WDFW LogoWashington Department of Fish & Wildlife
  HELP | EMPLOYMENT | NEWS | CONTACT  
WDFW LogoThe Weekender Report
 Find Your Region
WDFW Regions
 Past Issues
2014 2013 2012
2011 2010  
Contact
Fish: 360-902-2700
Wildlife: 360-902-2515
 More to do Outside!
Wildlife Areas
Water Access Sites
Experience Washington
State Parks
Washington National Parks
National Forest Service
Audubon Washington
 
The Weekender Report
The latest in fish and wildlife recreational opportunities across Washington State

March 31, 2010

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

April brings flurry of 'opening days'
for trout, turkey, lingcod, razor clams

For many anglers, “opening day” is synonymous with the start of the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, which gets under way April 24. More than 300,000 Washingtonians are expected to descend on trout-stocked waters throughout the state that day to kick off the new season.

But anglers – and hunters, too – are also looking forward this month to a variety of other “opening days” for seasons ranging from lingcod fishing on the north coast to turkey hunting throughout the state.  Meanwhile, the spring chinook fishery is heating up on the Columbia River and another razor-clam dig is tentatively scheduled April 16-18, provided that tests show the clams remain safe to eat.

“April really marks the start of the new year for fishing and hunting,” said Joe Stohr, deputy director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Some winter fisheries are still going strong, but the annual cycle is beginning again with a new year of outdoor activities.”

For most people, a valid 2010-11 fishing or hunting license is required to get in on the action after March 31, when all 2009-10 licenses expire. The exception is young people under age 15, who may fish for free. 

Fishing and hunting licenses may be purchased by phone (1-866-246-9453), over the Internet (https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/), or from license vendors throughout the state (see http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors for a list).

Key dates for anglers and hunters to keep in mind in the coming weeks include:

  • April 1 - More than two dozen small lakes in central Washington open to catch-and-keep fishing.
  • April 3-4 - A two-day spring turkey hunt for hunters age 15 and younger is scheduled statewide.
  • April 15 - The general spring turkey hunt opens for hunters of all ages and runs through May 31. See WDFW's Washington Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet for details at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey/.
  • April 16 - Lingcod fishing opens off Neah Bay in Marine Area 4. The fishery has been open in ocean marine areas 1-3 since mid-March.
  • April 16-18 – A razor clam dig is tentatively planned at various ocean beaches on morning tides, pending the results of marine toxin tests.
  • April 24 - Several hundred lowland lakes open to trout fishing across the state for the biggest "opening day" of the year.

Although new fishing licenses are required as of April 1, most new fishing regulations approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission don’t go into effect until May 1. Those regulations are posted on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/.  All new regulations will be reflected in the new Fishing in Washington pamphlet, available later this month.

For more information on fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching activities throughout the state, see the regional reports that follow.

North Puget Sound  

Fishing: Thousands of anglers are gearing up for the lowland lakes trout opener in late April but many remain focused on the marine areas of Puget Sound, where blackmouth salmon fisheries are still under way.

“Overall, fishing for blackmouth continues to be very slow in northern Puget Sound,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “But a number of anglers that made it out on the water for the recent Anacortes Salmon Derby had a bit of success and landed some large fish.”

A total of 132 fish were weighed during the Anacortes Salmon Derby, which took place March 27-28. Ralph Thomas of Tacoma took home the $15,000 grand prize with his 27.48-pound fish. John Belarde of Woodinville hooked a 25.72-pound salmon that was good enough for second place and $5,000, and Seth Baumgarten of Kirkland was awarded $2,500 for his third-place fish, which weighed in at 24.38 pounds.

“Those are some outstanding blackmouth,” Thiesfeld said. “Anglers definitely have to put in some time on the water, but it can be worth it for an opportunity to haul in a 20-plus pound blackmouth.”

Anglers fishing in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) – as well 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Those three marine areas are open through April 30.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) is open only through April 15. Anglers fishing Marine Area 9 also have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Halibut anglers should be aware that the fishing opener for the big flatfish in most marine areas of Puget Sound has been delayed this year. The later starting date is necessary because of the combination of a reduced quota and excessive catch last year in the Sound.

To ensure that the halibut fishery in Puget Sound stays within the quota, the fishing season in marine areas 6-10 will run from May 1 through May 30. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will retain its traditional opening date just before the Memorial Day weekend but will close earlier than it has in the past. Marine Area 5 will be open from May 28 through June 19. 

The Puget Sound halibut fisheries will be open three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) will be closed this year to protect rockfish, which may be caught incidentally by anglers fishing for halibut. As in previous years, Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.  For more information on 2010 halibut fisheries, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut.

Freshwater anglers looking to cast for trout will soon have numerous lakes to choose from. The lowland lakes trout season gets under way April 24, when many lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – will open for fishing. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW's website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html).

Current regulations for all freshwater and saltwater fisheries are avaiable in WDFW's Fishing in Washington pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/).

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 3-4 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, a Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey/.

Hunters have an opportunity to comment on a draft plan to guide management of the state’s white-tailed deer populations. Developed by WDFW over the past year, the five-year plan outlines strategies for sustainably managing the game animals throughout their range in eastern Washington. Other key goals include maintaining stable deer-hunting opportunities for state citizens and reducing deer-related damage to crops and other personal property.

The draft plan, along with an electronic comment form, is posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/white-tailed_deer/. Public comments will be accepted through April 23 before a final plan is reviewed by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and forwarded to the WDFW director for approval.

Wildlife viewing: Reports of gray whales sightings have picked recently. The whales have been spotted throughout Puget Sound, with sightings ranging from Vashon Island north to the San Juan Islands and further west out to Sequim’s Dungeness Bay. The whales are part of a larger population making its annual journey north from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, where the animals spend the summer feeding before heading south again. While most continue on to Alaska, some gray whales linger in the waters of the Pacific Northwest during the summer months.

While gray whales are receiving most of the attention, other marine mammals of note have been spotted in the area as well. A minke whale was recently seen traveling north in the waters along Whidbey Island, and a couple of transient killer whales were seen off Carkeek Park in Seattle. For information on whale sightings, visit the Orca Network website at http://www.orcanetwork.org/sightings/map.html.

Meanwhile, birdwatchers have an opportunity to take part in the "Wings Over Water" Northwest Birding Festival April 17 in Blaine. The festival features wildlife viewing field trips, arts and crafts, speakers, raptor presentations, and activities and games for children. For more information visit Blaine's Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.blainechamber.com/wow.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing:  April will see the traditional opening of the statewide lowland lakes trout fishing season, the expansion of lingcod fishing on the north coast and at least one proposed razor-clam dig on ocean beaches, pending the outcome of tests for toxins. The tentative dates for clamming are April 16, 17 and 18.

Anglers also continued to catch steelhead in relatively large numbers. Last weekend, 37 anglers fishing the Bogachiel/Quillayute River caught 54 steelhead; all but two were wild. Fishing was also good on the Lower Hoh River, where 65 anglers caught 39 steelhead fish over the last weekend in March. The good fortune didn’t extend to the Upper Hoh, where 38 anglers fished for more than 220 hours, reeling in only six wild steelhead, all of which were released. The retention fishery closes at the end of the day April 15 on the Hoh River, but will remain open through April 30 on the Quillayute River system.

As was the case last year, the weather on Washington’s coast so far hasn’t been very conducive to ocean fishing for lingcod. Anglers have brought in a few 20 to 22 pounders in marine areas 1-3, but the weather has afforded few opportunities to fish, said Erica Crust, WDFW’s ocean port sampler in Westport.

Crust said that a few privately owned boats that did venture out caught their limits of lingcod and rockfish right off the jetty. Charters have had more success. According to Crust, the majority have come in with their limit of rockfish and an average of one lingcod per person.

Typically, many anglers wait until Marine Area 4 opens on April 16 to head out. “Neah Bay is historically a good fishery for lings,” said Crust. “If the weather cooperates, we should see some excellent fishing there again this year.”

Crust reminds anglers that recreational fishing for bottomfish or lingcod is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms in Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) from March 14 through June 15.  However, anglers may retain sablefish and Pacific cod in these waters from May 1 through June 15. Retention of canary and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited in all areas.

The minimum size for lingcod in marine areas 1-3 is 22 inches, while the minimum size in Marine Area 4 is 24 inches. All areas are open seven days a week. Additional information about the lingcod fishery and other bottomfish is available on the WDFW Fishing Hotline (360) 902-2500 or online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Anglers still looking for blackmouth are running out of time. Marine Areas 5 and 6 will close April 10, although Marine Areas 11, 12 and 13 will remain open through April 30. On the Peninsula, blackmouth anglers are catching a few chinook, but the action has fallen off in recent weeks. At the Pt. Defiance dock in Tacoma only five chinook were checked in the week ending March 28.

Rather dig razor clams? WDFW is tentatively planning at least one opening in April, provided marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. All are scheduled on morning tides and digging ends at noon. Tentative dates and tides:

  • Friday, April 16 (8:32 a.m., -0.7 ft.) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
  • Saturday, April 17 (9:12 a.m., -0.7 ft) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only
  • Sunday, April 18 (9:56 a.m., -0.6 ft) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only

Meanwhile, hatchery crews are stocking lakes throughout the region with tens of thousands of rainbow trout to prepare for the April 24 lake-fishing opener. More information and schedules are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

Halibut anglers should be aware that the fishing opener for the big flatfish in most marine areas of Puget Sound has been delayed this year. The later starting date is necessary because of the combination of a reduced quota and excessive catch last year in the Sound.

To ensure that the halibut fishery in Puget Sound stays within the quota, the fishing season in marine areas 6-10 will run from May 1 through May 30. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will retain its traditional opening date just before the Memorial Day weekend but will close earlier than it has in the past. Marine Area 5 will be open from May 28 through June 19.  For more information on 2010 halibut fisheries, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season will run April 15 through May 31 throughout the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 3-4 for youth under 16 years of age. For more information, a Wild Turkey Spring Season brochure is available at WDFW regional offices and on the department's website: http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey/.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider adopting changes to this year’s hunting seasons and special-hunt permit drawings during a public meeting April 9-10 in Leavenworth. The nine-member citizen commission will also accept public comments on proposed new rules designed to address property damage and other concerns related to wildlife.

The meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. both days at the Best Western Icicle Inn, 505 State Route 2, in Leavenworth.  An agenda is available on the commission’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html

Wildlife viewing: For those interested in spring bird watching, two popular birding festivals are coming up in the region. The first takes place along the bays, estuaries and beaches near the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the 2010 Olympic Peninsula Birdfest in Sequim April 9-11. The seventh annual festival, sponsored by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, Dungeness River Audubon Center and Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, offers a full slate for beginning birders, experts and those who enjoy the outdoors. Events include guided birding trips, boat tours, silent auction, salmon banquet and presentations. Participants with a little extra time on their hands can sign up for a three-day, two-night birding cruise through the San Juan Archipelago. The cruise departs April 11, with overnight stays at the Roche Harbor Resort. For more information, call (360) 681-4076 or visit the website at http://www.olympicbirdfest.org .

The second festival takes place in Grays Harbor County, where the 15th annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival will be held April 30 through May 2. This event takes place during the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds as they stop at the Grays Harbor estuary to feed and rest before departing for their nesting grounds in the Arctic. For more information, visit http://www.shorebirdfestival.com/ or call (800) 303-8498.

Southwest Washington

Fishing:  The spring chinook fishery on the lower Columbia River has sprung into action.  After a slow start, the recreational catch for March shot up to 7,693 fish caught or released – the third highest count for that month since the creel-check program was started in 1968.  More than 2,000 boats and 750 bank anglers were counted during an aerial survey on a recent Saturday, a clear sign that this year’s spring chinook fishery had finally shifted into high gear.

“The run is really starting to ramp up now,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  “Anglers have been catching some nice fish throughout the lower river.  If you’ve been planning to go, now is a good time to do it.”

According to the pre-season forecast, 559,900 spring chinook salmon - 470,000 of which are upriver bound - will return to the Columbia River and its tributaries this year, the largest run since at least 1938. 

Hymer noted, however, that anglers planning to join the spring chinook fishery in the days ahead should be aware of changes in fishing rules and in river conditions. 

  • Fishing seasons:  April 3 is the last day to catch spring chinook from the I-5 Bridge upriver to Bonneville Dam – at least until fishery managers complete an in-season assessment of the run in early May. However, the spring chinook fishery will remain open from Buoy 10 to the I-5 Bridge seven days a week through April 18. 
  • River conditions:  Heavy rain during the last week in March has increased turbidity in some tributaries to the Columbia River. “That makes fishing conditions – especially at the mouths of the tributaries – a little tougher,” Hymer said.  “In general, I’d suggest fishing in shallower water away from river mouths, and trolling with a flasher/dodger to increase visibility.”

Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam may retain one adult spring chinook salmon a day, while those fishing above the dam can keep two per day. As in previous years, only hatchery-reared fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained.  All wild spring chinook, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed.

In a creel survey conducted during the last full week of March, 3,272 boat anglers in 1,396 boats reported catching 658 adult hatchery chinook and six hatchery steelhead.  The 395 bank anglers surveyed that week had 35 adult chinook and two steelhead.  Approximately 71 percent of the fish sampled were identified as upriver stocks.

Anglers fishing tributaries to the lower Columbia are also catching increasing numbers of spring chinook, along with some late winter-run and early-arriving summer steelhead.  The Cowlitz and Kalama rivers are providing some action for both species, although fishing on the Lewis River remains slow, Hymer said.

Few spring chinook were caught above Bonneville Dam through March, but that will certainly change as more fish start moving past the dam, Hymer said.  The fishery is open seven days per week from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam, with a daily limit of two hatchery chinook, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each.  Bank fishing only is permitted from Bonneville Dam to Tower Island powerlines, located about six miles below The Dalles Dam. 

Starting April 3, the Klickitat River opens for spring chinook fishing four days per week – Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays – from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream.  The daily limit there, and on the lower Wind River and Drano Lake, is two hatchery chinook, hatchery steelhead, or one of each.

Anglers can check fish counts at the dam on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/fishdata/home.asp.

Fishing for sturgeon has been slow in the lower Columbia River and in The Dalles Pool, the only area between Bonneville and McNary dams open to sturgeon retention.  Boat anglers have, however, been catching some walleye in The Dalles Pool.

Shell-aficionados should be aware that WDFW is tentatively planning a morning razor-clam dig at Long Beach and other ocean beaches in mid-April.  If marine toxin tests show the clams area safe to eat, the dig will take place on the following days and beaches:

  • Friday, April 16, (8:32 a.m., -0.7) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
  • Saturday, April 17, (9:12 a.m., -0.7) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only
  • Sunday, April 18, (9:56 a.m., -0.6) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 3-4 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, a Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey/.

Meanwhile, hunters have an opportunity to comment on a draft plan to guide management of the state’s white-tailed deer populations. Developed by WDFW over the past year, the five-year plan outlines strategies for sustainably managing the game animals throughout their range in eastern Washington. Other key goals include maintaining stable deer-hunting opportunities for state citizens and reducing deer-related damage to crops and other personal property.

The draft plan, along with an electronic comment form, is posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/white-tailed_deer/. Public comments will be accepted through April 23 before a final plan is reviewed by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and forwarded to the WDFW director for approval.

Wildlife viewing: The coming weeks could be primetime to visit the fish-viewing window at Bonneville Dam, where spring chinook salmon are moving up the fish ladder in increasing numbers. The run should get even stronger in April, when hundreds – then thousands – of spring chinook weighing up to 40 pounds apiece start moving past the dam on a daily basis.
 
To monitor daily fish counts from home, check the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/fishdata/home.asp . 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.

Elsewhere, birders visiting the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge recently spotted several different species at the River S Unit including turkey vultures. The vultures can be spotted at the refuge, as well as at a wide range of other habitats this time of year throughout Washington. With their featherless red heads, the adult birds are easily recognizable when perched. When soaring, turkey vultures rock back-and-forth with their wings tilted up. The scavengers have a 5- to 6-foot wingspan.

Eastern Washington

Fishing: Early spring fishing continues to be good at lakes that are open in the region. The seven Tucannon River impoundments in southeast’s Columbia County – Beaver, Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring, and Watson lakes – are well-stocked with rainbow trout from WDFW’s Tucannon and Lyons Ferry fish hatcheries.

Amber, Downs, Liberty and Medical lakes in Spokane County are all producing rainbow catches. The access dock was just restored at Liberty Lake, near the town of the same name in the far eastern part of the county. Docks were also just re-installed at year-round Newman Lake, also on the east end of the county, and Eloika Lake, north of Chattaroy in the north end of the county.

Fishing has been good for both rainbow and brown trout at Rock Lake in Whitman County. Anglers are reeling in some nice-size rainbows at Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line. And rainbows and kokanee are the catch of the day at Lake Roosevelt.

April 15 is the deadline to register kids five to 14 years of age for the May 1 Kids’ Fish-In event at Clear Lake in southwest Spokane County. The cost is $5 each, which includes a T-shirt, rod and reel, and help to catch up to three rainbow trout. The 45-minute fishing sessions take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairchild Air Force Base access site on Clear Lake. The event is sponsored by WDFW, Go Play Outside Alliance of Washington (GoPAW), Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Spokane Fly Fishers, Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club, Spokane Walleye Club, Fairchild AFB Outdoor Recreation program, White Elephant, Zebco and Eagle Claw.  Registration forms are available at WDFW’s Spokane Valley office at 2315 N. Discovery Place, 509-892-1001; or online at http://www.gopaw.org/kids_fish-in_program.

Steelhead retention on the Snake River and most tributaries ends March 31. Grand Ronde River steelheading continues through April 15.

The single, biggest lake fishing opener is coming up April 24, mostly on waters that were stocked last year with hatchery trout fry that have been growing to catchable-size over the winter. But WDFW fish hatchery crews are also busy stocking lakes with catchables and surplus broodstock in some lakes to boost fishing opportunities on the opener. Watch for this year’s stocking plan to be posted soon on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

Hunting:  With about 80 percent of Washington’s spring wild turkey harvest in this region, it’s a good place for young hunters to be the weekend of April 3-4 for the special youth-only turkey hunt. All Game Management Units (GMUs) are open for hunters under 16 years of age to bag up to two gobblers or turkeys with visible beards (total of three statewide). The northeast GMUs 101-136 in Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Lincoln counties should be particularly productive with an abundance of the big birds. The southeast GMUs 139-186 in Whitman, Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin counties, traditionally produce the second-highest harvest.

The general spring wild turkey hunting season runs April 15 through May 31. For all the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey/.

Over one third of Washington’s spring black bear hunting permits are in this region. Permit-holders will be afield during the April 15 through May 31 season. For all the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/bear_cougar.

Another kind of popular “hunting” in the spring is for the shed antlers of deer and elk.  Even though advancing spring weather is leaving the memory of winter behind, WDFW biologists say deer, elk and other wildlife are still “winter-weary” and should not be unduly disturbed during the increasingly popular quest for shed antlers.

To protect wildlife, there is currently a closure to motorized traffic in the Lick Creek Game Management Unit (GMU 175) in Garfield and Asotin counties and closures to all human entry in the Cummings Creek area of WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area that continue through April.

Wildlife viewing: Wild turkeys seem to be everywhere these days, from the deep woods of the northeast and southeast corners of the region to the streets of Spokane. Gobblers are calling regularly now as they vie for breeding dominance over other males and seek the attention of hens.

Western and mountain bluebirds are busy nest-building and in the absence of natural tree cavities, many use nestboxes built and placed just for them. For details on building and locating bluebird and other cavity-nesting species nestboxes, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/projects/.

Woody Myers, WDFW ungulate research biologist, said now is the time to watch for deer and elk foraging on newly-sprouted grasses and forbs. Look for them in grasslands, pastures, low or mid-elevation forest meadows, and other open areas of southern exposure. “But leave them alone and view only from a distance,” Myers said. “These native ungulates are just now finding the opportunity to reverse the energy deficit they’ve been in all winter.”

Wildlife viewers who like to collect shed antlers of deer and elk need to avoid unduly disturbing animals at this time. To protect wildlife, there is currently a closure to motorized traffic in the Lick Creek Game Management Unit (GMU 175) in Garfield and Asotin counties and closures to all human entry in the Cummings Creek area of WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area that continue through April.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing: The “April Fools” opener on more than 30 waters in the Columbia Basin should provides some fair to good fishing on rainbow trout and other species.

WDFW district fish biologist Chad Jackson says most of the waters opening April 1 are either within or adjacent to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge south of Potholes Reservoir, and over half are planted with spring and/or fall rainbow trout fry.

“Although many of these lakes are in need of rehabilitation to rid them of competing fish species, nice sized trout can be found,” Jackson said.

The Upper and Lower Hampton lakes historically produce quality fishing on the opener for 12-14-inch yearling trout.  Jackson says that while trout size is still fairly good at the Hamptons, total trout abundance is not nearly as good. Last spring Upper was planted with 26,500 trout fry and Lower with 5,000 trout fry.  Lower Hampton Lake also received a trout fry plant of 4,500 in the fall.
 
“Both of the Hampton lakes were rehabilitated roughly six years ago,” Jackson said, “but sunfish and other warmwater species appear to have established themselves once again.  These species impact trout fry survival by competing for the same food resources.  To confound things, cormorants (fish-eating birds) have been known to prey upon trout in some years.”

Jackson said anglers looking to maximize catch rates should fish Lower Hampton Lake, where they’ll find two different size classes of trout available for harvest -- 8-10 inches and 11-13 inches.  Anglers looking to harvest larger fish should hike into Upper Hampton Lake and, if possible, fish it from a small boat or float tube.  Yearling trout in Upper Hampton Lake range in size from 12 to 14 inches.
 
“Hampton anglers may also want to try Hen Lake,” Jackson said, referring to the small lake connected to Lower Hampton Lake.  Hen Lake receives 750 rainbow trout fry in the spring, and if fry survival is good, they should be around 12 inches in length.”

Jackson said those who traditionally fish North and South Teal Lakes on the April 1 opener should not expect the excellent fishing found there in the past. Both lakes are in need of rehabilitation, but both lakes were also stocked with approximately 5,000 trout fry in the spring. Anglers should expect to catch a few nice12-14-inch yearlings and 16-inch and greater carryovers.
 
The Pillar-Widgeon lake chain, also opening April 1, includes (running north to south) Pillar, Gadwall, Snipe, Shoveler, Cattail, Poacher, Lemna, Hourglass, Sago, and Widgeon lakes.  Jackson said all are stocked with rainbow trout fry during the spring.  Total trout fry stocked in each lake is as follows:  Pillar – 2,500, Gadwall - 750, Snipe -600, Shoveler - 750, Cattail – 1,500, Poacher -150, Lemna - 450, Hourglass - 300, Sago - 300, and Widgeon – 1,650.  Access to this chain of small lakes is located just southeast of Soda Lake.
 
“Anglers looking to fish the Pillar-Widgeon lakes should visit either the entire chain or at least three or four of the lakes during their outing,” Jackson said. “If you’re persistent, expect to catch some very nice sized yearling and carryover trout. Shore fishing is available at most of these lakes, but I advise packing a float tube because it will increase your chances for success. Usually the best lakes in the chain tend to be Widgeon, Sago, and Pillar, but don’t ignore the other lakes.”

Jackson says some of the Columbia Refuge area lakes also offer excellent fishing for warmwater species, particularly Hutchinson and Shiner lakes. Since their rehabilitations in 1997, these two lakes have developed into quality fisheries for largemouth bass and bluegill.  Anglers should note that only non-motorized boats are allowed on these two lakes.

Other warmwater fishing options are the Coyote, Bobcat, and Hayes creek ponds located just south of Morgan and Halfmoon lakes.  Jackson says these ponds are relatively small and shallow, so they warm up quickly, and offer good fishing for largemouth bass.  Another option might be Deadman Lake located just off McManamon Road next to Halfmoon Lake.
                            
Anglers who plan on fishing the refuge area lakes, especially the hike-in ones, should remember that with the unseasonably warm weather has rattlesnakes out earlier and in greater numbers than normal.

Also opening on April 1 is Dry Falls Lake, located just northeast of Park Lake within the Sun Lakes State Park southwest of Coulee City. The 99-acre lake is under selective gear rules and a one-trout daily bag limit.
 
“Opening day success at Dry Falls in previous years was a little slow because of cold weather,” Jackson said. “But this year abnormally warmer air temperatures are heating up the lake much quicker and it may fish better on this year’s opener. I expect anglers to take 13-14-inch yearling rainbows and carryovers up to 24 inches, just like the last two years.”

Brown and tiger trout are also planted into Dry Falls Lake. Jackson reported that a total of 9,900 rainbow, 1,000 tiger, and 1,000 brown trout fry were stocked into Dry Falls Lake in 2009.
 
WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp said Spectacle Lake opens for fishing April 1, and anglers can expect rainbow trout in the 10-13-inch range, with carryover fish to 15 inches.  There is a five fish daily catch limit and bait is allowed at Spectacle.  Jateff reminds anglers that when fishing with bait, the first five fish count as part of the daily limit, whether kept or released.

Jateff also reminds anglers that some Okanogan County lakes switch to catch-and-release trout fishing on April 1 -- Rat near Brewster, Big and Little Green near Omak, and Davis and Campbell near Winthrop.  Selective gear rules are in effect for all of these lakes and the use of boats with internal combustion engines is prohibited.  Anglers must also use a knotless net to land fish.

WDFW fish biologist Matt Polacek reports the latest creel survey at Banks Lake shows decent catch rates on yellow perch and fair size on walleye. Anglers last surveyed at this Columbia River reservoir southwest of Grand Coulee averaged 3.28 perch that averaged 7.75 inches per hour of fishing. Walleye anglers caught fish that averaged almost 18 inches at a rate of about one walleye for every three hours of fishing. Anglers surveyed also averaged 1.2 black crappie of about 11 inches each per hour of fishing, and about one rainbow trout of about 16 inches for every two hours of fishing.

WDFW fish hatchery specialist Mike Erickson reports recently fishing Rufus Woods Reservoir and doing “very well” near the rainbow trout net pens and other areas in the waterway on the Douglas-Okanogan county line. “This is an outstanding fishery,” Erickson said. “With a group of six people in two boats, we had to work for the fish but came out with limits two days in a row.”

Hunting: All Game Management Units (GMUs) throughout the region are open April 3-4 for spring wild turkey for hunters under 16 years of age. The general spring wild turkey hunting season runs April 15 – May 31. For the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey/.

Another kind of popular “hunting” in the spring is for the shed antlers of deer. Even though advancing spring weather is leaving the memory of winter behind now, WDFW biologists say deer and other wildlife are still “winter-weary” and should not be unduly disturbed during the increasingly popular quest for “sheds.”

WDFW ungulate research biologist Woody Myers says deer are foraging day-long on newly-sprouted grasses and forbs in grasslands, pastures, low or mid elevation forest meadows, and other open areas of southern exposure.
 
“They’re just now finding the opportunity to reverse the energy deficit they’ve been in all winter,” Myers said. “Plus, the does are entering their third trimester of pregnancy, a time of increased energy demands. Any disturbance now might mean the difference between life and death for both adults and youngsters yet to be born. Adults can still be lost as a result of starvation this spring and weight at birth has been correlated to fawn survival.”

Wildlife viewing: WDFW habitat biologist Ken Bevis of Winthrop reports swallows and bluebirds arrived in the Methow Valley in early to mid-March and were immediately looking over nest location possibilities in natural cavities and man-made nestboxes. House wrens should be arriving any time, he says, and they’ll be looking for the same kinds of nest cavities.

“These waves of migratory birds that come back from parts south are amazing,” Bevis said.  Areas with open shrub-steppe habitats, interspersed with scattered conifers, offer excellent habitat for bluebirds, and make for interesting spring birding. These areas are abundant in Okanogan County, including Pipestone Canyon near Winthrop and the Cameron Lake road east of Omak. The glorious spring flowers are also arriving, with early balsamroot showing at lower elevations. Spring is the best season to get out birding.”

Those interested in providing nest cavity options for swallows, bluebirds and other cavity-nesting species can find details on building and locating nestboxes at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/projects/.

WDFW district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Moses Lake reports sandhill cranes can be observed south of Potholes Reservoir from Corfu to Othello.
 
“The cranes are typically found feeding in the disked grain and corn fields or flying overhead between fields and roost sites,” Finger said.  “Long-billed curlew can be found throughout the Seep Lakes Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area. Loggerhead shrikes should be arriving soon to nest in the dense sage on the north slopes of the Saddle Mountains.  Washington ground squirrel pups are emerging and can be seen throughout the Seep Lakes Unit, particularly along the Lind Coulee between Road M and O’Sullivan Dam.  Burrowing owls are arriving to nest in the Othello, Warden, and Quincy areas and can typically be found around the edges of farm fields and using old culverts or badger burrows in ditch banks.  Various species of shorebirds and loons can be found throughout the Coulee Corridor.”  

WDFW ungulate research biologist Woody Myers says now is the time to watch for deer foraging on newly-sprouted grasses and forbs. Look for them day-long in grasslands, pastures, low or mid elevation forest meadows, and other open areas of southern exposure. 

“But leave them alone and view only from a distance,” Myers said. Wildlife viewers who like to collect shed antlers of deer also need to avoid unduly disturbing animals at this time.

Southcentral Washington

Fishing: WDFW district fish biologist Paul Hoffarth of Pasco reminds anglers that steelhead fishing closes March 31 in many areas of eastern Washington. However, a one-mile section of shoreline in the Columbia River adjacent to WDFW's Ringold Hatchery will remain open through April 15. 

“This fishery is open to bank angling only,” said Hoffarth, noting that the daily catch limit is two hatchery-marked  steelhead.

Rainbow trout were recently planted in Dalton Lake, Quarry Pond, Columbia Park Pond (a juvenile-only water), and Marmes Pond in the Tri-Cities area. In addition, Dalton Lake and Powerline Lake will be planted with triploid trout by mid-April. 

Hoffarth said fishing for walleye, smallmouth bass, and channel catfish has been slow in recent days, but should pick up in the Columbia River, Walla Walla River, and Yakima River in the next couple of weeks.

April 19 is the deadline to register for the Tri-Cities Kids Fishing Event scheduled for May 1. For more information and registration forms, contact Kennewick Recreation at 509-585-4293 or online at http://www.ci.kennewick.wa.us/Recreational_Services/home.asp.

WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson of Yakima reports that all Yakima and Kittitas county year-round ponds are seeing heavy fishing action from earlier hatchery trout stocking.  The I-82 ponds #1, 2, and 3 each recently received nearly 2,500 rainbows weighing nearly a half-pound apiece. See all of the continuing hatchery stocking of local fisheries at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

As warmer spring conditions advance and more and different fish are biting, it’s a good time to take advantage of the new two-pole fishing opportunity.  Most fisheries in the southcentral region are open to the use of a second pole with the purchase of the two-pole endorsement – $24.50 with all surcharges and license dealer fees, $6.50 for seniors. For a list of excluded fisheries and all the details, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/twopole.

Hunting:  WDFW Colockum Wildlife Area manager Pete Lopushinsky says there are good spring wild turkey hunting opportunities on the 91,000-plus-acre area south of Wenatchee in Kittitas and Chelan counties. 

All Game Management Units (GMUs) throughout the region are open April 3-4 for spring wild turkey hunting for hunters under 16 years of age. The general spring wild turkey hunting season runs April 15-May 31. For all the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey/.

Another kind of popular spring “hunt” is for the shed antlers of deer and elk. WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area, west of Yakima where elk are winter-fed, is one of the most popular areas for shed hunting. Oak Creek’s new manager Ross Huffman reminds visitors that area and road closures – including Forest Service Road 1400 (Oak Creek Road), the Bethel Ridge Road which goes through the Oak Creek headquarters, and the Bethel Ridge/ Meloy Canyon Road – remain in effect until 6 a.m. on May 1 to limit disturbance to animals during the critical time of late winter and early spring.

Vehicle gates are closed to all entry on other wildlife areas in the region, too. The Mellotte Road into the Wenas Wildlife Area, the Robinson Canyon and Joe Watt Canyon roads into the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, and roads on the Whiskey Dick and a portion of the Quilomene wildlife areas in Kittitas County are closed until May 1 to protect elk.

WDFW biologists note that, even though advancing spring weather is leaving the memory of winter behind, deer, elk and other wildlife are still “winter-weary” and should not be unduly disturbed during the quest for “sheds.”

Wildlife viewing:  Some recently returning migrant song birds are still looking for nest sites. Secondary cavity nesters – those that will use, but not create for themselves, nests in tree cavities – will readily use man-made nest boxes.  These include bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches and swallows.  For detailed information about building and placing bird nest boxes, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/projects/.

WDFW Colockum Wildlife Area manager Pete Lopushinsky says early spring wildlife viewers will enjoy an earlier-than-usual bloom of shrub-steppe spring wildflowers this year with warmer weather. “Buttercups and balsamroot are the earliest ones,” Lopushinsky said,  “but soon you can find flowering lupines, fleabanes, penstemons, paintbrush, bitterroot, and other species.”  Colockum visitors can call the wildlife area at 509-663-6260 for a free "green dot road map" showing roads open to motorized vehicles.