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

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August 2012

(This document is updated periodically throughout the month to reflect current rules and opportunities. Please download the latest copy before heading out! Last updated August 21, 2012)

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

Anglers enjoy 'prime' salmon fishing
as hunters begin to take the field

Washingtonians are reeling in chinook and coho salmon off the coast, pulling up pots full of crab in Puget Sound, and casting for trout in alpine lakes on both sides of the Cascades. Summer fisheries are in full swing, providing some of the best fishing opportunities of the year.  

A prime example is the Buoy 10 chinook salmon season, which runs Aug. 1 through Sept. 3 at the mouth of the Columbia River. A big run of 655,000 fall chinook is expected to return to the river this year, with expectations that anglers will catch about 14,000 of them by Labor Day – most of them between Buoy 10 near the mouth of the river and Rocky Point, 16 miles upstream.

Anglers fishing at Buoy 10 may also retain marked, hatchery-reared coho salmon or steelhead as part of their two-fish daily catch limit.

“Buoy 10 is a very popular fishery, drawing tens of thousands of anglers every year,” said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  “Fishing tends to start out slow, then accelerates quickly through the month of August.”

Meanwhile, thousands of chinook salmon continue to move into Puget Sound from the ocean, lighting up fisheries from Sekiu to Kingston. “August is prime time for chinook in Puget Sound,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW’s Puget Sound salmon manager. “This is go time.”

Rather catch shellfish? Crab fishing is open throughout the month in most areas of Puget Sound, the exception being Sub-Area 7 North which opens for crabbing Aug. 16. In all open areas, crab fishing is allowed Thursday through Monday each week. The daily catch limit is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches.

See the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ for more information on these and other fisheries open around the state.

For hunters, general seasons for black bear open Aug. 1 in some areas of the state and Aug. 15 in others. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington.

For a region-by-region description of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available in August, 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: Anglers are reeling in chinook in Puget Sound, where crabbing is still an option and two additional marine areas open for salmon Aug. 1. Others are also having some success at Baker Lake, which opened for sockeye salmon July 1 and remains open through Sept 4.

Anglers fishing Baker Lake can retain up to three adult sockeye that exceed 18 inches in length from the log boom barrier at Baker Dam upstream to the mouth of the upper Baker River. In a recent rule modification, each angler aboard a vessel may continue to deploy angling gear until the daily limit of sockeye has been retained for all licensed and juvenile anglers onboard. See the rule change for details.  All other salmon, as well as bull trout, must be released.

“I expect that fishing will only get better, as more sockeye are put into the lake,” said Brett Barkdull, fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “The fish are biters — once you find them, get your gear at the right depth to catch them.”

Barkdull reminds anglers to check for any rule changes on WDFW’s website. Anglers also can check the number of sockeye released into the lake on WDFW’s website.

Meanwhile, the Skagit River, from the mouth to the mouth of Gilligan Creek, opens Sept. 1. The Skagit from the mouth of Gilligan Creek to the Dalles Bridge at Concrete opens for salmon fishing Sept. 16. Anglers fishing those sections have a two-salmon daily limit, all chinook and chum must be released.

Beginning Aug. 16, Lake Sammamish will also be an option for freshwater salmon anglers, who will have a daily limit of four salmon, and can retain up to two chinook. All sockeye must be released, and fishing is closed within 100 yards of the mouth of Issaquah Creek.

On marine waters, “August is prime time for chinook in Puget Sound,” says Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW. In fact, fishing was so good in marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) that state fishery managers closed chinook retention Aug. 20 – 12 days ahead of schedule.

“It’s a shame to close this fishery early, but we have a responsibility to protect wild chinook salmon in state waters,” said Pat Pattillo, WDFW salmon policy coordinator. The closure does not affect fishing for other salmon species in marine areas 9 and 10, including coho, sockeye or pink salmon. Various piers in the two areas will also remain open to chinook retention.

Meanwhile, those fishing Marine Area 7 can keep one chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit. They must, however, release wild coho and chum starting Aug. 1.

August brings other opportunities to catch and keep salmon. Beginning Aug. 1, marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) open for salmon fishing. Anglers in those two areas have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release chinook. Check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for details on current salmon fishing opportunities.

Prefer shellfish? The Puget Sound crab fishery is under way in most marine areas. The exception is the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia) of Marine Area 7, which opens for crab Aug. 16. In other Puget Sound marine areas, crabbing is open Thursday through Monday of each 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 also may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Information on crabbing 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.

Hunting: General hunting season for black bear opens Aug. 1 in the Puget Sound and North Cascades zones. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington. Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules pamphlet for details.

Successful black bear hunters must submit a bear tooth to WDFW for age data collection. Tooth envelopes are available at all WDFW offices. For details, see page 63 of the Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules pamphlet. Hunters also are required to report their hunting activity by Jan. 31, 2013. Successful bear hunters who report their harvest by Jan. 10 are entered in a drawing for special hunting permits.

Hunting opportunities on tap for September include early archery seasons for elk, early archery and muzzleloader seasons for deer, and the general hunting season for cougar that gets under way with a statewide archery-only season followed by a muzzleloader hunt.

Wildlife Viewing: Salmon are passing the fish ladder viewing windows at Seattle’s Ballard Locks. Several hundred sockeye salmon pass through the fish ladder daily, and 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: Salmon fishing is king in the region, where anglers are hooking bright fish along the coast and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

On the coast, the daily catch limit is two salmon for all areas of the ocean fishery.  With a recent change in the bag limit, anglers can now keep two chinook per day in ocean waters off Westport (Marine Area 2), LaPush (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4). Those fishing Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will continue to be limited to one chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit.

In all four marine areas, anglers must release wild coho salmon.

“Overall, salmon anglers have done well this summer,” said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “I expect fishing to get even better in August, when more chinook and coho make their way along the coast toward the Columbia River.” 

Salmon fishing remains open seven days a week in all four marine areas. However, fisheries in those areas could close early if catch quotas are reached, said Milward. Anglers should check for any rule changes at WDFW’s website.

Anglers are reminded that regulations in Marine Area 4, east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line, change beginning Aug. 1. Anglers fishing that area will have a daily limit of two salmon, but they must release chinook, chum and wild coho.

Meanwhile, salmon fisheries are under way in marine areas 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon), the southern portion of 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (South Puget Sound).

A lot of anglers focus on fishing the Strait of Juan de Fuca and northern Puget Sound this time of year, said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW’s Puget Sound salmon manager. “But don’t count out south Puget Sound, where we are expecting a return of more than 60,000 salmon this year,” he said. “The fish should be there, it’s just a matter of putting some time in on the water and figuring out the fishery.”

Before heading out, anglers also can check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with WDFW collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.

Because salmon fishing rules vary depending on the marine area, anglers should check the Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet for more information.

Meanwhile, the Puget Sound crab fishery is under way in most marine areas. The exception is the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia) of Marine Area 7, which opens for crab Aug. 16.

The crab fishery in all marine areas of Puget Sound is open Thursday through Monday of each 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. Most marine areas will close the evening of Sept. 3 for a catch assessment. However, Marine Area 7 will remain open through Sept. 30.

Additional information on the crab fishery is available on WDFW’s crab fishing webpage.

Halibut fishing is also still an option. The late season for halibut in Marine Area 1 opens Aug. 3. The fishery there will be open three days per week (Friday through Sunday) until the quota is taken or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first.

In freshwater, the recreational salmon fishery on the Skokomish River will get under way Aug. 10 from the mouth upstream to the Highway 101 Bridge. The daily bag limit on the Skokomish will be two salmon. Anglers must carefully release any chum and wild chinook salmon they catch.

Anglers will be required to release any salmon not hooked inside the mouth, and retain the first two legal salmon they catch and stop fishing. In addition, single-point barbless hooks are required and a night closure and anti-snagging rule will be in effect.

The Skokomish River from the Highway 106 Bridge upstream to the Highway 101 Bridge will be closed to recreational fishing Monday through Thursday of each week, except Monday Sept. 3. The weekly closures on a portion of the Skokomish River are necessary to avoid potential gear conflicts with treaty tribal fishers, as well as limit impacts to wild chinook salmon, expected to return in low numbers this year.

Recreational fishing downstream of the Highway 106 Bridge will remain open seven days a week through Sept. 5.

Several other rivers are open for salmon fishing elsewhere in the region, including the Bogachiel, Calawah, Hoh, Nisqually, Quillayute and the Sol Duc.

Beginning Aug. 1, the Puyallup River, from the City of Puyallup outfall structure across the river from the junction of Freeman Road and North Levee Road to the Carbon River, also opens for salmon fishing. The lower section of the Puyallup, from the 11th Street Bridge to the City of Puyallup outfall structure, opens to salmon fishing Aug. 16. Anglers should be aware that the lower section of the river is closed Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, 3, 9, 10 and 11.

For more information on the Puyallup River regulations, as well as rules for other fisheries open in August, check the Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet.

Hunting: The general hunting season for black bear opens Aug. 1 in most of the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington. Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules pamphlet for details.

Hunting opportunities on tap for next month include early archery seasons for elk, early archery and muzzleloader seasons for deer, and a new general hunting season for cougar with any weapon.

Wildlife viewing: A popular attraction in late-August and September is the return of hatchery chinook salmon to the Deschutes River near Olympia as they begin their annual spawning run. Onlookers can watch thousands of fish gather below the Fifth Avenue Bridge in downtown Olympia before they enter Capitol Lake and move up the fish ladders to the Tumwater Falls Hatchery.

Just south of Olympia, Wolf Haven International will be hosting Howl-Ins Aug. 4 and 18 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:  This year’s fall chinook fishery opens Aug. 1 on the Columbia River, where a strong run of upriver brights is expected to exceed both the 10-year average and last year’s return. Of the 655,000 “falls” included in the pre-season forecast, about 350,000 are projected to be upriver brights – the fourth largest return since record keeping began in 1964.  

Those fish, along with hatchery coho and summer steelhead, should make August a great time to fish the lower Columbia River, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“We’re definitely expecting a big angler turnout for these fisheries,” Hymer said. “The fall chinook fishery usually starts slow, then accelerates quickly through the month of August. The great thing about upriver brights is they tend to keep biting as they move upriver.”

Although the opener for the fall chinook will extend upriver as far as Priest Rapids Dam, most of the action during the first few weeks focuses on the popular Buoy 10 fishery in the lower 16 miles of the river. Fishery managers estimate that anglers will catch nearly 14,000 chinook salmon by Labor Day, after which the retention fishery for chinook in the Buoy 10 area will close for the remainder of September. Anglers are also expected to catch 8,000 coho in that area by the time that fishery closes at the end of the year.

The daily limit for the Buoy 10 fishery is two salmon, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. But, through Sept. 3, only one of those salmon may be a chinook. In addition, only those steelhead and coho marked with a missing adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained. This requirement does not apply to fall chinook on the mainstem lower Columbia River, where chinook salmon may be retained whether or not they are marked.

Additional rules for the Buoy 10 area and waters farther upriver are described in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet. Bank anglers planning to fish near the mouth of the Columbia River should be aware they will need to purchase a Discover Pass to park on State Parks property near the North Jetty. The vehicle access pass anglers receive with their fishing license only substitutes for a Discover Pass on WDFW lands.

By mid-to-late August, the bulk of the chinook run usually begins to move upstream with increasing numbers of coho moving in behind them. For anglers following upriver brights upstream, Hymer recommends fishing deep, between 40 and 50 feet down. For a lure, he suggests wobblers anchored with a heavy weight.

“Chinook go deep when water temperatures are high, so that’s a good place to find them,” Hymer said. “At the same time, anglers should take care not to drop anchor in the shipping channel. That can lead to real trouble.”

While 2012 is not expected to be a banner year for hatchery coho, those fish will help to round out anglers’ daily limits. WDFW currently expects about 240,000 coho to return this year – slightly lower than the past couple years and down significantly from the exceptionally large run of three-quarters of a million fish in 2009. Hymer said coho salmon usually bite best at Buoy 10 on herring and spinners, and later on bait and lures in the tributaries.

Meanwhile, plenty of hatchery steelhead are still available for harvest, said Hymer, noting that the smaller “A-run” fish should keep biting through mid-August. By then, the larger “B-run” steelhead – many weighing in the teens – will start arriving to pick up the slack. Together, returns of both runs are expected to total about 365,000 fish, about the same size of last year’s total run.

The procession of fall chinook, coho and hatchery steelhead, should also provide good fishing on area tributaries for months to come, Hymer said. Like the mainstem Columbia River, most tributaries open for fall chinook Aug. 1, although those fisheries usually don’t take off until September. For steelhead, Drano Lake and the Wind River are good places to cast for migrating fish dipping into cooler waters.

The White Salmon River has historically been another productive dip-in fishery, but how the fish will respond after Condit Dam was breeched last fall remains to be seen. That issue is part of a study funded by Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement fees, but fishery managers reported a good sign in late July: Both salmon and steelhead were observed in the river above where the dam used to be.   

Like last year, anglers will be allowed to retain up to six adult hatchery coho on all tributaries to the lower Columbia River with hatchery programs. Those rivers include the Cowlitz, Deep, Elochoman, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Klickitat, Lewis (including North Fork), Toutle (including Green and North Fork) and Washougal.

Unlike the mainstem Columbia River, chinook retention is limited to marked hatchery fish on those river systems, except on the Klickitat and Deep rivers where unmarked chinook can also be retained. Mark-selective fisheries also will be in effect on the Wind and White Salmon rivers.

New for 2012, any fall chinook and coho may be retained at Drano Lake beginning Aug. 1 and any chinook on the North Fork Lewis River beginning in mid-September. Anglers are advised to check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet and any emergency rules applicable to specific waters before leaving home.

Of course, salmon and steelhead aren’t the only fish available for harvest in August. Walleye fishing can be good in the Columbia River near Camas, as well as in The Dalles and John Day Pools. Bass fishing is also heating up from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam. Anglers can also retain sturgeon measuring 43 to 54 inches in The Dalles Pool on a daily basis through Aug. 4, then Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until further notice.

Hankering for trout? WDFW crews will plant 2,000 catchable cutthroat in Goose Lake just before the calendar flips to August. The timing of that plant, which normally occurs in fall, has been sped up this year due to a water-intake project at Skamania Hatchery.

On the Cowlitz system, Mayfield Lake will be planted with 65,000 catchable size rainbows, Lake Scanewa (Cowlitz Falls Reservoir) with 20,000, Skate Creek with 18,750 and the Tilton River with 18,750 by the end of August. Hatchery sea-run cutthroats should also provide some opportunity on the lower Cowlitz beginning in late August.

At the same time, the high wilderness lakes around Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens offer unparalleled fishing experiences for those willing to brave the mosquitoes. Riffe Lake in Lewis County is still giving up some nice landlocked coho, and Goose Lake north of Carson has received 1,000 brown trout and 6,000 cutthroats since mid-June. Council and Takhlakh lakes are also expected to receive 4,000 catchable size rainbows each.

Hunting: General hunting seasons for black bear open Aug. 1 in the western portion of southwest Washington and on Aug. 15 in the eastern part of the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington. Hunters are urged to avoid shooting sows with cubs.

Hunting opportunities coming up next month include early archery seasons for elk, early archery and muzzleloader seasons for deer, and a new general hunting season for cougar with any weapon.

Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules pamphlet for more information on all these hunts.

Wildlife viewing:  Summer is far from over, but shorebirds are anticipating the season’s change. Tens of thousands of them – sandpipers, yellowlegs, dowitchers and other species – are already flocking to Washington’s coastal areas en route from their Arctic breeding grounds to points south. Clouds of shorebirds, especially sandpipers, can now be seen from Ilwaco to Ocean Shores.

Unlike their spring migration, shorebirds’ flight south is a disorderly affair. Adults often leave the Arctic before their chicks are fledged and join flocks departing at different times. They also travel at a more leisurely pace, departing anytime from July to October. Rare birds, such as off-course Asian shorebirds, are more likely to join the others in their southward flight than on their trip north.

After a recent trip to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, one birder reported seeing dozens of great egrets, great blue herons and killdeer in addition to all the species noted above. Most were visible during both morning and evening hours.

Meanwhile, birders in Klickitat County are seeing birds of a different color. At the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, a birder from Kirkland saw – and heard – an indigo bunting in an aspen grove. He also reported seeing a veery, a Swainson’s thrush and a Vaux’s swift, which flew down the chimney of a nearby house just before the rain hit.

Eastern Washington

Fishing:  Randy Osborne, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) central district fish biologist, says the best fishing in August is usually during very early morning or late evening hours. But mid-day anglers under cloud cover can reel in a few nice catches, too.

Some of the best rainbow and cutthroat trout lakes located near Spokane are Amber, Badger, Clear, Williams, and West Medical lakes in Spokane County, and Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County. The lower Spokane River has nice rainbows and browns, but river anglers need to be aware of catch limits, gear restrictions and other rules listed in the fishing pamphlet.

Mixed species waters are also a good bet. Along with some trout, yellow perch, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and crappie can usually be caught at Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County, Downs Lakes in southwest Spokane County, Newman, Silver, and Liberty lakes in eastern Spokane County, Eloika Lake in north Spokane County, and the Spokane River reservoir of Long Lake.

Osborne reminds anglers that safety on and near the water should be a top priority. “Anyone recreating with watercraft should always have the correct number and size of personal flotation devices and use them while on the water,” he said.

In the north end of the region, WDFW District Fish Biologist Bill Baker in Colville reports rainbow trout, kokanee and walleye fishing continues to be good at Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam. Kokanee fishing is also productive at Stevens County’s Loon Lake during evening hours.

Some of the high elevation lakes on U.S. Forest Service property in the northeast district that are stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout may be good destinations for camping and fishing weekends. In Ferry County, try Davis, Ellen, Empire Swan and Trout lakes. In Stevens County, try Gillette, Heritage, Sherry, Summit, and Thomas lakes. In Pend Oreille County, try Carl’s, Cook’s, Frater, Halfmoon, Leo, Mystic, Nile, No-Name, Petit, South and North Skookums, and Yokum lakes.

Catfish and sturgeon fishing is usually productive in the Snake River system in the southeast part of the region in August, said Glen Mendel, WDFW district fish biologist in Dayton. Catfish are often landed in the backwaters and sloughs throughout the mainstem Snake, as well as in or near the mouths of tributaries like the Tucannon River. Catfish fishing is often much more productive at night, or at dawn and dusk.

Sturgeon fishers are reminded of the minimum 43-inch and maximum 54-inch tail fork length requirement and daily catch limit of one sturgeon. The Snake and its tributaries upstream of Lower Granite Dam are catch-and-release only for sturgeon. The section of the Snake just east of the Tri-Cities, from the mouth to Ice Harbor Dam, is also catch-and-release for sturgeon starting Aug. 1.

Starting Sept. 1, anglers will be able to catch and keep hatchery fall chinook salmon as well as hatchery steelhead on the Snake River. Predicting a strong return of upriver bright chinook salmon this year, state fishery managers have expanded the daily catch limit to include three adult hatchery chinook, plus three hatchery jack chinook under 24 inches in length.

Anglers may also catch and keep up to three hatchery steelhead, but must stop fishing for the day – for both chinook and steelhead – once they have taken their three-fish steelhead limit.

The fishery will extend from beneath the southbound lanes of the Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco to the Oregon state line, approximately 7 miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River. Barbless hooks are required, and any salmon or steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released, along with any chinook salmon under 12 inches.

Anglers heading for a weekend of camping near the Tucannon River, or its trout-stocked impoundments on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, need to keep fire restrictions in mind.  Wooten Manager Kari Dingman said that with hot, dry conditions, the Washington Department of Natural Resources has a campfire ban in effect.

“No campfires are allowed in any state campgrounds until further notice,” Dingman said. “With the hot temps we’ve been having, the fishing in the lakes has really slowed down, but river fishing has picked up.”

Dingman also reported an Aug. 17-27 closure of Wooten campgrounds 5 and 6 for a “large woody debris” project that involves placing full-size trees with rootballs into the river with a helicopter. There may also be some traffic delays that week due to temporary road closures while the helicopter is in operation.

Hunting:  August is prep and scouting month for most hunters, with some of the most popular seasons opening in September and October. But some hunting gets under way this month, too.

Black bear hunting starts Aug. 1 in the central district’s Game Management Units (GMUs) 133, 136, 139 and 142, as part of the “Columbia Basin” hunt zone.  Northeast district GMUs 124-130, in the “Northeastern B” hunt zone, open Aug. 15. Other GMUs in the region open Sept. 1.

Master Hunter antlerless deer and elk special permit hunts begin Aug. 1 in designated areas throughout the region.

Wherever hunters are scouting, or engaged in open seasons at this time, WDFW officials advise checking on wildfire risks and fire restrictions with the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Current information is available here.

White tail bucks
White tail bucks
Elk on smoothing iron
Elk on smoothing iron

Wildlife viewing: Deer and elk are more visible throughout the region this month, both in doe-fawn and cow-calf groups, and in buck and bull groups. Antler growth on bucks and bulls is also more noticeable.

Jeff Lawlor, WDFW habitat biologist, recently spotted and photographed a group of whitetailed bucks in velvet in north Spokane County. WDFW Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex Manager Bob Dice recently did the same with a cow-calf group of elk on Smoothing Iron Ridge on the Asotin Creek Wildlife Area. Dice says elk in general are highly visible both there and in the Joseph Creek area of the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area in Asotin County.

Recent field work in the Mount Spokane area turned up blue grouse broods and a variety of butterflies foraging on wildflowers in full bloom.

Mt. Spokane butterflies
Mt. Spokane butterflies Mt. Spokane butterfly

Mt. Spokane butterfly

By the end of month, swallows and other neotropical migrant birds will start to group up to head south. Watch for family groups decorating power lines near roadways and treetops near water.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing: Two salmon fisheries not listed in the rules pamphlet will open Aug. 4, thanks to good returns of fish to northcentral Washington.

Travis Maitland, Chelan district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), says hatchery summer chinook salmon returns to the Wenatchee River are in excess of spawning escapement needs, so fishing for marked (adipose-fin clipped) chinook in the section of the river from the mouth to just below Dryden Dam will be open Aug. 4-Oct. 15. Another section of the Wenatchee, from the confluence of Peshastin Creek to a line above Dryden Dam and the Icicle Creek Road Bridge, will open Sept. 1. Check the emergency rule change for details.

Also opening Aug. 4 is the Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery. More than 30,000 fish coming through Tumwater Canyon on the Wenatchee River are headed for Lake Wenatchee, said Maitland. At least 7,000 fish are estimated to be available for harvest above the natural spawning escapement goal of 23,000 fish. Selective gear rules and other restrictions are in effect, so check the details in the emergency rule change for this fishery, scheduled to run through Aug. 31. 

Maitland notes that in addition to a fishing license, anglers participating in these special fisheries must have the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement (CRSSE), which makes the seasons possible by funding enforcement, and monitoring.

Bob Jateff, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Okanogan district fish biologist in Twisp, says sockeye salmon fishing has picked up considerably in the Columbia River near Brewster.  Angling effort has been high with catch rates of two to three fish per angler.  Chinook salmon are also being caught along with sockeye, but in much smaller numbers. 

Jateff also notes the section of the Columbia River from Wells Dam upstream to the Hwy. 173 Bridge in Brewster has been open to salmon fishing since July 16.  Anglers are required to release any sockeye or chinook with a colored anchor (floy) tag located just below the dorsal fin.

“The sockeye are running three to five pounds and the chinook are averaging 10 to 12 pounds,” Jateff said.

Jateff reports fishing in the Methow River has been hampered by higher water flows, but it should be in good shape soon for the catch-and-release trout fishery under way. Selective gear rules are in effect and no bait is allowed. The open area of the Methow extends from the Lower Burma Road Bridge (below the town of Methow) upstream to the Weeman Bridge (eight miles north of Winthrop).

Jateff also notes there are two sections of the Twisp and Chewuch rivers that are open to catch-and-release trout fishing.  The Twisp is open from the mouth upstream to War Creek, and the Chewuch is open from the mouth upstream to Eight Mile Creek. 

Anglers should check the current sportfishing rules pamphlet as all of these open areas have varying closure dates.  Anglers can expect resident rainbow and cutthroat trout in the 8-16 inch range.

As river and small creek flows recede, Jateff says it is a good time to fish the smaller tributaries within the Methow River drainage.  Boulder, Falls, and Eightmile creeks are all within easy driving distance from Winthrop and provide good fishing for eastern brook trout.  Daily limit is five brook trout in Falls and Eightmile Creeks, no minimum size.  In Boulder Creek the daily limit for brook trout is 10, no minimum size. In the Beaver Creek drainage, anglers can retain five brook trout, no minimum size.
Watershed Steward and Area Habitat Biologist Ken Bevis of Winthrop attests to the good fishing opportunity on small waterways.

“Northcentral Washington's small creeks are generally under-utilized,” Bevis said.  “These little creeks drop into beautiful fishing shape by late summer and most have an abundance of small trout that hit on bushy dry flies.”  Bevis recommends floating a size 12 Royal Coachman, a small stimulator, Adams, or other little bushy thing downstream from where you stand. 

“Sneak up on the pool and cast around the rocks at the top, working your way down to the tailout,” he said. “Keep your casts short, sometimes less than 10 feet. Be sure to hide a little or your silhouette will spook them. Wear dull clothes, even a camo shirt - definitely not anything white or bright. And pinch those barbs to make it easy to release fish where you might need to because of rules to protect other species.”

Bevis calls the little rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout he catches “pocket trout” because he uses his pockets as a creel. “These little gems are really good, though,” he said. “Fry them crisp and eat the whole thing.”

Hunting: August is prep and scouting month for most hunters, with some of the most popular seasons opening in September and October. But some hunting gets under way this month, too.

Black bear hunting starts Aug. 1 in Game Management Units (GMUs) 244-247 and 249-251 as part of the East Cascades hunt zone. Bear hunting starts Aug. 15 in the Okanogan hunt zone, which includes GMUs 203 and 209-243.

Master Hunter antlerless elk special permit hunting opens Aug. 1 in designated areas of the region.

Aug. 15 is the deadline to apply for 18 access permits to hunt deer this fall on the 6,000-acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area near Oroville in northeastern Okanogan County. Six of the 18 permits will be reserved for bowhunters for a Sept. 1-28 season, six for muzzleloaders for a Sept. 29-Oct. 7 season, and six for hunters using modern firearms for an Oct. 13-21 season. Hunters can submit an application for the “limited-entry” deer hunt on WDFW’s website or by contacting the department’s northcentral region office at (509) 754-4624 or headquarters at (360) 902-2515.

Wherever hunters are scouting, or engaged in open seasons at this time, WDFW officials advise checking on wildfire risks and fire restrictions with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Current information is available here.

Wildlife viewing:  Numerous butterfly species are a common sight around the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area at this time of year when many wildflowers are in full bloom, said Dale Swedberg, WDFW area manager. Watch for several species of whites, sulphurs, coppers, hairstreaks, blues, fritillaries, checkers, nymphs and skippers.

Orange sulphur
Orange sulphur
Sinlahekin butterfly
Sinlahekin butterfly

The Sinlahekin and other places in Okanogan County are also an excellent destination for birders looking for a variety of neotropical migrants, including flycatchers, swallows, and tanagers, before they begin gathering for southward migrations. 

Alpine and subalpine wildlife are often most viewed in August because of access to the high country. Look for mountain goats, bighorn sheep, hoary marmots, pikas, golden-mantled ground squirrels, ptarmigan, gray-crowned rosy finches and lots of other species. Good viewing sites in the western portion of Okanogan County are along roads and trails in the Harts Pass, Washington Pass, Cutthroat Lake/Pass areas, as well as along the Pacific Crest Trail in between these sites. There’s also lots of viewing opportunity in the higher elevations of the Chelan-Sawtooth and Pasayten Wilderness areas.

Pacific treefrog
Pacific treefrog

Amphibians in all stages of development can be found in ponds and wetlands, particularly at middle elevations. Some of the most commonly seen are Pacific treefrogs, western toads, and long-toed salamanders.

In the Columbia Basin, WDFW District Wildlife Biologist Rich Finger recommends watching for common nighthawks, hunting insects on the wing around farm fields, American white pelicans, which are beginning to congregate on productive fishing waters around Potholes Reservoir, and burrowing owls and their young in shrub-steppe habitat.

 

Southcentral Washington

Fishing:  Walleye fishing has been very good on Lake Umatilla this summer – and will likely heat up even more as water temperatures rise through August. Meanwhile, the summer heat is also clearing a way through the snow to trout fishing opportunities on dozens of alpine lakes.

As of late July, anglers were averaging more than three walleye per rod on Lake Umatilla, the 67-mile reservoir below McNary Dam on the Columbia River, according to Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) stationed in the Tri-Cities.

“Fishing has been terrific at all the usual spots – Umatilla, County Line, Irrigon, Boardman and Paterson,” Hoffarth said. “Walleye really put on the feed bag when the water heats up, so we can expect to see some more great fishing in the weeks ahead.”

There is no minimum size limit for walleye at Lake Umatilla, although there is a daily limit of 10 fish, only five of which can measure over 18 inches and only one of which can be over 24 inches. There is also no minimum size for smallmouth bass, which are also showing up in the catch. Anglers have a daily limit of five smallmouth bass, only three of which can exceed 15 inches.

Sturgeon are also stirring, but July 31 is the last day for retention fishing on Lake Wallula and the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam, and Lake Umatilla switched to catch-and-release May 20. 

On the other hand, there’s still plenty of time to catch and keep up to two hatchery steelhead from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Highway 395 bridge at Kennewick/Pasco. Fishery managers are projecting a strong run of 380,000 summer-run steelhead this year, many bound for the Snake River and mid-to-upper Columbia River. Hatchery steelhead can be identified by a missing adipose fin and a healed scar near their tail.

The Snake River will open for hatchery steelhead fishing Sept. 1, and WDFW expects to open sections of the Columbia River above the Highway 395 bridge later this summer or early fall. Look for announcements at the WDFW website.

Anglers can also look forward to good fishing for fall chinook salmon in the weeks ahead. A strong run of 655,000 “falls” is expected to return to the Columbia this year, including 353,000 upriver brights that are expected to cross McNary Dam – many headed for the Hanford Reach. 

While salmon fishing has been hot above Rocky Reach Dam since mid-July, fishing doesn’t really catch fire below Priest Rapids Dam until fall chinook arrive in September, Hoffarth said.

“Most of the summer chinook and sockeye just sail right through below Priest Rapids Dam,” he said. “But with a strong run of falls expected this year, salmon fishing in the Hanford Reach should pick up in about a month.”

The daily limit on the Columbia River is six chinook, of which two may be adults. Anglers are not required to release chinook with intact adipose fins, but must stop fishing after they retain two adult chinook. See the current Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet for additional information.

On the Yakima River, salmon fishing closes July 31 at the end of the day, but will reopen Sept. 1 for fall chinook in the lower river. Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist in Yakima, said the spring chinook fishery in the upper section between Union Gap and Roza Dam finished strong, despite high flows in May and June.

“Catch rates for springers really picked up in July as water levels dropped and more fish moved into the area,” Anderson said. “Now anglers are looking ahead to the fishery for fall chinook.”

Water levels are also dropping in streams flowing into the upper Yakima and Naches rivers, improving fishing conditions for wild rainbow and cutthroat trout, Anderson said. Anglers should be sure to check the regulations for those streams, and release all salmon, bull trout, and steelhead, Anderson said.

An increasing number of high lakes are also becoming accessible to trout fishing around White Pass, Chinook Pass and Snoqualmie Pass as the snow continues to melt under the summer sun. WDFW stocks some small, hike-in lakes with rainbow or cutthroat trout, and some also have naturally reproducing eastern brook trout populations.

“Good fishing is now available for planted trout at Clear and Dog lakes in the White Pass area, and for kokanee averaging nine inches at Rimrock Lake off Highway 12,” Anderson said. “Kokanee is also available at Kachess and Keechelus lakes off Highway 90, and fishing is good for both kokanee and cutthroat at Bumping Lake off Highway 410.”

Anderson notes that all of those waters are closed to the taking of bull trout, “so anglers need to release any bull trout they intercept,” he said. Anderson adds that hikers and anglers should check trail conditions before heading out, because some are still covered in snow. Information about current trail conditions is available from the U.S. Forest Service office in Naches and the Forest Ranger office in Cle Elum.

Hunting: The general hunting season for black bear opens Aug. 1 in several areas of the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington. Hunters are urged to avoid shooting sows with cubs.

Meanwhile, hunters have until Aug. 15 at midnight to apply for an opportunity to hunt deer this fall on the 6,000-acre Charles and Mary Eder unit of the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area in northeastern Okanogan County. Eighteen applicants will be chosen during a random drawing to participate in the “limited-entry” deer hunt for bow hunters (Sept. 1-28), muzzleloaders (Sept. 29-Oct. 7) and hunters using modern firearms (Oct. 13-21). See the news release on WDFW’s website for more information.

Hunting opportunities coming up next month include early archery seasons for elk, early archery and muzzleloader seasons for deer, and a restructured general hunting season for cougar, open to all weapon types. Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules pamphlet for more information on all these hunts.

Watchable wildlife: Now is the time to see birds that migrate in early fall congregate and feed on insects throughout the region. In the high country of the South Cascades, hikers can often catch glimpses of everything from mountain bluebirds to mountain goats.

Around White Pass, check out Dog Lake and the surrounding forests and meadows for ring-necked ducks, Barrow’s goldeneye, osprey, red-naped and Williamson’s sapsuckers and pine siskin. Listen for barred owls in the dense forests behind nearby Leech Lake.

At Chinook Pass, look for whistling hoary marmots and browsing mule deer. Scan the peaks for mountain goats, and watch for blue grouse, gray jay, mountain chickadee and a variety of other birds.

There are also three active great egret nests near Yakima in the riparian area where Toppenish creek crosses Lateral C road. Birders have observed three young birds being fed from the open beak of an adult that flew into the nest.

Wildlife viewers are reminded to be extra careful with anything that could start wildfires in the region’s hot and dry conditions. Outing plans should include a check on campfire restrictions on public lands. For current wildfire information, see the websites maintained by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the National Interagency Fire Center.