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

May 12, 2010

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

Memorial Day signals great fishing,
birds and a bevy of young animals

With Memorial Day weekend coming up at the end of May, tens of thousands of Washingtonians are making plans to spend some time in the great outdoors. 

Those heading for the coast should watch for shorebirds - lots of them - flocking to ocean beaches on their way north.  Throughout the state, songbirds can be seen and heard at the height of nesting season.

Fishing opportunities are also abundant this time of year.  Depending on where you live and how far you’re prepared to drive, fishing options can include salmon, trout, halibut, lingcod, sturgeon and - on a more limited basis - shrimp.

The last razor-clam dig of the season is also set for May 15-16 at designated ocean beaches.

Clams diggers should be aware that sections of two beaches - Long Beach and Twin Harbors - are closed to the public to protect nesting western snowy plovers, which are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. 

"The birds are particularly vulnerable this time of year," said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "Signs clearly mark the area and instruct people to stay on the hard-packed sand." 

Snowy plovers aren’t the only wildlife species vulnerable to human activity right now.  Memorial Day arrives at a time when many young animals - from ducklings to bear cubs - are out and about.  

For that reason, wildlife managers at WDFW ask that people take a few precautions: 

  • Leave young animals alone, even if their parents do not appear to be nearby. The parents may be waiting for you to leave, and could become confrontational if you approach their young.
  • Store picnic and camp food out of reach of hungry bears and other animals. 
  • Camp and hike only in designated areas, preferably in groups that discourage close encounters with dangerous wildlife. 

For more information about wildlife and avoiding problems with wildlife, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/  

Meanwhile, big-game hunters should be aware that May 26 is the deadline for submitting special-permit applications for the 2010 season. For more information about the application process and the fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities available during the next few weeks, see the regional reports below:

North Puget Sound  

Fishing: Spring fisheries are under way and anglers have their pick of several fishing opportunities in the region. Halibut and lingcod seasons are open, shrimping is still an option in one marine area and hungry trout are biting at many of the region’s lakes.

WDFW is adding more trout this month to several of those lakes, including Lone Lake in Island County; Green, Meridian and Sawyer lakes in King County; Mountain Lake in San Juan County; Pass, Campbell and Vogler lakes in Skagit County; Gissburg Lake in Snohomish County; and Squalicum and Toad lakes in Whatcom County.

Under statewide rules, anglers have a daily limit of five trout on most lakes. Released legal-sized trout, caught with bait, count toward the daily bag limit. Complete information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html

Anglers should be aware that Rattlesnake Lake in King County, which opened to trout fishing April 24 with a five-fish limit, switched to a year-round, catch-and-release fishery May 1. Selective gear rules still apply.

On Puget Sound, anglers are hooking some nice lingcod . Catch counts at the Armeni Ramp indicate 15 anglers caught nine lingcod May 8 and seven anglers checked five lings the following day. Elsewhere, seven anglers at the Edmonds sling brought home six lingcod May 5, while 39 anglers checked at the Everett ramp caught seven lings May 9. During the hook-and-line season (May 1-June 15), there's a one-fish daily limit for lings, with a minimum size of 26 inches and a maximum size of 36 inches.

The halibut season also is under way. The season is scheduled to run through May 30 in marine areas 6-10, where fishing will be open three days a week - Thursday, Friday and Saturday - and closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when those marine areas will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Anglers have a daily limit of one halibut and there is no minimum size limit.

Shrimping is still an option in the north Sound, but only in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), which will be open May 21 and 22. Shrimp fisheries in marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) are closed. More details on the shrimp fishery are available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/ .

Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all fisheries on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit - two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information, a Wild Turkey Spring Season brochure is available at WDFW regional offices and on the department's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey
 
Big-game hunters should be aware that May 26 is the deadline for submitting special-permit applications for the 2010 season.  A random drawing will be held in late June to select hunters eligible for special permits, which qualify them to hunt at times and locations beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are included in the 2010-11 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, now available at WDFW offices, license vendors and at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations

Applications are available at ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/special_permits.html ) on the WDFW website and at license dealers throughout the state. Completed applications must be submitted via a toll-free telephone number (1-877-945-3492) or WDFW's website ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wa/specialhunt ). 

This year's application process includes a broader range of hunting options for deer, elk, moose and big-horn sheep, said Dave Ware, WDFW game division manager.  Hunters can submit applications for multiple categories of special hunts under the new system recently approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

Points accrued by hunters toward special permits in previous years will be applied to each of the new permit categories created under the new system.

Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags online, by phone, or from a licensed dealer for each species they wish to hunt.  The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age.

Wildlife viewing: A birder traveling on a ferry in Elliott Bay recently spotted two brown pelicans . Brown pelicans are coastal birds and are rarely found away from the ocean, where they are often looking for a meal. Their diet consists mostly of fish, such as anchovies and smelt, and the birds will often plunge headfirst into water to snatch their prey. After securing their catch, the birds throw their heads back to swallow the fish.

Meanwhile, there have been reports of Nashville warblers sighted throughout Seattle recently. Nashville warblers, which have bright yellow undersides, olive green wings and light gray heads, are uncommon visitors to the Seattle area. In some years, small pockets of the birds can be found in western Washington, usually in western Clark and Skamania counties, as well as along the Skagit River. The birds are often found in eastern Washington from mid-April to late August.


South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: Halibut, shrimp, lingcod, clams and trout dominated fishing in the first half of May and - with rivers set to open the first Saturday in June - the good times are just beginning.

Bad weather and nasty ocean conditions during parts of the razor-clam season last fall and winter will pay dividends May 15-16 when up to four ocean beaches will open for one last dig. Normally the diggers have met the annual beach harvest quotas by now, but this season’s slow start left enough clams for another May outing. The openings will begin on morning tides on the following beaches and end both days at noon:

  • Saturday, May 15, 8:15 a.m., -1.6 ft.: Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
  • Sunday, May 16, 8:58 a.m., -1.6 ft.: Long Beach, Twin Harbors only

Kalaloch beach in Olympic National Park will remain closed to clam digging both days.

Diggers should be aware that portions of the beach at Long Beach and Twin Harbors are closed to the public to protect nesting western snowy plovers, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
 
The closed portion at each beach includes the area above the mean high tide line. At Long Beach, the closed areas are located north of the Oysterville Road from the state park boundary north to Leadbetter Point. At Twin Harbors, the closed areas are located from just south of Midway Beach Road to the first beach-access trail at Grayland Beach State Park. Clam diggers are reminded that the entire northern section of Long Beach is closed to all driving starting at noon each day during this razor-clam opener.

Dan Ayres, WDFW’s coastal shellfish manager, estimates that by the time this dig closes 4 million razor-clams will have been harvested from Washington beaches. That is up considerably from the 2.9 million average for the past 10 years. So, too, is the number of diggers. Since the season opened last October, approximately 300,000 trips were made to dig clams, well over the 10-year average of 239,000 digger trips.

Shrimpers will also get another crack at a daily limit this month in Discovery Bay and in Marine Area 11 (Tacoma/Vashon).  After the catch for the initial openings in those areas, WDFW extended the season on the following days:

  • Discovery Bay Shrimp District :  7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, May 20, and Saturday, May 22.
  • Marine Area 11 :  7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, May 20

Discovery Bay opened to shrimping May 1 and May 5 for the first time since the season closed in 2005.  However, shrimping was fairly slow, allowing shrimpers additional time on the water.

The best shrimping earlier this month was on Hood Canal where Mark O’Toole, WDFW’s Puget Sound shrimp management biologist, described the season this way: "Last Wednesday 85 percent of the boats limited. Shrimping just doesn’t get any better than that."

In the three days it was open nearly 68,000 lbs. of shrimp were hauled in from Hood Canal, so it looks like Wednesday, May 12 will be the final day of the fishery. The abundance of shrimp wasn’t unexpected. When test pots were hauled up from Hood Canal in April they contained more shrimp then had been seen in pots there for the past decade.

Shrimping rules are published in the state’s annual Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which is available in stores that sell fishing licenses. That information is also available on WDFW’s web site at (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations ).

On the coast, halibut fishing also proved productive, once the weather improved.  "Rough weather delayed the openings at Ilwaco, but once the weather improved the fishing was pretty good," said Heather Reed, WDFW’s coastal marine resources policy coordinator. "At Ilwaco they averaged a half a fish per person, and the halibut were good size, averaging 23 lbs. There was great fishing out of Westport, but the fish were smaller - about 14 lbs. Neah Bay opens Thursday (May 13) and Port Angeles is going gangbusters."

At the end of this month, the Port Angeles Salmon Club will hold its annual Halibut Derby over Memorial Day weekend, May 29-30. The entry fee is $40, with $20,000 in prizes. To learn more go to http://www.olympicpeninsula.org/event/halibut-derby )

Halibut openings for Washington’s marine areas are:

  • Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 opened May 1, and will remain open three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or through July 18. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 6 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or through Sept. 26, whichever occurs first. The 2010 catch quota is 13,436 pounds.
  • South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 opened May 2, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 23). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area opened May 2, seven days per week and will remain open until the quota is reached. The 2010 catch quota is 35,887 pounds.
  • North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 13, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 22. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen June 3 and 5. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 17. The 2010 catch quota is 101,179 pounds.
  • Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 28 through June 19. Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 1 through May 30. These fisheries will be open three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2010 combined catch quota for these areas is 50,542 pounds.

Anglers should be aware of a couple of changes in effect for the first time this year in Marine Area 2. The retention of lingcod seaward of the 30 fathom line will be allowed on days that the primary halibut season is open. Also, the boundary of the northern nearshore area has changed so that it lines up with the coordinates of the 30-fathom line.  The northern nearshore area will go from 47 31.70 N. lat south to 46 58.00 N. lat and east of the 30 fathom line.

In the Strait and Puget Sound, the halibut and lingcod fishing was best up north. Creel counts at the Ediz Hook boat launch in Port Angeles had 258 anglers catching 147 halibut on May 7. The following day, at the same boat launch, creel counts showed 210 anglers with 68 halibut.

In the north Sound, anglers were having luck catching Pacific halibut, lingcod and kelp greenling off the Coronet Bay public ramp. In south and central Puget Sound, fishing was slow to non-existent.

With better weather, fishing for lingcod continues to improve off the coast, says Erica Crust, WDFW’s ocean port sampler. Crust observes that private boats have begun venturing out, and the catch rate on charter boats continues to be good.

Crust reminds anglers that recreational fishing for bottomfish (excluding lingcod during halibut season) is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms in Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) from March 15 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 .

On Saturday (May 15), hundreds of kids will show up at American Lake Park in Lakewood for this year’s Kid’s Fish-In event. For $10, kids 14 and under get a Zebco rod and reel, which they get to keep, a Kids’ Fish-In tee shirt and time on American Lake to catch a couple of good size trout. Pre-registration was required, but in the days leading up to the fish-in there were still time slots available. To learn more, or to sign up for the event, go to (http://www.gopaw.org/kids_fish-in_program ) or call (253) 983-7887. Or, say Lakewood Parks and Recreation officials, just show up Saturday.

To view which lakes have been stocked by WDFW, or soon will be, click on ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html .  For tips on fishing options by water and county go to (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/prospects/ ). 

Hunters: The amended hunting rules, approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, took effect May 1 and are included in WDFW’s new Big-Game Hunting pamphlet, which is available free where hunting licenses are sold, at WDFW offices and online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations .

The spring wild turkey season continues through the end of May 3. 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 .

Big-game hunters should be aware that May 26 is the deadline for submitting special-permit applications for the 2010 season.  A random drawing will be held in late June to select hunters eligible for special permits, which qualify them to hunt at times and locations beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are included in the 2010-11 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, now available at WDFW offices, license vendors and at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations

Applications are available at ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/special_permits.html ) on the WDFW website and at license dealers throughout the state. Completed applications must be submitted via a toll-free telephone number (1-877-945-3492) or WDFW's website ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wa/specialhunt ). 

This year's application process includes a broader range of hunting options for deer, elk, moose and big-horn sheep, said Dave Ware, WDFW game division manager.  Hunters can submit applications for multiple categories of special hunts under the new system recently approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

Points accrued by hunters toward special permits in previous years will be applied to each of the new permit categories created under the new system.

Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags online, by phone, or from a licensed dealer for each species they wish to hunt.  The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age.

Wildlife viewing: Late May and early June bring visitors from Mexico and South America to the Olympic Peninsula, and unlike some relatives their stay won’t last long. The neotropical migrants are song birds that spend only a short time nesting in the Pacific Northwest before heading back south. Tanagers, warblers, vireos and flycatchers are the last of the migratory birds to arrive, and they will leave in August or early September.

The Dungeness River Audubon Center in Sequim has scheduled four Thursday morning viewing sessions beginning May 27 and running through June 24.  The cost is $30 for River Center partners and $40 for non-members. For more information go to http://www.dungenessrivercenter.org/ and look for the Late Spring Migrants class.

There's still time to see plenty of migrating shorebirds during a visit to the coast. Shorebirds to look for in May include black-bellied plover, golden plovers, semipalmated plover, greater and lesser yellowlegs , whimbrel, marbled godwit, red knot, sanderling, western sandpiper , least sandpiper, dunlin , and short-billed and long-billed dowitcher . Many other species are possible, as they wing their way north to nesting areas in Alaska and Canada.

The wildlife mating season can mean problems for homeowners who don’t do a good job of sealing up openings to their homes. Skunks, raccoons and possums are common "nuisances" as they find crawl spaces, outbuildings and other nooks and crannies to set up housekeeping for their babies. Squirrels, moles, rabbits, marmots, snakes and bats preparing to raise families are also potential nuisances around houses.

WDFW staff advises removing as many attractants as possible to avoid problems. Close spaces - from basement window wells to attic rafters - and keep pet food and garbage inside. Backyard bird feeding enthusiasts should clean feed spilled on the ground or discontinue feeding altogether now.

For more information on dealing with wildlife, see WDFW's "Living With Wildlife" series at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/ .


Southwest Washington

Fishing: The spring chinook fishery is now closed on the mainstem Columbia River from the mouth to McNary Dam, but anglers are still catching springers on a number of tributaries to the big river.  In addition, sport fishing opens May 16 for hatchery steelhead and hatchery jack chinook below the Interstate 5 Bridge and for shad below Bonneville Dam.

Anglers will be allowed to catch and keep up to two hatchery steelhead as part of their six-salmonid daily limit in the mainstem Columbia. Shad don’t count, since there’s no daily limit or minimum size.

Meanwhile, there’s still a chance that the sport fishery could reopen for spring chinook on the Columbia, but only if the number of fish counted at Bonneville Dam significantly exceeds current expectations, said Guy Norman, WDFW regional manager for southwest Washington. 

"Given the catch to date, it doesn’t look like there’s room for more sport opportunity," Norman said.  "The run will have to bust out of the range on the high side to provide more opportunity."

Norman’s comments were based on a new run-size forecast of 350,000 upriver spring chinook, with a range of 330,000 to 370,000 fish.  The update is down from the pre-season forecast of 470,000, but would still represent the second or third-largest upriver run since at least 1938. The record is 440,000 fish in 2001 followed by the next year with nearly 335,000 fish.   

Lower river anglers caught 23,533 upriver spring chinook by the time fishing ended April 18. The catch above Bonneville Dam was expected to reach 3,400 fish by May 10, when fishing came to a close. 

Among the tributaries, Drano Lake was still the hotspot during the week ending May 9, when creel checks found that just over half of the boat anglers took home a spring chinook under crowded conditions.   Bank anglers averaged a fish for every 3.5 rods. Anglers are reminded the lake is closed to all fishing on Wednesdays through May.

Bank angling was slow on the Wind River last week, but just over 40 percent of the boat anglers caught a spring chinook.  Conditions can also get crowded on the Wind, although fishing is now open above Shipherd Falls, helping to relieve some of the pressure.  Fishing above the falls is open upstream to within 800 yards of the Carson National Fish Hatchery, but is closed 400 feet below the coffer dam and 100 feet upstream of the coffer dam.

Elsewhere, anglers have been catching a mix of hatchery spring chinook and hatchery summer-run steelhead on the Kalama, Lewis, Cowlitz and Klickitat rivers.  Deep River recently re-opened from the mouth to town bridge, providing additional fishing opportunities for both species. Lake Scanewa, on the upper Cowlitz River, is also now open for hatchery spring chinook fishing. The lower East Fork Lewis and Washougal rivers are open to fishing for hatchery summer run steelhead under selective gear rules (no bait) until the general season begins in early June.

Anglers fishing the Kalama and Lewis rivers can keep one marked adult chinook a day, plus two marked adult steelhead. Those fishing the Cowlitz River can keep two hatchery adult chinook per day, and can also take up to three hatchery steelhead per day under a recent rule change that took effect May 22. Reflecting strong returns, catch limits were also increased to four spring chinook per day on the Wind River and at Drano Lake.  In all cases (except the upper Wind River), unmarked wild fish must be released.

Mark-selective fishing rules will also be in place during the summer chinook fishery, which opens June 16 from the mouth of the Columbia River to Priest Rapids Dam.  Anglers will be allowed to keep up to two marked hatchery fish but will be required to release any wild summer chinook they intercept.

With 89,000 summer chinook expected this year, fishery managers hope to keep the fishery open from mid-June through July, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  Moving to a selective fishery will help ensure a full season, while preserving wild broodstock for the new Chief Joseph Hatchery, scheduled to open in 2012, he said.

Starting May 22, fishing for white sturgeon will open seven days per week through late June below the Wauna powerlines on the mainstem Columbia River. The daily limit is one fish with a minimum fork length of 41 inches and a maximum of 54 inches.  Hymer said sturgeon fishing has been picking up above the Wauna powerlines, where more than a hundred boats and 62 bank anglers were counted during a recent overflight.

Above Wauna, anglers may retain one white sturgeon per day between 38 inches and 54 inches in fork length on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  Anglers are reminded Bonneville Dam downstream 9 miles to Marker 82 is closed to fishing for sturgeon and Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock is closed to fishing for all species including sturgeon.

In The Dalles Pool, boat anglers have been catching bass and walleye , while those fishing Merwin and Yale reservoirs have been reeling in kokanee .  Anglers with an appetite for trout should be aware that the following waters were stocked during the first week of May:

  • Fort Borst Park Pond near Centralia: 2,019 catchable size rainbows.
  • Lewis Co. Park Pond near Toledo: 580 triploid trout averaging 1.5 pounds each.
  • Lake Sacajawea in Longview: 2,222 catchable size rainbows.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. For more information, a Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet is available on the department's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey/ .
 
Big-game hunters should be aware that May 26 is the deadline for submitting special-permit applications for the 2010 season.  A random drawing will be held in late June to select hunters eligible for special permits, which qualify them to hunt at times and locations beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are included in the 2010-11 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, now available at WDFW offices, license vendors and at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations

Applications are available at ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/special_permits.html ) on the WDFW website and at license dealers throughout the state. Completed applications must be submitted via a toll-free telephone number (1-877-945-3492) or WDFW's website ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wa/specialhunt ). 

This year's application process includes a broader range of hunting options for deer, elk, moose and big-horn sheep, said Dave Ware, WDFW game division manager.  Hunters can submit applications for multiple categories of special hunts under the new system recently approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

Points accrued by hunters toward special permits in previous years will be applied to each of the new permit categories created under the new system.

Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags online, by phone, or from a licensed dealer for each species they wish to hunt.  The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age.

Wildlife viewing: With 7,000 to 8,000 spring chinook salmon now moving past Bonneville Dam each day, there's no time like the present to stop by the Washington Shore Visitor Complex for a look. Underwater windows give visitors a prime view of salmon - and increasing numbers of steelhead and shad - parading up the fish ladder.  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.

Rather watch birds?  This is also prime time to see mountain bluebirds flocking to the fields around Bickleton, known as the Bluebird Capital of the World. The tiny birds return each spring to feed on insects found in the low-growing grasses in that portion of Klickitat County.  Many nest in the hundreds of tiny birdhouses placed atop fence posts by local residents.  See http://bluebirds.bickleton.org/Bluebirds.htm for more information.

Meanwhile, a Longview birder recently reported sighting a blue-winged teal near the ponds along Imboden Road just north of Trinity Drive.  While there, he also spotted a long-billed dowitcher , a spotted sandpiper , a least sandpiper and a number of common teal .


Eastern Washington

Fishing:   Glen Mendel, WDFW district fish biologist in Dayton, said the latest creel checks show hatchery spring chinook salmon fishing on the Snake River is starting to pick up in the Clarkston area.

The last check in the Ice Harbor Dam area shows 11 shore anglers with one harvested hatchery chinook for an average catch rate of 66 hours per fish, and nine boat anglers with two harvested hatchery chinook and one released wild chinook for an average catch rate of 42 hours per kept fish.  About 300 chinook have been harvested in the fishery since it opened April 20.

Creel checks in the Little Goose Dam area show 44 anglers on the "wall" (walkway area in front of the juvenile fish collection facility near the dam) with seven harvested hatchery chinook and one released wild chinook for an average catch rate of 29 hours per fish kept; 71 shore anglers with 13 harvested hatchery chinook and eight released wild chinook for an average catch rate of 33 hours per kept fish; and 16 boat anglers with no fish.

Meanwhile, creel checks in the Lower Granite Dam area show seven shore anglers with no fish and three boat anglers with one released wild chinook. The Clarkston area fishery check showed five shore anglers with one harvested hatchery chinook for an average catch rate of about nine hours per fish kept, and 23 boat anglers with three harvested hatchery chinook for an average catch rate of 36 hours per fish kept.

Mendel notes that updates on run numbers are expected soon. Anglers should check WDFW’s website for any changes in the fishery.
 
Only hatchery-marked (adipose-fin-clipped) chinook of at least 12 inches can be retained in these fisheries, with a daily catch limit of two adults and four jacks (less than 24 inches). One exception on the catch limit is in the area near Little Goose Dam, including the "wall," where only one jack and one adult can be retained. All steelhead and all wild chinook must be released immediately. Barbless hooks no larger than 5/8-inch from point to shank are required for all species except sturgeon. See all the rule details at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=887 .
 
Rainbow trout fishing continues to be productive at many of the region’s well-stocked waters.  WDFW Spokane Fish Hatchery Manager Ace Trump recently reported seeing five-fish limits reeled in within three to four hours by a couple of anglers at southern Stevens County’s Deer Lake. "They were pulling plugs and fishing between four and 12 feet down and staying in around 15 feet of water," Trump said.  "They picked up most of their fish in the narrows.  I was pulling plugs at around 18 to 20 feet down in 22 to 30 feet of water and picked up one rainbow and two fairly nice lake trout ."
 
WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Manager Juli Anderson said rainbows are biting at the area’s walk-in-only Z-Lake. Anderson reminds anglers that rattlesnakes and ticks are out now with warmer weather, so be prepared.

Hunting:   Spring wild turkey hunting continues through May 31 and most of the effort is in the northeast Game Management Units 101-136 in Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Lincoln counties. That’s where the greatest overall abundance of turkeys in the state is found.
 
WDFW Sherman Creek Wildlife Area Manager Juli Anderson said turkey hunters are searching the 9,000-acre area, located along the west side of Lake Roosevelt, in the eastern foothills of the Kettle River Range in Ferry County, about three miles northwest of the town of Kettle Falls. She reminds hunters that with warmer weather, rattlesnakes and ticks are out in force.
 
Turkey hunting tag-holders must report hunting activity after the seasons, and harvest should be reported within 10 days of taking a turkey. For all the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey .
 
The spring black bear permit hunting season also continues through the end of May. For all the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/bear_cougar/ .

Big-game hunters should be aware that May 26 is the deadline for submitting special-permit applications for the 2010 season.  A random drawing will be held in late June to select hunters eligible for special permits, which qualify them to hunt at times and locations beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are included in the 2010-11 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, now available at WDFW offices, license vendors and at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations

Applications are available at ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/special_permits.html ) on the WDFW website and at license dealers throughout the state. Completed applications must be submitted via a toll-free telephone number (1-877-945-3492) or WDFW's website ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wa/specialhunt ). 

This year's application process includes a broader range of hunting options for deer, elk, moose and big-horn sheep, said Dave Ware, WDFW game division manager.  Hunters can submit applications for multiple categories of special hunts under the new system recently approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

Points accrued by hunters toward special permits in previous years will be applied to each of the new permit categories created under the new system.

Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags online, by phone, or from a licensed dealer for each species they wish to hunt.  The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age.

Ospreys nestingWildlife viewing:   Wildlife viewing at this time can become too close for comfort as warmer weather draws more people outdoors into wildlife habitat. Black bears , in particular, can become a problem, said WDFW’s eastside bear and cougar specialist Rich Beausoleil. Most of the forested parts of eastern Washington are bear country, he said, so anyone exploring the great outdoors needs to be "bear aware" to avoid conflicts.

"Bears are omnivores like us, they eat virtually everything, and they have an extraordinary sense of smell," Beausoleil said. "So you need to be aware of what’s in your backpack, on your picnic table, or in your tent. If you live in bear country, you need to remove food attractants, including birdseed feeders, hummingbird nectar feeders, pet food, garbage, compost piles, and unclean barbecue grills."

WDFW Enforcement Officer Mike Johnson of Walla Walla reports at least one pair of ospreys isn’t too fussy about their nest location. Johnson recently spotted and photographed the birds nesting atop an asphalt plant near Mill Creek, a tributary of the Walla Walla River, which runs through town.

Wildlife watchers headed for WDFW’s West Branch Little Spokane River Wildlife Area near the Spokane-Pend Oreille county line are advised of many downed trees from recent windstorms. WDFW area manager Juli Anderson reminds visitors that the entire area is walk-in-only, "so folks will have to climb over logs if they hike the trails." Anderson also reminds all outdoor recreationists that rattlesnakes and ticks are out with warmer weather, so be prepared.


Northcentral Washington

Fishing:   With an expectation of about 11,000 spring chinook salmon on their way to the Icicle River in Chelan County, a fishery will begin May 13 on a section of that waterway.

WDFW Northcentral region fish program manager Jeff Korth says up to two salmon of 12-inch minimum size can be harvested daily in the Icicle River from the closure signs located 800 feet upstream of the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.

Korth says that although upper Columbia River spring chinook have been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the salmon returning to the Icicle River are not listed under the ESA.  With about 1,000 salmon needed for hatchery broodstock, the size of this year’s run means remaining fish will be available for harvest.  A night closure will be in effect. Anglers must release fish with one or more round holes punched in the tail of the fish (caudal fin).  These fish are part of a study and have been anesthetized so there is a 21-day ban on consumption of these fish.
 
The Icicle salmon fishery is expected to run through July 31.

WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports that despite recent cooler weather, Pearrygin Lake, Conconully Reservoir and Conconully Lake continue to provide good fishing for rainbow trout.  Most fish coming out of those waters are running 10-12 inches with winter-carryover fish up to 15 inches.  WDFW Enforcement Officer Cal Treser recently checked shore fishermen on Pearrygin who averaged two fish each.
 
Jateff also reports selective-gear-rule lakes such as Big Twin and the Sinlahekin’s Blue are producing good catches of rainbows in the 12-16 inch range.  Rat Lake, near the town of Brewster, is catch-and-release-only under selective gear rules and can provide some very fast fishing for rainbows 10-14 inches, plus a few brown trout .  Aeneas is a fly fishing only lake, but is producing excellent catches of rainbow in the 14-16 inch range in addition to brown trout up to 18 inches.

Treser also reported shore anglers at year-round Patterson Lake, west of Winthrop, were recently using Powerbait to catch trout. A boat angler on Patterson was catching a lot of yellow perch .
 
"Fishermen need to remember to pick up their waste fishing line and lure wrappers," Treser said. "I have had a couple of birds recently entangled by fishing line, including one loon."

Hunting:   WDFW district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin of Winthrop reports "decent" wild turkey hunting opportunities continue in the Okanogan through the end of the spring season on May 31. Game Management Units 215, 233, 239 and 204 are the best bets, he says.
 
Remember that turkey hunting tag-holders must report hunting activity after the seasons and harvest should be reported within 10 days of taking a turkey. For all the rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/turkey .

Big-game hunters should be aware that May 26 is the deadline for submitting special-permit applications for the 2010 season.  A random drawing will be held in late June to select hunters eligible for special permits, which qualify them to hunt at times and locations beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are included in the 2010-11 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, now available at WDFW offices, license vendors and at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations

Applications are available at ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/special_permits.html ) on the WDFW website and at license dealers throughout the state. Completed applications must be submitted via a toll-free telephone number (1-877-945-3492) or WDFW's website ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wa/specialhunt ). 

This year's application process includes a broader range of hunting options for deer, elk, moose and big-horn sheep, said Dave Ware, WDFW game division manager.  Hunters can submit applications for multiple categories of special hunts under the new system recently approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

Points accrued by hunters toward special permits in previous years will be applied to each of the new permit categories created under the new system.

Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags online, by phone, or from a licensed dealer for each species they wish to hunt.  The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age.

Wildlife viewing: Wildlife viewing at this time could become too close for comfort, either as warmer weather draws more people outdoors into wildlife habitat, or as hungry wild animals take advantage of unintended meals.

Black bears , in particular, can become a problem, as WDFW’s eastside bear and cougar specialist Rich Beausoleil can attest. Most of the forested parts of eastern Washington are bear country, he says, so anyone exploring the great outdoors needs to be "bear aware" to avoid conflicts.

"Bears are omnivores like us, they eat virtually everything, and they have an extraordinary sense of smell," Beausoleil said, "so you need to be aware of what’s in your backpack, on your picnic table, or in your tent. If you live in bear country, you need to remove food attractants, including bird seed feeders, hummingbird nectar feeders, pet food, garbage, compost piles, and unclean barbecue grills."

Beausoleil said that too often human-bear conflicts result in a bear being killed. A fed bear is a dead bear," he said. "We all need to take preventative action to avoid that, and keep enjoying bears from a respectable distance."

WDFW district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin of Winthrop agrees that black bears can be enjoyed from a distance at this time of year.

"Use your binoculars and scopes to look for them in wet meadows and riparian areas at lower elevations and in recently greened-up areas in avalanche chutes, particularly at dawn and dusk," he said.

Fitkin also says birding opportunities are heating up in the Okanogan District. "Lots of breeding and migrating song birds and waterfowl are on the wildlife areas right now," he said. "The Sinlahekin and Methow Wildlife Areas are particularly good bets for bird watching now."

WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Moses Lake says May is a great month for birding in the Basin, too.

"Birds are moving through on their northward migration, wildflowers are still in bloom, and the temperature is relatively mild," Finger said.  "In addition to the more common small Canada geese , primarily Taverner’s and Lessers, we’re also seeing white-fronted geese and snow geese moving through the Columbia Plateau.  Western Canada geese can be seen with goslings by now.
 
"Colonial nesting birds are beginning to show up in numbers around Potholes Reservoir including ring-billed and California gulls, Forster’s, Caspian , and black terns , and Western and Clark’s grebes . They’re all ready to begin nesting on the sandy islands and the emergent shoreline vegetation.  Herons, egrets , and cormorants are congregating in the North Potholes Reserve to begin nesting in relative safety of the flooded willow trees.
 
"Other species commonly seen now around Potholes Reservoir include the Bullock’s oriole , and various species of swallows , sandpipers , and yellowlegsCanyon and rock wrens can be heard calling from within the nearby coulees throughout the Seep Lakes Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area and Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Long-billed curlews are still common in this area as well.  Kinglets and warblers can be observed in the riparian zones here.

Quality shrub steppe habitats can reveal Brewer’s and Sage sparrows , sage thrashers and loggerhead shrikes .  Several species of loons can be observed on the Columbia River or on the lakes of the Coulee Corridor area."
              
WDFW wildlife biologist Ron Fox notes that WDFW's Beebe Springs Natural Area in Chelan County officially opened to the public May 12 and is a good spot for watching spawning steelhead through the month of May. The 180-acre area lies along Highway 97 south of Chelan on the Lake Entiat reservoir of the Columbia River, adjacent to the Chelan Fish Hatchery.

This ongoing project includes created side channels of the river and restoration of Beebe Springs Creek for spawning and rearing of both salmon and steelhead. Fox says the restoration of shrub steppe and riparian vegetation is "in process" so look very closely for the newly emerging vegetation. The area has a parking lot, almost a mile of hiking trail, an interpretive kiosk, and a vault toilet.


Southcentral Washington

Fishing for spring chinook salmon is closed from the mouth of the Columbia River to McNary Dam, but anglers are catching an increasing number of springers in the Yakima River.

Paul Hoffarth, WDFW district fish biologist from Pasco, reports that an estimated 20 hatchery spring chinooks were harvested in the lower Yakima River during the week ending May 9. In addition, eight wild chinook were caught and released. Anglers averaged 39 hours per chinook, up slightly from a year ago.

Creel reports indicate an estimated 225 adult hatchery marked (clipped fin) spring chinook were harvested at Ringold for the week of May 3-9.  An estimated 44 wild chinook were caught and released.  WDFW staff interviewed 166 anglers, 18 percent of the effort during the week. Anglers averaged one chinook for 17 hours of fishing, eight hours better than a year ago. For the season, 301 hatchery steelhead have been harvested.

Hoffarth reminds anglers that, because of budget cuts, this will be the last spring chinook fishery at the Ringold. It will remain open for hatchery steelhead and other species.

The daily limit is two hatchery-marked chinook (clipped and healed adipose fin) of at least 12 inches. Wild salmon (adipose fin intact) must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release. Anglers are permitted to use up to two, single-point hooks (barbed or barbless). Treble hooks are not permitted.   Use of bait is allowed. Fishing for steelhead remains closed. All steelhead must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release. For all rule details, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations .

Eric Anderson, WDFW’s district fish biologist for Yakima and Kittitas counties says there have been lots of anglers on the Yakima River, and that fishing has begun to pick up after a slow start.

"We’re seeing more fish in the river," said Anderson. "Just yesterday (May 11) anglers kept six hatchery fish and released seven wild salmon. The hatchery is continuing to stock catchable-size trout in area lakes and ponds."

Many of the region’s lakes are open and stocked year-round. A schedule of all lake trout stocking can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/ .

Anderson and Hoffarth remind anglers that many streams in central and eastern Washington will remain closed until the June 5 opener to protect downstream migrating salmon and steelhead smolts and spawning trout and steelhead. 

Anderson and Hoffarth note that the Yakima Greenway Path and several boat launches provide excellent access to the Yakima River from Selah to Union Gap. Maps can be found at http://www.yakimagreenway.org/map.html .

There is also access at Harrison Road and from the Yakima Canyon Highway above Harrison Road. Boaters should be aware that the river can be a challenge to float, particularly from the Terrace Heights Bridge down to Century Landing at Union Gap. For the lower reach of the Yakima, access maps are posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/whenwhere/area.html .  
 
Hunting: Spring wild turkey hunters are reminded that unless they’re planning to hunt the fall season, they should report turkey hunting activity - whether successful or not - after the season closes May 31. Those who do intend to apply for a fall turkey hunting permit or plan to participate in a fall general turkey season should wait to report spring hunting after the fall season. Reports, which must include turkey tag number, game management units hunted, number of days hunted, and specifics about any harvested birds, can be filed by toll-free telephone at 1-877-945-3492 or on the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov .

Big-game hunters should be aware that May 26 is the deadline for submitting special-permit applications for the 2010 season.  A random drawing will be held in late June to select hunters eligible for special permits, which qualify them to hunt at times and locations beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are included in the 2010-11 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, now available at WDFW offices, license vendors and at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations

Applications are available at ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/special_permits.html ) on the WDFW website and at license dealers throughout the state. Completed applications must be submitted via a toll-free telephone number (1-877-945-3492) or WDFW's website ( https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wa/specialhunt ). 

This year's application process includes a broader range of hunting options for deer, elk, moose and big-horn sheep, said Dave Ware, WDFW game division manager.  Hunters can submit applications for multiple categories of special hunts under the new system recently approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

Points accrued by hunters toward special permits in previous years will be applied to each of the new permit categories created under the new system.

Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags online, by phone, or from a licensed dealer for each species they wish to hunt.  The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age.

Wildlife viewing:   With warming weather and the Memorial Day weekend approaching, wildlife viewing may become closer than is comfortable for both people and animals.  Encounters with some species like black bears, coyotes and cougars can be potentially dangerous, particularly if they have newborns in tow. WDFW officials say following some basic rules when recreating outdoors, or simply living in wildlife habitat, can minimize chances of problems:

  • Don’t intentionally or unintentionally feed wildlife; keep camps and property clean by storing food and garbage securely
  • Stay in groups while hiking and camping
  • Leave dogs and other pets at home
  • Be alert and aware of your surroundings to avoid surprising wild animals
  • Give wild animals plenty of space to leave you alone
  • Never approach a wild animal

For more on what to do in close encounters, see WDFW’s "Living With Wildlife" series at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/ .

The other problem at this time of year concerns young wildlife, which can become the victims of well-meaning but uninformed people. WDFW officials remind everyone to leave wild babies in the wild, even if they look abandoned or orphaned. Baby birds and deer fawns are too often picked up while parent animals are still in the area, and brought to WDFW wildlife rehabilitators when they don’t need help at all. Picking up wildlife of any kind not only can be harmful to the animal, it’s technically illegal.

Also making an appearance now are many species of wildflowers . Hikers and wildlife viewers should remember that with warm weather comes rattlesnakes , and that an eye needs to be kept out for them, too. 

All outdoor recreationists are reminded that most WDFW lands in the south central region do not allow camp fires or any other kinds of open fires. Jody Taylor, Wenas Wildlife Area assistant manager, asks campers to be careful with barbecue grill ashes by drowning them with water and disposing of them properly.

Taylor says information about wildlife area public conduct rules is included in both the fishing and hunting rules pamphlets. Those rules allow campfires of up to three feet in diameter, and only where fires are allowed.

"Check with the wildlife area headquarters office or the Yakima regional office about what you can and cannot do before heading out," Taylor said.