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The Weekender Report
The latest in fish and wildlife recreational opportunities across Washington State

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April 2015

(This document is updated periodically throughout the month to reflect current rules and opportunities. Please download the latest copy before heading out! Last updated April 9, 2015)

Contact: (Fish) 360-902-2700
                (Wildlife) 360-902-2515

Start of lowland lakes trout season
one of many ‘opening days’ in April

For many anglers, "opening day" is synonymous with the start of the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, which gets under way April 25 this year. Hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians typically descend on trout-stocked lakes to kick off the state's biggest outdoor event.

To prepare for the upcoming season, hatchery crews from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have been working since last year to stock millions of fish in hundreds of lakes throughout the state. Anglers can find how many went where at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/statewide/.

But anglers – and hunters, too – are also looking forward to a variety of other "opening days" this month for outdoor adventures ranging from razor clam digs on ocean beaches to turkey hunting in fields throughout the state.

"April really marks the start of the new year for fishing, hunting, and a wide range of outdoor activities," said Joe Stohr, WDFW deputy director. "The annual cycle is beginning again and a lot of us are glad to see it arrive."

For most people, a valid 2015-16 fishing or hunting license will be required to participate in those activities after March 31, when all 2014-15 licenses expire. The exception is young people under age 15, who can fish for free.

Licenses and permits are available online (https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/), by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state. A list of license vendors (http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/) is available online and from local WDFW offices around the state.

Key dates to keep in mind in April include:

  • April 1 – Dozens lakes in the Columbia Basin open to fishing.
  • April 4-5 – A two-day spring turkey hunt for hunters age 15 and younger is scheduled statewide.
  • April 4-10 – A seven-day morning razor clam dig has been approved on various ocean beaches. For details, see WDFW's razor clam webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.
  • April 15 – The general spring turkey hunt opens for hunters of all ages and runs through May 31. See WDFW's Washington Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for more information.
  • April 16 – Lingcod fishing season opens in the Neah Bay area (Marine Area 4).
  • April 17-24 – An eight-day morning razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled on various ocean beaches.
  • April 25 – Hundreds of lakes open to trout fishing across the state for the biggest "opening day" of the year.

For more information about these and other outdoor activities coming up in the weeks ahead, see the region-by-region Weekender Reports on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated for changes in fishing rules and other developments throughout the state.

North Puget Sound
(Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties)

Fishing:  One of the state’s most popular fishing openers is scheduled later in the month, when the lowland lakes trout season gets under way. The season begins April 25, when hundreds of lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – will open for fishing.  

Until then, nearly two-dozen year-round fishing lakes in the region have already been stocked with trout, and should provide good fishing opportunities early in the month. Waters stocked with trout averaging 10 to 12 inches in length include Alice, Angle, Beaver, Rattlesnake, Meridian and Sawyer lakes in King County; and Ballinger, Blackmans, Cassidy, Chain, Flowing, Gissberg Ponds (Twin Lakes), Goodwin, Ketchum, Lost (Devil’s), Martha, Panther, Roesiger, Shoecraft, and Silver lakes in Snohomish County.

Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website. Anglers should also check the Fish Washington rule pamphlet before heading out.

And don’t recycle the pamphlet yet. Unlike in past years, the current fishing rules pamphlet will remain valid through June 30. 

Salmon fishing also is an option in several marine areas of Puget Sound. Anglers fishing marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.  Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) are closed to salmon fishing, while Marine Area 9 is open only through April 15. 

Fishing for blackmouth salmon in the region will require more time and effort in April, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishing manager. “Fishing for blackmouth salmon in early spring can be pretty spotty, so anglers need to put some time in on the water,” he said.

Anglers support the blackmouth chinook fishery through their license purchase, a portion of which goes to the Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Fund. The fund currently supports a variety of recreational fishing opportunities through the release of more than 1 million yearling and almost 9 million sub-yearling chinook each year.

Catch and release fishing for sea-run cutthroat trout is also heating up, and fly fishers often can have success with chum fry patterns during tidal changes near structure in the vicinity of rivers, said Lothrop.

Anglers are reminded that all 2014-2015 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers 15 years of age and older must purchase a 2015-16 license. Licenses and permits are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Hunting:  The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 4-5 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

As in past years, we are seeing high interest in hunter education around the spring turkey season opener, said Dave Whipple, WDFW hunter education division manager. “We encourage new hunters to enroll in hunter education courses well ahead of their first hunting trip.”

A hunter education course is required for first-time Washington hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972.  To find a course and learn about hunter education requirements, new hunters should visit the WDFW hunter education webpage. Those who do not find a course that meets their needs should continue to check the website as classes are added regularly.

Hunter education programs teach safety, conservation ethics and principles of sportsmanship, said Whipple. “This is critical information for a safe and positive hunting experience, and we do not want any new hunter to miss this opportunity,” he said.

Wildlife viewing:  April and May are prime time for gray whale watching, particularly in the waters around Whidbey and Camano Islands. The whales are part of a larger population making its annual journey north from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, where the animals spend the summer feeding before heading south again. While most continue on to Alaska, some gray whales linger in the waters of the Pacific Northwest during the summer months.

People interested in the region's wildlife might want to drop in on the Backyard Wildlife Festival early next month. The event begins at 9 a.m. May 9 at the Tukwila Community Center, and features a variety of activities and educational opportunities on how to attract wildlife and support habitat through gardening and landscaping. For more information, check the wildlife festival website.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula
(Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Thurston and Pacific counties)

Fishing:  Razor clams are fattening up on the coast with plenty of dig days scheduled in April. Wild steelhead fishing in coastal rivers wraps up this month while trout fishing in region lakes is expected to heat up.

In a season packed with more digging days than any time in the past 25 years, razor clam diggers can plan for 24 more days through mid-May, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“We have an abundance of clams on most beaches – and those clams are getting fatter by the minute,” Ayres said. “That makes for some terrific digging opportunities.”

WDFW already approved a seven-day opening on the following dates, beaches and low tides:

  • April 4, Saturday, 7:23 a.m.; 0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
  • April 5, Sunday, 7:57 a.m.; 0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
  • April 6, Monday, 8:32 a.m.; 0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • April 7, Tuesday, 9:09 a.m.; 0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • April 8, Wednesday, 9:48 a.m.; 0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • April 9, Thursday, 10:32 a.m.; 0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • April 10, Friday, 11:23 a.m.; 0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors

A second dig is tentatively scheduled to begin April 17, pending favorable marine toxin results. Check WDFW’s razor clam webpage for details.

Long Beach will host its annual razor clam festival April 18 and 19, during that second tentatively scheduled dig. The Long Beach festival includes razor clam digging lessons, a chowder taste-off, clam fritter cookout and other entertainment. For more information, visit the festival website.

Also on the coast, lingcod fishing is currently open in marine areas 1-3 under rules described in the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. Lingcod fishing opens April 16 in the Neah Bay area (Marine Area 4).

Anglers looking to hook a wild steelhead could be in luck as long as river levels in the northern peninsula are low enough to be fished, said Mike Gross, a WDFW fish biologist for the region.

"The recent high water has limited the fishery," Gross said. "But when the flows have cooperated, it’s been pretty good."

Steelhead fishing closes April 15 on the Hoh, Quinault and Clearwater rivers and April 30 on the Quillayute, Dickey, Bogachiel, Calawah and Sol Duc. These are the only eight rivers in Washington where wild steelhead can be retained, and anglers are limited to one wild steelhead per license year.

For hatchery steelhead, the Skookumchuck River is a good bet in April, said Mike Scharpf, a regional fish biologist for WDFW.

Scharpf recommends several lakes for trout, which WDFW is now planting throughout the state. The public should try Lake Sylvia for trout fishing, Scharpf said. The lake, which is open year-round, will be stocked with about 1,000 trout in April. Other lakes that have been stocked or will be stocked for the April 25 lowland lakes trout-fishing opener include Devereaux and Wooten lakes in Mason County, Harts and Spanaway lakes in Pierce County, and Lake St. Clair and Offut Lake in Thurston County. Anglers can check WDFW’s stocking reports to see when their favorite lakes will be stocked.

Additional good bets for juvenile anglers under 15 are Bowers Lake, (Vance Creek pond number 1) in Grays Harbor County, and Cases Pond in Pacific County, which will each receive a plant of trout in preparation for a limited opening during spring break. Bowers Lake, which will also be open to anglers 70 and older and to disabled anglers, will be open April 4-12, and Cases Pond will be open April 11-19.

In Puget Sound, anglers have until April 10 to fish for chinook in marine areas 5 (Seiku) and 6 (eastern Strait) and until April 15 in Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet). Areas 11, 12 and 13 are open until April 30. Anglers can keep two salmon daily. Wild chinook must be released in all areas.

Anglers should also consider targeting cutthroat trout in the Sound. Catch-and-release fishing for sea-run cutthroat picks up in April, and fly fishers often can have success with chum fry patterns during tidal changes near structure in the vicinity of rivers.

Anglers can check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with WDFW collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.

All anglers 15 and older must have a 2015-16 fishing license to fish for trout and other species after March 31, when 2014-15 licenses expire. Licenses ranging from a freshwater-only license to a multi-species combination license are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 4-5 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing:  Migratory birds are returning to Washington state, providing a good opportunity for wildlife watching. Two birding festivals also are scheduled in April and early May in the region.

The first, the Olympic Peninsula BirdFest, runs April 10-12 and takes place in Sequim along the bays, estuaries and beaches near the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The annual event is sponsored by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, Dungeness River Audubon Center and Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe. Activities include guided birding field trips, a boat cruise and a featured speaker. Learn more about BirdFest at the event's website.

Be sure to mark your calendars for the Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival, which will be held May 1-3 in Hoquiam. Hosted by Grays Harbor Audubon Society, Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge and the City of Hoquiam, the annual festival includes field trips, lectures a keynote speaker and a nature fun fair for kids. More information on this event can be found on the festival's website.

At the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, bald eagle chicks begin hatching later this month. The refuge also features guided programs on weekends in April in addition to weekly bird walks on Wednesdays.  A schedule of the weekend program topics can be found on the refuge’s webpage.

Olympic National Park's winter speaker series wraps up April 14 with a discussion about how Blue Glacier is responding to changes in temperature and snowfall. The monthly talk, which is open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. at the park's visitor center, 3002 Mt. Angeles Road, Port Angeles. Check out the park's newspaper for the full schedule of speakers.

Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)

Fishing:  State fishery managers from Washington and Oregon added at least two more days to the spring chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam as the initial season was drawing to the close.

Under that decision, the popular sport fishery was extended through Saturday, April 11, with an additional day of fishing Thursday, April 16. The initial sport-fishing season was previously scheduled to close at the end of the day April 10. 

“Fishing has been good and anglers have turned out in high numbers, but we can still manage two more days under the initial harvest guideline,” said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “We expect to see a lot of boats on the water and anglers on the riverbank those days.”

Prior to the season, fishery managers projected the catch through April 10 at about 12,000 chinook, including a maximum of 10,300 upriver fish. They extended the initial season after a new estimate found anglers would catch just 9,700 spring chinook by that date.

The section of the lower Columbia River open for spring chinook fishing extends from Buoy 10 upriver to Beacon Rock for boat and bank anglers, and to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam for bank anglers. When the fishery is open, anglers can retain one hatchery adult chinook salmon as part of their daily catch limit. 

Upriver from Bonneville Dam, the initial spring chinook fishery is scheduled to continue through May 6 from the Tower Island powerlines to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles above McNary Dam. During that time, bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines, six miles below The Dalles Dam.

In both of those areas, , the daily catch limit for adult fish is two hatchery salmon or steelhead in combination, of which no more than one may be a chinook. Anglers are required to use barbless hooks and release any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin.

Two new regulations were approved by fishery managers for the spring chinook fishery above Bonneville Dan that take effect April 13. Those rules:

  • Allow anglers to possess up to four hatchery adult spring chinook salmon (four daily limits) in fresh form on the stretch of the Columbia River from The Dalles Dam upstream to the Washington/Oregon state line. This rule does not apply to fish kept on a boat.
  • Prohibit using a boat or other floating device to set lines for spring chinook and steelhead while fishing from the Washington bank when the Columbia River is open to fishing from the Tower Island power lines downstream to Bonneville Dam. Only hand-casted lines may be used. 

Meanwhile, sleek springers will continue moving into area tributaries, some of which also offer great fishing for hatchery steelhead.

Starting April 1, anglers fishing the Cowlitz River can catch and keep two hatchery adult chinook salmon plus three hatchery steelhead per day, as described in the rule change. On the Kalama River, anglers can retain one hatchery adult chinook plus three hatchery steelhead per day under the current fishing rule. The lower Kalama is open for hatchery Chinook through at least April and possibly longer depending on anglers’ success and hatchery returns.  

The Lewis River (including the North Fork) remains open for hatchery steelhead, but is closed for spring chinook fishing until further notice. In addition, the North Fork Lewis from Johnson Creek (located below the salmon hatchery) upstream to Merwin Dam is slated to be closed to all fishing in the month of May. 

Anglers planning to fish the Wind River, Drano Lake, or the Klickitat River should check the 2014-15 Sport Fishing Rules for salmon and steelhead openings and regulation changes in April.

Rather catch sturgeon? Fishery managers have set summer seasons starting June 19 in the Bonneville Pool. See the WDFW emergency rule site for more information. Meanwhile, anglers can still catch and keep one legal-size white sturgeon per day in The Dalles and John Day pools. Legal fish measure 43 inches to 54 inches, fork-length. Walleye fishing has been good in The Dalles and John Day pools, and bass should start biting there and in Bonneville Pool as the water warms up.

Another option is trout fishing, which hits full throttle April 25 when several hundred lowland lakes throughout the state open for business.

While most lakes in southwest Washington are open year-round, “opening day” marks the opening of such perennial favorites as Mineral Lake, Fort Borst Park Pond, Carlisle Lake, Davis Lake, and Plummer Lake in Lewis County; Kidney Lake in Skamania County; and the Rowland Lakes, Spearfish and Horsethief Lakes in Klickitat County.

As noted in last year’s Sport Fishing Rules, Swift Reservoir will not open until the first Saturday in June to protect salmon and steelhead smolts migrating downstream. Those smolts are part of an ongoing reintroduction program under re-licensing agreements with PacifiCorp. 

In other waters, WDFW will continue to plant thousands of catchable trout in Clark County lakes, including Klineline Pond, Battleground Lake and Lacamas Lake. Three lakes in Cowlitz County – Sacajawea, Kress, and Horseshoe lakes – will receive plants of rainbow trout, as will three lakes in Skamania County – Icehouse, Little Ash, and Tunnel lakes. Swift Power Canal also will be planted prior to the April 25 opener.

To accommodate a fishing event for kids, Klineline Park in Vancouver will be closed to the general public from April 9-11. More information is available on WDFW’s website.

Hunting:  The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 4-5 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

As in past years, we are seeing high interest in hunter education around the spring turkey season opener, said Dave Whipple, WDFW hunter education division manager. “We encourage new hunters to enroll in hunter education courses well ahead of their first hunting trip.”

A hunter education course is required for first-time Washington hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972. To find a course and learn about hunter education requirements, new hunters should visit the WDFW hunter education webpage. Those who do not find a course that meets their needs should continue to check the website as classes are added regularly.

Hunter education programs teach safety, conservation ethics and principles of sportsmanship, said Whipple. “This is critical information for a safe and positive hunting experience, and we do not want any new hunter to miss this opportunity,” he said.

Wildlife viewing: Each year since 2002, dozens of California sea lions have travelled 145 miles up the Columbia River to feed on spring chinook salmon preparing to move up the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam. Both species will be well represented there this month, but there are better places along the river to see them up close.

According to a recent survey, there are now more than 2,340 California and Steller sea lions packed onto the docks and nearby jetties at the East Mooring Basin in Astoria. Packed cheek by jowl, they will be on display throughout the month, before moving upriver or back to their breeding grounds in the Channel Islands off the California coast. While they are easily seen – and heard – biologists warn spectators not to get too close.

Meanwhile, back at Bonneville Dam, spring chinook and steelhead will be evading sea lions and crowding up the fish ladders in increasing numbers this month. Starting with just a few hundred a day, their numbers will climb into the thousands, passing by the viewing window at the dam. 

To observe the annual parade of fish, stop by the Washington Shore Visitor Complex at the dam. To get there, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and turn into the Bonneville Dam visitor center. The visitor center is the glass building at the end of the powerhouse.

For information on state fish managers’ ongoing efforts to reduce sea lion predation on salmon and steelhead at Bonneville Dam, see the department’s website on sea lion management.

Eastern Washington
(Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens,  Walla Walla and Whitman counties)

Fishing: Some of the region’s best trout fishing will begin at the end of the month with the lowland lakes season opener on April 25.

Randy Osborne, WDFW central district fish biologist, said most waters around Spokane will be well-stocked and ready to go, including Williams, West Medical, Fishtrap and Clear lakes.

"A couple lakes that should fish well for the opener are West Medical near Medical Lake, and Fish Lake near Cheney," Osborne said. "The aeration system at West Medical helped keep lake conditions stable through the winter, and Fish Lake should be in pretty good shape, offering anglers brook trout, brown trout, and a few carry-over rainbows."

Many trout lakes in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties are also good bets on the April 25 opening day, said Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist. They include Waitts, Cedar, Rocky and Starvation lakes in Stevens County; Ellen Lake in Ferry County; and Diamond and Marshall lakes in Pend Oreille County.

See the 2015 Statewide Hatchery Trout & Kokanee Stocking Plan for all details on numbers and sizes of trout stocked by county and fishing water.

But anglers don't have to wait until the end of the month to catch fish. There's plenty of good fishing to be had in lakes that opened March 1 or that are open year-round.

Osborne said a prime example is Amber Lake in southwest Spokane County, which has been giving up some nice rainbow and cutthroat trout under selective gear rules (no bait, artificial flies and lures only, knotless nets). Fishing at Amber Lake is catch-and-release until April 25, when it shifts to a catch-and-keep season with a daily limit of two trout measuring at least 14 inches. Rainbows with clipped adipose fins caught at Amber must be released even after April 25.

Other popular lakes open all month in Spokane County include:

  • Liberty Lake, east of Spokane, which started out slow after the March 1 opener, but should offer good catches of brown and rainbow trout as the season progresses. Once the water warms, it also provides some of the earliest yellow perch and crappie fishing in the area.
  • Downs Lake, east of Sprague, which is planted with "catchable-size" rainbow trout, should also fish well this month for largemouth bass, yellow perch, and crappie.
  • Medical Lake, near the town of the same name, has brown and rainbow trout.

In Lincoln County, Coffeepot Lake is producing rainbow trout, mostly on flies. Coffeepot is also under selective gear rules, with a minimum size limit of 18 inches and a daily catch limit of one trout.  The boat launch at Coffeepot is closed to launching boats from trailers due to low water conditions.  The Bureau of Land Management closed the launch to prevent vehicles and boat trailers from getting stuck in the mud.  Anglers can still launch car-toppers and other watercraft that can be launched by hand. When conditions improve, the launch will be re-opened for trailered boat launching.

Deer Lake in southern Stevens County, which opened March 1, is warming up and producing catches of rainbow and lake trout, with bass, crappie, perch catches not far behind.

Rock Lake, open year-round in Whitman County, is consistently a good spot for catches of both brown and rainbow trout.  Long Lake (Lake Spokane) is also open year-round and continues to produce great catches of 13-15 inch rainbow trout, and it should provide decent opportunity for bass, perch, and crappie as conditions warm up.

April 17 is the deadline to register for the May 2 Kids' Fishing Event at Clear Lake in Spokane County. For details on the registration form, see the Youth Fishing 2015 Event Calendar on WDFW's website.

In the south end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments (man-made lakes) on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area have been producing nice rainbow catches since opening March 1. Area manager Kari Dingman said Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes are all well-stocked with hatchery trout and warming up as spring advances.

Anglers and other Wooten Wildlife Area recreationists can learn about WDFW’s plans for management and recreation improvements in the Tucannon floodplain at public open houses on April 7 in Richland and Dayton.  The Richland open house is 4-6 p.m. at the Richland Public Library, Gallery Conference Room, 955 Northgate Drive, in Richland. The Dayton open house is 7-9 p.m. at the Best Western Plus Dayton Hotel and Suites, 507 E. Main Street, in Dayton. The floodplain plan is available online.

Beginning April 1, all anglers 15 and older must have a 2015-2016 fishing license to fish for trout and other species; 2014-2015 licenses expire March 31. Licenses ranging from a freshwater-only license to a multi-species combination license are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Anglers should check the Fish Washington rule pamphlet before heading out.  And don’t recycle it yet. Unlike in past years, the current fishing rules pamphlet will remain valid through June 30. 

Hunting:  The spring wild turkey hunting season opens April 15 and runs through May 31, and there’s no better place to turkey hunt than northeast Washington.

Dana Base, WDFW Northeast District wildlife biologist, said that at least 60 percent of all the state’s spring turkey harvest occurs in the Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Whitman county turkey management unit.

Youth hunters (under 16 years of age) get a jump on the season with an opportunity on the weekend of April 4-5 – a chance to put a wild turkey on the family Easter dinner table.

Base encourages hunters to do some scouting now and to always get permission from landowners before hunting on private land. The highest turkey densities most recently surveyed were in the Chewelah area of Game Management Unit (GMU) 117, in the Cedonia area of GMU 121, and in the Douglas GMU 108.

The Eastern Region’s southeast units 139-186 continue to average 15 percent of the statewide harvest.  WDFW wildlife areas in that part of the region – Asotin Creek, Chief Joseph, and W.T. Wooten – provide good turkey hunting.  WDFW Wooten manager Kari Dingman reports turkeys have been strutting and gobbling for a while now. She also notes the Cummings Creek winter closure ends on April 1.

Spring turkey hunters who plan to also hunt this fall should wait to file their required hunting report until after the fall season. For more information, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department’s website.

Wildlife viewing:  Spring is in full swing throughout the region and that means wildlife viewing opportunities abound.

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman notes both mountain and western bluebirds are back in the area along the Tucannon River in southeast Washington’s Columbia County.

Rooster pheasants are crowing, tom turkeys are gobbling, and at least a couple pairs of Canada geese are acting like they are getting ready to nest,” Dingman said. “The bighorn sheep are still hanging out on the ridge above and behind the fish hatchery.  The hillsides are greening up and the shrubs are starting to leaf out. Overall, it’s beautiful on the Tucannon right now.”

Dingman reminds Wooten visitors that the Cummings Creek winter closure ends April 1, so even more of the wildlife area is open for hiking and wildlife watching.

Hundreds of migrating tundra swans are currently viewable on Calispell Lake in northeast Washington’s Pend Oreille County, where they’re resting and feeding on the way to breeding grounds in the high tundra across the top of North America. The big birds usually remain on the lake until about mid-April.

Other migratory birds have been spotted and more should be seen during the month of April throughout the region.  Flocks of Canada geese and a growing diversity of ducks are moving into and through the region’s waterways and agricultural lands. Backyard birdwatchers are reporting western bluebirds, house wrens, spotted towhees, violet-green swallows and more species returning to the area to begin nesting.

Northcentral Washington
(Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties)

Fishing: Dozens of the region’s lakes open to fishing April 1, most in Adams and Grant counties of the Columbia Basin.

But anglers will have to wait until next year to harvest catchable-size rainbow trout at five of them that were rehabilitated last fall to remove undesirable fish.  Sago, Hourglass, Widgeon, and Upper and Lower Hampton lakes in Grant County were treated with rotenone to rid them of pumpkinseed sunfish and restore the popular trout fisheries, said Chad Jackson, WDFW Columbia Basin district fish biologist.

Jackson said that treated waters are usually restocked with catchable-size (11-13 inches) rainbow trout, but these five lakes are located within the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has a national policy that prohibits stocking refuge waters with catchable-size sport fish. Instead, the lakes will be stocked with two-to-four-inch rainbow trout fingerlings that will grow to harvestable size by next year’s opener.

Other April 1-opening lakes that will provide good trout fishing include Pillar, Snipe, Cattail, Gadwall, Poacher, Shoveler, Lemna, and North and South Teal lakes, Jackson said. Traditionally, some of the best fishing on the April 1 opener should be at Dry Falls Lake in the north end of Grant County near Coulee City.  Dry Falls is a selective gear rule fishery with an internal combustion motor prohibition and a one fish daily catch limit, so there’s a lot of catch-and-release fishing. Rainbows in the 14- to 16-inch range are common at Dry Falls, but there are also some nice brown and tiger trout.

For anglers interested in fishing for warmwater species, Hutchinson and Shiner lakes in Adams County also open on April 1.  Both have lots of nice size largemouth bass and are best fished from a small boat, canoe, or float tube/pontoon boat.  Internal combustion motors are prohibited.

Columbia Basin waters that have been open for fishing since March 1, or are open year-round, include Martha, Upper Caliche, Quincy, Burke, and the Quincy walk-in lakes, as well as Blythe, Canal, Chukar, Corral, Heart, Windmill, and North Windmill lakes.

Two Okanogan County lakes also open April 1 – Spectacle Lake, just south of Loomis,  and Washburn Island Pond, a diked oxbow lake off the Columbia River near Fort Okanogan State Park due east of Brewster off Highway 17.

Ryan Fortier, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist, says anglers can usually expect to catch rainbows in the 10-14 inch range at Spectacle. Washburn Island Pond is a warmwater fishery that provides opportunities for largemouth bass, bluegill, and the occasional channel catfish.  Combustible engines may not be used while fishing Washburn.

Other Okanogan County rainbow trout fisheries shift to catch-and-release only fishing under selective gear rules on April 1. These include Campbell, Cougar, Davis, Green and Lower Green, and Rat lakes.

Catch of ten Kokanee on dock

Lake Chelan Kokanee catch

Kokanee action on year-round-open Palmer Lake is heating up with rising lake temperatures,” Fortier said.  “Anglers are trolling along the southern end of the lake with reports of limits being taken.”

Travis Maitland, WDFW Chelan/Douglas district fish biologist, says kokanee fishing is also improving this month at Lake Chelan.

“It looks as though we will be having another great quality kokanee year, with plump fish generally ranging in size from 12 to 16 inches and a few larger,” Maitland said. “April angler success should increase throughout the month with warmer water temperatures and fish moving farther down lake near Manson and Lakeside. That’s where they’re more accessible to a wider range of anglers with all sizes of boats.”
 
Aulin Smith, WDFW scientific technician with the Large Lakes Research Office, recommends fishing year-round-open Banks Lake, the Columbia River reservoir that stretches between Electric City and Coulee City near the Grant-Douglas county line.

“Banks has been turning out walleye and perch to those trolling spinners in 40 to 50 feet of water,” Smith said. “But as the water temperatures rise, the fish are moving up. Better quality walleye are being caught by patient jig anglers. They are also finding a few burbot and whitefish. Trout and bass are taking crankbaits. Pick a spot, follow the shoreline, and make lots of casts. It’s been slower for the bank anglers, but some are catching a few with marshmallows and worms, spinners, and crankbaits. Carp are also starting to move up into the shallows, especially on calm, sunny afternoons.”

Many other fisheries throughout the region open April 25, the single biggest fishing season opener in the state.

In Okanogan County, best bets may be Pearrygin Lake, near Winthrop; Conconully Lake and Reservoir, within the town of Conconully; Alta Lake, just west of Pateros; and Wannacut  Lake, near Oroville.

In Chelan County, April 25-opening lakes worth trying include Wapato and the Wenatchee Heights lakes – Clear, Black, Lilly and Beehive.  These lakes have been or will be stocked with mostly rainbow trout and should be “fast” fishing for 12-inch range trout.

In Douglas County, Jameson Lake is still a popular fishery and there should be some good size “carry overs” available.

See the 2015 Statewide Hatchery Trout & Kokanee Stocking Plan for all details on numbers and sizes of trout stocked by county and fishing water.

Steelhead fishing at Ringold in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, just north of the Tri-Cities, has been great, according to Mike Erickson of WDFW’s Ringold Springs Fish Hatchery. Recent steelhead captures, to provide adult broodstock for hatchery production, indicate the quality. The fishery closed on the river March 31, but the Ringold Area Bank Fishery runs April 1-15 for catch-and-release, except that up to two hatchery-marked steelhead can be retained. Check the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for all details.

Beginning April 1, all anglers 15 and older must have a 2015-2016 fishing license to fish for trout and other species; 2014-2015 licenses expire March 31. Licenses ranging from a freshwater-only license to a multi-species combination license are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Anglers should check the Fish Washington rule pamphlet before heading out.  And don’t recycle it yet. Unlike in past years, the current fishing rules pamphlet will remain valid through June 30. 

Hunting: The general spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state, with a youth only hunt set for April 4-5.

In Okanogan County, WDFW District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin says turkey hunters should be aware that much of the highest density turkey habitat (Game Management Unit 239) burned in the Carlton Complex Fire last year.

“This will likely affect bird distribution, given the lack of cover and roosting habitat,” Fitkin said. “A starting point would be to look in or near unburned or partially burned patches. Plenty of unburned and occupied habitat is still available in other portions of the Okanogan district, particularly units 204, 233, and 215.”

Other parts of the northcentral region should be good to fair for turkey hunting.

Spring turkey hunters who plan to also hunt this fall should wait to file their required hunting report until after the fall season. For more information, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department’s website.

Wildlife viewing: Bird watching is picking up throughout the region as migrants move into and through northcentral Washington.

The Columbia Basin is teeming with waterfowl of all kinds now – geese, ducks, swans, shorebirds, and sandhill cranes.  WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger says cranes and most other birds can be observed reliably around Frenchmen Rese

rve and Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. Swans have also been recently sighted resting and foraging on Mansfield Pond.

WDFW Okanogan District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin reports that with most low-elevation lakes now ice-free, migratory waterfowl are also abundant in Okanogan County.

Both trumpeter and tundra swans, plus goldeneye, bufflehead, ring-neck ducks, and hooded mergansers, are visible on Conners and Forde lakes on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area. Green-up on the Chiliwist Wildlife Area is in full effect and numerous other bird and wildflower species can be seen. Large groups of mule deer are visible on greened-up, south-facing slopes.

Three swans in flight. White wildflowers in bloom.
Swans in flight Wildflowers in bloom

Fitkin also notes amphibians are beginning to get active in the lower elevation wetlands. Pacific tree frogs and spadefoot toads are actively calling and soon egg masses and tadpoles will be evident.
 
Chelan Wildlife Area Manager Ron Fox reminds viewers that steelhead will be returning to Beebe Creek to spawn in the coming weeks with peak numbers in mid-May. Steelhead and their redds are visible from the bridges spanning Beebe Creek and from two viewpoints that provide close access to the creek.

Visitors to Beebe Creek Wildlife Area viewing spawning steelhead from a bridge over a creek. Shot from above showing spawning steelhead in creek
Visitors at Beebe Creek Wildlife Area
viewing spawning steelhead
Spawning steelhead in creek

Southcentral Washington
(Benton, Franklin, Kittitas and Yakima counties)

Fishing:  Trout fishing takes center stage in April as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) continues planting thousands of rainbows, kokanee and cutthroat in lakes and ponds throughout the region.

More than two-dozen lakes are scheduled to receive fish this month, including Rotary Lake, Tim’s Pond, I-82 Ponds #4 & #6, Yakima Sportsman Pond, Fio Rito Lakes, Kiwanis Pond, Lavender Lake, McCabe Pond, Naneum Pond, Matton Lake, Woodhouse Pond and more.

Most of those fish run from one-third to a half-pound each, but some weigh in at 1½ pounds, said Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist based in Yakima. “We’re putting some hefty, great-looking fish out there this year,” he said. “This is a good time to get outdoors and celebrate spring by catching some.”

In addition to stocking large numbers of catchable and jumbo rainbow trout, WDFW plants large triploid trout in April into select area lakes including Powerline Lake in Franklin County.  A complete list is posted on WDFW’s trout-stocking website.

Anderson notes that all anglers 15 and older must have a 2015-2016 fishing license to fish for trout and other species after March 31, when 2014-2015 licenses expire. Licenses ranging from a freshwater-only license to a multi-species combination license are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Most steelhead sport fisheries are now closed in the Columbia and Snake rivers, although a “bank only” fishery near the Tri-Cities adjacent to WDFW’s Ringold Springs Hatchery is open April 1-15. Anglers can take two hatchery steelhead per day along the Franklin County shoreline from the WDFW marker a quarter-mile downstream from the Ringold irrigation wasteway outlet to the marker a half-mile upstream from Spring Creek. 

Ready for spring chinook? Fishing for springers is finally picking up in the lower Columbia River, and the upriver run should start arriving in area waters in mid-April, said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish biologist based in the Tri-Cities. Spring chinook fisheries are planned to open in the Yakima River and the Snake River this spring. 

“Anglers should keep an eye out for emergency rules that open and close fishing on short notice,” he said. For updates, he recommends checking the fishing-rule website, the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) and local news media.

Sturgeon anglers are also advised to stay abreast of new regulations. As of late March, anglers could still catch and keep legal-size sturgeon in Lake Umatilla (John Day Dam to McNary Dam), but that fishery will close as soon as the 500-fish quota for those waters is reached. 

Meanwhile, catch rates should continue to improve on area rivers for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and walleye in April right through spring.

Hunting:  The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 4-5 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

As in past years, we are seeing high interest in hunter education around the spring turkey season opener, said Dave Whipple, WDFW hunter education division manager. “We encourage new hunters to enroll in hunter education courses well ahead of their first hunting trip.”

A hunter education course is required for first-time Washington hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972.  To find a course and learn about hunter education requirements, new hunters should visit the WDFW hunter education webpage. Those who do not find a course that meets their needs should continue to check the website as classes are added regularly.

Hunter education programs teach safety, conservation ethics and principles of sportsmanship, said Whipple. “This is critical information for a safe and positive hunting experience, and we do not want any new hunter to miss this opportunity,” he said.

Wildlife viewing: The Sandhill Crane Festival in Othello is over for another year, but the guests of honor don’t just fly off once the festival ends. Thousands of cranes will be on view throughout April in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, the Frenchman Hills and all the way down the Columbia River Gorge. It’s also a great time to see snow geese, trumpeter swans and even the occasional American pelican in these areas.

The McNary National Wildlife Refuge just southeast of the Tri-Cities is a good place to look for waterfowl and shorebirds of all kinds right now. Many species are nesting there, including mallards and redhead ducks, black-crown night herons, great blue herons, pied-billed grebes, long-billed curlews, burrowing owls, long-billed marsh wrens, and yellow-headed, red-winged, and Brewer's blackbirds.

Ring-billed gulls, California gulls, Forester's terns and spotted sandpipers also nest in colonies on the river islands in the Hanford Islands Division of the refuge. See the division’s website for more information about birding and the new environmental education center in the area.

Meanwhile, a WDFW wildlife area manager has a cautionary note about preventing wildfires. Last March, a blaze took hold in the Wenas Wildlife Area and scorched half an acre before it was brought under control, said Cindi Confer Morris, who manages the area. A week later, controlled burns got out of hand on two farms in the Lower Yakima Valley and raged across more than 100 acres.

“We don’t usually think of early spring as fire season, but the risk is certainly present,” Confer Morris said. “A lot of areas haven’t had much spring green-up yet, so the majority of the grass is from last year’s growth, which is brown and dry. After an hour or two in the wind, it doesn’t take much for last year’s tops to become dry enough to burn.”