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

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October 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 October 16, 2012)

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

Rain ‘just what the doctor ordered’
for good hunting, fishing in October

Some of Washington's most popular hunting seasons get under way in October, when hunters take to the field for deer, ducks, geese and other game birds. Wildfires, area closures and an extended drought took a toll on opening-day results in some areas, but heavy rain – particularly west of the Cascades – set the stage for improved hunting and fishing through the end of the month.

“This rain is just what the doctor ordered,” said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Some hunting areas were affected by area closures and super-dry conditions on opening day, but the situation has definitely improved since then.”

As of mid-month, the Governor’s Office, the Washington Department of Natural Resources and WDFW had all lifted burn bans on state lands. In addition, with wildfire risks subsiding, most timber companies were opening their gates to hunters for the first time in weeks.

“That’s critical for deer hunters,” Ware said. “Some of the best deer hunting in the state takes place on private timberlands.”           

The general deer-hunting season for hunters using modern-firearms got under way Oct. 13 in designated game management units throughout the state. For rules in effect for specific GMUs, see the Big Game Hunting pamphlet on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

Information about hunting seasons for ducks, geese and other game birds is also available at that address.

John Long, WDFW salmon manager, notes that hunters aren’t alone in welcoming the rain. Anglers throughout the state have been waiting for rivers to rise, prompting salmon and steelhead to start moving – and biting.

“These storms really primed the pump for this month’s salmon and steelhead fisheries,” Long said. “As most anglers know, the best time to catch fish is when the water clears and begins to decline after a high-water event.”

By lifting its burn ban, WDFW will again allow hunters, anglers and others who visit the department’s lands to build campfires, practice target shooting, use generators and operate chainsaws. Even so, department managers are urging visitors to exercise caution when doing anything that could spark

“Wildfire risks are easing, but it’s important that everyone remain vigilant and avoid any action that could touch off another blaze,” said Greg Schirato, deputy director for WDFW’s wildlife program.

For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available in October, 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

Fishing: Coho fishing has been some of the best in years, and that should continue during the early weeks of fall.   

“Anglers have been doing very well for coho salmon, in freshwater and marine areas of Puget Sound,” said John Long, statewide salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “There are still plenty of opportunities out there to hook coho, especially during early October.”

Anglers fishing for coho should try Point No Point, Jefferson Head, Possession Bar and Shipwreck. Anglers fishing Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) will have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release all chinook. Those fishing Marine Area 10 (Seattle/ Bremerton) also have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Other salmon fishing options include marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner). Anglers fishing those marine areas in October have a daily limit of two salmon but must release chinook.

Meanwhile, most marine areas of Puget Sound will reopen for recreational crab fishing Oct. 13. The openings were approved by fishery managers after summer catch assessments by WDFW indicated more crab are available for harvest, said Rich Childers, shellfish policy coordinator for the department.

Waters reopening to sport crabbing Oct. 13 at 8 a.m. include 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 will be 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, said Childers.

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 WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.
 
All crab caught in the late-season fishery must be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards – free to those with crab endorsements – are available at license vendors across the state.

Winter catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2013. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html.

Regional rivers open in October for salmon fishing include the Nooksack, Skagit, Cascade, Samish, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish, Wallace and Green. Because regulations vary for each river, anglers should check WDFW's sportfishing regulations pamphlet before heading out.

Some of the regions lakes are also open for salmon. Anglers fishing Lake Sammamish have a daily limit of four salmon, of which two may be chinook. All sockeye must be released, and fishing is closed within 100 yards of the mouth of Issaquah Creek.

Lake Washington also is open to salmon fishing. Anglers are allowed four coho per day (minimum size 12 inches) from waters north of the Highway 520 Bridge and east of the Montlake Bridge.

Hunting: The region's popular waterfowl hunting season gets under way in mid-October. The duck season will be open from Oct. 13 through Oct. 17, and then re-open again Oct. 20. Goose hunts will run Oct. 13 through Oct. 25 in the region, and then start again Nov. 3. However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) will run from Oct. 13 through Jan. 27 without a break.

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

Meanwhile, the muzzleloader-only season for deer runs through Oct. 7, while muzzleloaders can go afield for elk from Oct. 6-12. The modern firearm season for deer opens Oct. 13.

Hunting seasons are under way in the region for bear and grouse, while the California quail, bobwhite and pheasant seasons get started Oct. 1.

With unusually dry conditions and wildfires burning in parts of the state, wildlife viewers and others recreating in the outdoors are reminded that fire restrictions are in place on WDFW wildlife areas and other agency-managed lands. Access and activities may be restricted on other lands as well. Before recreating on public or private lands, hunters and others should check with the appropriate landowner for any restrictions.

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: By late October, snow geese are expected to make their appearance in the region. About 80,000 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. Once they arrive, a great place to view the birds is at the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit of WDFW's Skagit Wildlife Area. For more information on the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit, visit WDFW's website.

October also is a good time to watch salmon moving up local streams to spawn. One of the best places to see fish is downtown Issaquah. Visitors can celebrate the return of spawning salmon during Issaquah Salmon Days, set for Oct. 6 and 7. This year's festival features educational displays, entertainment, food and other attractions. More information is available at the Salmon Days website.

Birders and others afield in the coming weeks should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are getting under way throughout the region. While most hunters make sure of their target before they shoot, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing an orange wind-breaker and make their presence known to hunters.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: Summer is over, but anglers still have numerous marine and freshwater opportunities to hook salmon in October.

“Fishing for coho salmon has been very good from the Strait of Juan de Fuca all the way down to south Puget Sound,” said John Long, statewide salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “That should continue at least through mid-October.”

In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, salmon anglers fishing marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (Port Angeles) can keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit beginning Oct. 1. Farther south, anglers fishing in marine areas 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) will have a two-salmon daily limit beginning Oct. 1, and will no longer be required to release wild chinook. However, all wild coho caught in Marine Area 13 must be released.

In Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), salmon anglers fishing north of Ayock Point have a daily limit of four coho. All other salmon species must be released. Anglers fishing south of Ayock Point can retain two hatchery chinook as part of their four salmon daily limit. However, they must release wild chinook and chum salmon.

Fishing regulations in Hood Canal change Oct. 16, when anglers throughout the canal will have a daily limit of four salmon, but only two of which can be a chinook. All wild chinook must be released.

Grays Harbor (Marine Area 2-2) also is an option. Through Oct. 7, anglers fishing the harbor can retain one chinook as part of their three-salmon daily limit. Anglers are also limited to two wild coho, and must release chum salmon. Beginning Oct. 8, chinook salmon also must be released. Check the sportfishing rules pamphlet for details.

Farther south, anglers fishing Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1) have a daily limit of six salmon, including up to three adult fish. Chum and wild chinook salmon must be released. Salmon anglers can fish with two poles in Willapa Bay through Jan. 31 with the purchase of a two-pole endorsement.

In freshwater, area rivers that open for salmon Oct. 1 include the Elk, Hoquiam, Johns and Wishkah rivers in Grays Harbor County. Anglers should check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) sportfishing rules pamphlet for specific regulations on these rivers.

Regulations are also changing on the Skokomish River in Mason County. Beginning Oct. 1, anglers fishing the Skokomish from the Highway 106 Bridge to the Highway 101 Bridge may keep up to four adult salmon as part of a six-fish daily limit, but must release all chinook. All chum must be released through Oct. 15.

Elsewhere, anglers fishing in the Quillayute system – which includes the Bogachiel, Calawah, Dickey and Sol Duc rivers – can keep two adult salmon, plus two additional adult hatchery coho as part of the six-fish daily limit. In Clallam County, the Dungeness River opens to salmon fishing Oct. 16 with a daily limit of four coho.

Anglers should note that a portion of the fishing regulations for the Wynoochee River in the fishing pamphlet are incorrect. Anglers fishing the Wynoochee from the WDFW White Bridge Access Site to the 7400 Line Bridge above the mouth of Schafer Creek are not required to follow selective gear rules. Anglers are, however, required to use single-point barbless hooks from Aug. 16-Nov. 30, and bait is prohibited from Sept. 16-Nov.30. For more information on corrections to the pamphlet, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Dig out those clam shovels. The first razor-clam dig of the season will get under way on evening tides Oct. 13 at four ocean beaches.

WDFW approved the dig after marine toxin tests on all four beaches confirmed the clams are safe to eat.

Digging days and evening low tides for beaches scheduled to open are:

  • Oct. 13 (Saturday), 5:41 pm (+0.3 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Oct. 14 (Sunday), 6:26 pm, (-0.5 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Oct. 15 (Monday), 7:11 pm, (-1.1 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Oct. 16 (Tuesday), 7:57 pm, (-1.5 ft.); Twin Harbors
  • Oct. 17 (Wednesday), 8:44 pm, (-1.6 ft.); Twin Harbors
  • Oct. 18 (Thursday), 9:34 pm, (-1.4 ft.); Twin Harbors

“Low tides will occur relatively late in the day, so diggers need be prepared for darkness during evening digs in the fall,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

A tentative schedule of razor clam digs through the rest of the year is available on WDFW’s razor clam website.

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 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.
 
Under state law, each digger can take 15 razor clams per day, and must keep the first 15 clams they dig to prevent wastage. Each digger's clams must be kept in a separate container.

Meanwhile, most marine areas of Puget Sound will reopen for recreational crab fishing Oct. 13. The openings were approved by fishery managers after summer catch assessments by WDFW indicated more crab are available for harvest, said Rich Childers, shellfish policy coordinator for the department.

Waters reopening to sport crabbing Oct. 13 at 8 a.m. include 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 will be 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, said Childers.

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 WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.
 
All crab caught in the late-season fishery must be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards – free to those with crab endorsements – are available at license vendors across the state.

Winter catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2013. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html.

Hunting: The modern firearm season for deer runs Oct. 13-31, but not before muzzleloaders have had their turn in the field. The muzzleloader season for deer runs from Sept. 29 through Oct. 7 in select game management units (GMU) throughout the region. For elk, the early muzzleloader season runs Oct. 6-12.

Bird-hunting opportunities are also in the forecast, starting with pheasant, quail and bobwhite seasons opening Sept. 29. Then comes the start of general hunting seasons for ducks, coots and snipe, which run Oct. 13-17 and then reopen Oct. 20.  Goose-hunting seasons also get under way Oct. 13 in most areas and continue daily through Oct. 25 before picking up again in November. However, goose management area 2B (Pacific County) is open Saturdays and Wednesdays only Oct. 13-24 and Nov. 3-Jan. 19. The statewide forest grouse hunting season is under way and continues through Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, the hunting season for black bear continues through Nov. 15, while a new general hunting season with any weapon for cougar is open through the end of the year.

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: Late October is a great time 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.

In Thurston County, Tumwater Falls Park continues to offer views of salmon as they make their way up the Deschutes River. The 15-acre park runs adjacent to Capitol Boulevard and Interstate 5 in Tumwater.

Wildlife also are on display in the region. Visitors to the Olympic Peninsula should be on the alert for the autumn Roosevelt elk rut. A great place to hear a bull elk bugle or clack antlers with a rival is the Quinault River valley upstream from Lake Quinault. The elk are most active during the early morning and evening hours. Observers should give the elk plenty of room, since they are easily disturbed and potentially dangerous.

With unusually dry conditions and wildfires burning in parts of the state, wildlife viewers and others recreating in the outdoors are reminded that fire restrictions are in place on WDFW wildlife areas and other agency-managed lands. Access and activities may be restricted on other lands as well. Before recreating on public or private lands, hunters and others should check with the appropriate landowner for any restrictions.

Birders and others afield in the coming weeks also should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are getting under way throughout the region. While most hunters make sure of their target before they shoot, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing an orange wind-breaker and make their presence known to hunters.

Southwest Washington

Fishing: Starting Oct. 1, the lower Columbia River will be open for retention of chinook salmon from Buoy 10 near the river’s mouth to Bonneville Dam. The addition of chinook fishing below Warrior Rock, together with the continuing influx of coho entering the river, will give anglers more reasons to return to the mainstem Columbia in the weeks to come.

“This year’s salmon fishery is far from over,” said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Anglers can do well fishing the lower river and its tributaries for chinook and coho right through the end of November, when the winter steelhead fishery starts to heat up.”

The daily limit for adult fish on the lower Columbia River is two salmon, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each. As in past years, only hatchery coho and steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.

Anglers fishing those waters have been catching all three species in recent weeks. While coho are returning in lower numbers than last year, they are still helping to round out catch limits in both the Columbia River and several of its tributaries, Hymer said.

For bright late-run coho, Hymer recommends the Cowlitz, Lewis, Grays, Klickitat, Kalama and Washougal rivers. He noted, however, that the Grays River will close to all fishing between Highway 4 and the South Fork on Oct. 16, when the West Fork will also close from the mouth to 300 yards below the hatchery road.

Some of the best all-round salmon fishing has been in the Lewis and Klickitat rivers, where recent catch rates have been averaging a fish per rod, Hymer said. Starting Oct. 1, anglers fishing the mainstem Lewis may retain any chinook salmon – clipped or not – but North Fork Lewis waters from Colvin Creek to Merwin Dam will close to all fishing through Dec. 15. Retention of any chinook has been allowed on the North Fork Lewis since mid-September. 

Fishing will be closed at Drano Lake throughout October from 6 p.m. Tuesdays to 6 p.m. Wednesdays.  Salmon and steelhead fisheries above Bonneville Dam will continue through the end of the year under rules described in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet and emergency rules posted on the WDFW website.

Meanwhile, sturgeon anglers should be aware that sturgeon retention will remain closed through the end of the year on the lower Columbia River and adjacent tributaries from the Wauna power lines upstream to Bonneville Dam. The gorge sturgeon fishery was originally scheduled to re-open to sturgeon retention three days per week beginning Oct. 20, but strong catch rates through summer did not leave enough fish available to support a fall retention fishery.

For trout, Sept. 30 is the last day to fish Mineral Lake, but Swift Reservoir remains a good bet for rainbows and landlocked coho .At Swift Reservoir, anglers may keep up to 10 trout (including landlocked coho) but must release all salmon larger than 15 inches in length. Increased daily limits are also in effect for hatchery rainbows at Lake Scanewa and kokanee at Merwin Reservoir.

The area around the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery is also productive for hatchery sea-run cutthroats in October. Those aggressive fish averaging a foot or more can be caught on a variety of gear including bait, flies, or lures. October is also a good time to hit other high mountain lakes when the fall foliage is in full color and the mosquitoes are dying down.    

Hunting: October is prime time for hunting, with seasons getting under way for game animals ranging from buck deer to upland birds.

The modern firearm season for deer runs Oct. 13-31, but not before muzzleloaders have had their turn in the field. The muzzleloader season, which began Sept. 29, runs through Oct. 7 in select game management units (GMU) throughout the region. For elk, the early muzzleloader season runs Oct. 6-12.

Like last year, antlerless elk harvest will be allowed by permit only during general muzzleloader or modern firearms seasons in GMUs 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River) and 578 (West Klickitat). In addition, a three-point antler restriction will be in effect for all general elk hunting seasons in those three areas.

Pat Miller, a WDFW wildlife biologist, suggests that hunters blocked by fire restrictions head west to the Willapa 506 unit or to any of the units in the national forest. “These areas often stay open during times of high fire danger in the west slope of the Cascades,” he said.

Meanwhile, new options for bird hunters start Sept. 29 when seasons open for pheasant, quail and bobwhite. Then comes general hunting seasons for ducks, coots and snipe in mid-October. Check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for opening dates and conditions.

Goose-hunting seasons also get under way Oct. 13, break for a few days, then resume. The exception is management area 2A (Pacific County), which opens Nov. 10 three days per week.

Area-by-area summaries of the hunting prospects throughout the state are available on WDFW’s hunting prospects webpage.

Wildlife viewing:  Fall migration is in full swing on the Vancouver Lowlands with new arrivals showing up daily. Thousands of Canada geese can now be seen in area wetlands, along with sandhill cranes, great egrets and the occasional American white pelican.

Birders – and music lovers – should also be aware that the 12th annual Birdfest & Bluegrass Festival runs Oct. 13-14 in Ridgefield.  Events include birding tours and tours, nature photography and a lot of down home music. The event is sponsored by the Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and the refuge staff. For more information, see the festival’s website.

One birder recently reported seeing a dozen sandhill cranes and white pelicans flying overhead along the “S” Drive at the refuge. Another spotted 400 to 500 sandhill cranes along with up to 150 white pelicans one evening in the Woodland Bottoms.

While it’s a good time for bird-watching, birders and others afield in the coming weeks should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are getting under way throughout the region. While most hunters make sure of their target before they shoot, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing an orange wind-breaker and make their presence known to hunters.

Current hunting seasons are highlighted above in the Hunting section of this report. For more information about specific times and locations, see the 2012 Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet on the WDFW website.

Eastern Washington

Fishing: Snake River hatchery steelhead and hatchery fall chinook salmon fishing continues, although catch rates have been relatively slow in late September in most areas.

Creel checks in late September show the best steelhead fishing has been in the stretch between Lower Monumental and Little Goose dams, where anglers spent more than nine hours of fishing per steelhead caught (and more than 26 hours of fishing per steelhead kept.) Other river sections averaged 22 to 24 hours of fishing per fish caught. Salmon fishing continued to be slow.

Anglers can retain daily up to three hatchery-marked steelhead – a sea-run rainbow trout at least 20 inches in length with a clipped adipose or ventral fin and a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin.

The salmon daily harvest limit is three adipose fin-clipped fall chinook adults (24 inches in length and larger), and three adipose fin-clipped jack fall chinook (less than 24 inches). Minimum size for chinook that can be retained in the Snake River is 12 inches.

Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for chinook or steelhead in the Snake River. All chinook and steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be immediately released unharmed.  Anglers cannot remove any chinook or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers should be sure to identify their catch because returning unmarked chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead are also in the Snake River during this fishery.

Anglers should refer to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW)  sport fishing rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits and safety closures.

While the hatchery steelhead season on the Snake runs through March of next year, the fall chinook salmon fishery is scheduled to close Oct. 31 – unless monitored harvest rates and the run size warrant an earlier closure.

October is the last month -- and often a very good time – to fish many of the region’s popular trout-stocked lakes and some rivers and streams. Fall insect hatches are providing trout food, so anglers who use flies or lures that mimic that forage are often successful.

Many Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille county waters, most which are open through the month, produce good catches of rainbow trout and other species.

Some of Spokane County’s best trout lakes closed Sept. 30, but there are enough exceptions to keep fishing productive. Randy Osborne, WDFW central district fish biologist, said Clear and Liberty lakes provide trout, bass and other fish through October. Amber Lake remains open through November for catch-and-release fishing.  A number of year-round waters, including Eloika, Long and Newman lakes, have bass, crappie, perch and more.

Fishing harvest and size limits have been lifted on Fish Lake in Spokane County until Oct. 21 due to the upcoming rehabilitation of that fishery, scheduled for the week of Oct. 22. Osborne notes, however, that the motor restriction is still in place at Fish Lake.

Most rivers and streams in the region close Oct. 31, but sections of some major waterways, including the Spokane River, remain open year-round or into next spring, some with specific restrictions listed in the rules pamphlet.

Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, provides some of the best year-round fishing. Anglers should find good trolling action on big rainbows and walleye, mostly from the Daisy area north. Walleye anglers can also be successful casting jigs near the shoreline, using bottom bouncers, and other methods. Osborne reminds anglers and boaters to use life jackets and keep safety as a top priority while on the water, especially on big water like Roosevelt.

Hunting:  Hunters of all kinds need to pay close attention to access restrictions due to currently burning or recently contained wildfires this season. Although WDFW and the Washington Department of Natural Resources have lifted their burn ban, some local fire restrictions may still be in place. Check the Emergency Management Division websites here and here, the Incident Information System’s website and the U.S. Forest Service’s website.

More than 5,000 acres of the 14,000-acre Chief Joseph Wildlife Area in the southeast corner of the state burned last month in the Cache Creek wildfire.  WDFW wildlife area manager Bob Dice said over the long term wildlife habitat will benefit from the burn, but in the short term the soil needs protection from traffic. For that reason, about four miles of the Green Gulch Road, which is usually open for hunter use Oct. 1-Nov. 30, will remain closed this year.

Only about 1,100 acres on the southern part of the 21,000-acre Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County burned in the recent Apache Pass wildfire.  WDFW area manager Juli Anderson said only about 7,000 acres burned on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property adjacent to the Twin Lakes Recreation area, leaving about 40,000 acres of publicly owned shrub-steppe habitat intact. “In all, the fire blackened about 25,000 acres in the area,” Anderson said. “That means it won’t hold too many deer for this season’s hunt.”

The general modern-firearm season for deer hunting opens throughout much of the region Oct. 13 and prospects for both white-tailed and mule deer in most of the three districts are good.

The northeast district (District 1) is the state’s top producer of white-tailed deer, found at the highest densities in the valleys and foothill benches bordering the valleys, especially in the farm-forest mosaic within Game Management Unit (GMU) 101. WDFW district wildlife biologist Dana Base reminds deer hunters that the 2012 season will be the second in which a four-point minimum antler regulation is in place for white-tailed deer within GMUs 117 and 121. Any antlered buck is legal, however, for white-tailed deer in the other five units of District 1 during the general seasons.

Waterfowl hunting also opens Oct. 13, and although the region is not known for its duck and goose production, opportunities are fair to good, depending on weather. Central district (District 2) wildlife biologist Howard Ferguson reports abundant water this spring appears to have come too late to enhance local production, so prospects remain dependent on the number of migrants coming from Canada and Alaska and how long waters remain ice free. Further north in the region, the wet spring may have been positive for waterfowl, with more flooded pond and slough habitat in the Pend Oreille River Valley.

Quail hunting opens Oct. 6 and pheasant hunting opens Oct. 20. This year’s record cold and wet spring may have hampered bird production in some parts of the region. But Southeast District (District 3) wildlife biologist Paul Wik said temperatures moderated during the time that most game birds were hatching their clutches, and he expects hunting prospects to be good this season.

The general modern-firearm season for elk opens Oct. 27 in select GMUs throughout the region. The southeast district (District 3) is the region’s primary elk hunting area, with herds predominantly in or near the forested areas on public lands in the Blue Mountains.  Recent studies have shown that yearling bull elk survival is high here, and since the general hunting harvest rule is spike only, prospects are good for those willing to hunt rugged country to find them.

For more detailed information on hunting throughout the region, see WDFW’s hunting prospects.

Wildlife viewing:  The month of October can bring some wildlife into easy view without much effort. Fall bird migrations are well under way for many species. It’s hard not to notice the scores of blackbirds thickening roadside power lines, the skeins of honking Canada geese moving just overhead from fields to waterways and back again, or the day-long invasion of a fall berry-laden bush by dozens of robins, grosbeaks or waxwings.

But unexpected wildlife movements at this time of year can be less pastoral. Both white-tailed and mule deer bucks are in the “rut” in October and early November. That can mean they’re moving across the landscape with less than their usual wariness, challenging each other and looking for does – including near roadways, and not just at dawn or dusk.

With daylight hours shrinking fast, the chances for a low-light roadside wildlife encounter are increasing as well. Black bears in particular are tough to spot in the growing dimness as they roam farther and wider in search of food, including closer to roads and human development. Bears are instinctively trying to fatten up as much as they can before going into winter dens later this fall.

WDFW officials remind all wildlife enthusiasts – both homeowners and recreationists in bear country – to avoid attracting bears by keeping any possible source of food out of their reach. That includes wild bird seed and suet, pet food, garbage, compost piles, and unpicked fruit or vegetables in orchards and gardens.

Birders and others afield in the coming weeks also should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are getting under way throughout the region. While most hunters make sure of their target before they shoot, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing an orange wind-breaker and make their presence known to hunters.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing: Starting Oct. 16, hatchery steelhead fisheries will open on the mainstem upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, Methow and Okanogan rivers. In addition, the Similkameen River will open to hatchery steelhead retention beginning Nov. 1.

All of these fisheries will remain open until further notice.

On all rivers, anglers will have a daily limit of two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead, which must measure at least 20 inches in length. Steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be immediately released unharmed without being removed from the water. Anglers also will be required to release any steelhead fitted with a floy (anchor) tag and those with one or more round quarter-inch holes punched in their caudal (tail) fin.

Anglers on all rivers will be required to retain any legal hatchery steelhead they catch until the daily limit of two fish is reached. After they have retained two fish, anglers must stop fishing for hatchery steelhead.

For more information on the fishery, check the news release.

The fishery for chinook and sockeye salmon ended Oct. 7 on the Wenatchee River from the mouth (confluence with the Columbia River) to the Icicle Road bridge near the west end of Leavenworth. The fishery is also now closed on the mainstem Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to Chief Joseph Dam, but fall chinook fisheries below Rock Island Dam and the summer chinook fishery in the Chelan River remain open. For more information see the emergency rule change.

Meanwhile, the Lake Chelan Project Tailrace fishery for chinook salmon continues through Oct. 15. For details, check the emergency rule change.

WDFW District Fish Biologist Travis Maitland notes that Douglas County’s Jameson Lake fall season (Oct. 1-31) should provide some decent rainbow trout fishing.

“We plan to stock up to 10,000 catchable-size rainbows before this fall opener and we should have a fair carryover rate of catchable-size fish that were stocked this past spring,” Maitland said.  “Anglers will no doubt encounter smaller rainbows from our spring fingerling plant as well. That plant was designed to provide catchable-size fish the following spring.  From what I saw, the larger fish were hanging on the thermocline at about 20 to 25 feet and the small guys were shallower, so anglers may have to refine their techniques to weed out the little guys.”

Maitland said a few years ago the lake had some problems with excessive algae blooms that ended up killing fish. “But, in recent years this has not been the case and the rainbows that we stock appear to be surviving well,” he said. “I conducted some recent water quality tests and plankton surveys on the lake, and things look good for this fall’s season.”

Little Beaver Lake in Okanogan County is open through Oct. 28 with no daily bag limit and no size limit for all game fish. It will be closed to fishing from Oct. 29 until further notice for rehabilitation work.

Hunting:  Hunters of all kinds need to pay close attention to access restrictions due to currently burning or even recently contained wildfires this season. Although WDFW and the Washington Department of Natural Resources have lifted their burn ban, some local fire restrictions may still be in place. Check the Emergency Management Division websites here and here, the Incident Information System’s website and the U.S. Forest Service’s website.

“The effects of numerous wildfires in Chelan County may impact hunting opportunities, either from direct habitat loss or in the form of access entry closures,” said David Volsen, WDFW’s Chelan District wildlife biologist.  “Hunters should scour agency websites for the most current closure information while planning and prior to leaving for their hunts.  Be prepared to be flexible in your destination, and have a backup area.”

Volsen said WDFW is not closing hunting seasons, but some hunting areas may not be open for access. “You might also see more hunters displaced from other closed areas,” Volsen said. “Hunting in this area is just going to take a little more planning, patience and tolerance this year.”

Modern firearm general deer hunting opens throughout much of the region Oct. 13. Volsen said it should be a productive season in Chelan County based on a robust deer population with a high buck to doe ratio, and a high percentage of mature bucks.  Prospects for mule deer are better than last year throughout the district. Okanogan District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin said the Okanogan district has the highest buck to doe ratios observed in more than10 years. The high ratio, in conjunction with a mild winter and good summer forage conditions, should allow for an excellent season.

Waterfowl hunting also opens Oct. 13, and the Columbia Basin (Adams and Grant counties of District 5) is renowned for some of the best duck and goose opportunities in the state. Grant County alone is number one among Washington’s 309 counties for duck and goose harvest. Rich Finger, WDFW district wildlife biologist, said Canada goose harvest has been and will probably continue to increase, and duck production throughout the Basin is up slightly.

Quail hunting opens Oct. 6 and pheasant hunting opens Oct. 20. Grant County in the Columbia Basin produces the most hunter pheasant harvest in the state and is second only to Yakima County in quail hunting harvest.

Modern firearm general elk hunting opens Oct. 27. Most elk harvest in this region is in Chelan County where part of the Colockum herd resides.

For more detailed information on hunting throughout the region, see WDFW’s hunting prospects.

Wildlife viewing: Wildlife viewers need to pay close attention to access restrictions due to currently burning or even recently contained wildfires this season. Although WDFW and the Washington Department of Natural Resources have lifted their burn ban, some local fire restrictions may still be in place. Check the Emergency Management Division websites here and here, the Incident Information System’s website and the U.S. Forest Service’s website.

Birders and others afield in the coming weeks also should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are getting under way throughout the region. While most hunters make sure of their target before they shoot, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing an orange wind-breaker and make their presence known to hunters.

WDFW district wildlife biologists David Volsen and Scott Fitkin say fall is a great time to watch for raptor migrations along Chelan Ridge, with larger and more northerly species like goshawks, rough legged hawks, peregrines, golden eagles, possibly even northern hawk owls, often observed during the month of October.

The Chelan Ridge raptor migration monitoring and banding station, (located 13 miles northwest of Chelan and about five miles south of Methow, off State Hwy. 153, west on Black Canyon Road nine miles to Forest Service Road 8020, then south just over three miles) is in full swing now.  It’s a cooperative effort between Hawk Watch International and the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests to monitor and learn more about raptors migrating through the eastern Cascade Mountains of Washington within the Pacific Coast Flyway. The project runs from late August through late October (or whenever the snow forces the crew off the ridge). Counts typically range between 2,000-3,000 migrants of up to 17 species per season. For more information, see the Hawk Watch website and look for Chelan Ridge Raptor Migration Project.

Fall migrating waterfowl and other water birds, including sandhill cranes, should be visible throughout the Columbia Basin in growing numbers through the month of October.  The Winchester and Frenchmen Reserves in Grant County are among the best observation areas.

Southcentral Washington

Fishing: Approximately 120,000 chinook salmon are expected to return to the Hanford Reach this year, and early October is generally the best time to catch them. Anglers fishing the Reach were averaging a chinook per boat in September and catch rates are expected to rise as water temperatures cool and more chinook move into the area, said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Some of those fish have been tipping the scales at 40 pound a piece, he said.

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

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

Another good prospect for salmon is the Yakima River, where fishing for fall chinook and coho usually comes alive around the second week of the month. Best bets for catching fish include waters downstream of Prosser Dam and Horn Rapids Dam, said Hoffarth, noting that fishing is closed within 400 feet downstream of those diversions.

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

Back at the Hanford Reach, many anglers are also feeling some pressure to switch over to hatchery steelhead, said Hoffarth, noting that the fishery runs through March 31. “October is a good time to start targeting hatchery steelhead,” he said. “The water is cooling off and the fish are getting more aggressive.” 

During the month of October, anglers may only keep steelhead with both clipped adipose and ventral fins in the Columbia River between the Hwy 395 bridge at Kennewick and the wooden powerline towers at the old Hanford townsite. After October 31 any hatchery steelhead can be harvested in that area of the Columbia River.

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

Hunting:  October is prime time for hunting, with seasons getting under way for a variety of game animals ranging from buck deer to upland birds. WDFW and other state agencies have lifted burn bans around the state, but are still urging hunters and anyone else spending time outdoors to be cautious when doing anything that could spark a wildfire.

The modern firearm season for deer gets under way Oct. 13, but not before muzzleloaders have had their turn in the field. The muzzleloader season, which began Sept. 29, runs through Oct. 7 in select game management units (GMU) throughout the region. For elk, the early muzzleloader season runs Oct. 6-12. 

Jeff Bernatowicz, a WDFW wildlife biologist, said spring surveys showed increased elk populations and production in Yakima and Kittitas, noting that hunters there consistently have the highest success rates in the state.

“However with that distinction comes relatively high hunter densities,” he said. “Opening weekend is usually crowded, although a recent trend has been for hunters to pull up camp and head home before the second weekend. If you are looking for a higher quality experience, consider hunting the last 2-3 days of the season.”

New options for bird hunters start Oct. 6 when seasons open for California quail, bobwhite, chukar and gray partridge. Then comes the general hunting seasons for ducks, coots and snipe, which run Oct. 13-17 and reopen Oct. 20 until late January. Goose-hunting seasons also get under way Oct. 13, but hunting is restricted to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only. Pheasant hunting starts Oct. 20 throughout the region. 

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: Kokanee are now returning to Rimrock Lake, attracting lots of fish-eating birds – including gulls. While gulls are a common sight on the west side of the Cascades, the feeding opportunity at Rimrock Lake is one of the few things that draws them to Yakima County in large numbers.

A Sabin’s gull, which breeds in the Arctic, was one of many birds spotted there in recent days. Other birds reported included a black-legged kittiwake, common loon, horned grebe, western grebe, ring-billed gull, herring gull and Thayer’s gull. The kittiwake is a small, cliff-nesting gull that breeds along the northern coast and winters at sea. 

Birders and others planning to be afield in the coming weeks should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are getting under way throughout the region. While hunters are trained to be sure of their target before they shoot, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing an orange wind-breaker and make their presence known to hunters.

Current hunting seasons are highlighted above in the Hunting section of this report, along with contacts for information about fire conditions. Whether hunting or not, it’s important to be aware of the conditions you may encounter in the field.