||The latest in fish and wildlife recreational opportunities across Washington State
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Anglers are reeling in halibut from the ocean, sturgeon from the Columbia River and trout from lakes throughout the state. In the next few weeks, they'll also be able to catch salmon off the coast and trout from dozens of rivers and streams from the Olympic Peninsula to Pend Oreille County.
Sound like fun? Those interested in fishing but haven't actually given it a try will have a perfect chance to do so during Free Fishing Weekend, scheduled June 12-13.
During those two days, no license will be required to fish or gather shellfish in any waters open to fishing in Washington state. Also, no vehicle use permit will be required during Free Fishing Weekend to park at any of the 500 water-access sites maintained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
"Free Fishing Weekend is a great time to revive an old hobby or to introduce friends and family to fishing," said Craig Burley, WDFW fish division manager. "Adults can introduce kids to fishing on a wide variety of waters around the state."
While no licenses are required on Free Fishing Weekend, other rules such as size limits, bag limits and season closures will still be in effect. (For that reason, no crab fishing will be allowed in Puget Sound during Free Fishing Weekend, because no areas will be open for crabbing at that time.) Anglers will also be required to complete a catch record card for any salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or halibut they catch that weekend.
Catch record cards and WDFW's Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet are available free at hundreds of sporting goods stores and other license dealers throughout the state. The rules pamphlet is also posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.
Of course, fishing opportunities don't begin and end with Free Fishing Weekend. For anglers with a fishing license, salmon fishing off the Washington coast is scheduled to run until mid-September. Others can look forward to crab fishing in Puget Sound, set to begin June 18 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu) and 13 (south Puget Sound).
Meanwhile, anglers and everyone else spending time outdoors should be aware that adult birds and animals - often with everything from ducklings to bear cubs in tow - are out and about now. Enjoy them from a respectable distance, and to avoid problems, take the following 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.
More information about wildlife and avoiding problems with wildlife is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/ . For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities available in the days ahead, see the regional reports below:
Fishing: Spring fishing seasons are winding down in the marine areas, but saltwater anglers are still catching halibut and lingcod. In the freshwater, anglers are having some success at lakes around the region, where numerous rivers will soon open for trout and - in a few waters - salmon.
Portions of the Skagit and Cascade rivers open for chinook salmon fishing June 1. The Skagit will open to hatchery chinook retention from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River, said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. On the Cascade, anglers will be allowed to fish for salmon from the mouth of the river to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge. Both stretches are open through July 15. The daily limit on the Skagit and Cascade rivers will be four hatchery chinook, two of which may be adults (chinook salmon at least 24 inches in length).
Fishing for salmon, as well as trout and other gamefish , also will open June 1 on portions of the Skykomish River . Salmon fishing will be allowed from the mouth to the Wallace River, Thiesfeld said. For salmon, anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook.
The Stillaguamish River below Marine Drive also will re-open June 1 for trout and other gamefish. Thiesfeld said anglers should be aware that a section of the South Fork Stillaguamish River was mistakenly omitted from the new sportfishing rules pamphlet. That section of the Stillaguamish, from Mountain Loop Highway Bridge upstream, will open for gamefish June 5. For more information on the South Fork Stillaguamish regulations, as well as the Stillaguamish River opener, check WDFW's emergency rules website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ .
Elsewhere, trout fishing will open at several of the region's other rivers and streams beginning June 5. Under the statewide rule for trout, there is a two-fish daily limit and a minimum size of eight inches in rivers and streams. However, some of the region's rivers and streams have a rule requiring trout to be at least 14 inches in length to keep.
Meanwhile, lake fishing for bass, bluegill, perch , and crappie is steadily improving as water temperatures increase and fish become more active, said Danny Garrett, WDFW fisheries biologist. When fishing for these species, focus on areas where there are bridge pilings, boat docks, rock, submerged trees and bushes, grass beds, lily pads, and flooded vegetation along the shoreline, he said.
"Smallmouth bass use many of the same habitats as largemouth bass, but smallmouth are often more abundant around rocky points, riprap, and offshore rock piles," Garrett said. "Both species are highly adaptive to specific lake conditions, and habitat use will vary from lake to lake." For smallmouth and largemouth bass, Garrett recommends using spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits, jigs, and plastic baits that include worms, tubes, and creature baits.
Perch and bluegill can also be caught with an assortment of artificial jigs, spinners, and flies, although many people prefer to use live worms under a bobber, he said. Anglers fishing for perch and bluegill should try fishing around several different pieces of cover in the lake until a group of fish is found. "Generally, a single, small area will produce many individuals, since both species tend to congregate in large groups," he said.
Lakes where anglers can find quality bass and panfish fishing include Lakes Whatcom and Terrell in Whatcom County; Lake Goodwin in Snohomish County; Big Lake in Skagit County; Lakes Washington, Union and Sammamish in King County.
On Puget Sound, the northern portion of Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) opens June 1 to catch-and-release fishing for salmon. Fishing will be allowed north of a line from Point Monroe to Meadow Point.
Farther north, the Tulalip Bay "bubble" fishery begins June 4. Except for a one-day closure on June 19, the fishery is open each week from Friday through noon Monday through Sept. 6. The fishery will reopen Sept. 11 on a Saturday and Sunday-only schedule through Sept. 26. Anglers fishing the bubble will have a two-salmon daily limit. Chinook must measure 22 inches in length to retain.
Fishing for lingcod is still an option. The fishery runs through June 15 in the region. 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.
Time is running out to hook a halibut . The last opener of the season in marine areas 6-10 is scheduled for May 28-30. Anglers have a daily limit of one halibut and there is no minimum size limit.
The region's spot shrimp fishery is closed, but shrimpers can soon fish for coonstripe and pink shrimp in some marine areas beginning June 1. For details on shrimp fisheries check 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/ .
Washingtonians who are interested in fishing but haven't actually given it a try have a perfect chance to do so during Free Fishing Weekend , scheduled June 12-13. During those two days, no license will be required to fish or gather shellfish in any waters open to fishing in Washington state. Also, no vehicle use permit will be required during Free Fishing Weekend to park at any of the water-access sites maintained by WDFW.
In addition, anglers will not need a Two Pole Endorsement to fish with two poles on thousands of lakes statewide, nor will they need a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement, otherwise required to fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries.
While no licenses are required on Free Fishing Weekend, other rules such as size limits, bag limits and season closures will still be in effect. Anglers will also be required to complete a catch record card for any salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or halibut they catch. Catch record cards and WDFW's Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet are available free at hundreds of sporting goods stores and other license dealers throughout the state.
Hunting: Only a few days remain in the spring wild turkey season. The season runs through May 31, and 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 .
Wildlife viewing: On a recent visit to the Three Forks Natural Area in Snoqualmie, a couple of birders sighted a Lazuli bunting . Lazulis are similar to western bluebirds, but smaller. Often heard singing, the young males develop individual songs early on that they sing for the rest of their lives. Lazuli Buntings are often found in eastern Washington, but can be seen west of the Cascades at Fort Lewis, in the Vancouver area of Clark County, along the Skagit and Cowlitz rivers, and on the Muckleshoot prairies near Enumclaw.
On Puget Sound, gray whale sightings continue in the waters around Whidbey and Camano Islands, orca whales have been spotted as far north as Vancouver, B.C., and minke whales near Hein Bank in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Fishing: Anglers fishing for halibut, lingcod, steelhead and lake trout will soon have some other options to consider. Starting June 5, dozens of area rivers will open for trout fishing and all four marine areas off the Washington coast will open to fishing for hatchery chinook salmon June 12.
In addition, the first three areas of Puget Sound - marine areas 4, 5 and 13 - will open for crab fishing June 18.
"People have been looking forward to these fisheries all year long," said Ron Warren, regional WDFW fish manager. "Fishing really shifts into high gear as we move into the summer season."
Anyone interested in getting a sneak preview of what's to come can do so during Free Fishing Weekend , scheduled June 12-13 this year. During those two days, no license will be required to fish or gather shellfish in any waters open to fishing in Washington state. Also, no vehicle use permit will be required during Free Fishing Weekend to park at any of the 600 water-access sites maintained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
While no licenses are required on Free Fishing Weekend, other rules such as size limits, bag limits and season closures will still be in effect. (For that reason, no crab fishing will be allowed in Puget Sound during Free Fishing Weekend, because no areas will be open to crabbing at that time.) Anglers will also be required to complete a catch record card for any salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or halibut they catch that weekend.
Catch record cards and WDFW's Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet are available free at hundreds of sporting goods stores and other license dealers throughout the state. The pamphlet is also available on WDFW's website at (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ).
Meanwhile, anglers continue to reel in halibut in a number of coastal areas - weather and ocean conditions permitting. WDFW recently announced that marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) off the north coast will reopen June 3 and 5, after low catches due to rough weather left 43,367 pounds of the big flatfish available for harvest.
"Halibut fishing has been great when the weather cooperates," says Erica Crust, a WDFW ocean port sampler. "The first week of the north coast opener yielded great success rates and fish averaging just over 20 pounds. But the second week saw lower success rates due to the poor weather, when anglers couldn't get out to the more popular fishing grounds."
Here's a status report on other coastal halibut fisheries:
- Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 remains 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): In Marine Area 2 the recreational halibut fishery closed May 25 with the exception that halibut fishing is allowed in the northern nearshore area seven days a week until further notice.
- 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 28-30. The 2010 combined catch quota for these areas is 50,542 pounds.
"Time is running out to catch halibut in Puget Sound," Crust said. While fishing has generally been slow, an exception is the area around Port Angeles, where anglers have had some success with landing halibut along with a few greenlings, lingcod and cabezon .
Coming up the weekend of May 29-30 is the Port Angeles Salmon Club's annual halibut derby. The entry fee is $40, with $20,000 in prizes. To learn more go to http://www.olympicpeninsula.org/event/halibut-derby .
The lingcod season in Puget Sound continues through June 15 in marine areas 5-13. Lingcod season on the coast (marine areas 1-4) is open through mid-October.
But the main event for many Washington anglers is the salmon fishery that opens off the Washington coast June 12. The first part of the season, targeting hatchery chinook, runs seven days a week through June 30 in marine areas 1-4. Anglers will be required to release wild chinook (which can be identified by an intact adipose fin) and all coho.
Nearly 653,000 fall chinook are forecasted to return to the Columbia River this season, about 234,000 more chinook than the number returning last year. This year's coastwide chinook quota is 61,000 fish, compared to 20,500 last year.
"This is the first season we will have a selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean," said WDFW Director Phil Anderson. "By using this management tool we can meet our conservation goals and give anglers an additional opportunity to fish for hatchery chinook in the ocean."
Anglers also will be allowed to catch and keep hatchery coho during the second part of the season, which is scheduled to run from early July through mid September. For more information on ocean salmon season, see the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet, available free from license dealers and posted online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .
Hunting: Only a few days remain in the spring wild turkey season, which runs through May 31 throughout the state. 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 .
Wildlife viewing: The May-June bird migration from Mexico and South America has birders out in force across the state and throughout the region. On a birding trip through South Sound and the Peninsula you likely can spot a scrub jay in Shelton and a red-breasted sapsucker at the WDFW George Adams fish hatchery.
Other birds that can be spotted this time of year include yellow and yellow-rumped warblers, common yellowthroat, trumpeter swans, cedar waxwings, Townsend's solitaires, slate-colored fox sparrows, gray jays, pine grosbeaks and northern pygmy owls .
To see what other bird watchers are viewing around the region this time of year go to the Tweeters' website at http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/TWET.html .
Fishing: The mainstem Columbia River is closed to fishing for adult spring chinook salmon and the summer chinook fishery doesn't open until June 16. Still, anglers are finding plenty to do as salmon and steelhead continue moving up the tributaries, retention of white sturgeon in the Columbia River estuary has reopened, and the shad season is now under way below Bonneville Dam.
Anglers fishing between the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line and the Interstate 5 bridge have also been catching hatchery steelhead and hatchery chinook jacks, although turnout has been relatively light since the season opened May 16.
"There's no obvious standout right now, but anglers have a lot of opportunities to catch fish if they are willing spend some time at it," said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. "Some of these fisheries are just getting started, and will only get better in the weeks ahead."
Whatever fishery they choose, veteran anglers can expect some company during Free Fishing Weekend , scheduled June 12-13. During those two days, no license will be required to fish or gather shellfish in any waters open to fishing in Washington state. Nor will a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement be required to fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries.
"Free Fishing Weekend is a great time to revive an old hobby or to introduce friends and family to fishing," said Craig Burley, fish division manager for WDFW. "Adults can introduce kids to fishing on a wide variety of waters around the state."
Meanwhile, anglers continue to catch spring chinook salmon - and an increasing number of hatchery steelhead - on tributaries to the Columbia River both above and below Bonneville Dam.
Drano Lake and the Wind River may still offer the best chance of catching hatchery spring chinook, although catch rates have dropped off in recent days as more fish move upriver, Hymer said. At Drano Lake, catch rates have dropped to one fish for every 4.3 boat anglers and one for every six bank anglers at Drano. On the Wind, anglers have followed the fish upstream to the stretch between the coffer dam and the hatchery.
But early-arriving summer steelhead are breathing new life into fisheries on the Washougal, Cowlitz and Klickitat rivers, Hymer said. The barrier dam is still the focus of the spring chinook fishery on the Cowlitz River, but anglers are catching incoming summer steelhead throughout the river.
"The fishery for hatchery summer steelhead should heat up in all of these rivers in the next few weeks," Hymer said.
Under permanent regulations, the fishery on the Klickitat River will expand upstream to the boundary markers below the salmon hatchery June 1. In addition, WDFW has adopted a number of new rules that reflect strong returns of hatchery steelhead and spring chinook to other rivers.
- Cowlitz River: Anglers may now retain up to three hatchery steelhead per day from the Hwy. 4 bridge at Kelso upstream to Mayfield Dam. As before, all game fish except hatchery steelhead must be released through June 4. Beginning June 5, the daily limit for trout will be five fish, of which up to three may be hatchery steelhead. Anglers fishing from the mouth to Mayfield Dam are reminded they may retain steelhead with a clipped right ventral fin and a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin.
- Lake Scanewa: The lake, also known as Cowlitz Falls Reservoir, is currently open to fishing for hatchery spring chinook. Lake Scanewa will revert to permanent fishing regulations beginning June 1.
- Washougal River: Anglers fishing from the Mt. Norway Bridge downstream may now retain up to three hatchery steelhead. That limit will also be in effect from the Mt. Norway Bridge upstream and in the West (North) Fork when those waters open for hatchery steelhead fishing June 5. Selective gear rules are in effect on the lower river, where bait is prohibited through June 4.
- Toutle River tributaries: The lower portions of the South Fork Toutle and Green rivers opened for hatchery steelhead fishing May 22 - two weeks early - by emergency regulation. Early-opening waters include the stretch of the South Fork Toutle River from the mouth to the 4700 Road Bridge and the Green River, from the mouth to 400 feet below the water intake at the upper end of the hatchery. Through June 4, selective gear rules are in effect; no bait may be used. Other rules remain the same as noted in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.
- Wind River: The daily catch limit for hatchery origin spring chinook salmon has been increased to four fish in the area open to fishing, and anglers can substitute hatchery steelhead for up to two of those fish. Jack chinook also count toward the daily four-fish limit. Release wild chinook downstream from Shipherd Falls. The anti-snag rule has been rescinded from the mouth to the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge, but remains in effect from the bridge upstream where only fish hooked inside the mouth may be retained. Other rules remain the same as noted in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.
- Drano Lake: The daily catch limit for hatchery spring chinook salmon has been increased to four fish, and anglers can substitute hatchery steelhead for up to two of those fish. Hatchery jack chinook also count toward the daily four-fish limit. The sport fishery will be closed June 2 and June 9 and the bank-fishing only area near the outlet of Drano Lake will remain in effect through June. The anti-snag rule has been rescinded through June.
Rather catch a sturgeon ? The retention season for white sturgeon opened May 22 from Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines seven days a week. The daily limit is one sturgeon between 41 and 54 inches (fork length), with a statewide annual limit of five fish.
Approximately 160 private boats and 14 charter boats turned out for opening day, with private boaters averaging about one legal-size fish for every 11 rods on the Washington side of the river. Catch rates were somewhat better on the Oregon side, where boat anglers caught a legal-size sturgeon for every seven rods. Bank fishing was slow on both sides of the river.
"The opener wasn't a barn-burner, but it was a respectable start," Hymer said. "Both in the estuary and farther upriver, fishing should pick up once water temperatures warm up."
Farther upstream, a creel survey turned up three legal-size sturgeon among 41 boat anglers between the Wauna powerlines and Bonneville Dam, where the retention fishery has been open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays since Jan. 1. The daily limit there is one sturgeon between 38 and 54 inches (fork length). All sturgeon angling is prohibited from Marker 82 upstream to Bonneville Dam through August to protect spawning sturgeon.
Many Columbia River anglers also have been busy reeling in shad . Fifty-one anglers fishing from the Oregon bank in the gorge caught or released 148 shad, according to a weekend creel survey. Eight boat anglers were also surveyed with 53 shad, the largest member of the herring family.
Shad fishing opened May 16 on the mainstem Columbia River below Bonneville Dam, with no daily limits or size limits. While not as highly prized as sturgeon or salmon, they can put up a good fight and make for good eating, Hymer said.
"Shad fishing will continue to improve in the weeks ahead," he said. "Right now, about 2,000 a day are crossing Bonneville Dam. I'd recommend that anglers who want to target shad wait until the dam counts reach 10,000 - or 100,000 - fish per day if they really want to catch some fish."
Daily counts of fish passing Bonneville and other Columbia River dams are available on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/fishdata/home.asp .
What kind of rig works best for shad? Wil Morrison, administrative assistant for the WDFW regional office in Vancouver, has developed a set-up that has attracted quite a following, including at least one local outdoor columnist. Here's how he does it:
Start with a No. 6 open-eye siwash hook. Slide on a No. 7 gold barrel swivel on the hook and pinch the eye closed. Tie this to a 58-inch leader of 12-pound test fishing line. Slide on a 7/32 solid brass bead, then tie it all to a three-way swivel. From the center point of the three-way swivel, tie a 10-to-15-pound drop line with a 20-inch dropper and 4-to-6 ounce weight. Then tie the other end of the three-way swivel to the main line of your favorite light-to-medium fishing pole. This lure is most effective when fished from a boat anchored in 10-to-20 feet of rushing water.
For more information on shad, including fishing tips and recipes, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shad/ .
Here's the report for trout anglers:
- Mayfield Lake - Boat anglers are catching some rainbows. The lake is scheduled to receive another 20,000 catchable-size rainbows in May, after being stocked with 25,000 fish in April.
- Riffe Lake - Bank anglers are catching some landlocked coho.
- Battleground Lake - Stocked with 6,500 rainbows weighing up to two-thirds of a pound each in mid-May.
- Little Klickitat River - The juvenile only waters were stocked with 495 catchable-size rainbows May 19.
- Maryhill Pond (Klickitat Co.) - Stocked with 504 catchable-size rainbows May 19.
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 .
Wildlife viewing: As many as a thousand spring chinook salmon can still be seen passing by the fish windows at Bonneville Dam on any given day, but they have already been eclipsed by shad . Right now, about 2,000 shad per day are crossing the dam but that number will likely climb to 100,000 in the weeks ahead. Nearly 1.4 million were counted at the dam last year.
The largest member of the herring family, these unassuming fish have quite a history. In 1777, a large shad run on the Delaware River helped Gen. George Washington and his army survived a tough winter at Valley Forge. In 1871, a New York aquaculturist transported 12,000 young shad to California and deposited them in the Sacramento River, where some strayed north to the Columbia River.
Averaging three to four pounds, Columbia River shad have a metallic blue-green back and a silver belly. Unlike most fish in the basin, they have thrived in the era of large hydroelectric dams. Since 1978, the number of shad returning to the Columbia has increased by a million fish each decade.
To see these well-storied fish, 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. For more information on shad, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shad/ on the WDFW website.
Rather watch birds? Purple martins are returning to dozens of nesting gourds installed for them at the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge right now. Also, a Longview birder reports spotting a yellow-headed blackbird hanging out with a group of brown-headed cowbirds in a pasture near Underwood in the southeastern corner of Skamania County.
Fishing: The Snake River's hatchery spring chinook salmon season came to an earlier-than-expected end May 22 because of the size of the run and catch rates. The fishery, open on four sections of the Snake, was scheduled to run through June 30. But as WDFW regional fish program manager John Whalen said, "the run leveled off at 340,000 chinook, instead of the forecasted 470,000, coming upstream."
Whalen noted that despite the early closure, the run was still one of best in decades.
WDFW district fish biologist Glen Mendel of Dayton reported harvest rates ranged from 15 to 36 hours per fish at Little Goose Dam during the last week of fishing, with over 500 fish harvested in that stretch. At Ice Harbor Dam, the harvest rates were 15 to 68 hours per fish kept with a total harvest of more than 700 fish. Catch rates around the Lower Granite Dam and Clarkston were significantly lower than the other areas.
Trout fishing in rivers and streams opens June 1 - or June 5 in waterways where trout spawn and need the protection of a later opener. That includes some sections of tributaries to the Pend Oreille River, like Cedar, Calispell, Harvey, LeClerc and Ruby creeks, parts of the Spokane and Little Spokane rivers, and portions of such Snake River tributaries as Asotin Creek and the Grande Ronde, Touchet, Tucannon and Walla Walla rivers.
However, the section of the Kettle River on the Ferry-Stevens county line from Barstow Bridge upstream opens May 29, as do portions of the Colville and Little Pend Oreille rivers in Stevens County. Check the fishing rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ) for all river and stream regulations, listed by waterway, including section boundaries, catch and size limits and gear restrictions.
Other fisheries are going strong throughout the region. Lake Roosevelt anglers are catching nice-sized rainbow trout and kokanee , although - with water levels dropping - fishing activity could slow down. Walleye fishing on the reservoir is improving from the Kettle Falls area to the Spokane arm. Walleye anglers need to remember that the Spokane arm is downstream from the Hwy. 25 bridge over the Spokane River, and that the Spokane River upstream from that bridge doesn't open for walleye until June 1.
WDFW central district fish biologist Chris Donley of Spokane says most waterways are fishing well now, from trout lakes like Amber, Williams, West Medical, Fishtrap and Sprague to mixed-species lakes like Downs for perch and bass , Bonnie for panfish , and Long Lake (Spokane River reservoir ) for crappie . "It's that time of year when you can't help but catch fish," Donley said.
WDFW northeast district fish biologist Bill Baker of Colville reports northern pike fishing on the Pend Oreille River is hot now. He also says fishing for rainbow trout is good now at Curlew Lake northeast of Republic in Ferry County. The lake receives hatchery fry plants but also has net-pen reared rainbows. The rainbow fry planted in Ellen Lake last fall are coming on now, too, he said. Ellen is 14 miles north of Inchelium and, like Curlew, has a public campground.
Rocky, Waitts and Starvation lakes in Stevens County are also fishing well. The catch-and-keep season at Starvation Lake ends May 31, then switches to catch-and-release through October.
That change illustrates why anglers should make sure to check the rules before hitting the lakes. Recent patrols turned up violations at Medical Lake, where regulations are different from nearby West Medical Lake. Selective gear rules (no bait, only artificial flies or lures with one single-point, barbless hook, and only knotless nets) are in effect at Medical Lake, where the daily catch limit is simply two trout measuring at least 14 inches.
Anglers are also reminded to pick up fishing line and other trash that may cause entanglement or ingestion problems for birds and other wildlife. WDFW Officer Pam Taylor recently retrieved a drowned osprey from Loon Lake, where it had fishing line and a lead shot weight wrapped around its wing.
Officers in the south end of the region recently reported lots of good-sized smallmouth bass being caught on the lower Walla Walla River, where fishing for non-trout species is open year-round.
WDFW Tucannon Fish Hatchery crews recently stocked 3,293 quarter-pound rainbow trout in Asotin County's Golf Course Pond, a small impoundment open to fishing year-round off the Snake River near the bottom of Alpowa Grade west of Clarkston. They also stocked 300 quarter-pound rainbows and 50 one-plus pounders in Walla Walla County's Lions Park Pond, open year-round to juvenile anglers under 15 years of age.
Hunting: The spring wild turkey season closes May 31. "Toms are still gobbling all around Spokane but especially to the north," said Michael Atamian, a WDFW wildlife biologist in Spokane. "There's less than a week left to fill those turkey tags, but hunters should remember that if they don't, they can use them in the fall turkey hunting season."
Turkey hunters who have harvested their limit of two eastside birds this spring can also purchase tags for fall hunts. All turkey hunting tag-holders must report hunting activity after all 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 closes May 31 and harvest reports are required (see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/bear_cougar/ .)
Wildlife viewing: Many new wildlife families, from broods of ducklings to pairs of twin deer fawns , are out and about now. Enjoy them from a respectable distance, using binoculars, scopes, and telephoto camera lenses.
"If you run into a wild baby by itself, don't assume it's abandoned or orphaned or injured or in any way in need of your help," said WDFW regional wildlife program manager Kevin Robinette of Spokane. "Most of the time the parent animals are feeding nearby and may have left the youngster alone for awhile for good reason."
Robinette noted that doe deer leave newborn fawns alone temporarily to avoid drawing predators with their own body scent. Baby birds are fledging from nests and may end up on the ground for while, where parent birds will continue to tend to them if left alone. "One of the best things you can do for young wildlife is keep your dogs and cats confined so they don't harass or kill them," Robinette said.
Hummingbirds are a major attraction for backyard birdwatchers, who provide nectar in feeders. As daytime temperatures rise and sunlight hours increase with the approach of summer, it's important to keep those feeders clean. The standard formula of one part sugar to four parts water for hummingbird nectar can spoil quickly when exposed to high temperatures and lots of sun. Change and thoroughly clean feeders frequently to avoid causing problems for these tiny birds.
Photo by Doug Kuehn
Bird watchers and others spending time in the woods and mountains now might find delicious distractions. Morel mushrooms are popping up with wet, warm weather. Doug Kuehn, a WDFW forester, recently found and photographed morels in some parts of the Wooten Wildlife Area in the southeast end of the region, where wildfires burned a few years ago.
Black bears continue to be seen throughout the region, but particularly in the north district. WDFW enforcement officers throughout Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties have been responding to complaints nearly every other day about bears getting into garbage or into structures where some source of food is stored. They advise those living or recreating in bear country to remove or secure all possible attractants, including bird feeders, barbecue grills, compost piles and pet food. For more information about living with wildlife and minimizing chances for problems, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/.
Fishing: WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff says several rainbow trout lakes are providing good fishing now and through June. Pearrygin, Wannacut, Conconully Reservoir, Conconully Lake, Spectacle and Alta are producing rainbows in the 8-12 inch range with winter-carryover fish up to 15 inches.
"Remember, when fishing with bait the first five fish caught are considered part of the daily limit whether kept or released," Jateff said. "This rule is in place to minimize hook and release mortality on fish caught with bait."
Several lakes in Okanogan County are under selective gear rules with catch-and- release regulations during the summer months. These waters - Big and Little Green, Rat, Campbell, Davis, and Cougar lakes - all have rainbows. Rat Lake also has brown trout .
"Aeneas Lake is a fly fishing only water that has provided good fishing for rainbows 14-16 inches with an occasional brown trout up to 18 inches," Jateff said. "Aeneas has several campsites, a boat launch and toilet, so it's a good choice for a family weekend outing."
Trout fishing in rivers and streams opens June 1 - or June 5 in many waterways where trout spawn and need the protection of a later opener. That includes some sections of the Entiat, Icicle, Lost, Methow, Okanogan, Similkameen, Twisp and Wenatchee rivers, along with tributary streams.
Check the fishing rules pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ) for all river and stream regulations listed by waterway, including section boundaries, catch and size limits and gear restrictions.
WDFW enforcement officers remind those fishing on lakes to check that lake's specific rules, too. Recent patrols have resulted in citations for some, like using bait and keeping too many fish on the Sinlahekin's Blue Lake, which is under selective gear rules with a one-trout daily catch limit. Officers also note the new two-pole opportunity this year at some waters, like Okanogan County's Pearrygin Lake, doesn't mean anglers can have two daily catch limits.
Warmwater fish species are starting to come on at many waters throughout the region. Walleye are in the catch, along with trout, on Rufus Woods Lake. Largemouth bass , which are under a slot limit statewide (only bass less than 12 inches, except one over 17 inches, can be kept, up to five total) are being caught at Banks Lake. Bluegill and crappie are coming out of Leader Lake, west of Okanogan.
WDFW Wells Fish Hatchery crews recently stocked 25, one-plus-pound rainbow trout in Conconully Lake in Okanogan County.
Fishing for spring chinook salmon continues on the Icicle River in Chelan County through July, as long as the predicted run of about 11,000 salmon holds up. WDFW district fish biologist Art Viola reminds anglers the daily catch limit is two salmon, minimum size 12 inches. All fish with one or more round holes punched in the tail or caudal fin must be released. These fish are part of a study and have been anesthetized; the FDA requires a 21-day ban on consumption of these fish.
Hunting: The close of spring wild turkey hunting season is coming soon -- May 31. Action appears to have slowed in at least some areas, according to field reports. All turkey hunting tag-holders must report hunting activity after all 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 .
Wildlife viewing: WDFW's Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County is the scene of many bird watching tours at this time of year because so many of its 215 species are present now. Area Manager Dale Swedberg and Assistant Manager Justin Haug recently lead a birding tour that included glimpses of Western tanagers, Cassin's finches, Nashville warblers, dusky flycatchers and many other birds.
|Photos by Justin Haug
Swedberg and Haug also reported that recent high winds, downed trees, hard rain and crowds of fishers and campers on the Sinlahekin have not deterred a female goshawk from her nest where she's incubating eggs. By the Memorial Day holiday weekend, she will likely be feeding hatchlings.
WDFW wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen observed a pair of common loons on Lost Lake northeast of Tonasket. "Both were out foraging in the lake with no sign they have started nesting," Heinlen said. "This pair was also observed starting their nest late in the nesting season last year and successfully fledged two young. We'll continue to monitor them through the summer."
Black bears continue to be seen - and not necessarily in the best places - throughout Okanogan and Chelan counties. WDFW enforcement officers have been responding to complaints nearly every other day about bears getting into trouble.
Bears killing sheep, alpacas and goats have resulted in some kill permits to remove offending animals. Other situations involved bears attempting to reach other kinds of food, including destruction of a screened-in porch that contained a food freezer and destruction of siding on a house. In those cases, bears were tranquilized and relocated.
The most common problems involve bears getting into unsecured garbage, pet food, bird feeders, compost piles, barbecue grills and other food sources that they can smell from far away. Officers advise those living or recreating in bear country to remove or secure all possible attractants to avoid problems. For more information about living with wildlife and minimizing chances for problems, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/ .
For most people, the Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer, and that means warmer weather and great fishing. Two other things will enhance that experience: Washington's annual Free Fishing Weekend , and the official opening of Washington's rivers on the first Saturday in June.
June 5 marks the opening of rivers around the state to fishing for more steelhead and trout . The following weekend, June 12 and 13, anglers won't need a license to fish in Washington. Also, no vehicle use permit will be required during Free Fishing Weekend to park at any of the 500 water-access sites maintained by WDFW.
The event is designed to introduce folks to fishing, and remind them of how much fun a day on the water can be. But while the fishing will be free, anglers still need to abide by rules governing size limits, bag limits and season closures. Anglers also will be required to complete a catch record card for any salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or halibut they catch.
Catch record cards and WDFW's Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet are available free at hundreds of stores that sell hunting and fishing licenses. The pamphlet is also available on WDFW's web site at (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ).
While the spring chinook fishery at Ringold closed on May 21, the Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam will reopen for summer chinook on June 16. Only hatchery chinook, identified with a missing adipose fin, can be retained. The daily limit will be six chinook salmon, only two of which can be adult fish.
Paul Hoffarth, WDFW's district fish biologist based in Pasco, estimates that 466 hatchery spring chinook were harvested in the Ringold area during the season, and 44 wild chinook were caught and released.
The lower Yakima River closes for spring chinook fishing on May 31, although the upstream fishery from the I-82 bridge at Union Gap to Roza Dam will remain open through June 30. Fish counts at Prosser and Roza dams are available at http://www.cbr.washington.edu/dart/adult.html and http://ykfp.org/yakindex.htm .
Smallmouth bass fishing in the lower Yakima River has been spotty this spring with an increase in flows and turbidity. However, fishing should improve as the water recedes and clears. Channel catfish are being caught in the lower Yakima and Walla Walla rivers. Walleye fishing is beginning to pick up in the Columbia River both above and below McNary Dam. Shad are beginning to move through Bonneville Dam and should be arriving below McNary in strong numbers by mid-June.
"Chinook fishing continues to be good in the Yakima, and many lakes have been planted with catchable-size rainbow trout , says Eric Anderson, WDFW's district fish biologist in Yakima and Kittitas counties. "The cool weather has definitely improved the bite."
To find which lakes have been planted, and when, please go to WDFW's hatchery website at ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/ ).
Hunting: Spring wild turkey hunting season closes May 31. Unless they're planning to hunt the fall season, hunters should report turkey hunting activity - whether successful or not. Those who intend to apply for a fall turkey hunting permit or 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://www.fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov .
Wildlife viewing: Opportunities range from the very small, butterflies and nesting songbirds , to bighorn sheep and calving elk . The southcentral region's thousands of acres of wildlife areas are a wildlife viewing Mecca at this time of year. And while this spring has been relatively wet, outdoor recreationists are reminded that Central Washington can dry out quickly, and most of these areas do not allow campfires or any other kinds of open fires.
With hot weather comes the emergence of rattle snakes . Watch where you're stepping and remember to appreciate all wildlife from a distance and take precautions to avoid close encounters.
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 illegal.
Encounters with some species, like black bears, coyotes and cougars , can potentially be dangerous. WDFW officials say that following some basic rules when recreating outdoors or 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.
- 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/ .