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

January 20, 2010

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

Anglers await first spring chinook, a sign of fishing seasons to come

UPDATE: Rising marine toxin levels (paralytic shellfish poisoning or PSP) have prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to cancel a razor clam dig scheduled at Long Beach and delay final decisions about digs at Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch beaches until Jan. 28. Unless it is canceled, the dig at Twin Harbors will be delayed since it was originally scheduled to open Jan. 27.

Frogs are croaking, ducks are pairing up, and - any day now - someone is going to reel in the first spring chinook salmon of the new year from the lower Columbia River.  Although the run usually doesn’t begin in earnest until mid-March, the first "springer" of the year is a clear sign of popular fishing seasons to come.

"The sportfishing websites are already buzzing with anticipation," said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  "Some anglers are already scrambling to find bait."

Anticipation about the spring chinook fishery is especially strong this year, because the upriver run is expected to be the largest in recent history.  Another reason is that heavy rains and high water have rendered many rivers in Western Washington unfishable for winter steelhead since the first of the year.

"It’s a waiting game," said Ron Warren, WDFW 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."

That has not been the case in the middle and upper Columbia River, where fishing has been good for hatchery-reared steelhead from the Tri-Cities to Wells Dam.  Other good fishing opportunities available now - or coming up soon - include:

  • Lake Roosevelt trout:   Anglers are reeling in lots of 14 to 20-inch rainbows from the big lake.  "Roosevelt is really the place to be for trout fishing now with these warm conditions," said Chris Donley, a WDFW fish biologist.  Kokanee fishing is also expected to warm up there this month.
  • White sturgeon:   With temperatures warming, the Columbia River sturgeon is coming to life - particularly above Bonneville Pool.  Sturgeon fishing in the lower river remains slow, but that could change if smelt return to the Cowlitz River in greater numbers than expected.

Meanwhile, hunting seasons for ducks and geese come to an end Jan. 31 throughout the state.  For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing now available in Washington, see the regional reports below:


North Puget Sound  

Fishing: This time of year anglers have a decision to make: cast for steelhead in the local rivers or get out onto Puget Sound and fish for salmon.

"Weather conditions usually help anglers make that choice," said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. "If the rivers are in shape, steelheading is a good bet. But if the rivers are blown out, blackmouth fishing in the marine areas is probably the best option."

Thiesfeld said he has heard reports of a few nice blackmouth - resident chinook - hooked in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where fishing has picked up recently. Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Elsewhere, Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) recently reopened to salmon fishing. However, the fishery got off to a slow start, said Thiesfeld. "Overall, fishing was spotty on the opener," he said. "It certainly did not start off the way it ended in November, when fishing was pretty good."

Anglers fishing Marine Area 9 - 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 10 is only open through Jan. 31.

In the freshwater, fishing for steelhead continues to be slow. Thiesfeld said anglers should be aware that the lower portion of the Green River closed to fishing Jan. 16, while the upper stretch is scheduled to close Feb. 1. The Skagit and Sauk rivers also will close to fishing Feb. 16. With low steelhead returns expected back to those rivers, the emergency closures are necessary to protect wild steelhead.

Meanwhile, both the North Fork Stillaguamish and the Cascade rivers recently re-opened for fishing. Details on those emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Hunting: There’s still time for waterfowlers to go afield and hunt brant in Skagit County. Hunts are open Jan. 20, 23, 24, 27, 30 and 31 with a bag limit of two geese per day. 

To participate in the Skagit County brant season, hunters must have prior written authorization and a harvest information card from WDFW. After taking a brant, hunters are required to record their harvest information immediately, and report their harvest to WDFW by Feb. 15. Hunters who fail to report by Feb. 15 will be ineligible to hunt brant in the 2010-2011season.

Meanwhile, waterfowlers in the region have through Jan. 31 to hunt ducks and other geese . Before going afield, hunters should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/) for details.

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.

Wildlife viewing: Now is the time to head to the Skagit River to see bald eagles wintering in the area. Each winter, hundreds of the eagles spend December and January along the river, where the carcasses of spawned salmon provide a feast for the birds. After a few weeks of dining, the eagles head north to their summer homes in Alaska and British Columbia.

The best place to begin eagle-viewing activities is at the Skagit River Interpretative Center . The center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday through Sunday through Feb. 15.  For more information on the interpretive center, visit http://www.skagiteagle.org/IC/IC-index.htm.

Birders in the region may also want to check out the flocks of snow geese wintering in the Skagit Valley. About 80,000 snow geese winter in western Washington each year. Most of those snow geese congregate in the valley, and can be found in the area from mid-October through early May.

The 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will be held Feb. 12-15. Interested birders of any age or experience level can count birds from wherever they are, for at least 15 minutes during any or all of the four days, and enter their highest tallies at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/.

These counts offer a real-time snapshot of the numbers and kinds of birds people are finding in their own yards and neighborhoods across the continent. Results can be compared on the website as checklists pour in from throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2009, participants submitted 94,165 checklists that included 11,558,638 birds of 620 species.


South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing:   Heavy rain and high water have put a damper on steelhead fishing in the new year, but anglers have some other options to consider while waiting for the rivers to drop back into shape.

Blackmouth fishing on Puget Sound, for example.   Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) recently opened to resident chinook fishing, and two additional areas - 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal) - are scheduled to open Feb. 1.  Marine Area 10 is also open for blackmouth through Jan. 31.

Anglers are required to release wild salmon in all four areas.  Regulations are described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/).

"Blackmouth fishing in Puget Sound has generally been slow, but that can turn around fairly quickly," said Steve Thiefeld, a WDFW fish biologist.  "You can’t catch them unless you go out there and find them."

But high-water conditions have made it tough - even dangerous - for anglers to find steelhead during the first two weeks of the new year.  After some good fishing in December, most anglers are taking cover until the rain subsides and the rivers drop back into shape.

Scott Barbour, a WDFW fish biologist, said the Chehalis River has been awash in high water and debris.  "Right now it’s a safety issue," he said.  "Fishing aside, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone take a boat out there with all those logs and tree limbs floating down the river."

Fishing conditions have also been tough on the north coast rivers, said Randy Cooper, another WDFW fish biologist.  "The rivers have started dropping, but that could change with another heavy rain."

On the bright side, Cooper said the high water has brought some good-sized wild steelhead into the rivers.  "We’re approaching the time when the focus shifts from hatchery steelhead to wild fish, and what I’m seeing bodes well for the weeks ahead," he 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.

"It’s a waiting game," said Ron Warren, WDFW 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."

Hunting: There’s still time for waterfowlers to go afield and hunt brant in Pacific County. Hunts are open Jan. 21, 23 and 24 with a bag limit of two geese per day. 

Meanwhile, waterfowlers in Management Area 3 have through Jan. 31 to hunt ducks and other geese. Before going afield, hunters should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/) for details.

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 via 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.

Wildlife viewing: During a recent visit to the Theler Wetlands in Belfair, a birder spotted a flock of 10 western bluebirds. The bluebirds, a surprising find for the birder, were seen foraging in a nearby field and in the marsh. "After they had foraged for a good 20 minutes along a fenceline out there, they flew right over to me and perched in a tree by the dike," the birder reported on Tweeters website (http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/ ).

Whether you’re at the Theler Wetlands or at home, birders can participate in the upcoming 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), which will be held Feb. 12-15. Interested birders of any age or experience level can count birds from wherever they are for at least 15 minutes during any or all of the four days, and enter their highest tallies at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/.

These counts offer a real-time snapshot of the numbers and kinds of birds people are finding in their own yards and neighborhoods across the continent. Results can be compared on the website as checklists pour in from throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2009, participants submitted 94,165 checklists that included 11,558,638 birds of 620 species.


Southwest Washington

Fishing:   Late-run winter steelhead are moving into area tributaries, thousands of trout have recently been planted in area lakes, sturgeon are beginning to stir, and openings have been scheduled for both smelt and razor clams.  Fishing opportunities abound in the days ahead, but prospects for success vary, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. 

"Weather is always a factor at this time of year, but there are also other things to consider in deciding what and where to fish," Hymer said.  Here’s his assessment of fisheries coming up in the next few weeks:

  • Winter steelhead:   The early run is winding down, but late-run winter steelhead are beginning to move toward the hatcheries on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers where they were raised. The fishery for late-run fish tends to peak in late February and early March, although some late-run steelhead are already beginning to show up in the catch.  As with the early run, high water can always push those rivers out of shape for fishing.
  • Smelt:   Projecting another poor return, WDFW is limiting the Cowlitz River sport fishery for smelt to four days this winter. That river will be open for smelt dipping Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a 10-pound daily limit.  "This fishery is primarily intended to provide information on the size of this year’s run," said Hymer, noting that NOAA Fisheries is currently considering listing West Coast smelt under the federal Endangered Species Act.  Sport fishing for smelt on the mainstem Columbia River opened seven days per week, 24-hours day, starting Jan. 1, although anglers catch very few fish there.
  • White sturgeon:   Catch rates of legal-size sturgeon have picked up considerably in the Bonneville Pool in recent days, likely triggered by warming water temperatures.  Sturgeon fishing in the lower river remains slow, but that could change if smelt return to the Cowlitz River in greater numbers than expected, Hymer said.  Sturgeon regulations for all areas of the lower Columbia River listed in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet will remain in effect through February.  New seasons will be set by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon at a public meeting scheduled Feb. 18 in Oregon City, Ore.
  • Trout:   While nothing is certain, anglers have a pretty good chance of catching trout - some averaging eight pounds - in lakes planted by WDFW during the winter months.  During the second full week of January, hatchery crews planted 3,000 catchable-size fish in Kress Lake near Kalama, 1,500 in Battleground Lake and 1,500 in Klineline Pond.  Several hundreds broodstock rainbows, ranging from four to eight pounds apiece, were also planted in Lake Sacajawea in Longview,  Spearfish Lake near Dallesport, and Rowland Lake near Lyle.

As of mid-January, Hymer said he had not received any reports of spring chinook landed in the lower Columbia River, so they didn’t make his list of fishing options.  "But the season is currently open, and we expect to start hearing catch reports soon," he said. 

Until mid-February, when fishery managers will meet to set the new season, anglers may retain hatchery-reared spring chinook under the rules printed in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet. "At this time of year, we consider spring chinook ‘bonus fish’ in the winter steelhead fishery," Hymer said.

Hunting: Seasons for ducks and geese 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 Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only.  Elsewhere in Area 2A, hunting is restricted to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays through the end of the month.

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 via 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.

Wildlife viewing: During a recent visit to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, a birder spotted a number of shorebirds, including 90 dunlin and 48 greater yellowlegs. "The numbers were impressive," the birder reported on Tweeters website ( http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/ ).

Whether you’re at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge or at home, birders can participate in the upcoming 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), which will be held Feb. 12-15. Interested birders of any age or experience level can count birds from wherever they are for at least 15 minutes during any or all of the four days, and enter their highest tallies at http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/ .

These counts offer a real-time snapshot of the numbers and kinds of birds people are finding in their own yards and neighborhoods across the continent. Results can be compared on the website as checklists pour in from throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2009, participants submitted 94,165 checklists that included 11,558,638 birds of 620 species.


Eastern Washington

Fishing:   Fishing for rainbow trout and kokanee continues to be excellent at Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir on the Columbia River off Grand Coulee Dam. "During the winter, the rainbows usually move down into the lower reservoir," said WDFW District Fish Biologist Chris Donley.  "They’re following the movement of zooplankton downstream, so the Keller and Spring Canyon areas become the target, rather than Seven Bays and above."

Donley said kokanee or "silver trout" can be found near the surface of Lake Roosevelt in late January and into February. "Roosevelt is really the place to be for trout fishing now with these warm conditions," Donley said. "That’s because ice on smaller trout waters is probably pretty rotten."

Marc Divens, WDFW warmwater fish biologist, said that without freezing nighttime temperatures, and daytime temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, many year-round open fishing waters that appear iced-over are probably unsafe to fish.
 
"Usually this is a good time to fish Eloika or Newman lakes for their bass, perch, crappie , and other fish," Divens said. "But I wouldn’t recommend anyone venture out on the ice on those lakes, at least not until we return to more normal temperatures with freezing days and nights." For more on ice-fishing safety, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ice_fishing/ .

Snake River steelhead action has slowed, but tenacious anglers who find the fish pooled up near the mouths of tributaries may be successful.
 
Hunting: These are the last weeks of waterfowl hunting, with both goose and duck seasons closing Jan. 31 in the region, where there are mild conditions and flooded fields from heavy rains.

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 online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses_hunter_report.html .
 
Wildlife viewing: This is a good time of year to watch and listen for great horned owls . The big birds can be heard, and often seen, hooting back and forth to each other from tree-top perches.
 
WDFW Wildlife Biologist Woody Myers said lots of waterfowl are moving around throughout the region, using flooded fields and other areas that afford them food and security during mild conditions and recent heavy rains. Big groups of Canada geese are regularly seen moving to and from waterways and grainfields. "Some ducks are even starting to pair up already," Myers said. "Watch for pairs in flight, or three-bird flights, with two drakes vying for one hen."

Despite recent mild weather, backyard bird feeders continue to be frequented with good numbers of many resident species, from chickadees to woodpeckers . Howard Ferguson, WDFW district wildlife biologist in Spokane, reminds birders that bird feeding can create problems by concentrating birds and spreading disease, especially if feeding stations are not kept clean. For information about maintaining healthy backyard bird feeders, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/winter_feeding/ .


Northcentral Washington

Fishing: Bob Jateff, WDFW district fish biologist, said upper Columbia River steelheading is best in the tributaries above Wells Dam. Anglers who are drifting the slower moving, deeper runs, where the fish tend to hold at this time of year, are probably doing best. Steelheaders must retain all adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead, up to the limit of four per day. They must also immediately release all steelhead with an intact adipose fin without removing the fish entirely from the water.

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.  Jateff said those fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).

The safety of ice fishing throughout the region is questionable with recent warm weather and rain, and anglers are advised to be very cautious.  Rainbow trout are available at Rat Lake near Brewster, Sidley/Molson Lake near Oroville, Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Davis Lake near Winthrop. Yellow perch are available at Patterson Lake near Winthrop.  For more on ice-fishing safety, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/ice_fishing/ .
 
Winchester Wasteway (the portion within the Winchester Game Reserve) and Stratford/Brook Lake in Grant County opens Feb. 1 for fishing under standard statewide rules.
 
Hunting: These are the last weeks of waterfowl hunting, with both goose and duck seasons closing Jan. 31. The latest aerial waterfowl surveys in the North Columbia Basin, conducted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Randy Hill of the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, show ducks and geese highly concentrated in select areas.
 
"North Franklin County, specifically the Eagle Lakes area and Sugar Ranch private clubs, held nearly half of the mallards counted," Hill said. "That’s a reflection of some open water, available food nearby, and an apparent lack of hunting the day of the survey. The Winchester Reserve held nearly half of the remaining mallards counted, likely a result of birds concentrated from other areas that were frozen."

For the complete survey results, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regions/region2/waterfowl_surveys.html .

WDFW Waterfowl Specialist Mikal Moore said ducks have switched from feeding only in the evenings to feeding multiple times during the day. "This should increase hunter success," Moore said. "Hunters should also look for ducks concentrating on sheet water forming in the fields.  With the recent snow melt, geese seem to be focusing their feeding activities on thawing winter wheat and alfalfa fields."
 
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 online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses_hunter_report.html .

Wildlife viewing: WDFW District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin said winter wildlife viewing in the Methow Valley ranges from bald eagles to mule deer .
 
Wildlife viewers can combine their interest with cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, on their own or through the "Nature of Winter Tours," sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA). The tours are conducted on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays through February. See http://www.mvsta.com/winter/snowshoe.html for more information.
 
Backyard bird feeders continue to be frequented with good numbers of many resident species, from chickadees to woodpeckers .  WDFW district wildlife biologists remind birders that bird feeding can create problems by concentrating birds and spreading disease, especially if feeding stations are not kept clean. For information about maintaining healthy backyard bird feeders, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/winter_feeding/ .

Spring may officially still be two months away, but according to WDFW District Wildlife Biologist Rich Finger, it’s not too early to start looking for tri-colored blackbirds returning to the cattail marshes and other wetlands of the Columbia Basin. And ducks and geese , of course, are plentiful in the Basin’s waterways. For complete results of the latest aerial waterfowl surveys in the North Columbia Basin, conducted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regions/region2/waterfowl_surveys.html .


Southcentral Washington

Fishing:   WDFW District Fish Biologist Paul Hoffarth said steelhead fishing in the Ringold area on the Columbia River near Tri-Cities should be slightly above normal  through the rest of the season, which runs into mid-April.
 
"I think the pattern we saw in December will hold," Hoffarth said.  "December’s catch and harvest was higher than any of the past six years. Boat anglers averaged 5.8 hours per fish in December and bank anglers averaged roughly 10 hours of angling per steelhead."

Whitefish action on the Yakima River and other local streams continues to be good. "Some of the best whitefish areas besides the mainstem Yakima are the Naches, Tieton, Cle Elum, and Bumping rivers," said WDFW District Fish Biologist Eric Anderson in Yakima.
 
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.  Concentrate fishing efforts in deep pools below riffles, Anderson said.
 
Hunting: These are the last weeks of waterfowl hunting, with both goose and duck seasons closing Jan. 31. The latest aerial waterfowl surveys in the South Columbia Basin, conducted at the end of the last cold snap by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Howard Browers of the Tri-Cities, showed ducks and geese in more non-hunted areas of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. But with warmer temperatures since then, more birds could be in more traditional areas along the shorelines and in the Cold Springs and Saddle Mountain refuges. For the complete survey results, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regions/region3/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 online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses_hunter_report.html .
 
Wildlife viewing:   Staff at WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area southwest of Yakima continue to feed 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 the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, including driving directions, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/oak_creek/ .
 
Backyard bird feeders continue to be frequented with good numbers of many resident species, from chickadees to woodpeckers .  WDFW district wildlife biologists remind birders that bird feeding can create problems by concentrating birds and spreading disease, especially if feeding stations are not kept clean. For information about maintaining healthy backyard bird feeders, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/winter_feeding/ .