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

January 6-19, 2010

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

Hardy souls catching steelhead, looking forward to razor clam dig

For Washingtonians, the first few weeks of the new year are prime time to fish for winter steelhead, dig razor clams and observe wintering animals - from elk to bald eagles - in the wild. 

But winter weather is an important consideration.  Heavy rain put a damper on some steelhead fisheries as the new year dawned, although anglers have continued to reel in bright hatchery fish from the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers in southwest Washington to the Snake River on the east side.

Anglers also report that trout fishing at Lake Roosevelt is the best it’s been in 10 years.

Hardy souls can also look forward to an evening razor clam dig on ocean beaches set to begin Jan. 27 if marine toxin tests confirm the clams are safe to eat. Long Beach and Twin Harbors are tentatively scheduled to open on evening tides Jan. 27-31, with digs also planned at Copalis and Mocrocks beaches Jan. 29-31 and at Kalaloch beach in the Olympic National Park Jan. 30-31.

Final word on that dig will be announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) about a week ahead of time.  But before heading out, clam diggers should also check upcoming weather and surf conditions, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. 

"With the rough weather we had during the last opener, digging dropped off significantly as people opted to play it safe," Ayres said. "On the plus side, there are likely enough clams remaining in the quota to offer more digs later."  

For many people, viewing animals in the wild is its own reward. Bald eagles are now on display from the Skagit Valley to Lake Roosevelt, while snow geese and other migratory birds are gathering throughout the coastal lowlands. Wintering elk and bighorn sheep are also on view in a number of areas, including the feeding station at WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area northwest of Yakima off Highway 12. 

Meanwhile, WDFW is reminding Puget Sound sport crabbers and big-game hunters statewide that deadlines for reporting their harvest from 2009 are coming right up. Sport crabbers have until Jan. 15 to report their catch during the winter season. Hunters have until midnight Jan. 31 to report their success in hunting deer, elk, bear and turkey during the past year. 

For more information on reporting procedures - and current fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities throughout the state - see the regional reports below. 


North Puget Sound  

Fishing: Anglers have been reeling in some blackmouth in the marine areas and there have been a few scattered reports of steelhead caught in the rivers but, overall, fishing in the region continues to be slow. "It’s been quiet out there," said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fisheries biologist. "Effort continues to be light, and those who are getting out have had to work to find fish."

One bright spot has been the San Juan Islands, where fishing has been fair for blackmouth , Thiesfeld said. "Like elsewhere, there are not a lot of anglers fishing there, but those who have put in some time over the last week are finding fish."

Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) - as well as marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) - have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) re-opens for salmon fishing beginning Jan. 16. Anglers fishing that area will also have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

With Puget Sound now closed to recreational crab fishing , all crabbers licensed to fish in those waters are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Jan. 15. Reports are due for the season running Sept. 8 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught Dungeness crab. Sport crabbers who file their catch reports by the Jan. 15 deadline will be entered in a drawing for one of 10 free combination fishing licenses, which allow the holder to fish for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species during the 2010-11 season.

To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on a special webpage on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-15 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html .

In the rivers, there have been reports of anglers hooking some bright steelhead. However, returns of hatchery steelhead to a few rivers have been low, prompting the department to close portions of some rivers, including the North Fork Stillaguamish, the North Fork Nooksack and the Cascade. The early closures are necessary to ensure hatcheries in the three rivers can meet their egg-take goals for winter steelhead.

Details on those emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ . Anglers are advised to check that website for news about the Cascade River, which could re-open soon, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.

Hunting: Snow geese are plentiful in the region, and hunting for the birds has recently improved, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. Kraege encourages eligible hunters to hunt for snow geese at the quality hunt units on Fir Island and in Stanwood. "Not a lot of hunters who have signed up for the quality hunts are currently using those areas, which should provide great hunting opportunities for snow geese throughout January," he said.   

Hunters must have written authorization to hunt for snow geese in Goose Management Area 1 and written authorization to hunt the quality hunt units. Hunters also must possess a Washington small game hunting license and a state migratory bird validation, as well as a federal migratory bird stamp.    

For more information on the quality hunt units and the quality hunt program visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/snow_goose/ .

WDFW will soon make an announcement on whether the tentatively scheduled brant hunt in Skagit County will open. Aerial surveys of brant populations have been delayed by weather, but should take place in the next several days, said Kraege. At least 6,000 brant must be counted in Skagit County before hunting is allowed. Hunters should keep checking WDFW’s website for an announcement on the season, which is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 16, 17, 20, 23, 24, 27, 30 and 31. 

Before going afield, hunters should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ ) for details.

The region’s general hunting seasons for elk and deer are closed for the season, including the archery hunt in Elk Area 4941. That area closed early after the elk harvest objective was met and WDFW enforcement officers determined that the conduct of hunters had become disorderly and unsportsmanlike.

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk , or turkey last year are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2009 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . Hunters should be prepared to give the game management unit they hunted and their individual WILD identification number, which is printed on license documents.

Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2010 hunting license.  On the other hand, unsuccessful hunters who submit their reports by Jan. 10 - and successful hunters who filed a report within 10 days of filling one of those tags - will be entered into a drawing for one of nine deer or elk special hunting permits for the 2010 season. 

Wildlife viewing: The Audubon Society is still compiling the results of the annual Christmas Bird Count, but participants are already chirping about their sightings.  Several have listed their highlights on the Tweeters birding website ( http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/ ). Meanwhile, the Washington Birder website is still accepting reports for its 2009 listings. Individual sightings will be accepted through Jan. 31 for both annual and "Big Day" reports.  Forms are available at http://www.wabirder.com/ .

These compilations of individual sightings provide important information about bird populations, whether in Washington state or throughout the nation.  But keeping a list of birds seen throughout each year is also a personal endeavor, a common practice among birders, veterans and novices alike.

"Birders keep daily checklists, yard lists, state and county lists and, dear to the heart of many birders, is their life list - the cumulative list of all those species they have encountered since they started birding," says Pete Dunne, a veteran birder. "Some people put a geographic boundary on their list. Others maintain a world-wide list."

Some birders record their sightings in journals, others on computer software programs. Some keep track in their field guides where and when they saw each species.

The Washington Ornithological Society (WOS) offers a wealth of information on birds and birding, including a checklist available at http://www.wos.org/ .

To learn what birds have been spotted throughout the state, people often visit Tweeters, the birding website http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/TWET.html , where many enthusiasts record their recent sightings.


South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing:   January is typically the best month for catching hatchery steelhead, but heavy rain rendered most area rivers unfishable during the first days of the new year.  After several weeks of good fishing, most anglers decided to take cover until the rain subsided and the rivers dropped back into shape.

"It’s a waiting game right now," said Ron Warren, regional fish manager for south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula.  "Lots of hatchery steelhead are moving into the rivers, but they’re tough to catch under these conditions."

Anglers waiting for the rivers to drop might consider fishing for blackmouth salmon in one of a number of areas open in Puget Sound.  Some nice fish were recently checked at the Pleasant Harbor boat ramp on Hood Canal, and Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) opens for salmon fishing Jan. 16.  

Another razor clam opening is also tentatively scheduled later this month.  If marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat, diggers will get a chance to hit the beach starting Jan. 27. Assuming the tests go well, Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open for digging Jan. 27-31, Copalis and Mockrocks will be open Jan. 29-31 and Kalaloch beach Jan. 30-31.

Digging at all five beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight.  Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said final word on the dig will be announced once test results show whether the clams are safe to eat. If the dig is approved, he strongly advises clam diggers to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out.

Weather and stream conditions have been a major preoccupation for steelheaders for more than a month.  In early January, the drop-off in participation was especially apparent on the Bogachiel River, where WDFW interviewed only four anglers with two fish from Jan. 1-3.  By comparison, 163 anglers were checked with120 hatchery steelhead - and 15 fish released - from Christmas Day through Dec. 27.

"High water has also put a damper on steelhead fishing in rivers around Grays Harbor, but that will change once we get some clear weather," Warren said.

Wild steelhead-retention rules are now in effect on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on those rivers.  On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar.

Specific rules for each river are described in the 2009-10 Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Recreational crab fishers are also reminded that all Puget Sound marine areas are now closed to crab fishing and that winter catch reports are due by Jan. 15.  Crabbers may report their catch by sending their winter catch card to WDFW or by filing their report online.  People who fail to submit their winter reports will receive a $10 fine when they apply for a 2010 Puget Sound crab endorsement. For more information about recreational crabbing in Puget Sound, see WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab .

Hunting: Seasons for ducks and geese seasons remain open seven days a week through Jan. 31 in all parts of the region except Pacific County (Goose Management Area 2B), which is open Wednesdays and Saturdays only through Jan. 16. 

Meanwhile, the brant hunting season in Pacific County is just around the corner. That hunt is scheduled for Jan. 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 24. 

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk , or turkey last year are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2009 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . Hunters should be prepared to give the game management unit they hunted and their individual WILD identification number, which is printed on license documents.

Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2010 hunting license.  On the other hand, unsuccessful hunters who submit their reports by Jan. 10 - and successful hunters who filed a report within 10 days of filling one of those tags - will be entered into a drawing for one of nine deer or elk special hunting permits for the 2010 season.
 
Wildlife viewing:   The Audubon Society is still compiling the results of the annual Christmas Bird Count, but participants are already chirping about their sightings.  One local birder, in comments posted on the Tweeters birding website ( http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/ ), listed several "highlight species," including a snow goose and a rock sandpiper at the Dungeness spit.

Meanwhile, the Washington Birder website is still accepting reports for its 2009 listings.  Individual sightings will be accepted through Jan. 31 for both annual and "Big Day" reports.  Forms are available at http://www.wabirder.com/ .

These compilations of individual sightings provide important information about bird populations, whether in Washington state or throughout the nation.  But keeping a list of birds seen throughout each year is also a personal endeavor, a common practice among birders, veterans and novices alike.

"Birders keep daily checklists, yard lists, state and county lists and, dear to the heart of many birders, is their life list - the cumulative list of all those species they have encountered since they started birding," says Pete Dunne, a veteran birder. "Some people put a geographic boundary on their list. Others maintain a world-wide list."

Some birders record their sightings in journals, others on computer software programs. Some keep track in their field guides where and when they saw each species.

The Washington Ornithological Society (WOS) offers a wealth of information on birds and birding, including a checklist available at http://www.wos.org/ .

To learn what birds have been spotted throughout the state, people often visit Tweeters, the birding website http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/TWET.html , where many enthusiasts record their recent sightings.


Southwest Washington

Fishing:   Rivers are running high throughout the lower Columbia Basin, but anglers are still hooking up with inbound hatchery winter steelhead between rainstorms.  Meanwhile, sturgeon fishing is now open in all areas of the mainstem Columbia below the Highway 395 Bridge, and catchable-size rainbow are still available in a number of lakes throughout the region.

As in December, timing is key for anglers hoping to catch hatchery steelhead in the first weeks of the new year, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

"Since mid-December, we’ve seen a progression of frigid-water, low-water and now high-water conditions," Hymer said.  "Catch rates have been up and down, but fishing has generally been pretty decent for anglers who hit it between major weather events."

Some of the best fishing has been on the North Fork Lewis River around the salmon hatchery, Hymer said.  During creel checks in the week leading up to New Year’s, 136 bank anglers checked on the North Fork had caught 23 steelhead and released nine others - most using jigs and bobbers around the salmon hatchery.  Twenty-six boat anglers checked during the same period took home six more winter steelhead.

On the Cowlitz River, boat anglers fishing between the trout and salmon hatcheries accounted for the largest share of the catch.  Seventy-eight boat anglers reported 24 "keepers" while 44 bank anglers accounted for four more during creel checks ending Dec. 31.

The Kalama, Grays, Elochoman and Washougal rivers - plus Salmon Creek in Clark County - should also be good bets in the days ahead, Hymer said.

"The early run usually peaks around New Year’s, but there are still plenty of fish in those rivers," he said.  "The late winter run is also starting to arrive, which can provide decent steelhead fishing in the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers through March."

As in past years, all wild steelhead must be released.  Anglers may retain only hatchery-reared fish with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar.  That also applies to spring chinook salmon , which could start entering the Columbia River in small numbers any day, Hymer said.  Marked springers are available for harvest on a daily basis in the Columbia and its tributaries from the I-5 Bridge downstream until 2010 seasons are set in mid-February, he said.

Regulations for these and other fisheries are described in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .
 
As outlined in the rule pamphlet, sturgeon fishing is now open in all areas of the mainstem Columbia below the Highway 395 Bridge.  Anglers may retain sturgeon daily except in the area from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam, where retention fishing is limited to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only.  Fishing opportunities for sturgeon from March-December 2010 on the mainstem Columbia River will be decided by Washington and Oregon at a joint state hearing Feb. 18.

While temperatures are still a bit cold for red-hot sturgeon action, Hymer noted that anglers surveyed in The Dalles Pool caught three legal-size fish during the first three days of 2010.

Just as soon fish for trout ?  During the final days of 2009, WDFW planted nearly 15,000 catchable-size rainbows in seven area waters to give anglers some options during the cold of winter.  Battleground Lake got 2,500 Dec. 21; Klineline Pond 2,500 Dec. 21; Icehouse Lake (near Bridge of the Gods) 1,022 Dec. 29; Spearfish Lake (near Dallesport) 2,002 Dec. 24; Rowland Lake (near Lyle) 4,057 Dec. 24; and Maryhill Pond (in Klickitat County) 501 Dec. 29.  In addition, Fort Borst Park Pond, open only to juveniles under 15 years old, got 3,029 on Dec. 28.

Anyone curious about prospects for smelt dipping on the Cowlitz River and other Columbia River tributaries is encouraged to attend a public meeting sponsored by WDFW on that subject Jan. 6 in Kelso.  The meeting will be held from 6-8 p.m. on the third floor of the Cowlitz County Administration Building at 207 4th Ave. N. in Kelso.

Last month, representatives of WDFW and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife set sport and commercial smelt-fishing seasons for the Columbia River, but delayed decisions about the tributaries due to a low run projection and the fact that smelt is under consideration for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.  The sport limit on the mainstem Columbia River is 10 pounds per day.

Hunting: Seasons for ducks and geese seasons remain open through Jan. 31 in all parts of the region, although goose hunting in Area 2A is limited to three days per week.  In the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, goose hunting is open Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays only.  Elsewhere in Area 2A, hunting is restricted to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays through the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the brant hunting season in Pacific County is just around the corner. That hunt is scheduled for Jan. 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 24. 

Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk , or turkey last year are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2009 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . Hunters should be prepared to give the game management unit they hunted and their individual WILD identification number, which is printed on license documents.

Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2010 hunting license.  On the other hand, unsuccessful hunters who submit their reports by Jan. 10 - and successful hunters who filed a report within 10 days of filling one of those tags - will be entered into a drawing for one of nine deer or elk special hunting permits for the 2010 season.
 
Wildlife viewing:   The Audubon Society is still compiling the results of the annual Christmas Bird Count, but participants are already chirping about their sightings.  One local birder, in comments posted on the Tweeters birding website ( http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/ ), dubbed a male rusty blackbird the "best bird of the day" during a count in the Vancouver Lake Lowlands.  Farther north, birders counted a king eider at Ocean Shores, but only six brown pelicans - down from 54 the year before.

Meanwhile, the Washington Birder website is still accepting reports for its 2009 listings.  Individual sightings will be accepted through Jan. 31 for both annual and "Big Day" reports.  Submission forms are available at http://www.wabirder.com/online.html .

These compilations of individual sightings provide important information about bird populations, whether in Washington state or throughout the nation.  But keeping a list of birds seen throughout each year is also a personal endeavor, a common practice among birders, veterans and novices alike.

"Birders keep daily checklists, yard lists, state and county lists and, dear to the heart of many birders, is their life list - the cumulative list of all those species they have encountered since they started birding," says Pete Dunne, a veteran birder. "Some people put a geographic boundary on their list. Others maintain a world-wide list."

Some birders record their sightings in journals, others on computer software programs. Some keep track in their field guides where and when they saw each species.

The Washington Ornithological Society (WOS) offers a wealth of information on birds and birding, including a checklist available at http://www.wos.org/ .

To learn what birds have been spotted throughout the state, people often visit Tweeters, the birding website http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/TWET.html , where many enthusiasts record their recent sightings.


Eastern Washington

Fishing:   The hottest fishing in the region is for net-pen-reared rainbow trout on Lake Roosevelt - the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam on the Lincoln, Ferry and Stevens county lines. John Whalen, WDFW regional fish program manager, said daily limits of five rainbows, running 14 to 20 inches, are readily being caught from Hunters downstream. Anglers who regularly fish the big reservoir say it’s the best it has been in the past 10 years.

Bill Baker, WDFW district fish biologist, said fishing for rainbow trout remains good at Hatch and Williams lakes in Stevens County. The two lakes are the only winter-only season (Dec. 1 - March 31) waters that have fish to catch. Spokane County’s Fourth of July and Hog Canyon lakes were treated last fall and will not be re-stocked with trout until spring.

Sprague Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line, continues to provide good catches of rainbow trout through the ice, although recent warmer weather and rain has left the safety of that ice questionable. WDFW Regional Enforcement Capt. Mike Whorton said that Sprague is under the same catch rules as Lake Roosevelt - five trout daily with no more than two over 20 inches - and the size of most fish there sometimes tempts anglers into violations. Whorton also notes that anglers who leave equipment or debris on the ice - from buckets to old armchairs - can be fined for littering.

Chris Donley, WDFW district fish biologist, reports Whitman County’s Rock Lake is producing catches of rainbow and most notably brown trout .  Spokane County’s Eloika and Silver lakes are yielding lots of yellow perch through the ice, but anglers need to be cautious about "rotten ice" during recent thawing and re-freezing.

Snake River steelheading remains productive for anglers who find the fish pooled up near the mouths of tributaries. WDFW Fish Biologist Joe Bumgarner reports the latest creel check data shows the best catch rates below Hellar Bar near the mouth of the Grand Ronde River, and in the lower Grand Ronde itself where anglers average a little over six hours of fishing per catch. In the mainstem Snake, from Ice Harbor to Lower Monumental dams, steelheaders average almost 12 hours per fish caught. From Lower Monumental to Little Goose dams, the average is just under 17 hours per catch, and from Little Goose to Lower Granite dams, the average is 17.5 hours.

Hunting:   The pheasant and quail hunting seasons in the region are open through Jan. 18. Joey McCanna, WDFW upland game bird specialist, said this season hasn’t been the best, likely because of last year’s severe winter. But hunters with access to the best habitat - good cover and grain fields - can still do well in the last days of the season.

Waterfowl hunting continues through the month of January.  WDFW Waterfowl Specialist Mikal Moore reports "unsettled weather" throughout the east side of the state has caused unpredictable waterfowl movements, so hunters will need to rely heavily on scouting. 

Coyote hunting, which is open year-round statewide, is popular now in northeast Washington, especially in the Colville Valley, the Stevens County "wedge," and the Springdale/Valley area, said Sandy Dotts, WDFW habitat biologist in Colville.

Big-game hunters are reminded that Jan. 31 is the deadline for mandatory reports on deer, elk, black bear and turkey hunting activity. Tag holders for those species must report, even if no game was bagged or no hunting occurred. Hunters can report by phone at 1-877-945-3492 or online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses_hunter_report.html .

Wildlife viewing:   A few trumpeter swans were recently seen on the Colville River until a shooting in the Valley-Westside crossing area mortally wounded at least one bird.  WDFW Enforcement Officer Dan Anderson is investigating the poaching of this non-hunted species, and local citizens have raised $1,100 to date in a reward fund for anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest. Information about the incident can be left on the WDFW poaching hotline, 877-933-9847. Anyone interested in contributing to the reward fund can contact Warren Current at 509-675-4145.

WDFW Wildlife Biologist Woody Myers said that deer and elk are very visible on winter ranges now.  "Although eastern Washington is experiencing a relatively mild winter, these animals should not be approached and unduly disturbed," he said. "And motorists should remain cautious, especially at dawn and dusk, to avoid collisions with them on roadways."

Myers also noted that road-killed deer are attracting bald eagles and other scavengers. Wildlife viewers can key in on these situations to watch a variety of species, from coyotes to ravens .

"Now also is a good time to listen for great horned owls hooting in late afternoon and into the night," Myers said. "Owls are establishing mating territories and will be nesting soon."

WDFW Wildlife Biologist David Woodall of the Blue Mountains Wildlife Areas reports that there are bald eagles along the Snake and Grande Ronde rivers.


Northcentral Washington

Fishing:   WDFW regional fish program manager Jeff Korth reports a variety of fishing opportunities throughout the region, but with recent warming trends he cautions anglers about deteriorating ice conditions, both on lakes and along river shorelines.

"Ice fishing for rainbow trout at the Windmill/Canal lakes in the Potholes Reservoir area in Grant County has been good," Korth said.  "Ice fishing for yellow perch has been decent at Moses Lake and at Fish Lake in Chelan County.  And ice fishing for whitefish at Banks Lake near Coulee City is reportedly good. But with thawing and re-freezing, anglers need to be sure the ice is safe before venturing on or near it."

WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports good rainbow trout fishing through the ice at Rat Lake near Brewster, Sidley/Molson Lake near Oroville, Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Davis Lake near Winthrop. Patterson Lake near Winthrop is producing yellow perch in the 7-8-inch range, with some larger fish to 10 inches.

Jateff also reports that upper Columbia River steelhead fishing picked up slightly in the tributaries above Wells Dam while air temperatures were above freezing.  "Fishing will taper off as the temperatures fall and ice forms in the rivers, so anglers planning a trip should call ahead first to check weather conditions," he said.  "Anglers do best when drifting the slower-moving, deeper runs as the fish tend to hold in these areas during the winter months."

Jateff reminds steelheaders that a mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead is in effect during the fishery.

The Methow River is open to whitefish from Gold Creek upstream to the falls above Brush Creek and the Chewuch River from the mouth to the Pasayten Wilderness boundary.  The Similkameen River is open from the mouth to the Canadian border.  Anglers fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).

Hunting:  Waterfowl hunting season continues through the month of January. WDFW state waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore says "unsettled weather" in the Columbia Basin has caused unpredictable waterfowl movements, making scouting essential for hunters. 

"Large flights of mallards and northern pintails can be seen coming off the irrigation wasteways, Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake near dusk to feed on corn stubble fields," Moore said. "Goose hunters report having to work hard to get their birds, though overall goose numbers seem to be increasing in the area, particularly western Canada geese, or ‘honkers’.  The geese prefer feeding in disked corn, alfalfa, and winter wheat fields, but tend to avoid fields with tall stubble or poor visibility."

WDFW district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Moses Lake reports recent rain showers have removed much of the snow cover in the lower elevations south of Ephrata in the Columbia Basin. 

"Considerable pooling of water has occurred in the agricultural lands due to frozen ground," Finger said.  "Most non-moving water is still frozen solid and will likely remain so for the remainder of the waterfowl season.  Geese are abundant between Moses Lake and Othello and mallards seem to be scattered throughout the Basin in relatively low numbers." 

Moore notes that the annual mid-winter waterfowl aerial survey is scheduled this month and results will be posted as soon as available on WDFW’s northcentral region webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regions/region2/waterfowl_surveys.html .

Big game hunters are reminded that Jan. 31 is the deadline for mandatory reports on deer, elk, black bear and turkey hunting activity. Tag holders for those species must report, even if no game was bagged or no hunting occurred. Report by phone at 1-877-945-3492 or on-line at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses_hunter_report.html .

Wildlife viewing:   It's finally snowing in the Methow Valley of northcentral Washington and that means winter sports - including winter wildlife viewing - are in full swing.  WDFW Methow Wildlife Area Manager Tom McCoy suggests taking advantage of the excellent opportunities for seeing wintering mule deer and both bald and golden eagles on some of the seven units of the 31,000-acre property. Wildlife can be viewed from the warmth of a motor vehicle or from cross-country skis or snowshoes in the backcountry. McCoy reminds visitors to keep a respectful distance from all wildlife to avoid stressing them in winter conditions. 

WDFW district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin of Winthrop notes that winter wildlife viewing is also available through the "Nature of Winter Tours," sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA). Tours are conducted  Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays through February. For more information, see  http://www.mvsta.com/winter/snowshoe.html .

WDFW state waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore says "unsettled weather" in the Columbia Basin has caused unpredictable waterfowl movements.  "Large flights of mallards and northern pintails can be seen coming off the irrigation wasteways, Potholes Reservoir  and Moses Lake near dusk to feed on corn stubble fields - and it’s a sight worth seeing," she said.  "In particular, the Hiawatha Valley west of Moses Lake is a great place to watch field-feeding ducks.  Canada geese are even more visible as they prefer feeding in disked corn, alfalfa, and winter wheat fields, and tend to avoid fields with tall stubble or poor visibility." 

Moore notes that the annual mid-winter waterfowl aerial survey is scheduled this month and results will be posted as soon as available on WDFW’s northcentral region webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regions/region2/waterfowl_surveys.html .


Southcentral Washington

Fishing:   Anglers are taking limits of whitefish on the Yakima River and other local streams, according to WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson. "Some of the best whitefish areas besides the mainstem Yakima are the Naches, Tieton, Cle Elum and Bumping rivers," Anderson said.  "Check the fishing rules pamphlet for specific river stretch descriptions."

Whitefish gear is restricted to one single-point hook with a maximum hook size of 3/16-inch from point to shank, hook size 14. Fish are usually caught with a small fly tipped with a maggot.  Up to 15 whitefish can be retained daily.   Most fish are 10 to 15 inches.  Anderson recommends that anglers concentrate fishing efforts in deep pools below riffles.

Steelhead fishing in the Ringold area of the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities is still producing for bank anglers and boaters alike, reports WDFW Ringold/Meseberg Fish Hatchery specialist Mike Erickson. "At least for the few willing to brave the weather," he added.

Hunting:  Waterfowl hunting season continues through the month of January. WDFW state waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore says "unsettled weather" throughout the Columbia Basin has caused unpredictable waterfowl movements, so hunters will need to rely heavily on local scouting.  She notes that the annual mid-winter waterfowl aerial survey is scheduled this month, and that results will be posted as soon as available on WDFW’s southcentral region webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regions/region3/waterfowl_surveys.html .

Upland game bird hunters can capitalize on the last days of the season in the Tri-Cities area, where WDFW Ringold/Meseberg Fish Hatchery specialist Mike Erickson reports fair opportunities.  Pheasant and quail hunting closes Jan. 18.

Big game hunters are reminded that Jan. 31 is the deadline for mandatory reports on deer, elk, black bear and turkey hunting activity. Tag holders for those species must report, even if no game was bagged or no hunting occurred. Report by phone at 1-877-945-3492 or on-line at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses_hunter_report.html .

Wildlife viewing: With more snow and wintery conditions in the last month, WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area southwest of Yakima has begun winter feeding elk and bighorn sheep , some in areas that are readily visible to visitors. Reservations for on-site tours, conducted by volunteers and supported by donations, can be made by calling 509-698-5106. For more information on Oak Creek Wildlife Area, including driving directions, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/oak_creek/ .

WDFW Ringold/Meseberg Fish Hatchery specialist Mike Erickson reports lots of birdwatching opportunities in the Ringold area on the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities.

"There are plenty of birds of prey to observe," Erickson said, "including bald eagles and rough-legged hawks . And of course there’s a good deal of ducks and geese throughout the area."