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  More to do Outside!

September 2017
Region 2: Northcentral Washington
(Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties)
Young man showing off the largemouth bass he caught fishing in the Columbia Basin.
Columbia Basin largemouth bass fishing is good in September

Salmon and steelhead: Upper Columbia River fall chinook salmon fishing is slow but steady with the best fishing near the mouth of the Okanogan River and across from the Bridgeport boat ramp just below Chief Joseph Dam.

Ryan Fortier, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist, said that because there are no sockeye this year, fewer anglers are participating in the chinook fishery. Combined with the end of summer this month, Fortier says that means fishing is less competitive and more relaxed now.  And although the hatchery chinook run is less than last year, it’s enough to last through the season’s end Oct. 15.

Fortier notes that chinook caught in the upper Columbia River from Pasco to Chief Joseph Dam that are marked with a hole punch in the upper lobe of the caudal (tail) fin must be released. See details in the rule change.  

Fortier reminds anglers that summer chinook salmon fishing closes on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers Sept.15. 

Summer chinook salmon fishing continues on the Wenatchee River through the month of September, and WDFW Chelan District Fish Biologist Travis Maitland reports there are still nice fish to be caught. 

“Anglers willing to spend some time are still catching chinook in very good shape,” he said. The daily limit is four salmon, of which only two can be adult hatchery-marked chinook. All coho and wild chinook must be released, so selective gear rules are in effect.

Maitland also reminds anglers that with a rule change in mid-August, they can retain un-clipped chinook on the Entiat River.

Steelhead fishing has yet to begin on the upper Columbia River. The steelhead run appears to again be very low this year, and the fishery may be a repeat of last year, Fortier said. But anglers should watch for run forecast updates later this month.

Check the daily bag limits and other regulation details for both salmon and steelhead by river section in the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet and rule changes.  

Sturgeon: White sturgeon fishing continues through Sept. 17 in the Columbia River’s Wanapum reservoir (from Wanapum Dam to Rock Island Dam) and Priest Rapids reservoir (from Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam). Up to two sturgeon, between 38 and 72 inches fork length, can be retained daily. 

Chad Jackson, WDFW regional fish biologist, reports sturgeon catch success has been spotty, but the fish are big. Successful anglers are trying deep holes and finding the best bite is in the morning.  See the rule change for more details.

Trout and mixed species:  September is the last month of rainbow trout and other species fishing for some Columbia Basin waters and a few in other parts of the region, notably Spectacle Lake and Washburn Island Pond in Okanogan County, and Blackbird Island Pond in Chelan County.

Ryan Fortier, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist, notes that on the first of September the rules change at Davis and Campbell lakes in the Methow Valley from catch-and-release and selective gear restrictions to a retention fishery under statewide trout limits. The harvest season continues through the winter until March 31. 

“We recommend anglers get on these smaller lakes early in the day,” Fortier said, “because by late morning and afternoon they can get crowded.”  Both lakes have WDFW maintained boat launches, toilets, and parking.  

Fortier reminds anglers that catch-and-release trout fishing on the Methow River, from country road bridge 1535 (Burma Road) upstream to Gold Creek, closes Sept. 15.  The Methow River from Gold Creek upstream to Foghorn Dam closes Sept. 30.

Year-round open Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir in the Columbia Basin; Roses Lake in Chelan County; and Leader, Patterson, and Palmer lakes in Okanogan County can provide good opportunities for yellow perch, crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass this month.

Banks Lake: WDFW fish technician Aulin Smith reports kokanee in year-round-open Banks Lake are being caught in the Devils Punch Bowl area off Steamboat Rock.

“Kokanee are at about 80 to 120 feet, and orange lure and bait colors seem to be working best,” Smith said. “Whitefish and rainbow trout are also being caught there, with anglers jigging for whitefish doing very well.”
Smith says walleye have been spread out in Banks Lake. Anglers are finding them in many different depths and locations, so they need to really cover the water to be successful. Bottom walkers with a spinner and worm seem to be the best option.

Banks Lake bass anglers have been doing well on top water early and late,” Smith said, “but they’re having to move slower during the day, out to deeper points outside of weed lines.”

Smith also noted that with the reservoir water level down now, fly fishers wading for carp have been able to cover a little more water and be more successful.

Two mule deer buck in late summer foliage.
Photo by Justin Haug

Deer: Sept. 1 is the start of early archery deer hunting in select northcentral region (200-series) Game Management Units (GMUs). Most is for mule deer, but white-tailed deer opportunities are available, too. 

Modern firearm and muzzleloader high buck hunting begins Sept. 15 in the wilderness area of the North Cascades and Lake Chelan Recreation Area.

Prospects for Okanogan and Chelan-Douglas district mule deer hunting for both early archers and high buck hunters are good, but they may have to work a little harder than last year. Spring surveys, especially in the Chelan district, indicate a decline in deer numbers, probably due to the snowy conditions that persisted last winter. Total harvest and success rates could still be within the 10-year average, however.

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

Fire danger: As of Sept. 1, the Diamond Creek Fire had closed access to a portion of the Pasayten Wilderness and Eightmile drainage north of Mazama. Hunters planning to hunt there and elsewhere this month are advised to check fire conditions before they head out. State land managers ask that anyone planning to spend time outdoors take care to avoid sparking a wildfire. Fire restrictions are currently in effect on lands in eastern Washington managed by WDFW.

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

The Columbia Basin district provides the best opportunities for mourning dove hunting, which runs through October. 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.

Forest grouse – blue (dusky), ruffed and spruce grouse, depending on elevation – should be in fair numbers in the forested lands of the Okanogan and Chelan-Douglas districts.  

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.

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.

Poster for the Chelan Ridge Hawk Migration Festival

Hawk Festival:  September 15-16 is the 9th annual Chelan Ridge Hawk Migration Festival, a free family-event based in Pateros’ Memorial Park from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Activities include shuttle trips to the Chelan Ridge migration site to learn about and celebrate raptors as they journey to winter territories. Close-up views of some raptors, such as the Cooper’s hawk, are available during capture, banding and release work. The event is sponsored by the U.S.Forest Service Chelan Ranger District, HawkWatch International, and North Central Washington Audubon Society.

Salmon Festival: The 27th annual, award-winning Wenatchee River Salmon Festival is Sept. 28-29 in Leavenworth. The festival mission is to provide high quality natural resource education, promote outdoor recreation, and share the cultural significance of salmon and other wildlife to the people of the Northwest. It’s hosted by and headquartered at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery where all the favorite family activities are back, such as Gyotaku fish printing, Migration Golf, Reptile Man, Sardis Live Raptors, and much more.

Poster for the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival Open House

Birds:Local birder John Hanna says a great place to view migrating birds during the month of September is Basset Park in Washtucna in Adams County. Catch the right day and various colorful and often rare migrating warblers are so numerous they are sometimes referred to as "dripping" from the trees. Records from the eBird organization indicate that 164 bird species have been identified in Washtucna during the month of September.

The Columbia Basin portion of the region always hosts ducks, geese, other waterbirds and shorebirds, and September is the month when many begin to congregate for southbound migrations. Many of the 13 units of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area provide road or trail access to areas where views are available, especially with binoculars, scopes and telephoto camera lenses.

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.

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