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

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November 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 November 26, 2012)

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

Put a turkey on your table –
or duck, venison, or razor clams

There’s more than one way to put a turkey on your table for Thanksgiving. Rather than head to the grocery store, thousands of hunters plan to get their bird during the hunting season for wild turkey that gets under way Nov. 20 in eastern Washington.

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

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

November is also prime time to hunt deer and elk on both sides of the Cascades.

For anglers, Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of winter steelhead fishing in western Washington, where coho and chum salmon also start moving in from the ocean. On the eastside, anglers are still reeling in high numbers of hatchery-reared summer steelhead from the upper Columbia River and several major tributaries.

Rather serve shellfish? Most areas of Puget Sound are currently open for crab fishing, and two multi-day razor clam digs are scheduled at various ocean beaches in November.

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 113th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2012 through Jan. 5, 2013. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count see the Audubon website at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.

For more information about the full array of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available over the next 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 current information about recreational opportunities around the state.

North Puget Sound
(Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties)

Fishing:  The rainy season is setting in and the days are getting shorter, but anglers still have a variety of fishing opportunities to choose from in November. Three more areas open for chinook salmon fishing in Puget Sound, where the winter Dungeness crab fishery is also under way. Steelhead fishing should catch fire by the end of the month, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is stocking a popular fishing lake near Issaquah with 2,000 hefty rainbow trout.

Starting Nov. 1, marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) open for chinook salmon fishing. Anglers fishing those marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Chinook salmon fishing also continues under the same rules in Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton).

Anglers are reminded that Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) closes to salmon retention Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, sport crabbing is open seven days a week through Dec. 31 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (South Puget Sound).

Two areas – marine areas 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) – will not reopen this year, because the annual quotas for those waters were reached during the summer fishery.

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

All crab caught in the late-season fishery should be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards are available at license vendors across the state. Those catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2013. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s catch record card webpage.

On freshwater, several rivers are open in November for salmon fishing, including the Nooksack, Samish, Skagit, Cascade, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish, Wallace, Snoqualmie and Green.

Some of those rivers – the Skagit, Snohomish and Green – are also good spots for winter steelhead fishing, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager. “Anglers can certainly find some hatchery steelhead early in the month, but fishing usually starts to pick up around Thanksgiving,” he said.

Because regulations vary for each river, anglers should check WDFW’s sportfishing regulations pamphlet before heading out.

Earlier in the month, anglers will have an opportunity to catch large trout in Beaver Lake near Issaquah, thanks to the release of about 2,000 hatchery rainbows averaging about 2 to 3 pounds each. The release is scheduled for Nov. 7.

WDFW will close the Beaver Lake access site at sunset on Nov. 6 while the fish are being planted and reopen the site at sunrise Nov. 8. The lake, itself, will remain open to fishing those days.

Beaver Lake is best fished by small boat, although anglers also can be successful fishing from shore, said Justin Spinelli, fishery biologist for WDFW. Internal combustion boat engines are prohibited on the lake.

The daily limit is five fish, only two of which can exceed 15 inches in length. Anglers are advised to check the sport fishing rules pamphlet, which is available on WDFW’s website.

The lake’s access site is most easily reached by way of East Beaver Lake Drive Southeast, off Southeast 24th Street in the city of Sammamish. Parking for vehicles and boat trailers is limited, and a valid WDFW Vehicle Access Pass or Discover Pass must be visible in vehicles parked at the access site. For more information about the Vehicle Access Pass and the Discover Pass, visit WDFW’s website.

Beaver Lake is one of several lowland lakes in western Washington open to fishing year-round.

Hunting: November is prime time for waterfowl hunting in the region, where more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. After a typical late-October lull in activity, hunting usually improves in mid-November. That’s when the numbers of migrating birds pick up along with wet and windy weather, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.

Goose hunting resumes Nov. 3 in Skagit and Snohomish counties (Goose Management Area 1). However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) run continuously through Jan. 29. The duck hunting season is open throughout the month and continues on through Jan. 27.

Hunters who would like to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area should visit WDFW’s website for information on the rules and requirements.

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

Meanwhile, the modern firearm season for elk is open Nov. 3-14, and the late modern firearm season for deer runs Nov. 15-18.

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 21, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Late muzzleloader hunts for elk open Nov. 21 in select western Washington game management units, and deer muzzleloader hunts open the following day, Nov. 22.

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 113th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2012 through Jan. 5, 2013. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula
(Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Thurston and Pacific counties)

Fishing: Fall fisheries are under way in the region, where winter steelhead and chum salmon are making their way into the rivers and blackmouth salmon can be found on Puget Sound. Shellfish also are on the menu with the late-season crab fishery open in the Sound and two razor clam digs tentatively scheduled at coastal beaches.   

In mid-November, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will proceed with an evening razor clam dig. Opening dates and evening low tides are:

  • Nov. 13, Tuesday, 5:54 p.m., -1.6 ft., Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 14, Wednesday, 6:41 p.m., -1.9 ft., Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 15, Thursday, 7:29 p.m., -1.9 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 16, Friday, 8:18 p.m., -1.6 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Nov. 17, Saturday, 9:09 p.m., -1.1 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks

Later in the month, razor clammers will have another opportunity. Opening dates and evening low tides for that dig are:

  • Nov. 26, Monday, 5:16 p.m., -0.1 ft, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 27, Tuesday, 5:52 p.m., -0.3 ft., Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 28, Wednesday, 6:27 p.m., -0.4 ft., Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 29, Thursday, 7:01 p.m., -0.4 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 30, Friday, 7:35 p.m., -0.3 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Dec. 1, Saturday, 8:10 p.m., -0.1 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks

“Clam diggers should plan to take lights or lanterns for the nighttime digs and to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the razor-clam beaches. Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2012-13 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website and from license vendors around the state. More razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled Dec. 11-16 and Dec. 28-31.

Prefer crab? Sport crabbing reopened Oct. 13 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 12 (Hood Canal), and 13 (South Puget Sound).

In each area, crabbing is allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31. Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island). The annual quotas in those areas were reached during the summer fishery.

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

All crab caught in the late-season fishery should be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards are available at license vendors across the state. Those catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2013. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s catch record card webpage.

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

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

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

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

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

Hatchery steelhead are also an option on several rivers, including the Bogachiel, Calawah, Hoh, Quillayute and Sol Duc. All wild steelhead, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released. “As the month progresses, hatchery steelhead fishing should steadily improve,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager. “Traditionally, steelhead fishing really starts to heat up around the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Other good bets for steelhead include the Satsop, Wynoochee and Humptulips, said Leland. Because regulations vary for each river, anglers should check WDFW’s sportfishing regulations pamphlet before heading out.

Hunting:  November brings a variety of hunting opportunities, including those for deer, elk and waterfowl.

The modern firearm season for elk is open Nov. 3-14, and the late modern firearm season for deer runs Nov. 15-18. Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 21, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open the following day, Nov. 22. 

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

Meanwhile, field reports indicate there are higher numbers of dabbling ducks on the coastal bays this year, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. “Those ducks should stick to the bays early in the month, but as we get more and more rain they will move farther inland,” he said.

As for geese, the numbers of birds have yet to climb, Kraege said. “We have yet to see the numbers of geese we typically see in Pacific County and other parts of southwest Washington,” he said. “It appears migration is delayed. I would expect the number of geese to increase throughout the month.”

The statewide season for ducks, coots and snipe resumed Oct. 20 while goose-hunting reopens Nov. 3 in Goose Management Area 3. Hunting in Goose Management Area 2B (Pacific County) will be open Saturdays and Wednesdays only from Nov. 3-Jan. 19.
 
Hunters may also pursue pheasant, quail and bobwhite through Nov. 30. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

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

Wildlife viewing: November is a good month to visit the Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve, which is located on Totten Inlet off U.S. Highway 101 between Olympia and Shelton. The creek is one of the most productive chum salmon streams in Washington. While there, visitors can find numerous species of migrating shorebirds or walk the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail.

Fall is also a great time to visit the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. Songbirds, such as northern shrikes, varied thrushes and yellow rumped warblers, can be found wintering there, while peregrine falcons and other raptors continue to arrive for the season. Waterfowl numbers are also increasing. In fact, bird watchers should note that a portion of the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail will be closed from Oct. 20-Jan. 27. The closure is required for the safety of visitors while waterfowl hunting takes place on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and WDFW lands near the trail. For more information, check the refuge’s website.   

Birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count, scheduled Dec. 14 through Jan. 5.  Specific counting dates will soon be announced in some areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  For details on the Christmas Bird Count, check the Audubon website.

Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)

Fishing: Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the popular winter steelhead fishery, although some anglers start working their favorite rivers well ahead of time. Catch totals will ramp up as area rivers swell from the falling rain, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Steelhead move upriver on pulses of water,” Hymer said. “Once the sky opens up, we’ll see more fish on the move.”

The daily catch limit on the mainstem Columbia River is two adult hatchery steelhead, or two adult salmon (chinook and coho only), or one of each. On area tributaries, anglers may retain two adult hatchery steelhead plus the salmon limit listed for each river in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

In all waters, only hatchery-reared steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained. All wild, unmarked fish must be released unharmed.

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

WDFW’s Hatchery Escapement Reports can provide a good indication of the number of fish returning to each river. Anglers can also check the 2011 Steelhead Smolt Plant Reports determine how many young fish were stocked last year

But until winter steelhead arrive in large numbers, late-run coho salmon may be the best bet for anglers who want to catch fish. Catch rates on the Klickitat River – including both coho and chinook salmon – were running around a fish per rod in late October. Salmon fishing was almost as good on the Cowlitz River.

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

State regulations allow anglers to catch and keep up to six adult coho salmon per day on the Cowlitz, Klickitat, Kalama, Lewis and Washougal rivers – and on the lower portion of the Grays River.  Except in the Klickitat River, only those fish with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.  Several rivers – including the North Fork Lewis below Colvin Creek – also remain open for chinook salmon, although some close Nov. 1. Effective that day, the No. 5 fishway on the Klickitat River closes upstream to chinook fishing, the Wind River closes to all salmon fishing as does the stretch of the Columbia River from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam.

However, the lower Grays River and the West Fork – including the area around the hatchery – will be open for salmon through Dec. 31. Steelhead fishing will continue in those waters through mid-March.

Caught your fill of salmon and steelhead for the year? Here are some other options to consider:

  • Cowlitz sea-run cutthroats:  The bite on the Cowlitz River should continue through November. The best fishing is from Blue Creek near the trout hatchery on downriver. Anglers may retain up to five hatchery-reared cutthroats per day as part of the daily trout limit on the lower Cowlitz River, where the fish generally range from 12 to 20 inches.
  • Sturgeon:  Retention fishing will close at the end of the day Nov. 3 in The Dalles Pool, the last remaining area of the mainstem Columbia where a sturgeon may be kept this year. All other areas of the big river and its tributaries already shifted to catch-and-release.
  • Razor clams:  An evening razor clam dig will get under way Tuesday (Nov. 13) at Twin Harbors beach, then expand to include openings at three other beaches later in the week. Later in the month, another dig is scheduled Nov. 26-Dec. 1. For details on the digs, see WDFW’s Razor Clam Webpage.
  • Trout: Anglers may retain up to 10 rainbows per day under bonus limits now in effect at Swift Reservoir and Lake Scanewa (Cowlitz Falls Reservoir). The same daily limit is in effect for kokanee at Merwin Reservoir.   

Hunting: November is prime time for hunting in southwest Washington, whether for waterfowl, upland game birds or big game. Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s 2012 Hunting Prospects report for staff biologists’ assessment of this year’s seasons.

Elk hunters with modern firearms will take the field Nov. 3-14, less than a week after the close of the early season for black-tailed deer. Archers and muzzleloaders will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during the late season that begins Nov. 21 in selected game management units (GMUs) around the region.

Last year, hunters harvested 966 bulls and 294 anterless elk in District 10 (Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties), one of the top-producing areas of the state. Lowland areas including GMU 520 (Winston), 550 (Coweeman), 530 (Ryderwood) and 506 (Willapa Hills) are expected to be good bets again this year.

Sandra Jonker, WDFW regional wildlife manager, reminds elk hunters of several rules adopted in 2010 that remain in effect in GMUs 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River) and 578 (West Klickitat). In all three areas, taking antlerless elk is prohibited during modern firearms and muzzleloader seasons. In addition, a three-point antler restriction has been adopted for all general elk hunting seasons in those three areas.

Hunters using modern firearms will get another chance to take a deer, during the popular late-buck season that runs Nov. 15-18 in selected GMUs. Archers will get their shot starting Nov. 21, with the muzzleloader season opening the next day.

Eric Holman, a WDFW wildlife biologist, said late-season deer hunters can expect far better conditions than in the early season, when wildfire dangers prompted widespread access closures.

“Now rain is falling, the gates to the forestlands are open and the deer are going into rut,” Holman said. “Those conditions make the late season the best time to get a deer.”
The black bear season ends Nov. 15, but cougar hunting remains open through next March. For more information on all these hunts, see the Big Game Pamphlet, available on WDFW’s website.

Meanwhile, locally produced mallards and wood ducks are providing early-season hunting opportunities for waterfowl hunters throughout the region. Duck hunting should improve greatly toward the end of November, when migratory birds are expected to start pushing down from British Columbia and Alaska in record numbers.

Goose hunting opens Nov. 3 in Goose Management Area 3 (which includes Lewis and Skamania counties) and Nov. 10 for authorized hunters in Goose Management Area 2A (Cowlitz, Clark and Wahkiakum counties). Be sure to check the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet for regulations, particularly the special rules for Area 2A.

As for upland game, seasons remain open as listed in the pamphlet for forest grouse, pheasant, quail, northern bobwhite, and cottontail and snowshoe rabbit.

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

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

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 113th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2012 through Jan. 5, 2013. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.

Eastern Washington
(Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla and Whitman counties)

Fishing: Catch rates for Snake River steelhead aren’t as good as those in past years, but catch rates in some areas are good and expected to improve later this month.

As of late October, creel survey data shows an average of about 10 hours of fishing effort per steelhead caught in the stretch between Lower Monumental and Little Goose dams, said Joe Bumgarner, a WDFW fish biologist. About the same rate was tallied earlier in October in the stretch upstream of the Washington-Idaho state line in Clarkston, but Bumgarner says the Heller Bar area near the mouth of the Grand Ronde, was probably running closer to six hours per fish caught.

The Grand Ronde tributary of the Snake, which is traditionally a good steelhead fishery in November, is high and out of shape now. Once the river settles down it should provide better steelheading.

“The recent pulse of water here should pull steelhead in from the Snake River,” said WDFW district fish biologist Glen Mendel of Dayton. “Fishing should improve once it drops and clears.”

October creel surveys on other tributaries showed good catch rates among smaller numbers of anglers. The Tucannon averaged about four hours of fishing per steelhead and the Walla Walla averaged near seven hours per fish.

Bumgarner also notes good numbers of fish at “better-than-average catch rates” below Ice Harbor Dam and in the Wallula area on the Columbia River, both near the Tri-Cities.

Bumgarner reminds steelheaders of the three hatchery-marked steelhead daily catch limit and the barbless hook requirement. He also said to watch for the state boundary signs on the Snake at its confluence with the Clearwater River on the Idaho border; the boundary waters signs on the north shore of the Snake where it bends to the west in Washington should help clarify where either state’s fishing license is valid.

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reminds anglers that the Tucannon River impoundments on the Wooten closed to fishing Oct. 31.

Many of the region’s other top-producing trout fishing lakes are also closed. But there are a couple of exceptions, and several year-round-open waters worth trying at this time.

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

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

Hunting: The modern firearm general elk hunting season and some special permit elk hunting run Oct. 27 through Nov. 4 in select game management units throughout the region. The southeast’s Blue Mountains herds are providing the best opportunities again this season, although that hunt is under a spike bull only rule.  Elk are traditionally much fewer and farther between in the central and northeast districts of the region where any bull or any elk, depending on unit, is legal to harvest. Late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting in select game management units runs Nov. 25-Dec. 8. Check the regulations pamphlet for legal elk definitions and all other rules.

Late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting season runs Nov. 10-19 in northeast Game Management Units (GMU) 105, 108,111, 113, and 124 for any buck. GMUs 117 and 121 are also open for the late buck hunt, but are under a four-antler-point minimum rule.

The later deer hunt is usually the most productive since it coincides with the rut or breeding season when bucks are less wary, said WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers. “They’re on the move more then but also more focused on searching for does, so they are more vulnerable to hunters in the woods,” he said.

Deer hunter check stations will be conducted the last weekend of the hunt, Nov. 17-18, to help provide information about success rates and deer body condition.

Late archery and muzzleloader deer hunting is also available in select units starting Nov. 20 or 25, depending on unit. Check the rules pamphlet for all details.

Black bear hunting continues in most of the region’s units through Nov. 15.The Selkirk Mountain ecosystem in the northeast district includes some state and federally protected grizzly bears, so black bear hunters are advised to clearly identify species.
WDFW’s website includes a Bear Identification Program, including a video and interactive test.

All big and small game hunters in the northeast district who might harvest coyotes (open year-round) are reminded to be sure of species identification because wolves are in the area. The gray wolf is protected as an endangered species under state law and may not be shot or killed. See wolf-coyote comparisons on page 68 of the hunting rules pamphlet.

Upland game bird hunting seasons continue through the year, with pheasants joining the suite of fair game species on Oct. 20. Quail, chukar and gray partridge seasons have been open since Oct. 6.

WDFW upland game bird specialist Joey McCanna reports good numbers of wild pheasants in the central and southeast districts of the region, where many private landowners allow hunting through various WDFW access programs. Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage.)

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman notes bird hunting has been good and hunters have been enjoying beautiful fall colors along the Tucannon River and throughout the wildlife area in Columbia County. More snow this month and next will likely improve conditions for both bird hunting and late season archers, muzzleloaders, or special permit holders after elk or deer.

Waterfowl hunting season also continues, with the best of it still ahead when migrants come through the region from Canada.  Most northeast district duck hunting concentrates on the Pend Oreille River, mostly for diving ducks such as goldeneyes. Canada geese are also available on major water bodies such as Lake Roosevelt, the Pend Oreille River, and large farm fields in valley bottoms. Spokane and Lincoln counties are within goose management area 4, which is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the season; the rest of the region is within goose management area 5 which is open daily.  In the southeast district, most waterfowl hunting opens later, in December and January.

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW's Hunting Prospects website. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports. For hunting rules, see the 2012 regulation pamphlets.

Wildlife viewing: November is a great month for bird-watching because weather changes and shrinking daylight hours move migrants into and through the region. Birders recently reported some snow geese hanging out with big flocks of Canada geese in Lincoln County. Rough-legged hawks, which usually summer in northern Canada, have moved on to wintering grounds in the open country habitats throughout the region.  American goldfinches and pine siskins, and Brewer’s and red-winged blackbirds, some of which are year-round residents but some that summer to the north and winter are being reported in growing numbers.

Backyard birdwatchers might be setting up feeding stations this month to attract birds for close-up viewing. WDFW biologists remind that while supplemental feeding is a way to increase bird watching enjoyment, it doesn’t necessarily help birds. In fact, if feeders are not maintained well, feeding can harm birds. See WDFW’s Winter Bird Feeding webpage for more information.

November is also breeding season for white-tailed and mule deer, and that can mean more visible bucks. “Buck deer are on the move this month, searching for does and less wary of almost everything else,” said WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers. “The peak of the rut, or breeding season, is usually late November but throughout the month bucks may be more visible.”

Myers cautions motorists to be alert and aware of this seasonal activity when driving through deer habitat – which is most of the region. “Deer-vehicle collisions increase at this time of year not just because of deer being more active and less wary, but also because of changing daylight hours,” he said. “Declining day length means that deer will be active during periods of darkness. This is also when we change from daylight savings time to standard time, creating peak commuter drive times that coincide with darkness and high deer activity periods.”

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reports a diversity of wildlife to watch along the Tucannon River in the southeast district of the region, including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, turkeys, quail, and other birds. The bonus for viewers at this time of year is enjoying beautiful fall colors in all the deciduous trees along the river and throughout the wildlife area in Columbia County.

Northcentral Washington
(Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties)

Fishing:  Anglers have been reeling in hatchery steelhead at a rate of about a fish per rod during the special fishery that opened in mid-October on the upper Columbia River and key tributaries, said Jeff Korth, regional fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“We have a lot of extra hatchery steelhead that need to be removed, and anglers are doing a good job of it,” Korth said. “The problem is that we don’t have a lot of wild fish returning this year, which limits the amount of time we can leave the fishery open. Our immediate goal is to keep it going through November, but anglers should keep an eye on the WDFW website for any updates.”

The hatchery-steelhead fishery opened Oct. 16 by special rule on the Upper Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to Chief Joseph Dam, and on the Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, Methow, and Okanogan rivers. Similkameen River opens for hatchery steelhead retention under the same rule Nov. 1.

 Under that rule, anglers are required to keep any adipose-fin-clipped steelhead they intercept, but must release all wild, unclipped steelhead. Anglers must stop fishing for steelhead after they have caught their daily limit of two hatchery fish.

Additional regulations for the special fishery are listed in the Fishing Rule Change on the WDFW website, but are not included in the Fishing in Washington fishing rule pamphlet. Any updates will be posted on the Emergency Rule webpage.

Anglers participating in the fishery are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement along with a current fishing license.

“We hope to reopen this fishery in February or March, so we can intercept hatchery fish heading for spawning areas,” Korth said. “As during the current fishing period, we’ll keep anglers posted.”

Meanwhile, several lowland lakes are still open for catch-and-release fishing for rainbow trout through November, including Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Rat Lake near Brewster. Selective gear rules are in effect for these three lakes.

Perch are another option, said said Bob Jateff, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist.

“Anglers interested in catching yellow perch could try year-round-open Patterson Lake near Winthrop,” Jateff said. “Expect the average size on these perch to be seven to eight inches. There’s no daily limit and no minimum size. We encouraged anglers to retain all perch caught regardless of size.”

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

Hunting:Waterfowl hunting action should start to heat up in the Columbia Basin of this region in November if temperatures start to cool down and bring migrant ducks and geese from the north.

WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Soap Lake expects the month will bring large numbers of mallards, wigeon, gadwalls, teal, scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks. Goose hunting will improve in November, too, when early season migrant Canada geese (Lesser and Taverner’s) begin to scatter from their initial staging area at Stratford Lake to alfalfa or grain fields near Moses Lake and the Columbia River. 

“Select areas to hunt based on the species you want to target,” Finger said. “Diving ducks – like canvasbacks, redheads and scaup – are hunted along the Columbia River, particularly at Wells Pool, Wanapum Pool, and Priest Rapids Pool. They forage over beds of submerged aquatic vegetation such as pondweeds and milfoil. American wigeon will associate with diving ducks because they are ‘kleptoparasites’ – meaning they wait for the diving ducks or coots to bring up a bill-full of vegetation, and then quickly rush in to steal their meal.” 

Finger says dabbling ducks are more commonly found on the plateau, where grain, corn and wheat fields attract mallards and pintail and shallow wetlands attract teal, wigeon, and gadwall. Canada geese also feed primarily in wheat and alfalfa fields.

“Just be sure to request permission from private landowners before hunting ag fields,” Finger said. More information about both private and public land access for waterfowl hunting in the Basin is available in Finger’s District 5 Hunting Prospects .

Modern firearm elk hunting season opened Oct. 27 and runs through Nov. 4 in some game management units and through Nov. 15 in others. The Mission Game Management Unit (GMU 251) in Chelan County traditionally has the highest elk harvest in the region. Hunters should take note that GMU 251 is under a “true spike” regulation to aid bull recruitment in the Colockum herd. Some late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting is also available through Nov. 15 in a few units. Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet for all details.

Upland game bird hunting began last month and continues through the year. Columbia Basin hunters are reportedly seeing a fair number of pheasants and quail and harvesting a few chukars. Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage.)

Late archery deer hunting seasons run Nov. 21 – Dec. 15 for any white-tailed deer in some units, and Nov. 21 – 30 or Nov. 21 – Dec. 8 for mule deer in other units. See all details, including antler point restrictions on mule deer, in the Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet.

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW's Hunting Prospects website. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports.

Wildlife viewing:November is a great time for a road trip through the Columbia Basin with binoculars and spotting scopes to watch incoming and outgoing migratory ducks and geese.

WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Soap Lake says large numbers of mallards, wigeon, gadwalls, teal, scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks typically arrive in the Basin this month.  The diving ducks -- canvasbacks, redheads and scaup – are found along the Columbia River, particularly at Wells Pool, Wanapum Pool, and Priest Rapids Pool.

“These ducks forage over beds of submerged aquatic vegetation such as pondweeds and milfoil,” Finger said.  “American wigeon will associate with diving ducks because they are ‘kleptoparasites’, meaning they wait for the diving ducks or coots to bring up a bill-full of vegetation, and then quickly rush in to steal their meal.” 

Finger says dabbling ducks are more commonly found on the plateau, where grain, corn and wheat fields attract mallards and pintails and shallow wetlands attract teal, wigeon, and gadwall.  Canada geese will also be found now feeding primarily in wheat and alfalfa fields.

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

Southcentral Washington
(Benton, Franklin, Kittitas and Yakima counties)

Fishing:  Hatchery steelhead fishing is usually the main attraction in the Tri-City area at this time of the year, but anglers have been working hard for their fish, said WDFW fish biologist Paul Hoffarth at the department’s office in Pasco.

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

Like last year, this year’s forecast is below the 10-year average and well below the record run in 2009, he said. “I hope I’m wrong, but it looks like we could be in for another tough month of steelhead fishing in this area.”

Anglers can retain two marked hatchery steelhead from the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco to the wooden powerline towers at the Old Hanford townsite. Hatchery steelhead can be identified by a clipped adipose fin and/or a ventral fin clip. All unclipped steelhead must be released unharmed.

For more information about fishing seasons and regulations in the region, see the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet.

Prospects for walleye fishing look much better, said Hoffarth, noting that November is a great time to hook some of these toothy gamefish below McNary Dam. “Fall fishing for walleye can be extremely good between Umatilla and Boardman in the late fall,” he said. “Those fish are putting on the feedbag for winter and are eager to strike big lures, night and day.”

Fishing is also picking up for whitefish on the Columbia River from Vernita Bridge to Priest Rapids Dam. The catch limit is 15 whitefish per day, but anglers are required to use a single-point hook, measuring no more than 3/16 inch from point to shank (hook size 14). The Yakima River opens to winter whitefish angling Dec. 1, as do the Naches, Bumping, Tieton and Cle Elum rivers. Fishing for steelhead or bull trout in all those waters is prohibited.

While most rivers and streams close to fishing after Oct. 31, the Yakima River remains open year around for catch-and-release fishing – notably for trout – above Roza Dam. Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist stationed in Yakima, recommends fishing there or any of the year-round lakes in the region.

“Fishing opportunities aren’t as abundant in fall, but it’s still a good time to get out on the water,” he said. “Trout anglers can find some nice carryovers in year-round lakes and the scenery isn’t bad either with the fall colors on display.” 

Hunting: November is prime time for hunting in central Washington, whether for waterfowl, upland game birds, or big game. Wildfires that scorched thousands of acres in the region have been contained, posing few obstacles to hunting in the weeks ahead.

“The only caution I would give is to stay out of burnt forested areas,” said Ted Clausing, regional WDFW wildlife manager. “Some of those trees are just waiting for a whisper of a wind to fall down.”

Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s 2012 Hunting Prospects report for staff biologists’ assessment of this year’s seasons.

November begins with hunters already in the field, stalking elk with modern firearms, archery equipment and muzzleloaders in various game management units (GMU) around the region. Archers will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during a late season that runs Nov. 21-Dec. 8 in designated GMUs and Elk Area 3681.

Jeff Bernatowicz, a WDFW wildlife biologist, said this year’s bull harvest is expected to increase in District 8, since both the Yakima and Colockum herds are above population objectives and hunting opportunities for antlerless elk have been increased.

“This district is the best in the state for elk hunting,” Bernatowicz said. “Opening weekend can be crowded, so the best hunting experiences often occur during the last few days of the season when a lot of hunters pull up camp and head home.”

Late-season hunting opportunities for deer will get under way Nov. 20 for muzzleloaders in GMUs 379, 381 and 382 for archers Nov. 21 in several GMUs. Bear hunting ends Nov. 15 statewide.

For more information about these hunts, see WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet available online and at license vendors around the state.

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

Duck hunting got off to a good start this year, and will likely get even better once the winter freeze starts to drive northern birds into the Columbia Basin. A record 48.6 million ducks were counted on the breeding grounds in Canada and the midwestern United States last spring, many of which should start showing up in late November.

Mesa Lake, along with the small ponds and lakes on WDFW's Windmill Ranch and Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch, can provide good hunting for ducks and geese. The Snake and Columbia Rivers and associated water bodies can hold tens of thousands of ducks when the weather gets below freezing.

Hunters planning to hunt waterfowl should check the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for information about seasons in specific management areas before heading out.

For pheasants, Windmill Ranch and Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch in northern Franklin County are also good bets. Each hunting area has two parking areas with a maximum of five vehicles per lot and has Register to Hunt boxes on site. Hunters might also consider buying a hunting permit for the Yakama Reservation near Toppenish for the excellent waterfowl and upland game hunting opportunities that it provides.

Wildlife viewing: November is the peak breeding season for both white-tailed and mule deer, so now is the time to watch antlered bucks seeking does or vying for dominance over other bucks. “The bucks are less wary during the rut, which improves roadside viewing opportunities, but people still need to be very cautious around these animals,” said Woody Myers, a WDFW research biologist.

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

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 113th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2012 through Jan. 5, 2013. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.