WDFW Weekender Report

Discover recreational opportunities in Eastern, North Central, South Central, North Puget Sound, Southwest, and Coastal Washington.

Find your heart in the outdoors this month

Mule deer in frost
Photo by WDFW

The first day of spring is still more than a month away, but February offers plenty of opportunities for those seeking relief from a case of “winter blues” 

Outdoors going indoors this month

Anglers, hunters, boaters and wildlife and outdoors enthusiasts can make plans to attend a variety of industry-related shows featuring the latest gear, attractions, and seminars hosted by local experts.

Upcoming shows: 

WDFW will have a booth or guest speakers at several of the shows, so swing by and say hello!

For a virtual activity, join WDFW and Conservation Northwest on Feb. 1 from 6-7 p.m. for a virtual show-and-tell about our video "Wild Ways - Why Keeping Washington’s Habitat Connected Matters." Visit the event website for more information: Wild Ways Video Screening - Virtual.

Interested in learning more about careers at WDFW and in science? Visit us at the Science Career Expo on Feb. 10 at the Foss Waterway Seaport in Tacoma.

Popular outdoor opportunities this month

Rufus Woods Reservoir rainbow trout

Rainbow trout
Photo by Jon Tienhaara

While the weather is cold in North Central Washington, the trout fishing at Rufus Woods Reservoir is heating up. Rufus Woods is known for its great trout fishing, both from shore or from a boat, and is a good way to get the family outside on a winter day. Rufus Woods Reservoir, located on the Columbia River between Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams, is a popular winter fishery for rainbow trout.

The Colville Confederated Tribes in cooperation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) produce about 14 million pounds of rainbow trout annually. These trout are known as “triploids” who don’t reproduce and don’t jeopardize native fish stocks found along this 51-mile waterway between Bridgeport and Coulee Dam.

There is a lot of bank and boat accessibility in this fishery. The best shoreline area on the westside is located on reservation land near the net pens requires a tribal permit to fish. To buy a permit visit the Colville Confederated Tribes website. Anglers can find a map and other details on the Tribes’ website here. The lower net pen is about 33 miles above Chief Joseph Dam, and you’ll see many fly and bank anglers around the middle net pen closest to the mouth of Nespelem Creek.

Bald eagle
Photo by Justin Haug

Statewide wildlife viewing

February is an excellent time to view spectacular wildlife in Washington!

Many bald eagles can be viewed along the Skagit River at Concrete, Rockport, and Marblemount. The Skagit River Interpretive Center is open Feb. 4-5 and Feb. 11-12, 11am-1:30pm, and offers guided nature walks and eagle viewing and photography tours. The Nooksack River near Bellingham also offers incredible eagle watching.

Visitors from the High Arctic, brant geese spend the winter resting and feeding on Puget Sound and coastal bays. Learn about these unique sea geese and where to see them in this new blog post.

WDFW’s Skagit Wildlife Area continues to offer unique sightings of tens of thousands of wintering snow geese and swans as well as raptors and shorebirds. Be sure to Be Bird Wise while out viewing or photographing. We have tips for birders and hunters sharing space on public lands in this blog post. Take a short drive north from the Skagit and experience the La Conner Birding Festival on Feb. 3-4.

At WDFW's Oak Creek Wildlife Area, visitors can watch elk dine on alfalfa hay and pellets. For details about feeding times, guests can call 509-653-2390.

Skagit Steelhead
Photo by Sam Thompson

River and stream fishing

February is the start of peak fishing season for wild winter steelhead in Western Washington. Highlights this month include catch and release fishing on the Skagit and Sauk rivers and opportunities for both hatchery and wild steelhead on rivers in the coastal, Willapa Bay, and lower Columbia regions; from the Bogachiel and Sol Duc to Willapa, Naselle, and Lewis rivers. Fishing remains closed in Grays Harbor and Chehalis Basin rivers. Steelhead fishing will also pick up this month on the Cowlitz River. Fishing for hatchery steelhead remains open through Feb. 15 in numerous terminal areas near hatcheries, see our steelhead stocking webpage and check regulations for details.

 

Ice fishing
Photo by Viktor Sviridovich

Eastside ice fishing

Following a chilly mid-January, many eastern Washington lakes are frozen. This is great news for ice fishing! WDFW’s ice fishing web page has everything you need to get started- fishing tips, recommended equipment and how-to videos. Be sure to read through the safety tips as the El Niño winter means ice conditions can change quickly.

Diggers look for razor clams at low tide.
Photo by WDFW

Coast razor clam digging

WDFW will announce future digging opportunities when marine toxin tests show it is safe to do so. Only Copalis Beach reopened in late January, and openers rely on additional marine toxin testing. More information about domoic acid, as well as current levels at ocean beaches, can be found on WDFW's domoic acid webpage. For additional details, go to the WDFW's razor clam webpage and the DOH webpage.

Dungeness crabs
Photo by WDFW

Coastal crab fishing

All of Puget Sound has closed until summer, but you can still crab along the coast. At Ilwaco, Westport/Grays Harbor, La Push, and Neah Bay west of the Tatoosh-Bonilla line crab pots are allowed through Sept. 15, and all other crab gear other than pots is open year-round. The Columbia River area is open year-round for all gear. At Tokeland/Willapa Bay crab pots are allowed through Sept. 15, and all other crab gear other than pots is open year-round and there’s been some nice crab caught lately, even off the docks. The coastal commercial crab fishery opened Feb. 1. Learn more in our news release.

Blue birds
Photo by Justin Haug

#LifeOutdoorsWA

The outdoors fits into everyone’s life in unique and personal ways, and we here at WDFW want to foster connections with and appreciation of nature, the wide variety of Washington landscapes, and all forms of outdoor recreation through the Life Outdoors resources. We hope to see you in the field and on the water enjoying the Life Outdoors!

Big horn
Photo by Debra Lewis

Big Game Hunting Pamphlet photo contest

The 2024 Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest is going on now! WDFW is looking for Washington big game photos for next year's Big Game Hunting Rules and Regulations pamphlet. This year's photo contest theme is "Live big game animal." The winning photo submission will be featured on the cover of next year's big game hunting regulations! Submissions are open until Feb. 15, so don’t delay!

Wild Washington
Photo by WDFW

Wild Washington Youth Education Program

Embark on a wild crafting adventure and introduce your learners to Washington’s wildlife though art. Crafting animal track stamps allows kids to explore the imprints left behind by critters in the winter snow and mud. Using simple materials like craft foam, cardboard, and paint, kids can design and carve their favorite animal tracks

Habitat at Home
Photo by WDFW

Habitat at Home 

Grab your binoculars and cellphones – the Great Backyard Bird Count is here! Every February, folks around the world come together to count their local birds and anyone can join in the festivities. Submit your count Feb 16-19! In the Seattle area? Join WDFW and our partners at Bird Fest for hands-on learning, bird walks, and more on Feb 17!

Don’t feed wildlife: When the temperature drops and snow falls, many people want to feed deer and other wildlife to “help” the animals. However, feeding wildlife can cause more harm than good. The greatest drawback to feeding deer or elk is the potential harm to their health. Non-natural food sources can be extremely difficult for wildlife to digest and can upset their digestive systems. Concentrating deer and elk at a feeder can create problems by making the animals more vulnerable to disease, predation, and poaching. Please – keep wildlife wild by not providing non-natural food sources. Deer, elk, and other animals have developed adaptations that allow them to survive harsh winter conditions without human intervention.

Wild Ways: Why Keeping Washington's Habitat Connected Matters

Animals rely on movement to survive, in pursuit of food, resources, and seasonal habitat. As Washington's human population grows, the state's natural habitats grow increasingly fragmented. Habitat connectivity is about ensuring animals have the freedom of movement they need to thrive, and WDFW is working hard with its partners to help improve those connections across Washington. 

Join the WDFW team

If you’d enjoy preserving, protecting, and perpetuating the state’s fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities, then check out some of our current job openings or sign up for job alerts. From fishery technicians and environmental planners to data scientists, archaeologists to wildlife biologists, a career with WDFW makes a difference.

Volunteer opportunity

WDFW welcomes volunteers of all abilities who want to contribute to conservation of fish, wildlife, and habitat. Diverse volunteer opportunities are available, including projects on state wildlife areas and water access areas, habitat restoration projects, Hunter Education instruction, and assisting at outreach events.  

For more information about the volunteer program and upcoming volunteer opportunities, visit the WDFW volunteer webpage