WDFW Weekender Report

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

May brings a bounty of shellfishing, fishing, wildlife watching

Angler holding up a large lingcod caught in the Puget Sound.
Photo by Joanne Whitmer

As the weather warms up, May is the perfect time to explore the great outdoors and participate in exciting events across the state -- from lowland lakes trout to lingcod fishing and soaking pots for spot shrimp, gathering oysters, clams, and mussels, spring Chinook fishing, and spring turkey hunting. 

With several Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wildlife areas reopening to the public this month after seasonal closures to protect wintering wildlife, May is also a great time to go for a hike, watch for birds and other animals, or learn about our state’s habitat and ecosystems

The riparian hillsides of the Columbia River Gorge in southwest Washington and the shrubsteppe of the Columbia Basin in central Washington are particularly stunning this time of year as sage sprouts and wildflowers bloom. 

March/April bulletin from Director Kelly Susewind 

Habitat loss, climate change, and invasive species — these are just a few of the many threats that impact fish and wildlife resources and WDFW’s ability to conserve them. In the latest Director’s Bulletin, Director Susewind outlines the importance of addressing threats to fish and wildlife including engaging with the public and partners, and authentically communicating about WDFW’s work to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife, ecosystems, and outdoor opportunities, and what we can all do to contribute to conservation. Read this month's bulletin on the WDFW blog.

Latest big game hunting regulations and special hunt applications now available 

WDFW has released the latest big game hunting season and regulation information, including a decision from the WDFW director about 2024-2026 hunting season rule change proposals. The Department also invites hunters to submit their 2024 special hunt applications by May 15. For more information, refer to our news release.

Fish Washington mobile app

Fish Washington app receives major upgrades

WDFW launched an upgraded version of the Fish Washington mobile application (app) on April 9, now available to download on both Apple iOS and Android devices. The new version is designed to run more smoothly while using less data and device memory. 

Developers completely rewrote the app’s code, which now features a single code base for both iOS and Android platforms. This means a smaller app size, less frequent updates, and fewer bugs.  Other improvements include:   

  • Location-enabled United States Geological Service (USGS) river gauges.  
  • More consistent emergency regulation delivery.  
  • Map upgrades.   

The new version will show the full water body name and description on emergency regulation cards. With a data connection, the app also includes National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) tidal predictions for marine waters and portions of the Columbia River, as well as river gauges from multiple data providers. Users can ask questions, make suggestions, or report issues at MobileAppDev@dfw.wa.gov. Learn more in our news release.

Reminder about rockfish identification and retention

With the recreational bottomfishing season underway on the Washington Coast, anglers are reminded that retention of copper, quillback, and vermilion rockfish is prohibited May 1 through July 31, 2024. Retention of yelloweye rockfish is prohibited year-round in all Washington marine areas. Rockfish are often incorrectly called “sea bass” but are in fact a family of fish separate from sea bass and perch. Learn more about rockfish identification in our blog post. Anglers are reminded that descending devices are also required to be onboard and ready on all vessels fishing for bottomfish or halibut.

Boy holding fish with dog on dock
Photo by Josue Estrada

Events with WDFW: Youth fishing, World Migratory Bird Day, and more

Grow your appreciation for the outdoors by joining WDFW at one of our events. Check out the WDFW events calendar for a full list of events. 

Family fishing events: These are designed for youth and families of all skill levels and are a great opportunity for beginners to try fishing. In May, we will be working with local partners to hold events in Federal Way on May 4, Olympia on May 11, Spokane on May 11, and Lakewood on May 18.

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD): Go birdwatching at a WDFW Wildlife Area on May 11 to celebrate WMBD! Near the peak of many bird migrations, WMBD is an excellent day for birdwatching. Share your observations on eBird as part of their Global Big Day or check the WMBD or Washington Audubon websites to find a birding event near you. 

Other events: 

Popular outdoor opportunities this month

Logo for the 2024 WDFW trout derby.

Statewide trout derby

The 9th annual WDFW Trout Derby continues through Oct. 31. Tagged trout are stocked in 100+ lakes across Washington. Catch a tagged trout and you win a prize! It’s a great opportunity for anglers of all ages and skill. Create memories and experience the outdoors together! For more information, visit the trout derby webpage, then catch up on the lowland lakes trout opener in our latest blog.

Recreational spot shrimp fishing opens May 16

Many Puget Sound marine areas will open for recreational spot shrimp fishing beginning May 16. Hood Canal and Discovery Bay, meanwhile, will open May 17. Overall, the 2024 “shrimping” season will start with similar opportunities compared to 2023. See the specific marine area season dates by going to the news release

Lingcod fishing in Puget Sound, San Juans, Straits

The lingcod fishing season begins May 1 and continues through June 15 in many marine areas of Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the chances of catching one have improved in recent years. The lingcod daily limit is one per angler. Minimum size limit is 26 inches and maximum size is 36 inches. Halibut fishing seasons are also open in May in most marine areas with an expanded six halibut annual limit. Learn lingcod fishing tips on the WDFW blog. 

Many rivers, streams, and beaver ponds open May 25 

The Saturday before Memorial Day is when many rivers, streams, and beaver ponds typically open for trout and gamefish under the annual Statewide Freshwater Rules. However, this year some rivers are closed to all fishing—including catch and release—to protect wild Chinook salmon and steelhead. These include the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Nooksack, and certain Willapa Bay tributaries, though some sections of these rivers may open later this summer or fall. Be sure to check the Fish Washington mobile app or online regulations for any emergency fishing rule changes in effect to protect wild salmon and steelhead. 

Northern pikeminnow angler with his catch
Photo by WDFW

Get paid to fish

The 2024 Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward fishery, which pays anglers $6 to $10 for each qualifying fish and up to $500 for a tagged fish, opens May 1 and runs through Sept. 30. Funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, this program contributes to conservation by harvesting a portion of the largest pikeminnow preying on threatened salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia and Snake River basins. In 2023, the top angler earned over $100,000—just from fishing! Visit pikeminnow.org for more information, including registration and regulations, then watch the webinar on YouTube to get started. 

Puget Sound marine area salmon fishing 

The Tulalip Bubble Fishery opens for Chinook from May 24 through Sept. 2 and fishing is allowed from 12:01 a.m. Fridays through Mondays of each week. Fishing is closed on June 1 for the Tulalip Tribal fishing ceremony. See the 2024-25 proposed fisheries on the North of Falcon webpage.

Turkey hunting season continues through May 31

Washington's statewide general turkey season is happening now through May 31! Find all you need to know about this opportunity in the regulations pamphlet.  WDFW is now accepting entries to the 2025 Spring Turkey Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest! The theme this year is "Hunting Together." We want to celebrate how turkey hunting brings people together by showcasing your photo on the cover of the 2025 regulations! Don't forget to take some photos during this year's spring turkey hunt and submit your photos online

Pike caught by WDFW on San Juan Island in March 2024
Photo by WDFW

Report invasive northern pike

Northern pike, a harmful invasive fish, have been caught recently in Lake Washington and on San Juan Island. If anglers catch northern pike in new areas, WDFW asks that they kill the pike immediately and do not release it, take a photo, and report it by calling 1-888-WDFW-AIS, email at ais@dfw.wa.gov, or use the Washington Invasive Species Council reporting form or mobile app. It is illegal to possess live invasive species. Under state regulations, prohibited invasive species may be killed and retained if the person assumes responsibility for correct identification and adherence to fishing regulations. To learn more about invasive pike, see our news release.

Wildflower viewing this spring

Spring is usually an excellent time to be dazzled by wildflowers in south central Washington. This month holds a lot of promise for viewing and photographing a bright pop of shrubsteppe wildflowers and most low elevation areas offer good viewing opportunities. Phlox, balsam root, lupine, bitterroot, biscuit root, and many others are in full bloom. There are many places to view wildflowers on WDFW land in Washington’s south central region, including Oak Creek, Wenas, and LT. Murray wildlife areas. 

Practice black bear awareness this spring 

WDFW responds to a variety of situations involving black bears every year, and most are due to human-provided attractants leading to preventable encounters. With both temperatures and black bear activity increasing for the season, we’re asking for your help to secure unnatural food sources and reduce potential bear encounters. Please visit our blog to learn how you can help protect yourself, protect your property, and protect wildlife by preventing black bears from becoming habituated to non-natural food sources. 

Wildlife watching
Photo by WDFW

Wild Washington youth education program 

Spring is a great time to explore your neighborhood and discover the habitat needs of local wildlife. Did you know that wildlife often use entire neighborhoods to access essential resources such as food, water, shelter, and space? To understand how your neighborhood supports local wildlife, we’ve put together a scavenger hunt for you and your family to find and identify different elements of wildlife habitat in your community. The hunt will have you search for elements like trees, shrubs, bird feeders, bird and bat houses, and water sources like streams or ponds. To download, view, and print the scavenger hunt, please click here.

Habitat at Home

Support wildlife, mow less, and conserve water by transforming your lawn! Grassy lawns have replaced healthy wildlife habitat and contribute to water shortages across Washington. Transforming your lawn into a native wildflower meadow creates habitat for pollinators, birds, and bats. Plus, the native plants need much less water than a conventional lawn! For information on how to transform your lawn this year, please visit the National Wildlife Federation's lawn reduction guide.

FISH WAR world premiere

FISH WAR, a documentary film produced by Northwest Treat Tribes Media and North Forty Productions, will have its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival at 5 p.m., Saturday, May 11, with an additional matinee screening at 1 p.m., Sunday, May 12. Both screenings will be at SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N. A virtual streaming ticket is also available. 

The feature-length documentary highlights the violent struggle faced by Indigenous nations to exercise their treaty-protected right to harvest salmon in the Pacific Northwest. FISH WAR, tells the story from the perspectives of tribal fishers who endured the violent Fish War era of the 1960s and those who are working now to prevent Pacific Northwest salmon from slipping into extinction. To purchase tickets, please visit the SIFF website.

Watch: WDFW youth fishing program highlight

WDFW partners with businesses, organizations, and volunteers across the state to provide fishing opportunities for children ages 5 to 14. Most of these events take place from April through June, and each provides a day of fishing for a few dozen to several hundred kids and their families. Learn how you can support WDFW’s youth fishing program through the Youth Outdoors Initiative, which aims to expand outdoor skills and encourage stewardship of nature for Washington youth.

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 fish hatchery specialists to environmental planners and budget analysts to wildlife biologists, a career with WDFW makes a difference.