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

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July 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 July 13, 2012)

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

Chinook salmon are king in July
(but don’t forget sockeye and coho)

Summer fishing seasons are now in full swing, requiring anglers to make some tough decisions about how to spend their time on the water.  Salmon, steelhead, crab, sturgeon, trout, bass and walleye – all are now available for harvest in waters around the state.

But for thousands of anglers, nothing beats the thrill of reeling in a big chinook salmon on their line. Many are doing just that as waves of chinook move south along the Washington coast, then east into Puget Sound, coastal streams, and the Columbia River.

“The chinook selective fishery on the coast got off to a quick start and anglers have continued to do well since,” said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “I expect that will continue in July, when anglers should start finding more hatchery coho salmon as well.”

Sockeye salmon are also creating quite a buzz this year, especially on the Columbia River where an estimated 540,000 of them – the largest run in decades – are now moving upstream. Anglers fishing the lower river were expected to catch 4,000 sockeye and 2,850 hatchery-reared summer chinook by July 1, when that season closes and the action moves above Bonneville Dam.

The Skagit River and Baker Lake in northern Puget Sound are also good prospects for sockeye salmon in July, when the focus shifts to hatchery steelhead on the lower Columbia River.

Rather catch some crab? All areas of Puget Sound except one open for crab fishing July 1, the exception being Marine Area 7 in the San Juan Islands. The season starts with a two-day opening (July 1-2), then moves to a regular Thursday-through-Monday schedule starting July 5.  

Rich Childers, WDFW’s shellfish policy lead, said test fisheries indicate the crab population in Puget Sound remains abundant.

“The test boats have done very well,” he said. “I expect this summer’s fishery to be similar to last year’s, when crabbing was good throughout the entire season in most areas of Puget Sound.”

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.

For additional information on fishing regulations, see WDFW’s 2012-12 Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet, available from sporting goods stores and other license vendors. The pamphlet is also available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

For more information about fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities 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 in six regions around the state.

North Puget Sound

Fishing: The summer fishing season revs up in July, when numerous fishing opportunities are available. Freshwater anglers can fish for trout and salmon at some the of region’s rivers. On Puget Sound, additional salmon openers are just around the corner, while the popular crab season gets under way July 1 in most areas.

All but one marine area in Puget Sound opens for crab fishing July 1. The exception is Marine Area 7, where the crab fishery opens July 15 in the area’s southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and Aug. 16 in the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia).

The crab fishery in all marine areas of Puget Sound will be open Thursday through Monday of each week. Crabbers should note, however, that the season gets under way with a two-day opening (July 1-2), and will be closed July 3-4 before re-opening on its regular weekly schedule Thursday, July 5.

Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said state and tribal test fisheries indicate the crab population in Puget Sound remains abundant. “The test boats have done very well,” Childers said. “I expect this summer’s fishery to be similar to last year’s, when crabbing was good throughout the entire season in most areas of Puget Sound.”

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.

July also brings opportunities to hook salmon in the marine areas of Puget Sound. Those saltwater opportunities include:

  • Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), which opens July 1.  Anglers can keep one chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit.
  • Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton), where anglers will have a daily limit of two 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. 3. Salmon anglers fishing the bubble have a two-salmon daily limit, and are allowed to use two fishing poles with the purchase of a two-pole endorsement.
  • Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) will be open July 1-15 with a daily limit of two salmon, but anglers must release chinook and chum. Hatchery chinook retention will begin July 16, when anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon but must release wild chinook and chum.

Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW, said he expects anglers will do well in some areas opening July 1. “The San Juan Islands have been a steady producer of hatchery chinook the last few years,” he said. “And Marine Area 9 is a fair bet for resident coho.” 

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

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).

The Skagit also is open to fishing for sockeye salmon. Anglers can fish for sockeye, from Highway 536 (Memorial Highway Bridge) at Mount Vernon to the mouth of Gilligan Creek through July 15. Anglers have a daily limit of three sockeye, with a minimum size of 12 inches.

Despite high flows and dirty water, anglers on the Skagit continued to catch fish as June came to a close, said Brett Barkdull, another WDFW fish biologist. “Anglers, especially bank anglers, are doing very well given the river conditions,” he said. “With the high water, the sockeye are hugging the shore where bank anglers can get to them.”  

Anglers should note that gear restrictions take effect on portions of the Skagit River beginning July 5. For more information, check the emergency fishing rule change.

Meanwhile, the Baker Lake sockeye fishery gets under way July 1. The daily limit at Baker is three sockeye salmon. Barkdull said the fishery will likely start slow, but should pick up later in the month. “I wouldn’t really expect there to be significant numbers of fish in the lake until mid-to-late July,” he said.

Anglers can check the number of sockeye released into the lake on WDFW’s website.

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.

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.

Wildlife viewing: Now's a good time to head to the Ballard Locks to check out salmon passing the fish ladder viewing windows. Several thousand sockeye pass through the fish ladder daily, and chinook should start showing up in greater numbers in late July. 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.

Meanwhile, state land managers are urging Washingtonians to avoid doing anything that might spark a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, faulty vehicle or motorcycle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes, and outdoor burning are among the common sources of wildfire starts in the state.

General rules for lands owned or managed by WDFW are described in the department’s public conduct rules. Fireworks are prohibited and campfires are limited to three feet in diameter and three feet high under those rules.

Fireworks are also prohibited on forestlands owned by the Washington Department of Natural Resource (DNR), which has imposed a burn ban from July 1 through Sept. 30. Despite rain and cool weather, DNR has already suppressed approximately 143 fires that have burned nearly 872 acres on state lands.

 “The major wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico remind us how destructive they can be to our homes and lives,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. “We urge everyone to exercise caution with any fire-related activities this holiday weekend.”

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: Summer salmon fishing is in full swing along the coast, where anglers have been reeling in bright chinook since mid-June.

“The chinook selective fishery got off to a quick start and anglers have continued to do well since,” said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “I expect that will continue in July, when anglers should start finding more hatchery coho salmon as well.”

Anglers fishing marine areas 1 and 2 can retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. They must, however, release wild coho salmon.

On the north coast, the chinook selective fishery continues through June 30 in marine areas 3 and 4, where anglers have a daily limit of two salmon. Anglers are required to release wild chinook and all coho during the selective fishery.

Beginning July 1, the traditional recreational fishery for chinook and hatchery coho will get under way in marine areas 3 and 4, where anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon. Those fishing in marine areas 3 and 4 will be allowed to retain two chinook per day. But the chinook limit will change to one per day in Marine Area 4 starting July 16.

Beginning July 1, the traditional recreational fishery for chinook and hatchery coho will get under way in marine areas 3 and 4. Anglers fishing marine areas 3 and 4 will have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release wild coho salmon.  

Salmon fishing is open seven days a week, except in Marine Area 2 where fishing is open Sundays through Thursdays.

Halibut is still an option out on the coast. Marine Area 1 is open for halibut fishing Thursday through Saturday each week through July 14 or when the quota is reached, whichever occurs first. The fishery will reopen on Aug. 3 and continue three days a week (Friday-Sunday), until the remaining quota is taken, or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first.

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 – south of Ayock Point), while salmon fisheries in marine areas 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 13 (South Puget Sound) are already under way.

Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager, said salmon anglers fishing the inside portion of Marine Area 4 have done well, suggesting that fishing will get off to a good start in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. “Early indications look good,” he said. “Anglers have done really well for chinook during the ocean selective fishery, and that could stretch into the Strait.” 

Farther south, fishing for hatchery chinook in Marine Area 11 has been good, Thiesfeld said. “Westport is getting all the attention, but the folks fishing the Tacoma area are doing pretty well,” he said. “There are definitely some fish to be caught in Marine Area 11.” 

Thiesfeld reminds anglers fishing Hood Canal that chum and wild chinook must be released. Because salmon fishing rules vary depending on the marine area, anglers should check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for all regulations.

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.

Meanwhile, the crab fishery gets under way July 1 in all but one marine area in Puget Sound. The exception is Marine Area 7, where the crab fishery opens July 15 in the area’s southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and Aug. 16 in the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia).

The crab fishery in all marine areas of Puget Sound will be open Thursday through Monday of each week. Crabbers should note, however, that the season gets under way with a two-day opening (July 1-2), and will be closed July 3-4 before re-opening on its regular weekly schedule Thursday, July 5.

Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for WDFW, said state and tribal test fisheries indicate the crab population in Puget Sound remains abundant. “The test boats have done very well,” Childers said. “I expect this summer’s fishery to be similar to last year’s, when crabbing was good throughout the entire season in most areas of Puget Sound.”

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.

In freshwater, a few rivers are open for salmon fishing, including the Hoh, Quillayute and 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.

Wildlife viewing:  Wolf Haven International (just south of Olympia) will be hosting Howl-Ins on select Saturdays in late 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.

Meanwhile, state land managers are urging Washingtonians to avoid doing anything that might spark a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, faulty vehicle or motorcycle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes, and outdoor burning are among the common sources of wildfire starts in the state.

General rules for lands owned or managed by WDFW are described in the department’s public conduct rules. Fireworks are prohibited and campfires are limited to three feet in diameter and three feet high under those rules.

Fireworks are also prohibited on forestlands owned by the Washington Department of Natural Resource (DNR), which has imposed a burn ban from July 1 through Sept. 30. Despite rain and cool weather, DNR has already suppressed approximately 143 fires that have burned nearly 872 acres on state lands.

 “The major wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico remind us how destructive they can be to our homes and lives,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. “We urge everyone to exercise caution with any fire-related activities this holiday weekend.”

Southwest Washington

Fishing:  Anglers who fish the lower Columbia River are gearing up for hatchery steelhead now that most salmon-fishing opportunities are moving upstream. Steelhead fishing is expected to heat up in the weeks ahead after the summer salmon fishery below Bonneville Dam closes at the end of the day July 1.

Approximately 364,000 upriver steelhead are expected to enter the Columbia this year, along with thousands more bound for lower-river tributaries, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Those fish, bound for the upper Columbia and Snake rivers, tend to run four to eight pounds apiece.

“This year’s return is expected to be about the same as last year’s,” Hymer said. “Steelhead tend to run close to shore, so bank anglers will likely have the advantage in the weeks ahead, especially with the river running high and cold.”

Anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville can take up to two hatchery steelhead per day as part of their six-fish catch limit, which can also include hatchery jack chinook salmon. All wild fish with an intact adipose fin must be released.

Hymer said fishery managers had hoped to extend the salmon fishery beyond July 1, but bumped into two obstacles. On one hand, only about 54,000 summer chinook returned this year, compared to the pre-season projection of 91,200. That reduced the allowable catch, although anglers fishing the lower river are still expected to take home 2,850 adult hatchery summer chinook by the end of the season. 

On the other hand, anglers caught 4,000 sockeye this year, shattering last year’s record of 1,300 fish and pushing up against the impact guideline for the lower river. “Those fish were a welcome addition to this year’s fishery,” Hymer said.

Anglers gearing up for hatchery steelhead should consider fishing area tributaries as well as the mainstem Columbia River, he said. As Hymer sees it, the best bet is probably the Cowlitz River, where fish start arriving in larger numbers early in the month.

Other options include the Lewis (North and East forks), Kalama, Washougal, South Fork Toutle, Green, and Elochoman rivers. Anglers should check the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet for regulations specific to those rivers.

Above Bonneville Dam, fishing seasons remain open for adult hatchery chinook and sockeye salmon, as well as hatchery steelhead. For adult fish, the daily limit remains two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each. Anglers should note, however, that sockeye salmon retention in the mainstem Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco closes July 9. For more information, check the emergency rule change

Anglers might also want to try fishing Drano Lake, the lower Wind River or the White Salmon River, where salmon and steelhead have historically dipped in to beat the heat. Just how many enter the White Salmon remains a question, however, since the process of removing Condit Dam filled the mouth of the river with sediment.

“All three of those waters are open for fishing, and we encourage anglers to give them a try,” Hymer said. “We planted the White Salmon with hatchery steelhead, and we’re very interested to see how anglers do in those waters.”

Rather catch a sturgeon? Fishing remains open in The Dalles Pool seven days a week, with a daily limit of one fish measuring 43-54 inches (fork length). From Marker 82 approximately 9 miles below Bonneville Dam down to the Wauna powerlines, anglers can retain sturgeon measuring 38- 54 inches (fork length) Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July. After a strong finish, the sturgeon fishery in the estuary below Wauna is set to close at the end of the day July 4, four days earlier than previously scheduled.  That area will remain open to catch-and-release fishing.

“Catch rates improved significantly in recent weeks, which cut the fishery short by a few days, said Cindy Le Fleur, WDFW’s Columbia River policy manager. “Our goal was to keep the estuary fishery open to anglers through the Fourth of July, and we hit that mark.”

As the snow recedes, trout fishing is gearing up in the region’s many high lakes.  Access to these lakes will improve quickly as the weather continues to heat up, said John Weinheimer, another WDFW fish biologist.

Goose Lake, a forest lake in Skamania County, was recently planted with thousands of good-sized brown and cutthroat trout, Weinheimer said. Meanwhile, kokanee fishing is still going strong at Merwin Reservoir and fishing for rainbows has been good at Swift Reservoir. Riffe Reservoir on the Cowlitz River has also been good for landlocked coho.

Bass, walleye, and tiger musky fishing are in full swing, too, Weinheimer said. For bass and walleye, head to the Columbia River. Tiger musky are biting in the Merwin and Mayfield reservoirs. 

Wildlife viewing:  July is a great time to watch the parade of salmonids – summer chinook, sockeye salmon and steelhead – past the fish-viewing windows at the Bonneville Dam Visitor Center. Thousands of fish are now on display every day as they move up the fish ladders to continue their journey upriver.

To get there, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and park in front of the glass building at the end of the powerhouse. To check on the number of fish passing the dam each day, go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

Meanwhile, state land managers are urging Washingtonians to avoid doing anything that might spark a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, faulty vehicle or motorcycle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes, and outdoor burning are among the common sources of wildfire starts in the state.

General rules for lands owned or managed by WDFW are described in the department’s public conduct rules. Fireworks are prohibited and campfires are limited to three feet in diameter and three feet high under those rules.

Fireworks are also prohibited on forestlands owned by the Washington Department of Natural Resource (DNR), which has imposed a burn ban from July 1 through Sept. 30. Despite rain and cool weather, DNR has already suppressed approximately 143 fires that have burned nearly 872 acres on state lands.

 “The major wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico remind us how destructive they can be to our homes and lives,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. “We urge everyone to exercise caution with any fire-related activities this holiday weekend.”

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,” said Marc Divens, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) warmwater fish biologist in Spokane. “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 17 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 resort and a recently refurbished WDFW access site

Downs Lake, seven miles east of Sprague in southwest Spokane County, also has largemouth bass, yellow perch and black crappie. Downs Lake 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 as well. Silver is open year-round and has both a resort and WDFW access.

Newman Lake, 12 miles northeast of Spokane in eastern Spokane County, has a variety of species, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, yellow perch, and bullhead catfish. Newman Lake also offers the opportunity to fish for tiger musky (a sterile hybrid northern pike/muskellunge cross).  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 surveys show 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 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 access.

Deer and Loon lakes in Stevens County generally shift at this time of year from trout 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.) Early summer kokanee fishing at Loon Lake, primarily in the evenings, can also be very good.  Both of these lakes are open through October and have WDFW access and resorts.

Lake Roosevelt walleye fishing in the upper portion of the reservoir (upriver from Kettle Falls) can be very productive during early July. 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 smallmouth bass plus nice channel catfish.

Good rainbow and cutthroat trout fishing can still be had these days, said John Whalen, WDFW regional fish program manager. 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.

The Tucannon River impoundments in the south end of the region are still providing good fishing for rainbow trout, said Kari Dingman, WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager. The cool, rainy weather this spring has probably extended the life of those hatchery-stocked fisheries, although Dingman notes “it’s finally starting to warm up and feel like summer.”

From July through September, anglers making weekend outings of their fishing trips 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 lands, including WDFW’s. The use of gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbeques is allowed under the ban. For more information, see DNR fire safety news.

Wildlife viewing:  July is a good time to see and enjoy young wildlife of many kinds, from elk calves to songbird fledglings.  By now most wild babies are a little more independent and might provide some good viewing and even photo opportunities, at least with the use of binoculars or scopes and telephoto lenses.

Some young wildlife may be curious about human neighbors or visitors to their habitat, but viewers need to remain viewers only.  Picking up wildlife and taking the animals into captivity is almost always unnecessary, and too often harmful, either to the animal or to the human “rescuer.” In addition, taking wildlife into captivity is illegal in Washington.

Among the many places throughout the region where wildlife families can be viewed is WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area, adjacent to the Umatilla National Forest in the southeast district’s Columbia and Garfield counties.  There WDFW Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reports wild turkey chicks, elk calves, and both mule deer and white-tailed deer fawns. She also noted that four bighorn sheep lambs have been spotted regularly on the hillsides around WDFW’s Tucannon Fish Hatchery on the wildlife area, just off the Tucannon River Road.

In the central district of the region, WDFW’s Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County is home to lots of reproducing wildlife. After recent tracking of radio-equipped sharp-tailed grouse, volunteer Kim Thorburn reported seeing lots of baby animals in the area. “The brawny, spotted mule deer fawns are now hanging with their moms, and coyote pups seem to be weaned,” according to the report.

In the region’s north district, wildlife watchers on WDFW’s Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County have reported seeing a moose cow and calf, several white-tailed deer with fawns, and at least one first-year black bear cub.

Summertime insects are abundant throughout the region and that means swallows, 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, from the bright yellow Oregon grape blooms that butterflies love to feed on, to pink and purple monkey-flowers 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.

Ella Rowan, a WDFW wildlife biologist in Spokane, invites wildlife enthusiasts to learn about bats at hands-on, evening classes she’s conducting with colleagues from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, in cooperation with City of Spokane Parks and Recreation.  “Bats of the Inland Northwest” is offered twice – Saturday, July 14, and Saturday, Aug. 25, from 7-11 p.m. – with a registration fee of $17 for adults and $11 for youth ages 7-17 (no children under seven).  The classes include outings in Riverside State Park where bats will be captured.  Class spaces are limited, so registration is required at City of Spokane Parks and Recreation or by calling 509-625-6200.

Whatever public lands are visited for weekend wildlife viewing, visitors should keep in mind the wildfire prevention restrictions that start July 1. 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 lands, including WDFW’s. The use of gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbeques is allowed under the ban. For more information, see DNR fire safety news.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing:  Based on the record numbers of sockeye salmon coming over Bonneville Dam and heading this way, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish biologists are expecting excellent fishing during the season that opens July 1 within the mainstem Columbia River and selected tributaries above Priest Rapids Dam. 

In late June few summer Chinook and sockeye had made their way above Priest Rapids, but by mid-July biologists expect the fisheries to really kick in and provide good action. Check the status of incoming adult fish through the interagency interagency Columbia River Data Access in Real Time (DART) website.

The daily limit is six chinook salmon, minimum size 12 inches.  Up to three adult chinook may be retained, of which only one may be a wild adult.  Anglers are also allowed to keep six sockeye salmon, minimum size 12 inches.  All salmon with a colored floy (anchor) tag and/or tail (caudal) punch must be released as these fish are part of ongoing studies being conducted by the Yakama Nation, Colville Confederated Tribes and WDFW.  Anglers may fish with two poles in areas open to salmon fishing, as long as they have purchased the Two-Pole Endorsement. All salmon fishing on the Columbia requires the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement.

In addition, from Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam, anglers can fish for and retain trout through August 15.  Daily limit is 10 fish with a minimum size of 12 inches.

“The Methow River is currently running high,” said Bob Jateff, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist in Twisp. “Serious trout fishing is probably delayed until the first or second week of July.”
 
Jateff reminds anglers the Methow and selected tributaries are only open for catch-and-release fishing under selective gear rules.  Anglers will need to consult current regulations, since a number of tributaries are closed to all fishing.  Any bull trout caught must be released unharmed and can’t be taken out of the water.

Jateff suggests trying some smaller tributaries in the Methow area, such as Beaver Creek (Methow River tributary) and Boulder Creek (Chewuch River tributary).  Eastern brook trout are the main species in both of these small streams and liberal catch limits are provided.  In Beaver Creek, it’s five brook trout per day, no minimum size, and in Boulder Creek, it’s 10 brook trout per day, no minimum size.

“Trout production lakes to try are Alta, Wannacut, Pearrygin, Spectacle, and both Conconully reservoir and lake,” Jateff said.  “Rainbow trout are the main species in these waters and anglers can expect to catch fish in the 11- to 13-inch range, with larger carryover fish up to 15 inches.  There are private resorts and/or state parks on most of these lakes, with boat launching facilities available.”

Jateff says yellow perch anglers should try Patterson, Palmer, or Spectacle lakes for fish in the six- to 10-inch range.  Palmer Lake also has a good population of kokanee in the 11- to 13-inch range; Patterson Lakes has kokanee in the 10- to 11-inch range.

Travis Maitland, WDFW Chelan District fish biologist, reports the Icicle River spring chinook salmon fishery, that opened June 2 and continues through July 31, has been consistently producing a few fish each day.

“We’ve seen the occasional ‘hot day’ when most everyone is getting them to bite,” Maitland said. “As groups of salmon move out of the Wenatchee River into the Icicle, that action will continue.  It seems to occur with water temperature and river discharge fluctuations, so it’s a timing game, and not exact science.”

Maitland also notes that although the Lake Chelan kokanee fishery has slowed down a bit from earlier in June, “anglers still continue to catch some of the nicest kokanee that Lake Chelan has offered in recent memory.”  Many of the fish have been in the 14- to 16-inch range and occasionally larger.

Chad Jackson, WDFW Columbia Basin district fish biologist, said 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 fishing are Moses Lake, Banks Lake, and Potholes Reservoir,” Jackson said.

All three year-round-open waters also have varying populations of bluegill, crappie and yellow perch that can produce good catches through the summer. With late run-off this year, these big waterways are still at or near high pool, which has slowed normal shoreline or dockside action at some, like 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. Lower Goose has a minimum size of nine inches and a daily catch limit of 10 for crappie. It also has a restriction that only five bluegill over six inches can be kept, although there is no daily limit.

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

From July through September, anglers making weekend outings of their fishing trips 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 lands, including WDFW’s. The use of gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbeques is allowed under the ban. For more information, see DNR fire safety news.

Wildlife viewing:  Rich Finger, WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist in Soap Lake, says birding on the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area can be a real treat this time of year.

American bitterns are rarely seen but can be heard calling from the dense cattail patches,” Finger said. “Wilson’s snipe can be heard winnowing from overhead.  This sound is used by the male to advertise his territory and attract a mate. Black-necked stilts and American avocets can be found nesting or loafing around marshy ponds with short emergent vegetation.”

Finger also said Western and Clark’s grebes may still be performing synchronized dancing in courtship on Potholes Reservoir.  Common nighthawks start to become more obvious this time of year as well, and can be recognized by their aerial display and nasal calling throughout nesting season. “It’s a great place and time to be both sight and sound birding,” he said.

Finger noted that in mid- to late June birders in the North Potholes Reserve reported seeing a least tern, a species more commonly observed along the California coast during the breeding season.

Scott Fitkin, WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist in Winthrop, said this is a great time of year to view deer, particularly in the early morning and early evening. “Most fawns have been on the ground for a couple of weeks now and are more mobile,” Fitkin said.  “Bucks are sporting rapidly developing antlers in velvet.”

White tail doe and fawn
White tail doe and fawn
Mule deer buck in velvet
Mule deer buck in velvet

Fitkin also noted July is a good time to visit the Methow Valley to see neo-tropical migrant song birds, including evening and black-headed grosbeaks, Lazuli buntings, western tanagers, Bullock’s orioles, and numerous warbler species. There are also good opportunities to see moose, bighorn sheep, and many butterfly species feeding on wildflowers.

“Early blooming wildflowers like balsamroot are fading now,” Fitkin said. “But others like cats ear mariposa lily, lupine, blanket flowers, scarlet gilia, and sand phacelia, are coming into full bloom.”

Whatever public lands are visited for weekend wildlife viewing, visitors should keep in mind the wildfire prevention restrictions that start July 1. 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 lands, including WDFW’s. The use of gas and propane self-contained stoves and barbeques is allowed under the ban. For more information, see DNR fire safety news.

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.

For more information, see the fishing rule on the WDFW website.

On the Columbia River, most anglers fishing below McNary Dam have been focusing on walleye and shad.  Anglers have also been picking up a few summer chinook below McNary Dam, but the action has been slow. Summer chinook and sockeye can be harvested in the Columbia River upstream to Priest Rapids Dam but only those chinook with a clipped adipose may be retained. Anglers should note, however, that sockeye salmon retention in the mainstem Columbia River from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco closes July 9. For more information, check the emergency rule change.

For additional rules on the salmon fishery, see the 2012-13 Fishing in Washington pamphlet. A Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead endorsement is required to participate in salmon fisheries on both the Yakima and Columbia Rivers. A two-pole endorsement is also available for anglers fishing the open section of the Yakima River and for salmon fisheries opening in July above Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia River.

Rather catch sturgeon? Anglers can catch and keep sturgeon measuring 43 to 54 inches (fork length) through July 31 in Lake Wallula (McNary Dam to Priest Rapids and Ice Harbor dams). Be aware, however, that sturgeon spawning sanctuary areas below each of those dams are closed to all sturgeon fishing.  The sanctuary areas are described on Pages 75 and 81 of the fishing rule pamphlet. 

Fishery managers are asking sturgeon anglers fishing in the Columbia and Snake river reservoirs above McNary Dam to watch for and return special tags found in some of the fish. The yellow plastic markers are shaped like a piece of spaghetti, and are attached to the base of the fish’s dorsal fin.

“The tag program helps inform us of the abundance and distribution of white sturgeon above McNary Dam,” said Olaf Langness, WDFW fish biologist. “We appreciate anglers’ cooperation in this effort.”

Fishery managers ask that anyone who encounters a tagged sturgeon remove and return the tag, along with information on the date and location of the catch and whether the fish was kept or released. Anglers who keep a tagged fish are asked to report the sturgeon’s fork length, measured from the tip of its snout to the fork in its tail.

The tags and information should be mailed to the Sturgeon Tag Reward Program, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), 17330 SE. Evelyn St., Clackamas, OR 97015. Respondents who include their name, mailing address and telephone number will be sent a complimentary “Columbia Basin Sturgeon Conservationist” baseball cap.

Meanwhile, fishing for stocked rainbow trout is still going strong on lowland lakes near Yakima, Ellensburg and Cle Elum, said Anderson, the WDFW fish biologist based in Yakima. He especially likes the prospects at Clear and Dog Lakes in Yakima County and Easton Ponds and Cooper Lake in Kittitas County.

Anderson notes that 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.  Cooper Lake, in the upper Cle Elum River basin, also received a planting of 765 jumbos along with 8,160 catchable rainbows (11-13 inches) planted in mid-to-late June.  All four “drive-to” mountain lakes should provide excellent trout fishing through the summer months and into the early fall.

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

Anglers should be aware of a new slot limit for kokanee at Cle Elum and Cooper lakes. Only kokanee measuring 7 to 14 inches in length can be kept at those two lakes. For more information, check the emergency rule change.

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 Keechelus and Kachess reservoirs.

Wildlife viewing:  Bluebirds are hatching in 132 nesting boxes installed by the Yakima Valley Audubon Society along a 14-mile stretch of North Wenas Road in the Wenas area. By the last week in June, the count was 91 eggs and 226 nestlings, according to a report in the Yakima Herald-Republic. More should be on display as the weather improves and more chicks fledge.

In the Tri-Cities, a wayward northern parula is attracting attention in Columbia Park, singing its urgent song. Normally a bird of the eastern part of the United States, stray northern parula often make it all the way to the West Coast during migration. The species, one of the smaller northern migratory warblers, is often easier to hear than to see because of its tendency to forage in dense treetop foliage.

Whether watching birds or pursuing some other outdoor activity, state land managers are urging Washingtonians to avoid doing anything that might spark a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, faulty vehicle or motorcycle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes, and outdoor burning are among the common sources of wildfire starts in the state.

General rules for lands owned or managed by WDFW are described in the department’s public conduct rules. Fireworks are prohibited and campfires are limited to three feet in diameter and three feet high under those rules.

Fireworks are also prohibited on forestlands owned by the Washington Department of Natural Resource (DNR), which has imposed a burn ban from July 1 through Sept. 30. Despite rain and cool weather, DNR has already suppressed approximately 143 fires that have burned nearly 872 acres on state lands.

 “The major wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico remind us how destructive they can be to our homes and lives,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. “We urge everyone to exercise caution with any fire-related activities this holiday weekend.”