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April 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 April 8, 2014)

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

Trout fishing opens statewide April 26,
capping off a month of 'opening days'

For many anglers, "opening day" is synonymous with the start of the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, which gets under way April 26 this year. Hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians typically descend on trout-stocked lakes to kick off the state's biggest outdoor event.

To prepare for the upcoming season, hatchery crews from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have been working since last year to stock more than 16 million fish in hundreds of lakes throughout the state. Anglers can find how many went where at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/statewide/.

But anglers – and hunters, too – are also looking forward to a variety of other "opening days" this month for outdoor adventures ranging from razor clam digs on ocean beaches to turkey hunting in fields throughout the state. In addition, several Washington communities are hosting festivals this month to mark the seasonal migration of waterfowl and shorebirds.

"April really marks the start of the new year for fishing, hunting, and a wide range of outdoor activities," said Joe Stohr, WDFW deputy director. "The annual cycle is beginning again and a lot of us are glad to see it arrive."

For most people, a valid 2014-15 fishing or hunting license will be required to participate in those activities after March 31, when all 2013-14 licenses expire. The exception is young people under age 15, who can fish for free.

Licenses and permits are avaiIable online (https://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 (http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/) is available online and from local WDFW offices around the state.

Key dates to keep in mind in April include:

  • April 1 – Several dozen lakes in the Columbia Basin open to fishing.
  • April 4-6 –The first Olympic Peninsula BirdFest takes place in Sequim near the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
  • April 5-6 – A two-day spring turkey hunt for hunters age 15 and younger is scheduled statewide.
  • April 14-20 – A seven-day morning razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled on various ocean beaches. For details, see WDFW's razor clam webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.
  • April 15 – The general spring turkey hunt opens for hunters of all ages and runs through May 31. See WDFW's Washington Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for more information.
  • April 16 – Lingcod fishing season opens in the Neah Bay area (Marine Area 4).
  • April 25-27 – The Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, based in Hoquiam, celebrates shorebirds. For information, see http://www.shorebirdfestival.com/.
  • April 26 – Hundreds of lakes open to trout fishing across the state for the biggest "opening day" of the year.

For more information about these and other outdoor activities coming up in the weeks ahead, see the region-by-region Weekender Reports on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated for changes in fishing rules and other developments throughout the state.

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

Fishing:  One of the state's most popular fishing openers is coming up April 26, when the lowland lakes trout season gets under way. Hundreds of lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – will open for fishing.

Until then, nearly two-dozen year-round fishing lakes in the region have already been stocked with trout, and should provide good fishing opportunities early in the month. Waters stocked with trout averaging 10 to 12 inches in length include Alice, Angle, Beaver, Green, Meridian and Sawyer lakes in King County; and Ballinger, Blackmans, Cassidy, Chain, Flowing, Gissberg Ponds (Twin Lakes), Ketchum, Loma, Lost (Devil's), Martha, Panther, Shoecraft, Silver and Tye lakes in Snohomish County.

Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) website. Anglers should also check the Fish Washington rule pamphlet before heading out.

Salmon fishing also is an option in several marine areas of Puget Sound. Anglers fishing marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.  Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) have a one-salmon limit, and require release of wild chinook.  Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is closed to salmon fishing, while marine Area 9 is open only through April 15.

Fishing for blackmouth salmon in the region will require more time and effort in April, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishing manager. "Anglers need to put some time in on the water in early spring, when fishing for blackmouth salmon is often pretty spotty," he said.

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.

Looking ahead, Puget Sound's spot shrimp season begins May 3, with open days May 3 and May 7 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in marine areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 10. 

Additionally, marine area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) will open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 3, 7 and 10, and Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 3, 7, 10 and 21.

Details on the upcoming shrimp season are available on WDFW's Recreational Shrimp Fishing website.

Anglers are reminded that all 2013-2014 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers 15 years of age and older must purchase a 2014-15 license. 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 runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 5-6 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing:  April and May are prime time for gray whale watching, particularly in the waters around Whidbey and Camano Islands.  The whales are part of a larger population making its annual journey north from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, where the animals spend the summer feeding before heading south again. While most continue on to Alaska, some gray whales linger in the waters of the Pacific Northwest during the summer months.

People interested in the region's wildlife might want to drop in on the Backyard Wildlife Festival early next month. The event begins at 9 a.m. May 10 at the Tukwila Community Center, and features a variety of activities and educational opportunities on how to attract wildlife and support habitat through gardening and landscaping. For more information, check the wildlife festival website.

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

Fishing: Spring has sprung throughout the region, bringing with it a range of fishing opportunities from razor clams and lingcod to steelhead and trout.

This year's razor clam season is shaping up to be a record-breaker with most diggers taking their allotted 15 clams per day, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. The clams are not only more abundant, but also bigger than usual, he said.

"Clams are averaging 4¾ inches in size, and there are plenty of six-inch sized clams out there," Ayres said. "We've had really good digging conditions."

Morning digs are scheduled April 1-3 at both Twin Harbors and Long Beach. More razor clam digs have been tentatively scheduled in mid-April at multiple beaches. For the latest information on digs, check WDFW's razor clam webpage.

Long Beach will host its annual razor clam festival April 19 and 20. WDFW has scheduled digs for those dates, but is waiting on marine toxin test-results to finalize those digs. The Long Beach festival includes razor clam digging lessons, a chowder taste-off, clam fritter cookout and other entertainment. For more information, visit the festival website.

At Sequim Bay State Park, clam season gets under way one month early, beginning April 1. You can dig for Manilla, butter or other intertidal clams. However, sport clam and oyster seasons have delayed in several areas where the seasons typically start April 1. Those areas include Potlatch State Park, Potlatch DNR Tidelands, Oyster Reserves of North Bay and South Indian Island County Park. WDFW has a public clam and oyster beaches database with the latest information on openings.

Lingcod fishing is currently open in marine areas 1-3 under rules described in the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. Lingcod fishing season opens April 16 in the Neah Bay area (Marine Area 4).

Anglers looking to hook a wild steelhead could be in luck as long as river levels in the northern peninsula remain low enough to be fished, said Mike Gross, a WDFW fish biologist for the region.

"Earlier this year, the rivers often ran too high to fish," Gross said. "As they've dropped, we've seen some good fishing."

Steelhead fishing closes April 15 on the Hoh, Quinault and Clearwater rivers and April 30 for the Quillayute, Dickey, Bogachiel, Calawah and Sol Duc. These are the only eight rivers in Washington where wild steelhead can be retained, and anglers are limited to one wild steelhead per license year.

For hatchery steelhead, the Skookumchuck River is a good bet in April, said Mike Scharpf, a regional fish biologist for WDFW. He also recommends several lakes for trout, which WDFW is now planting throughout the state. The general public should try Lake Sylvia for trout fishing, Scharpf said. The lake, which is open year-round, will be stocked with about 1,000 trout in April.

American Lake in Pierce County is another good spot for trout, said Larry Phillips, a regional fish biologist. Early opportunities for trout in Thurston County include Black and St. Clair lakes.

WDFW crews will stock Vance Creek Pond #1 (Bowers Lake) in time for spring break, April 5-13, Scharpf noted. The pond will be open to youth (14 years and younger) and senior (70 years old and over) anglers as well as anglers with disability status through WDFW or those who have a designated harvester card.

Meanwhile, this month is anglers' last chance to hook a blackmouth salmon in several areas of Puget Sound. Anglers have until April 10 to fish for chinook in marine areas 5 (Seiku) and 6 (eastern Strait) and until April 15 in Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet). Areas 7, 11 and 12 are open until April 30.

Anglers fishing in marine areas 5, 7, 9 and 13 have a limit of one salmon daily while those fishing in areas 6, 11 and 12 can keep two salmon daily. Wild salmon must be released in all areas.

Prefer shellfish? Puget Sound's spot shrimp season is also set to begin May 3. Details on the upcoming shrimp season are available on WDFW's Recreational Shrimp Fishing website.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 5-6 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing:  Migratory birds are returning to Washington state, drawing birders to festivals throughout the state. Two are scheduled here in the northwest region.

The first, the Olympic Peninsula BirdFest, runs April 4-6 and takes place in Sequim along the bays, estuaries and beaches near the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The annual event is sponsored by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, Dungeness River Audubon Center and Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe. Activities include birding field trips to Neah and Dungeness bays, nature photography and art workshops. Learn more about the birdfest at the event's website: http://www.olympicbirdfest.org/.

Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival will be held April 25-27 in Hoquiam. Hosted by Grays Harbor Audubon Society, Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge and the City of Hoquiam, the annual festival includes field trips, lectures a keynote speaker and a nature fun fair for kids. More information on this event can be found on the festival's website: http://www.shorebirdfestival.com/.

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

Fishing:  April begins as catch rates for spring chinook salmon are picking up on the lower Columbia River and ends with the opening of some of the region's most popular trout-fishing lakes. The Dalles and John Day pools are also open for catch-and-keep sturgeon fishing this month until the catch reaches annual quotas for those waters.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon recently extended the Columbia River spring chinook fishery through April 14, after early catch levels fell far short of expectations. There will, however be a one-day closure April 8 to accommodate a possible commercial fishery.

"Fishing conditions have been pretty rough in recent weeks," said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "These extra fishing days will give anglers some time to make up for the high, turbid river conditions that have held the sport catch well below the harvest guideline."

Roler noted that fishery managers will continue to monitor the mainstem Columbia spring chinook sport fishery catches, and recommends that anglers check the WDFW website or Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) for any updates.

Based on pre-season projections, 308,000 adult "springers" are expected to return to the big river this year, including 227,000 upriver fish bound for rivers and streams above Bonneville Dam. By comparison, just 123,100 upriver fish returned last year.

Initial seasons set by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are as follows:  

  • Below Bonneville Dam: Open through April 7 to boat and bank fishing from Buoy 10 upstream to Beacon Rock. Bank fishing is allowed from Beacon Rock upriver to the fishing boundary just below the dam. The sport fishery will be closed Tuesday, April 1 to allow for a potential commercial fishery. The adult daily catch limit is two adipose fin-clipped salmon or steelhead in combination, of which no more than one may be a chinook.
  • Above Bonneville Dam: Open daily through May 9 to boat and bank anglers between the Tower Island power lines and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles above McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the Tower Island powerlines during that time. As in the area below the dam, the daily catch limit is two adipose fin-clipped adult salmon or steelhead in combination, of which no more than one may be a chinook.

Barbless hooks are required in both areas, and anglers must release any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin.

Under this year's initial catch guidelines, anglers fishing below the dam are allowed to catch up to 12,400 spring chinook before an updated run forecast is released in late April or early May. Another 1,325 adult upriver chinook are reserved for anglers fishing between Bonneville Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line.

To guard against overestimating this year's run, the states are again managing the fisheries with a 30 percent buffer until the forecast is updated with information about actual returns.

Meanwhile, the Cowlitz River and Drano Lake are open to fishing for salmon and steelhead under rules described in the Fish Washington rules pamphlet, and more will be opening during the month. Anglers fishing the Cowlitz during the last week in March caught just one spring chinook, but took home 140 hatchery steelhead.

Other tributaries opening to fishing for salmon and steelhead this month include the:

  • Wind River, which opens April 1 under emergency rules for hatchery chinook salmon and hatchery steelhead from the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge upstream to 400 feet below Shipherd Falls. Waters downriver from the bridge to the mouth opened to fishing for salmon and steelhead in mid-March.
  • Klickitat River, which opens April 2 for hatchery salmon and hatchery steelhead from the mouth to the Fisher Hill Bridge under the same rules and limits as last year.
  • Lower portion of the East Fork Lewis River and the lower portion of the Washougal River, which open April 16 for hatchery steelhead  fishing under rules described in the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

Additional rules are currently in place that require anglers to:

  • Release all chinook on the Kalama River from the mouth upstream to the upper hatchery (Kalama Falls Hatchery) until further notice.  This area remains open for hatchery steelhead. 
  • Release all chinook on the mainstem and North Fork Lewis River until further notice. In addition, the North Fork Lewis River is closed to all fishing from Johnson Creek – located downstream from the Lewis River Salmon Hatchery – upstream to Merwin Dam through May 31.

Rather catch sturgeon? Retention fishing is now closed from The Dalles Dam downstream, but anglers can still catch and keep one white sturgeon per day in The Dalles and John Day pools. Legal fish measure 43 inches to 54 inches, fork-length. Each fishery will end when its quota is met, so check the Emergency Rules website for updates before you head out.

Another option is trout fishing, which hits full throttle April 26 when several hundred lowland lakes throughout the state open for business. Although most lakes in southwest Washington are open year-round, "opening day" does mark the opening of such perennial favorites as Mineral Lake, Fort Borst Park Pond, Carlisle Lake, Davis Lake, and Plummer Lake in Lewis County; Kidney Lake in Skamania County; and the Rowland Lakes, Spearfish and Horsethief Lake in Klickitat County.

One change this year is that 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. 

In other waters, WDFW will continue to plant thousands of catchable trout in Clark County lakes, including Klineline Pond, Battleground Lake and Lacamas Lake. Three lakes in Cowlitz County – Sacajawea, Kress, and Silver Lakes – will also receive plants of rainbow trout, as will three lakes in Skamania County – Icehouse, Little Ash, and Tunnel Lakes. Swift Power Canal will be planted prior to the opener on April 26. 

To accommodate a fishing event for kids with special needs, Klineline Park in Vancouver will be closed to the general public from April 10-12.  More information is available on WDFW's website.

Anglers are reminded that all 2013-2014 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers 15 years of age and older must purchase a 2014-15 license. 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 general spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state, with a youth only hunt set for April 5-6. For information about these hunts, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department's website.

Wildlife viewing: The large run of eulachon smelt up the Lewis River last month is still attracting the attention of both people and wildlife. Weeks after the run began, at least 70 bald eagles and up to 20 sea lions have been reported in the area around Woodland, where they have been feasting on smelt. For the first time since 1953, spawning fish have also been spotted above Bonneville Dam as far upstream as Hood River.

Of course, smelt aren't the only fish moving upriver. Spring chinook salmon can also be seen moving past the fish-viewing window at Bonneville Dam. Although only 37 chinook were counted at the dam as of March 22, thousands more are expected to pass through by the end of April.

To 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.

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

Fishing:  Some of the region's best trout fishing will begin at the end of the month with the lowland lakes season opener on April 26. Randy Osborne, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said most waters around Spokane will be well-stocked and ready to go, including Williams, West Medical, Fishtrap and Clear lakes.

"A couple lakes that should fish well for the opener are West Medical near Medical Lake, and Fish Lake near Cheney," Osborne said. "A new aeration system was installed at West Medical to ease the harsh winter conditions there, and Fish Lake should be in really good shape following the 2012 rehabilitation."

Many trout lakes in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties are also good bets on opening day, said Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist. They include Waitts, Cedar, Rocky and Starvation lakes in Stevens County; Ellen Lake in Ferry County; and Diamond and Marshall lakes in Pend Oreille County.

But anglers don't have to wait until the end of the month to catch fish. There's plenty of good fishing to be had in lakes that opened March 1 or that are open year-round.

A prime example is Amber Lake in southwest Spokane County, which has been giving up some nice rainbow and cutthroat trout under selective gear rules (no bait, artificial flies and lures only, knotless nets). Fishing at Amber Lake is catch-and-release until April 26, when it shifts to a catch-and-keep season with a daily limit of two trout measuring at least 14 inches. Rainbows with clipped adipose fins caught at Amber must be released even after April 26.

Other popular lakes open all month in Spokane County include:

  • Liberty Lake, which started out slow after the March 1 opener, but should offer good catches of brown and rainbow trout as the season progresses. Once the water warms, it also provides some of the earliest yellow perch and crappie fishing in the area.
  • Downs Lake, which is planted with "catchable-size" rainbow trout, but should also fish well this month for largemouth bass, yellow perch, and crappie.
  • Medical Lake, near the town of the same name, has brown and rainbow trout.

April 18 is the deadline to register for the May 3 Kids' Fishing Event at Clear Lake in Spokane County. For details on the registration form, see the Youth Fishing 2014 Event Calendar on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/kids/events.html .

In Lincoln County, Coffeepot Lake is producing rainbow trout, mostly on flies. Coffeepot is also under selective gear rules, with a minimum size limit of 18 inches and a daily catch limit of one trout.

Deer Lake in southern Stevens County, which opened March 1, is warming up and producing catches of rainbow and lake trout, with bass, crappie, perch catches not far behind.

Rock Lake, open year-round in Whitman County, is consistently a good spot for catches of both brown and rainbow trout.

At the south end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments on WDFW's Wooten Wildlife Area have been producing nice rainbow catches since their March 1 opener.

Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes are all well-stocked with hatchery trout and warming up as spring advances, said Kari Dingman, manager of the wildlife area.

Anglers are reminded that all fishing rules in the 2013-2014 regulations pamphlet apply throughout the month of April. New rules take effect May 1, 2014 and will be available online and at license dealers throughout the state later this month.

Meanwhile, all 2013-2014 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers over 15 years of age must purchase a 2014-15 license. Licenses and permits are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Hunting:  It's time to clean your shotgun and start practicing your calls, because spring wild turkey season is just around the corner, opening April 15. 'Gobblers are already sporting their stuff and can be seen strutting in open fields," said Annemarie Prince, WDFW northeast district assistant wildlife biologist of Colville.

There's no better place to hunt turkeys than northeast Washington, where about 60 percent of all the state's spring harvest occurs during the season that runs through May 31. Youth hunters (under 16 years of age) get a jump on the season with opportunity on the weekend of April 5-6.  

Prince encourages hunters to do some scouting now and to always get permission from landowners before hunting on private land.The highest turkey densities most recently surveyed were in the Chewelah area of Game Management Unit (GMU) 117, the Cedonia area of GMU 121, and in Douglas GMU 108.

The southeast portion of the region (GMUs 139-186), which average 15 percent of the statewide harvest, also provide good turkey hunting.  WDFW wildlife areas in that part of the region – Asotin Creek, Chief Joseph, and W.T. Wooten – account for a healthy share of that total. WDFW Wooten manager Kari Dingman notes the Cummings Creek winter closure ends on April 1, and will be open to hunting.

Spring turkey hunters who also plan to hunt this fall should wait to file their required hunting report until after the fall season. For more information, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department's website.

Migrating tundra swans at Calispell Lake - Photo by Annemarie Prince
Migrating tundra swans at Calispell Lake.
Photo by Annemarie Prince

Wildlife viewing:  Hundreds of migrating tundra swans are currently on display on Calispell Lake in Pend Oreille County, stopping to rest and feed during their migration to breeding grounds in the high tundra across the top of North America. Annemarie Prince, a WDFW assistant wildlife biologist stationed in Colville, said the big birds usually remain on the lake until about mid-April.

Flocks of Canada geese and ducks are also passing through the region's waterways and agricultural lands right now. So are western bluebirds, house wrens, spotted towhees, violet-green swallows and other birds returning to the area to begin nesting.

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager Kari Dingman of Pomeroy reports springtime activity in full swing along the Tucannon River in Columbia County. 

"Green up is well under way, flowers are starting to bloom, and birds are singing," Dingman said. "River otters have been seen, bald and golden eagles are nesting, and wild tom turkeys are strutting and gobbling to hens."  

Dingman reminds Wooten visitors that the Cummings Creek winter closure ends on April 1, so even more of the wildlife area is open for hiking and wildlife watching.

WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers of Spokane notes that many white-tailed and mule deer and elk are now using open slopes and fields where new green grass and forbs are appearing.

"It's the first opportunity for these animals to offset the energy deficit they've been experiencing since early December," Myers said. "Watch for and enjoy these beautiful animals but keep your distance. Disturbance can be harmful to animals that already are experiencing nutritional stress."

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

Fishing:  Dozens of the region's lakes open for fishing April 1 – most in Adams and Grant counties. To participate in the fishery, anyone age 15 or over must purchase a 2014-15 fishing license, since previous licenses expire at midnight March 31. Licenses and permits are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Some of the best fishing on opening day should be at Dry Falls Lake in the north end of Grant County near Coulee City, said Chad Jackson, a fish biologist for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) from Moses Lake.

"Expect a good to excellent fishing for mostly chunky and hard fighting 14-16 inch rainbow trout," Jackson said. "Brown and tiger trout are also in the lake, and  most anglers catch somewhere between 12-20 fish per outing."

Dry Falls has selective-gear rules with a ban on internal combustion motors one fish daily catch limit, so there's a lot of catch-and-release fishing on the lake, Jackson said.

Weather changes can also play anglers for "April fools" on this opener, so be prepared for fickle spring conditions, he said.

Many waters opening April 1 are within the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, including the Pillar-Widgeon chain of lakes. Jackson said the refuge includes 10 small lakes – Pillar, Snipe, Cattail, Gadwall, Poacher, Shoveler, Lemna, Hourglass, Sago, and Widgeon – ranging in size from one to 11 acres. All offer rainbow trout running 12 to 20 inches or more. 

All of the lakes also require a hike and are best fished from a float tube, said Jackson, noting that they can also be fished from shore. He recommends fishing two to four of the lakes during an outing to maximize success.

North and South Teal lakes, among the "Seep Lakes" south of Potholes Reservoir and north of Othello, should also fish very well this year. Both lakes were rehabilitated in 2010 and now produce yearling rainbow trout averaging 12-13 inches. Winter carryovers up to 20 inches can be expected. Both lakes can be fished from shore and by boat.

In contrast, Upper and Lower Hampton lakes, north of Othello on the federal wildlife refuge, are not expected to fish well on the opener. "Neither lake has been planted since 2012, so only a small number of carryovers are available to anglers to catch," Jackson said. "We were planning to rehabilitate them last year, but our treatment was cancelled due to the federal government shutdown last fall.  We're proposing to treat these lakes this fall so that stocking can resume next year." 

For anglers interested in warmwater species fishing, Hutchinson and Shiner lakes are a good bet starting April 1, Jackson said. "These two medium-size lakes have lots of largemouth bass, most running 15-18 inches or two to five pounds," Jackson said.  "These lakes are best fished from a small boat, canoe, or float tube/pontoon boat."  Internal combustion motors are prohibited. 

Other trout lakes in the area include Heart, Canal, Windmill, and North Windmill.  Jackson said these year-round-open lakes, located just south of Potholes Reservoir, have been fishing well since ice-off. Rainbow trout are running 12-20 inches at all of them.

Two Okanogan County lakes also open to fishing April 1 – Spectacle Lake, just south of Loomis,  and Washburn Island Pond, a diked oxbow lake off the Columbia River near Fort Okanogan State Park due east of Brewster off Highway 17.

Anglers can usually expect to catch rainbows in the 10-14 inch range at Spectacle. Washburn Island Pond is a warmwater fishery that provides anglers opportunities for largemouth bass, bluegill, and the occasional channel catfish. Combustible engines may not be used while fishing Washburn.

Several other lakes in Okanogan County shift to catch-and-release fishing under selective gear rules on April 1. These include Campbell, Cougar, Davis, Green and Lower Green, and Rat lakes.

Banks Lake, the Columbia River reservoir open year-round on the northern Grant County line, is fishing well and will only get better this month, said Aulin Smith, WDFW fish biologist. Anglers fishing the north end of Banks are catching limits of trout plunking off the shorelines, he said.

"Boat anglers are having luck casting and/or trolling red or orange colored crankbaits and plugs," Aulin said. "The bass and walleye are still holding in 30 to 50 feet of water. Fishing is slow, but nice fish are being caught. This should improve as the water warms and the fish move up. Try trolling spinners for walleye but don't overlook jigging once you have found them. Use jigs and dropshot rigs for bass."

The Lake Chelan kokanee fishery is already ramping up, said Travis Maitland, a WDFW fish biologist. "These fish are ranging from 12 to 16 inches so far, with an occasional larger fish," he said. "Anglers are also catching some nice rainbow trout while trolling for the kokanee." 

Roses Lake has also been producing some nice catches of rainbow trout, many of them members of the 19,000 fish stocked in November, Maitland said. "Depending on how they over-wintered in the lake, they should be 12 to14 inches by now," he said.  The lake also has a variety of warm water species, such as bluegill, yellow perch, largemouth bass and channel catfish, which will go on the bite once the water warms up, he said.

In Okanogan County, best bets include Pearrygin Lake near Winthrop; Conconully Lake and Reservoir, within the town of Conconully; Alta Lake, just west of Pateros; and Wannacut  Lake, near Oroville.

In Chelan County, lakes opening April 26 worth trying include Wapato and the Wenatchee Heights lakes – Clear, Black, Lilly and Beehive. These lakes are primarily being stocked with rainbow trout and should provide "fast" fishing for 12-inch range trout. All of these lakes will also be stocked with 100 to 600 "jumbo" sized triploid rainbow that can range from one to four pounds.

In Douglas County, Jameson Lake is still a popular fishery and should have some good-sized carryovers available. Jameson will also get 600 large "triploid" rainbows just before the opener.

Anglers are reminded that steelhead fishing closed March 31 on the Columbia River and tributaries above Rock Island Dam.

Hunting:  The general spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state, with a youth only hunt set for April 5-6. In Chelan County, WDFW wildlife biologist Jon Gallie says turkey hunting prospects look good this year. 

"Flock counts conducted in the winter showed a 24 percent increase in turkeys and one of the highest counts of adults toms we have had since monitoring began," Gallie said. "This should translate into a productive turkey hunt."

Photos by Scott Fitkin
Harlequin duck in the Methow Valley - Photo by Scott Fitkin
Harlequin duck in the Methow Valley
Deer in the Methow Valley - Photo by Scott Fitkin
Deer in the Methow Valley
Goldeneye ducks in the Methow Valley - Photo by Scott Fitkin
Goldeneye ducks in the Methow Valley

Gallie advises hunters to check out side canyons all along the Wenatchee River corridor and look to the head of those forested canyons for gobblers. Flocks in the Stemilt Basin and Colockum Wildlife Area are intact but might be in new areas as a result of the fires last summer." 

In Okanogan County, WDFW district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin says turkey hunter access should be about average, with some snow still present at middle elevations.  Within the district turkey populations are patchy, he says, with the greatest numbers in Game Management Units (GMUs) 239, 233, 215 and 204.

For more information, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department's website.

Wildlife viewing:  Bird-watching is picking up throughout the region as migrants move into and through northcentral Washington. The Columbia Basin is teeming with waterfowl of all kinds now – geese, ducks, shorebirds, and of course the area's "megafauna" – sandhill cranes.

WDFW Okanogan District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin of Winthrop also reports abundant migratory waterfowl on lower elevation lakes in Okanogan County. 

"Waves of songbirds will increase in numbers and diversity as the month progresses," Fitkin said. "Large groups of deer are visible on greened-up, south-facing slopes. It's a good time to be out with binoculars, scopes and cameras."

WDFW Chelan District Wildlife Biologist Dave Volsen of Wenatchee cautions that deer continue to be vulnerable to disturbance at this time of year, even though spring green up is starting. "The newest growth is often at the lowest elevations, and deer will make movements downward to take advantage of what spring has to offer," Volsen said.  "The lack of snow cover gone does not mean that deer have left the winter range. In fact, you may see higher numbers of deer because they become concentrated along an elevational band of new spring growth." 

People should keep their distance from deer at this time of year, because they're under severe nutritional stress and at the end of their winter reserves, Volsen says.  Any human related activity (including dogs) that causes deer to make significant changes of behavior is undue stress and should be avoided. Volsen says deer need the most consideration at this time, the end of winter.

Golden eagles are on nests incubating eggs now.  "By the end of the month we should be seeing some white, down-covered eagle chicks," Volsen said. "Hatch dates farther north should be a little later. If you know of a nest site, monitor it from a distance with binoculars and watch the growth of the chicks. The adults will be very quiet while incubating, however, when they have to feed young, activity and noise will increase at the nest."

Volsen asks that reports of golden eagle nests be made to the northcentral region office in Ephrata at 509-754-4624 or teamephrata@dfw.wa.gov  where they can be relayed to biologists.

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

Fishing:  Trout fishing takes center stage in April as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) continues planting thousands of rainbows, kokanee and cutthroat in lakes and ponds throughout the region.

More than two-dozen lakes are scheduled to receive fish this month, including Rotary Lake, Tims Pond, I-82 Ponds #4 & #6, Yakima Sportsman Pond, Fio Rito Lakes, Kiwanis Pond, Lavender Lake, McCabe Pond, Naneum Pond, Matton Lake, Woodhouse Pond and more. Most of those fish run from one-third to a half-pound each, but some weigh in at 1½ pounds, said Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist based in Yakima.

"We're putting some hefty, great-looking fish out there this year," Anderson said. "This is a good time to get outdoors and celebrate spring by catching some."

In addition to the large numbers of catchable and jumbo rainbow trout planted annually, each April WDFW plants large triploid trout into select area lakes including Powerline and Dalton Lakes (Franklin county).  A complete list is posted on WDFW's trout-stocking website.

Anderson notes that all anglers 15 and older must have a 2014-2015 fishing license to fish for trout and other species after March 31, when 2013-2014 licenses expire. Licenses ranging from a freshwater-only license to a multi-species combination license are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Most steelhead sport fisheries are now closed in the Columbia and Snake rivers, although a "bank only" fishery adjacent to WDFW's Ringold Springs Hatchery near the Tri-Cities is open April 1 through April 15. The daily limit is two hatchery steelhead along the Franklin County shoreline from the WDFW marker a quarter-mile downstream from the Ringold irrigation wasteway outlet to the marker a half-mile upstream from Spring Creek. 

Ready for spring chinook? Fishing for springers is finally picking up in the lower Columbia River, and the upriver run should start arriving in area waters in mid-April, said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish biologist based in the Tri-Cities. Spring chinook sport fisheries are planned to open in the Yakima River and the Snake River this spring. 

"Anglers should keep an eye out for emergency rules that open and close fishing on short notice," he said. For updates, he recommends checking the fishing-rule website, the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) and local news media.

Sturgeon anglers are also advised to stay abreast of new regulations. As of late March, 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. 

Meanwhile, catch rates should continue to improve on area rivers for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and walleye in April right through spring.

Hunting: The general spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state, with a youth only hunt set for April 5-6. For information about these hunts, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department's website.

Wildlife viewing:  Motorists driving Highway 240 between Kennewick and Richland have an opportunity to catch a rare glimpse of a pair of eagles nesting in a stand of cottonwood trees in the Yakima River Delta. Until last year, no nesting pairs had been reported in the area in more than 50 years. Most stay for the winter, then move on. A record 60 eagles were spotted during bird surveys on the Columbia River along Hanford in December.

Also on display in the area is a pair of burrowing owls, but only on video. The owls recently took up residence in a burrow specially equipped with a camera through WDFW's webcam project. See the pair in their new home and learn more about burrowing owls on WDFW's burrowing owl webpage.

Finally, a cautionary note. In early March, WDFW was alerted to a fire burning in the Wenas Wildlife Area on the south side of Umtanum Ridge. Cindi Confer Morris, manager of the wildlife area responded, and found half an acre of open timber and bitterbrush burning. The Selah Fire Department contained the blaze, which was likely sparked by human activity.

A week later, controlled burns got out of hand on two farms in the Lower Yakima Valley and raged across more than 100 acres.

"We don't usually think of early spring as fire season, but the risk is certainly present," Confer Morris said. "A lot of areas haven't had much spring green-up yet, so the majority of the grass is from last year's growth, which is brown and dry. After an hour or two in the wind, it doesn't take much for last year's tops to become dry enough to burn."