Fishing and wildlife viewing options are bountiful in May
With warmer weather and longer days, May is a wonderful time to get outdoors for a wide range of activities including soaking pots for spot shrimp, a final chance to dig razor clams on coastal beaches, turkey hunting, wildlife viewing, and an ever-growing list of fishing options.
The excitement of pulling up a pot loaded with prawn-size spot shrimp is a fishery anglers look forward to each spring, and WDFW shellfish managers indicate populations remain stable in many parts of Puget Sound. However, shrimping’s increasing popularity and very high effort by “shrimpers” in recent years have led to reduced spot shrimp openers in several areas.
Spot shrimp are the largest of more than 80 shrimp species in local marine waterways, but only seven are commonly caught by anglers.
Here are the upcoming spot shrimp openings:
- Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) is open May 25 and 28, June 9 and 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.
- Northern, central, and south-central Puget Sound (Marine Areas 9, 10 outside of Elliott Bay and 11) are open May 25 from 8 a.m. to noon only. Elliott Bay will remain closed in 2022.
- Saratoga Passage and Deception Pass, and Port Susan, Port Gardner, and Everett area (Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2) are open May 25 and June 9 from 8 a.m. to noon only. Note: Divers may take shrimp by hand or hand-held device from 7 p.m. until midnight on May 25 and June 9 in Marine Area 8-2.
- In San Juan Channel, Speiden Channel, Stuart, and Waldron islands (Marine Area 7 West) is open May 25-28, June 9-11, June 23-25, and July 7-9. Fishing is allowed during official daylight hours during each of the openers.
- Iceberg Point, Point Colville, Biz Point, Salmon Bank (Marine Area 7 South) is open May 25-28, and June 9-11. Fishing is allowed during official daylight hours during each of the openers.
- Northern Rosario Strait, Bellingham Bay, Sucia and Matia islands, Strait of Georgia (Marine Area 7 East) is open May 25-28, and June 9-11. Fishing is allowed during official daylight hours during each of the openers.
- Discovery Bay (Marine Area 6) is open May 25 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. only.
- Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Area 6 outside of Discovery Bay) is open May 25-28, June 9-11, June 23-25, July 7-9, and July 21-23. Fishing is allowed during official daylight hours during each of the openers.
- Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Areas 4 and 5) is open beginning May 25 and will close once the spot shrimp quota is achieved. Fishing is allowed during official daylight hours during each of the openers.
- Southern Puget Sound (Marine Area 13) south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will remain closed for spot shrimp in 2022 but will be open sometime in early summer for other shrimp species and a depth restriction.
Did you know, spot shrimp are a healthy source of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory astaxanthin and high in Omega-3 fatty acids? The nice, sweet flavor to the firm meat texture, make spot shrimp a highly sought-after delicacy.
Spot shrimp can be eaten raw and if cooked whole they should only be steamed or boiled in salted water for 1 to 2 minutes or until they turn pink. When possible, live spot shrimp should be prepared the same day they’re caught. To keep them alive, put them on ice immediately after you catch them. When brought home place them in the refrigerator in a plastic or glass container covered with a wet towel. Never soak in tap water as chlorine kills them. If kept overnight, remove the heads as the digestive enzyme makes the flesh turn mushy.
Remember as a new season of outdoor adventures is underway, Washingtonians must have valid 2022-2023 recreational hunting and fishing licenses. People can buy recreational licenses by phone at 866-246-9453 or online.
Popular spring-time outdoor opportunities include:
Shad in Columbia River
Another excellent shad return is expected and look for the run to peak later this month. In 2021, 5.8 million shad returned compared to the 10-year average of 3.7million shad. Once daily counts at the Bonneville Dam fish ladder hit 20,000+ shad, it is time to go fishing. Track shad counts online. Look for shad along the rip-rap shoreline below Bonneville Dam, and from Washougal to Kalama. Shad prefer fast, swift running current. Many are caught less than 15 to 30 feet from shore. Cast shad darts; red and white colored flies with a small hook; colored beads in red, bright orange or metallic silver or gold; small crappie-like jigs; or small wobbler type spoons or spinners. View the WDFW website for more on shad fishing.
Before heading out the door, anglers should check the WDFW permanent rules pamphlet and the emergency rules webpage when planning to fish on the Columbia River mainstem. Beginning May 16, the Columbia River mainstem downstream of Bonneville Dam opens under permanent rules for shad fishing, and downstream of the I-5 Bridge, anglers may also keep hatchery steelhead (up to 2 fish daily through June 15) and hatchery jacks. After June 15, steelhead is a 1 fish daily limit due to the expected low forecasts when open.
Trout in statewide lakes
Opening day turnout on April 23 was decent across the state with ideal weather and many happy faces catching fish. If you missed out, don’t worry! Loads of planted trout are still waiting to be caught, and fishing may continue to pick up as waters warm. Whether you’re a longtime angler or just getting started, trout are easily accessible from a boat, dock, or shoreline. Find out what lakes have been stocked on the WDFW website. The WDFW Trout Derby continues through Oct. 31 with thousands of tagged trout lurking in more than 100 lakes. Anglers who catch a tagged fish can win over 800 donated prizes totaling around $37,000. Learn more about the WDFW Trout Derby.
Lingcod in Puget Sound
The door swings open for lingcod May 1 and continues through June 15 in Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Areas 5 to 11 and 13). Lingcod must be within the slot limit of 26- to 36-inches. Anglers should carefully release “oversized” lingcod, which are often breeding females. Best fishing is typically around slack tide, and a variety of gear works well including 4- to 8-oz jigs, mooching large herring with banana weights and 7/0 or larger barbless hooks, or fishing live bait such as Pacific sanddab, herring, or shiner perch below a sliding sinker. Cabezon and kelp greenling may be retained, check the WDFW regulations page for details.
Trout in Eastern and Central Washington waterways
For anglers who prefer to catch and release wild trout, the “Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch” on the Yakima River provides excellent fly-fishing in May—use caddis nymph flies in the morning and dry flies in the afternoon. Many other rivers and creeks also open for game fish on May 28, though waters will likely run high into June given late spring snowfall.
Lake Roosevelt and Rufus Woods Lake are generating large-sized rainbow trout (14,065 triploid averaging 1.5 pounds apiece were planted in late April by the Colville Tribe) along with bragging-size kokanee.
Lake Chelan is good for kokanee, lake trout, and a few Chinook salmon. The extremely popular Spokane-area Kid’s Fishing Event is back May 7 at Clear Lake after a two-year hiatus! Participants get to take home a t-shirt and a rod and reel, too! View the WDFW fishing page for details.
Razor clams on coastal beaches
The last coastal razor clam digs of the spring season are May 1-7 at select coastal beaches. A bonus for diggers is the daily limit has been increased to 20 clams per person for the remainder of the season, and you must keep the first 20 clams dug regardless of size or condition. Visit the WDFW website for more information on coastal razor clam digging.
Puget Sound/Hood Canal shellfish gathering
Spring is an excellent time for gathering clams and oysters as low tides switch to daylight hours. Visit the Washington shellfish safety map for an easy to navigate search tool to locate the precise beach you want to visit. To find optimal low tides, go to the tide chart. You can also find shellfish harvesting information on the Washington Department of Health webpage. The WDFW website has additional details on where to go shellfish gathering.
Tulalip Bay for Chinook salmon
The Tulalip Bay Terminal Fishery, located just north of Everett, opens May 27 and fishing is allowed Fridays through noon Mondays only of each week (closures may occur intermittently to meet Chinook spawning escapement goals). This is a worthwhile early-summer destination for kings averaging 10- to 20-pounds.
Best fishing is almost always in the early morning or evening. Most anglers will troll with downriggers or use a variety of jigs. Click on the WDFW webpage to learn more about recreational salmon fishing.
Halibut and bottomfishing in marine areas
The coastal halibut fishery begins May 5 in Marine Areas 1, 2, 3, and 4. Before heading out, make sure to check what days of the week fishing is allowed. Coastal lingcod fishing is open daily through Oct. 15.
The western Strait from Sekiu River mouth west to the Bonilla-Tatoosh border (Area 4) is open through Oct. 15 for lingcod and open year-round for certain rockfish species and cabezon. The eastern Strait and parts of Puget Sound (Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10) are open for halibut May 5-21 and June 2-27 on Thursdays to Saturdays only, and May 27-29 and June 30. The western Strait (Marine Area 5) opens for halibut May 5-21 on Thursdays and Saturdays only, June 2-25 on Thursdays to Saturdays only, and May 27-29 and June 30.
All halibut fisheries could close sooner if catch quotas are achieved. Learn more about halibut and bottomfishing regulations on the WDFW website. Don’t have a boat? Learn more on where to catch bottomfish along a coastal jetty.
Spring wild turkey hunting
The statewide spring wild turkey hunting general season continues through May 31. If you are interested in giving turkey hunting a try but not sure how to get started or haven't been successful on your own in the past, there are opportunities to be accompanied by an experienced turkey hunter for mentored hunts in northeast Washington.
WDFW provides public hunting opportunity not just on wildlife areas, but also on private lands enrolled in the Private Lands Access Program. Review the hunting prospect webpage and the spring turkey hunting season webpage for details.
Amphibians and reptiles
Did you know Washington is home to at least 25 species of amphibians (salamanders and frogs) and 28 reptiles (turtles, snakes, and lizards)? If you hadn’t noticed there’s a lot of ribbit-ribbit, croaking, hopping, and slithering happening right now around ponds, waterways, and greenbelts. Amphibians and reptiles are both important members of aquatic (water) and terrestrial (land) ecosystems, and they may use different habitats throughout the year, and it is especially noticeable and visible during spring. Find out more information on the amphibian and reptile webpage.
Coexist with wildlife this spring
Black bears have begun to emerge from their winter dens hungry and in search of calories after five months of not eating. During this time of increased activity, we're asking for your help to secure unnatural food sources to reduce bear encounters – especially around your home or while on the trail. Every year, we see people who want to “help” fawns left alone in the forest. But just because baby animals are alone does not mean they need help! Fight the urge to pick up and rescue bedded fawns — you might save their life. Read our blog for details, available in English or Spanish. Learn more about living with wildlife.
With spring marching on this month, we want to introduce some plant and mushroom foraging opportunities that might be just outside your door. There are several wild edibles that are commonly found in the backyard and nearby that can be brought into the kitchen. This month’s #LifeOutdoorsWA blog will provide a starting point for working with some of these more common edibles so you can introduce them to your dinner table. Some of the edibles described are already appearing in yards while others can show up later in the spring. Read our blog to get a start on harvesting the abundance of wild food around you and exploring the wilderness in your own backyard. Visit the Life Outdoors blog for more information.
Be Whale Wise in marine waters
Starting to gear up for boating season? Remember to Be Whale Wise, give these endangered whales some extra space, and slow down to help quiet the waters. Just by following Be Whale Wise regulations, you can make a big difference for endangered Southern Resident killer whales and their ability to move about, find food, and socialize. Click on the Be Whale Wise link for details or watch the video below.
Banding Birds: Careers working with Washington’s Waterfowl
Are you interested in working hands-on with wildlife? Do you love wetlands? Curious about a career surveying, monitoring, and researching waterfowl like ducks, geese, and swans? Join the WDFW Statewide Waterfowl Specialist as we fit geese with metal bands and explore career pathways for a waterfowl biologist. This live event will be held on May 26 from 9-10 a.m. All ages friendly, most appropriate for high school and college. For details on Washington Waterfowl Career Connections, visit the Zoom link.
Habitat at Home: May is Gardening for Wildlife Month
Did you know that gardening with native plants can increase biodiversity and support human health and well-being? Support wildlife in your area this May by planting native species during Gardening for Wildlife month.
Boating in statewide waters
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program would like to remind you to take a boater safety education course, if you haven’t already, to be prepared this spring and summer. In Washington, boaters who operate a vessel with a 15-horsepower engine or greater must carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course. Lastly, keep in mind wearing a life jacket in, on, or around water saves lives as drowning is one of the leading causes of fatalities especially among young children. For more information on the boater safety education course, go to the Washington State Parks boating webpage.
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 budget manager to community outreach and education specialist, environmental planners to electricians, fiscal technicians to wildlife biologists, a career with WDFW makes a difference.