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

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September 2014

(This document is updated periodically throughout the month to reflect current rules and opportunities. Please download the latest copy before heading out! Last updated September 18, 2014)

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

Signs of fall: Hunters take field,
salmon move in from the ocean

The sun is setting earlier and the leaves are beginning to turn color – signs of another change of season. Fall is in the air, and hunters are heading out for the first major hunting seasons of the year.

Archery hunts for deer get under way around the state Sept. 1, when hunting seasons also open for forest grouse, mourning dove, cottontail rabbit, and snowshoe hare. Other seasons set to open this month include archery hunts for elk, muzzleloader hunts for deer, and a turkey hunt in some areas of eastern Washington.

A youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant and other game birds runs Sept. 20-21 statewide. To participate, hunters must be 15 years old or younger and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting.

"Hunting seasons look very promising this year," said Dave Ware, statewide game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "Deer and elk populations definitely benefitted from mild weather last winter, and there should be plenty of local ducks available early in the season, followed by a record number of birds expected from the north later this year."

Area-by-area summaries of hunting prospects throughout the state are available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/. Ware noted that the site includes information on the effects of this summer's wildfires on hunting opportunities in the Okanogan.    

Meanwhile, an estimated run of 1.5 million chinook salmon – and hundreds of thousands of coho – is moving up the Columbia River, drawing anglers by the thousands. Further north, chinook and coho are also pushing into Puget Sound from the ocean, while eastside anglers await a surge of chinook and steelhead on the Snake River.

As new fishing seasons open, others are coming to an end. Crab fishing in most areas of Puget Sound is set to end Labor Day at sunset, and WDFW is reminding crabbers that summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 1 – whether or not they actually caught crab this year. Completed cards can be submitted by mail or online at http://bit.ly/WkXeA from Sept. 2 through Oct. 1.

For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available this month, see the Weekender Regional Reports posted on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide current information about recreational opportunities around the state.

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

Fishing: Anglers are hooking bright ocean coho in several areas of Puget Sound, where increasing numbers of salmon are expected to arrive throughout the month.

Point No Point, Jefferson Head, Possession Bar and Shipwreck should be good spots to catch coho, said Ryan Lothrop, recreational salmon fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Anglers fishing those areas – or other waters of marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) – have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release chinook. In Marine Area 10, anglers also must continue to release chum salmon through Sept. 15, and through Sept. 30 in Marine Area 9.

"We've seen catches of coho improve over the last two weeks of August in Puget Sound," Lothrop said. "Fishing should continue to be good as more coho make their way into the area." 

Marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) are also open for salmon. Anglers fishing those two marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release chinook salmon.

Another option is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, one of which can be a chinook. Anglers in Marine Area 7 must release chum and wild coho.

Lothrop said the best bet for freshwater anglers fishing for coho salmon in the region might be the Snohomish and Skagit rivers, where abundant runs are expected to return this year. Other options for coho include the Nooksack, Skykomish, Snoqualmie, and Stillaguamish rivers.

Meanwhile, the summer recreational crab season will close in most areas of Puget Sound at sunset on Labor Day. The only two areas of the Sound that will remain open to crab fishing after Labor Day are marine areas 7-North (Gulf of Georgia) and 7-South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham). Crabbing in those two areas is open through Sept. 29, Thursdays through Mondays only.

Sport fishers who crab in marine areas 7-North and 7-South after Labor Day must record their catch on winter catch record cards. Winter cards are now available at sporting goods stores and other license vendors across the state.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may also keep six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least five inches across, are in hard-shell condition and have a minimum carapace width of five inches. See WDFW's sport-crabbing website for more information.

Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by midnight Oct. 1 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught crab or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2014 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2015 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed summer cards can be mailed in or submitted online after Labor Day. Additional information is available on WDFW's website.

WDFW will announce winter crab seasons for Puget Sound in early October, after completing its assessment of the summer fishery.

Elsewhere, Lake Sammamish is open for salmon fishing, with a daily limit of four salmon, of which two may be chinook. All sockeye must be released, and fishing is closed within 100 yards of the mouth of Issaquah Creek. Lake Washington, Sammamish Lake's larger neighbor, opens Sept. 16 to coho fishing, with a very strong forecast. Anglers will be allowed four coho per day (minimum size 12 inches) from waters north of the Highway 520 Bridge and east of the Montlake Bridge.

Hunting: In coming weeks, hunters have several options to consider as early hunting seasons open throughout September. Archery-only hunts for deer begin Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 26, while archery hunts for elk are open Sept. 2-14, extending all the way to Sept. 26 in game management unit (GMU) 407. Most muzzleloader-only seasons for deer start Sept. 27, followed by the early muzzleloader hunt for elk that begins Oct. 4 in most areas in the region (Sept. 27 in GMU 407).

Meanwhile, bear hunts are under way in the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, which is open through Nov. 15, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington.

For those seeking forest grouse, the statewide hunting season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 31.

September also offers opportunities to hunt doves, geese and band-tailed pigeons. The dove hunt opens Sept. 1 and lasts through Sept. 30. In addition, an early Canada goose hunt is open Sept. 1-15 in area 2B, and Sept. 10-15 in Goose Management Areas 1, 2A, and 3. The band-tailed pigeon season runs Sept. 15-23.

Hunters under the age of 16 will have an opportunity to go afield for ducks, Canada geese, coots and pheasants during a special youth hunt Sept. 20-21. For those new to waterfowl hunting, WDFW has established the "Let's Go Waterfowl Hunting" webpage to introduce the sport.

In eastern Washington, youth may also take quail, chukar and gray partridge during the two day season. Youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult – at least 18 years old – who is not hunting. Nontoxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites.

Hunters 65 years or older will have an opportunity to go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 22-26. Western Washington hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Sept. 27.

Before going afield, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for details. Black bear hunters can test their bear species identification skills through an interactive program on WDFW's website. The program includes information on how to correctly identify black bears and grizzly bears.

Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal endangered species laws.

WDFW is continuing to seek emailed comments on 2015-17 hunting season proposals through September 22. Visit the season setting website for details.

Wildlife viewing: Birdwatchers have an opportunity to do some birding in the Edmonds area during the Puget Sound Bird Fest Sept. 5-7. The festival is a celebration of birds and nature around Edmonds, including Edmonds Marsh and the waterfront. The event features guided walks, speakers, field trips and educational activities. For more information, visit the Puget Sound Bird Fest website.

Whale watchers should have several opportunities in September to spot orca whales in the San Juan Islands. The resident orcas are feasting on salmon runs now making their way along the shores of the islands. One of the best spots to view whales is from Lime Kiln State Park on the western shore of San Juan Island.

Also, Washington CoastSavers is working to organize volunteer beach cleanup efforts for the International Coastal Cleanup on Sept. 20. Registration and details, including a list of targeted beaches, can be found at their website.

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

Fishing: Salmon fishing heads into its final month in September in most of Washington's ocean waters and state fisheries managers expect it to be a good one. Halibut and Puget Sound crab seasons also wind down this month.

Plenty of coho salmon are still making their way into Washington's ocean waters, said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "As the coho head south, we'll see some strong opportunities for fishing in Neah Bay, La Push and Westport," Milward said.

All areas except Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) are open as of Sept. 1 for both hatchery and wild coho fishing. Anglers can retain hatchery and wild coho in Marine Area 1 beginning Sept. 6.

All four marine areas have a daily catch limit of two salmon. Anglers are allowed to keep two chinook per day in four ocean areas.

"There are a lot of fish heading into the Columbia River right now, which makes for good fishing at Ilwaco," Milward said.

The ocean salmon fisheries are scheduled to continue through Sept. 19 in Marine area 2 (Westport) and through Sept. 21 in marine areas 2, 3 and 4. However, a portion of Marine Area 3 will reopen Sept. 27 through Oct. 12.

Anglers fishing near Willapa Bay should be aware of some changes. Chum retention is allowed in Willapa Bay from Sept. 3 through Jan. 31, 2015. There is a daily catch limit of six fish, three of which may be adult salmon. Anglers must release wild chinook. Anglers should also note a change to the boundary in the North River area of Willapa Bay. For boundary information, anglers should check out the fishing rule change.

Salmon are still moving down from Canadian waters and into Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where September often is the peak month for coho fishing, said Ryan Lothrop, WDFW Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager. Anglers fishing in marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (Strait of Juan de Fuca) have a daily catch limit of two salmon.

Anglers fishing Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) will have additional fishing opportunity with the opening of waters north of Ayock Point.  That section is open Sept. 1 through Oct. 15 with a daily catch limit of four coho only.  Waters south of Ayock Point have been open since July 1. That section has a combined daily catch limit of four fish, two of which can be chinook.

Also in area 12, Lothrop reminds anglers that the Hoodsport Hatchery Zone is closed until further notice.  However, anglers with disabilities can continue to fish from the ADA-accessible fishing platform.  Any changes to that fishery would be posted on the emergency rules webpage.

Fishing for chinook in Puget Sound can also be good in September in marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound), Lothrop said.

Meanwhile, salmon fishing starts Sept. 1 in several coastal rivers, including the Hoh, Clearwater, Humptulips. Salmon fishing on the Wynoochee and Satsop rivers gets under way Sept. 16.

Catch limits and regulations in Washington's waters vary by time and location, so anglers should check the Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet and emergency rule website before heading out.

Halibut fishing will continue in September along the mouth of the Columbia River (Marine Area 1). Anglers can hook a halibut any day of the week between the all-depth fishery, open Thursday through Sunday, and the new nearshore fishery, open Monday through Wednesday.  The halibut season closes Sept. 30 in Marine Area 1 unless the seasonal catch quota is reached prior to that date.

Anglers can keep bottomfish while having halibut onboard in the nearshore fishery on the days it's open.  Both the nearshore and the all-depth fishery have a one-halibut daily catch limit. More information on the halibut fishery can be found on WDFW's recreational ocean halibut webpage.

Crabbing will close Sept. 1 in most areas of Puget Sound except in Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia) and South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham), where the season is open through Sept. 29.

The daily limit for crab fishers throughout Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. WDFW's recreational crabbing webpage has additional information on regulations and on reporting crab catches.

Crabbers are reminded their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 1 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2014 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2015 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed summer catch cards can be mailed in or submitted online after Labor Day. Additional information is available on WDFW's website.

WDFW will announce winter crab seasons for Puget Sound in early October after completing its assessment of the summer fishery.

Hunting: September marks the start of hunting seasons for deer, upland game birds and waterfowl. Dates and regulations are listed in the Big Game and Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets, available on WDFW's website.

Hunters planning their season may also want to check WDFW's 2014 Hunting Prospects report and Game Harvest Reports, which together provide a look at upcoming opportunities and previous success rates in specific game management units (GMUs).

Early archery hunts for deer run Sept. 1-26, overlapping with archery hunts for elk Sept. 2-14. Most early muzzleloader seasons for deer start Sept. 27, followed by the early muzzleloader hunt for elk that begins Oct. 4 in designated game management units (GMU) throughout the region.

The best opportunities to harvest black-tailed deer in the region include GMUs 663, 648, 672, 660, 621, 627 and 633. Hunters looking to harvest a Roosevelt elk in District 17 (Pacific and Grays Harbor counties) often find their best opportunities are associated with the Willapa Hills elk herd and include GMUs 658, 672, 673 and 681. In District 16 (Clallam and west Jefferson counties), the highest level of elk harvests have occurred in GMUs 615, 602 and 607.

Both elk and deer hunters should note that several private timber companies in the region have decided to charge fees for access this year rather than continue to offer free access. Hunters are advised to check WDFW's hunter access webpage for details.

Meanwhile, bear hunts are under way in the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, which is open through Nov. 15, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington.

Prospects for harvesting a black bear in District 16 are good to excellent due to low elevation berry production. In districts 17 and 15 (Mason, Kitsap and east Jefferson counties), bear harvest tends to happen opportunistically, when hunters are targeting elk and deer, rather than targeting bear.

For those seeking forest grouse, the statewide hunting season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 31. The harvest of grouse in Clallam County (District 16) rivals all other counties in south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic National Forest and Skokomish valley in District 15 also are popular grouse hunting areas.

September also offers opportunities to hunt doves, geese and band-tailed pigeons. The dove hunt opens Sept. 1 and lasts through Sept. 30. In addition, an early Canada goose hunt is open Sept. 1-15 in area 2B, and Sept. 10-15 in Goose Management Areas 1, 2A, and 3. The band-tailed pigeon season runs Sept. 15-23.

Hunters under the age of 16 will have an opportunity to go afield for ducks, Canada geese, coots and pheasants during a special youth hunt Sept. 20-21. For those new to waterfowl hunting, WDFW has established the "Let's Go Waterfowl Hunting" webpage to introduce the sport.

Hunters 65 years or older will have an opportunity to go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 22-26. Western Washington hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Sept. 27.

Before going afield, hunters should check the Big Game Huntingpamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for details. Black bear hunters can test their bear species identification skills through an interactive program on WDFW's website. The program includes information on how to correctly identify black bears and grizzly bears.

Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal endangered species laws.

WDFW is continuing to seek comments on 2015-17 hunting season proposals through Sept. 22. Visit the season setting website for details.

Wildlife viewing: In Sequim, a popular festival celebrates wildlife Sept. 26 and 27.  The Dungeness River Festival, hosted by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, offers nature activities for adults and children alike. The Dungeness River Audubon Center, where the festival will be held, also hosts a variety of classes and nature walks through early October, including a Sept. 20 course called "Climate Change Action on the Olympic Peninsula."  More information is available on the center's webpage.

The return of hatchery chinook salmon to the Deschutes River near Olympia is another draw for wildlife-watchers. Onlookers can watch thousands of fish gather below the Fifth Avenue Bridge in downtown Olympia before they enter Capitol Lake and move up the fish ladders to the Tumwater Falls Hatchery.

The Lake Sylvia Fall festival will be held Sept. 20 at the state park and includes trail running and mountain biking races, a plant identification walk and an art walk in the woods.  Details can be found on the festival webpage.

Also on Sept. 20, the Ocean Conservancy hosts its International Coastal Cleanup. Volunteers have the chance to spot some marine mammals and shorebirds while helping to pick up trash on Washington's beaches. Sign up on the conservancy's webpage.

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

Fishing:  September is prime time for salmon fishing in the Columbia River Basin, where large numbers of fish are moving upriver and into tributaries on both sides of Bonneville Dam. Chinook fishing at Buoy 10 near the mouth of the river closes Sept. 1 at the end of the day, but anglers will still have plenty of opportunity to catch chinook salmon, coho and steelhead in the weeks ahead.

As most anglers know, 1.5 million fall chinook salmon are expected to return to the Columbia River this year – the highest number since at least 1938. Add coho to the equation, and a total of 2.1 million salmon are expected to return during the fall season.

"Expectations were off the charts when the fishery got under way," said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "The Buoy 10 fishery started in fits and starts, but catch rates increased steadily in late August when the bulk of the run started moving into the river."

Through Aug. 26, anglers had caught an estimated 20,300 chinook and 18,000 coho in the 16-mile stretch upstream from Buoy 10 to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line.

Barbless hooks are required when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries.

Through Sept. 1 (Labor Day), the daily catch limit for the Buoy 10 fishery is two salmon, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Only one of those salmon may be a chinook, and anglers may retain only those chinook with a clipped adipose or left ventral fin during the Labor Day weekend (Aug. 30 through Sept.1).

"The three-day selective fishing rule was designed to help extend the fishery," Hymer said. "Anglers let us know they wanted that fishery to remain open through the long weekend."

Anglers must release any chinook salmon intercepted in the Buoy 10 area starting Sept. 2, but the daily catch limit for hatchery coho rises to three fish that day in those waters.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the chinook run is moving upstream, with increasing numbers of coho moving in behind them. Anglers fishing above Rocky Point will find new rules approved by WDFW this year to increase opportunities to catch abundant chinook salmon:

  • Anglers may retain up to 2 adult chinook per day from the Warrior Rock line upriver to the Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal. (See map)
  • The daily catch limit is increased to 3 adult fall chinook from the Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco. (See map)
  • Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy recreational salmon/steelhead gear until the daily salmonid limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved while fishing from Buoy 10 upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.

Hymer advises anglers to take a close look at the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet for all regulations in effect where they plan to fish. Boat anglers should also be aware of Oregon's new sport fishing closure at the mouth of Young's Bay that runs through Sept.15. (See map)

For the latest creel-sampling results, check out WDFW's website, which also includes information from previous years to help plan your trip to Buoy 10. Anglers may also want to take advantage of the newly improved state boat ramp at Deep River.  A WDFW Vehicle Access Pass or Discover Pass is required. 

For anglers following fall chinook upstream, Hymer also recommends fishing deep, between 40 and 60 feet down. For a lure, he suggests wobblers anchored with a heavy weight.

"Chinook go deep when water temperatures are high, so that's a good place to find them," Hymer said. "At the same time, anglers should take care not to drop anchor in the shipping channel. That can lead to real trouble."

For coho, he recommends using herring and spinners in the lower Columbia, and bait and lures in the tributaries. Hatchery steelhead will also be available throughout the month, as more fish from the "B-run" – many weighing in the teens – will be moving upriver.  In addition, the hatchery steelhead daily limit has been increased to three fish on a portion of the lower Cowlitz. 

Like last year, anglers will be allowed to retain up to six adult hatchery coho on all tributaries to the lower Columbia River with hatchery programs. Those rivers include the Cowlitz, Deep, Elochoman, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Klickitat, Lewis (including North Fork), Toutle (including Green and North Fork) and Washougal.

Chinook retention is limited to marked hatchery fish on those river systems, except on the Klickitat River, Deep River and Drano Lake, where anglers can also retain unmarked chinook. Mark-selective fisheries also will be in effect on the Wind and White Salmon rivers.

On the Lewis River (including the North Fork), only hatchery chinook may be retained through September.  At Drano Lake, anglers may keep any coho (adipose fin clipped or not) throughout the season and the adult salmon daily limit is three fish. Three adult chinook may also be retained on the Klickitat River.

Meanwhile, anglers are still catching walleye above and below Bonneville Dam and trout on a number of lowland lakes. One popular spot for trout on the Cowlitz River is Lake Scanewa, where anglers can keep 10 hatchery rainbows per day. Daily limits have also been raised at the Swift and Merwin reservoirs on the Lewis system . At Swift Reservoir, anglers must release all salmon larger than 15 inches in length and any bull trout or steelhead they intercept. 

For anglers who don't mind a hike or a drive, September is also a great time to head for the high lakes around Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and the south end of the Cascade Range. Lakes such as Goose, Council and Takhlakh all offer drive-in access.  Goose Lake is stocked in mid-September with thousands of cutthroat, averaging close to a pound a piece. Fishing will be excellent until snow blocks the roads.

Other great fishing opportunities await angers around the Indian Heaven, Goat Rocks, William O'Douglas, and the Trapper Creek wilderness areas. The trout are biting, the mosquitos are gone, and the leaves are blushing with fall color. September is the time when the trout start feeding heavily to prepare for winter and anglers can hook up with some nice rainbow, cutthroat, eastern brook, brown and tiger trout.

Hunting: September marks the start of this year's hunting seasons for deer, upland game birds and waterfowl. Dates and regulations are listed in the Big Game and Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets, available on WDFW's website.

Hunters planning their season may also want to check WDFW's 2014 Hunting Prospects report and Game Harvest Reports, which provide a look at both upcoming opportunities and previous success rates in specific game management units (GMUs).

Early archery hunts for deer run Sept. 1-26, overlapping with archery hunts for elk Sept. 2-14. Most early muzzleloader seasons for deer start Sept. 27, followed by an early muzzleloader hunt for elk that begins Oct. 4 in designated game management units.

As most hunters know, hoof disease has spread rapidly among elk in southwest Washington in recent years. While there is no evidence that the disease affects humans, it has taken a toll on the region's elk population. To help contain the disease, WDFW adopted a new regulation this year that requires hunters to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site. More information is available on WDFW's website.

Meanwhile, bear hunts are under way in select GMUs in the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, which is open through Nov. 15, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington.

Have your sights set on forest grouse? The statewide season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 31. The southwest region has a significant forest grouse population, which benefitted this year from dry spring weather. Deer and elk hunters often bag a grouse or two while looking for bigger game.

Hunters under the age of 16 will have an opportunity to go afield for ducks, Canada geese, coots and pheasants during a special youth hunt Sept. 20-21. For those new to waterfowl hunting, WDFW has established the "Let's Go Waterfowl Hunting" webpage to introduce the sport.

An early goose season is open to bird hunters of all ages Sept. 10-15 in Goose Management Area 3 (including Lewis and Skamania counties), and Sept. 13-14 in Goose Management Area 5 (Klickitat and Yakima counties). 

Hunters 65 years or older will have an opportunity to put pheasant on their table during a special senior hunt Sept. 22-26. The general pheasant season for hunters all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Sept. 27. Most pheasants in the southwest region are pen-raised birds released from sites enrolled in the state's Pheasant Release Program.

Make sure to check the hunting rule books for all of the hunting opportunities available this month. Also be aware that WDFW continues to seek comments on 2015-17 hunting season proposals through Sept. 22. Visit the season setting website for details.

Wildlife viewing: The Columbia River ecosystem and its primitive inhabitant, the sturgeon, will be honored in Vancouver on Saturday, Sept. 20, at the 18th Annual Sturgeon Festival. The free, one-day festival runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way.

The popular event, hosted by the City of Vancouver with support from WDFW, focuses on the fish and wildlife of the Columbia River, offering a variety of fun and educational activities for all ages. The star of the show is the Columbia River sturgeon, a primitive fish that has not changed substantially since it emerged in the Jurassic period. Reaching up to 10 feet in length, sturgeon can live to be more than 100 years old.

Meanwhile, salmon and steelhead are on the move. A record 973,300 upriver fall chinook salmon are expected to pass through the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam this year, and many of them will make that journey this month. Thousands of coho and summer steelhead will be passing by the viewing windows at the dam, too.

To get to the visitor center, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and park in front of the glass building at the end of the powerhouse. To check on the number of fish passing the dam each day, go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

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

Fishing:  September is when hatchery steelhead catch-and-keep fishing really picks up on the Snake River, where steelhead numbers passing the dams increase and so does angler effort and success.

In addition, fishing for hatchery-marked fall chinook salmon starts Aug. 30 and runs through Oct. 31 in the Snake River. A significant portion of the 2014 Columbia River forecasted return of 919,000 upriver bright chinook adults is expected to return to the Snake River. See all the rules for this fishery here.

Sept. 1 marks the start of rule changes for Tucannon River steelheading and other fishing to better protect wild steelhead. Anglers should be sure to identify their catch because protected chinook and coho salmon and bull trout are also in the Tucannon. All steelhead landed in the Tucannon with a missing adipose fin (hatchery origin) must be retained; catch-and-release of hatchery steelhead is not allowed. The daily limit is reduced to two hatchery steelhead per day. Barbless hooks are required and all wild steelhead must be released. The area from Marengo (at Turner Road Bridge) upstream is closed to fishing. There is also a modified boundary description in place starting this month. See all details in the rule changes.

This month is the last chance to fish several of the region's best rainbow and/or cutthroat trout fishing lakes.  Closing Sept. 30 is Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County and   Williams and West Medical lakes in southwest Spokane County.

Randy Osborne, WDFW central district fish biologist in Spokane, said that while access to West Medical Lake remains available through a WDFW-managed site on the south end of the lake, walk-in shoreline access on the north end, through private property, is no longer legal. Osborne says the "unofficial" access on the north end was abused by litterers and is now posted with "no trespassing" signs.

Fish Lake in Spokane County also provides anglers the unique opportunity to catch eastern brook trout until Sept. 30.  Another southwest Spokane County lake changes seasons soon – Amber Lake shifts to catch-and-release-only on Oct. 1.

Osborne says that if conditions are right, September fishing at these lakes can almost rival the first weeks of the season in the spring.  "Air and water temperature changes during this month can trigger late summer/early fall insect hatches, which can equate to some pretty productive fishing conditions all month long," he said.

Spokane County's Downs Lake and Lincoln County's Coffeepot Lake also close at the end of the month but can yield good catches of yellow perch, black crappie, and rainbow trout during September.

Plenty of other lakes throughout the region remain open through October or year-round. Osborne says they can also provide a pick-up in fishing action during September, depending on weather. Clear Lake, near the town of Medical Lake in Spokane County, typically produces good catches of brown trout, crappie, and largemouth bass as fall advances.  Other lakes continue to provide good fishing for bass and panfish, including Spokane County's Silver, Liberty, and Newman lakes.

Osborne notes the WDFW access at Newman Lake will be closed Sept. 9-11 to allow herbicide treatment of the lake, by contractors with the Newman Lake Flood Control Zone District, under permit from the Washington Department of Ecology, to control Eurasian milfoil and other aquatic invasive weeds.

Year-round-open Lake Roosevelt and Sprague Lake both offer good-size rainbows in September. Lake Spokane (Long Lake) anglers have been taking advantage of the rainbow trout stocked earlier in the summer through a cooperative effort by WDFW and Avista.  Like the other lakes in the area, catch rates of those fish should also increase with the coming of cooler conditions this month.

Hunting:The first hunting seasons in the region open Sept. 1, including black bear in the Northeastern and Blue Mountains hunt zones, early archery deer in select Game Management Units (GMUs), and mourning dove, forest grouse, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare, raccoon, fox, and bobcat throughout the region.

The best black bear hunting in the region is in the northeast district where WDFW wildlife biologist Dana Base expectsmost harvest in Game Management Units (GMU) 101 (Sherman), 117 (49 Degrees North), and 121 (Huckleberry). Harvest numbers during the 2013 season, compared to the long-term (10-year) average, suggests bear harvest has been decreasing in the northeast district, but Base says it's hard to say if that's a temporary or long-term trend. Gauging from the number of observed bears and bear complaints, Base expects bear harvest to be higher this year. Northeast district bear hunters could encounter grizzly bears, which are both state and federally protected, so Base advises hunters to take the online bear species identification test.

Deer hunting prospects for both white-tailed and mule deer are relatively good throughout the region, with more whitetails in the northeast and central districts and more mule deer in the southeast district. Bowhunters after white-tailed deer in GMUs 117 and 121 need to remember the four-antler-point minimum rule that continues this year. Other early archery units for both species of deer are under three-antler-point minimums or antlerless. Only whitetails in GMUs 101, 105, 108, 111 and 113 are open to any buck.  GMU 124 (Mount Spokane) is the only early archery unit open to the taking of any white-tailed deer.

The best opportunities for mourning dove hunting are usually in the southeast district near the Snake, Touchet and Walla Walla rivers where birds tend to be more abundant until cooler weather moves them south. An increasing number of exotic Eurasian collared doves are now found throughout the region and since hunting for them is open year-round without bag limits, they might provide opportunity when native mourning doves migrate out and after that season closes Sept.30.

Wherever hunters pursue doves, keying in on grain crop fields near water is the best bet. WDFW biologists recommend hunters look into private lands access through several WDFW agreement programs – Feel Free to Hunt, Register to Hunt, Hunting by Written Permission, and Hunt by Reservation – all detailed at Private Lands Access.

Forest grouse – blue (dusky), ruffed and spruce grouse, depending on elevation – should be in fair numbers in the forested lands in the northeast and southeast districts of the region. Harvest declines in recent years might indicate population declines, but WDFW staff do not survey forest grouse to be able to say for sure. Most grouse hunting occurs on public forest lands, but some opportunities might be available on northeast private lands enrolled in the Hunt by Reservation program; see details at Private Lands Access.

Also opening Sept. 1 is the cougar hunting season in many GMUs across the region, each with harvest number guidelines that, when met or exceeded, may close the season in that area at the end of the year. The use of hounds to hunt cougar remains prohibited, except during authorized public safety cougar removals. Cougar hunters should check out the details in the big game rules pamphlet.

Early archery elk hunting begins Sept. 2 in select GMUs. The northeast and central district units are open to any elk, and the southeast district units are open either for spike bulls only, or spike bulls or antlerless elk. Most elk harvest by all hunter groups (archery, muzzleloader, modern firearm) in this region is in the southeast district (Blue Mountains), where herds occur predominantly in or near public forested lands. WDFW southeast district wildlife biologist Paul Wik says that with an increase in elk calves in 2013, hunters should see an increase in the number of spikes this season.

Some special permit opportunities on both elk and deer for limited numbers of successful applicants also get under way at various times this month in select GMUs.

Early fall wild turkey hunting runs Sept. 20-Oct. 10 and the big birds are again relatively abundant throughout the region.  In most of the region's GMUs (101, 124-154, and 162-189) one either sex turkey can be taken. A northeast beardless-only turkey hunting season also opens Sept. 20 in GMUs 105-142, where two beardless turkeys can be taken. Several opportunities are available on northeast private lands enrolled in the Hunt by Reservation program; see details at Private Lands Access.

Sept. 20-21 is the special youth only waterfowl and upland game bird hunting season that gives hunters under 16 years of age a jump start on the general seasons that open later this fall. Non-hunting adults at least 18 years of age must accompany young hunters and should note all the special weekend season rules in WDFW's Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet.

A special pheasant hunting opportunity only for hunters 65 years of age or older continues this year Sept. 22-26. Several opportunities to hunt upland game birds on private property in the central and southeast districts may be available through this year's new Hunt by Reservation program; see details at Private Lands Access.

Both youth and senior hunters will want to check out information on the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program bird release sites. Non-toxic shot is required for all upland bird hunting on all pheasant release sites statewide to protect other wildlife species including waterfowl and raptors.

For more specific information about hunting opportunities in the region's three districts, see Hunting Prospects.

Coyote hunting is open year-round, but participation increases in the fall, both incidental to other hunting and with cooler conditions. The eastern region now has 10 confirmed packs of wolves, which are protected as a state endangered species. Coyote hunters are reminded to be sure of identification; check out information online about recognizing wolves

Wherever hunters of any kind go this fall, WDFW officials ask for care and caution with any potential fire-starting activity. Due to dry conditions, some forested wildlife areas that are protected by Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildfire fighters may remain under campfire restrictions through the month of September; see DNR's Fire Information and Prevention information.

Wildlife viewing: September is breeding time for moose, and bulls can be expected to be a little more aggressive than usual.  WDFW wildlife biologist Woody Myers advises giving moose a wide berth and enjoying them only from a distance.

Now is the time to hike into elk country – the Blue Mountains to the south or the Selkirks to the north -- to hear roaring bulls. Bull elk should be into pre-rut activities, which include their unique bugling, creating wallows and gathering harems of cows. The peak of the rut is about the third week of September, but a lot of bugling and displaying occurs before then. 

Shorebirds, including curlews, plovers, and sandpipers, are migrating south this month. Some were summer visitors that are returning to winter homes, others summered further north in Canada and simply make resting and feeding stopovers in the region. WDFW's Reardan Audubon Lake Wildlife Area, just outside the town of Reardan in Lincoln County west of Spokane, is a good spot to look for traveling shorebirds now.

Some raptors, or birds of prey, are also on the move. Ferruginous and Swainson's hawks that summered in parts of the region are migrating south. Some red-tailed, sharp-shinned, and Cooper's hawks that summered further north are moving into or through the region.

Songbirds of many species continue to gather this month into migrating groups, most noticeable in riparian or streamside area treetops and along power lines. Some, including warblers, wrens, vireos, swallows, sparrows, flycatchers and hummingbirds, may have already left the region for more abundant food in more southern climates.

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

Fishing: Columbia River fisheries in the region are still open, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Regional Fish Program Manager Jeff Korth says there should be some summer chinook salmon milling around the mouth of the Entiat, Chelan, and Methow rivers, as well as the usual areas of the Wells Pool.

Fall chinook salmon fishing season on the Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam opens Aug 30, two days earlier than usual to coincide with the Labor Day weekend. Up to two adult chinook, hatchery or wild, can be retained within the daily limit of six chinook. For more details, check the fishing rule.

Salmon Creek, from the Okanogan Irrigation District diversion (upstream of the mouth) to Conconully Reservoir Dam, is open to fishing for smallmouth bass, brook trout, adipose-clipped rainbow trout this month and next to decrease competition with and predation on wild steelhead. Check the fishing rule for more information.

The upper Wenatchee River, from the confluence with Peshastin Creek (above Dryden Dam) to the Hwy. 2 bridge at Leavenworth, opens Sept. 1 for hatchery chinook salmon fishing. The daily catch limit is four, of which only two can be adult fish (24 inches or more). Selective gear rules and a night closure are in effect.

Fishing in the Methow River is usually good in September, but recent flooding and mudslides have affected water quality in portions of the river, said Ryan Fortier, WDFW district fish biologist.  "Fishing is OK right now," Fortier said. "But if it rains even a little, all bets are off."

As lake temperatures cool off a bit this month, other fishing waters can be good for trout when the fish become more active. These include Big Twin Lake near Winthrop, Blue Lake on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, and Chopaka Lake near Loomis.

Starting Sept. 1, Davis, Campbell, and Cougar lakes – all near Winthrop – shift to a catch-and-keep season on trout. However, Campbell and Cougar lakes were affected by this summer's wildfires, Fortier said. For those who use bait to fish Davis Lake, remember that the first five fish caught count towards the daily limit whether kept or released.

For warmwater anglers, lakes such as Moses Lake, Potholes, Roses, Leader, Patterson, and Palmer can provide good opportunities for yellow perch, crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.

Sept. 27 is National Hunting and Fishing Day and National Public Lands Day, celebrated on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in northcentral Okanogan County to close the summer-long "Explore the Sinlahekin" series. The Sept. 27 celebration includes the "Mule Deer Dash," a morning fun run/walk on the Dave Brittell Memorial Trail on the Sinlahekin. An informational fair will feature booths by the Mule Deer Foundation, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Okanogan Chapter of Back Country Horsemen, Okanogan Land Trust, Conservation Northwest, and others. More information is available on WDFW's Sinlahekin anniversary webpage.

Hunting:  September marks the start of early archery white-tailed and mule deer hunting in select northcentral (200-series) Game Management Units (GMUs), and seasons for forest grouse, mourning dove, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare, raccoon, fox, and bobcat throughout the region. Modern firearm and muzzleloader high buck hunting begins Sept. 15.

Most late-summer and fall hunting opportunities will be unaffected by wildfires and floods in Okanogan, Chelan and Douglas counties this summer. But hunters may need to do a little more homework this season.

Wildfires burned about 270,000 acres this summer in northcentral Washington, so hunters will need to check the availability of their favorite locations before heading into the field. Updates on fires and related closures are available at InciWeb - National Incident Fire Information for Washington State, Washington Department of Natural Resources fire information, or Washington Department of Transportation.

WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin says significant unburned areas in Okanogan County could see increased numbers of game animals. "Fires typically don't directly kill a significant percentage of larger mammals or birds," he said. "But fires can affect wildlife distribution. Where fires burned intensely, wildlife will likely be scarce, but adjacent unburned areas could actually see an influx of animals. If substantial fall rain and green-up occurs, some animals could be back into the fire perimeter, at least temporarily."

Most of the affected lands are in the Methow Valley. As of late August, the most seriously affected Game Management Units (GMUs) in descending order of impact were GMUs 239, 242 and 224. Smaller portions of GMUs 218 and 231 also burned.

Large areas were closed to public access in the immediate wake of the fires, but most parcels are now open. Smaller area closures may remain in place around the Little Bridge and Upper Falls fires, and some U.S. Forest Service roads remain closed within the Carlton Complex Fire perimeter.

Flash floods and mudslides from intense thunderstorms that followed the fires caused widespread damage to primary and secondary roads, particularly in GMUs 224, 239, and 242. Periodic road closures were required in some areas, primarily along State Routes 20 (the North Cascades Highway) and 153 near Twisp. It's possible some road and area closures could last throughout the hunting season.

Fitkin notes that emergency changes to this year's hunting regulations are being considered to increase antlerless deer harvest in heavily impacted areas. This will likely be accomplished through the use of increased youth, senior, disabled, second deer, and master hunter permits drawn from this year's applicant pool for relevant GMUs.  Additionally, damage related permits will also be used to address anticipated agricultural nuisance issues as they develop.

Specific information about prospects for all hunting opportunities throughout the region is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/.

The youth-only waterfowl and upland game bird hunting season takes place Sept. 20 and 21 and gives hunters under 16 years of age a jump start on the general seasons that open later this fall. Non-hunting adults at least 18 years of age must accompany young hunters and should note all the special weekend season rules in WDFW's Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet.

Although the Columbia Basin – specifically Grant County -- is ranked number one in the state for harvest of ducks and geese, success during the early youth hunt is usually dependent on resident birds. Most of the best waterfowl hunting comes later in the general season with migrant birds coming in from the north.

A special pheasant hunting opportunity for hunters 65 years or older takes place Sept. 22 through 26. Grant County is usually the state's top pheasant producer. Most of the harvest is of wild birds, many on WDFW wildlife areas in the Columbia Basin. Still, both youth and senior hunters may want to check out information on the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program bird release sites. Non-toxic shot is required for all upland bird hunting on all pheasant release sites statewide to protect other wildlife species including waterfowl and raptors. 

Coyote hunting is open year-round, but participation increases in the fall. Hunters should be sure to correctly identify coyotes, which can be confused with wolves. The northcentral region has three confirmed packs of wolves, which are protected as a state and federal endangered species. Find out more information online on recognizing wolves

Hunters can look into private lands access this is part of WDFW programs – Feel Free to Hunt, Register to Hunt, Hunting by Written Permission, and Hunt by Reservation. Details are available on all those programs at Private Lands Access.

Wildlife viewing:  The last two weekends of free events on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in northcentral Okanogan County are this month, as the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Washington's first wildlife area continues.

The weekend of Sept. 6 and 7 provides opportunities to participate in field trips and presentations about the Sinlahekin's diversity of birds, wildlife and landscape photography, and native American and early settler history. There's also a then-and-now photo point tour and family wildlife sing-along.

On Sept. 27, which is National Public Lands Day and National Hunting and Fishing Day, the celebration at Sinlahekin includes the "Mule Deer Dash," a morning fun run/walk on the Dave Brittell Memorial Trail in the wildlife area. A day-long information fair will feature booths by the Mule Deer Foundation, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Okanogan Chapter of Back Country Horsemen, Okanogan Land Trust, Conservation Northwest, and others.

A complete schedule of events for "Explore the Sinlahekin – Past and Present" can be found online.

September is the month for raptor-viewing up at Chelan Ridge. The most commonly seen species are the sharp-shinned hawk, red-tailed hawk, Cooper's hawk, northern harrier, golden eagle, and American kestrel. Hawk Watch International, in cooperation with natural resource management agencies and Northcentral Washington Audubon Society, is hosting its fifth annual Chelan Ridge Hawk Migration Festival on Saturday, Sept. 13, in Pateros. Although the festival is free, registration reserves space on tour shuttles and other activities.

Some sections of Okanogan County may have access restrictions, due to this summer's wildfires, that could affect wildlife-watching. Check with the U.S. Forest Service's Methow Valley Ranger District for more information.

The 24th annual Wenatchee River Salmon Festival takes place Saturday, Sept. 20 with a "Salmon Adventures" theme. The festival mission is to provide high quality natural resource education, promote outdoor recreation, and share the cultural significance of salmon to the people of the Northwest. It's hosted by and headquartered at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in Leavenworth. Co-hosts include the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests and the Chelan County Public Utility District.

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

Fishing: The cooler weather of September signals a transition from the blazing weather of summer to cooler autumn temperatures that energize fish and wildlife across the region. Big game become more active, bass bite better, and salmon and steelhead shoot upstream to spawn.

This year, a whole lot of salmon are moving upstream throughout the region.

According to the preseason forecast, 1.5 million fall chinook salmon will enter the Columbia River this year, including 300,000 upriver brights that will be heading for the Hanford Reach.

In response, state fishery managers have expanded fishing opportunities in the Hanford Reach above the Highway 395 bridge at Kennewick/Pasco upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Fishing rules now in effect in those waters:

  • Increase the daily limit to three adult salmon. Once the daily limit of adult salmon is retained, anglers may not continue to fish for any species for the remainder of the day.
  • Permit anglers fishing for salmon to use two poles if they possess a two-pole license endorsement.
  • Extend the salmon fishery through Oct. 31 between the Hwy. 395 Bridge and the Old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers.

For more information about these rule changes, see the WDFW website.

Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers and cannot remove any chinook or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are advised to check the sportfishing rulespamphlet and emergency rules for all waters before heading out.

Starting Sept. 1, the Yakima River will also open for salmon fishing from the Highway 240 bridge upstream to the Grant Avenue bridge below Prosser Dam. As with the Columbia River, fishery managers expect a record return of fall chinook – 18,000 of them – to the Yakima River this year.

"Most fish move into the Yakima after water temperatures drop to a comfortable level, usually sometime in late September or early October," said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

As in previous years, the area around the Chandler Powerhouse will remain closed to fishing, he said.

Anglers have also been catching some hatchery steelhead both above and below McNary Dam, and the harvest should pick up throughout the month, Hoffarth said.  September can be slow for steelhead due to warm water temperatures, especially in the Snake River, but anglers should have some success fishing very early in the morning, at dusk, and in the dark of night.

Anglers can retain two hatchery steelhead per day in the Columbia River upstream to the Highway 395 bridge and three hatchery steelhead per day in the Snake River. Hatchery fish must measure 20 inches and can be identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar.

Steelhead fishing will open Oct. 1 above the Highway 395 Bridge at Kennewick, where several thousand steelhead pass by en route to the Ringold-Meseberg Hatchery this fall. An early opening is unlikely this year due to lagging steelhead returns, Hoffarth said.

Sturgeon fishing is restricted to catch and release in most areas of the Columbia River, including Lake Wallula and Lake Umatilla, but walleye are drawing plenty of attention this month. Many anglers consider these toothy fish to be the best table fare, which bite aggressively in September and throughout much of the fall. The Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam is one of the region's best walleye fisheries, as is the Columbia River below McNary Dam.

Popular tactics include trolling worm harnesses and spinners behind bottom-bouncing sinkers, trolling deep-diving plugs, and jigging blade baits or plastic baits on jig heads.

Smallmouth bass share habitat with walleye, but sometimes run as deep as 50 feet. They move in shallower as waters cool and food sources come available. Fishing tends to improve for these hard-fighters in September and carries on through October until cold water sends them back to great depths to spend the winter.

Meanwhile, catchable-size rainbow trout are still biting, with good fishing in Leech, Dog and Clear lakes in Yakima County, plus Cooper and Lost lakes in Kittitas County. 

This also a great time of year to fish the high lakes and mountain streams of the upper Yakima Basin. There are numerous trailheads to high lakes off the major passes including Snoqualmie, White and Chinook passes, providing ready access, stunning scenery and great opportunities to catch trout. Now is the time to pull some nice kokanee from Rimrock Lake near White Pass. 

Popular stream-fishing destinations include the Yakima, Naches, Little Naches, Teanaway, and Bumping rivers, as well as Taneum, Naneum, and Manashtash creeks.

See the Fish Washington page on WDFW's website for more information about fishing in the high country.

Hunting: September marks the start of this year's hunting seasons for deer, upland game birds and waterfowl. Dates and regulations are listed in the Big Game and Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets, available on WDFW's website.

Hunters planning their season may also want to check WDFW's 2014 Hunting Prospects report and Game Harvest Reports, which provide a look at both upcoming opportunities and previous success rates in specific game management units (GMUs).

Early archery hunts for deer run Sept. 1-26, overlapping with archery hunts for elk Sept. 2-14 in some area GMUs. Most early muzzleloader seasons for deer start Sept. 27, followed by the early muzzleloader hunt for elk that begins Oct. 4 in a number of area GMUs.

With its burgeoning elk herds, District 8 (Yakima and Kittitas counties) is considered the best elk-hunting area in the state. That title should stand through the upcoming season, since both the Yakima and Colockum herds are well above management objectives  and WDFW has raised permit levels accordingly.

Archers should note that GMU 335 (Teanaway) will be open for antlerless elk during the early season, and that GMU 342 (Umtanum) was added to the late season.

District 8 also scores high for bird hunting, ranking #1 in the state for quail, #2 for dove, #3 for both chukar and ducks, #4 for pheasant, and #5 for geese. Hunters will get a chance to test those rankings when a number of bird hunts open this month.

Throughout the region, hunting seasons open for dove Sept. 1-30 and for forest grouse Sept. 1 through the rest of the year. Next comes general seasons for geese (Sept. 13-14) and band-tailed pigeon (Sept. 15-23).

Hunters under the age of 16 will also have an opportunity to go afield for quail, chukar, gray partridge, coots, pheasants, ducks and Canada geese, during a special youth hunt Sept. 20-21. Youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult – at least 18 years old – who is not hunting.

Hunters 65 years or older will also have an opportunity to put pheasant on their table during a special senior hunt Sept. 22-26.

District 4, which includes Benton and Franklin counties, offers good hunting opportunities for most upland game birds and success rates for most species has been on the rise over the past five years. In Yakima County, the lower Yakima Valley is probably your best bet for California quail.

Hunters looking for a place to hunt should check out WDFW's Private Lands Access Program, which provides a variety of options around the region. Also be aware that WDFW continues to seek comments on 2015-17 hunting season proposals through September 22. Visit the season setting website for details.

Wildlife viewing:  The heat of summer is finally beginning to subside and clouds are rolling in with increasing regularity, but the month began with continued warnings about the risk of wildfires. As of Labor Day weekend, fires were still burning at Snag Canyon and South Cle Elum Ridge with thousands more acres ablaze in the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest.

"The risk of wildfires is still very high throughout the region," said Mike Livingston, regional WDFW director. "We won't really be out of the woods until we get a solid stretch of rain."

For that reason, fire restrictions remain in effect on WDFW lands east of the Cascade crest. Campfires – including those in fire rings – are prohibited, as is smoking (except in an enclosed vehicle) and operating a vehicle away from developed roads.

Meanwhile, songbirds continue to gather into migrating groups around the region, most noticeably in riparian or streamside area treetops and along power lines. Some, including warblers, wrens, vireos, swallows, sparrows, flycatchers and hummingbirds, may have already left the region for more abundant food in southern climates.

Shorebirds, including curlews, plovers, and sandpipers, are also migrating south this month. Some were summer visitors here that are returning to winter homes, others summered further north in Canada and simply make resting and feeding stopovers in the region.

Raptors are also on the move. Ferruginous and Swainson's hawks that summer in parts of the region are migrating south. Some red-tailed, sharp-shinned, and Cooper's hawks that summer further north are moving into or through the region.

Now is the time to visit elk country to hear the big ungulates' unique bugling. The peak of the rut is about the third week of September, but a lot of bugling and displaying occurs before then.