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The latest in fish and wildlife recreational opportunities across Washington State

October 2010

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

Hunting seasons, clam digs signal the beginning of fall

Some of Washington's most popular hunting seasons will get under way Oct. 16, when hunters will take to the field for ducks, geese, deer and elk.  Other hunting seasons opening this month include those for pheasant, quail, chukar and gray partridge.

Big game populations have benefitted from a mild winter, and recent rainfall should also improve hunters’ success in the field, said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). 

"Fall hunting seasons generally look very promising," said Ware. "All we need now is a little more wind to knock more leaves off the trees for better visibility."

All hunters must carry a valid 2010-11 hunting license for the species they are hunting. Detailed information on upcoming hunting seasons is available in WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game Regulation pamphlet, both available online at .

Rather hunt with a clam gun? The fall razor-clam season will get under way Oct. 7-10 at Twin Harbors, with additional digging opportunities Oct. 8-9 at Long Beach, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon.

For more information on razor-clam digs, see the South Sound/Olympic Peninsula report below and check for updates on the WDFW website ( ) or the toll-free Shellfish Hotline (866-880-5431). 

Meanwhile, anglers are now flocking to the Columbia River and its tributaries for salmon, steelhead and walleye. Sturgeon fishing will open Oct. 1 on the lower river from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Wauna powerlines, providing good opportunities to catch sturgeon from either the bank or a boat. 

For more information on these and other fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities available in the next few weeks, see the regional reports below: 

North Puget Sound  

Fishing: October is usually primetime for anglers fishing for coho salmon in the region, where some fish will be hooked in the marine areas but the best action likely will be in the rivers.

"The coho fishery started slow in Puget Sound, but we could see more fish move into area waters and make for some decent fishing in October," said Steve Thiesfeld, a fish biologist with WDFW. "If that happens, those fish will continue to make their way into the rivers, providing anglers a great fishing opportunity throughout the month." 

Several rivers are open for salmon, including the Snohomish, Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Snoqualmie and Wallace. Anglers fishing those rivers have a daily limit of two coho only. 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 .

In the marine areas, anglers fishing for ocean coho should try Point No Point, Jefferson Head, Possession Bar and Shipwreck. Fishing regulations for those areas, and other waters of marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), change in October. Beginning Oct. 1, anglers fishing Marine Area 9 will have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release all chinook. Those fishing Marine Area 10 will have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.
Anglers looking to get an early start on the region's blackmouth season also might want to head to Marine Area 10, said Thiesfeld. Another option for blackmouth anglers is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where anglers can keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit beginning Oct. 1.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that beginning Oct. 1 only portions of marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) will be open for salmon fishing. Salmon fishing in Marine Area 8-1 will be restricted to the Oak Harbor area, west of a line from Forbes Point to Blowers Bluff. Anglers fishing Oak Harbor will have a daily limit of two coho only.
In Marine Area 8-2, salmon fishing will be limited to the south end of the area, south of a line from Randall Point to the south end of the Everett Naval Station dock. Anglers in that area will have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release chinook.

Later in October, some saltwater anglers will turn their attention to chum salmon, said Thiesfeld, who recommends trolling slow for chum and using a flasher with a green coyote spoon or a green, purple or pink mini hoochie. 
Meanwhile, crabbing closes one hour past sunset Sept. 30 in Marine Area 7 - the only area in the region currently open for crab. The region's other marine areas are already closed for a catch assessment. See WDFW's sport-crabbing website ( ) for more information.

Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 10 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2010 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2011 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at . Crabbers who continued to fish in an open area after Sept. 6 should record their catch on their winter catch card.

Anglers should be aware that salmon fisheries at Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish will close Oct. 2 because of low coho returns to the area. For more information, check the emergency rule changes at .

Hunting: The region’s popular waterfowl hunting season gets under way in mid-October. The duck season will be open from Oct. 16 through Oct. 20, and then re-open again Oct. 23. Goose hunts will be open Oct. 16 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.

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 for information on the rules and requirements.
Meanwhile, the muzzleloader-only season for deer runs through Oct. 3, while the cougar hunt is open through Oct. 15. Beginning Oct. 2, muzzleloaders can go afield for elk . The modern firearm season for deer gets under way Oct. 16, when hunters using any weapon can go afield for cougar. 

Hunting seasons are under way in the region for bear and grouse , while the California quail, bobwhite and pheasant seasons get started Oct. 2.   

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

Wildlife viewing: Snow geese will be making their way to the region this month. 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. Once they arrive, 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 .

October also is a good time to watch salmon moving up local streams to spawn. One of the best places to see fish is downtown Issaquah. Visitors can celebrate the return of spawning salmon during Issaquah Salmon Days, set for Oct. 2-3. This year's festival features educational displays, entertainment, food and other attractions. More information is available at .

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Oct. 4 Update: Razor-clam digging will be allowed Oct. 7-10 at Twin Harbors beach and Oct. 8-9 at Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch and Long Beach.

 Fishing: With salmon moving into the bays and rivers, anglers have several options to consider in planning a fishing trip in the region. Or, they might want to trade in their fishing rods for clam shovels. The first razor-clam dig of the fall season is scheduled in early October.

WDFW approved the digs at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch after marine toxin tests confirmed the clams were safe to eat. Opening dates and evening low tides in October are:

  • Oct. 7, Thurs. - 6:55 p.m. (-1.0 ft.), Twin Harbors
  • Oct. 8, Fri. - 7:42 p.m. (-1.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Oct. 9, Sat. - 8:28 p.m. (-1.5 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Oct. 10, Sun. - 9:15 p.m. (-1.3 ft.), 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 and from license vendors around the state.

More razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled Nov. 5-8, Nov. 20-21, Dec. 3-6 and Dec. 31-Jan. 2.

Meanwhile, anglers looking for salmon fishing opportunities might consider heading to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where a non-selective fishery for coho and chinook gets under way Oct. 1 in Marine Area 6 (Port Angeles). The daily limit in Marine Area 6 will be two salmon, except that only one fish may be a chinook. In non-selective fisheries, anglers may retain fish whether or not they have a clipped adipose fin. Anglers are reminded that marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 5 (Sekiu) are only open for salmon fishing through Sept. 30.

But beginning Oct. 1, anglers fishing in marine areas 11 and 13 (Vashon Island to South Puget Sound) will be allowed to retain wild chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit. However, all wild coho caught in Marine Area 13 must be released.

In Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), fishing regulations change Oct. 16, when anglers will have a daily limit of four salmon, but only one of which can be a chinook.

Grays Harbor (Marine Area 2-2) also is an option for salmon anglers. The harbor remains open through Nov. 30 with a daily limit of two salmon, but chinook and chum must be released.

Crabbing in Puget Sound is still open in a few areas. Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) closes Sept. 30, but marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 and 13 (South Puget Sound) remain open for crabbing through Jan. 2, seven days a week.

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. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. See WDFW's sport-crabbing website ( ) for more information.

Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 10 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2010 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2011 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at . Crabbers who continue to fish in an open area after Sept. 6 should record their catch on their winter catch card.

In freshwater, area rivers that open for salmon Oct. 1 include the Elk, Hoquiam, Humptulips, Johns, Satsop and Wishkah rivers in Grays Harbor County; and Kennedy Creek in Thurston County. Anglers should check the rules pamphlet at for specific regulations on these rivers.
Regulations are also changing on the Skokomish River in Mason County. Beginning Oct. 1, anglers may keep up to four adult salmon as part of a six-fish daily limit, but must release all chinook . Chum must be released through Oct. 15.
Elsewhere, anglers fishing in the Quillayute system - which includes the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah and Dickey rivers - can keep two adult salmon, plus two additional adult hatchery coho as part of the six-fish daily limit. In Clallam County, the Dungeness River opens to salmon fishing Oct. 16 with a daily limit of four coho only.

Anglers should be aware that salmon fisheries on the lower Quilcene River and at Quilcene/Dabob Bay will close Oct. 2 because of low coho returns to the area. For more information, check the emergency rule changes at .
Hunting: The modern firearm season for deer runs Oct. 16-31, but not before muzzleloaders have had their turn in the field. The muzzleloader season for deer runs through Oct. 3 in select game management units (GMU) throughout the region. For elk, the early muzzleloader season runs Oct. 2-8.
Bird-hunting opportunities are also in the forecast, starting with pheasant, quail and bobwhite seasons opening Oct. 2. Then comes the start of general hunting seasons for ducks, coots and snipe , which run Oct. 16-20 and then reopen Oct. 23.  Goose-hunting seasons also get under way Oct. 16 in most areas and continue daily through Oct. 28 before picking up again in November. However, goose management area 2B (Pacific County) is open Saturdays and Wednesdays only beginning Oct. 16. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, the hunting season for black bear continues through Nov. 15, while muzzleloader-only hunts for cougar are open through Oct. 15. The cougar season opens to hunters using any weapon Oct. 16.
Before going afield, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at for details. Also, area-by-area summaries of the hunting prospects throughout the state area available on WDFW’s website at .

Wildlife viewing: October and November are good months to watch salmon returning to local streams. In Mason County, people can visit the Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve, which is located on Totten Inlet off U.S. Hwy 101 between Olympia and Shelton. The creek is one of the most productive chum salmon streams in Washington. While there, visitors can find numerous species of migrating shorebirds or walk the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail. Details on the trail are available at .
In Thurston County, Tumwater Falls Park continues to offer views of salmon as they make their way up the Deschutes River. The 15-acre park runs adjacent to Capitol Boulevard and Interstate 5 in Tumwater. Several hatcheries in the area also offer viewing opportunities. In Pierce County, Minter Creek hatchery near Purdy has a good viewing platform, and coho will be returning this month to the Chambers Creek hatchery in Lakewood. The best place to see coho is at the dam, but a trail also follows along the stream.
Wildlife also are on display in the region. Visitors to the Olympic Peninsula should be on the alert for the annual autumn Roosevelt elk rut. A great place to hear a bull elk bugle or clack antlers with a rival is the Quinault River valley upstream from Lake Quinault. The elk are most active during the early morning and evening hours. Observers should give the elk plenty of room, since they are easily disturbed and potentially dangerous.

Southwest Washington

Oct. 18 Update: The Grays River salmon fishery – originally scheduled to close Oct. 15 – will remain open through Nov. 14.

Fishing: Coho salmon are moving up the Columbia River and into area tributaries, where anglers can still reel in bright chinook on some rivers.  But starting Oct. 1, anglers have another option to consider:  Sturgeon fishing in the mainstem Columbia River from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.

"This is a great fishing opportunity for fall, especially for anglers who don’t have boats," said Brad James, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "Bank anglers have done very well, historically, fishing for sturgeon just below Bonneville Dam."

Anglers may retain legal-size sturgeon Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only until the area quota is met.  White sturgeon must measure 38 to 54 inches from their nose to the fork in their tail to meet the legal size limit. The catch limit is one sturgeon per day, with a statewide annual limit of five fish.  James said about 2,300 fish are still available for harvest in the mainstem Columbia River under the annual quota for the area.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if the fishery starts out strong," James said.  "Sturgeon have moved out of the estuary and have been chasing juvenile shad that are outmigrating past the dam."

Meanwhile, the catch of early stock hatchery coho was decent on the lower Columbia in September, with more late-stock fish scheduled to enter the fishery in October and into November, said Joe Hymer, another WDFW fish biologist.  In all, about 98,000 late-run fish are expected this year compared to 188,000 early run fish.

Although the run predicted this year is only about 40 percent the size of last year’s return, Hymer said anglers can still expect at least a month of good fishing. "Last year’s run was above average, but this year’s fishery should still be fairly decent if the forecasts prove out," he said.

The best fishing for bright late-run coho is on the Cowlitz, Klickitat, Kalama and Washougal rivers, Hymer said. The Lewis River also attracts late-run coho, but chinook  fishing closes there Oct. 1, as does fishing from floating devices around the salmon hatchery and all fishing above the hatchery. The Kalama River remains closed for chinook retention through the end of the year. The Grays River salmon fishery – originally scheduled to close Oct. 15 – has been extended through Nov. 14 because of a larger than expected return of hatchery coho. For more information, see the emergency rule change at

As in past years, anglers are required to release any wild coho - which have an intact adipose fin - intercepted on the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries from the Hood River Bridge downstream. For catch limits and other rules applicable to salmon fisheries on the big river or its tributaries, see the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet, available online at .
Although the focus of the salmon fishery switches to coho in October, chinook should continue biting through the month on a number of rivers. The Klickitat River was a hotspot in late September, as was Drano Lake. Fishing will be closed at Drano Lake throughout October from 6 p.m. Tuesdays to 6 p.m. Wednesdays.

Anglers planning to fish for salmon on the Cowlitz River should be aware they may now retain one wild chinook as part of their two-chinook limit on that river. In addition, the daily chinook limit has been increased to two adult chinook salmon on the Columbia River from the mouth of the Lewis River to Bonneville Dam.

For trout , Sept. 30 is the last day to fish Mineral Lake, but Swift Reservoir remains a good bet for rainbows.  The area around the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery is also a good bet for hatchery sea-run cutthroats in October. Those aggressive fish averaging a foot or more can be caught on a variety of gear including bait, flies, or lures. 

Hunting:   New hunting opportunities in October begin with mountain quail and pheasant, then expand to include ducks, geese and the early modern-firearms season for deer. Many of these species benefitted from the mild winter, although the wet spring that followed took a toll on some upland game populations.

Hunting seasons for quail and pheasant open Oct. 2 throughout western Washington, although the availability of those species is fairly limited in the southwest region. Most quail hunting is concentrated on private lands in eastern Klickitat County, where landowner permission is often required to hunt.

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 on the WDFW website.

But for thousands of hunters, "opening day" arrives Oct. 16.  That’s when general seasons for ducks and geese - as well as the general modern-firearms season for black-tailed deer - get under way in many areas of southwest Washington. 

Goose management areas 3 and 5 open for goose hunting Oct. 16. Area 2A, where written permission is needed to hunt geese, will remain closed until Nov. 13.  See the state Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet ( for more information.

Duck hunters should be aware that the daily limit for scoters and long-tailed ducks in western Washington has been reduced from four to two, and for goldeneye from seven to two. Those changes were adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission last month to address population declines for scoters and reduce potential impacts to long-tailed ducks and goldeneye. Special limits for hen mallard, pintail, redhead, canvasback, harlequin and scaup will remain the same.

Deer hunters should do fairly well this year after the mild winter, said Eric Holman, a WDFW wildlife biologist for District 9.  He said deer populations are generally stable in lower-elevation units such as Washougal (GMU 568) and Battle Ground (GMU 564) and in the Klickitat County GMUs. Deer populations also appear to be increasing west of Interstate 5 in District 10, said fellow biologist Pat Miller.

"Black-tailed deer thrive in heavily vegetated habitats and are generally nocturnal in nature," Holman said. "This means successful hunters must be in position early in the morning and carefully hunt near sources of food and in secure cover."

Holman notes that significant changes were made in hunting rules for deer last year, and several new rules will be in effect for elk hunting this year in GMUs 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River) and 578 (West Klickitat). For example, taking antlerless elk is now illegal during modern firearms and muzzleloader seasons in all three of those areas. In addition, a three-point antler restriction has been adopted for all general elk hunting seasons in those three areas.

Southwest Washington consistently offers some of the best elk hunting in the state, and this year shouldn’t be any different, Holman said. As with deer, the mild winter should improve prospects for the muzzleloader elk-hunting season that runs Oct. 2-8 in parts of western Washington.

For the fourth year, the St. Helens Land Access Program is working to facilitate additional weekday motorized access for hunters during special elk permit seasons on the Weyerhaeuser St. Helen Tree Farm. Partners include Weyerhaeuser, WDFW and a number of volunteer organizations. To assist this program as a volunteer, see the department’s website at .

For more information on hunting rules for big game, check the rules pamphlet, available online at .

Wildlife viewing:   Birders from throughout the region will converge for Birdfest and Bluegrass 2010 , scheduled Oct. 9-10 at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Sponsored by the Friends of the Refuge, the festival features guided bird walks, kayak trips, children's activities and live bluegrass music. All proceeds go to benefit the refuge, which provides habitat for more than 200 species of birds. For more information, see .

The featured bird at this year’s festival is the dusky Canada goose , a dark-breasted subspecies of the Canada goose that nests in the Copper River Delta and surrounding area in Alaska.  Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was created to provide habitat for dusky Canada geese, which depend on the short grass for foraging. Dusky goose populations have declined in recent years, but duskys can still be seen at Ridgefield NWR, sometimes sporting red neck collars for identification.

Birders interested in learning more about area birds should be aware a few more guided birdwatching hikes will be offered this month at both the Ridgefield and Steigerwald Lake national wildlife refuges. Hikes on the Oaks to Wetlands trail of the Carty unit at Ridgefield will be Oct. 2, and Oct. 30. A final hike on the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail at Steigerwald Lake is scheduled Oct. 16. All hikes will begin at 8 a.m. and last for several hours. Reservations are required. To reserve a spot, contact Eric Anderson at the Ridgefield refuge at 360-887-4106 or e-mail to .

Then again, plenty of birds are on display throughout the region during fall migration. During a recent trip to the Port of Kalama North Property, one birder spotted two Lapland longspurs , three sandhill cranes , a ruffed grouse and six species of warblers (Nashville, orange-crowned, yellow-rumped, black-throated gray, Wilson’s and common yellowthroat). "A lot of birds are on the move," he wrote in a report to the Tweeters birding website.

Eastern Washington

Fishing: October is the last month - and often a very good time - to fish many of the region’s popular trout-stocked lakes and some rivers and streams. Fall insect hatches are providing trout food, so anglers who use flies or lures that mimic that forage can be successful.
Many Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille county waters produce good catches of rainbow trout and other species.  Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, reminds anglers to check the regulations before heading out because some waters, such as Bayley and Rocky lakes, have shifted to catch-and-release.

Some of Spokane County’s best trout lakes closed Sept. 30, but there are still plenty of opportunities. Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist, said Clear, Chapman and Liberty lakes provide trout, bass and other fish through October. Amber Lake remains open through November for catch-and-release fishing.  A number of year-round waters, including Eloika, Long and Newman lakes, have trout, bass, crappie and perch.
Most rivers and streams in the region close Oct. 31, but sections of some major waterways, like the Spokane River, remain open year-round or into next spring, some with specific restrictions listed in the rules pamphlet. In mid- to late October, WDFW fish biologists will be electrofishing at night the urban Spokane River stretch between the Maple Street and Ft. George Wright Drive bridges, catching and tagging wild redband rainbow trout to learn more about the population. Anglers are reminded that tagged trout must be released if caught by anglers.
Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, provides some of the best year-round fishing. Baker reports good trolling action on big rainbows and walleye , mostly from the Daisy area north. Walleye fishers have also been successful casting jigs near the shoreline, using bottom bouncers, and other methods. Several smallmouth bass , running 10 to 12 inches, were recently caught by Roosevelt shore anglers near Ft. Spokane and Hawk Creek.
Snake River steelhead action slowed the last week of September, but fishing should improve when the water cools down, said WDFW Enforcement Sgt. Dan Rahn.  "There are lots of steelhead in the river but they just aren’t biting," he said. "Steelhead were rolling on the surface just above Little Goose Dam, but they would not bite."

Rahn reminds steelhead and salmon fishers to use only barbless hooks. Anglers 15 years of age and over are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement when fishing for these species on the Snake River.
Hunting:   October is primetime for hunting throughout the region, with season openers nearly every weekend.

Oct. 1 is the start of two months of special permit moose hunting, with some 118 permit-holders (drawn from applicants earlier this summer) going afield in northeast and central district game management units.

Quail and Hungarian or gray and chukar partridge hunting opens Oct. 2. Cold and wet spring weather in many parts of the region at the time of hatch for these birds may mean low numbers of birds in the field this fall. The southeast district is probably the best bet, including the breaks of the Snake River and riparian or streamside lowlands and agricultural fields. WDFW wildlife biologist Pat Fowler estimates average quail numbers and possibly a higher-than-average number of Hungarian partridge.  Fowler also noted few chukar partridge broods have been observed to date, but the few sightings so far indicate chukar production and brood size may also be up slightly.

Deer hunting for modern firearm hunters opens Oct. 16, with both white-tailed and mule deer available throughout the region. The northeast district is the traditional mecca for whitetails, although WDFW wildlife biologist Dana Base said the overall population is down from historic highs because of recent severe winters and loss of cereal grain and alfalfa hay acreage. During the 2009 modern firearm deer hunting seasons, some 18,221 hunters harvested 4,299 deer in the northeast district, for a 23.6 percent success rate.
Both species of deer appear to be stable in the central district and prospects should be similar to last year. WDFW wildlife biologist Howard Ferguson of Spokane predicts the number of mature whitetail bucks may still be slightly lower than the 2008 high, before the two severe winters, but persistent hunters should have ample opportunity to harvest legal bucks (although Mt. Spokane unit is open to any buck, the rest of the units in the district are under a three-antler-point minimum rule.) During the 2009 modern firearm deer hunting seasons, some 13,024 hunters harvested 4,199 deer in the central district, for a 32 percent success rate.
The southeast district has seen declines in both deer species over the last several years, reports Fowler. For mule deer, the predominant species in the southeast, there’s been a problem with lower fawn survival. For whitetails, it’s been disease (EHD) outbreaks in some areas, like along the Touchet River between Dayton and Touchet, where 500 deer died in 2008. Mule deer populations appear to have stabilized along the breaks of the Snake River and in the lowlands, but numbers are still depressed in the mountain units. The foothills of the Blue Mountains and river bottoms hold the largest concentrations of whitetails, but much of that land is in private ownership and hunters need permission. During the 2009 modern firearm deer hunting seasons, some 6,992 hunters harvested 1,840 deer in the southeast district, for a 26 percent success rate.
Duck and goose hunting also opens Oct. 16, although the eastern region is not known for its waterfowl. Fowler reports local populations of Canada geese are good in the Burbank area near the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers, and around Clarkston on the Snake. But most southeast district waterfowl hunting is dependent on migrants that move in much later in the three-month-plus season. The same is true for the central district, and hunting success often depends on how long local waters remain ice-free. In the north end of the region, most public access waterfowl hunting is along the Pend Oreille River, with diving ducks most available. Canada geese are also available on Lake Roosevelt and large farm fields in valley bottoms.

Pheasant hunting opens Oct. 23 and the overall outlook is only fair to poor. That’s largely because of the long, wet, cold weather throughout the region during the peak of the hatch in late May and early June.

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 webpage at for detailed information about those sites.
The week-long general modern firearm elk hunting season opens Oct. 30 and there should be good opportunities again in the Blue Mountains of the southeast district. Fowler says most elk populations are at or near management objectives and calf survival has improved in recent years, although the Wenaha sub-herd in Game Management Unit (GMU) 169 still remains below historic population levels. Spike bull only is the rule in all the southeast district units, which include a fair amount of public land on the Umatilla National Forest and WDFW properties. Prospects should be similar to last year when 2,993 modern firearm elk hunters bagged 155 elk in the southeast district for a little better than five percent success rate.
Fowler says those hunters lucky enough to draw "any bull" permits will find excellent opportunities for big-antlered bulls this year. Several bulls that would score over 400 in the Boone and Crocket antler measurement records have been observed in the Blues. Fowler said last winter’s mild conditions and vegetative growth from spring and summer rain helped optimize antler growth.
The region’s central district is not known for large elk herds like the Blues, and access is mostly dependent on private landowner permission. But this year for the first time Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, southwest of Spokane, will conduct special permit elk hunting to help alleviate habitat damage from a growing herd. For those who missed the permit application period earlier this year, the Turnbull hunt is expected to be offered again next year.

Elk are also fewer and further between in the northeast district, but units are open for harvesting any elk, bull or cow. Base expects the hunt to be similar to last year’s when 3,032 modern firearm hunters took 139 elk for a 4.6 percent success rate. "Finding elk here is the biggest challenge with so much closed canopy forest where they can effectively hide," he said. "Archery and muzzleloader hunters, who hunt earlier and/or later seasons, are usually more successful."

Base reminds all big- and small-game hunters in the northeast district who might harvest coyotes (open year-round), to be sure of species identification because wolves are in the area. The gray wolf is protected under both federal and state law and may not be shot or killed. See wolf-coyote comparisons on page 73 of the hunting rules pamphlet or at .
For more details on all hunting season prospects, district by district, see . For past years’ hunting harvest reports by game management unit, see .
Wildlife viewing:   The month of October can bring some wildlife into easy view without much effort. Fall bird migrations are well under way for many species. It’s hard not to notice the scores of blackbirds thickening roadside power lines, the skeins of honking Canada geese moving just overhead from fields to waterways and back again, or the day-long invasion of a fall berry-laden bush by dozens of robins, grosbeaks or waxwings .
But unexpected wildlife movements at this time of year can be less pastoral. Both white-tailed and mule deer bucks are in the "rut" or breeding mode in October and early November. That can mean they’re moving across the landscape with less than their usual wariness, challenging each other and looking for does - including near roadways, and not just at dawn or dusk.

With daylight hours shrinking fast, the chances for a low-light roadside wildlife encounter are increasing, too. Black bears in particular are not only tough to spot in the growing dimness, but in this huckleberry-scarce year they seem to be roaming farther and wider in search of food, including closer to roads and human development in general. Bears are instinctively trying to fatten up as much as they can before going into winter dens later this fall. WDFW officials remind all wildlife enthusiasts - both homeowners and recreationists in bear country - to avoid attracting bears by keeping any possible source of food out of their reach. That includes wild bird seed and suet, pet food, garbage, compost piles, and unpicked fruit or vegetables in orchards and gardens.

For a completely different wildlife viewing experience, WDFW northeast district fish biologist Bill Baker of Colville suggests taking in the annual kokanee (land-locked sockeye salmon) spawning run in Pend Oreille County’s Harvey Creek, the inlet stream of Sullivan Lake. "In late October the kokanee should be showing up in Harvey Creek," Baker said. "You can see the fish in the shallow water right from the Sullivan Lake Road bridge, just south of the lake. You can usually see several bald eagles also hanging around the area, feeding on the spawned out kokanee." Check with the Colville National Forest’s Sullivan Lake Ranger District (509-446-2681) about timing a kokanee-viewing visit to the area.


Northcentral Washington

Fishing:   Oct. 1 is the start of a special rules hatchery steelhead fishing season on a portion of Okanogan County’s Okanogan River from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville. Bob Jateff, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist, said the fishery, like those on other upper Columbia River tributaries, will reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead and increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds.
Jateff reminds steelheaders heading for the Okanogan of the rules in effect: selective gear, night closure, no bait rules, 20-inch minimum size, and regardless of the fishing area above Wells Dam, a requirement to retain any adipose-fin-clipped hatchery-origin steelhead caught up to the daily limit of four fish.  Anglers are also required to possess a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license.

Jateff reports that steelhead fishing picked up the last week of September in the Methow River as fish continued to move into the river. The fishing area on the Methow, which has been open since Sept. 8, starts at the mouth and goes upstream to the confluence with the Chewuch River at Winthrop.  Selective gear rules, night closure, and no bait allowed are currently in effect for the steelhead fishery on the Methow.
Jateff reminds anglers that summer chinook salmon fishing in the mainstem Columbia River from Wells Dam to the Highway 17 Bridge in Bridgeport will close one hour after sunset on Oct. 15.  He says a few salmon are still being caught above Wells Dam and also upstream in the Bridgeport area.  Selective gear rules and a night closure are in effect for this fishery, but bait is allowed.

WDFW Enforcement Captain Chris Anderson said salmon fishing on the Columbia River from White Bluffs up to Priest Rapids Dam - a stretch that closes Oct. 22 - was good during the last week of September. "Normally there’s a pretty good morning bite that lasts about two hours," he said. Anderson reminds anglers that the mouth of Hatchery Creek below Priest Rapids Dam is closed to fishing to protect fish that are pooled up at the mouth of the creek leading into the hatchery.
Jateff said fishing rainbow trout lakes in October can be very good as water temperatures cool and trout become more active. Some good bets would be Big Twin near Winthrop, Blue on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, Aeneas near Tonasket, and Chopaka near Loomis.  All of these lakes stay open for fishing through Oct. 31.  Chopaka and Aeneas are fly-fishing only, and Blue and Big Twin are selective gear waters.  There is a one fish daily limit for all of these lakes.

Other Okanogan County trout waters Jateff recommends during the month of October are both Conconully Lake and Reservoir and Wannacut Lake.  All three produce good-size rainbow trout, including some triploids, and they are open through Oct. 31.

Jameson Lake in Douglas County, which closed July 4, re-opens for an Oct. 1-31 season on a hatchery plant of approximately 7,500 half-pound rainbows.
Bass fishing on year-round Potholes Reservoir, Moses Lake and other waters that are open in the Columbia Basin usually improves as fall advances. 

Hunting: October is primetime for hunting throughout the region, with season openers nearly every weekend.

Quail and Hungarian or gray and chukar partridge hunting opens Oct. 2, and the best bet in this region is the Columbia Basin’s Grant and Adams counties.  WDFW district wildlife biologist Rich Finger said birds went into last winter in good condition and mild weather resulted in good adult survival. The cool, wet spring may have reduced brood survival, but for quail at least, mid-season and late broods appear to have fared well. The opener and first weeks of the season may have warmer than usual temperatures, so Finger recommends hunting early mornings to keep bird dogs from overheating. "Panting dogs will not be able to scent birds well," he said. The hotspots for quail are Lower Crab Creek, the Desert Wildlife Area, and Gloyd Seeps. Gray partridge are in lower densities overall, mostly found on private dryland wheat fields in Adams County. Chukars are mostly in the Coulee Corridor areas from Lake Lenore up to the south end of Banks Lake. The region’s Okanogan and Chelan districts also have upland game birds, but biologists report relative numbers appear down, likely due at least in part to weather conditions at hatch.

Oct. 16 is the opening of deer hunting, and the prospects are good throughout the region. Mule deer are the predominant species, although white-tailed deer are found in some valley bottoms. David Volsen, WDFW Chelan District wildlife biologist, said good fawn production and last winter’s mild conditions should result in more bucks available this season. Post-season buck-to-doe ratios in Chelan County are stable and populations are at management objectives. Douglas County deer numbers and ratios aren’t as positive, Volsen said, partly due to the effect of past drought conditions on production and survival.
In Okanogan County, WDFW district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin reports improved prospects for mule deer hunting, thanks to high buck-doe ratios (20 per 100) and good survival from last summer’s forage and last winter’s mild conditions. Spring surveys indicated a fawn-adult ratio of 40 per 100, which means a moderately growing population, he said.

In the Columbia Basin, Finger expects deer hunters will have average success rates this season. Buck-doe ratios have declined slightly since the 2009 season, although fawn-doe ratios indicate moderate productivity. Most deer harvest in the Basin is in Game Management Units 272 (Beezley) and 284 (Ritzville).
Oct. 16 is also the waterfowl hunting opener, and the Columbia Basin provides the season’s best action east of the Cascades. Finger said the special youth hunt for birds Sept. 25-26 saw average success on waterfowl, and it can be a good indicator of how the regular season will unfold. "Duck production in the Basin was down about 20 percent this year and that’s what affects the early season hunting, before the migrant birds come in from the north," Finger said. "Still, we were able to capture and band a record number of mallards this year, so the resident population may be near or even above normal. I think overall hunters can expect conditions similar to last year when the average daily harvest was around three ducks per person."

October waterfowl hunting in the Basin will be mostly on local Canada geese, mallards, teal, wigeon and gadwall, with some wood ducks in stands of flooded trees.

Pheasant hunting opens Oct. 23, and although there are some birds throughout the region, the Columbia Basin district provides the best opportunities. Finger said pheasant hunters can expect similar numbers of birds as last year, when some 12,517 hunters bagged 4,820 birds in Grant County alone. Finger estimates the largest populations of wild pheasants are likely within the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George. Mixed bags of wild and released pheasants are likely in lower Crab Creek, Gloyd Seeps, and Dry Falls units.

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 webpage at for detailed information about those sites.
Elk hunting opens Oct. 30, mostly as a late archery season in this region, with just Game Management Unit 251 (Mission) available for modern firearm hunters restricted to "true spike bulls only."  Elk densities are naturally low in most of the region and overall success rates are generally lower than statewide averages.
Fitkin reminds all big- and small-game hunters in the Okanogan district who might harvest coyotes (open year-round), to be sure of species identification because wolves are in the area. The gray wolf is protected under both federal and state law and may not be shot or killed. See wolf-coyote comparisons on page 73 of the hunting rules pamphlet or at .

For more details on all hunting season prospects, district by district, see . For past years’ hunting harvest reports by game management unit, see .

Sandhill cranes in flightWildlife viewing:   Fall bird migrations are under way throughout the region, most noticeably in the Columbia Basin. WDFW district wildlife biologist Rich Finger said sandhill cranes have arrived in large numbers and can be observed around the Winchester Reserve, Frenchmen Reserve, and Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.  Although the area is known for the greater overall numbers of cranes making long migration stopovers in the spring, this is also a good time to see the big birds.

"While traveling through agricultural lands north and west of the Desert Wildlife Area we recently saw more than 1,000 sandhill cranes foraging in an old corn stubble and grass hay fields," Finger said.  "Small Canada geese - the Taverners and Lessers - have not yet arrived in significant numbers but could start showing up any day.  Overall numbers of Canada geese will continue to build until mid- to late-October when geese start to move to refuges and wildlife areas in southern Washington."
Other big birds are making their moves further north in the region. WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin said the Chelan Ridge raptor migration monitoring and banding station is in full swing and has lots of bird activity.  "In October more observations of the larger and more northerly species like goshawks, rough legged hawks, peregrines, golden eagles , possibly even northern hawk owls , can be expected," Fitkin said.
Bighorn sheepThe Chelan Ridge Raptor Migration Project is located 13 miles northwest of Chelan and about five miles south of Methow, off State Hwy. 153, west on Black Canyon Road nine miles to Forest Service Road 8020, then south just over three miles. The project is a cooperative effort between Hawk Watch International and the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests to monitor and learn more about raptors migrating through the eastern Cascade Mountains of Washington within the Pacific Coast Flyway. Standardized counts at the site began in 1998 following exploratory surveys in 1997. The project runs from late August through late October (or whenever the snow forces the crew off the ridge). Counts typically range between 2,000-3,000 migrants of up to 17 species per season. The most commonly seen species are sharp-shinned hawk, red-tailed hawk, Cooper's hawk, northern harrier , and American kestrel . For more information see .

WDFW Chelan Wildlife Area Manager Marc Hallet recently counted 98 bighorn sheep on the Chelan Butte Unit, which lies between the Columbia River and Lake Chelan near the town of Chelan.

Southcentral Washington

Fishing:   Steelhead are still moving into the Hanford Reach in large numbers, although most anglers are expected to continue focusing on fall chinook salmon through mid-October. Up to 77,000 adult fall chinook are expected to return to the Reach this year, more than double last year’s final count. Through Sept. 26, anglers fishing that area had caught a record 3,075 of those fish, along with 404 jacks.

Plenty of bright chinook salmon , some tipping the scales at 40 pounds, remain to be caught through the first half of October, said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

"Anglers have a great opportunity to catch bright, good-eating fish through the first half of the month," Hoffarth said.  "But these fish come to the Reach ready to spawn and they start turning dark later in the month." 

The salmon fishery is open through Oct. 22 from the Highway 395 Bridge to Wells, but closes Oct. 15 upriver from the dam. Anglers are advised to check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( ) for daily catch limits and other regulations that apply to specific sections of the Columbia River.

The question for many anglers, Hoffarth said, is when to switch over to hatchery steelhead . The steelhead fishery, which opened a month early due to unusually large returns, runs through March 31 from Highway 395 to the old Hanford wooden powerline towers and through Oct. 22 from the powerline towers upriver to Priest Rapids Dam. 

"October is a good time to start targeting hatchery steelhead," Hoffarth said.  "The water is cooling off and the fish are getting more aggressive."

Another good prospect for salmon is the Yakima River, where fishing for fall chinook and hatchery coho usually comes alive around the second week of the month. Best bets for catching fish include waters below Prosser Dam and Horn Rapids Dam, Hoffarth said.

"The salmon start moving into the Yakima, then all of a sudden they’re stacked like cordwood," he said. "I think we’re going to see a dramatic improvement in that fishery in the weeks ahead."

Rather catch some walleye ? October is also a good time to hook some of these toothy fish below McNary Dam, Hoffarth said. "Fall fishing for walleye is dynamite between Umatilla and Boardman," he said. "Those fish are putting on the feedbag for winter and are eager to strike big lures, night and day."

Trout fishing is available in many southcentral region rivers and streams, including the Yakima, Naches, Little Naches, and Bumping rivers in Yakima County. Anglers can also catch trout on the upper reaches of Taneum Creek, Naneum Creek, Manastash Creek, and the forks of the Teanaway in Kittitas County. Most rivers and creeks have special regulations like selective gear rules that prohibit bait. Most also have statewide trout catch limits of two trout with an 8-inch minimum size. Regulations for these and other fisheries are described in the Fishing in Washington regulation pamphlet, available online at .

Hunting:   New hunting opportunities in October begin with California quail, chukar and gray partridge, then expand to include ducks, geese, pheasant and modern-firearms seasons for deer and elk. Many upland game populations are depressed, although hunting prospects for deer and California quail show signs of improvement.

Hunting seasons open Oct. 2 for California quail, chukar and gray partridge , although hunters may have their work cut out for them. Quail, which appear to have had a productive late nesting period, could provide some good harvest opportunities. A lot of quail broods have been observed around WDFW wildlife areas. 

Some of the region’s best pheasant habitat is on and around WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Wildlife Area and on the Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch in northern Franklin County. Each hunting area has two parking areas with a maximum of five vehicles per lot and have Register to Hunt boxes on site. Hunters should also consider buying a hunting permit for the Yakama Reservation, near Toppenish, for the excellent waterfowl and upland game hunting opportunities that it provides.

Other habitat areas include the Hanford Reach National Monument’s Ringold Unit, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge along the Columbia River, and the Corps of Engineers’ Big Flat and Lost Island Habitat Management Units along the Snake River.

All of those areas are also good places to hunt pheasants when the season opens Oct. 23. Several thousand pen-raised pheasants are also released each year in the Sunnyside Wildlife Area. See the WDFW website at for more information about the department’s pheasant-release program.

But for thousands of hunters, "opening day" arrives Oct. 16. That’s when general seasons for ducks and geese - as well as the general modern-firearms season for deer - get under way in many areas of the region. 

"Most of the harvest is on migrant birds later in the year, but local grain production is up," said Jeff Bernatowicz, a WDFW wildlife biologist. "If favorable weather conditions occur, there should be enough food to hold in the area."

Areas opening to goose hunting Oct. 16 include goose management areas 4 and 5.  See the state Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet ( for more information.

Deer populations in the region have been down since 2003, but fawn production has improved this year. That means hunters may find more deer when the modern-firearms season opens Oct. 16, Bernatowicz said.

Mike Livingston, another WDFW wildlife biologist, said hunter success rates tend to be high, averaging 33 percent during the modern firearms hunts in Franklin and Benton counties. Most of that area is made up of private, open farmland, restricting access for hunters and providing little cover for deer, he said.

Some of the region’s highest concentrations of deer - mostly mule deer with a few white-tails - are in Game Management Unit 381, with a large percentage migrating in from northern units starting in October or early November, Livingston said. There and elsewhere, he recommends that hunters watch for "Feel Free To Hunt" and "Hunt By Written Permission" signs, posted by landowners willing to open their lands to hunting.

Southcentral Washington consistently offers some of the best elk hunting in the state, and this year shouldn’t be any different. As with deer, mild winter has improved elk-hunting prospects that get under way around the region in October.  Muzzleloaders will take the field Oct. 2, with openers for all gear types set to begin around the region Oct. 30.

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

For information about seasons and hunting rules, see the Big Game Hunting rule pamphlet, available online at . The pamphlet also contains information about ongoing hunts for cougar and bear.

Wildlife viewing:   Raptors are moving into the region for winter, as one birder observed during a recent hike at Chinook Pass. In just two hours, he counted 20 raptors - red tail hawks, northern harriers, sharp-shinned hawks , a golden eagle and a bald eagle - overhead on a trek to Sourdough Gap. "This is clearly a place to check for hawks moving through in the fall," he wrote on the Tweeters bird-watching website. He also reported seeing three mountain goats during his hike.

Then again, residents of Yakima can see a pair of peregrine falcons right downtown. Usually drawn to rugged cliffs, the peregrines appear to be nesting atop the Larson Building, just across the street from a bank. "From its high perch, the falcon keeps its keen eyes focused on rock pigeons that concentrate in Yakima along Front Street," according to an account in the Yakima Herald-Republic .  Seeing a likely target, it launches into flight and typically attacks from above, striking its victim senseless."

Since nesting season is over, those birds are likely migrants passing through. Since the 1970s, when the peregrine population in Washington had declined to only a few birds, the number of known nesting territories has increased to more than 150. Factors include the ban on DDT, and reintroduction efforts by WDFW.