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

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August 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 31, 2015)

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


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

Summer fishing in full swing
as hunters begin to take the field

Summer fisheries are now in full swing, providing some of the best fishing opportunities of the year. Washingtonians are reeling in salmon off the coast, pulling up pots full of crab in Puget Sound, and casting for trout in alpine lakes on both sides of the Cascades.

Also this month, hunters will take to the field to hunt for black bear in the first big-game hunt of the season. Many others will also be out scouting hunting areas to prepare for deer and elk seasons beginning in September.

“This is a good time to locate game animals and get the lay of the land, particularly if you’re planning to hunt a new area,” said Mick Cope, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) game manager. “It’s also a time when hunters and non-hunters alike need to be aware of their surroundings and give each other some space.”

Cope said hunters should confirm before heading into the field that they will have access to their preferred locations because of drought- and fire-related restrictions on Washington’s public and private lands. More information is available in a recent news release at http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/jul2915a/.

Those drought conditions already have put a wrinkle in some fisheries throughout the state. In mid-July, state fishery managers closed dozens of rivers to fishing and issued other new regulations designed to conserve wild fish populations.

“With such extreme drought conditions in several areas of the state, we needed to take these steps to help protect vulnerable fish in waters where we have concerns,” said Craig Burley, fish program manager for WDFW. “We’ll continue monitoring stream conditions throughout Washington this summer and take additional actions if necessary.”

Meanwhile, the pink salmon run is building in Puget Sound. Nearly 7 million pink salmon are expected to return to the Sound this year, many of them during the next few weeks.

The smallest of the five Pacific salmon species, pink salmon run three to 12 pounds and return to Washington’s waters in odd-numbered years. In most marine areas of Puget Sound, anglers are allowed to catch and keep two pink salmon in addition to daily limits for other species.

Rather catch shellfish? Crab fishing is open throughout the month in most areas of Puget Sound, the exception being Sub-Area 7 North which opens for crabbing in mid-August.

See the WDFW Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ for more information on these and other fisheries open around the state. For hunting seasons, see the Big Game Hunting pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

For a region-by-region description of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available in August, 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)

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

Fishing: Anglers are reeling in chinook, coho and pink salmon in Puget Sound, with additional marine areas opening for salmon Aug. 1. Meanwhile, trout and bass are still drawing anglers to local lakes, and crab fishing is under way in most areas of the Sound.

Biologists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) estimate that some 6.8 million pink salmon will return to Puget Sound this year.

Over the last 15 years pink salmon returns to Puget Sound rivers have increased dramatically, and angler interest has followed suit, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager.

“Anglers across the state have been catching these salmon in the marine areas, their catch rates are improving steadily, and we expect the run to continue to build through August as pink salmon enter rivers like the Skagit, Green and Snohomish,” Lothrop said.

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.

In addition to the surge of pink salmon moving through the area, anglers also have opportunities to catch chinook and coho, added Lothrop.

Most of Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) is open for salmon as of Aug. 1. One of the exceptions is Bellingham Bay in the San Juans, which opens Aug. 16, with a daily limit of four salmon, two of which may be chinook.

Also in marine areas 7, 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point), and 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), anglers can bag an additional two sockeye or pink salmon after Aug. 16.

Marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) remain open to salmon fishing in August.

The Puget Sound crab fishery is also under way in most marine areas. The exception is the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia) of Marine Area 7, which opens for crab Aug. 13. Most Puget Sound marine areas will be open for crabbing Thursday through Monday of each week only. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are closed, and all crab gear must be removed from the water.  The exception is Marine Area 13 which is open seven days a week.

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. While there, be sure to watch the YouTube video on the recreational Dungeness crab fishery in Puget Sound. Highlighted topics include gear 101, crabbing with kids, and regulations and management.

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 five inches across. Remember to record all Dungeness crab kept immediately on your catch record card. Do not record red rock crab on the catch record card.

Additionally, spot shrimp fishing remains open in Marine Area 7 West until the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.  For more on shrimping opportunities, visit the recreational shrimp fishing website.

Meanwhile, for those more interested in river fishing, freshwater anglers are gearing up for salmon openers on select rivers.

Those rivers include the following:

  • Skagit River: Salmon fishing opens Aug. 1 from the mouth of the river to the mouth of Gilligan Creek. The Skagit opens from the mouth of Gilligan Creek to the Dalles Bridge at Concrete for salmon fishing Aug. 16. Anglers fishing those sections have a four-salmon daily limit, and no more than two can be wild coho. All chinook and chum must be released.
  • Snohomish River: Salmon fishing opens Aug. 1 from the mouth of the river to the Highway 9 bridge and on Aug. 16 from the Highway 9 bridge upstream to the confluence of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers. There is a three-salmon daily limit, plus one additional pink salmon. Chinook and chum must be released.
  • Green River: Salmon fishing opens Aug. 20 from the 1st Ave. South Bridge to Hwy. 99/Tukwila Intl. Blvd.  Anglers fishing the Green have a daily limit of six salmon; up to three adult coho and chum (combined) may be retained. Chinook must be released. 

Drought conditions and measures to save fish in rivers with warm conditions and reduced water flow have reduced opportunities in the North Puget Sound region this summer.  Below is a list of rivers with restricted or closed fishing:

Hoot-owl restrictions (fishing is limited to the hours between midnight and 2 p.m.):

  • North Fork Skykomish River (Snohomish Co.) From the mouth upstream including all tributaries.
  • South Fork Skykomish River (Snohomish/King Co.) From Sunset Falls upstream and all tributaries, including the Beckler, Foss, Miller and Rapid rivers and their tributaries.
  • Sauk River (Skagit/Snohomish Co.) Above the Suiattle River including the North Fork to the falls and the South Fork to headwaters.
  • Samish River (Skagit Co.) From I-5 to headwaters, and Friday Creek upstream.

Closed to fishing:

  • Raging River (King Co.) from the mouth upstream.
  • Skykomish River (Snohomish Co.) from the mouth upstream closed to all fishing, except the section around Reiter Ponds remains open from the Gold Bar/Big Eddy Access (Hwy. 2 Bridge) upstream to the confluence of the North and South forks.
  • Wallace River (Snohomish Co.). From the mouth upstream including all tributaries.
  • Stillaguamish River (Skagit/Snohomish Co.) From Marine Drive upstream including the North and South forks and all tributaries.
  • South Fork Nooksack (Whatcom Co.) From the mouth to Skookum Creek, and from Wanlick Creek to headwaters including Wanlick and all tributaries.
  • Suiattle River (Skagit Co.) Tributaries Buck, Downey and Sulpher Creeks.

Anglers fishing Baker Lake can try two pole fishing with purchase of the endorsement. At Baker, anglers are allowed to retain up to four adult sockeye that exceed 18 inches in length from the log boom barrier at Baker Dam upstream to the mouth of the upper Baker River. All other salmon, as well as bull trout, must be released.

Though many anglers focus on burgeoning opportunities for salmon in mid-to-late summer, August is also a great time to pursue yellow perch, bass, bluegill and catfish in lowland lakes.

“With warmer water temperatures, anglers should seek deepwater structure such as ledges and weed lines to find warmwater species during the heat of the day,” said Danny Garrett, WDFW warmwater fisheries biologist. “In clearer lakes, such as Lake Washington, start your search for perch and bass in 15 to 20 feet of water. In shallower lakes with stained water, such as Lake Cassidy, look for fish along the weed edge in five to 10 feet of water.”

Yellow perch is a species that will bite throughout the day, so perch fishing is a great way to introduce kids to the sport.  For tips and techniques, check out our YouTube video.

Justin Spinelli, fish biologist, recommends Gissburg Ponds for rainbow trout. “The fishing has been good at Gissburg Ponds, particularly for anglers who fish a little closer to the bottom,” said Spinelli.

Though many trout fisheries have slowed with rising water temperatures, anglers in pursuit of trout or kokanee are still finding bountiful harvests in other, deeper Puget Sound lowland waters.

“Try targeting these fishes at or below the thermocline with common gear such as wedding rings, small lures and woolly buggers,” said Spinelli. “Remember that trout and kokanee prefer cold temperatures and migrate vertically in the water column as they pursue invertebrates, so try various depths until you find them.”

High lakes offer additional trout opportunities.  “You don’t need a lot of gear, just a small rod and reel and some small lures for these fisheries,” said Spinelli.  “You also can experience some of Washington’s most majestic environments on the hike in to these lakes.”

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has a special section of Fish Washington devoted to high lakes fishing.   Novice high lake anglers should focus on the introductory lakes to refine their mix of hiking gear and angling equipment in the packs.

Summer is also 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

Hunting: Bear hunters will share the field with other big-game hunters scouting early-season hunts for deer, elk and cougar beginning in September. “This is a good time to locate game animals and get the lay of the land, particularly if you’re planning to hunt a new area,” said Mick Cope, WDFW game manager. “But it can get hot out there in August, so it’s important to stay hydrated and be aware of fire danger.”

As of last month, 29 large wildfires and hundreds of smaller ones had erupted in drought-stricken Washington this year, many of them caused by humans.

In response, campfires have been banned on all WDFW lands in eastern Washington and all forested lands owned by the department on the west side of the Cascades. (Gas and propane cook stoves are still allowed.)

An emergency order for eastern Washington also prohibits:

  • Smoking: Unless in an enclosed vehicle.
  • Welding and the use of chainsaws and other equipment: Operating a torch with an open flame and equipment powered by an internal combustion engine is prohibited.
  • Operating a motor vehicle off developed roads: Except when parking in areas without vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway and parking in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.

Fireworks are also prohibited year-round at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state.

Eager to find out if you’ve been selected for one of Washington’s coveted 2015 raffle hunts? Check the results on WDFW’s website.

Hunter education is also continuing right through the summer, and for prospective hunters who have completed online hunter education coursework, the field skills requirement can be met at a "Hunter Education Jamboree" Aug. 29 at the Boy Scout Camp Pigott in Snohomish County. Check the recent news release for details and registration information.

Wildlife viewing: Now's a good time to head to the Ballard Locks to check out salmon passing the fish ladder viewing windows. Salmon pass through the fish ladder daily, and chinook numbers typically start peaking in the third week of August. 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.

Eastside Audubon in Kirkland is offering field trips and birding walks throughout the month of August. Check their website for dates, times and locations. Additionally, Eastside Audubon has assembled a helpful list of birding outings perfect for summer excursions.

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: Anglers are having success catching salmon on the Washington coast. Meanwhile, millions of pink salmon are moving into Puget Sound, where shrimp and crab harvesting continues this month.

Salmon fishing in is in full swing on the coast. In late July, anglers were catching an average of 1.4 salmon per trip coastwide.

Coho fishing has been strong on the southern coast, while chinook fishing has been hot up and down the coast,” said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Anglers can keep one chinook as part of their two salmon daily limit in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 2 (Westport) and 3 (La Push). Anglers can keep two salmon per day in Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) but chinook retention closes at the end of the day, Saturday, Aug. 1, west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line and July 31 east of the line. Anglers can keep two additional pink salmon in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay).

“Neah Bay has seen some good pink salmon fishing this summer,” Milward said.

Pink salmon, which return almost exclusively in odd-numbered years, will show up in increasing numbers in Puget Sound as the month of August wears on.

“We’re expecting a very strong run of pinks this year, which will provide some great fishing around Puget Sound,” said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager. “With so many pinks returning, this is a good opportunity to take kids out fishing or to teach a friend to fish.”

Anglers can find up-to-date information on the best pink fishing opportunities around the region, as well as tips for catching pinks, on WDFW’s pink salmon webpage.
Other salmon fishing opportunities in Puget Sound abound in August.

Anglers can keep two salmon, plus additional pinks, in Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet), but must release chinook and chum. The area south from the line between Foulweather Bluff and Olele Point in Marine Area 9 is now open for salmon fishing under the same regulations as the rest of Marine Area 9.

Anglers should be aware that chinook retention ends Aug. 16 in Marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (East Juan de Fuca). The Dungeness Bay fishery, which is open for pink salmon fishing only, will be closed as of Aug. 16.

Salmon anglers can also take advantage of an opening along Hood Canal (Marine Area 12). North of Ayock Point is open for pink and coho fishing for the first time in 20 years, Lothrop said.

Several areas of Puget Sound remain open for recreational spot shrimp fishing, including the strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine areas 5 and 6). Marine Area 7 West and Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) east of the Tatoosh-Bonilla line are also open.

In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. A valid 2015-16 fishing license is required to participate in the fishery. Check WDFW’s shrimp webpage for details.

Recreational crab fishing also is open in marine areas 4 East, 5 and 6. Marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (south Sound) are open as well.

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.

For more information, check the recreational crab fishing webpage.

Rivers and lakes across the region are teeming with trout and salmon for the taking. Sections of the Skokomish, Willapa, Nemah and Naselle rivers open Aug. 1 for salmon fishing. The Skokomish has a daily limit of two salmon, while the Nemah, Naselle and Willapa have six salmon of which only four can be adults. The Big Quilcene opens Aug. 16 for coho fishing. Anglers there can keep four coho daily.

Anglers fishing rivers around the regions should check for night closures and single-point barbless hook regulations that go into effect Aug. 16. Some of the rivers where one or both of the regulations apply include the Wynoochee, Naselle, Humptulips, Chehalis, Hoaquium and Wishkah. Check the sport fishing rules pamphlet for a full list of closures and regulations.

Anglers should also check the pamphlet for scheduled closures this month on the Puyallup and Nisqually rivers.

High water temperatures and low flows resulting from extreme drought conditions have put a wrinkle in some fisheries in western Washington and throughout the state.

“With such extreme drought conditions in several areas of the state, we needed to take these steps to help protect vulnerable fish in waters where we have concerns,” said Craig Burley, fish program manager for WDFW. “We’ll continue monitoring stream conditions throughout Washington this summer and take additional actions if necessary.”

Current drought-related regulations affecting anglers in south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula include:

River closures: The Dickey, Sol Duc, Calawah and Bogachiel rivers and all their tributaries and the Quillayute River from the confluence of the Sol Duc and Bogachiel Rivers downstream 475 yards to fluorescent orange paint on rocks.

Emergency rules for the current drought restrictions are available on WDFW’s website.

Hunting: General hunting seasons for black bear open Aug. 1 in the Coastal and East Cascades zones, and Aug. 15 in the South Cascades zone, as shown on Page 69 of the Big Game Hunting pamphlet. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington. Hunters are urged to avoid shooting sows with cubs.

Bear hunters will share the field with other big-game hunters scouting early-season hunts for deer, elk and cougar beginning in September. “This is a good time to locate game animals and get the lay of the land, particularly if you’re planning to hunt a new area,” said Mick Cope, WDFW game manager. “But it can get hot out there in August, so it’s important to stay hydrated and be aware of fire danger.”

As of last month, 29 large wildfires and hundreds of smaller ones had erupted in drought-stricken Washington this year, many of them caused by humans.

In response, campfires have been banned on all WDFW lands in eastern Washington and all forested lands owned by the department on the west side of the Cascades. (Gas and propane cook stoves are still allowed.)

An emergency order for eastern Washington also prohibits:

Smoking: Unless in an enclosed vehicle.

Welding and the use of chainsaws and other equipment: Operating a torch with an open flame and equipment powered by an internal combustion engine is prohibited.

Operating a motor vehicle off developed roads: Except when parking in areas without vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway and parking in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.

Fireworks are also prohibited year-round at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state.

Meanwhile, hunters have until Aug. 14 at midnight to apply for an opportunity to hunt deer this fall on the 6,000-acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area in northeastern Okanogan County. Eighteen applicants will be chosen during a random drawing to participate in the “limited-entry” deer hunt for bow hunters (Sept. 1-26), muzzleloaders (Oct. 3-11) and hunters using modern firearms (Oct. 17-27). See the news release on WDFW’s website for more information.

Eager to find out if you’ve been selected for one of Washington’s coveted 2015 raffle hunts? Check the results on WDFW’s website.

Hunter education is also continuing right through the summer, and for prospective hunters who have completed online hunter education coursework, the field skills requirement can be met at a "Hunter Education Jamboree" Aug. 29 at the Boy Scout Camp Pigott in Snohomish County. Visit the recent news release for details and registration information.

Wildlife viewing: A popular attraction in late-August and September is the return of hatchery chinook salmon to the Deschutes River near Olympia as they begin their annual spawning run. Onlookers can watch thousands of fish gather below the Fifth Avenue Bridge in downtown Olympia before they enter Capitol Lake and move up the fish ladders to the Tumwater Falls Hatchery.

The Olympia-Thurston County Stream Team is hosting “Marine Creature Mondays” through Aug. 24. Biologists will talk about marine creatures and their habitat during these twice daily sessions that last about 75 minutes.  The sessions take place at Boston Harbor Marina. Visit the steam team’s online calendar for details.

The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge’s summer lecture series continues in August. Weekly programs include “The Life and Legacy of Billy Frank, Jr.” on Aug. 12 and “Caspian Terns of Puget Sound” on Aug. 26.

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, Staircase and Heart O’ The Hills. A list of times and locations are available on the park's events webpage.

Rangers also lead walks and educational programs at Mount Rainier National Park. Programs start out of Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise (White River Campground) and Longmire (Cougar Rock). The park’s summer newspaper provides a list of times, dates and locations.

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)

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

Fishing: Nearly a million fall chinook salmon are expected to start moving up the Columbia River this month, following strong returns of spring and summer runs that sent thousands of anglers home with chinook salmon in recent months. Other prospects in August include coho salmon, summer steelhead, bass, walleye and trout.

But high water temperatures and low flows resulting from extreme drought conditions have put a wrinkle in some fisheries in southwest Washington and throughout the state.

In mid-July, state fishery managers imposed a moratorium on all sturgeon fishing above Bonneville Dam, closed dozens of state rivers to fishing, and issued other new regulations designed to conserve wild fish populations.

“With such extreme drought conditions in several areas of the state, we needed to take these steps to help protect vulnerable fish in waters where we have concerns,” said Craig Burley, fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “We’ll continue monitoring stream conditions throughout Washington this summer and take additional actions if necessary.”

Current drought-related regulations affecting anglers in southwest Washington include:

  • Sturgeon moratorium: Sturgeon fishing (including catch-and-release) is now prohibited until further notice on the Columbia River upstream from Bonneville Dam, the lower Snake River, and on adjacent tributaries of both rivers. The rule was approved after WDFW confirmed 80 dead sturgeon on the riverbanks above the dam.
  • River closures: The following rivers in the region are closed to all fishing: the East Fork Lewis River (from Lewisville Park downstream) and the Washougal River (from Mt. Norway Bridge downstream).
  • Hoot-owl restrictions: Fishing is limited to one hour before official sunrise and 2 p.m. in the East Fork Lewis River (from Lewisville Park upstream) and the Washougal River (from Mt. Norway Bridge upstream).

Emergency rules for the current drought restrictions are available on WDFW’s website.

None of those rules directly affect the popular fall fishery in the mainstem Columbia River, which opens Aug.1 upriver to the Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco. But how drought conditions, themselves, affect the fishery remains to be seen.

According to preseason forecast, 925,300 adult chinook will return to the big river this year – up 50 percent above the 10-year average and more than half of them hard-biting upriver brights. The forecast also projects a return of 539,000 adult coho salmon, up 17 percent from the 10-year average.

During the first few weeks, most of the action will center on the popular Buoy 10 fishery in the lower 16 miles of the river, where fishery managers estimate that anglers will catch nearly 35,000 chinook salmon by Labor Day (Sept. 7). Anglers are also expected to catch 46,000 coho by the time that fishery closes at the end of the year.

Hatchery steelhead will also be available to round out the catch. A total of nearly 300,000 “A-run” and “B-run” steelhead are projected to return this year, similar to last year. 

Through Labor Day, the daily catch limit at Buoy 10 is two salmon, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. Only one of those salmon may be a chinook. Anglers can keep any legal-size chinook – marked or unmarked.

For steelhead and coho, only fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained. Barbless hooks are required when fishing for salmon and steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River and many of its tributaries.

Additional rules for the Buoy 10 area and waters farther upriver are described in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet. Anglers can also check the latest creel-sampling results in that area on WDFW’s website.

Fishing regulations notwithstanding, water temperatures exceeding 75 degrees are a real consideration when fishing for salmon – particularly chinook salmon – in the big river, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist based in Vancouver.

“Chinook go deep when water temperatures are high, so that’s a good place to find them,” said Hymer, who recommends fishing between 40 and 60 feet down. For a lure, he suggests wobblers anchored with a heavy weight.

“At the same time, anglers should take care not to drop anchor in the shipping channel,” he said. “That can lead to real trouble.”

Anglers planning to fish the lower river may want to take advantage of the newly improved state boat ramp at Deep River.  A WDFW Vehicle Access Pass or Discover Pass is required. 

Hymer also suggested several ways that bank anglers planning to fish off the North Jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River can avoid problems:

  • Purchase the correct fishing license: A saltwater or combination fishing license is required to fish off the North Jetty. A freshwater license is not valid there.
  • Purchase a Discover Pass to park:  A Discover Pass is required to park on State Parks property near the North Jetty. The vehicle-access pass that comes with the purchase of a state fishing license is only valid on WDFW lands.
  • Be aware of construction work: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to close access to part of the North Jetty through October for repairs. Visitors should expect road closures and some traffic delays

Anglers should also be aware of potential traffic delays throughout summer on State Route 4 near Cathlamet for a culvert-replacement project at milepost 34. The Washington State Department of Transportation and WDFW are working to replace 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.

By mid-to-late August, the bulk of the chinook run usually begins to move upstream with increasing numbers of coho moving in behind them. Starting Aug. 1, several rules are in effect to increase opportunities for anglers to catch chinook salmon upriver from Woodland to the Tri-Cities.

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

The procession of fall chinook, coho and hatchery steelhead should also provide good fishing on area tributaries for months to come, Hymer said. Like the mainstem Columbia River, most tributaries open for fall chinook Aug. 1, although those fisheries usually don’t take off until September.

For steelhead, Drano Lake and the Wind River are popular spots to cast for migrating fish dipping into cooler waters. The White Salmon River is another place to prospect for steelhead. 

Most tributaries to the lower Columbia River have a daily limit of 3 hatchery steelhead, although Wind River and Drano Lake are notable exceptions. Anglers are required to retain any hatchery steelhead they catch – no catch-and-release fishing for steelhead is allowed.  

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

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

Anglers may retain any fall chinook or coho at Drano Lake beginning Aug. 1 and any chinook on the North Fork Lewis River beginning in mid-September. At Drano Lake and the Klickitat River, the daily limit is 3 adult chinook. Anglers are advised to check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet and any emergency rules applicable to specific waters before leaving home.

Of course, salmon and steelhead aren’t the only fish available for harvest in August. Walleye fishing can be good in the Columbia River near Camas, as well as in The Dalles and John Day pools. Bass fishing is also heating up from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam.

Channel catfish, stocked into Kress Lake and Swofford Pond last year, are also providing some great fishing. Smallmouth bass fishing has been popular on Riffe Lake, and bluegill are a hit at Rowland Lake. Tiger muskie are available at Mayfield Lake and Merwin Reservoir, but there is a one-fish daily limit and a 50-inch minimum.

For trout, the high lakes in the southern Cascades offer unparalleled fishing experiences for those willing to brave the mosquitoes. Wilderness areas south of Mount  Rainier and around Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens are now accessible with the snowmelt. There are over a hundred lakes to explore with many different kinds of trout throughout these mountains.

Two drive-up lakes on the northwest side of Mount Adams – Council and Takhlakh – have each received more than 3,000 catchable-size rainbows in recent weeks and are primed for fishing. Takhlakh also received 200 rainbows weighing almost 3.5 pounds and 600 at 1.79 pounds each.

Goose Lake was stocked the first part of June with 2,000 trout at a half-a-pound each, but the lake is low due to extreme warm weather. Contact the U.S. Forest Service at (360) 891-5000 for updated information.

Hunting: General hunting seasons for black bear open Aug. 1 in the Coastal and East Cascades zones, and Aug. 15 in the South Cascades zone, as shown on Page 69 of the Big Game Hunting pamphlet. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington. Hunters are urged to avoid shooting sows with cubs.

Bear hunters will share the field with other big-game hunters scouting early-season hunts for deer, elk and cougar beginning in September. “This is a good time to locate game animals and get the lay of the land, particularly if you’re planning to hunt a new area,” said Mick Cope, WDFW game manager. “But it can get hot out there in August, so it’s important to stay hydrated and be aware of fire danger.”

Several large wildfires and hundreds of smaller ones have erupted in drought-stricken Washington this year, many of them caused by humans.

In response, campfires have been banned on all WDFW lands in eastern Washington and all forested lands owned by the department on the west side of the Cascades. (Gas and propane cook stoves are still allowed.)

An emergency order for eastern Washington also prohibits:

  • Smoking: Unless in an enclosed vehicle.
  • Welding and the use of chainsaws and other equipment: Operating a torch with an open flame and equipment powered by an internal combustion engine is prohibited.
  • Operating a motor vehicle off developed roads: Except when parking in areas without vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway and parking in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.

Fireworks are also prohibited year-round at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state.

Meanwhile, hunters have until Aug. 14 at midnight to apply for an opportunity to hunt deer this fall on the 6,000-acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area in northeastern Okanogan County. Eighteen applicants will be chosen during a random drawing to participate in the “limited-entry” deer hunt for bow hunters (Sept. 1-26), muzzleloaders (Oct. 3-11) and hunters using modern firearms (Oct. 17-27). See the news release on WDFW’s website for more information.

Eager to find out if you’ve been selected for one of Washington’s coveted 2015 raffle hunts? Check the results on WDFW’s website.

Wildlife viewing:  Summer is far from over, but shorebirds are anticipating the season’s change. Tens of thousands of them – sandpipers, yellowlegs, dowitchers and other species – are already flocking to Washington’s coastal areas en route from their Arctic breeding grounds to points south. Clouds of shorebirds, especially sandpipers, can now be seen from Ilwaco to Ocean Shores.

Unlike their spring migration, shorebirds’ flight south is a disorderly affair. Adults often leave the Arctic before their chicks are fledged and join flocks departing at different times. They also travel at a more leisurely pace, departing anytime from July to October.

Rare birds, such as off-course Asian shorebirds, are more likely to join the others in their southward flight than on their trip north.

WDFW land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors this month to take care not to spark a wildfire. A Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) burn ban is in effect through Sept. 30 on all forest lands under its jurisdiction – including WDFW lands. For more information, see DNR burn ban.

East of the Cascade Range, WDFW has prohibited the following activities on lands the department owns or manages:

  • Fires or campfires, including those in fire rings, although personal camp stoves and lanterns fueled by propane, liquid petroleum or liquid petroleum gas are allowed.
  • Smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle.
  • Welding and the use of chainsaws.
  • Operating a motor vehicle away from developed roads. Parking is permitted at trailheads; within designated parking areas; and in areas without vegetation that are within 10 feet of roadways.

Fireworks are prohibited year-round at all WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state.

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: Fishing closures and restrictions enacted last month to protect fish during the high water temperatures and low flows from extreme drought conditions continue in the region this month. Those include:

Closed to fishing:

  • North Fork Touchet River above Spangler Creek.
  • South Fork Touchet River from the mouth to Griffen Fork and above Griffen Fork.
  • Wolf Fork Touchet River from the mouth to Coates Creek and Robinson Fork.
  • Asotin Creek and tributaries (Asotin Co.) from the mouth to headwaters.
  • Kettle River and all tributaries (Ferry Co.) from the Barstow Bridge to the headwaters, all portions contained within Washington.

Fishing restricted to the hours between midnight and 2 p.m.:

  • Walla Walla River (Walla Walla Co.) from McDonald Road Bridge to the Oregon State Boundary.
  • Touchet River (Columbia/Walla Walla Co.) from the mouth to the confluence of the North and South forks.
  • North Fork Touchet River from the mouth to Spangler Creek.
  • Tucannon River (Columbia/Garfield Co.) From the Highway 12 Bridge to Cow Camp Bridge.
  • Spokane River (Spokane/Lincoln Co.) from upstream boundary at Plese Flats Day Use Area to the Idaho State Boundary.
  • Spokane River tributaries, including Little Spokane River and tributaries (Spokane/Pend Oreille/Stevens Counties) from the State Route 25 Bridge upstream to Monroe Street Dam.
  • Colville River and all tributaries (Stevens Co.) from the mouth to the headwaters.
  • Sullivan Creek and all tributaries (Pend Oreille Co.) from the mouth to the headwaters.

A moratorium on all Columbia River sturgeon fishing above Bonneville Dam, including the Snake River in the region’s southeast district, was also imposed last month and continues. Fishery managers are monitoring stream conditions and will take additional actions if necessary, so anglers are advised to watch for emergency fishing rule changes.

Despite these river and stream restrictions, plenty of fishing opportunity is available throughout the region.

Randy Osborne, WDFW central district fish biologist in Spokane, says that lakes managed for warmwater fish species, such as Newman and Silver lakes in eastern Spokane County, are producing decent catches of yellow perch, crappie, and largemouth bass. Mixed species waters, including Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County,  Downs Lakes in southwest Spokane County,  Eloika Lake in north Spokane County,  and the Spokane River reservoir of Long Lake (or Lake Spokane) are also providing decent catches of those species and rainbow trout. Anglers are also doing well on both rainbows and largemouth bass at Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line. 

“Be aware that lower water conditions may make launching boats more difficult,” Osborne said.  “Some access sites, like the one owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management at Coffeepot Lake, are closed to launching trailered boats due low water conditions.”

Anglers can also find some action at the area trout lakes, Osborne says, but early morning and late evening fishing will produce the best results.  These lakes include Amber, Clear, Williams, and West Medical lakes in Spokane County, and Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County.

“The Spokane River has nice rainbows and a few browns, but remember you can only fish from midnight to 2 p.m. from the upper boundary of the Plese Flats Day Use Area to the Idaho State line,” he said. “That restriction is also in place on all Spokane River tributaries, including the Little Spokane River and all of its tributaries, from the Highway 25 Bridge to Monroe Street Dam. Remember the gear restrictions, too, before fishing any water.”

WDFW northeast district fish biologist Bill Baker said kokanee fishing is usually productive in August at Loon Lake in southern Stevens County, and in Bead, Sullivan, and Davis lakes in Pend Oreille County, and Pierre and Deep lakes in Stevens County.  Kokanee and walleye fishing can be decent in Lake Roosevelt this month, too.

Baker suggests fishing for trout (rainbow, cutthroat, brook and tiger) in higher elevation lakes on U.S.Forest Service property throughout August.  Davis, Ellen, Empire, and Ferry lakes are good bets in Ferry County.  In Stevens County, Black, Little Twin, and Summit lakes should be good producers.  In Pend Oreille County, anglers should fare well at Carl’s, Frater, Halfmoon, Mystic, North and South Skookum, Petit, and Yokum lakes.

Lake fishing in the southeast district of the region is largely on the Tucannon River impoundments on the Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, but water temperatures are so warm that fish are not biting. WDFW Wooten manager Kari Dingman reports that no water is going into Big Four Lake due to low river water levels, so the lake has dropped at least four feet. Some water is still going into the other impoundments, but fishing is poor.

Dingman reminds anglers of the midnight-to-2 p.m. fishing restriction on the Tucannon River and that a campfire ban is still in place at Wooten campsites.

Hunting: The first hunting seasons of the year open this month. General black bear hunting opens Aug. 1 in Game Management Units 133 (Roosevelt) and 136 (Harrington) in Lincoln County, and 139 (Steptoe) and 142 (Almota) in Whitman County.  Bear hunting opens Aug. 15 in 124 (Mount Spokane), 127 (Mica Peak) and 130 (Cheney) in Spokane County. 

Bear hunting opens Sept. 1 in seven other GMUs (101-121) in the northeast district where hunters need to know bear species identification to avoid taking a state endangered (and federally threatened) grizzly bear. Hunters can prep for hunting in that area by taking an on-line bear identification test.

Preparation for these seasons and many more opening the first of September should include researching access alternatives to traditional hunting spots because drought conditions and wildfire danger have prompted restrictions on public and private lands this summer. Updated information on currently burning wildfires in Washington, including local travel and access restrictions, is available at the State Incident Information system

For most hunters, conditions simply mean they can’t have a traditional campfire.

No hunting regulation changes due to access restrictions are anticipated at this time.  Game management units for which hunters have drawn special permits are currently accessible, although fire restrictions are in place. In the unlikely event that fire prevents access to all of the areas covered by a special permit, the department will work with permit-holders to restore special permit points or help them find alternative locations.

Fire prevention restrictions on wildlife areas and other public lands were enacted by emergency order last month, consistent with efforts by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to minimize the risk of wildfire. Prohibited at least through Sept. 30 are:

  • Fires or campfires: However, personal camp stoves or lanterns fueled by liquid petroleum, liquid petroleum gas or propane are allowed.
  • Smoking: Unless in an enclosed vehicle.
  • Welding and the use of chainsaws and other equipment: Operating a torch with an open flame and equipment powered by an internal combustion engine is prohibited.
  • Operating a motor vehicle off developed roads: Except when parking in areas without vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway and parking in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.

If hunters see others not being responsible with anything that might spark another fire, or if they see signs of a new wildfire, they should report it immediately to DNR at 1-800-527-3305, or 360-902-1300, or RPD@dnr.wa.gov

Since most game species temporarily move out of burning or burned-over areas, no impacts to populations are expected. Short-term impacts to game availability to some hunters may be another matter, depending on when, where, and how long fires burn.

The deadline is Aug. 14 to apply for an opportunity to hunt deer this fall on the 6,000-acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area in northeastern Okanogan County. Eighteen applicants will be chosen during a random drawing to participate in the “limited-entry” deer hunt for bow hunters (Sept. 1-30), muzzleloaders (Oct. 3-11) and hunters using modern firearms (Oct. 17-27).

Hunter education classes continue through the summer.  Hunter education training is required in Washington for all hunters born after January 1, 1972, before purchasing a hunting license.

Wildlife viewing:  It’s huckleberry and other wild fruit picking time – a good excuse to beat summertime heat at higher elevations and see some wildlife at the same time. But be alert and prepared for encountering black bears after the same goodies.

WDFW regional field staff advise berry picking in groups, not alone, and making your presence known to possible bears in a berry patch by talking or singing. Most bears will leave berry-pickers alone, if given the chance.

If camping in bear country, keep a clean camp to avoid drawing bears with their incredible sense of smell and seemingly insatiable appetites. Put garbage in wildlife-resistant trash containers, store food in in a motor vehicle trunk or in wildlife-resistant food lockers, or hang from a tree branch at least 10 feet high and four feet out from the trunk. Never store food in your tent, and sleep at least 100 yards from your cooking area and food storage site. More information about safe recreating in bear country is available here.

Mountain hikers this month might catch glimpses of bighorn sheep ewes with lambs, family groups of pikas or marmots, or broods of white-tailed ptarmigan or gray-crowned rosy finches. Lake or river recreationists are likely to encounter waterfowl families on the water, from hen mallards paddling around with a string of ducklings to Canada goose pairs with their goslings in tow.

WDFW Wildlife Biologist Woody Myers notes that moose wandering into suburban or urban areas, or other inappropriate habitat, at this time of year usually involve yearling animals whose mothers, with newborn calves in tow, have pushed them out on their own. Other adult moose may be simply seeking water sources during this dry time of year, and lawn sprinkler systems and backyard pools can draw them. Myers advises steering clear of any moose, and especially confining dogs, which moose may see as predators to challenge.  Most moose will move on without intervention. Those that don’t may need to be reported to the WDFW Eastern Region office in Spokane Valley at 509-892-1001.

Wherever wildlife viewing is enjoyed this month, remember that conditions are extremely dry and a Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) burn ban, including all campfires, is in effect on all forest lands under its jurisdiction (including WDFW lands). For more information about fires and fire prevention on public lands, visit the DNR website, U.S. Forest Service , or the State Incident Information system

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

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

Fishing:  The good news in the region is that Lake Wenatchee sockeye salmon fishing is open. The bad news is that last month several rivers in the region were closed to fishing to protect fish from more stress with the high water temperatures and low flows from drought conditions.

“Even the Lake Wenatchee fishery could close on short notice,” said WDFW Chelan district fish biologist Travis Maitland in Wenatchee. “We’ve projected at least 30,000 sockeye entering the lake, so with our natural spawning goal of letting 23,000 of them escape, there are some 7,000 sockeye to be caught.  But the duration of this fishery all depends on how many folks are out and how well they do.”

Anglers can take up to four sockeye of at least 12 inches daily, following selective gear rules (up to three single-point barbless hooks per line, no bait or scent allowed, and knotless nets required.) Maitland advises checking the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or online emergency rule changes daily.

Closed to fishing due to drought conditions until further notice are:

  • Wenatchee River (Chelan Co.) from the mouth to the Icicle River Road Bridge.
  • Icicle River (Chelan Co.) from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.
  • Okanogan River from the Hwy 97 Bridge upstream to Zosel Dam, except open to game fish fishing.
  • Similkameen River from the mouth upstream to Enloe Dam.

A moratorium on all Columbia River sturgeon fishing above Bonneville Dam, including the Snake River in the region’s southeast district, was also imposed last month and continues.

In late July, the upper Columbia River, from Rocky Reach Dam to Chief Joseph Dam, was also closed to sockeye salmon retention because of higher than expected mortalities of sockeye returning to the Okanogan River due to elevated water temperatures.

Fishery managers are monitoring stream conditions and will take additional actions if necessary, so anglers are advised to watch for emergency fishing rule changes.

Despite these river and stream closures, plenty of fishing opportunity is available throughout the region.

WDFW fish biologist Mike Schmuck reports that Roses Lake in Chelan County is still producing limits of rainbow trout and fishing for channel catfish is still great.

Public fishing sign overlooking Roses Lake, Chelan County Night fisherman holding large catfish at Roses Lake
Roses Lake, Chelan County Roses Lake 19.5lb Channel catfish

 

“Leader Lake in Okanogan County has big bluegill and some nice black crappie,” Schmuck said. “Whitestone Lake in Okanogan County has a lot of nice channel catfish and some giant black crappie.”

Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake in the Columbia Basin have been slow with the extended heat wave. But if fall, like summer, comes early, it won’t be long before good walleye fishing can be expected in these big waters when the fish are more concentrated with annual managed water lowering.

Hunting:  General hunting seasons for black bear open Aug. 1 in the East Cascades, including Game Management Units 244-247 and 249-251. Okanogan units 203 and 209-243 open Aug. 15.

“Late summer berry crops have been coming on early this year,” said WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin. “So by the Aug. 15 opener, I would look for bears at high elevations and areas closer to the Cascade Crest.”

Preparation for these seasons and many more opening the first of September should include researching access alternatives to traditional hunting spots because drought conditions and wildfire danger have prompted restrictions on public and private lands this summer. Updated information on currently burning wildfires in Washington, including local travel and access restrictions, is available at the State Incident Information system

For most hunters, conditions simply mean they can’t have a traditional campfire.

No hunting regulation changes due to access restrictions are anticipated at this time.  Game management units for which hunters have drawn special permits are currently accessible, although fire restrictions are in place. In the unlikely event that fire prevents access to all of the areas covered by a special permit, the department will work with permit-holders to restore special permit points or help them find alternative locations.

Fire prevention restrictions on wildlife areas and other public lands were enacted by emergency order last month, consistent with efforts by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to minimize the risk of wildfire. Prohibited at least through Sept. 30 are:

  • Fires or campfires: However, personal camp stoves or lanterns fueled by liquid petroleum, liquid petroleum gas or propane are allowed.
  • Smoking: Unless in an enclosed vehicle.
  • Welding and the use of chainsaws and other equipment: Operating a torch with an open flame and equipment powered by an internal combustion engine is prohibited.
  • Operating a motor vehicle off developed roads: Except when parking in areas without vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway and parking in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.

If hunters see others not being responsible with anything that might spark another fire, or if they see signs of a new wildfire, they should report it immediately to DNR at 1-800-527-3305, or 360-902-1300, or RPD@dnr.wa.gov.  

View of a mountain lake with wildflowers in the foreground
Lake Ann from Maple Pass Loop
Hoary marmiot sunning itself on a rock
Marmot - Photo by Scott Fitkin

Since most game species temporarily move out of burning or burned-over areas, no impacts to populations are expected. Short-term impacts to game availability to some hunters may be another matter, depending on when, where, and how long fires burn.

The deadline is Aug. 14 to apply for an opportunity to hunt deer this fall on the 6,000-acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area in northeastern Okanogan County. Eighteen applicants will be chosen during a random drawing to participate in the “limited-entry” deer hunt for bow hunters (Sept. 1-30), muzzleloaders (Oct. 3-11) and hunters using modern firearms (Oct. 17-27).

Hunter education classes continue through the summer.  Hunter education training is required in Washington for all hunters born after January 1, 1972, before purchasing a hunting license.

Wildlife viewing: August provides lots of opportunity for viewing alpine and subalpine wildlife while hiking at elevation to beat the heat.

WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin says the best opportunities are at higher elevation areas where hoary marmots, pikas, Columbian ground squirrels, golden-mantled ground squirrels, ptarmigan, gray-crowned rosy finches and many other bird species are active and visible. 

“The Maple Pass Loop Trail beginning at Rainy Pass is a stunning day hike with lots of critter watching potential,” Fitkin said. “And by the end of the month, migrating raptors should be evident along high elevation ridges.”

WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers notes that moose wandering into or through non-forested or other inappropriate habitat at this time of year usually involve one- or two-year-old animals whose mothers, with newborn calves in tow now, have pushed them out on their own.

The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in northcentral Okanogan County is a good destination for butterfly watching this month while many wildflowers are still in full bloom. WDFW area manager Justin Haug says to watch for several species of whites, sulphurs, coppers, hairstreaks, blues, fritillaries, checkers, nymphs and skippers. The Sinlahekin and other places in Okanogan County are also good spots for birders looking for a variety of neotropical migrants, including flycatchers, swallows, and tanagers, before they begin gathering for southward migrations.

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

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

Fishing: Nearly a million fall chinook salmon are expected to start moving up the Columbia River this month, offering the prospect of the best salmon fishing of the year. Other options available in August include, summer steelhead, walleye, bass and trout.

But high water temperatures and low flows resulting from extreme drought conditions have put a wrinkle in some fisheries in southcentral Washington and throughout the state. In mid-July, state fishery managers imposed a moratorium on all sturgeon fishing above Bonneville Dam, closed dozens of state rivers to fishing, and issued other new regulations designed to conserve wild fish populations.

“With such extreme drought conditions in several areas of the state, we needed to take these steps to help protect vulnerable fish in waters where we have concerns,” said Craig Burley, fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “We’ll continue monitoring stream conditions throughout Washington this summer and take additional actions if necessary.”

Recent drought-related regulations affecting anglers in southcentral Washington include:

  • Sturgeon moratorium: Sturgeon fishing (including catch-and-release) is now prohibited until further notice on the Columbia River upstream from Bonneville Dam, the lower Snake River, and on adjacent tributaries of both rivers. The rule was approved after WDFW confirmed 80 dead sturgeon above the dam.
  • River closures: The following rivers in the region are closed to all fishing: Little Naches River; Ahtanum Creek (including the north and middle forks) and the Teanaway River (including west, middle and north forks).
  • Hoot-owl restrictions: Fishing limited to the hours between midnight and 2 p.m. in the Naches River (from Tieton River to Bumping River/Little Naches River) and Rattlesnake Creek.

Emergency rules for the current drought restrictions are available on WDFW’s website.

Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW biologist stationed in the Tri-Cities, called the sturgeon closure “a blow” to anglers in the region, but reported good catches of summer chinook and sockeye salmon through the last days of July.

“We’ve got a lot of salmon stacked up at the mouth of the Yakima River waiting for the water to cool down,” said Hoffarth, citing water temperatures topping 85 degrees. “It’s hard to get a salmon to take a hook in the open stretches of the Columbia River, but they’ve definitely been on the bite at the mouth of the Yakima.”

While salmon fishing has been good above Rocky Reach Dam since mid-July, fishing doesn’t really catch fire below Priest Rapids Dam until fall chinook arrive in late August and September, Hoffarth said.

Odds of catching salmon should pick up dramatically later this month, when a huge run of fall chinook moves into the area. Fishery managers are expecting a large return of 925,300 fall chinook to return to the Columbia this year, including 500,000 upriver brights that will be heading for the Hanford Reach and Snake River.

“While it’s hard to say what effect the drought may have on this fishery, the sheer number of fall chinook returning this year should provide some great action,” Hoffarth said.

The fall chinook fishery officially kicks off on Aug. 1 for the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco/Kennewick. The daily limit for chinook increases to 3 adult salmon either hatchery or wild. Within that limit, anglers may retain no more than 2 adult coho or adult hatchery steelhead – or one of each – in that section of the Columbia River. 

On Aug.16, the fall fishery opens for chinook in the Hanford Reach (upstream of the Highway 395 Bridge to Priest Rapids Dam). Similar to the fishery below the Highway 395 Bridge, there will be a 3 adult salmon daily limit. Above Priest Rapids Dam, the fall salmon fishery opens on Sept. 1.

Additional rules are posted on WDFW’s website.

Fishery managers are also projecting a strong run of 312,200 summer-run steelhead, including hatchery fish available for harvest on the Snake River and on the Columbia River below the Highway 395 Bridge.

Even during normal summer weather, steelhead can be hard to catch in southcentral Washington due to sunny conditions and high water temperatures, Hoffarth said. “But fishing very early in the morning or from dusk into darkness can greatly increase the odds of hooking up with these temperature-sensitive fish,” he said. 

But not all fish are sensitive to warm-water conditions, said Hoffarth, noting that walleye fishing is going strong on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Some of the best catches have come from Lake Umatilla, the section of the Columbia River stretching 67 miles between John Day and McNary Dams. Angling upstream of McNary for the toothy warmwater fish has also been good.

Walleye are active during August on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia, on the lower Snake River below Little Goose Dam and Ice Harbor Dams. Most anglers are using “crawler harnesses” behind a bottom walker and blade baits to catch them but jigs and deep diving plugs can be effective as well.

“Walleye really tie on the feedbag when the water heats up, so we can expect to see some more great fishing in the weeks ahead,” Hoffarth said.

Hoffarth reminds anglers that there is no minimum size limit and no limit on the number of walleye they can keep upstream of the Washington-Oregon border (17 miles upstream of McNary Dam). Downstream from the state line, there is a daily limit of 10 fish, only five of which can measure over 18 inches and only one of which can be over 24 inches.

Another strategy is to head for the high lakes around White Pass, Chinook Pass and Snoqualmie Pass, which are now accessible to trout fishing. WDFW stocks many small, hike-in lakes with rainbow or cutthroat trout fry, and some also have naturally reproducing eastern brook trout populations.

Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist based in Yakima, recommends focusing on lakes stocked two or more years ago, where the fish have since grown to a nice size. Information on which high lakes have been stocked in Yakima and Kittitas counties can be found on the WDFW website. “Planted rainbow trout are still available at Clear and Dog lakes in the White Pass area and at Cooper Lake in the Snoqualmie Pass area,” Anderson said.

Kokanee are also available at Kachess and Keechelus lakes off Highway 90, and fishing is good for both kokanee and cutthroat at Bumping Lake off Highway 410, he said, noting that Bumping Lake was also recently planted with catchable size rainbow trout. 

At Cle Elum Lake, the daily combined trout and kokanee limit has been reduced to five fish in an effort to protect rebounding stocks of sockeye salmon. There is a minimum size limit of nine inches and a maximum size limit of 15 inches for retention of kokanee in Cle Elum.

“All waters in southcentral Washington are closed to the taking of bull trout, so anglers need to release any bull trout they intercept,” Anderson said. He also reminds hikers and anglers that they should check trail conditions before heading out. Information about current trail conditions is available from the U.S. Forest Service office in Naches and the Forest Ranger office in Cle Elum.

Hunting: General hunting seasons for black bear open Aug. 1 in the East Cascades and Columbia Basin zones, as shown on Page 69 of the Big Game Hunting pamphlet. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington. Hunters are urged to avoid shooting sows with cubs.

Bear hunters will share the field with other big-game hunters scouting early-season hunts for deer, elk and cougar beginning in September. “This is a good time to locate game animals and get the lay of the land, particularly if you’re planning to hunt a new area,” said Mick Cope, WDFW game manager. “But it can get hot out there in August, so it’s important to stay hydrated and be aware of fire danger.”

Several large wildfires and hundreds of smaller ones have erupted in drought-stricken Washington this year, many of them caused by humans.

In response, campfires have been banned on all WDFW lands in eastern Washington and all forested lands owned by the department on the west side of the Cascades. Visitors can, however, use personal camp stoves or lanterns fueled by liquid petroleum, liquid petroleum gas or propane.

An emergency order for eastern Washington also prohibits:

  • Smoking: Unless in an enclosed vehicle.
  • Welding and the use of chainsaws and other equipment: Operating a torch with an open flame and equipment powered by an internal combustion engine is prohibited.
  • Operating a motor vehicle off developed roads: Except when parking in areas without vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway and parking in developed campgrounds and at trailheads.

Fireworks are also prohibited year-round at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state.

Meanwhile, hunters have until Aug. 14 at midnight to apply for an opportunity to hunt deer this fall on the 6,000-acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area in northeastern Okanogan County. Eighteen applicants will be chosen during a random drawing to participate in the “limited-entry” deer hunt for bow hunters (Sept. 1-26), muzzleloaders (Oct. 3-11) and hunters using modern firearms (Oct. 17-27). See the news release on WDFW’s website for more information.

Eager to find out if you’ve been selected for one of Washington’s coveted 2015 raffle hunts? Check the results on WDFW’s website.

Watchable wildlife:  Now is the time to see birds that migrate in early fall to congregate and feed on insects throughout the region. In the high country of the South Cascades, hikers can often catch glimpses of everything from mountain bluebirds to mountain goats.

Around White Pass, check out Dog Lake and the surrounding forests and meadows for ring-necked ducks, Barrow’s goldeneye, osprey, red-naped and Williamson’s sapsuckers and pine siskin. Listen for barred owls in the dense forests behind nearby Leech Lake.

At Chinook Pass, look for whistling hoary marmots and browsing mule deer. Scan the peaks for mountain goats, and watch for blue grouse, gray jay, mountain chickadee and a variety of other birds.

Whatever your destination, everyone planning to spend time outdoors is reminded to be careful to avoid doing anything that could start wildfires in the region’s hot and dry conditions. (See the Hunting section above for fire restrictions currently in place in eastern Washington.)

Outing plans should include a check on campfire restrictions on public lands. For current wildfire information, see the website maintained by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR).