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

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May 2014

(This document is updated periodically throughout the month to reflect current rules and opportunities. Please download the latest copy before heading out! Last updated May 16, 2014)

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

Add shrimp, halibut to your catch
of trout, chinook salmon in May

Trout fishing is off and running at hundreds of lakes across the state, as spring chinook salmon continue to push into fishing areas higher and higher up the Columbia River Basin. In marine waters, fishing seasons for spot shrimp and halibut are set to open on various dates this month, when more razor-clam digs will be scheduled on coastal beaches.

With new fishing opportunities opening throughout the state, May is a great time to go fishing, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“If you like to fish, now is the time to go,” Hymer said. “Spring has finally sprung, and so has the number of different fishing opportunities available in May around the state.”

Details about those fisheries – as well as hunting and other outdoor activities available this month – are available for each region of the state on WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month for changes in fishing rules and other developments.

While every fishery has its fans, none draw bigger crowds than the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, which opened statewide on the last Saturday in April. Several hundred thousand anglers traditionally turn out for that event and most continue to fish for trout during the six-month season.

Catch rates at more than 100 Washington lakes on opening day are posted on WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/2014_lake_opener.

To prepare for that day, WDFW planted more than 2 million trout ranging from 11-inch “catchables” to 11-pound lunkers. Now the tanker trucks are rolling again, delivering more fish to Washington lakes.

“We stock lakes with trout for the whole season, not just opening day,” said Chris Donley, WDFW Inland Fish Program manager. “Trout fishing should be highly productive in lowland lakes through June, and then again in September. In higher-elevation lakes, fishing should be good right through the summer.”

For most anglers, a valid 2014-15 fishing license is required to fish in Washington state. The exception is young people under age 15, who fish for free.

Licenses are avaiIable online (fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/), by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state. A list of license vendors is available at wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/ and from local WDFW offices.

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

Fishing:  The lowland lakes fishing season is officially under way and anglers can expect to reel in some nice-size fish in May, and in months to come. Fisheries for spot shrimp and halibut also open his month in marine waters throughout the region.

Under statewide rules, anglers have a daily limit of five trout on most lakes. Released legal-sized trout, caught with bait, count toward the daily bag limit. Complete information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website.

The department is adding more trout this month to several of the region’s lakes, including Cranberry Lake in Island County; Desire, Green, Haller, Holm, Meridian, Morton, Shadow and Spring lakes in King County; Mountain Lake in San Juan County; Pass and Vogler lakes in Skagit County; Ballinger, Blackmans, Shoecraft and Gissburg Ponds in Snohomish County; and Squalicum and Terrell lakes in Whatcom County.

Justin Spinelli, a fish biologist for WDFW recommends trolling slowly near the surface with small spoons or flies. “This can be done on Washington lakes from float tubes, boats, kayaks or canoes. Anglers fishing trout from stationary boats or shoreline can be successful using bait or imitation flies under a bobber or by casting and retrieving small lures.”

Most Western Washington lowland lakes that opened for trout in late April also have a largemouth bass and panfish (yellow perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, or bluegill) fishery, said Danny Garrett, fish biologist. 

“This is an excellent time to target these species as they move onshore to feed and spawn,” adds Garrett. “Anglers who seek giant largemouth and smallmouth bass have their best success during the month of May when egg-laden females are at their heaviest and hungriest, improving the bite.”

For more tips, anglers should check online. WDFW has been working to expand Internet-based resources to suit anglers of all skill levels, said Chris Donley, WDFW inland fish program manager. Donley encourages anglers to visit the "Fish Washington" feature at the department's homepage for details on lake fishing opportunities.

For example, the map-based webpage includes fishing information by county, lake and fish species throughout the state. In addition, the department's YouTube page includes "how to" fishing videos designed to introduce techniques for both new and seasoned anglers.  And, for those planning fishing vacations this spring or summer, Donley recommends Great Washington Getaways, another WDFW homepage feature that showcases some of the state's best family travel and fishing opportunities.

Prefer shellfish? The popular spot shrimp season opens May 3 in Puget Sound.  Also known as prawns, spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound and may grow up to nine inches in length.
Puget Sound opening days are as follows:

  • Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 3, 7, 10 and 21.
  • Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 3, 7, 10 and 21.
  • Marine Areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding Discovery Bay Shrimp District): Open daily beginning May 3. The sport spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first. The exception is Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
  • Marine Area 7 East, South and West: Open May 3 for a one-day fishery and will reopen May 7-10, May 21-24 and May 28-31. In Marine Area 7 West only, the season will be open daily beginning June 1 until the quota is reached or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.
  • Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 10: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 3 and May 7.  Areas 8-1 and 8-2 will reopen from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 21.
  • Marine Area 11: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 3, 7 and 10.

In marine areas 4, 5, 6, 7 (East, South and West) and 13, start times will be one hour before sunrise.

Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains after the initial fishing days scheduled above. For the latest information on sport shrimp seasons, or for a description of marine areas, visit WDFW’s Recreational Shrimp Fishing website.

In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. A valid 2014-15 fishing license – including shellfish – is required to participate in the fishery.
Saltwater anglers can also reel in halibut this month. Several areas of Puget Sound will open for the big flatfish in early May, including the following:

  • Marine Area 5: The fishery will be open Thursday through Sunday, May 22-25, for Memorial Day weekend. The fishery will open again May 29-31 and will be open one final day on Saturday, June 7.
  • Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: The fishery will be open May 9 and 10 and May 17. The fishery will be open Thursday through Sunday, May 22-25, for Memorial Day weekend. The fishery will open again May 29-31 and will be open one final day on Saturday, June 7.
  • Marine Areas 11, 12, 13: These areas will remain closed to halibut fishing this year to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.

Puget Sound recreational halibut anglers this year will be allowed to keep lingcod and Pacific cod caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet. This applies only in areas where retention is allowed for Pacific cod and lingcod and only when halibut fishing is open in each of the Puget Sound marine areas.

Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for WDFW, reminds anglers that there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction for halibut. Anglers may possess a maximum of two fish in any form and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card. 

Reed also encourages anglers to use a descending device to release unwanted or prohibited rockfish.   Using a descending device to return rockfish back to the depth of capture, or at least 60 feet, greatly improves their chance of survival.  

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season continues through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington (see pamphlet for area restrictions on bag limits in eastern Washington) and one bird in western Washington. For more information and license fees, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphletonline.

Hunters looking ahead to fall have through May 22 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and necessary hunting licenses for each species they wish to hunt and then submit that application. WDFW will select permit winners through a random drawing in late June.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s Special Hunt webpage, and may be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Complete instructions for applying are described on pages 86-87 of the 2014 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing:  Want to know more about wildlife close to home? If so, visit the annual Backyard Wildlife Festival in Tukwila. The free event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 10, at the Tukwila Community Center. Activities for both kids and adults include presentations by local experts on gardening and landscaping to support wildlife habitat. For more information, check the wildlife festival website.

International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of May in the U.S. and Canada (May 10 this year) to bring public attention to bird migration, one of the most spectacular events in the Americas. Many Americans celebrate the event by organizing a bird count and adding their observations to a growing pool of scientific data.

This year’s celebration theme is “Why Birds Matter” to the earth and its ecosystems, and to people. Some bird species provide practical solutions to problems, such as insect and rodent control. Others disperse seeds, helping to re-vegetate disturbed areas. Others are pollinators, sustaining flowering plants, trees and shrubs and the other species that depend upon them.

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

Fishing:  May ushers in an array of fishing opportunities, including the popular shrimp season in Puget Sound and openings for halibut and hatchery salmon in various marine waters. Migrating whales and birds are also on display as the annual pageant of spring continues.

Salmon season starts in May in Washington’s ocean waters. Anglers can fish for hatchery chinook in Marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) during two short openings, May 16 and 17, and May 23 and 24. These same marine areas will be open daily May 31 through June 13.

In south Puget Sound (Marine Area 13), anglers who have a two-pole endorsement will be able to fish for blackmouth salmon with two poles beginning May 1. The area has a limit of two salmon daily beginning May 1, but anglers must release wild chinook.

Anglers support the blackmouth chinook fishery through their license purchase, a portion of which goes to the Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Fund. The fund currently supports a variety of recreational fishing opportunities through the release of more than one million yearling and almost nine million sub-yearling chinook each year.

Saltwater anglers this month can reel in halibut along the coast or in several areas of the Puget Sound. Specific dates for each area can be found online. Anglers should note that most of Marine Area 2 will close May 19. Additional details on that closure can be found in the fishing rule change.

On the coast, halibut anglers should take note of a few new opportunities, said Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Near the mouth of the Columbia River, anglers will have four days per week – up from three in 2013 – to fish for halibut.

“We also have a new nearshore fishery in Marine Area 1, where anglers can keep both halibut and bottomfish onboard when the fishery is open,” Reed said.

The coordinates for the new fishery are available on WDFW’s halibut webpage.

In Puget Sound, recreational halibut anglers will be able to keep lingcod and Pacific cod caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet. This applies only in areas where retention is allowed for Pacific cod and lingcod, and only when halibut fishing is open in each of the Puget Sound marine areas.

Reed reminds anglers that there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction for halibut. Anglers may possess a maximum of two fish in any form and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.

Reed also encourages anglers to use as descending device to release unwanted or prohibited rockfish. Using a descending device to return rockfish back to the depth of capture – or at least 60 feet – greatly improves their chance of survival.  

Anglers also will have more areas in which to fish for lingcod. The season opens May 1 for hook and line fishing and May 15 to spearfishing for lingcod in Marine areas 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13. Fishing for cabezon opens May 1 in those same areas.

Meanwhile, anglers are reminded that wild steelhead season closed April 16 on the Hoh, Queets, Clearwater, and Quinault rivers, and closes May 1 on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Dickey, Quillayute, and Sol Duc rivers. However, they may retain daily two hatchery steelhead on the Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers.

The Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers are open for salmon fishing as well. Anglers can keep six fish daily, including two adults, but must release wild adult chinook and wild adult coho.

Sections of the Chehalis River are open for salmon fishing in May with a one-fish daily limit. Anglers should check the new sport fishing rules pamphlet for details.

Trout are biting at dozens of lakes throughout the region. North coast freshwater anglers should try Wentworth Lake, north of Forks, said Mike Gross, WDFW district fish biologist. “We planted trout there recently and will plant more fish in Wentworth Lake in May and June,” he said.

On May 21, WDFW will plant 600 trout, which are 10 to 14 inches in length, into Cases Pond, said Mike Scharpf, WDFW fish biologist. The pond, located east of the town of Raymond on Hwy 6 in Pacific County, is open for children 14 years and younger. Information on stocking schedules for trout is available on WDFW's website.

Looking to fill a shrimp pot? Puget Sound’s recreational shrimp season opens May 3. Also known as prawns, spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound. In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. Check WDFW’s recreational shrimp fishing webpage for details.

To celebrate the annual shrimp season, the town of Brinnon on Hood Canal is hosting its annual Shrimpfest on May 24 and 25. Activities include live music, food booths featuring shrimp, crafts and a beer garden. Event details including entrance fees and parking information are available online.

Razor clam diggers should keep an eye on the agency’s razor clam webpage for the latest information on digs. WDFW shellfish manager Dan Ayres said the agency will evaluate the opportunity for more digs after reviewing harvest levels in early May.

“If we have enough clams, we’ll add more digs in May,” said Ayres, noting that the best tides are around the weekend of May 17.

Children ages 14 and younger can take part in a youth fishing event May 3 at Black Lake in Olympia. The event is sponsored by Trout Unlimited. For more information, check WDFW’s Youth Fishing webpage.

Hunting:  The spring wild turkey season continues through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information and license fees, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphletonline.

Hunters looking ahead to fall have through May 22 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and necessary hunting licenses for each species they wish to hunt and then submit that application. WDFW will select permit winners through a random drawing in late June.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s Special Hunt webpage, and may be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Complete instructions for applying are described on pages 86-87 of the 2014 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing:  The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of guided nature walks at its location in Thurston County. Walk topics including birding, native plants and the history of the Nisqually people. The walks are open to the public and free of charge. However, there is a $3 entrance fee to the refuge. You’ll find a list of the refuge’s guided walks online or you can call (360) 753-9467.

The seasonal migration of whales north towards the Arctic Ocean is in full swing. Orcas and gray whales have been spotted in recent weeks in Admiralty, Bud and Eld inlets and the Port Townsend areas. Check out the latest sightings posted online at the Orca Network.

International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on May 10 in the U.S. and Canada to bring attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas - bird migration. This year’s celebration theme is “Why Birds Matter” to the earth, to its ecosystems and to the human population.

South Puget Sound prairies are the focus of the 19th annual Prairie Appreciation Day on May 10. The event gives the public the opportunity to visit Thurston County’s Glacial Heritage Preserve, which is typically closed to the public, or Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve. Event-goers can learn about birds, butterflies and other wildlife native to the prairie or can take a self-guided walk around the prairie.

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

Fishing:  The sportfishing season for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River is set to open for two days – Friday, May 9, and Saturday, May 10 – under an agreement reached by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.

Under that agreement, anglers can catch and keep one marked, hatchery chinook salmon those two days as part of their daily catch limit from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upriver to Rooster Rock. Bank anglers, but not boat anglers, can also fish farther upriver to the deadline below Bonneville Dam.

The adult catch limit also includes up to two marked adult steelhead or a combination of one steelhead and one marked chinook.  Only hatchery fish marked with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.

Ron Roler, a fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said representatives of the two states will meet again during the second week of May to determine whether to allow any additional days of fishing. That decision will be based on periodic updates of the number of spring chinook crossing Bonneville Dam, he said

“We’re taking this a couple of days at a time,” Roler said. “We want to give anglers as many days on the water as we can without exceeding the catch guidelines.”

The two-day opening approved for the lower Columbia River does not affect the chinook season in waters stretching 159 miles upriver from Bonneville Dam, currently open through Friday, May 9. By then, catch levels established under the current minimum run update are expected to exceed the guideline for that area by about 180 fish, Roler said.

However, all catch projections remain below wild chinook conservation limits established under the federal Endangered Species Act, he said. 

“We weren’t going to close that fishery early over 180 fish based on a preliminary minimum run update, but this was not the time to extend it, either,” Roler said. “Catch guidelines change along with the latest run forecast, and we expect to have another run-size update next week."

Meanwhile, several tributaries to the lower Columbia River remain open to spring chinook fishing – led by the Cowlitz River where anglers have been catching about equal numbers of hatchery chinook salmon and hatchery steelhead.

Roler said prospects for summer-run hatchery steelhead are also looking up this month on the Kalama, East Fork Lewis, North Fork Lewis, and Washougal rivers. Selective fishing rules will be in effect through early June on the lower East Fork Lewis and Washougal rivers.

On May 31, fishing will open from the mouth of the Green River to 400 feet below the Toutle Hatchery water intake, and from the mouth of the South Fork Toutle River to the 4700 Road Bridge. Anglers may retain up to two hatchery steelhead but must release all other trout. Selective gear rules apply in both areas through June 6.

Anglers should be aware that emergency fishing rules are in effect on several rivers to ensure that spawning goals for spring chinook are met at local hatcheries:

  • Lewis River:  All chinook must be released from the mouth upstream to the mouth of the East Fork until further notice. The mainstem Lewis remains open for hatchery steelhead.
  • North Fork Lewis River:  All chinook must be released from the mouth of the East Fork upstream to Merwin Dam until further notice. Through May 31, fishing is closed for all species from Johnson Creek (located downstream from the Lewis River Salmon Hatchery) upstream to Merwin Dam. The North Fork Lewis from Johnson Creek downstream remains open to fishing for hatchery steelhead.
  • Kalama River:  All chinook must be released from the boundary markers at the mouth upstream to the upper salmon hatchery (Kalama Falls Hatchery). The Kalama River remains open to fishing for hatchery steelhead.

Whether or not the season is extended on the mainstem Columbia, Roler said anglers are likely to find this month’s best fishing for hatchery spring chinook above Bonneville Dam on the Wind River, Drano Lake and Klickitat River – more or less in that order.

Several rules in effect from May 1 through June 30 on the Wind River and Drano Lake should help to improve anglers’ chances of success:

  • At Drano Lake and Wind River from the mouth to the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge, anglers fishing from a boat can keep fishing until the daily limit for salmon and steelhead has been reached for all members aboard.
  • In the same area, anglers with a two-pole endorsement may fish for salmon and steelhead with two poles during the same period. 
  • On the Wind River, anglers may catch and keep unmarked chinook as part of their daily limit of two adult chinook, two hatchery steelhead or one of each starting 100 feet above Shipherd Falls upstream to boundary markers approximately 800 yards downstream from Carson National Fish Hatchery. See the rule change for additional provisions.

Also, as in the past two years, anglers will have extra room to fish at the mouth of the Wind River, where the outside fishing boundary was moved about 250 yards out into the Columbia.

“Our goal in moving the fishing boundary was to relieve overcrowding and help to provide a more orderly fishery,” Roler said. “I think everybody who fishes there agrees it has helped to accomplish that purpose.”

For sturgeon, anglers may currently retain legal-size fish in the two reservoirs between The Dalles and McNary dams until their respective 300-fish and 500-fish guidelines are met.

The Bonneville Pool is open daily for catch-and-release fishing only, but will open for retention fishing June 13-14 and June 20-21. However, all sturgeon fishing is prohibited from May through July between The Dalles Dam downstream 1.8 miles to a line from the east (upstream) dock at the Port of The Dalles boat ramp straight across to a marker on the Washington shore.

Just as soon catch some trout? Several trout streams, stocked with feisty rainbows, will open for fishing on the Saturday of Memorial weekend. They include Canyon Creek and the upper Little White Salmon River in Skamania County, and Bird Creek, Outlet Creek, and Spring Creek and in Klickitat County.

WDFW also will continue to stock lowland lakes with catchable-size trout. Those receiving additional plants in May include Kress, and Horseshoe lakes in Cowlitz County; Battleground Lake in Clark County; Kidney Lake in Skamania County; and Spearfish and Horsethief lakes in Klickitat County. Also, as the snow recedes in the mountains, many high lakes will become available to anglers. 

Anglers are reminded Swift Reservoir will not open until the first Saturday in June, as noted in the fishing pamphlet. The later opening is designed to protect downstream migrating salmon and steelhead smolts, which are part of an ongoing reintroduction program under re-licensing agreements with PacifiCorp.

Finally, the 2014 Columbia River Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program starts May 1. The program pays anglers $4-$8 for each pikeminnow at least 9 inches in length they catch. Specially tagged fish are worth $500. For more information call (800) 858-9015 or visit the website.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season continues through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information and license fees, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphletonline.

Hunters looking ahead to fall have through May 22 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and necessary hunting licenses for each species they wish to hunt and then submit that application. WDFW will select permit winners through a random drawing in late June.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s Special Hunt webpage, and may be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Complete instructions for applying are described on pages 86-87 of the 2014 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing:  With passage of spring chinook salmon at its peak, May is the best time to watch the annual pageant through the fish-viewing windows at Bonneville Dam. To view migrating fish and check daily fish counts from home, check the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

Or stop by the Washington Shore Visitor Complex and see the annual parade of fish for yourself. To get there, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and turn into the Bonneville Dam visitor center. The visitor center is the glass building at the end of the powerhouse.

International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of May in the U.S. and Canada (May 10 this year) to bring public attention to bird migration, one of the most spectacular events in the Americas. Many Americans celebrate the event by organizing a bird count and adding their observations to a growing pool of scientific data.

This year’s celebration theme is “Why Birds Matter” to the earth and its ecosystems, and to people. Some bird species provide practical solutions to problems, such as insect and rodent control. Others disperse seeds, helping to re-vegetate disturbed areas. Others are pollinators, sustaining flowering plants, trees and shrubs and the other species that depend upon them.

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

Fishing:  Some of the best trout fishing in the region is available in May, when spring chinook fishing is also under way on the Snake River. Catch rates for trout on the April 26 season opener are a good indication of catches to come.

Some of the state’s best opening-day catch rates were in Northeast Washington, based on creel checks conducted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish biologists that day. Diamond Lake, in Pend Oreille County, averaged a full catch limit of five trout, not counting fish released. Some rainbow and brown trout ran up to 16 inches long.

Anglers fishing Deep Lake in Stevens County have posted average catch rates of five trout on opening day. Brian Walker, a WDFW fish biologist, said rainbow, cutthroat and eastern brook trout at Deep Lake average 11 inches, with the largest rainbows measuring 14 inches. “At least one brook trout measured 18 inches,” he said.

Both shore and boat anglers do well at Deep Lake, said Walker, noting that worms work best but small silver spinners also produce well. Pre-opener sampling showed Deep Lake also has lots of eight-to-10-inch kokanee, prepared to take trolling gear.

Ellen Lake in Ferry County gave up an average of nearly five rainbow trout per angler on the opener. Those fish averaged 11 inches, the largest checking in at 14½ inches.
Other Stevens County lakes checked on the opener were:

  • Rocky Lake, where anglers caught an average of nearly seven trout and kept four, averaging 11 inches, with the largest rainbow measuring 17 inches.
  • Waitts Lake, where anglers averaged over five fish caught (and about three kept), with rainbows up to 22½ inches and browns up to 18 inches.
  • Starvation Lake, with an average catch of just under five trout each, including a lot of 11-inch rainbows.
  • Cedar Lake, with an average catch of nearly four trout each, most running 12 inches with the largest up to 15 inches.
  • Mudgett Lake, where anglers averaged 2½ trout, with an average size of 14 inches, the largest running 19 inches.

In Pend Oreille County, anglers averaged three fish per angler at Big Meadow Lake saw an average catch rate on the opener of nearly three fish per angler, with average size 11 inches and largest 14 inches.

Fish biologist Brian Walker said sampling at Crescent Lake near the Canadian border showed lots of eight-to-10-inch rainbows and 10-12-inch cutthroats. “It would be tough to beat this little lake for good fishing and camping this month, although I don’t think anglers could go wrong anywhere in the northeast district,” he said.

Baker adds that although fishing was a bit faster on the opener at the district’s lower elevation waters like Rocky, Starvation, and Mudgett due to water temperature, some.  higher elevation lakes like Big Meadow and Marshall in Pend Oreille County and Curlew in Ferry County  will pick up as the season advances.

Bill Baker, another WDFW fish biologist, said Deer Lake in southern Stevens County has also been producing nice catches of carryover brook trout and rainbow trout up to 18 inches since fishing opened opened March 1. Rolling or plunking bait are both highly effective, and trout limits are the norm, he said. 

The region’s central district fishing waters also produced good catches on the opener that should continue through the month, according to WDFW district fish biologist Randy Osborne. Williams Lake in southwest Spokane County was the top producer with about six caught – four kept – per angler. Tiger trout are running 14 inches and rainbows are up to 21 inches.

Fishtrap Lake, east of Sprague on the Lincoln-Spokane county line, saw anglers averaging nearly five fish on the opener. The largest fish caught at Fishtrap was a 22-inch rainbow, amid a good mix of rainbows in the 10-11 inch, 15-16 inch, and 20-22 inch ranges.

The average catch rate at West Medical Lake, near the town of Medical Lake in southwest Spokane County, was about 4½ fish, with a fish-kept average of just over three. The largest fish caught was a 22-inch rainbow.  Osborne notes that 7-8 inch brown trout were also stocked this year and should show up in the fishery later in the season.

Fish Lake, northeast of Cheney in Spokane County, saw an average of nearly five trout caught per angler on the opener, with much catch-and-release by fly fishing enthusiasts.

Fish Lake has a good mix of eastern brook trout in the 12-15 inch range and rainbows running 12-14 inches with some even larger. The biggest fish recorded on the opener were a 16½-inch rainbow and a 16-inch brook trout.

Both Badger and Clear lakes in Spokane County averaged less than two trout per angler on the opener. The largest fish at Badger was a 19-inch rainbow, and the largest at Clear was a 21½-inch rainbow caught by a four-year-old girl.

Osborne also notes that year-round-open lakes such as Spokane County’s Newman, Silver, and Bonnie lakes should start picking up during the month of May when water temperatures rise.  Sprague Lake has also been fishing well for rainbows, and the bass fishing should start cranking as soon as the water warms.

Meanwhile, spring chinook salmon fishing is open on portions of the Snake River. The areas open are:

  • Below Lower Granite Dam: Open Saturday through Tuesday each week, until further notice. Snake River from the Ilia Boat Launch on the south across to the mouth of Almota Creek upstream about four miles to the restricted fishing area below Lower Granite Dam.
  • Clarkston: Open Thursday through Sunday each week, until further notice. Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line. (The state line extends from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

The daily catch limit is one hatchery adult chinook – marked with a clipped adipose fin – and five hatchery jacks measuring less than 24 inches.

Barbless hooks are required in all areas, and anglers must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult chinook salmon. All chinook with an adipose fin, and all steelhead, must immediately be released unharmed.

Anglers should note that spring chinook fishing is closed for the season below Ice Harbor Dam and Little Goose Dam. For more details on the fishery, check the fishing rule change on WDFW’s website.

Hunting: Spring wild turkey hunting continues through the entire month of May statewide, but the best bets for bagging a gobbler are in this region. The northeast game management units (101-136) have good populations of Merriam’s subspecies and the southeast units (139-186) have Rio Grandes.

Turkey hunters are reminded to report hunting activity after the season closes May 31, unless they plan to also hunt turkeys this fall. See details on hunt reporting on the WDFW website.

May 22 is the deadline for applying for special fall hunting permits for deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep and turkey. See details on the WDFW website.

Wildlife viewing:  Spring is in full bloom this month throughout the region, including the Tucannon River valley and WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in the southeast district.

Wooten manager Kari Dingman reports that nearly everything from the showy yellow arrowleaf balsamroot to bright white serviceberry is blooming now. “Songbirds are singing, rooster pheasants are crowing, ruffed grouse are drumming, and wild turkeys are gobbling,” she said. “Our bighorn sheep should start lambing at the end of May or early June, and can eventually be seen on the ridge above the Tucannon Fish Hatchery.”

Songbirds are in full voice throughout the region, reports WDFW regional wildlife program manager Kevin Robinette, with a great diversity of migrant species back on breeding and nesting grounds.
“May is a month of ‘firsts’ for birders,” Robinette said. “First-of-the-year sightings are made this month of colorful returning species like flycatchers, hummingbirds, swallows, thrushes, vireos, wrens, and warblers.”

International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of May in the U.S. and Canada (May 10 this year) to bring attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas - bird migration. This year’s celebration theme is “Why Birds Matter” to the earth and its ecosystems, and to people. For more information, including local events.

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Spokane County will host its third annual Floods, Flowers and Feathers Festival on Saturday, May 31, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. The event celebrates spring with opportunities to experience and learn about the area’s wildlife, habitats, and geology of the unique channeled scablands landscape.

Wherever and however you recreate outdoors this month, be careful about picking up ticks.  Minimize time spent in wooded, brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, and stay on trails whenever possible. Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants; the light coloring will make ticks easier to see. Use a tick repellant to protect exposed skin. When returning from outdoor activities, carefully examine people, pets and the indoor environment for ticks.

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

Fishing: Some of the best trout fishing is under way in the region, where anglers had plenty of success during the April 26 lowland lakes opener.

Anglers at Chelan County’s Wapato Lake averaged nearly five trout on the opener, with rainbows running 11 to 20 inches. Anglers at Beehive Lake, also in Chelan County, averaged a little over three trout, with rainbows measuring 9 to 19 inches.

Anglers fishing Okanogan County’s Pearrygin Lake averaged just under the five-trout limit on the opener, with rainbows running 10 to 18 inches.  Anglers at Okanogan’s Conconully Lake and Reservoir averaged nearly four-trout per angler on the opener, with rainbows running 9 to 18 inches.

Alta Lake was slower, with anglers averaging just over two fish, and rainbows running 10 to 17 inches. There are also 11- to 13-inch kokanee at Alta. Anglers at Fish Lake in Okanogan County averaged less than two fish per angler on the opener, with rainbows running 10 to 15 inches.

Douglas County’s Jameson Lake provided a little over two fish per angler on the opener, with rainbows running 10 to 18 inches.

WDFW Chelan District Fish Biologist Travis Maitland said that year-round-open Lake Chelan continues to produce some kokanee up to 18 inches and two pounds, although fishing has been slow at times.

Maitland also reminds anglers that the Icicle and Wenatchee River spring chinook fisheries may open in late May, if the run comes in as forecasted. Anglers should watch for emergency rule changes.

Year-round-open Banks Lake is warming up, according to WDFW fish biologist Aulin Smith. “The trout bite is still decent,” Smith said.  “Trolling and casting crankbaits, spoons, and spinners, as well as plunking marshmallows and worms off the shoreline, are producing. And net pen releases of 149,000 rainbow trout occurred the last weekend of April.”

Smith says smallmouth and largemouth bass are in the process of moving up into Banks Lake’s shallows. “Crankbaits, swimbaits, and jigs are working well on the bass,” he said. “Walleye are in the middle of spawning and have been caught in depths from 8 to 55 feet on various baits. Some anglers are targeting whitefish with good success, jigging vertically in 35 to 45 feet. Carp and bullhead have been caught by some bank anglers, too.”

Smith also notes the Gem Entertainment Walleye Open Tournament (formerly known as Big Wallys) is at Banks Lake on May 17-18.  The Bass Jamboree is on Memorial Day weekend at Coulee Playland in Electric City.

Hunting: Spring wild turkey hunting continues through the entire month of May statewide. Turkey hunters are reminded to report hunting activity after the season closes May 31, unless they plan to also hunt turkeys this fall. See details on hunt reporting at WDFW’s website.  

May 22 is the deadline for applying for special fall hunting permits for deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep and turkey. See details here.

Loons at Beth Lake - Photo by Jeff Heinlen
Loons at Beth Lake
Photo by Jeff Heinlen
 
Photos by Ron Fox
Steelhead tour group at Beebe Creek - Photo by Ron Fox
Steelhead tour group at Beebe Creek
Steelhead spawning Beebe Creek - Photo by Ron Fox
Steelhead spawning Beebe Creek

Wildlife viewing:  Bird watching opportunities increase every day this month throughout the region as migrants return to breed and nest.

WDFW Columbia Basin District Wildlife Biologist Rich Finger reports Western and Clark’s grebes are arriving on traditional breeding grounds such as Potholes Reservoir.  “These birds perform a great courtship dance across the water surface,” Finger said.  “A diversity of shorebirds have also migrated in and can be observed along muddy shorelines and exposed sand bars.” 

Jeff Heinlen, WDFW Okanogan wildlife biologist in Tonasket, said common loons have returned to nesting territories and can be seen on a few Okanogan County waters like Beth Lake. Heinlen recently photographed loons, including a bird that was banded on Swan Lake in Ferry County in 2004 and has been returning to Beth Lake for the past few years.

WDFW Okanogan District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin said even the latest arriving neotropical migrant songbirds are back by the end of this month. WDFW wildlife areas include a couple of good riparian birding spots, like the Big Valley Unit of the Methow Wildlife Area, particularly in the cottonwood gallery forest along the Methow River (follow the community trail southeast from the parking area at the northwest end of the unit). 

Another prime spot is the valley bottom in the original portion of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, particularly near any of the lakes from Blue Lake north and in the riparian vegetation along Sinlahekin Creek.

International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of May in the U.S. and Canada (May 10 this year) to bring attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas – bird migration. This year’s celebration theme is “Why Birds Matter” to the earth and its ecosystems, and to people. Some bird species provide practical solutions to problems, such as insect and rodent control. Others disperse seeds, helping to revegetate disturbed areas. Others are pollinators, ensuring that we are graced with flowering plants, trees, and shrubs. For more information, including local events, see the bird day website.

May 15-18 is the 12th annual Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest, featuring field trips into habitats including snow-capped mountains, sunny ponderosa pine forests, lush riparian zones, and shrub-steppe. The event is a good opportunity to learn about the wide variety of migratory birds here only for the breeding season. While birding is the heart of the weekend, activities also include wildflower walks, arts events and family activities.

Steelhead trout will be visible when they return to Beebe Creek to spawn this month, said WDFW Chelan Wildlife Area Manager Ron Fox.  Steelhead and their nests or “redds” are visible from the bridges spanning Beebe Creek, northeast of Chelan, and from two viewpoints that provide close access to the creek.

Wherever and however you recreate outdoors this month, be careful about picking up ticks.  Minimize time spent in wooded, brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, and stay on trails whenever possible. Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants; the light coloring will make ticks easier to see. Use a tick repellant to protect exposed skin. When returning from outdoor activities, carefully examine people, pets and the indoor environment for ticks.

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

Fishing: Two sections of the Yakima River will open to fishing for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon two weeks apart in May under seasons recently adopted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Spring chinook fishing is also under way three days a week on the Snake River, as discussed in the regional report for Region 1.

Starting Saturday, May 3, the lower Yakima River will open for hatchery spring chinook fishing from the Highway 240 bridge in Richland to the Grant Avenue bridge in Prosser approximately 1,000 feet downstream of Prosser Dam.

On Saturday, May 17, the upper section of the river will open for hatchery chinook from the Interstate 82 bridge at Union Gap to the BNSF railroad bridge approximately 600 feet downstream of Roza Dam.  

John Easterbrooks, regional WDFW fish program manager, said the lower river is expected to remain open for spring chinook through June 15, while fishing in the upper section will likely continue through June 30.

Easterbrooks said fishery managers are predicting a return of 3,300 harvestable spring chinook to the Yakima River, mostly four-year-old fish.

“Anglers catch the lion’s share of the springers in the upper river around Roza Dam, but we’re adding some additional opportunity in the lower river this year,” he said.

This year’s rules add 2.4 miles of fishable water near the mouth of the Yakima River by moving the lower boundary of the fishery downriver from the I-182 bridge to the Highway 240 bridge, Easterbrooks said.

“We’ll be interested to see how anglers do that far down in the estuary,” he said. “Fishing in that area will be closely monitored, because it’s critical that fishers don’t drift downstream of the Highway 240 bridge and start fishing in the Columbia River.”

Anglers will have a daily limit of two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook.  All wild salmon, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed and must not be removed from the water prior to release. All steelhead must be released.

Bait is allowed, but anglers will be required to use single-point, barbless hooks with a hook gap from point to shank of 3/4 inch or less when fishing for salmon.

To participate in the fishery, anglers must possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement (CRSSE), along with a valid fishing license. Anglers also have the option of purchasing a “two-pole endorsement” and fishing with two poles during the fishery.

For additional information about the fishery, see the fishing rule on WDFW’s website.

Trout are another option. Waters scheduled to be stocked with rainbow trout this month include Cooper Lake, Easton Ponds, Clear Lake, Lost Lake, McCabe Pond and Columbia Park Pond. A complete trout-planting schedule for south-central lakes and ponds is available on the WDFW website.

The 14th annual Kids Fishing event will be held at Columbia Park Pond in Kennewick on Saturday, May 10. All youths must pre-register at Kennewick Parks and Recreation to attend.

As of late April, anglers could still catch and keep legal-size sturgeon in Lake Umatilla (John Day Dam to McNary Dam), but that fishery will close as soon as the 500-fish quota for those waters is reached. Anglers planning to fish the lake should keep an eye on the WDFW website for possible updates. Farther upriver, the retention fishery for white sturgeon above McNary Dam (Lake Wallula) is scheduled to run through July 31. 

In both areas, anglers may retain only those white sturgeon that measure between 43 inches and 54 inches when measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail. Sturgeon spawning sanctuaries below Priest Rapids Dam and Ice Harbor Dam close to all sturgeon fishing (both harvest and catch-and-release) beginning May 1. They reopen for catch-and-release fishing on Aug. 1.

Rather catch warm-water fish? Catch rates should continue to improve on area rivers for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and walleye right through spring.

Anglers age 15 or older are reminded that they must purchase a 2014-15 license to fish state waters. Those who fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries are also required to purchase an endorsement that helps maintain and improve fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River Basin.

Licenses and permits are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season continues through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information and license fees, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphletonline.

Hunters looking ahead to fall have through May 22 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and necessary hunting licenses for each species they wish to hunt and then submit that application. WDFW will select permit winners through a random drawing in late June.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s Special Hunt webpage, and may be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Complete instructions for applying are described on pages 86-87 of the 2014 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing: Starting at 6 a.m. May 1, the gates open to thousands of acres of prime wildlife-viewing lands at WDFW Wildlife Areas in southcentral Washington. Closed in winter to protect elk and other species from human disturbances, access roads snaking through Oak Creek, Wenas and other wildlife areas will again provide passage to Washington’s backcountry.

“A lot of people come out May 1 to look for shed antlers,” said Ross Huffman, manager of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. “Last year we had close to 500 people lined up at the gates to get in, including both serious shed hunters and families looking to spend time together and enjoy the hiking in spring.”

Three gates will open May 1 at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, located seven miles west of Naches. One is at the U.S. Forest Service 1400 Oak Creek Road and two provide access to the Bethel Ridge Road. The Oak Creek and Cowiche units will also open to the public at the same time.

Also open is the Tieton River Trail, which leads to two popular rock-climbing areas – Royal Columns and The Bend, said Bruce Berry, assistant manager at Oak Creek. “That trail is teeming with wildlife and spring flowers this time of year.”

Located 18 miles west of Selah, the Mellotte gate at the Wenas Wildlife Area will open May 1 at 6 a.m. providing access to the north side of Cleman Mountain. “The area grades from riverine to shrub-steppe to forestlands, and provides plenty of bird-watching opportunities,” said Cindi Confer Morris, Wenas Wildlife Area manager.

Confer Morris noted that wildlife areas throughout the region operate on a “green dot road management” system: If a road is posted with a green reflective dot, it is open to motor vehicles. Otherwise, it is closed to motor vehicles. “But it’s important that visitors use good judgment,” she said. “If a road is soft and wet, we ask people not to drive on it, regardless if it has a green dot.”

At the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, two gates – Joe Watt and Robinson – will open May 1, as will the Whiskey Dick unit northeast of Ellensburg. At the Colockum Wildlife Area south of Wenatchee, the West Bar Road will open to vehicle traffic May 1. Although the road is only 2.5 miles long, it provides access to the Columbia River and is a popular area to look for shed antlers in spring.

Campfires are prohibited through Oct. 15 at all of these areas and no developed campgrounds are available. Visitors are also required to display a current WDFW Vehicle Access Pass or Discover Pass for vehicle access to all WDFW lands and boat launches. Information about purchasing a state Discover Pass is available on WDFW’s website. Visitors are advised that parking a hot car on dry grass can spark a wildfire.