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

Change in hunter reporting requirements

Hunters are reminded that separate reports are now required for general-season hunting activities and for special-permit hunts for deer, elk, black bear and turkey. Game managers are trying to collect information about hunting effort during both kinds of seasons – general and special permit.

As noted in the 2010-11 Big Game pamphlet, a hunter report is required for each transport tag acquired for these species and should be completed at the end of the hunting season for those species.   

Whether reporting online (http://bit.ly/akZimL) or over the telephone (1-877-945-3492), hunters should follow the prompts until they receive a confirmation number for each report. As always, hunters are required to submit reports, whether or not they hunted or harvested an animal.

November 2010

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

Put a turkey on your table - or duck, venison, or crab

There’s more than one way to put a turkey on your table for Thanksgiving.  As the holiday draws near, hunters looking forward to the wild turkey season that gets under way Nov. 20 in northeastern Washington. 

Then again, who says turkey has to be the center of attention on Thanksgiving Day?  November is also prime time to hunt ducks, geese, elk, deer, pheasant, forest grouse and a variety of other game species around the state.

"Waterfowl hunting usually picks up around the middle of the month, when the wet and windy weather starts pushing more migrating birds into the area from the north," said Don Kraege, waterfowl manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  "That’s good news for waterfowl hunting from Garfield County to the Skagit Valley." 

Meanwhile, big game hunters carrying modern firearms can bag an elk in eastern Washington through Nov. 7, or from Nov. 6-16 on the west side of the state. Additional hunting seasons for both elk and deer are open on various days throughout the month.

Seafood may be less conventional holiday fare, but it certainly is in season. Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of winter steelhead fishing in western Washington, where anglers can also reel in coho and chum salmon moving in from the ocean. Farther east, summer-run steelhead are still bending fishing rods, although catch rates slowed on the Snake and upper Columbia in late October. 

Rather serve shellfish?  Four areas of Puget Sound are scheduled to reopen for crab fishing Nov. 15 and an evening razor-clam dig is set to get under way Nov. 5 at five ocean beaches.  Another dig is tentatively scheduled Nov. 20-21, pending the results of marine toxin tests. For more information on those fisheries, see the Sound South/Olympic Peninsula report below.

 
For information about other outdoor activities available throughout the state in November, check the regional report for your area.


North Puget Sound  

Fishing:Anglers will continue to find some coho in the region’s rivers and streams, while out on Puget Sound more areas are scheduled to open for chinook fishing, as well as late-season crab opportunities.

At 8 a.m. on Nov. 15, marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 12 (Hood Canal) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2011.

Crab fishing will also remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since June 18.

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual quota, said Rich Childers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish policy coordinator.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/

While on the Sound, why not fish for blackmouth ? Beginning Nov. 1, opportunities for blackmouth will increase, as marine areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 open for chinook. Anglers fishing those marine areas, as well as Marine Area 10, have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Anglers are reminded that Marine Area 7 closes to salmon retention Nov. 1.

Saltwater anglers fishing for chum salmon may want to try waters around Point No Point (north end of the Kitsap Peninsula) and Possession Bar (southern portion of Whidbey Island). Those two areas of Marine Area 9 are often hotspots for chum salmon in early November. 

Meanwhile, several rivers are open for salmon fishing, including the Snohomish, Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Snoqualmie and Wallace. Anglers fishing those rivers have a daily limit of two coho. The Skagit, Cascade, Green (Duwamish) and Nooksack also are open for salmon but regulations vary for each river. For details, check WDFW’s sportfishing regulations pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

For trout anglers, Beaver Lake near Issaquah could be the best place to cast for rainbows in November. About 2,300 hatchery rainbows - averaging 2 to 3 pounds each - are scheduled to be released into the lake Nov. 8. Beaver Lake, which is one of several westside lowland lakes open to fishing year-round, is best fished by small boat, although anglers also can be successful fishing from shore.

Hunting: November is prime time for waterfowl hunting in the region, where more and more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. After a couple weeks of good hunting, there’s typically a lull in the action in late October, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. "But hunting usually improves in mid-November, when the number of migrants arriving to the area picks up along with the wet and windy weather," he said.

Goose hunts are open through Oct. 28 in the region, and then start again Nov. 6. However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) will run from Oct. 16 through Jan. 30 without a break. The duck hunting season also is open through Jan. 30.
 
Hunters who would like to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area should visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/snow_goose/ for information on the rules and requirements.

Upland bird hunters have through Nov. 30 to hunt pheasants, California quail and bobwhite , while the forest grouse season runs through Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, the modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31. Then comes the modern firearm season for elk , which is open Nov. 6-16, and the late modern firearm season for deer that runs Nov. 18-21.

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 24, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open the following day, Nov. 25.

"November is a busy month for hunters," said Jerry Nelson, WDFW deer and elk specialist. "Popular hunting seasons are open for one species or another throughout the month, and we can usually count on weather conditions that support hunters’ success in the field."

Bear and cougar hunts are also open in the region. However, the bear hunting season closes Nov. 15.

Before heading out, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details. Also, area-by-area summaries of the hunting prospects throughout the state are available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/ .

Wildlife viewing: More and more birders are making their way to the region to view snow geese , which also continue to arrive in increasing numbers. About 80,000 snow geese winter in western Washington each year. Most of those snow geese congregate in the Skagit Valley, and can be found in the area from mid-October through early May. A great place to view the birds is at the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit of WDFW’s Skagit Wildlife Area. For more information on the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit, visit WDFW’s website at http://bit.ly/9Hk0Vs .

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count , scheduled Dec. 14, 2010 through Jan. 5, 2011.  Specific counting dates have already been announced in some areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  Those interested should watch the Audubon website at http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/  for details.


South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Nov. 1 Update: Coho retention on the Nisqually River closes Nov. 1.
Fishing:Anglers fishing for salmon often turn their attention to chum in November, when the run usually peaks around the middle of the month. But shellfish also take center stage with more areas of Puget Sound re-open for sport crabbing and two razor clam openings on the calendar for November.

The first evening razor clam dig has been approved at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. Opening dates and evening low tides are:

  • Nov. 5, Fri. - 6:41 p.m., (-1.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Nov. 6, Sat. - 7:26 p.m., (-1.6 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Nov. 7, Sun. - 7:11 p.m., (-1.5 ft.), Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 8, Mon. - 7:55 p.m., (-1.2 ft.), Twin Harbors

Later in the November, razor clammers will have another opportunity at Long Beach and Twin Harbors. Tentative opening dates and evening low tides for that dig are:

  • Nov. 20, Sat. - 5:39 p.m., (-0.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 21, Sun. - 6:17 p.m., (-0.7 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors

Clam diggers are reminded that they should take lights or lanterns for the nighttime digs and to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out. No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the five razor-clam beaches. Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2010-11 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov  and from license vendors around the state. More razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled Dec. 3-6 and Dec. 31-Jan. 2.

Rather catch crab ? At 8 a.m. on Nov. 15, marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 12 (Hood Canal) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2011.

Crab fishing will also remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since June 18.

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual quota, said Rich Childers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish policy coordinator.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/

Recreationists on the Sound can also pursue blackmouth - resident chinook. Beginning Nov. 1, anglers fishing marine areas 5 (Sekiu), 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) can keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. However, salmon fishing in Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) is only open through Oct. 31.

Elsewhere, anglers fishing Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) have a daily limit of four salmon, but only one of those fish can be a chinook.

November is when the action heats up in the region for chum salmon . Popular fishing spots include the Hoodsport Hatchery area of Hood Canal and the mouth of Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet. Other areas where anglers can find chum salmon include the Dosewallips and Duckabush rivers in Jefferson County and Minter Creek in Pierce/Kitsap Counties. Those three rivers open for salmon fishing Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, salmon fisheries remain open through Nov. 30 on the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah, Dickey, Clearwater and Hoh rivers. Also open for salmon fishing through November, are the Elk, Hoquiam and Johns rivers and Joe Creek in Grays Harbor County; and the Bear and Niawiakum rivers in Pacific County. In Mason County, the Skokomish River is open for salmon fishing through Dec. 15.

Anglers should be aware that the Nisqually River, from the mouth to the military tank crossing bridge (located one mile upstream of mouth of Muck Creek), closes to coho retention Nov. 1. For more information, see the rule change at http://bit.ly/buK23R.

Winter steelhead fisheries get under way in November on several rivers, including the Bogachiel, Calawah, Sol Duc, Quillayute and Hoh. Beginning Nov. 1, anglers fishing those rivers have a daily limit of three hatchery steelhead. "Traditionally, the winter steelhead fishery doesn’t really get going until later in November," said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager. "Anglers can certainly find some steelhead early in the month, but around Thanksgiving is when fishing usually starts to improve." 

Grays Harbor-area rivers, such as the Satsop, Wynoochee and Humptulips, also are good bets for anglers once steelhead start to arrive, said Leland.

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:   November is prime time for hunting in the region, offering a variety of hunting opportunities from waterfowl to big game. Warm, dry conditions made for some tough hunting conditions in October, but that is expected to change in a month known for falling temperatures and rising precipitation.

"November is a busy month for hunters," said Jerry Nelson, WDFW deer and elk specialist. "Popular hunting seasons are open for one species or another throughout the month, and we can usually count on weather conditions that support hunters’ success in the field."

The modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31. Then comes the modern firearm season for elk , which is open Nov. 6-16, and the late modern firearm season for deer that runs Nov. 18-21.

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 24, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open the following day, Nov. 25.

Bear and cougar hunts are also open in the region. However, the bear hunting season closes Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, hunters also have opportunities for waterfowl in the region, where more and more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. After a couple weeks of good hunting, there’s typically a lull in the action in late October, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. "But hunting usually improves in mid-November, when the number of migrants arriving to the area picks up along with the wet and windy weather," he said.

The statewide season for ducks, coots and snipe resumed Oct. 23 while goose-hunting closes Oct. 28 and then reopens Nov. 6 in Goose Management Area 3. Hunting in Goose Management Area 2B (Pacific County) is open Saturdays and Wednesdays only.
 
Hunters may also pursue pheasant, quail and bobwhite through Nov. 30. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

Before heading out, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details. Also, area-by-area summaries of the hunting prospects throughout the state are available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/ .

Wildlife viewing: Each weekend throughout November, visitors can walk the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail for an up-close look at thousands of chum salmon returning to the stream. Located just above the Kennedy Creek estuary on Totten Inlet, the trail is off U.S. Hwy 101 between Olympia and Shelton. The stream is one of the most productive chum salmon streams in Washington. Visitors can find numerous species of migrating shorebirds as well. More information on the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail is located at http://www.masoncd.org/Kennedy.html .

With winter coming on, recreationists in the region will have a chance to view seldom-seen birds and animals such as white-tailed ptarmigan, saw-whet owl, goshawk, Cooper’s hawk, mountain chickadee, evening and pine grosbeak, mountain goats, sheep, porcupine, red fox, mink and weasels . Hikers and bird watchers are reminded to be sensitive to the needs of animals. Avoid close contact by stopping and going around them or wait for them to move. Help animals conserve their food supply by avoiding damaging brush, trees and grass. Stay on established routes or trails and view birds and animals from a distance.

Birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count , scheduled Dec. 14, 2010 through Jan. 5, 2011.  Specific counting dates have already been announced in some areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  Those interested should watch the Audubon website at http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/  for details.


Southwest Washington

Fishing:   Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the popular winter steelhead fishery, although some anglers started working their favorite rivers well ahead of time. A number of area rivers have been open to fishing for hatchery steelhead for months, and catch totals have been rising since mid-October.

That tally will likely increase even faster now that the first big storm of the season has soaked the region with heavy rains, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

"Steelhead move upriver on pulses of water, and the storm really helped to prime the pump," Hymer said. "Now that the ground is good and wet, we can expect to see more and more fish move upstream every time the sky opens up and the rivers start to swell."

Major destinations for hatchery-reared steelhead moving up the Columbia River are the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis (east and north forks), Washougal, Elochoman and Grays rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County, he said. Other waters opening for steelhead fishing Nov. 1 are Abernathy, Coal and Germany creeks, the Coweeman River and Cedar Creek in Clark County and Mill Creek in Cowlitz County.

Only hatchery-reared steelhead, which have a clipped adipose fin, may be retained in regional waters.  All wild, unmarked fish must be released unharmed.

But until Thanksgiving - or whenever steelhead begin to arrive en masse - late-run coho salmon may be the best target for anglers who want to catch fish. While the coho run has peaked, those fish should generate some action on the mainstem Columbia and many of its tributaries right through November, Hymer said.

"These are fairly large fish, some weighing up to 20 pounds apiece," he said. "The trick is getting them to bite. The best time is when they are moving upriver, drawn by high water. Otherwise, it can be hard to get their attention."

State regulations allow anglers to catch and keep up to six adult coho salmon per day on the Elochoman, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Kalama, Lewis and Washougal rivers, as well as the lower portion of the Grays River.  Several rivers also remain open for chinook salmon , although some close Oct. 31.

Effective that day, the No. 5 fishway on the Klickitat River closes upstream to chinook fishing, the Wind River closes to all salmon fishing, and the stretch of the Columbia River from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam closes to all fishing for both salmon and steelhead. For additional information on fishing seasons, see the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/  ).
 
Other fishing options in the days before - and possibly after - Thanksgiving include:

  • Sturgeon:   Anglers reeled in nearly 1,500 legal-size sturgeon from the lower Columbia River above the Wauna powerlines during the first three weeks of October.  As of Oct. 17, there were 841 fish available for harvest for the remainder of the year. The fishery is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until the quota is met. Before heading out, anglers are advised to check the WDFW website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ) to make sure the fishery is still open for retention of white sturgeon.
  • Cowlitz cutthroats:   October is prime time to catch sea-run cutthroat trout on the Cowlitz River, but the fish usually keep biting through November, Hymer said. The best fishing is from Blue Creek near the trout hatchery on downriver, he said. "Sea-run cutthroat are aggressive, hard-fighting fish," he said. "They'll take flies, bait, lures - practically anything you throw at them." Anglers may retain up to five hatchery-reared cutthroats per day as part of the daily trout limit on the lower Cowlitz River, where the fish generally range from 12 to 20 inches.
  • Swift Reservoir:    Anglers fishing the reservoir have continued to reel in some nice rainbows averaging 12-13 inches. The fishery is open through Nov. 30. 

In addition, WDFW has approved one razor-clam dig set to begin Nov. 5 at all five coastal beaches and has tentatively scheduled another opening later in the month.

See the South Sound/Olympic Peninsula regional report above for tentative beach openings. Check the WDFW website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/  ) or the toll-free Shellfish Hotline (866-880-5431) for final word on the scheduled dig.

Hunting:   November is prime time for hunting in southwest Washington, offering a variety of hunting opportunities from waterfowl to big game. Warm, dry conditions made for some tough hunting conditions in October, but that is expected to change in a month known for falling temperatures and rising precipitation.

"November is a busy month for hunters," said Jerry Nelson, WDFW deer and elk section manager. "Popular hunting seasons are open for one species or another throughout the month, and we can usually count on weather conditions that support hunters’ success in the field."

The month opens with a variety of hunting seasons already in progress, including those for ducks, coots, snipe, cottontail rabbits, forest grouse , and - in some areas - geese .

Elk hunters using modern firearms will take the field in western Washington from Nov. 6-16 for one of the most popular hunting seasons of the year. Archers and muzzleloaders will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during the late season that gets under way Nov. 24 in selected game management units (GMUs).

Sandra Jonker, WDFW regional wildlife manager, said southwest Washington consistently offers some of the best elk hunting in the state, and this year shouldn’t be any different. "The mild winter appears to have improved hunting prospects for this year," she said.

Jonker reminds hunters of new rules now in effect that prohibit taking antlerless elk during any general modern firearms seasons or muzzleloader seasons in GMUs 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River), or 578 (West Klickitat). A three-point antler restriction will also be in effect during general hunting seasons in these areas.

Antlerless elk hunting in all three GMUs is now offered through the special-permit process for both modern firearm and muzzleloader hunts. Tag numbers have been allocated at levels designed to maintain harvest and hunting opportunity at a level similar to that of the past five years in these GMUs, Jonker said.

For more information on elk hunting and other big-game seasons, see the Big Game Hunting pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ .

Another popular hunt, the "late buck" season for black-tailed deer , runs Nov. 18-21 in select game management units (GMU) throughout western Washington. Although the late-buck season is only four days long, it usually accounts for about a third of all the deer taken each year by hunters in the region.

"One reason why hunters are so successful during the late season is that the bucks are more active," Jonker said. "By then, the temperatures have dropped and the rut is coming to an end."

As with elk, a late season for deer will open to archers starting Nov. 24 and to muzzleloaders starting Nov. 25, in some GMUs.

This is the fourth year of the St. Helens Land Access Program, a cooperative effort between Weyerhaeuser, WDFW, and many volunteer organizations to facilitate providing additional weekday motorized access for hunters during special elk permit seasons on the Weyerhaeuser St. Helen Tree Farm.  Those interested in helping to provide this access, can sign up at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/sainthelens/ .

The hunting season for black bear ends Nov. 15, and the general hunting season for cougar ends Nov. 30 in Klickitat County. 

Meanwhile, hunting seasons for geese will remain open in Management Areas 3 and 5 (including Lewis, Skamania and Klickitat counties) through Jan. 30, 2011. Wildlife managers expect hunting to improve in both areas as cold temperatures drive more birds into the region from the north.

Starting Nov. 13, Management Area 2A (Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and part of Clark County) will open to hunters who have successfully completed a goose-identification test administered by WDFW. Hunting in most sections of Area 2A is limited to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only. An exception is the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where goose hunting is restricted to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Hunting for pheasants ?  While there is some wild production of pheasants, pen-raised birds at formal release sites in Klickitat County and Clark County provide the best hunting prospects. For information about those sites, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/pheasant/western/ on the WDFW website.

Wildlife viewing:   Migrating waterfowl are now reaching peak levels in southwest Washington, providing prime viewing opportunities for people throughout the region. Swans, geese, ducks and other waterfowl of all descriptions are on display throughout the Vancouver Lowlands and other areas of Southwest Washington.

Upwards of 150 sandhill cranes were observed by WDFW biologists surveying geese off of the Dike Road in Woodland in late October. Loafing cranes were congregated on corn and ryegrass fields, while small flocks flew overhead sounding their trumpeting trill. In Lewis County, a birder also reported sighting a sandhill crane, along with 15 greater white-fronted geese , 15 cacklers , 70 green-winged teal and 23 western grebe on Riffe Lake.

With hunting seasons under way in many parts of the region, some birders have called WDFW to ask whether they should wear hunter-orange clothing while in the field. "It's not a legal requirement for bird watchers," said Bill Tweit, a WDFW policy analyst and avid birder. "But it only makes sense to make every effort to let hunters know where you are when you’re sharing the same area."

Meanwhile, counting circles are beginning to form up throughout the region for the 111th annual Christmas Bird Count , scheduled Dec. 14, 2010 through Jan. 5, 2011. Specific counting dates have already been announced in several areas of southwest Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  Those interested should watch the Audubon website at http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/  for details.


Eastern Washington

Fishing: Snake River steelheading was slow in October, but could pick up in the weeks ahead, said Joe Bumgarner, a WDFW fish biologist. Anglers have been averaging 30 to 50 hours per steelhead - a far cry from last year when steelheaders were catching fish in a fraction of that time.

Even the mouth of the Grand Ronde River, which traditionally provides some of the best fishing, has been slow. Catch rates for the fall chinook fishery, which tends to be incidental to steelhead fishing, have also been slow on the Snake River system.

Warmer temperatures through late October may be part of the problem, Bumgarner said.

"The good news is that there are lots of steelhead here and the weather is changing," he said. "At last count there were more than 190,000 steelhead over Lower Granite Dam, with 800 to 1,200 a day still coming up. With the rain and colder temperatures we’re just starting to get now, November could be the month of steelheading here."

Although many of the region’s top trout-fishing lakes are closed by November, there are a couple of exceptions and several year-round-open waters worth trying. Southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lake remains open through the end of November for catch-and-release, selective gear fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout . Waitts Lake in Stevens County is open through February and provides rainbow and brown trout, largemouth bass , and yellow perch .
 
Big net-pen-reared rainbow trout and some kokanee are available in Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, which is open year-round. Large rainbows continue to provide action at Sprague Lake, the big year-round waterway that sprawls across the Lincoln-Adams county line just south of Interstate 90.

Fly fishers have reported that rainbow trout are biting at year-round-open Z-Lake off Telford Road on the WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County. 

Rock Lake in Whitman County, open year-round, is still producing catches of rainbow and brown trout , along with some largemouth bass .
  
Trout, bass, crappie, perch , and other species are available at Spokane County’s year-round-open Eloika, Newman and Silver lakes.

Hunting: The modern firearm general elk hunting season and some special permit elk hunts run Oct. 30 through Nov. 7 in select game management units. The southeast’s Blue Mountains herds are providing the best opportunities again this season.  Late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting in select game management units gets under way in late November. Check the regulations pamphlet for legal elk definitions and all other rules.
 
Pheasant hunting has been under way since Oct. 23. WDFW Enforcement Sergeant Dan Rahn reports success has been marginal, with heavy rain in at least the central district of the region over opening weekend. "Hunters have been braving the storms and report seeing average number of birds," Rahn said.
 
Most regional biologists reported few pheasant broods this year.  Joey McCanna, a WDFW upland game specialist, initiated survey routes to count birds this year, but the numbers so far are not relative to anything comparable from past years. Pheasants per square mile ranged from less than one in the Colton and Pomeroy areas to over two in the Walla Walla area. Brood sizes ranged from near five in the Lancaster and Union Flat Creek areas to near seven in the Colfax and Hay areas. McCanna thinks this year’s season could be similar to 2009, when hunter participation was down three percent but harvest was up three percent. Last year in Whitman County alone, for example, some 3,073 hunters spent 18,827 days to harvest 11,795 pheasants.
 
Game-farm-raised pheasants will be released throughout the three-month-long season at several release sites to boost opportunities, although the total number of birds will be down from past years. See the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program (http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/pheasant/eastern/  ) for detailed information about those sites.
 
Sergeant Rahn reminds pheasant hunters to wear the required hunter orange and be aware of others hunting in the same area. He also reminds all hunters who witness poaching or other illegal conduct afield to call the Washington State Patrol at 227-6560 or call 911 to relay messages most quickly to WDFW officers.

Late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting runs Nov. 6-19 in game management units 105-124, where any buck is legal. Late archery and muzzleloader deer general hunting and modern firearm special permit deer hunting in select units throughout the region is in late November.
 
Earlier deer hunting participation and results can provide a glimpse of the prospects for these seasons, although rut behavior and weather conditions can change opportunities dramatically. In southeast units checked, WDFW district wildlife biologist Pat Fowler reported deer hunting pressure was spotty, with low pressure in the mountains and wilderness area, moderate pressure in the foothills, and low to moderate pressure in the lowland farming area.

Success in the mountains appears to be low, moderate in the foothills, and low in the farmland area. WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area was full of deer hunting camps and the adjacent Last Resort was busy checking deer into the cooler. In northeast units surveyed through traditional roadside check stations, WDFW district wildlife biologist Dana Base reported a relatively average rate of participation and success - about 380 hunters contacted with about 12 percent of them successfully harvesting deer.
 
The northeast district’s wild turkey late fall general season is just in time for bagging a bird for the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday dinner table.  From Nov. 20 through Dec. 15, turkey hunters can take either sex birds in northeast game management units 105-124, where the big birds are relatively plentiful.  Hunters who already bagged a bird or two (depending on the sex), can still take one more turkey in this late season. See all the regulation details on page 67 of the Big Game pamphlet.
 
Holiday tablefare opportunities are also available for goose hunters in this region. There are three extra days this month for goose hunting in Spokane, Lincoln and Walla Walla counties where the season is restricted to weekends and Wednesdays. Thursday, Nov. 11, and Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25-26, are open for goose hunting.

Waterfowl hunting in general should improve as more wintery weather develops throughout the region. WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area manager Juli Anderson reports recent rain has been a good start toward filling the area’s many small potholes that have been dry this year. If rain continues and deep freezing holds off, ducks and geese should be drawn in and could provide limited hunting opportunities.
 
Fall black bear hunting season in select game management units throughout the region closes Nov. 15. Special permit moose hunting in select game management units in the northeast district closes Nov. 30.

Wildlife viewing: WDFW central district wildlife biologist Howard Ferguson relays reports of everything from sandhill cranes and tundra swans to red crossbills and snow buntings at this time. "There’s a lot of movement with changing weather and shortening daylight," Ferguson said. "New winter resident birds are arriving and migrants are making stopovers, so you never know what you might see at this time of year."

WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area manager Juli Anderson said recent rain has been a good start toward filling the area’s many small potholes that have been dry this year. If rain continues and deep freezing holds off, waterfowl should be drawn in and very visible. Volunteers recently reported a variety of fall migrating hawks in the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area.

Anderson said on-going forest thinning on WDFW’s Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County is producing park-like habitat that makes it easier for birdwatchers and others to see wildlife. On a recent visit, a pileated woodpecker was seen just off the Trout Lake-Bisbee Mountain road system. "Surprisingly I only saw one ruffed grouse that day," she said. Other WDFW biologists indicated earlier this year that forest grouse numbers in general may be down this year.
 
The peak of both white-tailed and mule deer breeding season is in mid-November and is a good time to view antlered bucks vying for dominance over other bucks or seeking does. WDFW wildlife research biologist Woody Myers says buck deer can be less wary of virtually everything else at this time, so viewing may be as easy as from a roadside. But he reminds motorists to be extremely cautious. Motor vehicle collisions with deer increase at this time, not just because the deer are less wary but because shortened daylight hours simply have more motorists on the roads in the dark.
 
The Blue Mountains Audubon Society chapter’s annual day-long "Turkey Trot" field trip is Nov. 20, starting at 9 a.m. Trip leader Tom Scribner says participants will scour the foothills of Walla Walla and Columbia counties in search of wild turkeys , and since their numbers continue to increase, it should not be hard to find them, especially south of Dayton. Scribner says they’ll also be on the lookout for more unusual birds, like American dippers, northern shrike, pileated woodpeckers , and pygmy owls . Call Scribner at 509-529-8628 if you plan to attend.

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Northcentral Washington

Fishing: The steelhead fishery on the upper Columbia River and its tributaries slowed a bit in late October, but anglers will have another river to try in the weeks ahead.  Starting Nov. 1, the Similkameen River will open to fishing for hatchery-reared steelhead from the mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam. Selective gear and night closure rules are in effect for the Similkameen River.

Above Wells Dam, anglers have been averaging one steelhead for every ten hours of fishing on the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries, reports WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp. "Remember there’s mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead and a four-fish daily limit," he said. "All fish with adipose fins intact must be released and cannot be completely removed from the water prior to release."

Jateff also reported that a few lowland lakes are still open for catch-and-release trout fishing through the month of November - Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Rat Lake near Brewster. Selective gear rules are in effect for all three lakes.

Anglers interested in catching yellow perch could try Patterson Lake near Winthrop, said Jateff, noting that the fish average seven to eight inches. "There’s no daily limit and no minimum size," he said. "We encouraged anglers to retain all perch caught regardless of size."

Several year-round waters in the region can provide decent fishing opportunity during the month of November. Banks Lake has a little bit of everything - smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, yellow perch, walleye, kokanee , even lake whitefish . Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir have most of the same, plus net-pen-reared rainbow trout .

Hunting: WDFW Waterfowl Specialist Mikal Moore of Moses Lake reports the waterfowl   hunting season in the north Columbia Basin opened with better than expected participation and success. Depending on weather, prospects for the rest of the season look good, he said. 

"The most successful hunters were those hunting isolated potholes in the North Potholes area and the Frenchman Wasteway between Dodson Road and Road C Southeast," Moore said. "Both areas averaged four birds per hunter, though mallards dominated the bag on the Frenchman, and American green-winged teal were most common on North Potholes."

Moore said water delivery to the Winchester Regulated Access Area (RAA) has been slowed by an enormous beaver lodge, which prevented the area from flooding in time for the opener. "It’s receiving water now and should be a good hunting spot until freeze-up, thanks to all the mallards using the Frenchman Reserve," she said.

Moore also noted small Canada geese are arriving in the Stratford area in large numbers. They will spend a few weeks feeding on harvested wheat fields in the area before distributing through the Basin.  Contracts for access to harvested corn stubble fields in the Columbia Basin are in the works, but they won’t be finalized until after the field corn harvest, approximately in mid-November.  Moorse said a map of walk-in hunting fields enrolled in the Corn Stubble Retention Program will be posted on WDFW’s Northcentral Region webpage, once the contracts are complete.

Hunting for the Thanksgiving holiday? Goose hunters will have three extra days in November in areas where the season is usually restricted to weekends and Wednesdays. Those extra days are Thursday, Nov. 11; Thursday, Nov. 25; and Friday, Nov. 26.

A special-permit wild turkey hunt also arrives just in time to bag a bird for the Thanksgiving - or Christmas - holiday dinner table. For the 50 permitees drawn earlier this year, the season runs Nov. 15 through Dec. 15 in game management units 218-231 and 242.

Meanwhile, special-permit and late archery deer hunting gets under way in select game management units later in November. Depending on the weather, prospects look good, considering the condition of deer already checked during earlier seasons, said Scott Fitkin, a WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist.

Bighorn sheep - Photo by Justin Haug
Northern shrike - Photo by Justin Haug
Photos by Justin Haug

Fitkin said the deer check station in the Methow conducted on the final weekend of the general modern firearm season, showed excellent body condition of harvested animals and several older age class bucks. 

"The percentage of 2 ½ year-old deer in the sample increased over last year as predicted, given the improved fawn recruitment two winters ago," Fitkin said.  "Greater availability of young bucks, combined with good buck carryover from 2009, may boost success rates this year. However, hunter numbers and success as tallied at the check station could not be accurately compared to last year, due to the change in check station location."

Fitkin also noted snow has come to the high country, with more unsettled weather in the forecast. Those conditions should also improve prospects for permit and archery hunters in November.

Wildlife viewing:   A variety of ducks, geese and other water birds are concentrating in the Columbia Basin and relatively easy to watch from roadsides near water or grainfields. WDFW Waterfowl Specialist Mikal Moore of Moses Lake said small Canada geese are currently arriving in the Stratford area in large numbers. They will spend a few weeks feeding on harvested wheat fields in the area before distributing through the Basin. 

Bighorn sheep are visible above the Loomis unit of WDFW’s Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County. WDFW area assistant manager Justin Haug recently photographed a ram, and a northern shrike just north of the headquarters building.

With the peak of both the white-tailed and mule deer breeding season or rut in mid-November, now is the time to view antlered bucks vying for dominance over other bucks or seeking does. WDFW wildlife research biologist Woody Myers says buck deer can be less wary at this time of the year, so viewing may be as easy as from a roadside. But he reminds motorists to be extremely cautious - even if the deer are not. Motor vehicle collisions with deer increase at this time, not just because the deer are preoccupied but because motorists are often driving in the dark during shortened daylight hours.


Southcentral Washington

Fishing:   Fresh from a record catch of fall chinook , anglers fishing the Hanford Reach in late October were having a tough time hooking up with hatchery steelhead . That doesn’t bode well for fishing opportunities in November, when steelhead are the main attraction for anglers in that section of the Columbia River, said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

"Steelhead fishing has been unusually slow at a time when it should be ramping up," Hoffarth said.  "We’ve been seeing 20 anglers come in with one fish among them."

While the forecast is below the 10-year average, it does not fully account for low number of hatchery steelhead in angler’s creels in the Reach, Hoffarth said. Both creel surveys and counts at the Ringold Fish Hatchery indicate a dearth of one-salt fish returning from the ocean for the first time. 

Although counts of two-salt fish are generally on track, one-salt fish generally make up about three-quarters of the catch, Hoffarth said. "I hope I’m wrong, but it looks like we could be in for another tough month of steelhead fishing in this area."

Starting Nov. 1, the daily catch limit is two hatchery steelhead, which can be identified by their clipped adipose fins. All unmarked steelhead must be released unharmed.

The slow start for steelhead in the Hanford Reach stands in stark contrast to the record catch of fall chinook from McNary Dam to Priest Rapids Dam this year. Through Oct. 22, when that fishery closed, anglers caught an estimated 10,000 adult chinook, along with 1,360 jacks and four coho, Hoffarth said. He estimates that approximately 90,000 fall chinook returned to the Reach this year.

Anglers fishing the Yakima River also caught an estimated 230 adult chinook, 25 jacks and 23 coho before that fishery closed Oct. 22.

Fisheries remain open for both salmon and hatchery steelhead in most areas of the Columbia River downstream from McNary Dam. For daily limits and other regulations, see WDFW’s Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ).

Hoffarth said walleye fishing should also be productive through the end of November, before the cold sets in. He recommends trolling upstream at night.

Hunting:   November is prime time for hunting in central Washington, offering a variety of hunting opportunities from waterfowl to big game. Warm, dry conditions made for some tough hunting conditions in October, but that is expected to change as temperatures continue to drop and the rain and snow begins to fall in earnest.

"November is a busy month for hunters," said Jerry Nelson, WDFW deer and elk specialist. "Popular hunting seasons are open for one species or another throughout the month, and we can usually count on more favorable weather for hunting."

A prime example is the modern firearm hunting season for elk , which opens Oct. 30. Southcentral Washington consistently offers some of the best elk hunting in the state, and this year shouldn’t be any different, said Ted Clausing, WDFW regional wildlife manager. 

"We’re seeing a lot of elk, and the numbers look good," Clausing said.  "The Yakima and Colockum herds both appear to have benefited from the mild winter."

Hunting areas for elk abound in Yakima and Kittitas counties (District 8), where most public lands and private timber lands are open to hunters. That is not the case in Franklin and Benton counties (District 4), where hunting opportunities are largely limited to private property surrounding the western and southern boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument (Game Management Unit 372).  

For archers, a number of game management units (GMUs) open for deer and elk hunting Nov. 24 and run through Dec. 8. For more information, see WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/ and at license vendors around the state.

As noted in the pamphlet, the hunting season for black bear ends Nov. 15. The general season for cougar using any weapon runs through Dec. 31 in the Kittitas-Yakima Zone and through March 2011 in the Columbia Basin Zone.

Meanwhile, hunting seasons continue throughout the region for geese, ducks, coots, snipe, California quail, chukar, forest grouse, pheasant, partridge, cottontail and horseshoe rabbit .

Local waterfowl production is down this year, but hunting should pick up once cold temperatures up north drive more birds into the area.  In Franklin County, small ponds and lakes on WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Wildlife Area and the Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch are good places to hunt ducks and geese. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also provide hunting areas along the Snake and Columbia Rivers for bank and boat hunters.

Wildlife viewing: Frosty mornings and snow in some areas are reminders to backyard birdwatchers that now is the time to stock supplemental feeding stations and provide ice-free water sources to enjoy close-up wildlife viewing. WDFW wildlife biologists advise keeping backyard bird feeding stations clean and bird-friendly and recommend checking out all the "do’s and don’t’s" details at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/winter_feeding/ .

Area birders should also be aware that the Yakima Valley chapter of the Audubon Society is offering a field trip to the McNary National Wildlife Refuge Nov. 13 to study a variety of waterfowl, including geese, dabbling and diving ducks at the height of waterfowl migration. The group will also look for birds of prey, gulls, and songbirds in Benton County.  Meet trip leader Bill Drenguis (509-965-5808) at 7:30 a.m. at the Sears parking lot west of IHOP on Valley Mall Boulevard. 

With the peak of both white-tailed and mule deer breeding seasons in mid-November, this is the time to view antlered bucks vying for dominance over other bucks or seeking does. "The bucks are less wary during the rut, which improves roadside viewing opportunities," said Woody Myers, a WDFW research biologist.  "But people still need to be very cautious around these animals."