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

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October 2013

(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 14, 2013)

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

Conditions look ‘very positive’ for October hunting seasons

Some of Washington's most popular hunting seasons get under way in October, when hunters take to the field for deer, elk, ducks, geese and other game birds. Tens of thousands of hunters are expected to pursue deer during the modern-firearms season that begins Oct. 12 in areas throughout the state.

Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said he expects that season – and others coming up this month – to be a good one.

“A mild winter followed by a favorable spring benefitted wildlife species ranging from deer to pheasants,” Ware said. “Also, recent storms have helped to quiet hunters’ footsteps in the forest and blow leaves off the trees for better visibility. Those are all very positive signs for upcoming seasons.”

Speaking of visibility, all hunters using modern firearms – or in areas open to hunting with modern firearms – are required to wear hunter orange clothing as specified by state law. While that requirement does not apply to non-hunters, Ware suggests hikers, mushroom pickers and others in areas open to hunting wear bright, colorful clothing to maximize their visibility.

“Statistics show that hunting is a very safe sport, especially compared to most other outdoor activities,” Ware said. “Hunters are trained to make sure they have a safe shot, and non-hunters can help ensure their safety by making themselves visible in the field.”

Wet weather has also eased campfire restrictions in many areas of the state, although hunters should check for any local regulations in planning a hunting trip, Ware said. Campfires are banned through Oct. 15 at WDFW wildlife areas in Benton, Franklin, Yakima, and Kittitas counties – and through Oct. 31 at the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant and Adams counties.

Other local fire restrictions are posted on the Department of Natural Resources’ website at http://fortress.wa.gov/dnr/firedanger/BurnRisk.aspx.

“There are areas of the state where wildfires still pose a real risk, and we are asking hunters, campers and others heading outdoors to be extremely cautious,” Ware said.

While deer draw the largest number of hunters this month, hunting seasons also get under way Oct. 12 for ducks and – in many parts of the state – geese. For information on seasons and rules, see WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

Meanwhile, this year’s record run of fall chinook salmon has continued to move up the Columbia River, energizing fisheries from Brewster to Clarkston. Coho salmon are also moving in increasing numbers into the lower Columbia River and many rivers flowing into Puget Sound.

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

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

Fishing: October is primetime for coho fishing in the region, where anglers should continue to find fish in the marine areas. However, the best action for coho likely will be in the rivers later in the month.

"Anglers can still find coho salmon in the marine areas in early October, but fishing in the rivers will steadily improve as the month progresses," said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Several rivers are open in October for salmon fishing, including the Nooksack, Skagit, Cascade, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish, Wallace, Snoqualmie and Green.  The Skagit River allows for an increased bag limit this year: a total of four salmon with no more than two wild coho. Because regulations vary for each river, anglers should check WDFW's sportfishing regulations pamphlet before heading out.

Known hotspots for coho in North Puget Sound include Point No Point, Jefferson Head, Possession Bar, Deception Pass and Shipwreck. Fishing regulations for those areas – and other waters of marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) – change in October. Beginning Oct. 1, anglers fishing Marine Area 9 will have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release all chinook. Those fishing Marine Area 10 will have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Anglers looking to get an early start on the region's blackmouth season might also want to head to Marine Area 10, said Lothrop, adding that wild chinook must be released for this area. Another option for blackmouth anglers is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where anglers can keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit beginning Oct. 1. Marine area 7 anglers must also release all wild coho in October.

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.

Chum retention is permitted in all marine areas for October, except for portions of Hood Canal.  Anglers fishing Hood Canal should refer to page 121 of the fishing rules pamphlet for details. Also check the fishing regulations for specifics on retention of chum in inland lakes and rivers. Some major rivers – such as the Skagit, Nooksack South Fork, Cascade, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish, Wallace, Snoqualmie and Carbon rivers – prohibit chum retention.

Elsewhere, Lake Sammamish is open for salmon fishing, with 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.

Meanwhile, most marine areas of Puget Sound reopen for recreational crab seven days a week from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. The exceptions are Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), where annual quotas 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's recreational crab fishing 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, 2014. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website.

Hunting: The region's popular waterfowl hunting season gets under way in mid-October. The duck season will be open from Oct. 12 through Oct. 16, and then re-open again Oct. 19. An exception is the scaup season, which is closed from Oct. 12 through Nov. 1. 

Goose hunts will run Oct. 12 through Oct. 24 in the region, then start again Nov. 2. However, the snow goose season in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) will run from Oct. 12 through Jan. 26 without a break.  Hunting seasons are also under way in the region for grouse and quail.

Meanwhile, the muzzleloader-only season for deer runs through Oct. 6. Beginning Oct. 5 and extending through Oct. 11 in most areas of Western Washington, muzzleloaders can go afield for elk. In Game Management Unit 407, the elk muzzleloader hunt is already underway and also extends through Oct. 11.

The modern firearm season for deer gets under way Oct. 12, while hunting seasons are underway in the region for bear and cougar.

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:  Snow geese will be making their way to the region this month. 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 Issaquah. Visitors can celebrate the return of spawning salmon during Issaquah Salmon Days Festival, set for Oct. 5-6. This year's festival features educational displays, entertainment, artwork, food and other attractions. More information is available at the Issaquah Salmon Days Festival website.

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

Fishing: Along with early razor clam digs for these plentiful and popular mollusks, the good salmon angling anglers enjoyed all summer should continue through October. While many fish are already making their spawning runs in streams throughout the region, enough salmon remain in salt water to provide good fishing opportunities.

The coho salmon bite has been excellent from the Strait of Juan de Fuca throughout Puget Sound, and fisheries managers expect angler success to continue although recent torrential rains from the remnants of a tropical storm may have influenced fish to seek out their natal streams. Stay tuned for updates to Weekender.

In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, salmon anglers fishing marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (Port Angeles) can retain both wild chinook and coho as part of a two-salmon daily limit beginning Oct. 1; only one chinook may be retained, however. 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 – only two of which can be a chinook. All wild chinook must be released.

After a brief closure at the end of September to ensure escapement of wild fish to their natal streams, Grays Harbor (Marine Area 2-2) is again an option. Throughout the month, anglers may retain a three-salmon daily limit, but must release all chinook. 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.

As salmon transition from salt to freshwater, they will continue to provide excellent opportunities for anglers in the region’s rivers. Grays Harbor tributaries – such as the Humptulips, Chehalis, Wynoochee, Satsop, Skookumchuck, and Johns rivers – are especially popular and should be filled with fish throughout the month. Popular tactics for catching salmon in rivers include bobbers and eggs, spinners and spoons, and corky and yarn, among many others.

In southern Hood Canal and southern Puget Sound, both the Skokomish and Puyallup rivers remain under emergency regulations, but should yield excellent fishing throughout October. The Nisqually is another good option in the South Sound.

Anglers fishing the fabled streams of the Olympic Peninsula should also do well again this October. Some good options include the Hoh, Quinault, Queets, and Quillayute rivers. The tributaries of the Quillayute are also good fisheries, and these include the Bogachiel, Calawah, Dickey and Sol Duc rivers. In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Dungeness River opens to salmon fishing Oct. 8 with a daily limit of four coho.

Anglers must always check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) sportfishing rules pamphlet for specific regulations before heading out to any of these rivers to wet a line.

After an early razor clam dig in September, WDFW announced two tentative digs in October spanning a total of a 11 days, provided that marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. Final word on the first series of digs will be announced after test results are received prior to dig days.

Dates, beaches, and evening low tides for the proposed digs are as follows:

  • Oct. 4, Friday, 6:56 p.m.; 0.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
  • Oct. 5, Saturday, 7:36 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
  • Oct. 6, Sunday, 8:17 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors Mocrocks
  • Oct. 7, Monday, 9:00 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Oct. 8, Tuesday, 9:48 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors
  • Oct. 17, Thursday, 6:15 p.m.; -0.2 feet; Twin Harbors
  • Oct. 18, Friday, 6:57 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
  • Oct. 19, Saturday, 7:38 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks
  • Oct. 20, Sunday, 8:16 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Oct. 21, Monday, 8:55 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Oct. 22, Tuesday, 9:34 p.m.; -0.1 feet; Twin Harbors

Tests conducted over the summer point to another year of strong razor clam populations and digging opportunities, and shellfish managers expect a robust season. A report on last year’s season and prospects for this year are posted on WDFW’s website.

Under state rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger's limit must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers must have an applicable 2013-14 fishing license to dig razor clams on any beach. A license is required for anyone age 15 or older. Several types of licenses, ranging from a combination fishing license to a three-day razor clam license, are available online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/. Fishing licenses can also be purchased from sporting goods stores and other vendors, listed at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/.

Meanwhile, most marine areas of Puget Sound reopen for recreational crab seven days a week from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. The exceptions are Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), where annual quotas 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 about crab 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, 2014. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website.

Hunting: The modern firearm season for black-tailed deer runs Oct. 12-31, but not before muzzleloaders have had their turn in the field. The muzzleloader season for deer runs from Sept. 28 through Oct. 6 in select game management units (GMU) throughout the region. For elk, the early muzzleloader season runs Oct. 5-11.

Bird-hunting opportunities are also in the forecast, starting with Western Washington pheasant, and quail  seasons opening Sept. 28. Then comes the start of general hunting seasons for ducks, coots and snipe, which run Oct. 12-16 and then reopen Oct. 19.

Goose-hunting seasons also get under way Oct. 12 in most areas and continue daily through Oct. 24 before picking up again in November. However, goose management area 2B (Pacific County) is open Saturdays and Wednesdays only Oct. 12-23 and Nov. 2-Jan. 18. 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, which is still underway in the first part of October. 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.

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 hunter’s orange clothing and making their presence known to hunters.

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

Fishing:  The bulk of this year’s record-setting fall chinook run to the Columbia River has now moved above Bonneville Dam, energizing fisheries upstream to the Hanford Reach and beyond. Hotspots in this region include the mouths of the Wind River, Drano Lake and the Klickitat River.

But that doesn’t mean salmon fishing below Bonneville is over for the year. In fact, state fishery managers expect to see anglers catch a lot more fall chinook below the dam in October, when late coho will also be moving into the Columbia River in increasing numbers.

“This year’s fall chinook run is phenomenal,” said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy advisor for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “This record run  has a long, fat tail on it, which will continue to provide fish for harvest for weeks to come.”

By Sept. 29, nearly 875,000 fall chinook had passed Bonneville Dam and anglers had caught 66,000 of them downriver from the dam to Buoy 10 near the mouth of the river. Roler said anglers can expect to encounter a lot more bright chinook, but less competition for them, in the weeks ahead.

“There’s still time to participate in this fishery for those who didn’t get a chance last month – and for those who did,” he said.

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.

Then again, anglers can double their fun this month at two tributaries to the big river right in the path of that huge upriver run. Starting Oct. 11, anglers fishing Drano Lake and the Klickitat River will be allowed to keep up to four chinook salmon per day under an emergency rule approved by WDFW.

In addition, the weekly closures at Drano Lake (from 6 p.m. Tuesdays to 6 p.m. Wednesdays) at have been rescinded, and anglers will get an extra month – through Nov. 30 – to fish the Klickitat. More information on the new regulations, check the WDFW Emergency Rule Website.

Along with the huge wave of chinook moving upriver, approximately 145,000 late-run coho salmon are expected to return to the Columbia this year, helping to fill out the catch, Roler said. Although projections have been reduced for both early run coho and B-run summer steelhead, the forecast for late-run coho has held steady. Best bets for hatchery coho include the Cowlitz, Lewis, Klickitat, Kalama and Washougal rivers.

Also, under a rule change approved last month, anglers aboard a vessel in the Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco can continue fishing until the daily limit of salmon/steelhead for all anglers aboard is achieved.

Before heading out, anglers are advised to check the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet and Emergency Rules for additional information on regulations currently in effect on the Columbia River and its tributaries.

While salmon fisheries will still be going strong this month, the fall fishing season for white sturgeon set to begin Oct. 19 from the Wauna power lines upriver to Bonneville Dam has been cancelled. Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed to cancel the fishery based on catch data showing that anglers caught 1,942 legal-size sturgeon – about 96 percent of the annual harvest guideline for that area – by the time the early season ended in mid-June.

“The catch guideline just won’t support a fall fishery,” said Brad James, a WDFW fish biologist, noting that action taken to reduce the early season by six weeks failed to hold the catch to pre-season expectations.

Despite the high catch rates this year, sturgeon retention fishing below Bonneville Dam is scheduled to remain closed in 2014 due to declines in the sturgeon population in recent years. The closure also applies to the Washington coast, Puget Sound and tributaries to those waters.

Want to catch some trout? WDFW fish biologists have some recommendations:

  • Goose Lake: This mountain lake in Skamania County was recently stocked with about 1,300 coastal cutthroat, averaging almost 1.4 pounds apiece. Fishing should be very good until snow blocks the road later this fall.
  • Swift Reservoir:  Also in Skamania County, this impoundment heats up for trout fishing from October through November. Anglers may keep up to 10 trout (including landlocked coho) but must release all salmon larger than 15 inches in length and any bull trout or steelhead they intercept.
  • Mayfield Lake: Good numbers of catchable trout remain in the lake, which was stocked heavily throughout the summer until Labor Day. The daily limit is five fish, which run about 12 inches in length.
  • Lake Scanewa: Farther upstream on the Cowlitz, this reservoir upstream of Cowlitz Falls Dam was also stocked throughout the summer and catchable trout remain to be caught. The daily limit is 10 fish, averaging 12 inches. The minimum size is 8 inches.
  • Lake Scanewa: This lake in Lewis County has a bonus bag of 10 hatchery rainbows per day.

WDFW fish biologist John Weinheimer also notes that the area around the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery is also productive for hatchery sea-run cutthroats in October. “These aggressive fish average a foot or more and can be caught on a variety of gear including bait, flies, or lures,” he said.

Hunting: October is prime time for hunting, with seasons getting under way for game animals ranging from deer to waterfowl. A mild winter combined with recent rain has created favorable conditions for seasons opening this month, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager.

“Southwest Washington has historically had some of the most productive areas for black-tailed deer, and this year should be no different,” he said. “Recent storms have knocked more leaves off the trees – improving visibility – and may even drive some northern ducks down into the area.”

An analysis of hunting prospects for a variety of game available in the southwest region is posted on WDFW’s website.

The popular modern firearm season for black-tailed deer runs Oct. 12-31, after muzzleloaders have had their turn in the field. The muzzleloader season, which began Sept. 28, runs through Oct. 6 in select game management units (GMU) throughout the region.

Top game management areas (GMU) for black-tailed deer in the region include GMUs  501 (Lincoln), 520 (Winston), 530 (Ryderwood) and 550 (Coweeman). Hunting just before or after a heavy storm can be a good strategy, because deer reduce feeding in rough weather, Ware said.

For elk, the early muzzleloader season runs Oct. 5-11. Some of the region’s best elk-hunting areas include GMUs 506 (Willapa Hills), 520 (Winston), 550 (Coweeman) and 560 (Lewis River). Regulations vary in these and other areas, so hunters should make sure to check the 2013 Big Game Hunting pamphlet before heading out. WDFW’s online Go Hunt mapping tool and annual Game Harvest Reports can also be helpful in determining which areas to hunt.

Hunters who see elk with deformed hooves are encouraged to report their observations to WDFW.

As in past years, taking antlerless elk will be illegal 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.

For bird hunters, new seasons for pheasant, quail and bobwhite got under way Sept. 28. Next comes general hunting seasons for ducks, geese, coots and snipe on Oct. 12. Hunters are advised to check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for specific information about each hunt.

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. 5-6 in Ridgefield. Events include birding 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.

The bulk of this year’s fall chinook salmon has now moved past Bonneville Dam, but thousands of fish – chinook, coho and steelhead – are still passing by the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam every day. To see this spectacle, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and park in front of the glass building at the end of the powerhouse. To check on the number of fish passing the dam each day, go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

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

Fishing:  Fall chinook salmon and steelhead fishing on the Snake River in the southeast district continues to be the best bet in the region.

Creel surveys in late September show fishing around Clarkston has been hot for chinook and steelhead is picking up.  Joe Bumgarner, fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said some of the best steelhead fishing has been around Little Goose Dam and the lower Tucannon River.

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 six 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.

WDFW Southeast District Fish Biologist Glen Mendel reminds anglers that once they keep their three steelhead, they must stop fishing, regardless of whether they have caught any salmon.

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 current 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.

Mendel says by mid- to late October both the condition and numbers of chinook salmon crossing the dams will have declined, so interested anglers should go early in the month, while fish are still in good condition and their numbers are still high.

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 can be successful.

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

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.

Anglers are enjoying the last month of the rainbow-trout-stocked Tucannon River impoundments in Columbia County, reports WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager Kari Dingman, especially with cooler weather seeming to put the bite back on.

Most rivers and streams in the region close Oct. 31, but sections of some major waterways, like 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 fishers 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 big water like Roosevelt.

Hunting: October is by far the single biggest hunting month of the year in the eastern region, with different season openers every weekend.

Oct. 1 marks the beginning of moose hunting, all by special permits in Game Management Units (GMUs) of the northeast and central districts of this region only.  A total of 130 moose hunting permit holders are afield this month and next, most with an opportunity for a bull or a cow, but some are eligible for antlerless-only moose.

Oct. 5 is the start of quail and chukar and gray partridge hunt, and it should be good throughout the region.  Northeast district spring conditions were conducive to good quail production, so hunting should be average or better. Central district brood numbers for both quail and gray partridge look good,  although some of the best quail habitat is in and around towns, and some of the best gray partridge habitat is on private agricultural fields where permission to access the land is key. Southeast district chukar hunting should again be good in the breaks of the Snake River, especially in Asotin County.

Oct. 12 is the opening of modern firearm deer hunting season, and whitetail prospects in particular are good. The highest densities of white-tailed deer in the region are the northeast district’s valleys and foothill benches, especially the farm-forest mosaic in GMUs 105,108,117, and 121. Whitetail hunters are reminded that a four-antler-point minimum restriction remains in place for GMUs 117 and 121. Central district deer counts show whitetail numbers stable to increasing, with ample opportunity to harvest legal bucks.

WDFW white-tailed deer researcher Woody Myers asks successful antlerless whitetail hunters (youth, seniors, disabled, special permit holders, and late season archers) in GMUs 117, 121, and 124 to collect the heart, kidneys, reproductive tract, liver sample, and a tooth from harvested deer, and deposit them, with information about the date and location of harvest, at one of several drop-off locations in the region (WDFW regional office at 2315 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley; WDFW northeast district office at 755 S. Main St., Colville; Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge headquarters at 1310 Bear Creek Rd., east of Colville; and weekend hunter check stations on Hwy. 2 near Chattaroy and Hwy. 395 near Deer Park.)  Analysis of the collected organs will help determine the nutritional and reproductive health of the deer, Myers explained. Hunters providing a complete set of usable samples will be entered into a drawing for gift cards at local sporting goods retailers.

Mule deer are in good densities in the southeast district, especially on private lands where range and agricultural cropland come together. Although there’s some whitetail hunting in the riparian areas of the southeast district, mule deer harvest is far greater there.  The central district’s mule deer numbers appear to be stable to increasing in GMUs 130-142. Northeast district mule deer numbers are highest in GMU 101; they are far lower east of the Columbia River.

Oct. 12 is also the opening of waterfowl hunting, although most of the region depends on late season migrant ducks and geese from Canada for best hunting opportunities. U.S. Army Corps of Engineer property along the Snake River in the southeast district provides excellent access once those birds come in. Local production throughout the region is limited, although the Pend Oreille River Valley in the northeast district can be decent for local birds.

Oct. 19 is the start of pheasant hunting and the prospects are optimistic for most of the region. Northeast district spring conditions were conducive to production, so average or better hunting can be expected. The central district also appears to have good numbers of over-wintered birds and decent production. The southeast district’s prospects are a little more unknown because June rains and a hot, dry summer may have affected pheasant chick hatches and survival.

Some farm-raised rooster pheasants will also be available from time to time throughout the three-month season at release sites described in the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage. Non-toxic shot is required for all upland bird hunting on all pheasant release sites statewide to protect other wildlife species including waterfowl and raptors. 

Oct. 26 marks the opening of modern firearm elk hunting, most of which occurs in the southeast district’s Blue Mountains where elk herds are stable, thanks to good calf production and survival, and excellent yearling bull survival. The rugged country in the Blues, however, makes hunting a challenge, and general season hunters are limited to spike-only bulls, with branch-antlered bulls only by special permit. Most central district elk are on private land near Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, southwest of Spokane, so securing access is key; special permit hunts on the refuge itself address habitat damage caused by elk. Northeast district elk are scattered at relatively low densities, and are most abundant in GMUs 113 and 117.

In addition to these hunting openers, other seasons that started earlier continue. General season fall wild turkey hunting runs through Oct. 11 in most units in the region where the big birds are plentiful. Black bear hunting continues through Nov. 15. Forest grouse and early season cougar hunting continue through the end of the year. Rabbit, hare, raccoon, fox and bobcat hunting continue through March 15, 2014.

For more specific information about hunting opportunities in the region’s three districts, see Hunting Prospects.

Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) campfire bans have been lifted, thanks to cooler, wetter weather. But conditions in many parts of the region are still relatively dry, leaving brush hard to sneak through during a hunt.

Most hunting in this region is on private lands and WDFW staff work with landowners to provide access in a number of different programs, including this year’s new “Hunt by Reservation” system; check out options on the Private Lands Access webpage.

WDFW enforcement officers remind hunters to know and play by the rules. The most common violations involve valid licensing and properly tagging harvested animals; wearing the required minimum of 400 square inches of fluorescent orange above the waist; no loaded weapons in or on any kind of motor vehicle; shooting within hunting hours (listed in rules pamphlets); trespass on private lands; use of motor vehicles behind road closures; and use of helmets when operating off-road vehicles. All rules are online in the hunting season and regulation pamphlets

WDFW officers in the northeast district also note hunters must know their legal target because there are several endangered species that cannot be hunted and killed, including wolves, grizzly bears, and caribou.

Wildlife viewing: The month of October can bring some unexpected and potentially hazardous close-up “views” of large wildlife.

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. Motorists traveling through deer country, which is virtually all of the region – should be alert, aware and prepared for possible collisions with these animals.

With daylight hours shrinking fast, the chances for a low-light roadside wildlife encounter are increasing, too. 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 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.

Fall bird migrations are well under way for many species this month. 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.

WDFW volunteer Kim Thorburn recently reported that influxes of migrant birds of many kinds seemed to irritate some of the year-round resident birds near WDFW’s Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area headquarters building in Lincoln County. “The resident northern flickers especially seemed a bit disturbed by the other woodpecker visitors, including a red-naped sapsucker pair, a hairy woodpecker female, and a downy woodpecker male,” she said.

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

Fishing:  Starting Oct. 16, fishing will open for hatchery steelhead on the mainstem upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Icicle, Methow and Okanogan rivers until further notice. The Similkameen River will also open to retention of hatchery steelhead Nov. 1.

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

Area boundaries and additional rules in effect for these fisheries are post on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) emergency rule website.

Jeff Korth, WDFW regional fish manager, said approximately 14,000 adult steelhead are expected to return to the upper Columbia River this year – enough to allow the department to open area steelhead fisheries. He noted, however, that fishing will be more tightly regulated than last year because fewer hatchery steelhead are projected to return this year and wild steelhead are expected to make up a higher proportion of the run.

Under this year’s rules, anglers fishing tributaries to the upper Columbia River are also required to retain any legal-size hatchery steelhead they catch until the daily limit of two fish is reached. Once they have retained two fish, anglers must stop fishing for steelhead.

Selective gear rules apply to all areas where steelhead seasons are open, although bait may be used on the mainstem Columbia River. All anglers are required to follow selective gear rules and restrictions described in WDFW’s Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

Meanwhile, chinook salmon fishing continues through Oct. 15 on the mainstem Columbia River within the stretch from Brewster to Chief Joseph Dam. Bob Jateff, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Okanogan district fish biologist, says that although catch rates tend to slow down at this time of the year, anglers can still catch chinook up to 20 pounds.  There are boat launching facilities at both city parks in Brewster and Bridgeport.

Rufus Woods Lake, the Columbia River reservoir off Chief Joseph Dam on the Okanogan-Douglas county line, provides good fishing in October for triploid rainbow trout in the 1- to 3-pound range.  There is an excellent boat launching facility at the Army Corps of Engineers site just above Chief Joseph Dam.

Jateff also reports October is a very good month for lowland lake fishing in Okanogan County.  For selective gear waters, anglers should look to Blue Lake in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, Buzzard Lake off of Hwy. 20 near Okanogan, and Big Twin Lake in the Winthrop area as good possibilities for rainbow trout. Chopaka and Aeneas lakes, which are fly-fishing only waters, are also open until the end of October and should provide good fishing for rainbow trout in the 10- to 18-inch range.

Other waters, such as Wannacut, Fish (Sinlahekin), Conconully Reservoir, and Conconully Lake can be very good in October once water temperatures cool down and rainbow trout become more active.  All have boat launching facilities.

WDFW Warmwater Fish Biologist Matt Polacek said walleye fishing is picking up on Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir.  Yellow perch fishing also continues to be great, he says, as it was all summer for both lakes.

Hunting: The month of October is synonymous with hunting in the northcentral region where there’s a season of some kind opening every weekend.

Quail and gray and chukar partridge hunting open Oct. 5, and some of the best in the state is in the Chelan-Douglas county district.  Over-winter survival of adults and brood production and survival for this season looks good again for both quail and chukars throughout the district. The Columbia Basin district is also expected to be good for quail hunting because more birds came through a relatively mild winter; best opportunities are along riparian areas on private land and on the Desert, Lower Crab Creek Gloyd Seeps and Quincy units of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area.  Chukar hunting can be productive in the Coulee Corridor area around Banks and Lenore lakes and along the Columbia River breaks north of Vantage. Gray partridge hunting is best in dryland wheat fields.  In the Okanogan district, adult quail may have been lost to higher than average snow depths last winter and brood survival might be down with spring rains, but later broods appear better. Partridge seem to be increasing in both numbers and distribution throughout the Okanogan district but especially in the shrub-steppe habitat. 

Oct. 12 is the opening of modern firearm deer hunting – and in this region that mostly means mule deer hunting. The Okanogan district supports the largest migratory mule deer herd in the state and prospects for this season are very good. The relative availability of older age class bucks should be the best in years and favorable summer forage should have them in good physical condition. Early in the season, deer are widely distributed on the landscape and mature bucks are often still at high elevations.

Mule deer hunting is also excellent in the Chelan-Douglas district with good buck numbers (likely the result of a series of relatively mild winters) and earlier high hunt participants reporting many large bucks.  Even with promising buck numbers, hunters need to remember deer are not distributed evenly across all areas, and only late-season permit holders will be hunting them in the rut or on the winter range.  Most deer in Chelan County are now at higher elevations and on north facing slopes, where additional moisture maintains forage quality longer.  Five to 15-year-old burns are also used by deer for food and security.  Douglas County deer hunting can be dependent on access to private lands. With the open nature of the landscape, deer seek refuge from hunting pressure on private land or rough terrain.

“This year should offer a great opportunity to find a nice buck if hunters focus on the needs of deer and their behavior, rather than just a favorite camping/hunting spot,” said WDFW Chelan-Douglas District Biologist David Volsen. “Hunt hard, and be willing to change your tactics in response to what you are seeing.”

Columbia Basin mule deer hunting should be average, with minimal levels of winter mortality and moderate herd productivity. Most harvest is in GMUs 272 and 284. Deer hunting in GMU 290 is by special permit.

Oct. 12 is also the start of waterfowl hunting, for which the Columbia Basin is renowned. Grant County is number one across the state for total harvest of ducks and geese, most coming into the Basin from Canada and Alaska. With local production declining in recent years, the best waterfowl hunting is later in the season during peak migration in November and December.

WDFW Columbia Basin District Biologist Rich Finger reports the Frenchmen Regulated Access Area will be filled with water for the opener, and the Winchester Regulated Access Area should be about half full for the opener.  He reminds hunters of the daily possession limit of just two pintails here.

“Like last year, Winchester Reserve is holding good numbers of white-fronted geese, an early migrant through the Columbia Basin,” Finger said.  “If they stick around, this may present hunters with an opportunity to harvest a species not common in the Basin during the later parts of the season.  American wigeon and teal have been observed in greater numbers over the last few weeks, so hunters should have opportunities at early migrant ducks, as well as fair numbers of locally produced mallards.”

The Columbia Basin is also known for pheasant hunting, which opens Oct. 19 for a three-month season.  Grant County is Washington’s top pheasant producing county, with the largest concentrations of wild birds within the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George. Dense thickets of Russian olive and cattail associated with Frenchmen and Winchester Wasteways and ponds are most likely to hold pheasants.

Although wild pheasants make up about 75 percent of the harvest, farm-raised rooster pheasants are released for hunting at several sites, described in the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage. Non-toxic shot is required for all upland bird hunting on all pheasant release sites statewide to protect other wildlife species including waterfowl and raptors. 

Oct. 26 marks the start of modern firearm elk hunting, although the region is not home to many elk. Most elk harvest is in Chelan County where part of the Colockum herd resides, and hunting is restricted to spike bulls only. GMU 251 is under a “true spike bull” rule, meaning that neither single antler can have branching (see page 45 of the rules pamphlet). Volsen says hunters who live and work in the area usually prove to be more successful because they know the country and the behavior of the small dispersed bands of elk.

Elk are also few and far between in the Okanogan district, particularly west of the Okanogan River. Most elk harvest is in GMU 204 where “any bull” is the rule again this season (having changed last year from the traditional “any elk” rule).

In addition to these hunting openers, other seasons that started earlier continue. Black bear hunting continues through Nov. 15. Forest grouse and early season cougar hunting continue through the end of the year. Rabbit, hare, raccoon, fox and bobcat hunting continue through March 15, 2014.

For more specific information about hunting opportunities in the region’s three districts, see Hunting Prospects.

Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) campfire bans have been lifted, thanks to cooler, wetter weather. An exception in the northcentral region is the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant and Adams counties where WDFW maintains a campfire ban through Oct. 31. 

Most hunting in this region is on private lands, and WDFW staff work with landowners to provide access in a number of different programs, including this year’s new “Hunt by Reservation” system. Check out options on the Private Lands Access webpage.

WDFW enforcement officers remind hunters to know and play by the rules. The most common violations involve valid licensing and properly tagging harvested animals; wearing the required minimum of 400 square inches of fluorescent orange above the waist; no loaded weapons in or on any kind of motor vehicle; shooting within hunting hours (listed in rules pamphlets); trespass on private lands; use of motor vehicles behind road closures; and use of helmets when operating off-road vehicles. All rules are online in the hunting season and regulation pamphlets.

Trio of Great blue herons
Trio of Great blue herons hanging
out in a snag above Forde Lake
between fish meals.

Wildlife viewing: The beautiful changes to the landscape and wildlife behavior that October weather brings are a good reason to visit the region’s wildlife areas.

WDFW Sinlahekin Wildlife Area Manager Justin Haug reports black bears have been spotted more regularly as they are constantly foraging before going into winter hibernation dens next month.  Large groups of migrating birds, from blackbirds to waxwings, have been spotted one day and then gone the next. Even year-round residents seem to be busy stocking up before colder weather makes food sources more scarce, including a trio of Great blue herons hanging out in a snag above Forde Lake between fish meals.

WDFW’s Columbia Basin Wildlife Area is a good spot to view fall migrating waterfowl and other water birds, including sandhill cranes, in growing numbers through the month of October.

The raptor migrations along Chelan Ridge continue this month, with larger and more northerly species, such as goshawks, rough legged hawks, peregrines, golden eagles, and northern hawk owls, often observed in the area.  The Chelan Ridge raptor migration monitoring and banding station is in full swing. The station is 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. 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 through late October (or whenever the snow forces the crew off the ridge). For more information, visit Hawk Watch International’s website and look for Chelan Ridge Raptor Migration Project.

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

Fishing: Although October is traditionally when many anglers in the region transition from fishing into other activities – including deer, waterfowl, and upland bird hunting – some might be reluctant this year with record numbers of fall chinook still streaming over dams.

By the end of September, almost 880,000 adult fall chinook had crossed Bonneville with about 360,000 crossing McNary Dam. Over 30,000 adult chinook crossed McNary in just one day in mid-September, another record. 

The run has now been upgraded significantly from preseason forecasts. At least 163,000 wild chinook salmon are expected to return to the Hanford Reach this year, with another 60,000 returning to hatcheries in the Reach.  Fisheries managers said these are conservative estimates based on chinook passage at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River and Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia, the upstream boundary of the free flowing Hanford Reach.  Managers say there is no concern at this point about meeting the Reach’s wild fish escapement goals for 2013.

Catch statistics from creel reports indicate not just the fishing but the catching has been excellent in the Hanford Reach.  Even bank anglers – a group that typically struggles to catch fall chinook – are putting fish on the bank.

As of Sept. 22, anglers were averaging over a chinook per boat – good fishing.  As of Sept. 29, the catch rate jumped to an almost unheard of 2.2 chinook per boat. Anglers fishing at Ringold, White Bluffs and Vernita are reporting the best fishing, but good numbers are being caught near Bateman Island at the mouth of the Yakima River, Snyder Street launch in Richland, and the Hanford Site’s 300 Area. 

Successful anglers are using a variety of techniques: Diver and eggs; 11-inch flashers and superbaits stuffed with tuna; diving plugs; fillet-wrapped banana plugs, like Flatfish and Kwikfish; and more.

Although the average size of Hanford Reach chinook has decreased in recent years, these are still large salmon, sometimes topping 40 pounds and averaging in the high teens. Most anglers prefer to harvest these large fish in the first half of October before they begin to turn dark, signaling spawning time and poor table fare.

After the salmon season closes one hour after official sunset on Oct. 22, a live-capture derby will be held from Friday, Oct. 25, through Sunday, Oct. 27. In a cooperative effort between Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Grant County Public Utility District, and Coastal Conservation Association of Washington, wild broodstock will be collected to improve the fitness of hatchery fall chinook and to decrease hatchery impacts on wild stock. Hatchery trucks will be on hand at the Vernita and White Bluffs (Wahluke) boat launches.

The public is invited to register and participate for this event, provided their boats are equipped with a livewell or a cooler measuring at least 36 inches long by 12 inches wide by 15 inches deep.  WDFW will have approximately 40 aerator pumps on hand to loan to oxygenate coolers, but participants are encouraged to bring their own to maximize participation. For event information or to register in advance (mandatory), call Don McBride at 509-554-9202, or email him at don.mcbride@live.com.

Meanwhile, the Yakima River is also starting to turn on with the onset of cooler weather and precipitation, both of which have lowered the river’s temperature.  Fish that were stacked up at the Yakima’s mouth have now entered the river and are providing increasingly good angling for anglers tossing spinners or clusters of eggs beneath bobbers.

Some steelhead are being caught above and below McNary Dam right now, and that fishing will improve as water temperatures continue to drop. Steelhead swam over Bonneville in lower numbers than expected, but enough have returned to offer fair to good fishing.

Steelhead retention opens Oct. 1 on the Columbia River in the zone between the Highway 395 bridge and the old Hanford townsite’s wooden powerlines. Fisheries managers expect several thousand steelhead back to the Ringold-Meseberg Hatchery in the Hanford Reach.

October is an overlooked time to pursue the region’s spiny rays, which feed aggressively during the entire month of October in preparation for several months of cold and lethargy. Both walleye and smallmouth bass are ready biters, and standard techniques work in fall as during summer.

Hunting: The modern firearm general deer season runs Oct. 12-20, but not before muzzleloaders have had their turn in the field. The early muzzleloader season for deer runs from Sept. 28 through Oct. 6 in select game management units (GMU). For elk, the early muzzleloader season runs Oct. 5-11.

Deer and elk numbers are stable to increasing throughout the region, and success rates should be similar to last year.

Upland bird-hunting opportunities are also in the forecast. Eastern Washington quail and partridge seasons open Oct. 5 and run through Jan. 20, and they quail appear to have had a successful nesting season. Wildlife managers are also hopeful about the 2013 nesting season for pheasants.  Weather was mild in late spring for the first time in several years, which could have translated to an excellent hatch. Pheasant season stretches Oct. 19-Jan. 12.

General hunting seasons for ducks, coots and snipe run Oct. 12-16 and then reopen Oct. 19. Goose-hunting seasons also get under way Oct. 12 in most areas. The season continues on selected days through January 26 throughout most of the region. However, Goose Management Area 5 (Yakima County) is open Oct. 12-14 and daily from Oct. 19-Jan. 26. 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: Large migratory flocks of waterfowl don’t usually come to the region until a little later in the fall when fierce northern storms drive birds south, but resident waterfowl are abundant during October. Fall storms appear to be coming early this year, and migratory fowl sometimes enter the area late in October, weather depending. A variety of ducks and geese are available to view throughout the month on waterways throughout the region, including at the McNary National Wildlife Refuge’s Casey Pond near Burbank, Wash. Along with waterfowl, large numbers of bald eagles will begin to flock to the region in pursuit of salmon carcasses and waterfowl as the month progresses.

October offers opportunities to see wildlife throughout the region, but with that opportunity comes danger on the roads. As temperatures cool, animals will become more active, and the year’s crop of young animals will be out and about without much savvy. Vehicle collisions with deer and elk are dangerous and can be deadly, but don’t overlook the dangers of smaller animals on the roadway and other drivers’ reactions. Highway deaths occur every year when drivers swerve or slow down to avoid collisions with raccoons, possums, skunks, waterfowl, and more. It’s sad and difficult to do for some, but hitting wildlife is often much safer than trying to avoid a collision.

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 hunter’s orange clothing and making their presence known to hunters.