Duke and Ayla Vandemark had a good fishing season opener at Wapato Lake in Chelan County.
April 22 opening season: May is prime fishing month throughout the region with action heating up on waters that just opened April 22, along with those that have been open since earlier in the year.
Okanogan County had March-like conditions on opening day with ice on some lakes, so fish were slow to bite, reports Ryan Fortier, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist.
"We still had a large opening day turnout on the Conconully lakes," he said. "Pearrygin Lake rainbows were reluctant to strike boat-trolled tackle on the opener, preferring the still presentations of shore anglers. Access to Chopaka Lake was blocked by snow on the opener so the first fishing there is likely to be this month. But these cooler water temperatures just mean anglers will have good fishing action longer this year."
Opening day creel checks in Okanogan County showed Conconully Lake anglers each averaged 2.5 rainbow trout up to 15 inches. Round Lake anglers each averaged almost five trout up to 13 inches. Long Lake anglers averaged four trout up to 12 inches. Pearrygin Lake anglers averaged only about one trout up to 14 inches.
In Douglas County, Jameson Lake saw an average of almost five trout caught per angler, with the largest rainbow a 24-incher from among the 400-plus "jumbos" recently stocked there. Most of the catch was 12 to 14-inch rainbows from fingerlings stocked last year.
In Chelan County, Wapato Lake anglers averaged 3.4 trout, with the largest measured at 19 inches.
In Grant County, Deep Lake had an average per angler catch of 3.5 rainbows up to 15 inches. Perch Lake anglers averaged almost five trout each, including a 17-inch rainbow. Warden Lake anglers averaged almost four trout each, with 12 inches being the largest checked. Vic Meyers Lake (or Rainbow Lake) anglers averaged almost two trout up to 15 inches. Blue Lake anglers averaged a little over three trout each, up to 16 inches.Park Lake anglers averaged 3.5 trout with fish up to 16 inches.
For more details, see 2017 Lowland Lakes Opening Day (April 22nd) Trout Creel Results.
Other trout waters: WDFW Chelan district fish biologist Travis Maitland says year-round-open Lake Chelan has plenty of westslope cutthroat trout that are relatively easy to catch either from shore or in a boat trolling or casting near shore.
"No down rigging is needed and bait is not a must," Maitland said. "Shore anglers can do well with just casting and retrieving various types of spinners and spoons anywhere from the Manson area up lake to Stehekin. Boat fishermen do well trolling spoons, spinners and small plugs such as flatfish and the little 2-1/2-inch Maglips. I have also watched boat anglers anchor and cast to fish with fly gear, which seems to be equally effective."
Maitland says most of Lake Chelan's cutthroat are 12 to 14 inches at this time of year, but there are a few in the 15 to 17-inch range. Anglers can only keep "adipose fin marked/clipped" cutthroat, which are about 80 percent of those stocked. Unmarked cutthroat are intended to contribute to natural spawning production.
"For conservation purposes, I encourage anglers to use single point hooks for easier release and greater survival of unmarked fish," he said. "In my own experience, treble hooks can really do a number on fish and diminish their chances of survival. Using single point hooks does not drastically reduce hookup rates. You could also take it a step further and go barbless."
Maitland says Lake Chelan is also good for kokanee fishing in May. Boaters shouldn't have to go very far up lake to find the schools of kokanee, and although fish finding equipment is not necessary, it helps.
Kokanee are also starting to be harvested from Okanogan County's Spectacle Lake, which opened April 1. Fortier reports the first 80,000 kokanee fry were stocked in Spectacle in March of 2015 and they are now 10 to12-inch fish. Spectacle's kokanee fishing had not been productive earlier so anglers were targeting the lake's abundant perch fishery. But the kokanee catch is now on.
Fortier also notes the Green lakes northwest of Omak that opened March 1 are now providing consistent rainbow trout action.
Upper Antilon and Lower Antilon lakes northwest of Chelan provide good brown trout action in May.
"These fish should be primed and ready to bite the entire month of May," Maitland said. "Most should be in the 12 to 15-inch range with a smaller number of large fish that are up to and over 20 inches. Cast or troll spoons and spinners. Fly fishermen casting or trolling larger flies such as Wooly Buggers can do well."
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.
Maitland says as temperatures warm this month and next on Wapato, Roses, and Dry lakes near Manson in Chelan County, anglers can expect catches of good-sized largemouth bass, along with crappie, bluegill and yellow perch.
In Okanogan County, Fortier says panfish and bass in Leader, Patterson, and Palmer lakes will soon begin their more erratic springtime movements to stage for spawning.
"Anglers will need to sleuth out the locations of these fish in these waters," he said. "Expect perch to begin staging first, followed by crappie, bluegill and bass once water temperatures hit the mid-50-degree mark."
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 freshwater or combination fishing license who catch one of some 900 tagged fish can claim prizes provided by license dealers across the state. A list of lakes with prize fish and details on how to claim prizes are available at the derby website.
Even if you don't land a prize, plenty of trout are available to harvest. WDFW has been stocking in the region for months. A complete trout-planting schedule for southcentral lakes and ponds is available on the region's catchable trout plants report webpage.
Turkeys are plentiful on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County. Photo by Justin Haug.
Spring turkey: The general spring wild turkey season continues through May 31 around the state.
In Okanogan County, WDFW district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin says turkey hunters found access difficult when the season first opened April 15, due to lingering snowpack with extended cold temperatures. As temperatures warm this month, hunters should find better than average numbers of the big birds.
Spring turkey hunters who plan to also 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.
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.
Wood ducks are back in the Sinlahekin Valley of Okanogan County. Photo by Justin Haug.
Birds: WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin says birding is the highlight of this month as the neotropical migrant species continue to pour in and begin displaying and nesting.
"The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area and Big Valley Unit of the Methow Wildlife Area are particularly good for May birdwatching," he said. "The wildflowers are blooming a little late because of our long winter, but bird returns are triggered more by daylight hours, so birding should be good. And the wildflower bloom will be a banner one later in the month with all the moisture."
Chelan County birders reported seeing up to 30 species on recent outings at Beebe Springs Wildlife Area. Highlights from a recent trip included a pair of Wilson's snipe, downy woodpeckers, Lincoln sparrow and a wide array of waterfowl.
"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.
First yellow-rumped warbler of the year is back on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County. Photo by Justin Haug.
Some public lands serve just that purpose, like WDFW's Columbia Basin Wildlife Area and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in Grant County.
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.
Spawning steelhead: WDFW Chelan Wildlife Area manager Ron Fox reminds viewers that steelhead trout will be returning to Beebe Creek to spawn in the coming weeks with peak numbers in mid-May. Steelhead and their redds (nests of eggs) are visible from the bridges spanning Beebe Creek in Chelan County and from two viewpoints that provide close access to the creek.
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.