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September 2017
Region 1: Eastern Washington
(Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens,  Walla Walla and Whitman counties)
Two boys fishing for crappie from boat.
Liberty Lake crappie fishing.

Salmon and steelhead: Southeast Washington’s Snake River remains open through October to retention of fall hatchery chinook salmon, and the fishery should be picking up by mid-September.

But steelhead fishing on the mainstem, from the mouth of the river near the Tri-Cities to the Idaho/Oregon state line, is catch-and-release-only beginning Sept. 1 due to extremely low forecasted returns of steelhead.

The low returns have also prompted fish managers to reduce the daily catch limit to one hatchery-marked steelhead on tributaries of the Snake River – the Grande Ronde, Touchet and Tucannon rivers – and on the Walla Walla River. Also as of Sept. 1, the rule requiring anglers to retain hatchery steelhead while fishing any of those four rivers is lifted and the tributaries of the Grande Ronde and Touchet rivers are closed.

Fishery managers recently downgraded the forecast of early-run (A-run) steelhead returning to the mainstem Snake River to 54,000 from 112,100 fish. WDFW Regional Fish Manager Chris Donley said the catch-and-release restriction – a first in his recollection – was needed to protect both wild and hatchery steelhead moving up the Snake bound for Idaho.

The steelhead in the Grande Ronde, Touchet, Tucannon, and Walla Walla rivers are not Idaho-bound. Based on tag returns of those fish, Donley explained, allowing one hatchery fish a day in those waters will still leave enough for Washington hatchery broodstock needs and adequately protect weaker stocks of wild steelhead.

All other rules, including the requirement for barbless hooks to allow successful release of fish, remain in place. See more details in the rule change.

Fish managers will continue to monitor the steelhead run, and if additional harvest opportunity can be offered without negatively affecting wild steelhead or hatchery broodstock abundance, rules may be adjusted in coming months.

Meanwhile, fall chinook salmon are returning to the Snake in good numbers, and retention of hatchery-marked chinook is not expected to increase impacts to ESA-listed wild fall chinook. Up to six adult (24 inches or more) chinook marked by a clipped adipose fin, and up to six jack (12 to 24 inches) chinook, clipped or unclipped, can be retained daily.  Anglers must cease fishing for salmon and steelhead once they have retained their daily limit of adult salmon.

Trout and mixed species:  Anglers on Long Lake (Lake Spokane) are continuing to catch rainbow trout up to 18 inches, both from shore and from boats. Randy Osborne, WDFW district fish biologist, said these fish are part of the cooperative stocking efforts between the department and Avista. A total of 155,000 clipped triploid rainbow trout are stocked annually.

Osborne also reports some of the central district trout lakes are still producing catches, but because of the hot summer temperatures, most of the action has been coming early in the morning and later in the evening.  These lakes include southwest Spokane County’s Badger, Williams, West Medical, and Fish, which close at the end of September, and Clear Lake, which closes at the end of October.

Year-round-open Lake Roosevelt usually yields good-size rainbows in September.

Marc Divens, a WDFW fish biologist, reports that with the continued warm water temperatures, anglers can expect good fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass and panfish such as bluegill, crappie, and yellow perch.  

“Fishing for these species will only get better as we approach fall when the fish typically increase foraging activity in preparation for the winter months ahead,” Divens said. 

Opportunities are good in Spokane County at Newman Lake for largemouth bass, tiger muskie and crappie; Liberty Lake for largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, perch, bluegill, and crappie; Silver Lake for largemouth bass, tiger muskie and bluegill; and Long Lake (Lake Spokane) for largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie and walleye. In Ferry County, Curlew Lake has largemouth bass and yellow perch. In Lincoln/Adams counties, Sprague Lake has largemouth bass and channel catfish.

Divens noted anglers can learn more about the fish in Sprague Lake by watching the Warmwater Fisheries Survey of Sprague Lake video.

Fishing is slow at the trout-stocked lakes on the Wooten Wildlife Area along the Tucannon River in Columbia County. Area manager Kari Dingman says if the weather changes from hot and dry to cool and wet, fishing should pick up again for the month of September. The campfire ban and shooting range closure continue this month. Rainbow Lake, under dredging reconstruction and improvement work, also remains closed for another month, along with adjacent campground 3 and the Deer Lake access road.

Collection barrel in parking lot for the collection of wings of harveted birds.
Forest grouse hunters are encouraged to deposit
wings of harvested birds in collection barrels

Fire danger: State land managers urge everyone planning to spend time outdoors to take care to avoid sparking a wildfire. Hunters and others also are advised to check fire conditions before they head out. Fire restrictions are currently in effect on lands in eastern Washington managed by WDFW.

Black bear: Sept. 1 is the start of black bear hunting in the Northeastern and Blue Mountains hunt zones. Gauging from the number of observed bears in the northeast district, bear harvest should be close to the 10-year average, with most taken in Game Management Units (GMU) 101 (Sherman), 117 (40 Degrees North), and 121 (Huckleberry). In the Blue Mountains, most bear harvest will again be by hunters specifically hunting bear (not incidental to other game) in GMUs 154 (Blue Creek) and 162 (Dayton).

More details are available by district in the 2017 Hunting Prospects.

Northeast district bear hunters who encounter moose are encouraged to report those sightings this month and through the fall through the Moose Observation Survey that is helping assess moose populations. 

Deer: Early archery deer hunting begins Sept. 1 in select Game Management Units (GMUs) for both white-tailed deer and mule deer.  Populations of both species are relatively stable throughout the region’s archery units, with whitetails rebounding from a 2015 bout of bluetongue disease from drought.

Last year archery deer hunters with the highest rates of success were in GMU 101 (Sherman) with 30.8 percent, GMU 121 (Huckleberry) with 27.4 percent, GMU 124 (Mount Spokane) with 36.2 percent, GMU 133 (Roosevelt) with 39.8 percent, GMU 154 (Blue Creek) with 31.6 percent, and GMU 172 (Mountain View) with 34.6 percent.

More details are available by district in the 2017 Hunting Prospects.

Northeast district deer hunters who encounter moose are encouraged to report those sightings this month and through the fall through the Moose Observation Survey that is helping assess moose populations. 

Small game: Hunting begins Sept. 1 for mourning dove, forest grouse, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare, raccoon, fox, and bobcat throughout the region.   

The best opportunities for mourning dove hunting, which runs through October, are usually in the southeast district near the Snake, Touchet and Walla Walla rivers where birds tend to be more abundant until cooler weather moves them south. Walla Walla County accounts for the majority of the mourning dove harvest.  An increasing number of exotic Eurasian collared doves continue to be found throughout the region and since hunting for them is open year-round without bag limits, they might provide opportunity when native mourning doves migrate out.

Stable populations of all three forest grouse species – blue (dusky), ruffed and spruce grouse – are available in the forested lands of the northeast district, and blue and ruffed grouse are available in some parts of the central district and in the southeast district’s Blue Mountains.

Biologists encourage successful grouse hunters to provide wing and tail samples, along with date and place of harvest, at collection barrels placed throughout the region. The samples are used to identify age and sex for harvest assessments. More details and barrel locations are available on the Forest Grouse Wing and Tail Collection webpage.

More details on these and other small game species are available by district in the 2017 Hunting Prospects.
Northeast district small game hunters who encounter moose are encouraged to report those sightings this month and through the fall through the Moose Observation Survey that is helping assess moose populations. 

Elk: Early archery elk hunting begins Sept. 9 in select Game Management Units (GMUs). The northeast and central district units are open to any elk, and the southeast district units are open either for spike bulls only, or spike bulls or antlerless elk. Most elk harvest by all hunter groups (archery, muzzleloader, modern firearm) in this region is in the southeast district (Blue Mountains), where herds occur predominantly in or near public forested lands.

Archery elk hunters had some of the best success rates last season in GMU 139 (Steptoe) with 23.6 percent, GMU 108 (Douglas) with 19 percent, GMU 111 (Aladdin) with 17.6 percent, GMU 149 (Prescott) with 16.6 percent, GMU 130 (Cheney) with 15.2 percent, GMU 127 (Mica Peak) with 14.8 percent, and GMU 154 (Blue Creek) with 11.6 percent.

More details are available by district in the 2017 Hunting Prospects.

Northeast elk hunters who encounter moose are encouraged to report those sightings this month and through the fall through the Moose Observation Survey that is helping assess moose populations. 

Wild turkey: Early fall general season for wild turkey hunting runs Sept. 23-Oct. 31 in the northeast and central districts’ Game Management Units (GMUs) 101-142, and Sept. 23-Oct. 13 in the southeast district’s GMUs 145-154 and 162-186. The northeast district is famous for an abundance of Merriam’s wild turkeys, and although most of the harvest is during the spring season, fall hunters do well in GMUs 108 (Douglas) and 111 (Aladdin). Merriam’s are also common in the central district and Rio Grande turkeys are plentiful in the southeast district.

More details are available by district in the 2017 Hunting Prospects.

Northeast turkey hunters who encounter moose are encouraged to report those sightings this month and through the fall through the  Moose Observation Survey that is helping assess moose populations. 

Youth, senior, disabled hunts: The traditional bird hunt for hunters under age 16 has been split between two weekends this year, providing more options for them and the non-hunting parents, guardians and mentors who accompany them. The youth hunt for waterfowl is scheduled Sept. 16-17, followed by the youth hunt for pheasants and other upland game birds Sept. 23-24.

Hunters age 65 and older and hunters with disabilities can participate in a special pheasant hunt Sept. 25-29.

Details of these special season rules are in the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet. Information on bird release sites is available in the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program. Non-toxic shot is required for all upland bird hunting on all pheasant release sites statewide to protect other wildlife species including waterfowl and raptors. More general information on waterfowl and upland game birds is available by district in the 2017 Hunting Prospects.

A mature bull moose in backyard.
Bull moose can be aggressive this month during breeding season
Photo by Judy Donahue

Birds: Southbound bird migration gets underway this month, especially shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors and neotropical migrant songbirds.

In late August birders Kim Thorburn and Lindell Haggin reported seeing lots of killdeer, sandpipers, yellowlegs, phalaropes, coots, grebes, teal, ruddy ducks, mallards, Canada geese, pelicans and more on WDFW’s Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County’s potholes country.

Birder John Hanna says September can be a good time to view migrating birds at various locations along the Snake River in southeastern Washington. A rare short-billed dowitcher was spotted by Carl Lundblad at Swallows Park in Clarkston in August.

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

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

Moose: September is the rut or breeding time for moose, and bulls can be expected to be a little more aggressive than usual.  Always give any moose a wide berth and enjoy them only from a distance, using binoculars and telephoto camera lenses.  Learn more about moose at the Living With Moose webpage.
Report sightings of moose in the northeast counties of Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Spokane this month and through November through the Moose Observation Survey that is helping assess moose populations. 

Elk: September is the time to hike into elk country to hear roaring bulls. Bull elk should be into pre-rut or breeding activities, which include their unique bugling, creating wallows and gathering harems of cows. The peak of the rut is about the third week of September, but a lot of bugling and displaying occurs before then. More of the region’s elk are in the Blue Mountains to the south, but there are also smaller populations in the Selkirks to the north.  Learn more about elk at the Living with Elk webpage.

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