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

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July 2011

(This document is updated periodically throughout the month to reflect current rules and opportunities. Please download the latest copy before heading out! Last updated July 20, 2011)

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

July brings waves of salmon,
and new state Discover Pass

Salmon fishing kicks into high gear at this time of year, when the Washington coast, several areas of Puget Sound and many rivers around the state are open for business. Most areas of Puget Sound also open for recreational crabbing July 1, setting the stage for a great Independence Day weekend. 

Also starting July 1, many anglers and others planning outdoor adventures will need to purchase a Discover Pass for vehicle access to state parks, campgrounds, boat launches and wildlife areas. The new requirement, approved this year by the state Legislature, is designed to help keep 7 million acres of state recreational lands open after steep budget cuts.

“The Discover Pass allows state natural-resource agencies to maintain public access to millions of acres of state recreation lands,” said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Sport fishers and hunters have traditionally supported WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites through their license fees; now all who enjoy these lands will share in their support.”

A Discover Pass will generally be required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by WDFW, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The fine for not displaying the pass is $99.

However, some exemptions apply to the new requirement.  For example, holders of most annual fishing and hunting licenses will not be required to purchase a Discover Pass to use WDFW lands and water-access sites. Information about exemptions and other aspects of the pass is available at http://www.discoverpass.wa.gov/ or by calling 1-866-320-9933.

An annual Discover Pass costs $35, when purchased from WDFW online (https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/) or by phone (1-866-320-9933) or from license vendors around the state. A one-day pass is also available for $11.50.

In addition, State Parks will sell the passes July 1-3 at its Olympia headquarters and at its Burlington and East Wenatchee regional offices in preparation for the Fourth of July weekend. The passes also will be sold at state park sites where staff is available.

Meanwhile, those afield on the Fourth of July and the rest of the month are asked to be careful not to spark a wildfire. Despite the delayed arrival of summer weather, wildfire danger is growing with warmer, drier weather, especially in eastern Washington.

DNR has banned burning from July through September in forested areas of the state. That means that campfires are allowed only in approved fire pits within designated state, county, municipal or other campgrounds. The use of gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbeques is allowed. For more information, see DNR’s website at http://1.usa.gov/jpjiZO.

WDFW’s own public conduct rules for wildlife areas and water access sites prohibit discharging of fireworks at any time.

For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available this month, see the Weekender Regional Reports posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide up-to-date information about recreational opportunities around the state.

North Puget Sound

Fishing: Summer has arrived, and anglers have their pick of numerous fishing opportunities. Freshwater anglers can cast for chinook at some the of region’s rivers, as well as trout and bass at local lakes. On Puget Sound, the crab season opens July 1 in most areas, and additional salmon openings are just around the corner.

“The salmon fishing season really gets going in July, when more marine areas open in Puget Sound,” said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “And with the high cost of fuel these days, anglers in the region might want to take advantage of these opportunities to hook a salmon close to home.”

Puget Sound salmon fishing opportunities in July include:

  • Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), which opens July 1.  Anglers can keep one chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon.
  • Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton), where anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, beginning July 1. However, anglers must release all chinook through July 15. Beginning July 16, anglers can retain hatchery chinook – marked with a clipped adipose fin – but wild chinook must be released.
  • Tulalip Bay "bubble" fishery remains open each week from Friday through noon Monday through Sept. 5. Anglers fishing the bubble have a two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon.
  • Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) opens for hatchery chinook retention July 16. Anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release wild chinook and chum.

 

Thiesfeld said anglers should be aware that the inner Elliott Bay salmon fishery is closed in July this year to protect Green River naturally spawning chinook, which are expected to return in low numbers. Check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for details on salmon fishing opportunities.

Tara Livingood, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager for WDFW, reminds anglers that they are responsible for correctly identifying their catch. In past years, some anglers were checked at the docks with undersized chinook they misidentified as pink salmon, she said.

“It’s important that people take the time to learn the differences between each salmon species – both to protect the resource and to avoid a fine,” Livingood said. Descriptions of each salmon species can be found on the department’s recreational salmon fishing webpage and in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet. Anglers also can ask WDFW’s dockside fish samplers for a salmon identification card before heading out on the water.

Break out those crab pots. The Puget Sound crab fishery gets under way July 1 in most areas. The exception is Marine Area 7, where the southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) opens July 15 and the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia) opens Aug. 15.

Under new rules adopted earlier this year by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, all marine areas of Puget Sound will be open for crabbing Thursday through Monday of each week.

Mike Cenci, WDFW’s deputy chief of enforcement, said all crabbers should review the rules of the fishery before heading out on the water. “We’ve found that in the past a significant number of violations occur because people don’t take the time to fully understand the rules of the fishery,” Cenci said. “Those rules, such as properly measuring and identifying crabs, are important tools designed to protect the health of the crab population.”

Information on the rules, including how to properly record and report catch information is available on WDFW's crab fishing webpage. The page includes links to a printable “Crabbing in Puget Sound” brochure and a “Puget Sound Recreational Crab Guide,” both of which have information on crabbing regulations.

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.

In freshwater, portions of the Skagit and Cascade rivers are open for hatchery chinook salmon fishing through July 15. The Skagit is open to hatchery chinook retention from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to Cascade River Road. On the Cascade, anglers can fish for salmon from the mouth of the river to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge. The daily limit on the Skagit and Cascade rivers is four hatchery chinook, two of which may be adults (chinook salmon at least 24 inches in length).

Portions of the Skykomish River are also open for salmon fishing. Anglers fishing the Skykomish, from the mouth to the Wallace River, have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook only. Anglers should note that chinook retention on this section of the Skykomish will close July 23. Check the fishing rule change for more information.

The Reiter Ponds section of the Skykomish River opens June 29 for game fish, including hatchery steelhead. For more on that fishery, check the fishing rule change.

Meanwhile, anglers will have an opportunity this year to fish for sockeye salmon at Baker Lake. From July 23 until further notice, anglers can retain up to three adult sockeye salmon that exceed 18 inches in length from the log boom barrier at Baker Dam upstream to the mouth of the upper Baker River. All other salmon, as well as bull trout, must be released. For more information on the Baker Lake sockeye fishery, check the fishing rule change.

Trout fishing also is open at several of the region's rivers and streams. Under the statewide rule for trout, there is a two-fish daily limit and a minimum size of eight inches in rivers and streams. However, some of the region's rivers and streams have a rule requiring trout to be at least 14 inches in length to keep. For details on river fishing opportunities, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Meanwhile, lake fishing for bass, bluegill, perch, and crappie is steadily improving as water temperatures increase and fish become more active. "Early summer can be a tricky time for anglers, given the abundance of natural food and unstable weather patterns," said Danny Garrett, WDFW fisheries biologist. "As we move into summer and temperatures rise, fish tend to feed in shallow water - about 2 to 5 feet - early in the morning and late in the evening." When fishing for lunker bass, Garrett recommends topwater baits, such as buzzbaits, frogs, and poppers, and soft plastic twitch baits, including stick baits and flukes.

During the heat of the day, bass often move to deeper water near structures or other cover, Garrett said. In clear, deep lakes, such as Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, anglers should focus on the outside edge of boat docks and along the weed line in 15 to 20 feet of water, he said, noting that a drop-shot technique with plastic bait is a good approach.

Discover Pass: Now that summer has finally arrived, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians will be packing up tents, lanterns, binoculars and fishing poles to spend time with family and friends outdoors. Starting July 1, many will also need to purchase a Discover Pass for vehicle access to state parks, campgrounds, boat launches and wildlife areas.

The new pass, approved this year by the state Legislature, is designed to help keep 7 million acres of state recreational lands open after steep budget cuts. An annual Discover Pass costs $35, and a one-day pass $11.50, when purchased from WDFW online by phone or from retail license vendors.

State Parks will also sell the passes July 1-3 at its Olympia headquarters and regional offices in Burlington and East Wenatchee, in preparation for the Fourth of July weekend. The passes also will be sold at state park sites where staff is available.

"The Discover Pass allows state natural-resource agencies to maintain public access to millions of acres of state recreation lands,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “Sport fishers and hunters have traditionally supported WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites through their license fees; now all who enjoy these lands will share in their support.”

The pass is required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by WDFW, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The fine for not displaying the pass is $99.

However, some exemptions to the requirement apply.  For example, holders of most annual fishing and hunting licenses are not required to purchase a Discover Pass to use WDFW lands and water-access sites. For a list of these exemptions and other information, see the Discover Pass website or call 1-866-320-9933.

Wildlife viewing: Now's a good time to head to the Ballard Locks to check out salmon passing the fish ladder viewing windows. Several hundred sockeye pass through the fish ladder daily, and in late-July chinook should start showing up in greater numbers. The Ballard Locks are located in northwest Seattle where the Lake Washington Ship Canal enters Shilshole Bay and Puget Sound. For information, call the locks' Visitor Center in Seattle at (206) 783-7059.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: The summer salmon fishing season is under way along the coast, where anglers are hooking some bright chinook and coho.

Fishing was good during the selective fishery (June 18-25) for hatchery chinook and that has carried over to the traditional season, said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Anglers are doing well for chinook, as well as hatchery coho, which we are seeing more of this year,” Milward said. “It’s still early in the season, but signs are pointing to a good July for salmon anglers out on the coast.” 

Anglers fishing marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores), 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay) can keep up to one chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit, but must release any chinook measuring less than 24 inches and hatchery coho less than 16 inches. Wild coho must be released unharmed. Those fishing marine areas 3 and 4 also are allowed one additional pink salmon each day.

Salmon fishing is open seven days a week, except in Marine Area 2 where anglers can fish for salmon Sundays through Thursdays. Salmon fishing is scheduled to continue through Sept. 18 in marine areas 2, 3 and 4, and through Sept. 30 in Marine Area 1, although those areas could close early if catch quotas are reached. Milward reminds anglers to check for any rule changes at WDFW’s website.

In Puget Sound, salmon fishing seasons open July 1 in marine areas 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 12 (Hood Canal), while salmon fisheries in marine areas 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 13 (South Puget Sound) are already under way. Because salmon fishing rules vary depending on the marine area, anglers should check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for all regulations before heading out on the water.

Tara Livingood, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager for WDFW, reminds anglers that they are responsible for correctly identifying their catch. In past years, some anglers were checked at the docks with undersized chinook they misidentified as pink salmon, she said.

“It’s important that people take the time to learn the differences between each salmon species – both to protect the resource and to avoid a fine,” Livingood said. Descriptions of each salmon species can be found on the department’s recreational salmon fishing webpage and in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet. Anglers also can ask WDFW’s dockside fish samplers for a salmon identification card before heading out on the water.

Prefer shellfish? The Puget Sound crab fishery gets under way July 1 in most areas. The exception is Marine Area 7, where the southern portion (San Juan Islands and Bellingham) opens July 15 and the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia) opens Aug. 15.

Under new rules adopted earlier this year by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, all marine areas of Puget Sound will be open for crabbing Thursday through Monday of each week.

Mike Cenci, WDFW’s deputy chief of enforcement, said all crabbers should review the rules of the fishery before heading out on the water. “We’ve found that in the past a significant number of violations occur because people don’t take the time to fully understand the rules of the fishery,” Cenci said. “Those rules, such as properly measuring and identifying crabs, are important tools designed to protect the health of the crab population.”

Information on the rules, including how to properly record and report catch information is available on WDFW's crab fishing webpage. The page includes links to a printable “Crabbing in Puget Sound” brochure and a “Puget Sound Recreational Crab Guide,” both of which have information on crabbing regulations.

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.

Anglers still hoping to land a big flatfish will have one more day in marine areas 3 and 4, where halibut fishing will be open June 30 only. In Marine Area 1, the late season for halibut opens Aug. 5. The fishery there will be open three days per week (Friday through Sunday) until the quota is taken or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. Halibut fishing in Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) is only open in the northern nearshore area.

Meanwhile, a few of rivers are open for salmon fishing, including the Hoh, Quillayute and a portion of the Sol Duc. Beginning July 1, a few other rivers open for salmon fishing, including the Bogachiel, Calawah and Nisqually.

Trout fishing also is open at several of the region's rivers and streams. Under the statewide rule for trout, there is a two-fish daily limit and a minimum size of eight inches in rivers and streams. However, some of the region's rivers and streams have a rule requiring trout to be at least 14 inches in length to keep. For details on river fishing opportunities, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Discover Pass: Now that summer has finally arrived, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians will be packing up tents, lanterns, binoculars and fishing poles to spend time with family and friends outdoors. Starting July 1, many will also need to purchase a Discover Pass for vehicle access to state parks, campgrounds, boat launches and wildlife areas.

The new pass, approved this year by the state Legislature, is designed to help keep 7 million acres of state recreational lands open after steep budget cuts. An annual Discover Pass costs $35, and a one-day pass $11.50, when purchased from WDFW online by phone or from retail license vendors.

State Parks will also sell the passes July 1-3 at its Olympia headquarters and regional offices in Burlington and East Wenatchee, in preparation for the Fourth of July weekend. The passes also will be sold at state park sites where staff is available.

"The Discover Pass allows state natural-resource agencies to maintain public access to millions of acres of state recreation lands,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “Sport fishers and hunters have traditionally supported WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites through their license fees; now all who enjoy these lands will share in their support.”

The pass is required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by WDFW, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The fine for not displaying the pass is $99.

However, some exemptions to the requirement apply.  For example, holders of most annual fishing and hunting licenses are not required to purchase a Discover Pass to use WDFW lands and water-access sites. For a list of these exemptions and other information, see the Discover Pass website or call 1-866-320-9933.

Wildlife viewing:  Wolf Haven International (just south of Olympia) will be hosting Howl-Ins on select Saturdays in July and August from 6-9 p.m. Howl-Ins include sanctuary tours, environmentally friendly children’s activities, an eco-scavenger hunt, Wolf-TV and musical entertainment. For more information on the Howl-Ins, visit Wolf Haven’s website.

Southwest Washington

Fishing:  After a month of red-hot catch rates, sport fishing for adult summer chinook and sockeye salmon will close July 18 on various sections of the Columbia River to hold harvest levels within allowable limits.

The summer chinook fishery will close just after midnight Sunday from Bonneville Dam downstream, under an agreement reached by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon. Sockeye fishing will close at the same time downstream from the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco. Anglers can, however, still retain hatchery steelhead and jack chinook salmon, measuring 12-24 inches, in those sections of the river.

Fishery managers agreed to close fishing for adult summer chinook and sockeye in those areas two weeks earlier than expected after reviewing catch numbers to date.

“This is some of the best fishing we’ve seen in recent years for both summer chinook and sockeye,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “This year’s catch has exceeded expectations, and is pushing up against our harvest guidelines.”

Through July 14, anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam had caught and kept 5,285 summer chinook salmon – twice as many as last year – and released 2,553 others. They also caught 1,564 sockeye and released 390 others, the highest number of sockeye taken by anglers since at least 1980.

Ongoing summer chinook fisheries above Bonneville Dam and sockeye fishing above the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco will not be affected by the closures scheduled further downstream.

A lot of those steelhead will be heading up area tributaries, including the Lewis, Kalama and Washougal rivers – and particularly the Cowlitz River. Once the weather warms up, many will also dip into the White Salmon River and Drano Lake, where fishing usually heats up in late July.

Out in the ocean, salmon fishing is open through Sept. 30 off the coast of Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) and through Sept. 18 in ocean areas farther north. For more information, see the regional Weekender report for Region 6.

Rather catch a sturgeon? Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon have extended retention fishing through July 31 below the Wauna powerlines near Cathlamet and added fishing days June 30-July 2 and July 7-9 from Bonneville Dam upriver to The Dalles Dam. In the estuary fishery, the daily limit is one white sturgeon with a fork-length measurement of 41 inches to 54 inches. Anglers fishing the Bonneville Pool will have a daily catch limit of one white sturgeon, with a fork-length measurement of 38 inches to 54 inches.

As before, the area from the Wauna powerlines upriver to Marker 82 nine miles below Bonneville Dam will be open to retention fishing Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays through July 31. The Dalles Pool is also open to retention fishing until the annual catch reaches the 300-fish guideline. In those and other areas of the Columbia River, all green sturgeon must be released.

And don’t forget shad. While not as highly prized as salmon or sturgeon, they can put up a good fight and make for good eating, Hymer said. While their numbers appear to be down this year, more than a million of them will likely mount a charge up the Columbia this month. There are no daily limits or size limits for shad, the largest member of the herring family. 

Fishing for walleye usually slows down at this time of year, but bass fishing tends to pick up in the summer heat. The McNary Pool is generally the best bet for bass.

The good news for trout anglers is that this year’s heavy snowpack is holding down water temperatures in most lakes and reservoirs, which should keep the fish biting well into summer, said John Weinheimer, another WDFW fish biologist.

“Cool water should prolong active fisheries in Swift Reservoir, Riffe Lake and a lot of other lakes and reservoirs throughout the region,” Weinheimer said. Two of those reservoirs, Lake Scanewa and Mayfield Reservoir in Lewis County, will each be planted with about 6,000 catchable-size trout in July, he said.

The bad news is that the snowpack has also delayed stocking a number of high lakes. WDFW usually stocks Goose Lake, a popular fishing lake in Skamania County, by early June, but the road there was still inaccessible to a tanker truck at the end of the month, Weinheimer said.

“We’re hoping the road will clear enough that we can get in there by the Fourth of July,” he said. “It’s a super-popular fishery and we know that a lot of people are waiting for word that it’s been stocked. The same is true of several other high lakes in the region.”

Meanwhile, Weinheimer suggests that angler cast a line at Northwestern Reservoir on the White Salmon River. “With the recent announcement that work to demolish Condit Dam will begin in October, this will be the last year to fish Northwestern, because it simply won’t exist after the dam is removed.”

Rainbow trout planted in Northwestern Reservoir range from 10-inch catchables to 5-8-pound broodstock.

Discover Pass: Now that summer has finally arrived, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians will be packing up tents, lanterns, binoculars and fishing poles to spend time with family and friends outdoors. Starting July 1, many will also need to purchase a Discover Pass for vehicle access to state parks, campgrounds, boat launches and wildlife areas.

The new pass, approved this year by the state Legislature, is designed to help keep 7 million acres of state recreational lands open after steep budget cuts. An annual Discover Pass costs $35, and a one-day pass $11.50, when purchased from WDFW online by phone or from retail license vendors.

State Parks will also sell the passes July 1-3 at its Olympia headquarters and regional offices in Burlington and East Wenatchee, in preparation for the Fourth of July weekend. The passes also will be sold at state park sites where staff is available.

"The Discover Pass allows state natural-resource agencies to maintain public access to millions of acres of state recreation lands,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “Sport fishers and hunters have traditionally supported WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites through their license fees; now all who enjoy these lands will share in their support.”

The pass is required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by WDFW, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The fine for not displaying the pass is $99.

However, some exemptions to the requirement apply.  For example, holders of most annual fishing and hunting licenses are not required to purchase a Discover Pass to use WDFW lands and water-access sites. For a list of these exemptions and other information, see the Discover Pass website or call 1-866-320-9933.

Eastern Washington

Fishing:  As water temperatures warm, fishing success shifts from coldwater trout to warmwater or “spiny ray” species like bass and bluegill.

“These fish are just more active in warmer water and are easier to catch now,” said Marc Divens, explains WDFW warmwater fish biologist. “There are some waters in the region that are specifically managed for warmwater species and others that are mixed waters, where trout fishing slows at this time and warmwater fishing picks up.”

With a “slot limit” on largemouth bass, Divens encourages anglers to keep and use the smaller fish caught. As explained under the statewide freshwater rules on page 27 of the fishing rules pamphlet,  only largemouth bass less than 12 inches may be retained, except that one over 17 inches may be kept. Up to five largemouth bass may be kept each day.

Smallmouth bass also have a size restriction – only one over 14 inches may be retained, with a daily limit of 10 fish. As with largemouth, anglers are encouraged to keep smaller bass. Overpopulation of these species can reduce the quality of fisheries.

Eloika Lake, seven miles north of Chattaroy off Highway 2 in north Spokane County, has largemouth bass, yellow perch and black crappie. Eloika is open to fishing year-round and has a WDFW access site, along with a resort.

Downs Lake, seven miles east of Sprague in southwest Spokane County, also has largemouth bass, yellow perch and black crappie. This quality crappie water is managed under a nine-inch minimum size and 10-fish limit on crappie.   Downs is open March through September and has a resort with a small boat launch.

Silver Lake, one mile east of the town of Medical Lake in Spokane County, has largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish. There’s a nine-inch minimum size and 10-fish limit on crappie there. Silver is open year-round and has both WDFW access and a resort.

Newman Lake, 12 miles northeast of Spokane in eastern Spokane County, has largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, yellow perch, and bullhead catfish. Newman is open year-round and has two resorts, plus WDFW access.

Liberty Lake, about a mile from the Idaho border in eastern Spokane County, is a mixed species fishery where rainbow and brown trout rule at the outset of the season, from March through May, but the spiny rays come on through the summer. Liberty has virtually all of the warmwater species, including walleye, but both species of bass and yellow perch dominate.  There’s a WDFW boat launch available.

Sprague Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line, is a mixed-species water where Divens says fall surveys showed an abundant population of small largemouth bass. “There are a few up to five pounds, but most are 10 to 12 inches,” he said. “There’s also a developing panfish population – bluegill and crappie – but in general they’re still small and growing in size.” Sprague is open year round and has two resorts and a WDFW access.

Coffeepot Lake, 12 miles northeast of Odessa in Lincoln County, can be excellent for yellow perch, black crappie and largemouth bass, but it’s under selective gear rules. That means only unscented artificial flies or lures with one single-point, barbless hook are allowed.

The Twin lakes, in the Lake Creek drainage upstream of Coffeepot, have largemouth bass, perch, crappie, and other panfish. Upper Twin can be particularly good for bass. Both are open year-round and have Bureau of Land Management (BLM) access.

Deer and Loon lakes in Stevens County shift at this time of year from trout fishing to largemouth and smallmouth bass and other warmwater fish, especially at Deer Lake, 14 miles southeast of Chewelah. (Loon is a few miles further south, on the west side of Hwy. 395.) Both are open through October and have WDFW access and resorts.
Lake Roosevelt is famous for its walleye, but there’s a good population of smallmouth bass in the big Columbia River reservoir, too.

The Snake River in the south end of the region is also a good bet for summertime smallmouth bass plus nice channel catfish.

Good rainbow and cutthroat trout fishing can still be had these days, says WDFW Regional Fish Program Manager John Whalen, it just takes a shift in either place or time of day to fish. Lowland trout lakes are better in very early morning or late evening hours. Trout lakes at higher elevation, mostly in the northeast district of the region, remain productive longer in the summer.

Those afield on the Fourth of July and throughout the month are asked to exercise caution against sparking a wildfire. Despite the delayed arrival of summer weather, wildfire danger is growing with warmer, drier weather, especially in eastern Washington.

DNR has banned burning from July through September in forested areas of the state. That means that campfires are allowed only in approved fire pits within designated state, county, municipal or other campgrounds. The use of gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbeques is allowed. For more information, see DNR’s website at http://1.usa.gov/jpjiZO.

WDFW’s own public conduct rules for wildlife areas and water access sites prohibit discharging of fireworks at any time.

Meanwhile, anglers (and hunters) have an opportunity on July 5 to get a little more out of their fishing (or hunting) license – discounts on Spokane Indians Baseball game seats during the 6th annual Fish and Wildlife Night at Avista Stadium in Spokane. The stadium concourse that night will feature fish and wildlife displays and activities between innings will include some casting and other demonstrations or competitions. For more information, visit the Spokane Indians website.

Discover Pass: Now that summer has finally arrived, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians will be packing up tents, lanterns, binoculars and fishing poles to spend time with family and friends outdoors. Starting July 1, many will also need to purchase a Discover Pass for vehicle access to state parks, campgrounds, boat launches and wildlife areas.

The new pass, approved this year by the state Legislature, is designed to help keep 7 million acres of state recreational lands open after steep budget cuts. An annual Discover Pass costs $35, and a one-day pass $11.50, when purchased from WDFW online by phone or from retail license vendors.

State Parks will also sell the passes July 1-3 at its Olympia headquarters and regional offices in Burlington and East Wenatchee, in preparation for the Fourth of July weekend. The passes also will be sold at state park sites where staff is available.

"The Discover Pass allows state natural-resource agencies to maintain public access to millions of acres of state recreation lands,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “Sport fishers and hunters have traditionally supported WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites through their license fees; now all who enjoy these lands will share in their support.”

The pass is required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by WDFW, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The fine for not displaying the pass is $99.

However, some exemptions to the requirement apply.  For example, holders of most annual fishing and hunting licenses are not required to purchase a Discover Pass to use WDFW lands and water-access sites. For a list of these exemptions and other information, see the Discover Pass website or call 1-866-320-9933.
Wildlife viewing: As daytime temperatures rise this month, the best wildlife viewing is during early morning or late evening hours when animals are usually more active. Young of the year of many species are increasingly visible as they grow through the summer.

Moose and elk calves and whitetailed and mule deer fawns are usually seen alongside their mothers, but youngsters are also left alone at times while cows and does forage. WDFW biologists remind wildlife viewers to enjoy these animals from a distance with binoculars, scopes and telephoto camera lenses, and to avoid the temptation to “rescue” what is rarely an abandoned young animal.

“By this time in the summer most of these young ungulates are pretty speedy and agile, so it would be pretty tough to just pick one up,” said WDFW Wildlife Biologist Woody Myers. “But a few late-born calves or fawns might still be susceptible to this perennial problem of people removing them from the wild.”

Bird babies are also showing up throughout the region. The most visible are the larger, earliest-nesting species, like bald eagles and red-tailed hawks.

“Eagle chicks and young redtails are fledging, flying on their own now, “ said Howard Ferguson, WDFW district wildlife biologist. “There are also smaller birds feeding newly hatched young in tree nests or nestboxes, including wrens, chickadees and nuthatches. You don’t necessarily see them now, but you can hear their collective peeping from time to time.”
 
Summertime insects are abundant and that means swallows and warblers and many other insect-eating birds are actively feeding on the wing. Watch areas near water to witness their aerial acrobatics.

Wildflowers in full bloom are also abundant now, from the bright yellow Oregon grape blooms that butterflies love to pink and purple monkeyflowers and penstemons that hummingbirds draw nectar from. Some flowering shrubs and trees are already beginning to produce fruit that has recently drawn influxes of cedar waxwings.

To escape the heat and find a diversity of bird species, take a hike in Mt. Spokane State Park where the mountain namesake rises almost 6,000 feet from the valley floor, just northeast of Spokane. Local birders recently reported spotting Swainson's and varied thrushes, winter wren, golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets, chestnut-backed chickadee, Townsend's, MacGillvray's, Wilson's and yellow-rumped warblers, calliope and black-chinned hummingbirds, warbling vireo, black-headed grosbeak, vesper and fox sparrows, olive-sided, dusky and Hammond’s flycatchers, western tanagers, northern waterthrush, and northern goshawk.

Those afield on the Fourth of July and throughout the month are asked to exercise caution against sparking a wildfire. Despite the delayed arrival of summer weather, wildfire danger is growing with warmer, drier weather, especially in eastern Washington.

DNR has banned burning from July through September in forested areas of the state. That means that campfires are allowed only in approved fire pits within designated state, county, municipal or other campgrounds. The use of gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbeques is allowed. For more information, see DNR’s website at http://1.usa.gov/jpjiZO.

WDFW’s own public conduct rules for wildlife areas and water access sites prohibit discharging of fireworks at any time.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing: Anglers have been catching an assortment of trout and chinook salmon around the region, while warmwater fishing is finally heating up after a slow start to traditional summer weather.   

“The Basin’s big three for good walleye and largemouth and smallmouth bass at this time are Moses Lake, Banks Lake, and Potholes Reservoir,” said Chad Jackson, a district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). All three year-round-open waters also have populations of bluegill, crappie and yellow perch that can produce good catches through the summer. With the late run-off this year, these big waterways are still at or near high pool, which has slowed normal shoreline action at some reservoirs, such as Potholes.

Evergreen Reservoir on the Quincy Wildlife Area in Grant County is another good July fishery in the Basin, with walleye, largemouth bass, bluegill and other species.
Lower Goose Lake, one of the Seep lakes south of Potholes Reservoir, has a good crappie and bluegill fishery. For crappie, Lower Goose has a minimum size of nine inches and a daily catch limit of 10 fish. It also has a restriction that only five bluegill over six inches can be kept, although there is no daily limit on smaller fish.

Hutchinson and Shiner lakes, on the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge seven miles north of Othello in Adams County, should be heating up this month for largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and perch.

Meanwhile, fishing for spring chinook salmon on the Icicle River should continue to be good as more fish move through the system, said WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff. The season continues on the Icicle through July 31, from the closure signs located 800 feet upstream of the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery barrier dam. The daily limit is three salmon, with a minimum size of 12 inches. A night closure is in effect.

Summer chinook salmon fishing starts July 1 on the mainstem Columbia River and some tributaries above Priest Rapids Dam. The daily limit is six chinook salmon, minimum size 12 inches. Up to three adults may be retained, of which only one may be an unmarked wild fish. Starting July 14, anglers can also catch and keep sockeye salmon in most areas of the Columbia upriver to the Hwy 17 Bridge in Bridgeport, plus sections of the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers and Lake Osoyoos.

For more information on the sockeye opening, see the Rule Change Notice on the WDFW website. Anglers should also consult the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet for other species they plan to fish. All salmon fitted with a colored floy (anchor) tag must be released as these fish are part of ongoing studies being conducted by the Yakama Nation and WDFW.

Jateff reports Pearrygin, Wannacut, Wapato, Spectacle, and Conconully lakes and Conconully Reservoir are all producing good catches of rainbow trout in the 10-12 inch range, with carryover fish up to 15 inches.

“Water temperatures are starting to rise a bit, but anglers can still catch some nice fish at a number of selective gear lakes,” Jateff said. “Blue Lake on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, Big Twin near Winthrop, and Blue Lake near Oroville can be productive during July if you use different fishing methods than earlier in the season. Fast-sinking lines are the norm, which allow the fly or lure to get to the proper depth. Anglers should play the fish as quickly as possible and not remove them from the water to help in recovery during these hotter months.”

The Sinlahekin’s Blue Lake, along with Okanogan County’s Bonaparte and Lost lakes, are under a new rule this year to help protect the common loon, a sensitive species in Washington that is likely to become threatened or endangered without improved survival rates. The rule prohibits the use of lead weights and jigs that measure 1½ inches or less along the longest axis. Ingestion of this small lead fishing tackle is a leading cause of fatal lead poisoning of loons, which have been known to nest on Blue Lake in the past and are currently nesting at Bonaparte and Lost lakes.

“The Methow River is currently running high, so serious trout fishing is probably delayed until the first week or two of July,” Jateff said. The Methow and selected tributaries are restricted to catch-and-release fishing under selective gear rules. A number of tributaries are closed to all fishing, so anglers need to consult current regulations before they head out. Any bull trout caught must be released unharmed and can’t be taken out of the water. 

Those afield on the Fourth of July and throughout the month are asked to exercise caution against sparking a wildfire. Despite the delayed arrival of summer weather, wildfire danger is growing with warmer, drier weather, especially in eastern Washington.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has banned open burning from July through September in forested areas of the state. That means that campfires are allowed only in approved fire pits within designated state, county, municipal or other campgrounds. The use of gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbeques is allowed. For more information, see DNR’s website.

WDFW’s own public conduct rules for wildlife areas and water access sites prohibit discharging of fireworks at any time.

The risk of wildfire isn’t restricted to forested areas of the region, said Greg Fitzgerald, WDFW Columbia Wildlife Area manager. He said the wet spring has led to abundant weed growth, including dense patches of 12 to 16-inch cheat grass that is drying fast with hotter, windy weather.  

Discover Pass: Now that summer has finally arrived, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians will be packing up tents, lanterns, binoculars and fishing poles to spend time with family and friends outdoors. Starting July 1, many will also need to purchase a Discover Pass for vehicle access to state parks, campgrounds, boat launches and wildlife areas.

The new pass, approved this year by the state Legislature, is designed to help keep 7 million acres of state recreational lands open after steep budget cuts. An annual Discover Pass costs $35, and a one-day pass $11.50, when purchased from WDFW online by phone or from retail license vendors.

State Parks will also sell the passes July 1-3 at its Olympia headquarters and regional offices in Burlington and East Wenatchee, in preparation for the Fourth of July weekend. The passes also will be sold at state park sites where staff is available.

"The Discover Pass allows state natural-resource agencies to maintain public access to millions of acres of state recreation lands,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “Sport fishers and hunters have traditionally supported WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites through their license fees; now all who enjoy these lands will share in their support.”

The pass is required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by WDFW, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The fine for not displaying the pass is $99.

However, some exemptions to the requirement apply.  For example, holders of most annual fishing and hunting licenses are not required to purchase a Discover Pass to use WDFW lands and water-access sites. For a list of these exemptions and other information, see the Discover Pass website or call 1-866-320-9933.

Wildlife viewing: It’s family-rearing time for lots of birds throughout the region, including some of the larger species of waterbirds that like to nest in trees near open water. Colonial nesting birds such as great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, and great egrets are in various stages of egg incubation and brood rearing now, reports WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger.

Groups of nests are on North Potholes Reservoir and Reserve and the Hanford Reach stretch of the Columbia River downstream from Vernita Bridge and Goose Island on Priest Rapids Pool. The south end of the reserve is closed to access through July to minimize disturbance to the nesting birds, but a small viewing area has been established on the southeast edge of the reserve to provide the best view. Access to the area is from the “power line” road through North Potholes, off the south frontage road, 2½ miles east of I-90 Exit 174, east of Moses Lake.

Western grebe nesting Potholes Reservoir - 
Photo by Rich Finger
Western grebe nesting Potholes Reservoir
Photo by Rich Finger

Several species of waterfowl may also be viewed from vehicles by driving along the Job Corps Dike in that area. Finger reports Western and Clark’s grebes are paired and establishing nesting territories throughout the northern reaches of Potholes Reservoir. 

“Courtship displays by these birds might still be seen,” he said, “but as time goes on more are on nests. The easiest opportunity to view is downstream from the water outlets that spill from Moses Lake into Potholes Reservoir. This area is accessible from Sand Dunes road. If observing these birds by boat, use caution to avoid creating wakes that may damage nests or spill eggs. And keep a good distance to minimize nest abandonment. “

Potholes Reservoir and portions of the Desert Wildlife Area were recently surveyed for Forster’s and black tern nesting colonies, but so far only a handful of black terns have been observed foraging around the Harris Ponds Project on the wildlife area.  “Our efforts will continue to determine where these species may be nesting,” Finger said, “but the Desert Wildlife Area is very large and detecting nesting sites is challenging in an area so heavily dominated by tall emergent vegetation.”

In the north end of the region, WDFW wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen recently documented common loons nesting at Bonaparte Lake, northeast of Tonasket in Okanogan County. Heinlen also received a report from U.S. Forest Service staff of one loon chick hatched at Lost Lake, just north of Bonaparte Lake. 

Bighorn sheep rams at Chelan Butte
Bighorn sheep rams at Chelan Butte

“These are two of the most successful loon nesting lakes in the state,” Heinlen said. “They are also two of the 13 lakes in northern Washington with the new lead fishing gear restrictions in place to protect loons.”

The new rule, noted on recently posted signs at the lakes, prohibits the use of lead weights and jigs that measure 1½ inches or less along the longest axis. Ingestion of this small lead fishing tackle is a leading cause of fatal lead poisoning of the common loon, a sensitive species in Washington that is likely to become threatened or endangered without improved survival. Heinlen asks that wildlife enthusiasts seeking to view the loons should also restrict themselves to distant views to avoid disturbing the birds during nesting.

The new lead fishing gear restriction is also in effect at Blue Lake on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, because it has hosted nesting loons in the past. WDFW Sinlahekin manager Dale Swedberg reports access through the area is improving with warmer, drier weather. “Wildflowers are in full bloom on the Sinlahekin now,” he said. “Lupine, cat’s ear mariposa, yellow lady’s slipper, blanket flower, yarrow and many others are all very prominent in the valley.”

With flowering and fruiting vegetation on the Sinlahekin comes a myriad of butterfly species and influxes of songbirds – evening grosbeaks, Bullock’s orioles, cedar waxwings, and western tanagers to name a few.

Bighorn sheep have been more and more visible on WDFW’s Chelan Butte Wildlife Area in Chelan County.  Reintroduced seven years ago to the 9,097 acres of land between Lake Chelan and the Columbia River, bighorns are now well established and seen regularly. Although many miles of roads are closed to motorized vehicles, the Chelan Butte area offers good hiking and mountain biking. WDFW has restored about 100 acres of abandoned agricultural fields to shrub-steppe habitat on Chelan Butte and will be restoring an additional 1,200 acres through 2015.

From July through September, outdoor recreationists in forested areas of the region need to keep in mind that campfires are only allowed in approved fire pits within designated state, county, municipal or other campgrounds. That’s under orders of the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the state’s wildfire fighters who protect WDFW and other lands. The use of gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbeques is allowed under the ban. For more information, see DNR statewide burn ban.

The risk of wildfire isn’t restricted to forested areas of the region, said Greg Fitzgerald, WDFW Columbia Wildlife Area manager. He said the wet spring has led to abundant weed growth, including dense patches of 12 to 16-inch cheat grass that is drying fast with hotter, windy weather. 

Southcentral Washington

Fishing:  Area anglers have several good fishing opportunities in July, ranging from an extended spring chinook season on a portion of the Yakima River to newly stocked jumbo trout in three popular high-mountain lakes. On the Columbia River, the catch is running to walleye, shad and the occasional summer chinook salmon. 

Citing the late arrival of this year’s run, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) extended spring chinook fishing through July 31 on the 20-mile stretch of the Yakima River between the Interstate 82 Bridge in Union Gap to the Burlington Northern Railroad bridge 500 feet downstream from Roza Dam. The daily limit remains two hatchery chinook, with clipped adipose fins.

“Fishing has been very good for springers, especially in that stretch of the Yakima River,” said Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist in Yakima. “We expect to have hatchery fish available for harvest well into July.”

Anderson noted that fishing is closed for steelhead, and that terminal gear in the spring chinook fishery is restricted to one single-point, barbless hook with a hook gap (from point to shank) of three-quarters of an inch or less. Bait and knotted nets are allowed in the section of the river open to salmon fishing.

A Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead endorsement is required to participate in the fishery. For additional regulations, see the Rule Change notice on the WDFW website.   

On the Columbia River, most anglers fishing below the Tri-Cities have been focusing on walleye. Creel checks conducted during the last days of June included 51 anglers aboard 22 boats with 50 walleye. Catches of shad are also picking up. Shad counts at McNary Dam topped 5,000 fish per day in late June, and are expected to keep rising through mid-July. 

Anglers have also been picking up a few summer chinook below McNary Dam, but the action has been slow upstream of the dam, said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW district fish biologist in Pasco. Summer chinook and sockeye can be harvested in the Columbia River below the Highway 395 Bridge (blue bridge), but only chinook with a clipped adipose may be retained. The Hanford Reach area of the Columbia River is also open to fishing for hatchery chinook salmon with clipped adipose fins. 

Anglers can also catch and keep chinook salmon in most areas of the Columbia River up to Chief Joseph Dam and – starting July 14 – they can retain sockeye salmon from Priest Rapids Dam up to the Highway 17 Bridge in Bridgeport. For more information on the sockeye opening, see the Rule Change Notice on the WDFW website.

Anglers also should be aware that sturgeon sanctuaries are in effect in many areas of the Columbia and Snake rivers.  These sanctuary areas below Ice Harbor, McNary and Priest Rapids Dams are closed to all fishing for sturgeon through July 31.  

Meanwhile, fishing for stocked rainbow trout is still going strong on lowland lakes near Yakima, Ellensburg and Cle Elum, said Anderson, the fish biologist based in Yakima. He especially likes the prospects at Bear Lake and Clear Lakes in Yakima County and Easton Ponds in Kittitas County. Also, WDFW is planting hundreds of 1.5-pound jumbo trout in three popular “drive to” high-mountain lakes the last week of June. Those lakes include Leech and Dog lakes near White Pass, and Lost Lake near Snoqualmie Pass. 

“These lakes will provide some outstanding fishing opportunities for the Fourth of July weekend,” Anderson said. 

Mountain streams were still running high in late June, but fishing conditions should improve there and in high lakes through July, Anderson said. For kokanee, he recommends Bumping Lake, Rimrock Lake and Keecheus and Kachess reservoirs.

Discover Pass: Now that summer has finally arrived, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians will be packing up tents, lanterns, binoculars and fishing poles to spend time with family and friends outdoors. Starting July 1, many will also need to purchase a Discover Pass for vehicle access to state parks, campgrounds, boat launches and wildlife areas.

The new pass, approved this year by the state Legislature, is designed to help keep 7 million acres of state recreational lands open after steep budget cuts. An annual Discover Pass costs $35, and a one-day pass $11.50, when purchased from WDFW online by phone or from retail license vendors.

State Parks will also sell the passes July 1-3 at its Olympia headquarters and regional offices in Burlington and East Wenatchee, in preparation for the Fourth of July weekend. The passes also will be sold at state park sites where staff is available.

"The Discover Pass allows state natural-resource agencies to maintain public access to millions of acres of state recreation lands,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “Sport fishers and hunters have traditionally supported WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites through their license fees; now all who enjoy these lands will share in their support.”

The pass is required for vehicle access to recreation lands and water-access sites managed by WDFW, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The fine for not displaying the pass is $99.

However, some exemptions to the requirement apply.  For example, holders of most annual fishing and hunting licenses are not required to purchase a Discover Pass to use WDFW lands and water-access sites. For a list of these exemptions and other information, see the Discover Pass website or call 1-866-320-9933.