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

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July 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 July 2, 2015)

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

Fishing heats up in July
for salmon, steelhead and crab

Summer fishing seasons are now in full swing, requiring anglers to make some tough decisions about how to spend their time on the water. Salmon, steelhead, crab, as well as trout, bass and walleye – all are now available for harvest in various waters around the state.

But for thousands of anglers, nothing beats the thrill of reeling in a big, feisty salmon. Many are doing just that as waves of chinook move south along the Washington coast, then east into Puget Sound, coastal streams and the Columbia River.

“With the strong runs of coho, chinook and pink salmon expected on the coast, this is shaping up to be a fine summer for salmon fishing,” said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Several marine areas of Puget Sound open to salmon fishing July 1, joining other salmon fisheries already in progress. Some westside rivers, including the Bogacheil, Calawah and Nisqually, also open for salmon fishing that day, and Baker Lake in Whatcom County opens for sockeye salmon July 10.

Salmon fisheries are open on the Columbia River throughout July from the Astoria-Megler Bridge 385 miles upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Summer steelhead are another option, with nearly 300,000 adult fish expected to move upriver in the coming weeks. As always, anglers are required to release any wild, unmarked steelhead they intercept in the fishery.

Fishing regulations for these and other fisheries are described in WDFW's 2015-16 Sport FishingRules pamphlet, available from sporting goods stores and posted online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Rather catch some crab? All but one marine area in Puget Sound will be open for crab fishing beginning July 2. The exception is Marine Area 7, where the crab fishery opens July 16 in the area's southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and Aug. 13 in the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia). See http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/ for all crab-fishing rules.

Meanwhile, WDFW land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors this month to take precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes and outdoor burning are all common causes of wildfires in the state.

Warm, dry conditions are also affecting river and stream water flows throughout Washington. State fishery managers are considering restrictions or reductions in some fisheries if conditions continue to decline. Check WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/ for more information on both fisheries and fire restrictions.

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 up-to-date information about recreational opportunities around the state.

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

Fishing: July is the typical kickoff for salmon fishing for most Puget Sound waters, and this year is no different. Besides options for chinook and coho, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) estimates that some 6.8 million pinks will return to Puget Sound this year. Meanwhile, trout and bass are still drawing anglers to local lakes, and crab fishing is getting under way in most areas of Puget Sound.

Over the last 10 to15 years pink salmon returns to Puget Sound rivers have increased dramatically, and angler interest has followed suit, said Ryan Lothrop, WDFW recreational salmon fishery manager.

Anglers with boats and saltwater beach anglers have ample opportunity to harvest these fish as they migrate through Puget Sound, he adds.

Pink salmon can be found in the coastal marine areas (1 through 4) in early July and stay in these waters in catchable numbers through mid-August.  As summer progresses, pink salmon show up in Puget Sound marine areas (5 through 13), with the peak migration toward the end of August.

Salmon fishing opportunities in July for north Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca include the following:

  • Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point):  Most locations open July 1. Anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release wild chinook, coho and chum.
  • Marine Area 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait):  Most locations open July 1. Anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release wild chinook, wild coho and chum. Additionally, anglers must release all wild chinook west of the #2 buoy/Ediz Hook line, and must release all chinook east of that line. 
  • Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands): Most locations open July 1. Anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but can keep only one chinook as part of their salmon daily limit.
  • Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet): Most locations open July 1. Anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two pink salmon, but must release all chinook and chum through July 15. Beginning July 16, anglers can retain hatchery chinook–marked with a clipped adipose fin–but must release wild chinook. Chinook retention is expected to last through early August and will close when the guideline is attained. Anglers should note that wild chum must also be released in Marine Area 9 throughout July.
  • Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton): Most locations are open to salmon fishing, but anglers have to release all chinook and chum. The daily limit is two salmon, plus two pink salmon.
  • The Tulalip Bay “bubble" fishery is under way in Marine Area 8-2. The fishery is open each week from Friday through noon on Monday. Anglers fishing the bubble have a two-salmon daily limit, and can use two fishing poles with the purchase of a WDFW two-pole endorsement.
  • Sinclair Inlet, a portion of Marine Area 10, opens July 1. Anglers fishing Sinclair have a daily limit of three salmon, plus one additional pink, but must release wild chinook. Anglers are allowed to use two fishing poles with the purchase of a two-pole endorsement.
  • New fisheries in marine areas 6 and 12 are opening as well. A new pink salmon fishery has been added in the Dungeness Bay portion of Area 6 (see page 111 in the regulations), from July 16 through August 15. Also, for the first time in 22 years, North of Ayock Point in Area 12 (see page 125) will be open for pink salmon fishing.

Check the new Sport Fishing Rules for additional details on salmon fishing opportunities and locations. Both the rules pamphlet and WDFW’s recreational salmon fishing webpage include illustrations of salmon and other species to help anglers identify their catch.

“It’s important that anglers take the time to learn the differences between each salmon species – both to protect the resource and to avoid a fine,” Lothrop said.

It’s also time to break out those crab pots. Most areas in Puget Sound will open for crab fishing in July. The exception is in part of Marine Area 7, where the crab fishery opens July 16 in the area’s southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and Aug. 13 in the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia).

The crab fishery in marine areas of Puget Sound will be open Thursday through Monday of each week, except in Marine Area 13, where crabbing is allowed seven days a week.

Here is a schedule of this year’s crab season for Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca:

  • Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 8-1 (Deception Pass to East Point), 8-2 (East Point to Possession Point), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) - Open July 2 through Sept. 7. Crabbing is allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Marine Area 7 South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) - Open July 16 through Sept. 28. Crabbing is allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia) - Open Aug. 13 through Sept. 28. Crabbing is allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) – Open through Sept. 7. Crabbing is allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Marine Area 13 (south Puget Sound) - Open June 1 through Sept. 7. Crabbing is allowed seven days per week.

For additional details on the schedule of openings, visit the recreational crab fishing website.

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 catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Information on the rules, including how to properly record and report catch information is available on WDFW's crab fishing webpage. The page includes links to a printable “Crabbing in Puget Sound” brochure and a “Puget Sound Recreational Dungeness Crab Guide,” both of which have information on crabbing regulations.

Two of the region’s major rivers also remain open to fishing for hatchery chinook salmon in July, including:

  • Skagit River: Open through July 15 for hatchery chinook retention from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River Road.
  • Cascade River: Open through July 15 for hatchery chinook salmon from the mouth of the river to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge.

The daily limit on the Skagit and Cascade rivers is four hatchery chinook, only two of which may be adults (measuring at least 24 inches in length.)  All wild chinook must be released.

The Skagit River also remains open through July 16 from Highway 536 at Mount Vernon to the mouth of Gilligan Creek, with a daily limit of three sockeye.

Farther north, anglers will have more opportunities to hook sockeye salmon at Baker Lake, beginning July 10. Anglers will have a daily limit of four adult sockeye salmon (minimum size 18 inches in length). All other salmon, as well as bull trout, must be released.

Trout fishing is open at several of the region's rivers. Under the statewide rule for trout, there is a two-fish daily limit and a minimum size of eight inches in rivers and streams. However, some of the region's rivers and streams have a rule requiring trout to be at least 14 inches in length to keep. For details on river fishing opportunities, check the sport fishing pamphlet.

Of course, trout aren’t the only fish available for harvest in Washington’s lakes. Fishing for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and panfish (yellow perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill, and black crappie) is in full swing as water temperatures increase and warmwater species become increasingly active.

Danny Garrett, a WDFW fish biologist, reminds fly fishers that this is an excellent time of year to target bass and panfish with your favorite flies around shoreline structure. For the more information, check out our Fish Washington YouTube video on fly fishing featuring another WDFW fish biologist, Bruce Bolding.

As July progresses, early morning and late evening hours are great times to target bass in the shallows with top-water lures, though bass will look for shade or deep water refuge during the heat of the day, Garrett said.

But yellow perch, the most abundant warmwater gamefish species in western Washington, may be the best target in July. Perch actively feed throughout the daytime, and provide excellent table fare. For more information on where yellow perch are located, and how to catch them, visit the yellow perch species page on the Fish Washington website and WDFW’s YouTube video on perch fishing.

With the great variety of fishing available, summer is a terrific time to take a fishing vacation with friends and family. The fish are waiting, along with many other attractions and accommodations that make for unforgettable vacations. WDFW makes planning easy with its “Great Washington Getaways” web feature, covering regions near and far across the state.

Wildlife viewing: The later part of July is a good time to head to the Ballard Locks to check out salmon passing the fish ladder viewing windows. The Ballard Locks are located in northwest Seattle where the Lake Washington Ship Canal enters Shilshole Bay and Puget Sound. For information, call the locks' Visitor Center in Seattle at (206) 783-7059.

WDFW land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors this month to take precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, faulty vehicle or motorcycle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes, and outdoor burning are among the common sources of wildfire starts in the state. Fireworks are prohibited at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700 water access sites around the state.

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

Fishing: Salmon are biting off the Washington coast and new opportunities to catch them are opening up this month in several Puget Sound areas and coastal rivers. Crab and shrimp are also possibilities in the region in July.

Salmon-fishing off the Washington coast picked up over the last two weeks of June with no sign of slowing down in July. Catch rates have been averaging 1.5 fish per angler near Ilwaco (Marine Area 1), where anglers are catching both coho and chinook.

Fishing out of Westport (Marine Area 2) is also heating up for chinook and coho, with anglers also landing some early pink salmon, said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “With the strong runs of coho, chinook and pink salmon expected on the coast, this is shaping up to be a fine summer for salmon fishing,” he said.

Sport salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho are open daily in marine areas 1-4. Anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay). Those fishing marine areas 1 and 2 also have a two-salmon daily limit, but can keep only one chinook per day. 

In Puget Sound, anglers can fish for salmon beginning July 1 in marine areas 5 (Sekiu), 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), 7 (San Juan Islands), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 12 (Hood Canal). Salmon fishing also continues this month in marine areas 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island) and 13 (south Sound).

In most areas of Puget Sound, anglers can retain two fish daily, plus two additional pink salmon. In Marine Area 12, however, anglers can retain four fish daily.

“For the first time in two decades, North of Ayock Point will open in July for fishing for coho and pink salmon,” said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager. Lothrop noted that bait is prohibited from July 1-31 and anglers can only use one single-point barbless hook in the fishery.

Anglers itching to catch a pink salmon can head to Dungeness Bay in Marine Area 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait) beginning July 16. The bay is open only for retention of pinks. Anglers can keep four per day and should check the rule pamphlet for gear and other restrictions.

More details can be found in the 2015-2016 Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet.

Several coastal rivers will open July 1 for salmon fishing including the Dickey, Bogachiel, Calawah, Quinault and Chehalis rivers. Most of those rivers have a six-fish daily limit, but check the pamphlet for adult retention limits and other restrictions. Anglers who have a two-pole endorsement can fish with two poles on the Chehalis this season. The Hoh River remains closed to fishing, due to conservation concerns.

Other rivers in the region that open July 1 for salmon fishing include the Nisqually and the Deschutes rivers. The Nisqually also opens July 1 for trout-fishing.

Halibut fishing is closed in Puget Sound and on the coast with the exception of the nearshore fishery in Marine Area 1. That area is open daily. Anglers should check for updates on WDFW's recreational ocean halibut webpage before heading out.

Shrimping remains an option along the coast and in a few areas of Puget Sound, including marine areas 4 (east of the Tatoosh-Bonilla line), 5 (western Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 6 (Port Angeles Harbor). In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. Check WDFW’s recreational shrimp webpage for updates.

Rather catch some crab? The sport crab fishery opens July 2 in Puget Sound except for two areas around San Juan Islands, which open later in the summer. Marine areas 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (south Puget Sound) are already open.

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 catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for WDFW, said recent test fisheries indicate the crab population in Puget Sound remains abundant. "We continue to see healthy numbers of crab throughout Puget Sound," he said. "With such strong numbers, crabbing should be good from opening day all the way through the end of the summer season."

Information on the rules, including how to properly record and report catch information is available on WDFW's crab fishing webpage. The page includes links to a printable "Crabbing in Puget Sound" brochure and a "Puget Sound Recreational Dungeness Crab Guide," both of which have information on crabbing regulations.

Wildlife watching: Warmer weather in July makes for a pleasant time to visit Washington's coast for wildlife-watching. Olympic National Park provides information online about exploring tidepools at its beaches. The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has posted an online guide of seabirds, marine mammals, fish and invertebrates (sea stars, anemones and jellyfish) that beach-goers may find. 

All summer long, Olympic National Park is offering ranger-led walks and educational programs at a variety of locations, including Lake Crescent, Mora, Quinault Rain Forest, Stiarcase and Heart O’ The Hills. A list of times and locations are available on the park's events webpage.

The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge announced its summer lecture series, which includes topics like "Pelicans of Washington" and "Ocean Acidification on the West Coast" in July. Lectures are scheduled through August. The refuge also offers guided walks focusing on subjects like "Raptors of the Delta" and "Amazing Animal Adaptations." The refuge lists activities on its events webpage. Wildlife-watchers should note that the refuge’s visitor center is closed July 4.

WDFW land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors to take precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire. Fireworks are prohibited year-round at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state. So is throwing a lit cigarette or any other burning material from a motor vehicle on a state highway.

The department has fire restrictions in place on its lands in eastern Washington. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has expanded its burn ban on lands it protects from eastern Washington to west of the Cascades. DNR’s burn ban includes forested lands on WDFW wildlife areas and access sites in western Washington.

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

Fishing:  July offers anglers more time to catch chinook and sockeye salmon on the Columbia River, three-adult daily limits for hatchery steelhead on several area tributaries, and the last chance to catch and keep white sturgeon in the Bonneville Pool this year. Bass and walleye are also biting there and elsewhere, and trout are still swatting hooks in high mountain lakes.

Citing near-record numbers of summer chinook and sockeye salmon counted at Bonneville Dam, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon added three weeks to the summer salmon fishery on the lower Columbia River. The fishery for salmon and hatchery steelhead is now scheduled to run through July 31 from Astoria-Megler Bridge upriver to Bonneville.

Also approved was a new daily catch limit for summer chinook that will take effect July 3 for salmon fisheries on the Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam.

The new catch limit holds anglers to one adult chinook salmon per day – whether or not it is marked as a hatchery fish – as part of their overall catch.  Since mid-June, anglers have been allowed to catch two adult chinook a day, but were required to release those not marked as a hatchery fish by a missing adipose fin. 

Ron Roler, Columbia River Policy Coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the new catch limit is designed to reduce the number of chinook salmon that are hooked and released during unusually warm water conditions.

“Water temperatures in the Columbia River have risen above 70 degrees, which can affect survival rates for released fish,” Roler said. “With the prospect of more hot days to come, we want anglers to keep the first chinook they catch and move on to the other fishing opportunities available in the river.”

In all, the new catch limit will allow anglers to take a total of six salmon or steelhead per day, including two adult salmon, two adult hatchery steelhead, or one of each – but only one chinook salmon. As before, anglers must release any unmarked steelhead they catch, and sockeye will be counted as part of the adult daily limit. Chinook jacks also remain part of the overall daily bag limit, but anglers can retain both marked and unmarked fish.

Despite the high numbers of summer chinook counted at Bonneville Dam, fishing was “spotty” in late June due to low flows and high water temperatures in the Columbia River, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

“With water temperatures soaring, a lot of guys are shifting to fall tactics,” Hymer said. “That means fishing deep – 30 to 50 feet down – anchoring, and using a wobbler.”

Another option is targeting summer-run steelhead, which have been moving into the lower Columbia at a growing rate, Hymer said. Hatchery steelhead, he said, should provide some good fishing this month in both the big river and many of its tributaries.

“Those fish, running four-to-eight pounds apiece, are fun to catch and great to eat,” Hymer said. “Unlike chinook, steelhead tend to run close to shore, so bank anglers should have some great fishing opportunities in the weeks ahead.”

As Hymer sees it, the best bet for hatchery steelhead below Bonneville Dam is probably the Cowlitz River, where fish start arriving in large numbers in early July. Other options include sections of the Kalama, Lewis (North and East forks), Washougal, South Fork Toutle, Green, and Elochoman rivers. Anglers might also want to try fishing Drano Lake or the lower Wind River, where steelhead historically dip in to beat the heat.

Anglers fishing for steelhead on area tributaries should be aware of several changes in the regulations this year, including:

  • A number of rivers have a three-fish daily limit for hatchery steelhead.
  • Anglers are required to keep any hatchery fish they catch on those rivers.
  • Barbed hooks are allowed on the Elochoman, lower Cowlitz, South Fork Toutle, and Green rivers in July.

These and other new rules are described in the new Sport Fishing Rulespamphlet, available on WDFW’s website and from license vendors throughout the state. Anglers will notice that the pamphlet is organized differently – geographically rather than alphabetically – this year, and are advised to take time to become familiar with the new layout.

Anglers should also be aware of potential traffic delays starting July 16 on State Route 4 near Cathlamet for a culvert-replacement project at milepost 34. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), in conjunction with WDFW, is replacing two aging culverts beneath the highway to improve fish passage between the Elochoman River Slough to the Columbia River. See WSDOT’s website for more information.

A hundred miles upriver, the region’s last scheduled sturgeon-retention fishery of the year is set July 3-5 in the Bonneville Pool. Anglers may keep one white sturgeon with a fork length of 38 inches to 54 inches per day. Except in sturgeon sanctuaries, catch-and-release fishing is open there and in other waters of the Columbia River.

Bass fishing is also heating up in the Bonneville Pool, and anglers are catching some nice walleye in The Dalles and John Day pools. The Merwin and Mayfield reservoirs are the place to go for tiger musky, and Yale and Merwin reservoirs are clear choices for kokanee.

In June, an angler using a plastic grub near Stevenson caught a 8.53-pound smallmouth bass – just missing the state record of 8.75 pounds set in 1966 by a fish caught on the Hanford Reach.  

Due to lack of snow, high mountain lakes have been accessible to trout anglers since early spring. But now water levels are dropping and warming up for the same reason. John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist, recommends Takhlakh and Council Lakes near Mt. Adams for anglers who want to keep fishing the high country.

“Both of these lakes are large, and will be stocked with thousands large catchable rainbow by the Fourth of July weekend,” Weinheimer said. “Takhlakh will also receive broodstock rainbow running 5-6 pounds apiece, and both of these lakes are terrific places to camp and fish.”

Weinheimer also recommends three large drive-up lakes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. One is Horseshoe Lake, which contains beautiful eastern brook trout, browns, and tiger trout – a sterile cross of the two. Big Mosquito Lake near Trout Lake also contains eastern brook and tiger trout, but boat access is largely limited to car-top boats and float tubes due to limited launch facilities. Walupt Lake is a large lake, featuring wild cutthroat and rainbow with a great campground. 

Anglers, campers and anyone else headed outdoor are advised that fire restrictions are currently in effect throughout the state. Precautions taken by WDFW include a ban on campfires on department lands on both sides of the Cascades.

Wildlife viewing:  As spring turns to summer, wildlife sightings naturally increase for species ranging from butterflies to black bears. One reason, of course, is that animals become more active, emerging from cocoons and dens to feed and breed. Another is that more people are outside to see them.

“Memorial Day really marks the start of the summer outdoor season,” said Nate Pamplin, assistant director for the WDFW Wildlife Program. “A large part of our state’s population heads outside every summer to fish, hike and enjoy the natural world.”
With so many people out and about, WDFW wildlife managers ask that they observe a few basic rules in their interactions with Washington’s wildlife:

  • Keep a respectful distance: Using binoculars is a good way to get a close-up view of wildlife species without disturbing them.
  • Leave baby animals alone: Deer fawns and baby birds may appear to be abandoned, when a parent may be close-by. Picking up wildlife of any kind can not only be harmful to the animal, it's illegal.
  • Don't feed wildlife: Many of the problems with wildlife that require WDFW’s involvement stem from human hand-outs. “Once bears become habituated to human food – whether from garbage cans or actual hand-outs – they often get more brazen,” said Martorello, WDFW carnivore section manager. “That can create real problems for you or someone else.”

Another way to protect wildlife is to avoid starting a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes and outdoor burning are all common causes of wildfires in the state.

Responding to current hot, dry conditions, WDFW and other agencies have issued rules prohibiting campfires on state lands. Fireworks are also prohibited at all 33 of the department’s wildlife areas and 700 water access sites around the state.

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

Fishing: July is the month when most of the region’s warmwater fisheries are in full swing. Warmwater species are more active with elevated air and water temperatures.

Spokane County’s Newman, Bonnie and Silver lakes are good bets for largemouth bass, yellow perch, and black crappie, Randy Osborne, WDFW central district fish biologist. 

“In addition to lakes where warmwater species are found, many of the region’s waters can still produce catches of trout this month along with other fish,” Osborne said.

Anglers at Liberty and Clear lakes in Spokane County are catching rainbow and brown trout, perch, crappie and bass.  Downs and Sprague lakes should also produce catches of bass and rainbow trout. 

WDFW District fish bio Randy Osborne in a boat holding a smallmouth bass.
WDFW District fish bio Randy Osborne
with a smallmouth bass from Long Lake

“Fishing at Long Lake, also known as Lake Spokane, is really good right now for smallmouth bass and largemouth bass,” Osborne said. “Anglers are still catching rainbow trout that were stocked the last two years. This year’s stocked trout are still fairly small, running 7 to 9 inches, but the carryovers from last year’s plant run about 16 inches.”

With air temperatures setting records in the region, anglers fishing the early morning and late evening hours have been doing well on the region’s lowland trout lakes, including Fish, Fishtrap, and West Medical. Osborne notes that as the heat persists and water temperatures rise, even the warmwater fish species will be more likely to bite early and late.

Morning and evening fishing is also productive on many northeast district waters, said Bill Baker, WDFW district fish biologist. Even lakes at high elevation, like the Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, provide more opportunities early and late.

Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, is usually good in July for walleye and smallmouth bass, Baker says. Several other lakes should provide good opportunities, including Deer Lake in southern Stevens County for smallmouth and largemouth bass, Curlew Lake in Ferry County for largemouth bassDiamond Lake near Newport in Pend Oreille County for yellow perch, and Waitts Lake in southern Stevens County for yellow perch. 

The Snake and Palouse rivers are usually good this month for smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and black crappie, said Jeremy Trump, WDFW southeast district fish biologist. The Grande Ronde River in Asotin County is also good now for smallmouth bass.  The Grand Ronde is open through July 5 for spring chinook salmon. Check the emergency rule change for more details.

Due to record hot and dry conditions, Tucannon River water levels are currently lower than the lowest point last year (which occurred in August), reported Kari Dingman, WDFW assistant manager of  W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area. Some of the river impoundments on the Wooten that can be fished for hatchery trout are low, she said. And lake water temperatures may soon rise to the point where fish are not biting.

Anglers can search for more information on fishing waters by fish species at the “Fish Washington” webpage.

“July is a great time to be out on the water to escape the heat,” Osborne said, “but please remember to use common sense and wear life jackets to be safe.”

Extremely hot and dry conditions are dropping river and stream water flows and raising water temperatures throughout the region. Fishery managers are considering some river and stream fishing season reductions or restrictions this month to protect fish from over-harvesting. Check WDFW’s webpage for updates.

Anglers are also reminded that no fireworks, fires or smoking outside of vehicles are allowed at WDFW water access sites and wildlife areas. Fireworks are never allowed, but the other restrictions recently went into effect due to extremely hot, dry conditions.

Anglers will also want to pay attention to the new way eastern Washington rivers and streams are listed in the new fishing rules pamphlet, effective July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. As described in “New for 2015” on page three, the “Columbia Basin” (the Columbia River and its tributaries) is now under the statewide stream strategy where all rivers, streams and beaver ponds are closed unless listed as open in pages 50-76.

Those waters are alphabetically listed on page 50 with reference to rule details under different portions of the Columbia Basin. This is the way western Washington rivers and streams have long been listed.

Wildlife viewing: Butterflies and hummingbirds are feeding throughout daylight hours on blooming wildflowers and backyard nectar feeders, and they are nearly oblivious to viewers. Bats are hunting down insects at sunset and through cooler night-time hours, especially near waterways or irrigated lawns and gardens where insects are usually abundant.

Many regional WDFW field staff report visible ducks, geese, eagles, owls, hawks, osprey, turkeys, pheasants, quail, and a variety of songbirds.

Ungulates – deer, elk, and moose and their young can also be spotted in July. Elk are more to spot in large groups of cows and calves at traditional grazing areas early in the morning and late in the evenings, said Woody Myers, WDFW ungulate researcher. White-tailed and mule deer fawns are growing more independent and might be spotted chasing and otherwise playing with each other while their does browse. Moose calves stay closer to their very protective mothers through the summer, and viewers and photographers need to keep a respectable distance from them.

Myers also noted that buck deer, bull elk and moose are sporting velvet-covered antlers now. 

Four bighorn sheep lambs in the Tucannon herd have been hanging out between the mouth of Cummings Creek and Deer Lake in Columbia County, reported Kari Dingman, WDFW assistant manager of the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area.

The hot, dry conditions may drive black bears to seek food in campgrounds even more than usual this month, Dingman said. Campers need to keep attractants, including garbage, out of reach and secure. More information is available on the Living With Bears webpage.

Dingman also reminds outdoor recreationists that rattlesnakes are out and about. Hikers are encouraged to stay on well-used, open trails where snakes warming themselves during early morning hours can be more easily seen. In brushy areas, use a walking stick to alert a snake of your approach and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. More information is available on the Living with Snakes webpage.

Early morning and late evening hours are best for most kinds of wildlife-viewing throughout the region during this month’s hot, dry conditions.

Those conditions also mean that wildlife-viewing visitors to WDFW properties throughout the region – both wildlife areas and water access sites – must help protect wildlife habitat from wildfires by complying with fire restrictions that recently went into effect. Fireworks are never allowed on any of these sites, but now fires, smoking outside of vehicles, and other restrictions are also in place.

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

Fishing:  Summer chinook and sockeye salmon fishing opens July 1 on the mainstem Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam up to Wells Dam, and from Brewster to Chief Joseph Dam. The Okanogan River, a tributary of the Columbia, also opens for chinook and sockeye on July 1. The mainstem Columbia River section from Wells Dam to the Highway 173 bridge at Brewster opens July 16.

Northcentral Region Fish Manager Jeff Korth expects the mainstem salmon season to provide excellent fishing, especially for sockeye. The daily catch limit for the salmon seasons is up to two adult hatchery-marked chinook, and up to six sockeye, with all coho and all wild chinook released. Anglers should check all the rules for these salmon fisheries as listed in the 2015-2016 Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Anglers will also want to pay attention to the new way eastern Washington rivers and streams are listed in the new fishing rules pamphlet, effective July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. As described in “New for 2015” on page three, the “Columbia Basin” (the Columbia River and its tributaries) is now under the statewide stream strategy where all rivers, streams and beaver ponds are closed unless listed as open in pages 50-76.

Those waters are alphabetically listed on page 50 with reference to rule details under different portions of the Columbia Basin. This is the way western Washington rivers and streams have long been listed.

The ongoing spring chinook salmon fishery on the Icicle River is scheduled to continue through July. Two adipose-fin-clipped chinook salmon, adults or jacks of at least 12 inches, is the daily catch limit.

The Wenatchee River spring chinook fishery is still open in July (it opened in late May by a rule change because of abundant hatchery chinook, “until further notice”). This fishery usually starts producing a few catches of Wenatchee summer chinook, which are typically larger and considerably “brighter” fish than the spring chinook.  

WDFW Chelan District fish biologist Travis Maitland reminds anglers that Lake Wenatchee sockeye salmon fishing starts July 18 and runs through August. The daily catch limit is six sockeye of at least 12 inches. No night fishing is allowed.

Banks Lake bass fishing is good, with both smallmouth and largemouth taking a variety of presentations. Fishing for yellow perch, rainbow trout and walleye is also possible this month at Banks.

Many Okanogan County waters should be fair to good through July, said Larry Stillwaugh, at WDFW’s Omak Trout Hatchery.

Bonaparte Lake, on the Okanogan National Forest northeast of Tonasket, has been producing 13- to 15-inch kokanee, originally stocked from the Omak hatchery. Bonaparte anglers have also been catching some smallmouth bass and are encouraged to remove as many as the 10-fish daily limit to help decrease competition between bass and kokanee or other trout species.

A tiger trout weighing almost 18 1/2 pounds (a new state record pending WDFW final certification) was caught at Bonaparte in May. Stillwaugh notes that based on the age of the fish, it was likely one originally raised at and released from the Omak hatchery.

Just east of Bonaparte, also situated near Okanogan National Forest campgrounds, Beth and Beaver lakes have been producing rainbow trout up to 15 inches.

Blue Lake on Limebelt Road near Omak has also been producing fish up to 15 inches, including both rainbow and eastern brook trout.

Both Conconully Lake and Reservoir have been good for catches of kokanee, rainbow trout and largemouth bass. Stillwaugh says the upper lake seems to be producing a little bigger fish.

Stillwaugh notes Palmer Lake, north of Loomis, should be outstanding for yellow perch and smallmouth bass at this time. There are also lots of warmwater fish species, including big bluegill, to be caught at Spectacle Lake, southwest of Tonasket.

Extremely hot and dry conditions are dropping river and stream water flows and raising water temperatures throughout the region. Fishery managers are considering some river and stream fishing season reductions or restrictions this month to protect fish from over-harvesting. Check WDFW’s webpage for updates.

Hot and dry conditions throughout the region mean that anglers using WDFW properties – both wildlife areas and water access sites – must help prevent wildfires by complying with fire restrictions that recently went into effect. Fireworks are never allowed on any of these sites, but now fires, smoking outside of vehicles, and other restrictions are also in place. 

Wildlife viewing:  More than 70 species of butterflies are commonly seen in July on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area and other places in Okanogan County. 

WDFW Sinlahekin manager Justin Haug notes that the quintessential species, the Monarch, is usually only spotted this month and next. Watch also for lots of species of parnassians, swallowtails, whites, sulphurs, coppers, hairstreaks, blues, fritillaries, checkerspots, crescents, nymphs, satyrs, and skippers. For more information see the Sinlahekin butterfly guide.

This year’s mule deer fawns are more mobile and visible throughout the region this month, especially at dawn and dusk when air temperatures are cooler.  Adult buck deer are sporting velvet-covered antlers now. 

July is usually a good time to see mountain goats at salt licks along the Hart’s Pass Road northwest of Mazama in Okanogan County’s Methow Valley. This year’s extreme heat may keep the animals out of sight during daylight hours, however. 

Waterfowl and other waterbirds and their broods are visible throughout the region now. In the Columbia Basin, brood counts recently conducted along the irrigation canal routes showed very high numbers (nearly double last year at this time) in the East Low Canal. Canada geese and mallards are the most common species, but there are also lots of teal, redhead, ring-necked, goldeneye, and other ducks. Watch, too, for grebes, mergansers and herons, and shorebirds like avocets and phalaropes.

Pair of Avocets standing in shallow water. Pied-billed grebe family in the water.
Avocets by Eric Braaten Pied-billed grebe family by Jeff Heinlen

Hot and dry conditions throughout the region mean that wildlife-viewing visitors to WDFW properties – both wildlife areas and water access sites – must help protect wildlife habitat from wildfires by complying with fire restrictions that recently went into effect. Fireworks are never allowed on any of these sites, but now fires, smoking outside of vehicles, and other restrictions are also in place. 

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

Fishing:  Spring chinook have come and gone, but strong runs of summer chinook and sockeye salmon are moving up the Columbia River right behind them, providing new fishing opportunities in July. Walleye and shad are also on the bite this month, and thousands of newly planted trout await anglers in lakes stretching from the Yakima Valley to the slopes of the eastern Cascades.

Fishery managers anticipate a return of 73,000 summer chinook and 394,000 sockeye salmon this year – most of them headed for the upper Columbia River, said Paul Hoffarth, a regional fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The sockeye run is predicted to be twice the size of the 10-year average, he said.

While both species have a reputation as timid biters, anglers are finding ways to improve their chances of catching them, Hoffarth said. “Anglers have been refining their technique over the past few years,” he said. “As a result, the number of sockeye and chinook harvested in the Tri-Cities area has increased from a handful of fish five years ago to thousands of fish last year.”

The fishery for summer chinook and sockeye salmon is open daily on the Columbia River from the Interstate 182 Bridge at Richland upstream to Priest Rapids. The daily limit is two adult hatchery chinook and six sockeye. Only hatchery chinook with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.

Fishing is also open in a new salmon fishery management area designed to manage harvest in a six-mile area near the mouth of the Yakima River. The new area stretches from the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco upstream to the Interstate 182 Bridge at Richland. The daily limit in this area is three salmon, of which no more than one may be adult hatchery chinook and no more than two may be sockeye.

A Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead endorsement is required to fish for salmon on the Columbia River and all other rivers in eastern Washington. In many areas, anglers with a Two-Pole endorsement can fish with two poles for all species, except sturgeon. For additional rules on the salmon fishery, see the 2015-16 Fishing in Washington pamphlet. 

Shad are once again returning to the Columbia River in huge numbers. Hoffarth said the best fishing in the region is the Umatilla area below McNary Dam. Most anglers anchor along gently sloping benches in relatively shallow water, 10 to 20 feet in depth.

Rather catch sturgeon? Anglers can catch and keep sturgeon measuring 43 to 54 inches (fork length) through July 31 in Lake Wallula, which stretches from McNary Dam to Priest Rapids Dam. Fishing is not allowed in sturgeon spawning sanctuary areas below McNary Dam, Ice Harbor Dam, and Priest Rapids Dam.

Hoffarth said walleye fishing has been extremely good this year in the Columbia River as well as area lakes like Scooteney, Potholes, and Moses Lake. “The fishing began to tramp up in December and shows no signs of slowing down,” Hoffarth said.

Meanwhile, fishing for stocked rainbow trout is still going strong on lowland lakes near Yakima, Ellensburg and Cle Elum. WDFW fish biologist Eric Anderson especially likes the prospects at Clear, Leech and Dog Lakes in Yakima County, and Lost Lake and Cooper Lake in Kittitas County.

To spice things up, WDFW also planted hundreds of 1.5-pound jumbo trout in popular “drive to” high-mountain lakes in May and June, Anderson said. Those lakes include Leech, Dog and Clear lakes near White Pass in Yakima County and Lost and Cooper lakes near Snoqualmie Pass in Kittitas County. 

“All of these lakes also received thousands of catchable sized rainbows (11-13 inches) during May and June, and should provide excellent trout fishing, for the next month or so,” Anderson said.

Kokanee fishing is also picking up at Rimrock Lake in Yakima County, according to recent reports. Although the fish are small, anglers have been doing well fishing 20 to 40 feet deep, trolling pop gear (gang trolls) just about everywhere on the lake.

“Trolling a two-ounce trolling sinker and a wedding ring spinner baited with maggots or tuna-scented shoe peg corn 15 to 20 feet deep works great,” Anderson said.

Other kokanee hotspots include Bumping Lake, Keechelus Reservoir and Kachess Reservoir. The daily limit for kokanee on Keechelus & Kachess Lakes has been lowered from 16 to 10 fish.

There is also a new slot limit for kokanee is in effect at Cle Elum Lake in Kittitas County, where only those kokanee measuring nine to 15 inches in length can be retained. The daily limit for trout, including kokanee, is five fish. There is no minimum size or daily limit for lake, brown or eastern brook trout, but anglers must release any bull trout they catch while fishing for other species.

Complete rules for these and other fisheries are available in the new Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, available on WDFW’s website and at license vendors throughout the state. Anglers will note that the new pamphlet includes both substantive and formatting changes. For example, all streams are now closed to fishing unless otherwise noted.

Regulations are also grouped by major basins (e.g. the Yakima River is listed under the Columbia Basin section.) Anglers are advised to familiarize themselves with the new pamphlet before heading out.

Wildlife viewing:  In 2009, Washington Audubon published "Sun and Sage," a birding guide that points travelers to prime birding areas in the southcentral region of the state. One stop along the way is WDFW's Wenas Wildlife Area, located southwest of Ellensburg, a popular destination for birders, hikers, anglers and campers alike.

Along with songbirds and raptors, visitors may see elk, deer, bighorn sheep and a myriad of smaller mammals. Beaver are active around Umtanum Creek, which flows past stands of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, black cottonwood, aspen and willow.

At Wenas and other WDFW wildlife areas, land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors to take precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes and outdoor burning are all common causes of wildfires in the state.

Fireworks are prohibited at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700 water access sites around the state, and campfires are also off-limits on lands owned by the department on both sides of the Cascade Range.

Starting July 1, WDFW has also banned target-shooting until Oct. 1 anywhere in the Wenas Wildlife Area. Public notice of the closure – which will be in effect 24 hours a day – will be posted at all entry points. In June 2014, WDFW announced a similar ban at Wenas after four wildfires sparked by target-shooters scorched more than 10,000 acres.