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May 2017
Region 5: Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)
Photo: Fisherman holding large salmon caught in the Lower Columbia River.
Photo Credit: Robert Davidson

Columbia River salmon: Salmon fishing is currently closed in the lower Columbia River, but the season remains open through May 5 above Bonneville Dam. Anglers are advised to watch for possible updates on future openings in waters upriver from the dam to the Washington-Oregon border east of Umatilla.   

After weeks of high water and low catch totals, the spring chinook fishery suddenly caught fire in the lower Columbia during two extended fishing seasons in April. During the second opening, anglers caught 6,300 spring chinook in just four days, said Ron Roler, a WDFW fish manager for the Columbia River.

"Once water levels dropped, the fish started moving and fishing success picked up in a hurry," Roler said. "It's good to keep that in mind if you're an angler waiting for the best time to catch some fish."

By April 23, when the last opening ended, anglers caught 8,947 spring chinook, including 6,482 upriver fish. That's just 523 fish shy of the catch guideline for the lower river prior to the in-season run update sometime in May.

Pending further word of additional openings, fishing remains closed for both salmon and steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River below Bonneville Dam.

Fishing the tributaries: May is a prime time to catch spring chinook salmon in rivers just above Bonneville Dam, and this year should be no different. In fact, fishing could be downright explosive, given that the bulk of this year's upriver run was still backed up below the dam in late April.

"The action will pick up quickly once those fish finally decide to move upriver," said Ron Roler, a WDFW Columbia River fish manager. Roler said a good strategy is to fish close to riverbanks and near the mouth of the Klickitat and Wind rivers and Drano Lake. The daily limit for all three fisheries is two salmon, or two steelhead, or one of each. (Wild chinook and steelhead must be released in all three waters.) Wind River and Drano Lake are open daily; the Klickitat River is open through May 30 from the mouth upstream to the Fisher Hill Bridge on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays only.

Salmon fishing is also picking up on tributaries to the lower Columbia River. Now that high-water conditions in the mainstem have started to recede, more fish are moving into rivers such as the Cowlitz and Kalama. By the end of April, only about 1,000 spring chinook had returned to the Cowlitz Hatchery, leaving 10,000 to go before the count reaches the preseason forecast.

Due to low escapement projections, anglers must release all chinook salmon from the mouth of the Lewis River to the powerlines below Merwin Dam.

Fish for prize trout: "Opening day" of the statewide lowland lakes season has come and gone, but many of the 16.5 million trout stocked for the occasion are still snapping up lures. Several popular trout lakes in southwest Washington opened April 22, including Mineral Lake, Fort Borst Park Pond, Carlisle Lake, Rowland Lake and Horsethief Lake.

Anglers who catch tagged fish in those and other waters can claim prizes – ranging from fishing gear to gift cards – offered by license dealers around the state. For more information on WDFW's ongoing fishing derby, see the department's website.

Meanwhile, a number of lakes in southwest Washington will receive fresh plants of trout this month. They include:

Goose Lake, in Skamania County, has not been planted because there is too much snow, and WDFW has lost access to Kidney Lake. Anglers are also reminded 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.

Elsewhere in the region, several streams will open to fishing May 28, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. They include Canyon Creek in Clark County; the upper Little White Salmon River in Skamania County; and Spring Creek in Klickitat County. Due to recovery efforts of the Oregon spotted frog, Outlet and Bird creeks in Klickitat County will not be stocked this year. Another option is kokanee fishing, which is heating up on Merwin Reservoir and Yale Lake in Cowlitz County.

Sturgeon: Retention fishing is closed from the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to McNary Dam, including adjacent tributaries. Catch and release is allowed, and spawning sanctuaries will be in effect starting May 1.

2017-18 license required: Anglers age 15 and older are required to have a valid 2017-18 fishing license to participate in all of these fisheries. Licenses are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453), and from license dealers around the state. Also note that the current Fish Washington rule pamphlet remains valid through June 30.

Photo: Elk buck in field with female.
Photo Credit: Gary Babcock

Apply for special hunting permits: Hunters have through May 24 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. Special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special permit, hunters planning to hunt for deer or elk must purchase an application and hunting license for those species and submit the application with their preferred hunt choices. Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by WDFW in June.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW's website. Applications must be submitted on the website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. To purchase or apply for a license online, hunters must first establish an online account by creating a username and password.

Instructions on applying for special permit hunts are described on pages 12-13 of Washington's 2017 Big Game pamphlet, available online and at WDFW offices and license vendors.

Most special hunt permit applications cost $7.10 for residents, $110.50 for non-residents, and $3.80 for youth under 16 years of age. The exception is the cost for residents purchasing applications for mountain goats, any bighorn sheep ram, any moose, and "quality" categories for deer and elk. Those applications cost $13.70.

Results of the special-permit drawing will be available online by the end of June. Winners will be notified by mail or email by mid-July.

Photo: Great blue heron in foliage along the shoreline.

Birds: "Helping Birds Along the Way" is the theme for the 24th annual International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) on Saturday, May 13, when birdwatchers celebrate the migration of nearly 350 bird species from their wintering grounds south of the U.S. border to nesting habitats in North America. The theme emphasizes the importance of migratory stopover sites where birds rest and refuel before continuing their journeys across oceans and continents.

Leave wild babies in the wild: This month and next many wildlife species produce young. WDFW biologists remind outdoor recreationists and backyard wildlife enthusiasts to leave those wild babies in the wild, even when they might appear to be orphaned or abandoned. 

Keep dogs and cats confined to avoid problems with baby birds fledging from nests and on the ground. Give a wide berth to deer fawns found alone; almost always they don't need your help because parent animals are foraging nearby and leaving them alone to avoid drawing predators with their own body scent.  Learn more about when not to rescue wildlife on WDFW's Living with Wildlife webpages.

Avoid wildlife conflicts:  Wild animals reproducing this month can become a nuisance if they take up residence under a porch, in a crawl space, or in a garage or attic. Skunks and raccoons are among the most common in this region, but bats, squirrels and woodpeckers can become problems, too. Sealing up spaces where these animals try to nest or den is the first step to avoid nuisance situations.  Learn more about Preventing Conflicts With Wildlife

Outdoor recreationists or rural homeowners may inadvertently have closer-than-comfortable wildlife viewing encounters with potentially dangerous wildlife, from protective cow moose with calves to black bears, coyotes or cougars. 

Conflict situations can be prevented by being alert and aware of surroundings and taking some precautions when hiking, picnicking or camping. Most wild animals want to avoid people, so hike in groups and make noise to alert wildlife in the area of your presence. Keep a clean picnic spot or campsite since food odors attract hungry animals, especially bears. Learn more about bears, cougars, coyotes and moose on WDFW's Living with Wildlife webpages.

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