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

September 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 September 1, 2015)

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


Drought-related fishing closures: For more information on the 2015 Washington Drought, click here.

Hunters take to the 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.

But like last year, hunters need to plan their season around access restrictions and wildfires still burning in some parts of the state, said Mick Cope, Game Division manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). In some cases, hunters will need to consider alternative locations for their traditional hunts.

“Hunters should confirm before heading into the field that they will have access to their preferred locations for hunting,” Cope said. “With several wildfires currently burning across the state, some hunters may need to find different routes into traditional hunting areas or choose different places altogether.”

Updated information on wildfires in Washington, including local travel and access restrictions, is available at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/49/#. The U.S. Forest Service manages more public hunting lands in Washington than any other agency and provides information on several national forests at http://www.fs.usda.gov.

More information on where to hunt is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/hunting_access/. The site includes information on WDFW’s wildlife areas and hunting access to private lands.

To help hunters make the most of this year’s season, WDFW has compiled area-by-area summaries of hunting prospects throughout the state. The reports, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/, include information on deer, elk, waterfowl, turkey, upland birds and other species, as well as suggestions on techniques and places to hunt.

Meanwhile, an estimated run of nearly 1 million chinook salmon – and hundreds of thousands of coho – is moving up the Columbia River, drawing anglers by the thousands. Farther north, chinook, coho and pink salmon 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 from Sept. 8through Oct. 1.

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

Drought-related fishing closures: For more information on the 2015 Washington Drought, click here.

Fishing: Anglers fishing the marine areas of Puget Sound should still find some pink salmon in early September, but the bulk of the run will have made its way into the region’s rivers by the middle of the month.

Pink salmon fishing starts to pick up in the rivers in September,” said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “And this year, pink salmon runs have arrived early and many are strong.”

The department has recently built a web feature to help anglers take advantage of this distinctive opportunity. The website provides insights into fishing pink salmon in both marine and freshwater areas, helpful fishing tips, suggestions on access points from both rivers and coast, and up-to-date information on where and when the pinks are arriving.

Saltwater anglers are also hooking some bright ocean coho in portions of Puget Sound, said Lothrop. “We should see more of those ocean fish make their way into the Sound throughout the month,” he said.

Anglers fishing marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release all chinook and chum in Marine Area 9. Anglers in Marine Area 10 must also release all chum through Sept. 15 and all chinook.

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 marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release chinook salmon.

Another option is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink or sockeye salmon, but can keep only one chinook. Anglers in Marine Area 7 must release chum and wild coho.

Lothrop said the best bets for freshwater anglers fishing for coho salmon in the region might be the Skagit, Snohomish, and Green rivers, where abundant runs are expected to return this year.

Drought conditions have meant both limitations and closures to fishing on some rivers, including several in the North Puget Sound region. For information on restrictions in effect, please check the following news release and emergency regulations before planning your trip.

Elsewhere, Lake Washington, opens Sept. 16 to coho fishing. 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.

Meanwhile, most areas of Puget Sound will close to recreational crab fishing at sunset on Labor Day, Sept. 7. The only two areas of the Sound that will remain open to crab fishing after Labor Day are marine areas 7-South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and 7-North (Gulf of Georgia). Crabbing in those two areas is open through Sept. 28, Thursdays through Mondays only.

Sport fishers who crab in marine areas 7-South and 7-North 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 5 inches across, are in hard-shell condition and have a minimum carapace width of 5 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 or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2015 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2016 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.

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. 27, while archery hunts for elk are open Sept. 12-24. 

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. Hunters should be aware of a change in the bag limit for grouse.  The total daily limit is still four but can include no more than three of each forest grouse species (blue, ruffed and spruce).

September also offers opportunities to hunt mourning doves, geese and band-tailed pigeons. The dove hunt opens Sept. 1 and lasts through Oct. 30. In addition, an early Canada goose hunt is open Sept. 10-15 in areas 1, 2A, 2B-Grays Harbor County and 3.   In 2B-Pacific County Canada goose hunting opens Sept. 1-15. The band-tailed pigeon season runs Sept. 15-23.

Western Washington 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. 19-20. For those new to waterfowl hunting, WDFW has established the “Let’s Go Waterfowl Hunting" webpage to introduce the sport.  For those more interested in pheasants, the department has created a webpage outlining strategies and advice on hunting this game species.

Hunters 65 years or older will have an opportunity to go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 21-25. Western Washington hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Sept. 26.  Locations of release sites can be found on the Western Washington Pheasant Release Program webpage.

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.

Wildlife viewing: Birdwatchers have an opportunity to do some birding in the Edmonds area during the Puget Sound Bird Fest Sept. 11-13. 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.

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

Drought-related fishing closures: For more information on the 2015 Washington Drought, click here.

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.  The Puget Sound crab season also winds 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. “Chinook catch rates remain strong on the southern coast as well.”

Anglers are allowed to keep two chinook per day as part of their two salmon daily limit off Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) and Westport (Marine Area 2). Anglers fishing off La Push (Marine Area 3) and west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line off Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) can keep one chinook per day as part of the two salmon limit as well as two additional pink salmon.

"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. 30.

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 limit of two salmon.  Those fishing in Marine Area 6 can keep two additional pink or sockeye salmon all month while anglers fishing in Marine Area 5 can do so through Sept. 11. New this year, anglers can keep wild coho while fishing in Marine Area 5 on Sept. 12-14, 19-21 and 26-27.

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. Anglers fishing either area can keep two additional pink salmon in addition to the daily limit but must release wild chinook.

Anglers should be aware, however, that several rivers around the Olympic Peninsula and South Sound are closed due to drought conditions. A list of rivers closed due to drought is available on WDFW’s drought webpage.

Salmon fishing will get underway this month in several coastal rivers, including the Hoh and Humptulips on Sept. 1, and the Wynoochee and Satsop Sept. 16. On a portion of the Hoh River, anglers are required to release chinook and use selective gear – steps to protect summer chinook struggling to move upstream due to low river flows.  WDFW fish biologists are monitoring the Hoh and the other rivers opening this month for drought conditions, said Steve Thiesfeld, region 6 fish program manager. “If conditions worsen, we may have to close or impose restrictions on these rivers,” he said.

Thiesfeld recommended that anglers check WDFW’s emergency fishing rule webpage before heading out.

Anglers are also reminded to comply with scheduled closures and area restrictions on the Puyallup River. This month, the river is closed for tribal fishing Sept. 6- 8, 13-15, 20-23, and 27-30. WDFW also has received several complaints about anglers not only disregarding the regulations but also littering along the Puyallup. Thiesfeld warned of potential closures or additional restrictions if anglers don’t follow the rules and pick up after themselves.

Meanwhile, most areas of Puget Sound are open to crab fishing through Labor Day, Sept. 7. However, Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia) and South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) close Sept. 28.

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 2015 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2016 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.

Crabbers are reminded that Washington’s southern coast is closed to crabbing due to elevated levels of marine toxins in crab tested there. From Point Chehalis north reopened for crabbing in late August after test results indicated crabs on the northern coast are safe to eat.

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 2015 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).

The summer of 2015 has seen drought conditions in parts of the region and hunters may need to consider alternatives to their typical hunts.

Early archery hunts for deer run Sept. 1-27, overlapping with archery hunts for elk Sept. 12-24. Most early muzzleloader seasons for deer and elk start Oct. 3 in designated game management units (GMUs) throughout the region.

Hunters who want to bag a Roosevelt elk will have the greatest harvest opportunities in GMUs associated with the Willapa Hills elk herd area in District 17 (Pacific and Grays Harbor counties). Those GMUs include 658, 672, 673, and 681. Hunters with a primary goal of finding a trophy bull are directed to look outside the Willapa Hills area and into the neighboring Olympic or St. Helens elk herds.

Elk harvest has been gradually increasing over the past several years in GMUs 652, 666 and 667 in District 11 (Thurston, Pierce and a portion of Lewis counties). This makes for good prospects for harvesting elk in these GMUs in 2015.

Columbian black-tailed deer hunting opportunities in District 17 range from marginal to very good.  The best opportunities to harvest a black-tail in District 17 occur in GMUs 663, 648, 672, and 660. 

In 2015, there are ample general season deer hunting opportunities for archery, muzzleloader, and modern firearm hunters in District 15 (Mason, Kitsap and east Jefferson counties). Field observations and recent harvest trends suggest good deer hunting potential exists in GMUs 621, 627, and 633.  GMU 651 remains a popular hunting unit.  Good deer hunting can be found in lower elevation habitats in GMU 636, but deer density in this unit appears to decline at higher elevations.

Both elk and deer hunters should note that several private timber companies in the region are charging fees for access. Hunters are advised to check WDFW's hunter access webpage for details.

Meanwhile, bear hunts are underway 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.

The prospects for harvesting a black bear in District 16 (Clallam and west Jefferson counties) remain good to excellent. State lands, such as those owned by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and federal lands, such as those owned by the U.S. Forest Service, continue to provide the best availability for bear hunting within the district. 

Cougars are widespread in the forest lands of District 11. Areas supporting high numbers of deer and elk also provide great opportunity for cougar. The Skookumchuck (GMU 667) annually provides the highest cougar harvest in the district and one of the highest cougar harvests of all western Washington GMUs. 

For those seeking forest grouse, the statewide hunting season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 31. Although grouse occur throughout District 15, Mason County offers the most opportunity for the hunter.  The Olympic National Forest and Skokomish valley are two of the more 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 Oct. 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. 19-20. 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. 21-25. Western Washington hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Sept. 26.

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.

Wildlife viewing:  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.

Also on Sept. 19, 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.

Olympic National Park wraps up its ranger-led programs this month. Guided nature walks are offered at Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rain Forest, Kalaloch and Staircase. Schedules are listed in the park’s newspaper.

Migratory birds will begin showing up at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, which will continue to offer weekend nature programs, including “Amazing Animal Adaptations” and “Birds of a Feather,” this month. The refuge also hosts its annual Nisqually Watershed Festival on Saturday, Sept. 26.

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

Drought-related fishing closures: For more information on the 2015 Washington Drought, click here.

Fishing:  September is prime time for salmon fishing in the Columbia River Basin, where large numbers of fish are moving upriver and into tributaries below and above Bonneville Dam. The Buoy 10 chinook fishery closed Aug. 28 after four weeks of soaring catch rates, but there are still plenty of other opportunities to catch chinook and other prized fish in the weeks ahead.

Anglers can still catch and retain hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead at Buoy 10, but the action is shifting farther upstream where all three species – including chinook salmon – are still available for harvest.

“This fall season will continue to provide good fishing for chinook in the Columbia River upstream to the Hanford Reach,” said Guy Norman, regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “If the Buoy 10 fishery is any indication, it should be a great year for salmon fishing.”

Norman noted that nearly a million fall chinook salmon are expected to return to the Columbia River this year – the third highest number since at least 1938. Add coho to the mix, and the number of inbound salmon during the fall season grows to 1.5 million.

Like last year, anglers fishing above the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line will find fishing rules designed to increase opportunities to catch abundant upriver bright chinook salmon:

  • Through Sept. 7, anglers from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the Warrior Rock line may retain 1 adult chinook per day. From Sept. 8-14, adult chinook must be a hatchery fish to be retained. All c      hinook must be released from Sept. 15-30.
  • 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 all the way upstream to the Hanford Reach and beyond. (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.

In addition, this year’s daily limit for steelhead has increased to 3 hatchery fish on several lower Columbia tributaries, where anglers must keep every hatchery steelhead they catch.

Anglers are, however, required to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River and most of its tributaries.

Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist, recommends that anglers 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 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. 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. Anglers may 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 a portion of the Wind and White Salmon rivers.

On the Lewis River (including the North Fork), only hatchery chinook may be retained through mid-September. At Drano Lake, where the daily limit for adult salmon is three fish, anglers may keep any coho, with or without an adipose fin. Three adult chinook may also be retained on the Klickitat River.

Anglers should also be aware that drought-related fishing restrictions are in effect on two sections of the Washougal River, as described in the emergency rule.

Here are some other fishing rules in effect this year:

  • Cowlitz River: Anglers targeting hatchery salmon, steelhead, and sea-run cutthroats from the Lexington Bridge (Sparks Road) upstream to the barrier dam may use two poles year round with a Two-Pole Endorsement.
  • Washougal River: The closed area below the weir has been extended to 1,000 feet to address snagging of fall chinook staging there. 
  • Drano Lake: Anglers may use barbed hooks, two poles (with an endorsement), and boat limits for salmon and steelhead, but not until Oct.1 because of wild steelhead that may linger to cool off in the lake.
  • Klickitat River:  Barbed hooks may be used for salmon and steelhead from Sept. 1-Dec. 31 from the Fisher Bridge downstream to the mouth (Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge). Separate daily limits are in effect for salmon and steelhead on the lower and upper river. 

Though not listed in the pamphlet, up to 10 hatchery rainbows may be retained at Mayfield Lake effective Sept. 1. The correction is listed in the errata sheet.

Due to the extreme drought conditions around the region, trout fishing has been slow at many of the popular spots. But that will change now that the temperatures have dropped and the fall rains have begun to return.

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. While Goose Lake is very low, Council and Takhlakh still offer fishing opportunities.

Other great fishing opportunities await anglers 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 2015 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).

As of Sept. 1, a number of large wildfires were still burning in several areas of the state.

WDFW has no plans to close or delay any general hunting seasons due to fire activity, but strongly recommends that hunters be aware of restrictions on land access in effect around the state.

Updated information on active wildfires, including local travel and access restrictions, is available on the Incident Information System website. For information on national forestlands, see the U.S. Forest Service website. See WDFW’s website for information on the department’s wildlife areas and water access sites.

A contact list for large landowners is also available on WDFW’s website.

Early archery hunts for deer got under way Sept. 1, overlapping with archery hunts for elk Sept. 12-24. The high-buck muzzleloader season for deer runs Sept. 15-25, followed by an early muzzleloader hunt for elk Oct. 3-11 in designated game management units.

District 10, encompassing Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties, has historically been among the leaders in the statewide elk harvest. In 2014, the highest general-season harvest occurred in GMU 520 (Winston), 506 (Willapa Hills), 530 (Ryderwood), and 550 (Coweeman).

One significant change this year is that hunting for bull elk in GMU 524 (Margaret) will be managed under a general season, rather than permit-only.

As most hunters know, hoof disease is an ongoing problem among elk in southwest Washington. 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. Wildlife managers also ask hunters to report elk with hoof deformities 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.

Goose hunters in southwest Washington should be aware of a new approach to managing dusky geese this year in goose management areas 2A and 2B. Those areas include Clark, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, Pacific, and Grays Harbor counties. Gone are annual dusky quotas that previously triggered season closures in those areas. Instead, both areas will simply remain closed for duskys, and hunters who take them will risk having their permits invalidated.

Check stations for geese have also been eliminated. Instead, WDFW will increase bag checks in the field to monitor the take of duskys and other birds. These and other changes, described on Page 12 of the 2015-16 Migratory Waterfowl pamphlet, were approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in an effort to reduce the cost of monitoring the season while maintaining protection for area dusky geese.

An early goose season is open to bird hunters of all ages Sept. 10-15 in goose management areas 2A and 3, and Sept. 12-13 in Goose Management Area 5 (Klickitat and Yakima counties). Until the autumn rain begins to fall, hunter will find most birds around large bodies of water.

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. 19-20. 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 put pheasant on their table during a special senior hunt Sept. 21-25. The general pheasant season for hunters all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Sept. 26. 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. 19, at the 19th Annual Sturgeon Festival. The free, one-day festival runs from 10 a.m. to 3 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.

Meanwhile, salmon and steelhead are on the move. Nearly a million 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)

Drought-related fishing closures: For more information on the 2015 Washington Drought, click here.

Fishing: Southeast Washington’s Snake River is open Sept. 1 through Oct. 31 for harvest of fall chinook salmon. A significant portion of the Columbia River’s 626,000 upriver bright adult chinook forecasted to return are headed for the Snake.  Up to six adipose-fin-clipped hatchery fall chinook adults (24 inches or more), and up to six adipose fin-clipped jack fall chinook (between 12 and 24 inches) can be retained daily.

Snake River steelhead fishing is also underway and anglers must cease fishing for salmon and steelhead for the day once they have retained three hatchery steelhead – regardless of whether the salmon daily limit has been retained. All chinook and steelhead with unclipped adipose fins cannot be removed from the water and must be immediately released unharmed. Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for chinook or steelhead in the Snake River and the Snake River Confluence Protection Area. See all details in the Emergency Rule Change.

Also on the first of September, southeast Washington’s Tucannon River steelhead fishing rules changed.  The daily limit is reduced to two hatchery steelhead per day, with mandatory retention of hatchery steelhead and release of all wild steelhead. Barbless hooks are required while fishing for steelhead. The area from Marengo (at Turner Road Bridge) upstream is closed to fishing.

These changes were made because natural-origin steelhead returns to the Tucannon River are not meeting management goals for conservation and removal of more stray hatchery steelhead is needed. As usual, anglers must cease fishing for steelhead for the day once they have retained two hatchery steelhead or their two-trout per day limit. All steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be kept in the water and immediately released unharmed. Anglers should be sure to identify their catch because chinook and coho salmon, as well as bull trout are also present in the Tucannon River during this steelhead fishery.  See all details in the Emergency Rule Change.

Although drought conditions this year have forced fishing hour restrictions and even some closures on some of the region’s streams and rivers (see Fishing Restrictions and Emergency Rule Changes), there are many other opportunities in lakes throughout the region.

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

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.

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. Coffeepot anglers need to keep in mind that low water levels with drought conditions have left the public access site there unavailable for boat launching.

Plenty of other lakes throughout the region remain open through October or year-round. 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.

Year-round-open Lake Roosevelt and Sprague Lake both offer good-size rainbows in September. Lake Spokane (Long Lake) is usually good this month for both largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and rainbow trout.

Hunting: Despite many wildfires burning and access restrictions, all general hunting seasons will open as usual. Hunters are encouraged to be flexible about routes into traditional hunting spots or about trying new areas this year.  All hunters should check for possible access restrictions with public and private landowners and to follow the status of wildfires and associated closures online.

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.

At the GMU level, most black bears will likely be harvested in GMUs 101 (Sherman), 117 (49 Degrees North), 121 (Huckleberry), 154 (Blue Creek) and 162 (Dayton), depending on available access. Wild berry production was early and short this year with drought conditions, so bears won’t necessarily be found in traditional areas but possibly closer to waterways.

Antlerless deer opportunity has been restored to early archery hunters in Game Management Units (GMUs) 117 and 121 in northeast Washington. Both white-tailed and mule deer populations are relatively healthy.  The Northeast White-tailed Deer Research Study continues, with WDFW biologists using organ sample collections from hunter-harvested antlerless deer from GMUS 117, 121 and 124.

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. This year’s season runs through October. An increasing number of exotic Eurasian collared doves continue to be 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.

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 where access may be restricted this year due to wildfires.

Early archery elk hunting begins Sept. 12 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, and where access may be restricted this year due to wildfires.

Early fall wild turkey hunting runs Sept. 19-Oct. 16 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.

Sept. 19-20 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. 21-25.

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 details, see Region 1 districts 1, 2, and 3 in Hunting Prospects.

Wildlife viewing: Southbound bird migration gets underway this month, especially among waterfowl and shorebirds.

WDFW wildlife biologist David Woodall of Clarkston reports the Snake River area in the southeast district is a great place to view concentrations of ducks, geese, and other waterbirds.

Shorebirds, including curlews, plovers, and sandpipers, that summered further north in Canada are now making stopovers to rest and feed 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 them 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.

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.

If access is available, 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. 

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

Drought-related fishing closures: For more information on the 2015 Washington Drought, click here.

Fishing: Although drought conditions this year have forced fishing closures on some of the region’s streams and rivers (see Fishing Restrictions and Emergency Rule Changes), there are still many other opportunities throughout the region.

Mainstem Upper Columbia River fisheries in the region are still open, but anglers should check the river sections on pages 54-55 of the Fishing Rules pamphlet for shifts in permanent rules that begin this month. Anglers should also watch for Emergency Rule Changes.

Anglers and other water recreationists should be aware that the Wells reservoir or pool, above Wells Dam and below Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River, will be drawn down about eight feet during the month of September by the Douglas County Public Utilities District as part of Methow River sedimentation control work near Pateros.

Banks Lake is currently down about five feet, and WDFW fish biologist Aulin Smith reports that’s providing some nice beaches and warm water.

“Banks Lake fishing has been best for walleye and whitefish,” Smith said. “Walleye are being caught with a variety of gear and techniques. Spinners behind bottom walkers, jigs, crankbaits, and just a worm all work right now. Colors, depths, and speeds vary daily.  Whitefish are suspended from 60 to 120 feet.  Anglers who know how to jig them have brought in limits, some days a little slower than others. Bass seem to be hanging on outside weed lines, with crawdad patterns and swimbaits working best.”

Smith also noted he’s been searching for kokanee at Banks, seeing them in 48 to 110 feet of water, but has yet to get them to bite. He’s also been catching some nice rainbow trout, all over 20 inches, on apexes and hoochies in about 50 feet of water.

Several Okanogan County trout lakes shift to catch-and-release fishing Sept. 1, but access might be questionable, depending on wildfire status.

In the Columbia Basin, Moses Lake, Potholes, Roses, Leader, Patterson, and Palmer can provide good opportunities for yellow perch, crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass this month.

Hunting: Despite many wildfires burning and access restrictions, all general hunting seasons will open as usual. Hunters are encouraged to be flexible about routes into traditional hunting spots or about trying new areas this year.  All hunters should check for possible access restrictions with public and private landowners and to follow the status of wildfires and associated closures online.  Also check specific U.S. Forest Service Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest closures and state highway closures.

Sept. 1 is 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.

Based on population estimates, prospects for mule deer hunting for both early archers and high buck hunters look good. With the region’s wildfires, access will be the key. WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin says that situation is so dynamic it’s hard to know what to expect at this time.

The best opportunities for mourning dove hunting, which runs through October this year, are usually in the Columbia Basin. An increasing number of exotic Eurasian collared doves continue to be 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.

Forest grouse – blue (dusky), ruffed and spruce grouse, depending on elevation – should be in fair numbers in the forested lands in the Okanogan district where access may be restricted this year due to wildfires.

Sept. 19-20 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.

Photo of a merlin perched on a mosss covered tree branch
Sinlahekin manager Justin Haug found this merlin through the wildfire smoke near Forde Lake

A special pheasant hunting opportunity only for hunters 65 years of age or older continues this year Sept. 21-25.

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 details, see Region 2 districts 5 and 6 in Hunting Prospects.

Wildlife viewing:  Due to wildfires and access restrictions, the 6th annual Chelan Ridge Hawk Migration Festival, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 12, has been moved to Slate Peak where raptor banding may or may not occur.  This annual festival coincides with the peak of southbound migration of raptors at Chelan Ridge — the best place in Washington to view fall migrating raptors.

Wildlife viewers should check on the status of this event with Northcentral Audubon Society and the usual host city of Pateros. If access restrictions allow, the Okanogan district is still full of blooming wildflowers, butterflies, and birds of many kinds to view this month. Groups of migrating birds are visible, from little warblers, wrens and sparrows in the riparian areas to waterfowl concentrating on large waterways. Sinlahekin Wildlife Area manager Justin Haug says if you can see through smoky, hazy skies, you’ll find birds enduring the same conditions, like a merlin he spotted above Forde Lake.

The Columbia Basin portion of the region always hosts ducks, geese, other waterbirds and shorebirds, and September is the month when many begin to congregate for southbound migrations.

The 25th annual, multi-award-winning Wenatchee River Salmon Festival is Sept. 17-19. 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, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year in Leavenworth. Co-hosts include the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests and the Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD).

 

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

Drought-related fishing closures: For more information on the 2015 Washington Drought, click here.

Fishing: Wildfires are still blazing, but stream temperatures are beginning to cool as another big run of chinook salmon moves into area waters in the weeks ahead. Creel checks show that catch rates for chinook were starting to climb for those fish at Vernita, White Bluffs, Ringold, and the Tri-Cities. Fishing for other species – from bass to steelhead – should also pick up as summer turns to autumn.

But for now, a number of rivers and streams remain closed to fishing due to extreme drought conditions. Anglers should watch the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) website for possible changes this month. Drought-related closures and restrictions currently in effect in southcentral Washington include:

  • Yakima River Basin: Fishing on the mainstem Yakima River is closed from 2 p.m. until midnight from the I-82 Bridge at Union Gap to the South Cle Elum Bridge. Fishing on several tributaries was also closed or limited on several tributaries under the same fishing-rule change notice.
  • Other river closures: The following rivers in the region are closed to all fishing: Little Naches River; Ahtanum Creek (including the north and middle forks); the Teanaway River (including west, middle and north forks); Williams Creek and all tributaries; Swauk Creek and all tributaries upstream of Williams Creek; and American River.
  • Other hoot-owl restrictions: Fishing is closed from 2 p.m. until midnight on the Naches River (from Tieton River to Bumping River/Little Naches River); Rattlesnake Creek; Swauk Creek and all tributaries downstream of Williams Creek; and Yakima River from I-82 bridge at Union Gap to the South Cle Elum Bridge.

With water temperatures dropping, WDFW recently ended a fishing moratorium on sturgeon fisheries on the Columbia River, reverting to fishing seasons described in the pamphlet. For more information on current drought-related fishing restrictions, see WDFW’s website.

Meanwhile, nearly one million fall chinook salmon are expected to enter the Columbia River this year, including 249,000 upriver brights heading straight for the Hanford Reach. Anglers should have fair access to those fish, apart from the aquatic algae that can foul their lines at this time of year.

Anticipating a strong chinook return, 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 include:

  • Daily limit is 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.
  •  Anglers are allowed the use of two poles when fishing for any species except sturgeon if they possess a two-pole license endorsement.
  • The salmon fishery is open through Oct. 31 between the Hwy. 395 Bridge and the Old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers.

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 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 opened 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 large return of fall chinook and coho 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 WDFW fish biologist.

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

Back on the Columbia River, anglers have been catching a few 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 from the Highway 395 Bridge at Kennewick upstream to the old Hanford townsite wooden powerline tower. Several thousand steelhead are expected pass by en route to Ringold Springs Hatchery and upstream to tributaries to the upper Columbia River.

Walleye should also draw plenty of attention this month. Many anglers consider these toothy fish, which bite aggressively in September and throughout much of the fall, to be the best table fare. 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 walkers, 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 become available. Fishing tends to improve for these hard-fighting fish in September and carries on through October until cold water sends them back to greater depths to spend the winter.

Now is 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 2015 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).

As of Sept. 1, a number of large wildfires were still burning in several areas of the state.

WDFW has no plans to close or delay any general hunting seasons due to fire activity, but strongly recommends that hunters be aware of widespread land access restrictions currently in place.

Updated information on active wildfires, including local travel and access restrictions, is available on the Incident Information System website. For information on national forestlands, see the U.S. Forest Service website. See WDFW’s website for information on the department’s wildlife areas and water access sites.

A contact list for large landowners is also available on WDFW’s website.

Earlyarchery hunts for deer got under way Sept. 1, overlapping with archery hunts for elk Sept. 12-24 in some area GMUs. High buck hunts for deer using muzzleloaders run Sept. 15-25, followed by the early muzzleloader hunt for elk Oct. 3-11 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-Oct. 30 and for forest grouse Sept. 1 through the rest of the year. Next comes early seasons for geese (Sept. 12-13) 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. 19-20. 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. 21-25.

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 summeris 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 Cougar Creek and near Dayton 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.