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

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May 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 May 15, 2015)

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

Add shrimp, halibut to your catch
of trout, chinook salmon in May

Trout fishing is off and running at hundreds of lakes across the state, as spring chinook salmon continue to push into fishing areas higher and higher up the Columbia River Basin. In marine waters, fishing seasons for spot shrimp and halibut are set to open on various dates this month, when more razor-clam digs are scheduled on coastal beaches.

With new fishing opportunities opening throughout the state, May is a great time to go fishing, said John Long, a fisheries manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Some of the most popular fisheries are available in May,” Long said. “So, if you like to fish, now is a great time to get out on the water.”

Details about those fisheries – as well as hunting and other outdoor activities available this month – are available for each region of the state on WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month for changes in fishing rules and other developments.

While every fishery has its fans, none draws bigger crowds than the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, which opened statewide on the last Saturday in April. Several hundred thousand anglers traditionally turn out for that event and most continue to fish for trout during the six-month season.

Catch rates at more than 100 Washington lakes on opening day are posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/lowland/2015.html.

To prepare for that day, WDFW planted more than 2 million trout ranging from 11-inch “catchables” to 11-pound lunkers. Now the tanker trucks are rolling again, delivering more fish to Washington lakes.

“We stock lakes with trout for the whole season, not just opening day,” said Chris Donley, WDFW Inland Fish Program manager. “Trout fishing should be highly productive in lowland lakes through June, and then again in September. However, some continue to fish well for trout and kokanee all summer. At higher elevation lakes, anglers should also find good fishing throughout the summer.”

For more information on lake fishing opportunities, check WDFW’s Fish Washington website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/.

For most anglers, a valid 2015-16 fishing license is required to fish in Washington state. The exception is young people under age 15, who fish for free. Licenses are avaiIable online at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state. A list of license vendors is available at wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/ and from local WDFW offices.

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

Fishing:  The lowland lakes fishing season is officially under way and anglers will have opportunities to reel in some nice-size fish in May, and in months to come. Fisheries for spot shrimp and halibut also open this month in marine waters throughout the region.

Under statewide rules, anglers have a daily limit of five trout on most lakes. Released legal-sized trout caught with bait count toward the daily bag limit. Complete information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and jumbo trout is available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website.

The department is adding more trout this month to several of the region’s lakes, including the following:

  • Cranberry Lake in Island County;
  • Alice, Beaver, Bitter, Boren, Deep, Desire, Dolloff, Echo, Fenwick, Fish, Fivemile, Geneva, Haller, Holm, Killarney, Meridian, Mill Pond, Old Fishing Hole, Shadow, Steel, Trout and Walker lakes in King County;
  • Ballinger, Blackmans, Flowing, Shoecraft, Silver and Gissburg Ponds in Snohomish County;
  • Depression and Padden lakes in Whatcom County.

Justin Spinelli, a fish biologist for WDFW recommends trolling slowly near the surface with small lures or flies. “This can be done on Washington lakes from float tubes, boats, kayaks or canoes,” he said. Anglers fishing trout from stationary boats or shoreline can be successful using bait or imitation flies under a bobber or by casting and retrieving small lures.”

Most western Washington lowland lakes that opened for trout in late April also have a largemouth bass, panfish (yellow perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, or bluegill) and catfish fishery, said Danny Garrett, another WDFW fish biologist. 

“This is an excellent time to target these species as they move onshore to feed and spawn,” said Garrett. “By far, largemouth and smallmouth bass are the most popular draws for sport anglers this time of year, but many anglers will have great success on robust populations of panfish species and brown bullhead catfish.”

Additionally, a few select fisheries such as Green Lake in Seattle are bolstered by plants of channel catfish, which grow upwards of 30 pounds in western Washington lakes, said Garrett.   

Youth fishing events are also beginning to pop up around the state. Visit the WDFW youth fishing calendar to find local family friendly opportunities to introduce kids to fishing.

For more tips, anglers should check online.  The “Fish Washington” feature at the department’s homepage provides details on lowland lake fishing, high lake fishing and marine area opportunities.

For those planning fishing vacations this spring or summer, Great Washington Getaways is a WDFW web feature that showcases some of the state's best family travel and fishing opportunities.  Check out the new “urban shores” article for ideas on fishing destinations around Puget Sound.

And, for those who want even more fishing advice, the Fish Washington video page provides “how to” fishing videos designed to introduce techniques to both new and seasoned anglers.

Before heading out, anglers should check the fishing regulations. Unlike in past years, the current fishing rules pamphlet will remain valid through June 30, 2015. 

Prefer shellfish? The popular spot shrimp season opens May 2 in Puget Sound.  Also known as prawns, spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound and may grow up to nine inches in length.

Puget Sound opening days are as follows:

  • Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 2, 9, 11 and 13.
  • Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 2, 9, 11 and 13.
  • Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding Discovery Bay Shrimp District): Open daily beginning May 2. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first. The exception is Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
  • Marine Area 7 East, South: Open May 2 for a one-day fishery and will reopen May 13-16, May 20-23 and May 27-30.
  • Marine Area 7 West: Open daily beginning May 2. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.
  • Marine areas 8-1, 8-2, and 9: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 2 and May 13.
  • Marine areas 10 and 11: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 2. On May 13, the portion of Marine Area 10 west of a line from West Point to Alki Point will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. This includes the Bainbridge Island shrimp fishing grounds. Elliott Bay will remain closed on May 13 (Elliott Bay is defined as those waters east of a line from West Point to Alki Point).

In areas 4, 5, 6, 7 (East, South and West) and 13, start times will be one hour before sunrise.

In some central Puget Sound marine areas, the typical schedule of Saturday and Wednesday openings is disrupted Wednesday, May 6, due to an extremely low (or minus) mid-day tide. Those areas will be open the following Wednesday, May 13, instead.

Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains after the initial fishing days scheduled above. For the latest information on sport shrimp seasons, or for a description of marine areas, visit WDFW’s recreational shrimp fishing website.

In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. A valid 2015-16 fishing license – including shellfish – is required to participate in the fishery.
Saltwater anglers can also reel in halibut this month. Several areas of Puget Sound will open for the big flatfish in early May, including the following:

  • Marine Area 5: The fishery will be open May 15 and 16; Thursday through Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, May 21-24; and May 29 and 30. 
  • Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: The fishery will be open May 8 and 9; May 15 and 16; Thursday through Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, May 21-24; and May 28-30.
  • Marine Areas 11, 12, 13: These areas will remain closed to halibut fishing to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.

Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for WDFW, reminds anglers that there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction for halibut. Anglers may possess a maximum of two fish in any form and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card. 

Reed also encourages anglers to use a descending device to release unwanted or prohibited rockfish.   Using a descending device to return rockfish back to the depth of capture, or at least 60 feet, greatly improves their chance of survival.  

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season continues through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington (see pamphlet for area restrictions on bag limits in eastern Washington) and one bird in western Washington. For more information and license fees, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphletonline. And for bow enthusiasts, a new rule will allow the use of crossbows to hunt turkeys during the entire 2015 spring general season.

Hunters have through May 20 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state.

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special permit, hunters planning to hunt for deer or elk must purchase an application and hunting license for those species and then submit their application.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free.

Most special hunt permit applications cost $7.10 for residents, $110.50 for non-residents, and $3.80 for youth under 16 years of age.

The exception is the cost for residents purchasing applications for mountain goats, any bighorn sheep ram and any moose, and “quality” categories for deer and elk. Those applications cost $13.70.

Instructions and details on applying for special-permit hunts are described on pages 12-13 of the 2015 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and online. Additional information is available at the hunting FAQ page.

Mick Cope, WDFW game division manager, reminds hunters to update their phone numbers, email and mailing addresses when purchasing their special hunting permit applications and licenses. Each year, hundreds of special hunting permits are returned due to invalid addresses.

Results of the special-permit drawing will be available online by the end of June at the special hunt drawing results page. Winners will be notified by mail or email by mid-July.

As hunters are planning fall hunts and selecting special permit opportunities to apply for by May 20, they should scope out possible long-term closures on U.S. Forest Service roads in areas of northcentral Washington (Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest) where wildfires burned last summer and managers have to be careful about landslides and other hazards.  These closures could significantly complicate access to some hunters’ traditional favorite spots. Hunting seasons remain open, but access is never guaranteed; it is up to hunters to check out access before applying for permits. For more information, see the Forest Service website.

Wildlife viewing:  Want to know more about wildlife close to home? If so, visit the annual Backyard Wildlife Festival in Tukwila. The free event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 9, at the Tukwila Community Center. Activities for both kids and adults include presentations by local experts on gardening and landscaping to support wildlife habitat. For more information, check the wildlife festival website.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is celebrated on the second Saturday of May in the U.S. and Canada (May 9 this year) to bring public attention to bird migration, one of the most spectacular events in the Americas. This year’s celebration theme is “restore habitat, restore birds.”  Loss and degradation of habitat are primary threats to bird populations. The 2015 IMBD theme identifies threats, such as urbanization and climate change, and suggests ways to get involved in habitat restoration projects at home, in communities and further afield.

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

Fishing: Fishers can fill their shrimp pots in Puget Sound or head to the coast to catch halibut or hatchery chinook in May.

Salmon fishing in Washington’s ocean waters gets under way in May. Anglers can fish for hatchery chinook in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) during two openings May 15-16 and May 22-23. Both areas, along with marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) open daily for hatchery chinook beginning May 30.

In Puget Sound, anglers can fish for blackmouth salmon in Marine Area 13 (south Puget Sound). Those anglers who have a two-pole endorsement can fish with two poles. The area has a limit of two salmon daily, but anglers must release wild chinook.

Wild steelhead fishing wrapped up last month in coastal rivers. However, anglers can still retain two hatchery steelhead daily on the Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers. Those two rivers also are open for salmon fishing. Anglers can keep six fish daily, including two adults, but must release wild adult chinook and wild adult coho.

Sections of the Chehalis River also are open for salmon fishing in May with a one-fish daily limit.

Trout are biting at dozens of lakes throughout the region. On the north coast, anglers can try Wentworth Lake. Leland Lake in Jefferson County is scheduled to be stocked with 6,000 rainbow trout this month. Mission, Panther and Wildcat lakes in Kitsap County are each being stocked with more than 6,000 rainbow trout. Anglers in Mason County can head to Spencer or Phillips lakes where trout are also being stocked. Be sure to check WDFW’s online fish stocking reports before heading out. 

Areas of Puget Sound and the coast will open for halibut fishing this month. Anglers should note that most of Marine Area 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores) closed to halibut fishing May 13.  In all marine areas open to halibut fishing, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction. Anglers may possess a maximum of two fish in any form and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card. Details on Washington’s halibut fishing seasons can be found on WDFW’s halibut webpage.

Anglers can keep lingcod and Pacific cod while fishing for halibut in marine areas 5 and 6 only, noted Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). This is a change from 2014, when anglers could retain both cod species in marine areas 7-10. WDFW made the change to protect rockfish in marine areas 7-10, Reed said.

Anglers also will have additional opportunities in May to fish for lingcod. The season opens May 1 for hook and line fishing and May 21 to spearfishing for lingcod in marine areas 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13. Fishing for cabezon opens May 1 in those same marine areas.

Meanwhile, May is the month that shrimpers wait for all year. Areas of Puget Sound open May 2 for the recreational spot shrimp season. Fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day in all areas. Check WDFW’s recreational shrimp fishing webpage for details.

Shrimp fans also can head to Brinnon’s Shrimpfest, an annual festival celebrating Hood Canal spot shrimp. The festival features food booths, live music and kids’ activities. Shrimpfest will be held May 23-24. Parking and admission information can be found on the Shrimpfest webpage.

The razor clam season closed on all ocean beaches May 13 because of elevated toxin levels. More details are available on WDFW’s razor clam webpage.

"We're disappointed to close early, but it has been a remarkable season for razor clam digging in Washington," said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.  "We've had healthy and abundant clam populations that have drawn thousands of visitors to our ocean beaches."

Shellfish managers estimate diggers harvested 5.7 million clams since the season began last October. Diggers had more opportunities to hit the beaches than any season since 1989, Ayres said.

Youth fishing events are also beginning to pop up around the state. Visit the WDFW youth fishing calendar to find local family friendly opportunities to introduce kids to fishing.

For more tips, anglers should check online. The “Fish Washington” feature at the department’s homepage provides details on lowland lake fishing, high lake fishing and marine area opportunities.

For those planning fishing vacations this spring or summer, Great Washington Getaways is a WDFW web feature that showcases some of the state's best family travel and fishing opportunities.  Check out the southern coast article for an adventure filled with salmon, halibut and rockfish fishing.   

And, for those who want still more fishing advice, the Fish Washington video page provides “how to” fishing videos designed to introduce techniques for both new and seasoned anglers.

Before heading out, anglers should check fishing regulations on WDFW’s webpage. Unlike in past years, the current fishing rules pamphlet will remain valid through June 30, 2015. 

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season continues through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information and license fees, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet online.

Hunters looking ahead to fall have through May 20 to apply for special hunting permits for deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and necessary hunting licenses for each species they wish to hunt and then submit that application. WDFW will select permit winners through a random drawing in late June.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s Special Hunt webpage, and may be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Complete instructions for applying are described on pages 12-16 of the 2015 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet.

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

The 20th annual Prairie Appreciation Day, which celebrates South Sound Prairies, takes place on May 9. Thurston County’s Glacial Heritage Preserve, which is typically closed to the public, and Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, will both be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Activities include wildflower walks, hay rides as well as talks about birds, bees and butterflies of the prairies and prairie restoration efforts. More information is available on the event website.

International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on May 9 in the U.S. and Canada to bring attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas - bird migration.

The seasonal migration of whales north towards the Arctic Ocean is in full swing. Recent sightings in the region include orcas in Port Townsend Bay, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Dungeness Spit, and off Cape Disappointment. Check the latest sightings posted on the Orca Network. Anyone whale-watching from a boat should be aware of boating regulations that protect southern resident killer whales.

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

OLYMPIA – With spring chinook salmon passing Bonneville Dam in higher numbers than expected, fish managers from Washington and Oregon today agreed May 5 to extend the fishing season on the Columbia River for miles below and above the dam.

In the lower river, the fishery was extended through June 15 from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upriver to Beacon Rock for boat and bank anglers. Bank anglers can also fish farther upriver to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.

Above the dam, the fishery was extended by four days through May 10 from the Tower Island power lines to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish upriver from Bonneville Dam to the Tower Island power lines during that time.

While fishing is open, the catch limit is one hatchery adult chinook salmon as part of anglers’ their daily catch limit. Any wild salmon or steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be immediately released unharmed.

The decision to extend the fishery was based on a new annual run forecast of 241,000 adult upriver fish past Bonneville Dam – 8,500 more than originally projected, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

"This is definitely turning out to be a great year for spring chinook fishing on the Columbia River," Roler said. "We are now confident that the run will not only meet - but exceed - the pre-season forecast, which allows us to make more fish available for the harvest."

Anglers may also fish for shad and hatchery-reared steelhead when the spring chinook fishery is open. For both salmon and steelhead, wild fish with an intact adipose fin must be immediately released unharmed.

With spring chinook moving into area tributaries in large numbers, fishery managers have expanded fishing opportunities in a number of rivers above and below Bonneville Dam. Starting in mid-May, daily catch limits for adult spring chinook will increase on the Cowlitz, Kalama, Wind and Klickitat rivers, as well as Drano Lake.  

For details on those opportunities – as well as new rules taking effect on the Grays, White Salmon and other rivers, see WDFW’s Fishing Rule webpage.

Under rules currently in effect as of May 1 at both Drano Lake and Wind River:

  • Anglers may use barbed hooks to catch hatchery chinook and steelhead as specified in the rule change.
  • Each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon/steelhead gear until the daily salmon/steelhead limit for all anglers aboard has been met.
  • Boat anglers with a Two-Pole Endorsement may fish for salmon and steelhead with two poles.

In addition, the anti-snagging rule will be in effect on the Wind River from the Burlington-Northern Railroad Bridge upstream. Only fish hooked inside the mouth may be retained. Also, a night closure will be in effect upstream from Shipherd Falls which opens to fishing for spring chinook and hatchery steelhead starting May 1. Above Shipherd Falls any chinook – adipose-fin clipped or not – may be retained. 

Drano Lake is closed to all recreational fishing on Wednesdays through June

Meanwhile, anglers continue to reel in some nice salmon and steelhead from tributaries flowing into the lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam. Fishing has been good on the Cowlitz River for springers at the barrier dam and for hatchery steelhead near the trout hatchery. The Lewis River remains closed to spring chinook fishing, but spring chinook fishing on the Kalama River has been extended until further notice.

The North Fork Lewis River from Johnson Creek (located below the salmon hatchery) upstream to Merwin Dam will be closed to all fishing during the month of May. 

Hymer said prospects for summer-run hatchery steelhead are also good this month on the Kalama, East Fork Lewis, North Fork Lewis, and Washougal rivers. Selective fishing rules are in effect through early June on the lower East Fork Lewis and Washougal rivers. Selective gear will also be required on the lower Green and South Fork Toutle rivers when the early hatchery steelhead season gets under way the last Saturday in May. 

Rather catch sturgeon? The Dalles Pool and adjoining tributaries close to sturgeon retention May 14, but anglers can still catch and keep one legal-size fish in the John Day Pool until further notice. Legal fish measure 43 inches to 54 inches, fork-length. Anglers were expected to take the full 100-fish annual quota in The Dalles Pool, but catch-and-release fishing will still be allowed – except in the spawning area from the Rufus grain elevator upstream to John Day Dam.

Although the Bonneville Pool is limited to catch-and-release fishing in May, this would be a good time to begin prospecting for the upcoming retention seasons scheduled June 19-21, June 26-28, and July 3-5.

Walleye fishing has been good in The Dalles and John Day pools, and bass should start biting there and in Bonneville Pool as the water warms up.

Anglers fishing for warmwater fishing should also be aware that the 2015 Columbia River Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program starts May 1. The program has a higher base reward ($5) and a newly revamped tier structure paying anglers up to $8 for each pikeminnow at least 9 inches in total length they catch from areas of the Columbia and Snake rivers. Specially tagged fish are worth $500. For more information call (800) 858-9015 or visit the website.

Just as soon catch some trout? Several trout streams stocked with feisty rainbows will open for fishing on the Saturday of Memorial weekend. Those waters include Canyon Creek and the upper Little White Salmon River in Skamania County, and Spring Creek in Klickitat County. WDFW is no longer planting Outlet and Bird creeks in Klickitat due to new recovery efforts under way for the Oregon spotted frog.

WDFW also will continue to stock lowland lakes with catchable-size trout. Those receiving additional plants in May include Kress and Horseshoe lakes in Cowlitz County; Battleground Lake in Clark County; Kidney Lake in Skamania County; and Spearfish and Horsethief lakes in Klickitat County. Due to the lack of snow this winter, many mountain lakes are accessible for fishing. 

Anglers are reminded Swift Reservoir will not open until the first Saturday in June, as noted in the fishing pamphlet. The later opening is designed to protect downstream migrating salmon and steelhead smolts, which are part of an ongoing reintroduction program under re-licensing agreements with PacifiCorp.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Meanwhile, Hunters have through May 20 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state.

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by WDFW in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special permit, hunters planning to hunt for deer or elk must purchase an application and hunting license for those species and then submit their application.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free.

Wildlife viewing: May is the peak month to watch for migrant bird species returning to or moving through Washington.  The 22nd annual International Migratory Bird Day is May 9, (always the second Saturday of the month) and this year’s theme from the coordinating non-profit Environment for the Americas is “Restore Habitat, Restore Birds.”  Learn more about events and activities to celebrate birds this month at the organization’s website.

In Klickitat County, birders plan to mark the day with an annual bird migration count, just as they have for the past 16 years. “It is a grand way to experience our colorful spring migrants, citizen science and collaborative birding, said organizer Bob Hansen in a call for volunteers on the American Birding website. In preparation, organizers have posted the results of all 16 years of countywide counts on that website.

Then, on May 16, the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbia white-tailed deer will host the grand opening of the White-tail Trail and Steamboat Slough Estuary. The event will include bird watching, canoeing and telemetry lessons.

Meanwhile, with passage of spring chinook salmon at its peak, May is prime time to watch the annual pageant through the fish-viewing windows at Bonneville Dam. To view migrating fish and check daily fish counts from home, check the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

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

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

Fishing:  May is a prime fishing month throughout the region, where action is heating up both on waters that just opened and those that opened earlier this year.  WDFW staff made creel checks on the April 25 opener and the average catch rates they tallied can be a good indication of how fishing will continue at least through this month.

In Spokane County, where conditions were mostly cold, wet and blustery, WDFW district fish biologist Randy Osborne reported anglers did well at many traditionally popular spots.  Williams Lake produced 6.2 fish per angler, including a 21.5-inch rainbow and a couple of winter-carryover 20.5-inch tiger trout. Clear Lake anglers also averaged 6.2 fish each, including a 17.5-inch rainbow trout. Anglers at West Medical Lake averaged 4.6 fish each, including a 22-inch rainbow.  Badger Lake produced an average of 1.4 fish per angler, with the largest fish a 21-inch rainbow. Fish Lake anglers averaged 1.3 fish each, including a 17-inch rainbow.

In Stevens County, Rocky Lake anglers averaged 5.7 fish each, and as WDFW district fish biologist Bill Baker said, every angler who wanted to keep fish limited out. Some anglers were strictly catch-and-releasing the rainbow trout that mostly ran 11-12 inches with carryovers of 14-18 inches. Waitts Lake anglers averaged six trout each, including rainbows up to 22 inches and brown trout up to 14 inches.  Anglers at Starvation Lake averaged 4.7 trout each, with the largest measured at 16 inches. At Mudgett Lake, the average catch was 4.5 trout per angler, including carryover rainbows up to 19.5 inches. Deep Lake anglers averaged a limit of five trout each, most 11-inch rainbows and kokanee.  At Cedar Lake, catch rates were lower at 2.9 fish apiece, but Baker said the fish were nice, with 15-17-inch carryovers.

In Pend Oreille County, anglers at Diamond Lake averaged 4.2 fish each, with the largest measured rainbow an 18-incher. Creel checks were made at Yocum and Crescent Lakes, but snow and cold kept participation down and short, so catch averages were around one fish per angler. 

The only creel checks made in Ferry County on the April 25 opener were at Ellen Lake, where anglers averaged 5.6 trout each, including lots of 8-12-inch rainbows and some 14-21-inch winter carryovers.

The only creel checks made in Lincoln County were at Fishtrap Lake, a perennial favorite that did not disappoint this year. Osborne reported a 5.2 trout per angler average at Fishtrap, including a 19-inch rainbow.

For more details see 2015 Lowland Lakes Opening Day (April 25th) Trout Creel Results.  

For more details on specific fishing waters in the region, use the interactive search function “Cast your search” at Fish Washington. The webpage also features “how to” fishing videos designed to introduce techniques for both new and seasoned anglers.

For those planning fishing vacations this spring or summer, WDFW’s Great Washington Getaways webpage showcases some of the state's best family travel and fishing opportunities.  Featured in this region are Beyond Opening Day: Cheney-area trout lakes; Hells Canyon Country in Washington: Grande Ronde River bass and trout; A tale of two fisheries: The Tucannon and Snake rivers; Washington’s biggest summertime playground: Lake Roosevelt; Washington’s wildest mountains: Camping and fishing in the Selkirks; and Adrenalin-anglers’ bliss: Chasing tiger muskies and rainbows at Curlew Lake.

Before heading out, anglers should check the Sport Fishing Rules. Unlike in past years, the current fishing rules remain valid through June 30, 2015. 

Hunting: The statewide spring wild turkey season continues through May 31. Two of the three gobblers allowed per hunter can come from this part of eastern Washington – an attainable feat, given the abundance of the big birds throughout the region.

At least 64 percent of the statewide spring turkey harvest comes from the northeast population management unit (mostly Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Lincoln counties). Another 14 percent of the harvest comes from the southeast unit (Whitman, Garfield, Asotin, Columbia and Walla Walla counties.)

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reports turkey hunters have been out on the area “in full force.” Although lots of turkeys are available on public lands throughout the region, many use private lands where landowner permission must be secured before hunting.

For more information and license fees, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphletonline. And for bow enthusiasts, a new rule allows the use of crossbows to hunt turkeys during the entire 2015 spring general season.

Wildlife Viewing:  May is the peak month to watch for neo-tropical migrant bird species returning to or moving through Washington. 

Some long-distance migrants are seen, like clockwork, on approximately the same day or week each year, since their migrations are triggered largely by photo-period, or daylight hours increasing.  Birds that winter closer to their breeding grounds sometimes move earlier or later, depending on food supplies and/or weather.

Dana Base, WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist, who keeps a “First of Season” (FOS) diary of returning migrants, reports seeing a Nashville warbler, Northern rough-winged swallow, and orange-crowned warbler. Earlier in April, he saw a tree swallow and yellow-rumped warbler, and even earlier in March spotted a violet-green swallow and Western bluebird.

Base also said that Newport-area birder John Stuart recently spotted FOS chipping sparrows. Stuart also noted pileated woodpeckers are excavating new nest holes and black-capped chickadees are feeding their first brood in the nest.

Down in the Blue Mountains, in the southeast part of the region, WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager Kari Dingman reports a diversity of songbirds singing and otherwise entertaining the area’s mushroom hunters.

The 22nd annual International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is May 9, (always the second Saturday of the month) and this year’s theme from the coordinating non-profit Environment for the Americas is “Restore Habitat, Restore Birds.” 

A Spokane Audubon Society-sponsored bird identification field trip is scheduled for May 9 at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, just southwest of Spokane. The trip is the culmination of a three-session bird identification workshop (May 4, 6, 8), but others interested can join in by contacting Gary Blevins at 509-533-3661 or Gary.Blevins@spokanefalls.edu.

Learn more about other IMBD events and activities to celebrate birds this month at Bird Day.

This month and next many wildlife species produce young.  WDFW biologists remind outdoor recreationists and backyard wildlife enthusiasts to leave those wild babies in the wild, even when they might appear to be orphaned or abandoned. 

Keep dogs and cats confined to avoid problems with baby birds fledging from nests and on the ground. Give a wide berth to deer fawns found alone; almost always they don’t need your help because parent animals are foraging nearby and leaving them alone to avoid drawing predators with their own body scent.  Learn more about when not to rescue wildlife on WDFW’s Living with Wildlife webpages.

As spring rolls into summer this month and next, outdoor recreationists may inadvertently have closer-than-comfortable wildlife viewing encounters with potentially dangerous wildlife, from protective cow moose with calves to black bears, coyotes or cougars

Conflict situations can be prevented by staying alert and aware of surroundings and taking some precautions when hiking, picnicking or camping. Most wild animals want to avoid people, so hike in groups and make noise to alert wildlife in the area of your presence. Keep a clean picnic spot or campsite since food odors attract hungry animals, especially bears. Learn more about bears, cougars, coyotes and moose on WDFW’s Living with Wildlife webpages.

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

Fishing: May is a prime fishing month throughout the region; action is heating up on waters that just opened or opened previously.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff made creel checks on the April 25 lowland lakes opener. The average catch rates they tallied are a good indicator of how fishing will continue at least through this month.

Anglers fishing in Grant County’s Blue Lake caught an average of 3.5 rainbow trout per person. The fish were 15-17 inches in size. The number of anglers out on Blue Lake opening weekend was down about 30 percent from previous years. That just means there’s more trout to go around, and possibly for longer, said Chad Jackson, WDFW district fish biologist. Deep Lake saw an average of 3.9 trout per angler, with the biggest fish was 12-1/2 inches. Anglers at Park Lake caught an average of 2.3 trout, most averaging 14 inches with one 25-inch brown trout recorded. Warden Lake anglers caught an average of 3.1 trout. Most of those trout were between 10 and 12 inches in size.

Douglas County’s Jameson Lake saw an average of 3.3 trout caught per angler, with the largest rainbow a 17-incher.

Okanogan County’s Blue Lake on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area saw an average of 3.5 trout per angler on the opener, with the biggest fish measured a 22-inch brown trout.  Anglers at Fish Lake, also on the Sinlahekin, each averaged two rainbow trout up to 16 inches.  Conconully Lake anglers averaged 3.4 rainbow trout up to 17 inches.  At Conconully Reservoir the average catch was 2.8 rainbow trout of up to12 inches in size.

Round Lake, east of Tonasket, had one of the county’s best catch averages on the opener with 4.1 trout per angler. The handful fly-fishers at Chopaka Lake, north of Loomis, caught an average of 7.9 trout each. However, anglers are only allowed to keep one trout per day on the lake. Long Lake produced a 3.1 trout per angler average. Anglers at Alta Lake near Pateros averaged 2.6 trout up to 17 inches.

Chelan County’s Beehive Reservoir produced an average of 4.5 trout per angler with fish up to 19 inches. Wapato Lake anglers averaged 4.8 trout, of up to 16-1/2 inches.

For more details, see 2015 Lowland Lakes Opening Day (April 25th) Trout Creel Results.  

For more details on specific fishing waters in the region, use the interactive search function “Cast your search” at Fish Washington. The webpage also features “how to” fishing videos designed to introduce techniques for both new and seasoned anglers.

Youth fishing events are scheduled across the state this month and next, including events in Douglas and Okanogan counties in June with registrations underway now.  See the WDFW youth fishing calendar to find these local family friendly opportunities to introduce kids to fishing.

For those planning fishing vacations this spring or summer, WDFW’s Great Washington Getaways webpage showcases some of the state's best family travel and fishing opportunities.  Two features in this region are the “Methow River Valley camping and fishing adventure” in Okanogan County and “An oasis in the desert: Potholes Reservoir” in Grant County.

Before heading out, anglers should check the Sport Fishing Rules. Unlike in past years, the current fishing rules remain valid through June 30, 2015. 

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season continues through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington (see pamphlet for area restrictions on bag limits in eastern Washington) and one bird in western Washington. For more information and license fees, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphletonline. And for bow enthusiasts, a new rule will allow the use of crossbows to hunt turkeys during the entire 2015 spring general season.

As hunters are planning fall hunts and selecting special permit opportunities to apply for by May 20, they should scope out possible long-term closures on U.S. Forest Service roads in areas of northcentral Washington (Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest) where wildfires burned last summer and managers have to be careful about landslides and other hazards.  These closures could significantly complicate access to some hunters’ traditional favorite spots. Hunting seasons remain open, but access is never guaranteed; it is up to hunters to check out access before applying for permits. For more information, see the Forest Service website.

Wildlife Viewing: May is the peak month to watch for neo-tropical migrant bird species returning to or moving through Washington. 

Some long-distance migrants are seen, like clockwork, on approximately the same day or week each year, since their migrations are triggered largely by photo-period, or daylight hours increasing.  Birds that winter closer to their breeding grounds sometimes move earlier or later, depending on food supplies and/or weather.

However, even the latest-arriving migrant songbirds, like Bullock’s orioles, Lazuli buntings, and Western tanagers, are back by the end of this month, said Scott Fitkin, WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist.

WDFW wildlife areas include a couple of particularly good riparian birding spots. One good spot is the cottonwood forest along the Methow River in the Big Valley Unit of the Methow Wildlife Area. Birders should follow the community trail southeast from the parking area at the northwest end of the unit. Another prime spot is the valley bottom in the original portion of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, near any of the lakes from Blue Lake north and in the riparian vegetation along Sinlahekin Creek.

The 22nd annual International Migratory Bird Day is May 9, and this year’s theme from the coordinating non-profit Environment for the Americas is “Restore Habitat, Restore Birds.” 

The 13th annual Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest is May 14-17, sponsored by Northcentral Washington Audubon Society, Wenatchee River Institute, Washington Native Plant Society, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, and many others. Festival field trips provide opportunities to learn about the wide variety of migratory birds that breed in the area, and to hear birdsongs sung only during this season.  While birding is the heart of the festival, activities also include wildflower walks, arts events, and family activities to ensure fun and learning for birders of all ages and skill levels.

Many wildlife species have offspring in May and June. WDFW biologists remind outdoor recreationists and backyard wildlife enthusiasts to leave those wild babies in the wild, even when they might appear to be orphaned or abandoned. 

Keep dogs and cats confined to avoid problems with baby birds fledging from nests and on the ground. Give a wide berth to deer fawns found alone; they rarely need your help because parent animals are foraging nearby and drawing predators away with their own body scents. Learn more about encounters with young wildlife on WDFW’s Living with Wildlife webpages.

As spring rolls into summer this month, outdoor recreationists may inadvertently encounter potentially dangerous wildlife, including protective moose with calves, black bears, coyotes or cougars.

Conflict situations can be prevented by being alert and aware of surroundings and taking some precautions when hiking, picnicking or camping. Most wild animals want to avoid people, so hike in groups and make noise to alert wildlife in the area of your presence. Keep a clean picnic spot or campsite since food odors attract hungry animals, especially bears. Learn more about bears, cougars, coyotes and moose on WDFW’s Living with Wildlife webpages.

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

Fishing: Two sections of the Yakima River will open to fishing for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon on successive weeks in May, while anglers continue to cast for springers on four sections of the Snake River. 

Starting Saturday, May 2, the lower Yakima River will open for hatchery spring chinook fishing from the Highway 240 bridge in Richland to the Grant Avenue bridge in Prosser approximately 1,000 feet downstream of Prosser Dam.

On Saturday, May 9, the upper section of the river will open for hatchery chinook from the Interstate 82 bridge at Union Gap to the BNSF railroad bridge approximately 600 feet downstream of Roza Dam. 

The lower river is expected to remain open for spring chinook through June 15, while fishing in the upper section will likely continue through June 30, said Eric Anderson, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) based in Yakima.

Anderson said fishery managers are predicting a return of 3,900 harvestable spring chinook to the Yakima River, mostly four-year-old fish.

“Anglers catch the lion’s share of the springers in the upper river around Roza Dam, but we’re adding some additional opportunity in the lower river again this year,” he said.

Like last year, this year’s rules add 2.4 miles of fishable water near the mouth of the Yakima River by moving the lower boundary of the fishery downriver from the I-182 bridge to the Highway 240 bridge, Anderson said.

“We’ll be interested to see how anglers do that far down in the estuary,” he said. “Fishing in that area will be closely monitored, because it’s critical that fishers don’t drift downstream of the Highway 240 bridge and start fishing in the Columbia River.”

Anglers will have a daily limit of two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook.  All wild salmon, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed and must not be removed from the water prior to release. All steelhead must also be released.

Bait is allowed, but anglers will be required to use single-point, barbless hooks with a hook gap from point to shank of 3/4 inch or less when fishing for salmon.

To participate in the fishery, anglers must possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement (CRSSE), along with a valid fishing license. Anglers also have the option of purchasing a “two-pole endorsement” and fishing with two poles during the fishery.

For additional information about the fishery, see the fishing rule on WDFW’s website.

Meanwhile, four sections of the Snake River remain open to fishing for spring chinook salmon three days a week. Below Ice Harbor Dam and the Lower Granite Dam the fishery is open on a Sunday-through-Tuesday schedule until further notice. Farther upriver, fishing is open on a Thursday-through-Saturday schedule below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston.

Anglers may retain one adult hatchery-reared chinook salmon per day as part of their daily limit. For more information on the fishery, see the Fishing Rule Change on the WDFW website.

Trout are another option. Waters scheduled to be stocked with rainbow trout this month include Cooper Lake, Easton Ponds, Clear Lake, Lost Lake, McCabe Pond and Columbia Park Pond. A complete trout-planting schedule for south-central lakes and ponds is available on the WDFW website.

The 14th annual Kids Fishing event will be held at Columbia Park Pond in Kennewick on Saturday, May 10. All youths must pre-register at Kennewick Parks and Recreation to attend.

As of late April, anglers could still catch and keep legal-size sturgeon in Lake Umatilla (John Day Dam to McNary Dam), but that fishery will close as soon as the 500-fish quota for those waters is reached. Anglers planning to fish the lake should keep an eye on the WDFW website for possible updates. Farther upriver, the retention fishery for white sturgeon above McNary Dam (Lake Wallula) is scheduled to run through July 31. 

In both areas, anglers may retain only those white sturgeon that measure between 43 inches and 54 inches when measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail. Sturgeon spawning sanctuaries below Priest Rapids Dam and Ice Harbor Dam close to all sturgeon fishing (both harvest and catch-and-release) beginning May 1. They reopen for catch-and-release fishing on Aug. 1.

Rather catch warm-water fish? Catch rates should continue to improve on area rivers for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and walleye right through spring.

Anglers age 15 or older are reminded that they must purchase a 2015-16 license to fish state waters. Those who fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries are also required to purchase an endorsement that helps maintain and improve fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River Basin.

Licenses and permits are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Meanwhile, Hunters have through May 20 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state.

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by WDFW in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special permit, hunters planning to hunt for deer or elk must purchase an application and hunting license for those species and then submit their application.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free.

Wildlife viewing: Starting May 1 at 6 a.m., WDFW will open the gates to thousands of acres of prime wildlife-viewing lands at WDFW Wildlife Areas in southcentral Washington. Areas closed in winter to protect elk and other species from human disturbances will again be open to those who want to spend some time in Washington’s backcountry.

Visitors are required to display a current WDFW Vehicle Access Pass or Discover Pass for vehicle access to all WDFW lands and boat launches. Information about purchasing a state Discover Pass is available on WDFW’s website.

Three gates will open May 1 at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, located seven miles west of Naches. One is at the U.S. Forest Service 1400 Oak Creek Road and two provide access to the Bethel Ridge Road. The Oak Creek and Cowiche units will also open to the public at the same time.

Also opening is the Tieton River Trail, which leads to two popular rock-climbing areas – Royal Columns and The Bend, said Ross Huffman, manager at Oak Creek. “That trail is teeming with wildlife and spring flowers this time of year.”

However, people who come to the Oak Creek Wildlife Area looking for shed antlers may be disappointed this year, Huffman said.

“We didn’t feed elk in the wildlife area this year, so it’s unlikely there will be a concentration of antlers near the feed sites,” Huffman said. “It’s is really anybody’s guess where the bulls shed this year.”

Located 18 miles west of Selah, the Mellotte gate at the Wenas Wildlife Area will open May 1 at 6 a.m. providing access to the north side of Cleman Mountain. “The area grades from riverine to shrub-steppe to forestlands, and provides plenty of bird-watching opportunities,” said Cindi Confer Morris, Wenas Wildlife Area manager.

Confer Morris noted that wildlife areas throughout the region operate on a “green dot road management” system: If a road is posted with a green reflective dot, it is open to motor vehicles. Otherwise, it is closed to motor vehicles. “But it’s important that visitors use good judgment,” she said. “If a road is soft and wet, we ask people not to drive on it, regardless if it has a green dot.”

At the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, two gates – Joe Watt and Robinson – will open May 1, as will the Whiskey Dick unit northeast of Ellensburg. At the Colockum Wildlife Area south of Wenatchee, the West Bar Road will open to vehicle traffic May 1. Although the road is only 2.5 miles long, it provides access to the Columbia River and is a popular area to look for shed antlers in spring.

There are no developed campgrounds in any of these areas, and campfires are prohibited through Oct. 15.

Confer Morris cautions visitors the risk of wildfire is higher than usual at this time of year – particularly in the shrub-steppe and grassland areas – due to the dry spring conditions. “We urge visitors to be extra cautious about doing anything that could spark a wildfire, including parking a hot car on dry grass.”