Discover recreational opportunities in Eastern, North Central, South Central, North Puget Sound, Southwest, and Coastal Washington.
Spring into March with these outdoor opportunities
Several fisheries are set to open in the weeks ahead, and the year’s first general hunting season isn’t far behind.
As we move into Spring, we will ramp up our involvement in local communities to talk with people about responsible wildlife viewing and outdoor recreation, and how people can create wildlife habitat at home.
You can find WDFW staff at other community events coming up, including the Penn Cove Musselfest on March 4-5, Ocean Shores Razor Clam and Seafood Festival on March 17-19, the Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival from March 17-19, and the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival March 24-26.
With a new season of outdoor adventures about to begin, Washingtonians might want to consider purchasing 2023-24 recreational fishing and hunting licenses before current licenses expire at midnight March 31.
The cost of fishing and hunting licenses remains the same as last year, and most annual licenses include a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) vehicle-access pass. That pass allows people to use and park at more than 700 WDFW water access sites and 33 wildlife areas throughout the state.
Restoring Puget Sound estuaries
Juvenile Chinook salmon and other fish species depend on Puget Sound estuaries for shelter and food before heading out into more open waters. These rich feeding and rearing grounds allow fish to grow bigger, so they have a better chance of survival. Unfortunately, widespread reduction of estuary habitat during the last century has contributed significantly to salmon declines. To recover Chinook, we need to restore more of our region’s estuaries. Along with Native American tribes and many other partners, WDFW is working to restore estuary habitats on lands we manage. A focus area for this work has been the Skagit, Stillaguamish, and Snohomish River deltas, which together make up the Whidbey Basin. Learn more in our new blog post.
Match the chum fry hatch for feisty sea-run cutthroat
Fishing for sea-run cutthroat trout in Puget Sound, Hood Canal, and coastal estuaries using light tackle spinning or fly fishing gear is one of our region’s most unique angling activities. March is a great time to pursue these anadromous cutthroat as they will be in shallow water feeding aggressively on chum fry and other baby salmon. Look for sea-run cutthroat over oyster beds and cobble beaches near streams or smaller rivers. Silver, green, and brown flies or very small spoons imitate chum fry. “Cutts” may also feed on sculpin, krill, marine worm, or baitfish patterns. Barbless hooks and catch-and-release are required. Learn about sea-run cutthroat fishing in this video, or read about recent community science research.
Whether it’s attending a community festival, family fishing event, or visiting a WDFW wildlife area, we hope you find a way to connect with nature wherever you are. We look forward to seeing you enjoying a #LifeOutdoors in 2023!
Other popular outdoor opportunities this month include:
Columbia River spring Chinook salmon
The popular fishery below Bonneville Dam should ramp up throughout the month. Anglers are advised to check the new regulations before they go.
Razor clams at Copalis and Mocrocks beaches
WDFW shellfish managers confirmed coastal razor clam digging reopens at Mocrocks Friday, March 3 followed by opportunities March 5 and March 7. This is in addition to Copalis open on Saturday, March 4, March 6, and March 8. Details on these and future tentative digs planned on March 17-22 during evening (p.m.) low tides and March 23-26 during morning (a.m.) low tides can be found by going to the WDFW razor clam webpage.
Eastern Washington lakes
More than two dozen lakes across eastern Washington are set to open March 1, although unpredictable winter-like conditions could limit trout fishing options and success. Check the regional Weekender reports for more information, or see our blog post for tips on fishing for trout in early spring.
The initial best bets will likely be Martha and Upper Caliche lakes near George in Grant County. Each can be excellent choices on opening day and anglers should expect good fishing in 2023.
River and stream fishing
It’s peak season for winter steelhead in northern coastal area rivers near Forks, lower Columbia River tributaries, and Willapa Bay rivers. In eastern Washington, trout will be more active as waters warm in rivers such as the Yakima, Naches, Crab Creek, and Rocky Ford Creek, especially during the Skwala stonefly hatch in mid-March.
Recreational fisheries for many bottomfish species begins in March with new rockfish regulations. Marine Areas 1, 2, 3, and 4 west of Bonilla-Tatoosh opens March 11. Marine Area 4 east of Bonilla-Tatoosh is open year-round for certain bottomfish and lingcod opens March 11. The coastal bottomfishing and new rockfish regulation are posted in our news release. Additional information on protecting rockfish populations can be found on WDFW’s webpage.
The general season opens in mid-April. The season follows a special spring turkey hunt for people ages 15 and younger. More details will be available soon on WDFW’s website.
Charter/guide fishing tips
Booking the fishing trip of a lifetime can be a daunting task, from deciding what type of trip to finding the right captain and boat. There’s a lot to cover but we’ve got some helpful tips and advice to make your adventure in Washington a wonderful day on the water! Click on the WDFW Medium for more information.
Chronic wasting disease surveillance program
With hunting seasons closed, WDFW is no longer running stations to check harvested deer and elk for chronic wasting disease, but if you salvage a road-killed deer in WDFW’s Region 1 area, we ask that you get it tested.
How to set up an appointment can be found by visiting the chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance program link for more information.
Sign up for in-person hunter education
WDFW increased the minimum age to take that course from nine to 18. Students under 18 can complete the online course, but they must attend a field skills evaluation before they can become certified. We recognize that this change may take some time to get used to, and we are committed to offering as many in-person courses as we can.
Keep an eye out for invasive European green crabs
WDFW and allies including Native American tribes and shellfish growers are finishing up an unprecedented year of trapping for European green crabs. These invasive crabs pose a threat to native shellfish, eelgrass, and estuary habitat critical for salmon and many other species. You can help by photographing and reporting suspected European green crabs. A crab identification guide is also available on that webpage.
WDFW is still receiving numerous reports of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, across the state Avian influenza occurs naturally among wild aquatic birds (ducks, geese, swans, gulls and terns, and shorebirds) and can infect poultry and other bird and animal species. The virus was confirmed in a bobcat in eastern Washington in January. What you need to know about avian influenza, including keeping yourself and domestic animals safe, is at the link.
Wild Washington Youth Education Program
March 3 is World Wildlife Day! This makes March a great month to learn more about Washington’s wildlife. Washington’s ecosystem-rich lands support a variety of animals from slugs to whales. Did you know Washington has:
- 28 reptiles,
- 132 mammals,
- 25 amphibians,
- 37 freshwater fish,
- 900 saltwater fish,
- Over 500 birds, and
- Over 20,000 species of invertebrates (from mussels to bees)!
This variety of ecosystems and species is called biodiversity. Celebrate biodiversity, and Washington’s wildlife with your family this month by engaging in our family educational resources. From habitat at home activities to learning about invasive species, our family educational resources are a great way to get outdoors and celebrate Washington’s rich wildlife.
Habitat at Home
Did you know that snags and logs make excellent wildlife habitats that support increases in local biodiversity?
Biodiversity, simply put, is a variety of life. It is the term we use to describe the variety of species in an area, the variety of the populations within that species type, and the different ecosystems that exist within an area. The higher the biodiversity (or the more variety), the more resilient species and ecosystems are to external forces such as climate change, habitat loss, disease, invasive species, overexploitation, and pollution. Supporting biodiversity supports a better environment for us all.
Other Spring-Cleaning Tips for Biodiversity
- Trim limbs that could damage property but leave trees standing when possible.
- Leave snags and fallen trees to support biodiversity.
- Incorporate logs into your landscaping.
- Choose native plants to best support local good chains for wildlife.
- Leave the leaves and other yard debris until after our first full week of 50-degree weather, this allows overwintering insects to hatch or awaken.
A snag, which is sometimes called a wildlife tree, is a dead tree that is left upright to decompose naturally for as long as it is safe. Snags and logs release heat as they decompose which makes them ideal habitats for entire ecosystems of plants, insects, and animals. They also provide perches, roost, nest and den sites for many species.
Learn more about supporting wildlife habitat where you are with Habitat at Home.
Video title: Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit Recovery
WDFW staff, alongside employees from several agency partners, conducted wild captures of Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits in February 2023 to collect data on the rabbits, complete a health exam, and vaccinate the rabbits against an emerging threat - rabbit hemorrhagic disease. This work was conducted as part of a major conservation recovery effort underway for this species. Learn more on our website.
Video title: Bighorn sheep in Yakima Canyon
WDFW staff and volunteers worked to catch and collar bighorn sheep in the Yakima Canyon area of central Washington in January of 2023 as part of a new study to monitor bighorn health following past outbreaks of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, the infection that triggers pneumonia in wild sheep herds, which can decimate bighorn populations. Click on this YouTube video that explains how capturing and collaring work and why we do this work.
Video title: Puget Sound salmon gear selection
Gear selection has become an important factor when it comes to recreational salmon fishing in Puget Sound especially during winter salmon fisheries when undersized fish are abundant. A key role in angler success is choosing the proper lure or bait, but gear also has an important role in fisheries management.
To ensure these salmon fisheries are successful long-term, it is vital that anglers learn how to reduce catching sublegal (undersized) Chinook. Click our YouTube video on salmon gear selection and click here to read about selecting the proper salmon gear.
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.