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May 2017
Region 1: Eastern Washington
(Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens,  Walla Walla and Whitman counties)
Photo: Two young boys with their father and a days catch of trout.
Gary, Nick, and Austin Crawford had a good fishing season opener at West Medical Lake in Spokane County.  

April 22 opening season: May is always prime fishing month throughout the region with action heating up on waters that opened April 22, along with those that were already open.  Colder-than-usual water kept catch rates lower than usual on the opener, as tallied by WDFW creel check staff, but that only means these fisheries will likely produce through the coming summer.

"There are plenty of fish to be caught," said Randy Osborne, WDFW central district fish biologist in Spokane. "But with our long winter and cool and rainy spring, fishing conditions are running about a month behind this year. Boating anglers need to be especially prepared for not only very cold water but also high water levels that complicate launching and retrieving boats from many of these lakes."

Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, also advises anglers to be aware of road closures and washouts because that part of the region has been getting more than its share of rain this spring. Many roads that are typically passable at this time of year may still be very muddy or even snowy and washed out. Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille county websites list road closures, but backcountry roads are not included.

In Spokane County, Badger Lake anglers caught an average of 5.2 trout each on the April 22 opener, most of them 11-inch rainbow and cutthroat trout. Clear Lake anglers averaged about one fish each. Anglers at Fish Lake averaged about three fish each. West Medical Lake anglers averaged about one fish each. Williams Lake produced almost four fish per angler, including a 21-inch rainbow.

In Stevens County, anglers averaged 6.5 fish each at Cedar Lake. At Mudgett Lake, anglers averaged 3.4 fish each.  Rocky Lake produced an average of 2.5 fish, including a 17-inch rainbow. Anglers at Starvation Lake averaged almost two trout each, with the largest a 14-inch rainbow. Waitts Lake anglers, whose numbers were significantly down because of a flooded boat launch, averaged just a little over one trout each.

In Pend Oreille County, anglers at Diamond Lake averaged 1.4 fish each, with the largest rainbow measuring 22 inches. In Ferry County, Lake Ellen produced an average catch of 1.7 trout.  In Lincoln County, anglers at Fishtrap Lake averaged 1.3 fish each.

For more details, see 2017 Lowland Lakes Opening Day (April 22nd) Trout Creel Results.

Catch a fish, win a prize:  WDFW's lowland lake trout derby continues in May and runs through Oct. 31.  Anglers with an applicable 2017-18 freshwater or combination fishing license who catch one of some 900 tagged fish can claim prizes provided by license dealers located across the state. A list of lakes with prize fish and details on how to claim prizes is available at the derby website.

Plenty of trout are still available to harvest. WDFW has been stocking in the region for months. A complete trout-planting schedule for eastern Washington lakes and ponds is available on the region's catchable trout plants page.

Other open trout waters: All of the Tucannon River impoundments (man-made lakes) on the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County that opened March 1 have been re-stocked with hatchery rainbow trout and anglers are catching fish. Curl Lake normally doesn't open until the fourth Saturday of April for trout fishing to allow its use as an acclimation pond for spring chinook salmon. But for the second consecutive year, Curl opens even later – May 15 – to allow acclimation use for steelhead, too, before rainbow trout are stocked.

Kari Dingman, WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager, notes that May is the last month to fish Rainbow Lake, which will close to fishing June 1 to allow dredging work this summer for long-term improvements.  Campground 3 and the access road to Deer Lake will be closed for construction work, although anglers can still wade the river to fish Deer Lake. The access road and campground will be reopened this fall after construction is complete.

Rock Lake, open year-round in Whitman County, continues to be a good spot for catches of both brown and rainbow trout, some of which are a pretty good size. 

Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County, which has been open since March 1, is providing rainbow trout catches.  But boat anglers need to be cautious at the Bureau of Land Management launch site where high water conditions have made launching boats tricky.  Coffeepot is under selective gear rules, with a minimum size limit of 18 inches and a daily catch limit of one trout.  

Year-round-open Long Lake (Lake Spokane) on the Stevens-Spokane county line is fishing well, despite turbid water and debris from high spring runoff. Catches of 13- to19-inch rainbow trout have been reported.

Anglers are also catching rainbow trout and kokanee in year-round-open Lake Roosevelt

Snake River spring chinook: Three sections of the Snake River are open two days a week for spring chinook salmon fishing until further notice. The area below Ice Harbor Dam is open only on Fridays and Saturdays each week, and the areas below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston are open only on Sundays and Mondays each week.  

The reason for the limited days is to help prolong the season and to ensure sharing of fishing opportunities with upriver fishery zones and compliance with Endangered Species Act restrictions and harvest allocations available for the Snake River. The return of spring chinook is supposed to be relatively good, and the season arrangement allows one weekend day of fishing in each section. 

Daily limit is six hatchery chinook (adipose fin clipped), of which no more than one may be an adult chinook salmon (24 inches or more). For all areas open to chinook salmon harvest, anglers must cease fishing for salmon when the hatchery adult limit has been retained for the day. All chinook salmon with the adipose fin intact, and all bull trout and steelhead, must be immediately released unharmed.

See all details in the Emergency Rule Change, and watch for closure of this special season.

Warmwater fish species:  May is usually the month when opportunities improve for catches of black crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, green sunfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, tiger muskie, walleye, and yellow perch.  But this year's winter and spring conditions may delay the bite a bit in some waters.

Eastern Spokane County's Liberty Lake  has yellow perch and black crappie, and Newman Lake has largemouth bass, black crappie, and tiger muskie.  Southwest Spokane County's Silver Lake has largemouth bass, bluegill, and tiger muskie. Downs Lake, east of Sprague in southwest Spokane County, has largemouth bass, yellow perch, and black crappie.

Fishing for walleye in the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt is usually prime in May. Long Lake (Lake Spokane) on the Spokane-Stevens county line usually produces walleye, both smallmouth and largemouth bass, perch, and crappie this month and next. Anglers are encouraged to harvest any northern pike encountered in either one of these year-round waters since this invasive, highly-predatory species is considered a threat to all other fish.

Southern Stevens County's Deer Lake has bass, black crappie and perch when waters warm up.

Box Canyon Reservoir  and Boundary Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River in Pend Oreille County usually provide nice catches of smallmouth bass starting in May.

Before heading out, anglers should check the Sport Fishing Rules , valid through June.

Photo: Spring turkey hunter Paul Odom with his gobbler.
Paul Odom bagged a gobbler this season on the West Branch Little Spokane Wildlife Area in Pend Oreille County.

Spring wild turkey: Hunting for wild turkey continues through the month of May and there are plenty of the big birds throughout the region, especially in the northeast district.

Many hunters have already bagged their first turkey since the season opened in mid-April. A total of two turkeys can be harvested in eastern Washington during the spring season. Many private landowners, especially in Stevens County, see more turkeys than desired and welcome hunters who ask permission to hunt.

Public lands also support abundant populations, and as weather warms, more turkeys will disperse to some of these higher elevation areas. WDFW's Sherman Creek, LeClerc Creek and West Branch Little Spokane (AKA Rustler's Gulch) wildlife areas in the northeast district usually support good numbers of turkeys. West Branch Little Spokane Wildlife Area maps and information are available at the Eastern Region office in Spokane Valley. 

Northeast district hunters are advised to be aware and alert about road closures and washouts since that part of the region has been getting more than its share of rain this spring. Many roads that are typically passable at this time of year may still be very muddy or even snowy and washed out. Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties websites list road closures, but backcountry roads are not included.

WDFW wildlife areas in the southeast part of the region – Asotin Creek, Chief Joseph, and W.T. Wooten – provide good turkey hunting, too.

Spring turkey hunters who plan to also hunt turkeys 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.

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: A lesser yellowleg standing in shallow marshes stretching a wing and leg.
Lesser yellowlegs are among shorebirds at Reardan Audubon Lake Wildlife Area now. Photo by Ron Dexter.

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.

Some WDFW wildlife areas serve just that purpose, like Reardan Audubon Lake just west of Spokane in Lincoln County. Other public lands also provide stopover spaces, like Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, where the 6th annual Floods Flowers & Feathers Festival will be conducted on May 13 in celebration of birds and their habitats.

Although IMBD is traditionally celebrated on the second Saturday in May, in reality every day is bird day, and programs, festivals, and other events occur throughout the year to help connect people to nature through birds.

One way that people can help birds along their way is to transform their backyards into safe stopover sites by planting native vegetation, providing fresh water, and keeping cats indoors. WDFW's Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary program provides detailed information about how to help birds in this way.

Photo: A single trillium blooming.
Trillium blooming now on Blue Mountains wildlife areas.
Photo by David Woodall.

Wildflowers: David Woodall, WDFW wildlife biologist, says May is a great month to view native wildflowers in bloom on the Blue Mountains wildlife areas in the southeast district.  Some of the earliest flowers, like trillium and glacier lilies, are peaking on the Asotin and Chief Joseph wildlife areas in Asotin County. Many other blooms will follow this month, including phlox, serviceberry, arrowleaf balsamroot, and Indian paintbrush.

Karin Dingman, WDFW W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area manager in Pomeroy, also says April showers have brought an abundance of May flowers.  Willows, dogwoods and other shrubs are blooming in the riparian area along the Tucannon River, and yarrow, larkspur and other wildflowers are in the upland areas.

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; they almost always 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.

Northeast district wildlife viewers are advised to be aware and alert about road closures and washouts since that part of the region has been getting more than its share of rain this spring. Many roads that are typically passable at this time of year may still be very muddy or even snowy and washed out. Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties websites list road closures, but backcountry roads are not included.

Region One: Eastern Washington Region Two: North Central Washington Region Four: North Puget Sound Region Six: South Sound/Olympic Peninsula Region Five: Southwest Washington Region Three: South Central Washington