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

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September 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 September 24, 2013)

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

Signs of fall: Hunters take field,
salmon move in from the ocean

The sun is setting earlier, and the leaves are beginning to turn color – signs of another change of season. Fall is in the air, and hunters are heading out for the first major hunting seasons of the year.
 
Archery hunts for deer get under way around the state Sept. 1, when hunting seasons also open for forest grouse, mourning dove, cottontail rabbit, and snowshoe hare. Other seasons set to open this month include archery hunts for elk, high-buck hunts and muzzleloader hunts for deer, and a turkey hunt in some areas of eastern Washington.
 
A youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant and other game birds runs Sept. 21-22 statewide. To participate, hunters must be 15 years old or younger and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting.

“We should have plenty of local ducks available in September, followed by a near-record number of birds expected from the north later this year,” said Dave Ware, statewide game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Hunting for deer and elk should also be good in most areas, just as it was last year.”

Area-by-area summaries of the hunting prospects throughout the state are available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/.

With several wildfires burning in eastern Washington, Ware cautions hunters to be especially careful to avoid any action that might spark a blaze. Updates on fire conditions are available on the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ website at http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Pages/default.aspx.

“Hunters planning to hunt in the central Cascade Mountains should be aware that recent wildfires have altered conditions in some areas, and have resulted in new fire restrictions,” Ware said.

Meanwhile, an estimated run of 678,000 chinook salmon – and 434,000 coho – is moving up the Columbia River, drawing anglers by the thousands. Further north, chinook, coho and pink salmon are also pushing into Puget Sound from the ocean, while eastside anglers await a surge of chinook and steelhead on the Snake River.

“September is a great time to go fishing, regardless of which side of the Cascades you live on,” said John Long, WDFW statewide salmon manager.

As new fishing seasons open, others are coming to an end. Crab fishing in most areas of Puget Sound is set to end Labor Day at sunset, and WDFW is reminding crabbers that summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 1 – whether or not they actually caught crab this year. Completed cards can be submitted by mail or online at http://bit.ly/WkXeA from Sept. 3 through Oct. 1.

Other changes are also apparent as summer’s end draws near. Warblers, vireos and other neotropical birds are now moving through the region as they make their annual migration south. Bull elk can be heard bugling at dawn and dusk to build harems.

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: Anglers fishing the marine areas of Puget Sound should still find some pink salmon in early September. But the bulk of the pink run will have made its way into the region’s rivers by the middle of the month.

Pink salmon fishing is starting to pick up in the rivers as we move into September,” said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Freshwater fishing opportunities for pink salmon should be good early in the month.”

In northern Puget Sound, Lothrop recommends fishing for pink salmon in the Snohomish, Stillaguamish, Skagit and Snoqualmie rivers.

Back on the saltwater, anglers are hooking some bright ocean coho in portions of Puget Sound, said Lothrop. “We should see more of those ocean fish make their way into the Sound throughout the month,” he said.

Anglers fishing marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release all chinook. In Marine Area 10, anglers must release hatchery chinook starting in September, and must release chum salmon through Sept. 15. Those fishing Marine Area 9 must release chum through Sept. 30.

Marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) are also open for salmon. Anglers fishing those marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release chinook salmon.

Another option is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but can keep only one chinook. Anglers in Marine Area 7 must release chum and wild coho.

Lothrop said the best bet for freshwater anglers fishing for coho salmon in the region might be the Snohomish and Skagit rivers, where abundant runs are expected to return this year. Other options for coho include the Nooksack, Skykomish, Snoqualmie, and Stillaguamish rivers.

Meanwhile, most areas of Puget Sound will close to recreational crab fishing at sunset on Labor Day. The only two areas of the Sound that will remain open to crab fishing after Labor Day are marine areas 7-North (Gulf of Georgia) and 7-South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham). Crabbing in those two areas is open through Sept. 30, Thursdays through Mondays only.

Sport fishers who crab in marine areas 7-North and 7-South after Labor Day must record their catch on winter catch record cards. Winter cards are now available at sporting goods stores and other license vendors across the state.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may also keep six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across, are in hard-shell condition and have a minimum carapace width of 5 inches. See WDFW's sport-crabbing website for more information.

Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by midnight Oct. 1 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2013 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2014 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed summer cards can be mailed in or submitted online after Labor Day. Additional information is available on WDFW’s website.

WDFW will announce winter crab seasons for Puget Sound in early October, after completing its assessment of the summer fishery.

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. Sammamish Lake’s larger neighbor, Lake Washington, opens Sept. 16 to coho fishing. Anglers will be allowed four coho per day (minimum size 12 inches) from waters north of the Highway 520 Bridge and east of the Montlake Bridge.

Hunting: In coming weeks, hunters have several options to consider as early hunting seasons open throughout September. Archery-only hunts for deer begin Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 27, while archery hunts for elk are open Sept. 3-27. Most Muzzleloader-only seasons for deer start Sept. 28, followed by the early muzzleloader hunt for elk that begins Oct. 5.

Meanwhile, bear hunts are under way in the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, which is open through Nov. 15, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington.

For those seeking forest grouse, the statewide hunting season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 31.

“Prospects for forest grouse are always a question mark because broods are so susceptible to even brief periods of bad weather,” said Chris Danilson, District 14 wildlife biologist for Skagit and Whatcom Counties.  “However, exceptionally warm and dry spring conditions this year may mean good production and should encourage hunters to take to the field.”

In lower elevations, areas with elderberry or other fruit bearing trees and shrubs are good spots to focus upon, especially along closed or abandoned forest roads, said Danilson. At higher elevations, conifer forests with open meadow and huckleberry patches generally attract sooty grouse.

September also offers opportunities to hunt dove, geese and band-tailed pigeons.  The dove hunt opens Sept. 1 and lasts through Sept. 30. In addition, an early Canada goose hunt is open Sept. 10-15 in Goose Management Areas 1, 2A, and 3, and Sept. 14-15 in Goose Management Areas 4 and 5. The band-tailed pigeon season runs Sept. 15-23.

Hunters under the age of 16 will have an opportunity to go afield for ducks, Canada geese, coots and pheasants during a special youth hunt Sept. 21-22. For those new to waterfowl hunting, WDFW has established the “Let’s Go Waterfowl Hunting" webpage to introduce the sport.

In eastern Washington, youth may also take quail, chukar and gray partridge during the two day season.  Youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult – at least 18 years old – who is not hunting. Game-farm produced pheasants will be released this fall on sites which are mapped on the Go Hunt website.  Nontoxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites.

Hunters 65 years or older will have an opportunity to go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 23-27. Western Washington hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Sept. 28.

Before going afield, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for details. WDFW has also recently posted hunting forecasts by county, district and region at the hunting prospects web page.

Black bear hunters can test their bear species identification skills through an interactive program on WDFW’s website. The program includes information on how to correctly identify black bears and grizzly bears.

Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal endangered species laws.
Wildlife viewing: Birdwatchers have an opportunity to do some birding in the Edmonds area during the Puget Sound Bird Fest Sept. 6-8. The festival is a celebration of birds and nature around Edmonds, including Edmonds Marsh and the waterfront. The event features guided walks, speakers, field trips and educational activities. For more information, visit the Puget Sound Bird Fest website.

Whale watchers should have several opportunities in September to spot orca whales in the San Juan Islands. The resident orcas are feasting on salmon runs now making their way along the shores of the islands. One of the best spots to view whales is from Lime Kiln State Park on the western shore of San Juan Island.

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

Fishing:  So far, salmon season 2013 has been very good in salt and freshwater around the region, and fisheries managers indicate that will continue in September.  Large numbers of chinook, coho, and pink salmon have entered or are entering fresh water, while other chrome-sided salmon remain in saltwater.

“Fishing should remain good through the end of the season in marine areas 1-4, especially for coho salmon,” said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “They grow rapidly in advance of their spawn and remain in saltwater a little longer than their cousins.”

Ocean salmon fisheries are currently scheduled to continue through Sept. 30 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport) and through Sept. 22 in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay).

Anglers are allowed to keep two chinook salmon per day as part of their two-salmon daily limit in all four ocean marine areas, and those fishing in marine areas 3 and 4 are also allowed two bonus pink salmon. All wild coho must be released in marine areas 1-4.

Milward reminds anglers to check for any rule changes at WDFW’s website.

Albacore tuna fishing typically peaks in September for these lightning-fast visitors to offshore waters. Tuna fishing was inconsistent in August, but began to stabilize and improve moving into September. No daily bag limit applies to albacore, so successful anglers often go home with large quantities of delicious tuna loins.

Closer to shore, black rockfish and lingcod fisheries have remained strong all summer in the four ocean marine areas. Rockfish are open year round in the ocean, and lingcod are available throughout September and into October.

Anglers will be allowed to catch salmon in Grays Harbor (Marine Area 2-2) for the second consecutive year after a five-year moratorium on fishing the large bay west of Aberdeen. The initial season runs Sept. 16-22, with a daily limit of three salmon, only one of which may be a chinook. Under an emergency rule, chinook retention will end Sept. 22 and all waters east of the Buoy 13 line will be closed to salmon fishing Sept. 23-28 to meet spawning goals for wild chinook. The salmon fishery will reopen Sept. 29 with a daily limit of three salmon, but anglers will be required to release all chinook.

Down the coast in Willapa Bay (Marine Area 2-1), salmon fishing is already under way, and early September is prime time for the bay’s large chinook. Coho show in strong numbers later in the month.

Up to six salmon may be retained in Willapa Bay, but only three adults may be kept. All wild chinook and chum salmon must be released. Anglers may fish Willapa Bay with two fishing rods so long as they have purchased a Two-Pole Endorsement.

In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, anglers fishing marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) have a two-salmon daily limit (plus two additional pink salmon), but must release chum, chinook and wild coho through Sept. 14. Regulations change in Marine Area 5 on Sept. 15, when anglers will be allowed to retain wild coho as part of their two-salmon daily limit. Fisheries managers expect salmon fishing to be very good in these waters throughout September.

Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) opportunities expand Sept. 1, when the area north of Ayrock Point opens with a daily limit of four coho salmon.  The area south of Ayrock Point has been open for salmon since July 1 with a daily limit of four salmon, two of which may be marked chinook. Anglers must release all wild chinook and chum salmon.  Hood Canal’s Skokomish River has been very popular for chinook salmon , and that action should carry well into September.  See current regulations on the stream here.

September often marks the peak of salmon fishing in the South Puget Sound. Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) should offer good opportunities to catch chinook, coho, and especially pink salmon. Anglers are allowed two salmon as their daily limit, plus a bonus of two pinks. In Marine Area 11, all wild chinook must be released, and in Marine Area 13 wild coho and wild chinook must be set free. 

Late-arriving pink salmon to the Nisqually River should offer some extraordinary fishing in the saltwater as these fish make their way to the river over the first couple weeks of September. Pink salmon are usually best as table fare when they are taken in saltwater, but don’t overlook the Nisqually River. Almost one million pinks are expected back to the small river north of Olympia, and the fish stay in good shape for several days as they enter freshwater. Be certain to check WDFW’s fishing regulations pamphlet before hitting the water.

Meanwhile, most areas of Puget Sound will close to recreational crabbing at sunset on Labor Day. The only two areas of the Sound that will remain open to crab fishing after Labor Day are marine areas 7-North (Gulf of Georgia) and 7-South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham). Crabbing in those two areas is open through Sept. 30, Thursdays through Mondays only.

Sport fishers who crab in marine areas 7-North and 7-South after Labor Day must record their catch on winter catch record cards. Winter cards are now available at sporting goods stores and other license vendors across the state.

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. Crabbers may also keep six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across, are in hard-shell condition and have a minimum carapace width of 5 inches. See WDFW's sport-crabbing website for more information.

Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct.1 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2013 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2014 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed summer cards can be mailed in or submitted online after Labor Day. Additional information is available on WDFW’s website.

WDFW will announce winter crab seasons for Puget Sound in early October, after completing its assessment of the summer fishery.

In freshwater, September marks the end of kokanee fishing for the season as the fish prepare to spawn, but cooler temperatures in September typically re-ignite the trout bite.  Check out lakes like Offut, Clear, Ward, Summit, Saint Clair, and many more lakes with strong trout populations in the region; see lake stocking information here.

Spiny rays like bass, panfish, and tiger musky also come alive as water temperatures cool, triggering their instinct to feed heavily to carry these warmwater fish through winter. For panfish and bass, try Kapowsin, Tanwax, Ohop, Summit, Long, Pattison, Black, Hicks, and Munn lakes. Munn is a selective fishery with excellent and overlooked bass and bluegill fishing.

Cowlitz River impoundment Mayfield Lake offers some of the state’s best tiger musky fishing and is also an overlooked gem for trout anglers.

Hunting:  September is a fishing month for most, but hunters are beginning to take the field in good numbers. Bowhunters will be chasing deer and elk for much of September, followed by muzzleloaders in late September. This is also a popular time to pursue black bears and forest grouse.

Relatively few hunters target cougars exclusively, but that season also starts Sept. 1 in a number of game management units (GMU) in the region.  Most cougar harvested are taken incidentally by deer and elk hunters who purchased cougar tags.

WDFW district wildlife biologists report annually on hunting prospects around the state.  This year’s detailed prospects are now available on WDFW’s website. In summary, forecasts for deer and elk hunting are very good for 2013, as are those for waterfowl hunting.  Forest grouse numbers are also expected to be strong this year due to excellent rearing conditions for chicks this spring.

Before heading out, hunters are advised to check local fire conditions and WDFW's Big Game rules pamphlet for regulations specific to each GMU. WDFW’s Go Hunt online mapping tool and annual Game Harvest Reports can also be helpful in determining which areas to hunt.

Wildlife viewing:  September and October offer 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.

Thankfully, most of our watchable wildlife steers well clear of roads and is available to view in their natural habitat. Salmon are pushing their way into streams across the region, and their numbers will increase throughout the month. Similarly, the animals that feed on salmon will be in evidence too: black bears, bald eagles, river otters, and a range of scavengers will be patrolling the region’s streams this September.

Songbirds, shore birds, and more will be moving down the coast in large numbers as their fall migration begins this month, and the International Coast Cleanup  (Sept. 21) provides motivation to hit the beach, help pick up, and spot migrating birds while doing some good work with other good people.  

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

More upriver fall chinook salmon are returning to the Columbia River than any time in the past 75 years, so Washington and Oregon fishery managers are expanding sport fishing options below Bonneville Dam beginning Sept. 13.

Scrapping a previous rule that would have closed the chinook fishery that day in a portion of the lower river, both states adopted new regulations that:

  • Allow anglers to continue fishing for chinook salmon through the end of the year in all areas of the mainstem Columbia River below Bonneville Dam open to salmon fishing.
  • Expand the area open to chinook retention by moving the lower boundary from Rocky Point 16 miles downstream to Buoy 10 near the mouth of the Columbia.
  • Allow anglers to catch and keep up to two adult chinook salmon per day as part of their catch limit below Bonneville Dam. Through Sept. 30, only hatchery chinook with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained downstream from the Lewis River.
  • Allow anglers aboard a vessel in the Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 bridge in Pasco to continue fishing until the daily limit of salmon/steelhead for all anglers aboard is achieved.

Guy Norman, southwest regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the new rules are designed to give anglers a chance to reap the benefits of a record-breaking salmon run, while continuing to provide protection for wild fish.

Based on the latest forecast, 664,000 to 835,000 upriver bright adult chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, well above the record of 420,000 fish set in 1987. On Sept. 7, more than 48,700 chinook from a variety of upriver stocks crowded up the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam, setting a new daily record. That record was broken two days later when 63,870 upriver chinook moved past the dam, followed by 56,044 the next day.

“This will be a fishing season to remember,” Norman said. “This year’s run of upriver fall chinook is through the roof, and a positive sign that regional efforts to rebuild this salmon population are making a difference. These new rules will increase fishing opportunity for anglers, while providing protection for the wild fish returning to the lower Columbia tributaries.”

The requirement that anglers release unmarked chinook below the Lewis River is specifically designed to protect wild chinook salmon now returning to tributaries of the lower Columbia, Norman said. Anglers fishing the big river are required to use barbless hooks to facilitate the release of fish that must be returned to the water.

Starting Oct. 1, anglers fishing that area may retain either marked or unmarked chinook after most of the wild tule chinook have moved out of the mainstem Columbia. 

“We might have already seen the peak of the run at Bonneville, but there still will be good fishing in the lower Columbia River during the weeks ahead,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. “Meanwhile, this year’s huge run is starting to show up in fisheries hundreds of miles upriver.”

Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam can retain two adult salmon, two adult steelhead or one of each as part of their daily limit. Fishing rules vary further upriver and anglers are encouraged to check WDFW’s Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet and Emergency Rule website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ for details.

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

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

On the Lewis River (including the North Fork), only hatchery chinook may be retained through September.  At Drano Lake, anglers may keep any coho (adipose fin clipped or not) throughout the season.

Meanwhile, anglers are still catching walleye above and below Bonneville Dam. Trout fishing is also still an option at a number of lowland lakes, including Swift and Merwin reservoirs on the Lewis system, where anglers can take advantage of increased catch limits for rainbow and kokanee. At Swift Reservoir, anglers must release all salmon larger than 15 inches in length and any bull trout or steelhead they intercept.  Also, anglers can keep 10 hatchery rainbows per day at Lake Scanewa on the Cowlitz River. 

For anglers who don't mind a hike, September is also a great time to head for the high wilderness lakes around Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens. Hymer recommends three such lakes – Goose, Council and Takhlakh – that all offer drive-in access.

“The mosquitoes should die down around the high mountain lakes after the first frost arrives,” Hymer said. “Sure, the fish are usually small, but the leaves are beginning to turn, the air is crisp and you can really experience the change of season.” 

Hunting: Early hunting seasons get under way this month for deer, elk, geese and a variety of other game birds. The early cougar season also starts Sept. 1 in a number of game management units (GMU) in the region.

As noted in WDFW’s 2013 Hunting Prospects report, the southwest region has some of the most productive hunting areas for deer and elk in the state. Spring storms appear to have taken a toll on elk populations in some parts of the region, although lowland and eastern areas did not see such heavy losses.  

The early archery season for black-tailed deer gets under way Sept. 1 in a variety of GMUs, followed by an early archery hunt for elk running Sept. 3-15. Muzzleloaders will then take to the field to hunt for deer Sept. 28-Oct. 6.

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.

Pat Miller, a WDFW wildlife biologist, noted that hunter access during early hunting seasons is often complicated by hot weather and fire access closures.  “If that occurs, hunters should consider going west to the Willapa 506 unit or to any of the units in the national forest,” he said. “These areas often stay open during times of high fire danger in the west slope of the Cascades.”

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.

Hunters who see elk with deformed hooves are encouraged to report their observations to WDFW. Those available to help the department facilitate access to elk hunting on Weyerhaeuser's St. Helens Tree Farm can learn how to go about it from a news release on WDFW’s website.

Other hunting seasons opening Sept. 1 include those for forest grouse, mourning dove and cottontail and snowshoe hare. The statewide season for band-tailed pigeon runs Sept. 15-23.

Goose hunting is open Sept. 1-15 in Goose Management Area 2B, and Sept. 10-15 in goose management areas 2A and 3. Hunters planning to hunt in areas 2A (Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties) or 2B (Pacific County) should check the special requirements for those hunts on page 20 of WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet.

This year's youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant, California quail, bobwhite and chukar is set for Sept. 21-22. To qualify, hunters must be younger than 16 and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting. No geese may be taken in goose management areas 2A or 2B during the youth hunt.

Hunters 65 years or older will have the opportunity to go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 23-27. The general statewide hunt for pheasants follows a day later, running Sept. 28 through Nov. 30.

WDFW land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors this month to take care not to spark a wildfire. A Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) burn ban is in effect through Sept. 30 on all forest lands under its jurisdiction (including WDFW lands). For more information, see DNR burn ban. 

Wildlife viewing: The Columbia River ecosystem and its primitive inhabitant, the sturgeon, will be honored in Vancouver on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the 17th Annual Sturgeon Festival. The free, one-day festival runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way.

The popular event, hosted by the City of Vancouver with participation by WDFW, includes a traveling reptile zoo and other fun and educational activities for all ages. But the main focus is on Columbia River sturgeon, a primitive fish that has not changed substantially since it emerged in the Jurassic period. Reaching up to 10 feet in length, some sturgeon live to be more than 100 years old.

Meanwhile, salmon and steelhead are on the move. A record 434,000 upriver bright fall chinook salmon are expected to pass through the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam this year, and many of them will make that journey this month. Thousands of coho and summer steelhead will be passing by the viewing windows at the dam too.

To get to the visitor center, 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.

In Battleground, a birder recently awoke to the peeping of hundreds of Swainson’s thrushes passing over his house one morning. As reported on the Tweeters website, he also counted 55 Vaux’s swifts, 45 violet-green swallows, 120 cedar waxwings, 12 warbling vireo and an assortment of other songbirds in his yard that day.

Another birder – this one on Mount Pleasant in Skamania County – reported seeing Townsend’s warblers, orange-crowned warblers, cedar waxwings, evening grosbeaks and a variety of flycatchers while sitting on his deck two days earlier. “I love this time of the year when southbound migrants sit down on the ridge we live on to feed and rest before crossing the Columbia River Gorge,” he wrote.

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

Fishing: The catch-and-keep season for hatchery steelhead on the Snake River has been open since mid-June, but angler effort is expected to grow this month as the run passing the Snake River dams increases.

In addition, for a third consecutive year, fishing for hatchery-marked fall chinook salmon starts Sept. 1 and is scheduled to run through Oct. 31, but could close earlier depending on harvest rates and run size.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) District Fish Biologist Glen Mendel says the steelhead run appears to be coming in weak this year. As of late August, the A-run of upriver summer steelhead was about 61 percent of the preseason forecast. The B-run steelhead passage was also tracking less than expected so far, but it is still early in the return timing for these fish. The steelhead season runs through March 31.

A large run of upriver bright hatchery fall chinook is expected to return to the Snake River, so anglers should have good opportunities, Mendel said.  An estimated return of about 40,000 adults and another 15,000-20,000 jacks are expected in the Snake River at Lower Granite Dam.  This is well above the annual returns to the Snake River in the past several decades and continues the upward trend for the past several years.

Up to three hatchery-marked steelhead (those with clipped adipose or ventral fins and a healed scar) can be retained daily. The salmon daily harvest limit in the Washington portion of the Snake River 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 is 12 inches.

Barbless hooks are required when fishing for steelhead or salmon. All wild steelhead and chinook, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, must be released immediately without removing them from the water. Once anglers have retained three hatchery steelhead, they must stop fishing for salmon and steelhead for the day, regardless of whether the salmon daily limit has been retained.

Mendel also reminds anglers to check their catch carefully, because coho salmon are also returning to the Snake River this time of year and those fish must be released.  Check the fishing pamphlet (page 96) on how to identify coho; one indicator is that chinook have a black gum line and coho have white.

On the Tucannon River, a tributary of the Snake, critically low levels of wild steelhead have prompted a change in the fishing rules, starting Sept. 1. An emergency rule change reduces area of the Tucannon River open to steelhead fishing as well as the daily catch limit and the length of the fishing season. Also under that rule, anglers are required to keep hatchery-marked steelhead they intercept.

This month is the last chance to fish several of the region’s best rainbow and/or cutthroat trout fishing lakes.  Closing Sept. 30 is West Medical and Williams lakes in southwest Spokane County, and Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County.
 
Fish Lake in Spokane County also provides anglers the unique opportunity to catch eastern brook trout until Sept. 30. Anglers are reminded that Amber Lake shifts to catch-and-release-only on Oct. 1.

WDFW Central District Fish Biologist Randy Osborne said that if conditions are right, September fishing at these lakes can almost rival the first weeks of the season in the spring.  “Air and water temperature changes during this month can trigger late summer/early fall insect hatches, which can equate to some pretty productive fishing conditions all month long,” he said.

Spokane County’s Downs Lake and Lincoln County’s Coffeepot Lake also close at the end of the month but can yield good catches of yellow perch, black crappie, and rainbow trout during September. Badger Lake in Spokane County, which also closes Sept. 30, has become infested with largemouth and smallmouth bass, and pumpkinseed sunfish, and Osborne encourages anglers to harvest limits of those fish that are of legal size (only largemouth less than 12 inches except one over 17 inches; only one smallmouth over 14 inches.)

Plenty of other lakes throughout the region remain open through October or are open year-round. Clear Lake, near the town of Medical Lake in Spokane County, typically produces good catches of brown trout, crappie, and largemouth bass as fall advances.  Lake Roosevelt and Sprague Lake both offer good-size rainbows. Stevens County’s Deer and Loon lakes continue to provide a variety of fish, from bass to kokanee.

The WDFW access site on the northeast shore of Sacheen Lake, 11 miles southwest of Newport along Highway 211 in Pend Oreille County, will be closed Sept. 9-30 to reconstruct the boat ramp. Sacheen Lake, which has rainbow, tiger, and eastern brook trout, remains open to fishing through Oct. 31.

Sept. 28 is the 40th annual National Hunting and Fishing Day and the 20th annual National Public Lands Day, both of which will be celebrated at WDFW’s Eastern Regional office grounds in Spokane Valley with an afternoon fair of local sportsmen clubs.  The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s “virtual reality” fishing and shooting booths and introductory information and demonstrations on fishing and hunting will be featured. For more information, contact WDFW Eastern Regional office at 509-892-1001.

This black bear was photographed on the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County with a remote motion-activated camera.
This black bear was photographed on the Sherman
Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County with a remote
motion-activated camera.

Hunting:  The first hunting seasons in the region open Sept. 1, including black bear in the Northeastern and Blue Mountains hunt zones, early archery deer in select Game Management Units (GMUs), and mourning dove, forest grouse, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare, raccoon, fox, and bobcat throughout the region.   

The northeastern zone (GMUS 101-121) typically provides the highest black bear harvest in the state, and WDFW Northeast District Wildlife Biologist Dana Base expects “ample opportunities” again this year. Bear hunters in these units, however, could encounter grizzly bears, which are both state and federally protected. Base advises hunters to take the online bear species identification test before going afield.

Deer hunting prospects for both white-tailed and mule deer are relatively good throughout the region, with more whitetails in the northeast and central districts and more mule deer in the southeast district. Bowhunters after white-tailed deer in GMUs 117 and 121 should note that the four-antler-point minimum rule continues this year. Other early archery units for both species of deer are under three-antler-point minimums or antlerless. Only whitetails in GMUs 101, 105, 108, 111 and 113 are open to any buck.  GMU 124 (Mount Spokane) is the only early archery unit open to the taking of any white-tailed deer.

The best opportunities for mourning dove hunting are usually in the southeast district near the Snake, Touchet and Walla Walla rivers where birds tend to be more abundant until cooler weather moves them south.

Wherever hunters pursue doves, keying in on grain crop fields near water is the best bet. WDFW biologists recommend hunters look into private lands access through several WDFW agreement programs – Feel Free to Hunt, Register to Hunt, Hunting by Written Permission, and Hunt by Reservation – all detailed at Private Lands Access.

Forest grouse – blue (dusky), ruffed and spruce grouse, depending on elevation – should be in fair numbers in the forested lands in the northeast and southeast districts of the region. Biologists note that spring precipitation and temperatures this year provided “reasonable” conditions for good brood survival.  Although much grouse hunting occurs on public forest lands, some opportunities might be available on northeast private lands newly enrolled this year in the Hunt by Reservation program. See details at Private Lands Access.

Also opening Sept. 1 is the cougar hunting season in many GMUs across the region, each with harvest guidelines. The northeast district had the highest harvest of cougars in the state last year (24), when the harvest guideline system began, and biologists expect similar opportunity this year. The use of hounds to hunt cougars remains prohibited, except during authorized public safety cougar removals. Cougar hunters should check the details in the big game rules pamphlet.   

Early archery elk hunting begins Sept. 3 in select GMUs. The northeast and central district units are open to any elk, and the southeast district units are open either for spike bulls only, or spike bulls or antlerless elk. Most elk harvest by all hunter groups (archery, muzzleloader, modern firearm) in this region is in the southeast district (Blue Mountains), where herds are found predominantly in or near public forested lands. WDFW Southeast District Wildlife Biologist Paul Wik notes that small herds are located throughout the Blues, although the rugged country can make for a tough hunt. Blue Mountains elk numbers are stable at about 5,000 head, with calf numbers increasing and yearling bull survival high. 

Some special permit opportunities on both elk and deer for limited numbers of successful applicants also get under way at various times this month in select GMUs.
Early fall wild turkey hunting runs Sept. 21-Oct. 11 and the big birds are again relatively abundant throughout the region.  In most of the region’s GMUs (101, 124-154, and 162-189) one either-sex turkey can be taken. A northeast beardless-only turkey hunting season also opens Sept. 21 in GMUs 105-142, where two beardless turkeys can be taken. Several opportunities are available on northeast private lands newly enrolled this year in the Hunt by Reservation program. See details at Private Lands Access.

Sept. 21-22 is the special youth only waterfowl and upland game bird hunting season, which gives hunters under 16 years of age a jump start on the general seasons that open later this fall. Non-hunting adults at least 18 years of age must accompany young hunters. Check WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet for details.

A special pheasant hunting opportunity for hunters 65 years of age or older continues this year Sept. 23-27. WDFW Central District Wildlife Biologist Howard Ferguson reports pheasant counts were slightly lower this year but spring weather was good at the right time and there should be good production. Several opportunities to hunt upland game birds on private property in the central and southeast districts may be available through this year’s new Hunt by Reservation program. See details at Private Lands Access.

Both youth and senior hunters will want to check out information on the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program bird release sites. 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. 

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

Coyote hunting is open year-round, but participation increases in the fall, both incidental to other hunting and with cooler conditions. The eastern region now has seven confirmed and two suspected packs of wolves, which are protected as a state endangered species. Coyote hunters are reminded to be sure of identification; check out information online about recognizing wolves.  

Wherever hunters of any kind go this fall, WDFW officials ask for care and caution with any potential fire-starting activity. Due to dry conditions, forested wildlife areas that are protected by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) remain under campfire bans and other restrictions through the month of September; see DNR’s Fire Information and Prevention information.

Sept. 28 is the 40th annual National Hunting and Fishing Day and the 20th annual National Public Lands Day, both of which will be celebrated at WDFW’s Eastern Regional office grounds in Spokane Valley with an afternoon fair of local sportsmen clubs.  The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s “virtual reality” fishing and shooting booths and introductory information and demonstrations on fishing and hunting will be featured. For more information, contact WDFW Eastern Regional office at 509-892-1001.

Wildlife viewing: Songbirds of many species continue to gather into migrating groups, most noticeable in riparian or streamside area treetops and along power lines. Some, including warblers, wrens, vireos, swallows, sparrows, flycatchers and hummingbirds, may have already left the region for more abundant food in southern climates.

Shorebirds, including curlews, plovers, and sandpipers, are also migrating south this month. Some were summer visitors here that are returning to winter homes, others summered further north in Canada and simply make resting and feeding stopovers in the region. WDFW’s Reardan Audubon Lake Wildlife Area, just outside the town of Reardan in Lincoln County, west of Spokane, is a good spot to look for traveling shorebirds now.

Some raptors, or birds of prey, are also on the move. Ferruginous and Swainson’s hawks that summer in parts of the region are migrating south. Some red-tailed, sharp-shinned, and Cooper’s hawks that summer further north are moving into or through the region.

Coyotes are dispersing from family groups that serenaded many summer nights. As these young “song dogs” find their way in the world as solitary hunters, remember to keep small pets and their food secure to avoid attracting problems with overly bold and hungry coyotes.

September is breeding time for moose, and bulls can be expected to be a little more aggressive than usual.  WDFW Wildlife Biologist Woody Myers advises giving moose a wide berth and enjoying them only from a distance.

Now is the time to hike into elk country – the Blue Mountains to the south or the Selkirks to the north – to hear roaring bulls. Bull elk should be into pre-rut activities, which include their unique bugling, creating wallows and gathering harems of cows. The peak of the rut is about the third week of September, but a lot of bugling and displaying occurs before then. 

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

Fishing: The upper Wenatchee River, from the confluence with Peshastin Creek (above Dryden Dam) to the Highway 2 Bridge at Leavenworth, opens Sept. 1 for hatchery chinook salmon fishing. The daily catch limit is four, of which only two can be adult fish (24 inches or more). Selective gear rules and a night closure are in effect. Some of the best opportunities should be near Leavenworth.

Columbia River fisheries in the region are still open, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Regional Fish Program Manager Jeff Korth says there should be some summer chinook salmon milling around the mouth of the Chelan River.

In response to strong returns of fall chinook salmon to the Columbia River, state fishery managers will allow anglers to catch and keep up to two legal-size adult fish – regardless of whether their adipose fins are clipped or not – through Oct. 15 from Wanapum Dam to Rock Island Dam. For more information, see the Fishing Rule Change notice on the WDFW website.

During the month of September, fishing for resident rainbow trout and cutthroat trout up to 16 inches can be good in the Methow River, said Okanogan District Fish Biologist Bob Jateff, who reminds anglers that this fishery is under catch-and-release and no-bait-allowed rules.

“Remember, too, that the lower section of the Methow, from Lower Burma Road Bridge upstream to Gold Creek, will close on Sept. 15,” Jateff said. “The remaining area, from Gold Creek upstream to Foghorn Dam near Winthrop, is scheduled to close on Sept. 30.  Anglers should not target steelhead during September on the Methow River, because that can lead to early closures for this very popular catch and release trout fishery.”

Jateff also notes that as lake temperatures cool a bit this month, other fishing waters can be good for trout when the fish become more active.  These include Big Twin Lake near Winthrop, Blue Lake on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, and Chopaka Lake near Loomis.

“For the warmwater angler, lakes such as Leader, Patterson, and Palmer can provide good opportunities for yellow perch, crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass,” Jateff said.

Starting Sept. 1, Davis, Campbell, and Cougar lakes, all near Winthrop, shift from a catch-and-release to a catch-and-keep season on trout.  The daily catch limit is five fish, and bait is allowed.  Jateff reminds anglers who use bait that the first five fish caught count towards the daily limit whether kept or released.

Hunting:  Sept. 1 is the opener for early archery white-tailed and mule deer hunting in select northcentral (200-series) Game Management Units (GMUs), as well as seasons for forest grouse, mourning dove, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare, raccoon, fox, and bobcat throughout the region.
  
In the Columbia Basin, where mule deer are the more abundant species, WDFW District Wildlife Biologist Rich Finger said numbers increase as fall advances, since mule deer migrate into the district’s shrub-steppe and agricultural lands. Early season archers can expect success rates similar to last year. In GMU 272 (Beezley) that was about 20 percent and in GMU 284 (Ritzville) it was about 32 percent. Finger notes that the Beezly unit includes 53,000 acres of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex, most of which is open to hunting.  The Ritzville unit, on the other hand, is dominated by private property, so archers need to have permission to hunt.

The Okanogan district has the largest migratory mule deer herd in the state, and hunting prospects look good, with three consecutive years of good fawn production. “Summer forage conditions appear favorable, so deer should be in good physical condition,” said Okanogan District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin. Archers will have the first opportunity at a population that has a moderate number of younger bucks and the best number of older age class bucks in years. But during this early season, deer will be widely distributed on the landscape and not yet concentrated in migration or winter areas, Fitkin said. Mature bucks in particular will be at high elevations in remote locations as long as succulent vegetation is available.

Deer hunting opportunities should be good again in the Chelan district, said Dave Volsen, WDFW district wildlife biologist. “Our post season management goal of a minimum of 25 bucks per 100 does was met in all our survey areas, along with a high ratio of adult bucks in the population,” he said.

Volsen says that as early as mid-September, deer start responding to changes in vegetation by moving downward in elevation and occupying north facing slopes where conditions are cooler and wetter, and forage is better. 

Forest grouse hunting is usually productive in both the Okanogan and Chelan districts with populations of ruffed, dusky (blue) and spruce grouse in forested areas.  Biologist Fitkin says forest grouse prospects should be good and similar to last year, with best bets on Forest Service lands and on WDFW’s Sinlahekin and Methow Wildlife Areas.

Volsen suggests grouse hunters improve their chances by seeking out areas where fewer hunters concentrate. “Chelan County has a relatively limited road system within grouse habitat, so hunters can increase their chances by hunting areas on foot, away from roads and most other hunters,” he said.

Mourning dove hunting is best in the Columbia Basin but biologist Finger reminds hunters it’s highly dependent on weather conditions.  “Unstable conditions often redistribute birds significantly,” he said. “Hunters may improve their success by securing access to wheat fields for the morning hunt and traditional roosting areas, like large stands of trees near water and agricultural fields, for the evening hunt.”  Roost-site hunting can be found on the north and west sides of Potholes Reservoir, the east side of Winchester Lake, and throughout the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area.

Black bear hunting season in some parts of the region has been under way since the first of August. The Okanogan hunt zone opened in mid-August, notes Fitkin, but this monthhuckleberries should be ripening at higher elevations in the western portion of the district. That’s where successful bear hunters will concentrate their efforts, he said.

The modern firearm and muzzleloader high buck hunting season runs Sept. 15-25 and includes the region’s wilderness areas. Fitkin said the Pasayten Wilderness should offer good mule deer buck harvest opportunities.

Sept. 21-22 is the special youth only waterfowl and upland game bird hunting season, which gives hunters under 16 years of age a jump start on the general seasons that open later this fall. Non-hunting adults at least 18 years of age must accompany young hunters. Check WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet for details.

Although the Columbia Basin – specifically Grant County – is the top ranked area in the state for harvest of ducks and geese, biologist Finger reminds waterfowlers that success during the early youth hunt is usually dependent on resident birds. Most of the best waterfowl hunting comes later in the general season with migrant birds coming in from the north.

A special pheasant hunting opportunity for hunters 65 years of age or older is Sept. 23-27. Grant County is usually the state’s top pheasant producer, and Finger notes about 74 percent of the harvest is wild birds, many on WDFW wildlife areas in the Columbia Basin. Still, both youth and senior hunters may want to check out information on the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program bird release sites. Non-toxic shot is required for upland bird hunting on all pheasant release sites statewide to protect other wildlife species including waterfowl and raptors. 

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

Coyote hunting is open year-round, but participation increases in the fall, both incidental to other hunting and with cooler conditions. The northcentral region now has three confirmed packs of wolves, which are protected as a state and federal endangered species. Coyote hunters are reminded to be sure of identification; check WDFW’s website for information on recognizing wolves.  

Wherever hunters go this fall, WDFW officials ask for care and caution with any potential fire-starting activity. Due to dry conditions, forested wildlife areas that are protected by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) remain under campfire bans and other restrictions through the month of September. See DNR’s Fire Information and Prevention webpage.

2013 Wenatchee River Salmon Festiva
Stormi O’Keefe, a third grade student from John Newbery
Elementary School in Wenatchee, created this winning
entry for the 2013 Wenatchee River Salmon Festival.

Wildlife viewing:September is the month for raptor viewing at Chelan Ridge, where a variety of hawks and other migrating birds of prey use the area’s thermals to move from summering to wintering areas. The most commonly seen species are the sharp-shinned hawk, red-tailed hawk, Cooper's hawk, northern harrier, golden eagle, and American kestrel. Hawk Watch International, in cooperation with natural resource management agencies and the Northcentral Washington Audubon Society, is hosting its fourth annual Chelan Ridge Hawk Migration Festival on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. WDFW Okanogan District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin highly recommends the festival, or just visiting the daily raptor banding station at Chelan Ridge to get an up close view of these beautiful birds.  Although the festival is free, registration reserves space on tour shuttles and other activities.

The 23rd annual, multi-award-winning Wenatchee River Salmon Festivalthis year with a “Spirit of the Salmon” theme – is Sept.19-21. The first two days are dedicated to school groups, although other visitors are welcome, while the Saturday festival is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival mission is to provide high quality natural resource education, promote outdoor recreation, and share the cultural significance of salmon to the people of the Northwest. It’s hosted by and headquartered at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in Leavenworth. Co-hosts include the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests and the Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD).

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

Fishing: The cooler weather of September signals a transition from the blazing southcentral Washington summer to cooler autumn temperatures that spur fish and wildlife activity across the region.  Big game become more active, bass bite better, and salmon and steelhead shoot upstream to spawn.

This year, a whole lot of salmon are shooting upstream.

According to the preseason forecast, 678,000 fall chinook salmon will enter the Columbia River this year, and about two-thirds of them will keep moving past Bonneville Dam on route to the mid-Columbia and Snake Rivers.

In response, state fishery managers are expanding fishing opportunities on both rivers. Under new rules effective Sept. 21-Oct. 31 on the Columbia River:

  • The salmon fishery season is extended between the Hwy. 395 Bridge and the Old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers.
  • The daily limit is six salmon, including up to three adult salmon. Once the daily limit of adult salmon is retained, anglers may not continue to fish for any species for the remainder of the day.
  • Fishing for salmon with two poles is permitted from the Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco to Priest Rapids Dam if the angler possesses a two-pole license endorsement.

Through Oct. 22, the Priest Rapids Hatchery discharge channel, commonly referred to as Jackson/Moran Creek, will be open to boat angling only. Boat anglers are not allowed to fish in the hatchery discharge channel, but may fish in the Columbia River adjacent to the channel. The shoreline within the normal closed area boundary will remain closed to bank angling for safety and security of the hatchery.

For more information about these rule changes, see the WDFW website.
 
On the Snake River, where fishery managers are now expecting a return of 50,000 upriver bright chinook, the fishery has been extended to include the lower river from the mouth to the Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco and that portion of the Columbia River defined as the Snake River Confluence Protection Area. The limit is three adult hatchery chinook, plus six hatchery jack chinook under 24 inches in length.

Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers and cannot remove any chinook or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are advised to check the sportfishing rulespamphlet and emergency rules for all waters before heading out.

The Yakima River opened for salmon fishing Sept. 1 from the Columbia River upstream to Prosser Dam, although the area around the Chandler Powerhouse will remain closed, as in previous years. “Most fish move into the Yakima after water temperatures drop to a comfortable level, usually sometime in late September or early October.” Most of the Yakima’s chinook hold in the cooler Columbia before their run up their natal river.

The Snake River also opens Sept. 1 for hatchery fall chinook. State fishery managers predict another strong return of upriver bright chinook salmon to the Snake this year and have again set the daily catch limit to include three adult hatchery chinook, plus six hatchery jack chinook under 24 inches in length. The Snake River is open from the Highway 12 bridge near Tri-Cities upstream to the Oregon state line above Heller Bar, and only hatchery (adipose-clipped) chinook can be harvested.

Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers and cannot remove any chinook or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit. Anglers are advised to check the sportfishing rulespamphlet and emergency rules for all waters before heading out.

Anglers have also been catching some hatchery steelhead both above and below McNary Dam, and the harvest should pick up throughout the month, said Hoffarth. For a second year, steelhead appear to be returning in numbers well below pre-season estimates, but enough fish have entered the river system to meet conservation objectives and provide good fishing opportunities throughout the season.

September is sometimes slow for these ocean-going rainbow trout due to warm water temperatures, especially in the Snake River, but anglers have success fishing very early in the morning, at dusk, and in the dark of night. Shrimp fished under lighted bobbers and trolled lighted plugs account for most of the fish at night, and the same offerings along with spinners and traditional plugs take fish during daylight hours.

Anglers can retain two hatchery steelhead per day in the Columbia River and three hatchery steelhead per day in the Snake River. Hatchery fish must measure 20 inches and are identifiable by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar.

“WDFW is expecting several thousand steelhead to return to Ringold-Meseberg Hatchery this fall, but steelhead fishing in the Columbia River above the Highway 395 Bridge at Kennewick is not scheduled to open until Oct. 1.” Hoffarth indicates an early opening is unlikely this year due to lagging steelhead returns.

Walleye will also garner attention from the region’s anglers this September. These toothy fish are considered by many to be the best table fare, and they bite aggressively in September and throughout much of the fall in anticipation of leaner months ahead.  The Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam is one of the region’s best walleye fisheries, as is the Columbia River below McNary Dam.

Good walleye fishing can be found almost anywhere on the big river, but the stretch from McNary downstream to Crow Butte is considered by many to be Washington’s crown jewel walleye fishery for large fish.  Popular tactics include trolling worm harnesses and spinners behind bottom-bouncing sinkers, trolling deep-diving plugs, and jigging blade baits or plastic baits on jig heads.

Smallmouth bass share habitat with walleye and sometimes spend the summer even deeper than their toothy neighbors, as deep as 50 feet. They move in shallower as waters cool and food sources come available. Fishing tends to improve for these hard-fighters in September and carries on through October until cold water sends them back to great depths to spend the winter.

Sturgeon fishing is restricted to catch and release in most areas of the Columbia River, including Lake Wallula and Lake Umatilla.

Meanwhile, in the White Pass and Yakima areas, fishing picks up again in September for rainbow and cutthroat trout as water temperatures become more favorable in the lakes and streams in the northern part of the region. Leech, Dog, and Clear lakes near White Pass offer great access, stunning scenery, and good opportunities to catch trout.

Popular moving-water trout fishing destinations include the Yakima, Naches, Little Naches, Teanaway, and Bumping rivers, as well as Taneum, Naneum, and Manashtash creeks. Most rivers and creeks have special regulations like selective gear rules that prohibit bait. Anglers should check the regulation pamphlet for all details.

Hunting: WDFW district wildlife biologists report annually on hunting prospects around the state.  This year’s detailed prospects are now available on WDFW’s website.  In summary, forecasts for deer and elk hunting are good for 2013, as are those for waterfowl hunting. Forest grouse numbers are also expected to be strong this year due to good rearing conditions for chicks this spring.

September is a fishing month for many, but hunters are beginning to take the field. Bowhunters will be chasing deer and elk for much of September, followed by muzzleloaders in late September. Archery deer gets under way Sept. 1, elk Sept. 3. Early muzzleloader deer season opens Sept. 28.

Relatively few hunters target cougars exclusively, but that season also starts Sept. 1 in a number of game management units (GMU) in the region. Most cougar harvested are taken incidentally by deer and elk hunters who purchased cougar tags.

Upland bird prospects are also good after a mostly dry June, the critical nesting period for pheasants, partridge, and quail. Heavy rains and cold temperatures in June were a detriment over the last several years, but June 2013 rains didn’t come until late in the month and weren’t accompanied by cold temperatures. 

Hunters and wildlife managers alike are crossing their fingers for good nesting results and for the possibility of a second hatch. Youth hunters will get the first glimpse at upland bird numbers with shotgun in hand when a youth-only upland bird season runs Sept. 21-22.  Hunters 65 years or older also get an early opportunity from Sept. 23-27.

Mourning dove season runs from Sept. 1-30. Wherever hunters pursue doves, keying in on grain crop fields near water is the best bet. WDFW biologists recommend hunters look into private lands access through several WDFW agreement programs – Feel Free to Hunt, Register to Hunt, Hunting by Written Permission, and Hunt by Reservation – all detailed at Private Lands Access.

September is also a popular time to for hunters to take to the woods in search of black bears and forest grouse. By Sept. 1, all of the region’s black bear hunt zones are open, and forest grouse opens statewide Sept. 1. 

Before heading out, hunters are advised to check WDFW's Big Game rules pamphlet for regulations specific to each GMU. WDFW’s Go Hunt online mapping tool and annual Game Harvest Reports can also be helpful in determining which areas to hunt.

Wherever hunters of any kind go this fall, WDFW officials ask for care and caution with any potential fire-starting activity. Due to dry conditions, forested wildlife areas that are protected by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) remain under campfire bans and other restrictions through the month of September; see DNR’s Fire Information and Prevention information.

Wildlife Viewing: September and October offer 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, coyotes, 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.

Thankfully, most of our watchable wildlife steers well clear of roads and is available to view in their natural habitat.

Songbirds of many species continue to gather into migrating groups around the region, most noticeably in riparian or streamside area treetops and along power lines. Some, including warblers, wrens, vireos, swallows, sparrows, flycatchers and hummingbirds, may have already left the region for more abundant food in southern climates.

Shorebirds, including curlews, plovers, and sandpipers, are also migrating south this month. Some were summer visitors here that are returning to winter homes, others summered further north in Canada and simply make resting and feeding stopovers in the region.

Some raptors are also on the move. Ferruginous and Swainson’s hawks that summer in parts of the region are migrating south. Some red-tailed, sharp-shinned, and Cooper’s hawks that summer further north are moving into or through the region.

Coyotes are dispersing from family groups that serenaded many summer nights. As these young “song dogs” find their way in the world as solitary hunters, remember to keep small pets and their food secure to avoid attracting problems with overly bold and hungry coyotes.

Now is the time to visit elk country to hear their unique bugling. The peak of the rut is about the third week of September, but a lot of bugling and displaying occurs before then.