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July 2017
Region 2: Northcentral Washington
(Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties)
Columbia River salmon fishing near Brewster.
Columbia River salmon fishing near Brewster.
Photo by Rich Landers

Salmon: Salmon fishing season opens July 1 on the upper Columbia River in most sections above Priest Rapids Dam. From Wells Dam to Brewster, the season opens July 16.

WDFW regional fish biologist Jeff Korth says the summer chinook salmon run is a bit low, but healthy. All wild adult chinook must be released, but up to two adult hatchery chinook can be kept in the daily limit of four salmon.

"Sockeye salmon retention will be allowed above Priest Rapids Dam this season," Korth said. "The run is about two or three times what it was last year when we delayed retention in favor of escapement."

Check the Washington Sport Fishing Rules for all details, listed by Columbia River sections on pages 54-55.

The Icicle River finally opened for hatchery spring chinook salmon fishing in late June and remains open through July. The fishery was delayed by a low estimated run to ensure meeting broodstock needs at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. The daily catch limit is two hatchery chinook (adult or jack), minimum size 12 inches.  Spring chinook with an intact adipose fin must be released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release. Release all spring chinook with one or more round 1/4 inch diameter holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin. See all details in the rule change.

Warmwater fish: WDFW warmwater fisheries biologist Marc Petersen says walleye fishing is hot now at Banks Lake. Anglers there should also be able to catch smallmouth bass and a few black crappie.  

Petersen considers Banks Lake to be one of the region's top ten bass fishing waters. The other nine in that bass line-up are Moses Lake, Evergreen Reservoir, and Potholes Reservoir in Grant County; Cow Lake in Adams County; Palmer and Whitestone lakes in Okanogan County; and Roses, Wapato and Dry lakes in Chelan County.

Dry Lake now has improved boat access, thanks to private landowners and several sportsmen groups creating a gravel launch and parking area off Dry Lake Road. The shallow 81-acre lake, which is open year-round, is about two miles north of Manson and has largemouth bass, yellow perch, bluegill, crappie, and pumpkinseed sunfish. The access was built by the Wenatchee Sportsmen's Association, Chelan Bass Club, Wenatchee Valley Flyfishers, and Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. To avoid access being revoked by the landowners, all users need to follow posted conduct rules: Pack out all trash, park only in designated areas (not on the road), and no overnight parking, fires, fireworks, shooting or loitering.

For bass fishing success, Petersen recommends trying jigs and spinner baits, and fishing around structures. "Try drop shotting for smallmouth," he said. "Drop your bait with a weight to suspend it right in front of the fish, whether you find them on your boat's depth finder or you cast into a spot where bass are likely to hang out."

Safety and fire restrictions: WDFW staff remind anglers that even during the heat of July, always wear life jackets when out on the water.

Keep the Fourth-of-July fireworks at home since they're prohibited year-round on all WDFW water access sites and wildlife areas statewide.

To further prevent wildfires, additional fire restrictions have been in effect since June 30 on all WDFW eastern Washington wildlife areas and water access sites. That means no fires, including campfires, of any kind; no smoking outside of vehicles; no use of chainsaws or welding equipment; and no operating motor vehicles of any kind off of developed roads and parking lots. 

Hunter Education instructors teaching young boy rifle skills.

Hunter Education Courses: Avoid the autumn rush and sign up now for a summer hunter education class. All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 must complete a hunter education course to purchase a hunting license. WDFW offers both traditional and online options to complete the hunter education training requirement.

The traditional classroom experience includes practical exercises and live-firing activities taught by certified volunteer instructors. The online class offers the same content, but on the student's schedule. An in-person Field Evaluation Course is required with the online class for students to demonstrate what they have learned.

Newly fledged Great gray owl  in tree
Newly fledged Great gray owl
Photo by Justin Haug

Birds: Bird watching is good throughout the region this month, with dozens of migrant species breeding, nesting, and rearing young now. 

WDFW Sinlahekin Wildlife Area manager Justin Haug reports many birders visiting the Okanogan County area are finding a variety of species in the riparian or streamside areas of Sinlahekin Creek and other waterways. Nashville and yellow warblers and alder flycatchers have been spotted near Reflection Pond. Lazuli buntings, gray catbirds, common yellowthroats, and yellow-breasted chats have been heard or seen along Sinlahekin Creek. Many other species are possibilities, as noted in the Sinlahekin bird check list.

Haug recently found and photographed an uncommon species on U.S. Forest Service land near Mount Hull (northeast of the Sinlahekin and near Oroville) -- an adult great gray owl (Strix nebulosa) and its newly fledged young. Great grays are the largest owls in North America, a good five inches bigger than the common great horned owl and minus the ear tufts. 

Butterflies: More than 70 species of butterflies are commonly seen in July on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area and other places in Okanogan County. 

WDFW Sinlahekin manager Justin Haug notes that the monarch – the quintessential species – is usually only spotted this month and next. Watch also for lots of species of parnassians, swallowtails, whites, sulphurs, coppers, hairstreaks, blues, fritillaries, checkerspots, crescents, nymphs, satyrs, and skippers. For more information see the Sinlahekin butterfly guide.

River otters on Conners Lake.
River otters on Conners Lake
Photo by Justin Haug

Wild babies: Young wildlife of all species are out and about now, some more visible than others. Wildlife managers advise people to leave wildlife alone and enjoy them from a distance.

WDFW waterfowl specialist Matt Wilson says ducklings are being seen in lots of places, from city park ponds to river shoreline areas. "Give them lots of space and keep dogs on leashes," he said. "Sometimes hens will stash ducklings in protected areas to distract predators and then return to gather the ducklings later. Just because you don't see the mother duck doesn't mean ducklings need to be rescued. Give them space when out on or near waterways."

This year's mule deer fawns throughout the region are more mobile and visible this month, especially at dawn and dusk when air temperatures are cooler.The Methow Wildlife Area in Okanogan County's Methow Valley is one of the best places to see them and bucks that are now sporting velvet antlers.

Mountain goats: July is usually a good time to see mountain goats at salt licks along the Hart's Pass Road northwest of Mazama in Okanogan County's Methow Valley. Goats are also viewable in North Cascades National Park, and in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, especially in the Alpine Lakes, Lake Chelan-Sawtooth, and Pasayten wilderness areas.

Although typically shy and retiring, mountain goats can learn to approach people and become a nuisance or even potentially dangerous – all to satisfy a craving for minerals and salt. Learn more about safely viewing mountains goats at WDFW's "Living with Mountain Goats" webpage.

Other wildlife: Keep your eyes and ears open for other wildlife enjoying summertime weather.  WDFW Sinlahekin Wildlife Area manager Justin Haug recently spotted a trio of river otters playing in Conners Lake on the wildlife area in Okanogan County. Pacific tree frogs, painted turtles, and racer, garter and gopher snakes are common throughout the county and the region.

Rattlesnakes are also abundant throughout the region and should be avoided. Hikers are encouraged to stay on well-used, open trails where snakes warming themselves during early morning hours can be more easily seen. In brushy areas, use a walking stick to alert a snake of your approach and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. More information is available on WDFW's "Living with Snakes" webpage.

Safety and fire restrictions: This year's abundance of water has produced an abundance of mosquitoes. Ticks are still out, too. Bring the bug spray along on your wildlife viewing trips.

Keep the Fourth-of-July fireworks at home since they're prohibited year-round on all WDFW water access sites and wildlife areas statewide.

To further prevent wildfires, additional fire restrictions have been in effect since June 30 on all WDFW eastern Washington wildlife areas and water access sites. That means no fires, including campfires, of any kind; no smoking outside of vehicles; no use of chainsaws or welding equipment; and no operating motor vehicles of any kind off of developed roads and parking lots. 

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