the main fish page.

• ODFW publications. "Let's Go Fishing" provides information on 24 places to fish statewide that are easy to reach and do not require specialized equipment or boats. Three versions of a brochure titled "Marine Recreational Fishing in Oregon" provide information and maps on coastal fishing opportunities on the north coast, central coast and south coast. Anglers may call 503-872-5268 to request copies.

• ODFW regional and district offices have personnel who can answer questions for anglers. Messmer said calling ahead is especially important when heading out to desert rivers or lakes. Low snow packs and water levels can lead to poor fishing conditions late in the year.

In addition, several fishing guides published about fishing in Oregon can be borrowed from local libraries or purchased from bookstores.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife sponsors events for novice youths to learn to fish. Free Fishing Weekend occurs June 7-8. A license is not needed to fish in Oregon that weekend. More than 50 fishing clinics are planned at hatcheries, lakes and ponds in Oregon.

Anglers are reminded to review the 2003 angling regulations and remember that using live fish for bait is illegal in Oregon.