Whitefish on Banks Lake
March 1 opener: Several lakes in the Columbia Basin open to fishing March 1, but almost all are still completely ice covered and show little signs of thawing anytime soon.
That's the bad news from WDFW district fish biologist Chad Jackson.
"Our north access road on the Quincy Lakes Wildlife Area is still closed, because there's still at least six inches of compact frozen snow and very unsafe travel conditions," he said. "We don't need anyone getting stuck in there trying to reach some of the March 1-opening lakes. We'll open it when conditions allow, so stay tuned."
The better news from Jackson is that Lenice and Martha lakes are fishable. Lenice Lake, north of Mattawa in Grant County, is wide open and should produce catches of rainbow trout ranging in size from 14 to 20 inches.
Martha Lake, just north of George in Grant County, is ice-free in the northern one-third to one-half of the lake. However, anglers with two-wheel-drive vehicles should probably not drive into the Martha Lake access site, Jackson said, because there's still up to six inches of compact frozen snow that has not been driven on. For those who can safely reach Martha Lake, there should be 11- to 13-inch yearling rainbows and winter carryovers up to 20 inches.
Stay tuned for updates on conditions in this report later this month.
Okanogan lakes: March is the last month for the catch-and-keep fishing season at several Okanogan County lakes that shift to catch-and-release April 1. WDFW district fish biologist Ryan Fortier reports Davis Lake near Winthrop has been producing rainbow trout catches since the first of September. Rat Lake near Brewster was treated in fall 2015 to remove undesirable fish. Since that treatment the fishing has been fast and bountiful.
Green and Little Green lakes near Omak, which have been producing some trout up to 16 inches, switched to catch and release March 1.
Year-round-open waters: Chelan County's Fish Lake has been producing good catches of yellow perch in the 10- to 12-inch range and Roses Lake has been producing 11- to 13-inch rainbow trout.
Okanogan County's Patterson Lake near Winthrop, Palmer Lake near Loomis,and Bonaparte Lake near Tonasket have also been good fishing spots. Palmer Lake has frozen for the first time since the winter of 2013 and anglers are avidly targeting the yellow perch through the ice.
Year-round-open Banks Lake, the Columbia River reservoir above Coulee City on the Grant-Douglas county line, has been completely frozen this year and has been providing good ice fishing for lake whitefish and yellow perch.
Anglers are encouraged to follow Ice Fishing Safety guidelines.
River whitefish: Fishing for whitefish continues through March on the Methow and Similkameen rivers in Okanogan County with catch rates improving as water temperatures slowly rise.
Chelan district mule deer hunter
Apply for a multiple-season tag: Deer and elk hunters have until March 31 to enter their names into the drawing for a 2017 multiple-season tag, which can greatly increase the opportunity for success in the field. WDFW will hold the drawing in mid-April, randomly selecting names for 8,500 multiple-season deer tags and 1,000 multiple season elk tags.
Winners of the drawing will be eligible to purchase a special tag allowing them to participate in archery, muzzleloader, as well as modern firearm general hunting seasons for deer or elk in 2017. The deadline to purchase the multiple-season tag is July 31.
Winners may choose any weapon type when applying for a special permit to hunt deer or elk. Winners who purchase the multiple season elk tag can participate in general elk hunting seasons in both eastern and western Washington.
A multiple season application can be purchased from authorized license dealers, online, or by calling (866) 246-9453. The application costs $7.10 for residents and $110.50 for nonresidents.
Sandhill cranes in Columbia Basin
Sandhill Crane Festival: The 20th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival is March 24-26 this year and registrations for limited-capacity bus tours, field trips and other presentations are now underway online. This event celebrates the annual migratory stopover of nearly 35,000 sandhill cranes in the Columbia Basin, along with lots of other early spring wildlife activity.
Sandhill cranes may be one of the easiest birds to spot for even casual or novice birdwatchers because they're so big. These four-foot, prehistoric-looking birds migrate through the Pacific Flyway and make feeding and resting stops in the Columbia Basin on their way to nesting sites in Alaska. The greatest concentration of cranes are found in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge marsh units, Frenchmen Reserve, Potholes Reservoir, Scootney Reservoir, and Winchester Reserve. Good numbers of the big birds are usually in the area through mid-April.
Bird migration: March is always a great month for birdwatching throughout the northcentral region, even when wintery conditions persist since daylight hours trigger migration as much, if not more so, than weather.
Besides the sandhill cranes, the Columbia Basin attracts large numbers of migrating waterfowl, including lots of mallards, pintails, and Canada geese. The wetlands throughout the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area provide excellent habitat for the birds and viewing by birdwatchers.
Open waterways throughout Okanogan and Chelan counties draw a variety of waterfowl, too.
Scott Fitkin, WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist, notes that later in the month blue grouse will be quite active in courtship displays. The single-focused grouse may be oblivious to viewers then, but it's always a good idea to give them space and use binoculars and scopes to aid viewing.
Other migrants, including bluebirds, blackbirds, grosbeaks, killdeer, and robins, are being spotted throughout the region this month.
Deer: Mule deer are very viewable as they forage on greening hillsides, including areas that burned in last summer's wildfires. Deer should be given a wide berth to avoid disturbing them during this critical foraging time.
Nuisance wildlife: Smaller mammals, like raccoons, skunks and marmots, are abundant throughout the region in both rural and urban environments, and can become a nuisance at this time of year when they make family-rearing nests in the wrong places – like crawl spaces under porches or corners of garages or storage sheds. Learn how to enjoy these wildlife neighbors without problems at WDFW's Living with Wildlife webpages.