WDFW Weekender Report

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

Squid jigging in Puget Sound

Don’t let the Grinch pinch a moment of outdoor fun in December

From squid jigging and crabbing in Puget Sound to statewide waterfowl hunting and trout fishing, we’ve got you covered for an assortment of joyful holiday outdoor opportunities

Squid jigging is a relatively easy and family friendly fishery and has seen a substantial increase in participation over the past several years especially since accessibility is simple and success rates can be good when returns are strong.

So far this season, it’s been hit and miss off the piers, although boat anglers have found an abundance of squid and decent success in Elliott Bay, off the Edmonds Marina and in the Des Moines and Redondo areas. It appears for now the mass of jet-propelled squid are hanging in deeper water but should eventually move into shallower locations to spawn off local piers.

Migrating squid usually make an early appearance from September to October. The best timeframe is late November through January with returns peaking in December. Timing is key to catching squid with the prime period occurring at night during or right at flood tide change. When abundant you can even catch squid on a daylight flood tide.

Squid are attracted to lights beaming off urban waterfronts or piers, and many anglers like bring their own powerful lanterns or spotlights to dangle just off the surface of the water. Squid tend to hide in the dark, shadowy edges of lighted water and then dart out into the light on their unsuspecting prey or quite possibly your jig.

The tools of the trade are simply a trout-style rod and spinning reel with lightweight fishing line of 5- to 6-pound test. This will allow anglers to feel the subtle tap or vibration of a squid hitting the jig. Weighted jigs are luminous or light-up plastic versions come in vibrant colors like pink, chartreuse, blue, red, green, orange or a glow-in-the-dark version. Jigs don’t have “hooks” and instead have upward slanting sharp prongs. Unweighted lures are also used by squid jiggers that attach to a one-ounce lead weight.

Squid fishing is open year-round. Read more about how to jig for squid from a pier or boat by going to the WDFW Medium blog. You can find additional information on WDFW’s website, including rules, how to clean squid and yummy recipes.

Waterfowl hunting

Four waterfowl hunters sitting outdoors
John Pleau

Did you know Washington is consistently rated as one of the best states in the country for hunting ducks and geese? Waterfowl hunting peaks in December with the season continuing through Jan. 29, 2023.

The recent stormy and colder weather patterns should have fresh flocks winging south from Canada and Alaska. Look for ducks and geese on larger lakes, reservoirs and bays as marshes, ponds, and sheetwater freeze. Agricultural areas can also provide excellent hunting as waterfowl seek high quality feed during colder weather. WDFW’s “Ducks at a Distance” guide is a great resource for identification, especially for younger hunters and birders.

More information about Feel Free to Hunt, Register to Hunt, and other private lands access programs can be found on our Private Lands Hunting Access webpage. For season information, visit the 2022-2023 Game Bird and Small Game Hunting Regulations.

Safety is a top priority when it comes to waterfowl hunting and wearing a life jacket if hunting via boat, canoe, or kayak is essential. Waterfowlers should also be cautious when wading many flooded ditches and sloughs that are unmarked.

Waterfowl hunters, birders, and other outdoor recreationists are reminded to be respectful of each other, to safely and responsibly share public lands and waters. Tips for sharing WDFW managed lands during hunting seasons can be found by clicking on the WDFW Medium blog. Intentionally obstructing the lawful taking of fish, shellfish, or wildlife—including waterfowl and upland game birds—is a crime in Washington as detailed in our state’s “hunter harassment” law RCW 77.15.210.

Respectful communication and dialogue go a long way towards creating positive connections between outdoors enthusiasts and avoiding potentially negative encounters on our public lands. Many visitors may be unaware of hunting seasons or regulations, and a polite conversation can often resolve issues before they become a dispute.

Anyone who experiences legitimate hunter harassment or intentional obstruction of lawful hunting, fishing or shellfish gathering should contact WDFW Enforcement immediately at wdfw.wa.gov/about/enforcement/contact or call 360-902-2936, Option 1.

Trends for success show, Washington hunters harvested about 430,000 ducks and 72,000 geese during each of the past five years, according to WDFW historical data with every county in the state represented in those harvest figures. Information about harvest for all Washington counties can be found under the annual small game harvest reports.

Other popular outdoor opportunities this month include: 

Trout fishing in statewide lakes

Fall trout fishing

If you missed out on the WDFW’s Black Friday trout fishing event rest assured thousands of planted jumbo-sized fish averaging one to two pounds apiece are still lurking in lakes around Clark, Cowlitz, Island, Jefferson, King, Klickitat, Lewis, Mason, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, and Yakima counties. In October, roughly 75 year-round lakes around Washington were also planted with trout.

Elton Pond North near Selah was stocked with 2,000-plus half-pound rainbow trout and the Black Friday opener on Nov. 25 generated some good fishing for trout 14 to 17 inches long despite half the pond being frozen over, said Joe Tucker, a WDFW customer service specialist in Yakima Region 3 office. A note of caution, Elton Pond could likely be completely frozen with the extended cold weather so anglers must use caution when planning a fishing trip. The trail to get to the “fishable” part of the lake was overgrown, with lots of logs to cross, and a small stream to cross.

Click here to find out what lakes are currently open and here for weekly trout plants. Check out the WDFW Medium blog for tips and videos on how to catch trout.

Statewide hunting

Deer hunting

Hunters planning their seasons may want to check the 2022 Hunting Prospects reports, which outline hunting opportunities in specific game management districts. Hunters can also use the hunting regulations web map, which allows them to find permit and general season hunts based on location, date, weapon choice, and more.

Recent surveys indicate 2022 should be another good hunting year. Also click on each region of the Weekender for information related to hunting. Be sure to read on the WDFW Medium for our tips on hunting ethics to remember while in the field.

Statewide wildlife viewing

Wildlife viewing

Winter is a time when hungry elk and bighorn sheep converge on WDFW's Oak Creek Wildlife Area, and visitors can watch them dine on alfalfa hay and pellets. Feeding starts once winter conditions dictate. There are typically some elk on the feed site all day, but the large numbers come in at the 1 p.m. feeding. A valid state Discover Pass or WDFW Vehicle Access Pass is required to park at the Wildlife Area. Visitors can purchase a One-Day Discover Pass at the wildlife area with cash or check once the feeding starts. Vehicle Access Passes are free with the purchase of certain fishing and hunting licenses. For winter feeding at Oak Creek, there is a recorded message at 509-653-2390.

Find the best places for bird watching by exploring routes along the Great Washington State Birding Trail.

The largest and longest-running citizen science project in North America – the 121st annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) – occurs in dozens of count circles across Washington between Dec. 14, 2022, and Jan. 5, 2023. The early winter counts tally bird numbers by species and provide a valuable snapshot of where birds are concentrated at this time of year across North America. Audubon Society chapters around the state are preparing for the annual Christmas Bird Count, which takes flight this month. For more information, visit the Audubon website.

Salmon fishing in marine areas

summer salmon fishing Chinook
Mark Yuasa

Winter Chinook salmon fishing is open in southern Puget Sound (Marine Area 13). Salmon fishing has closed in southcentral Puget Sound (Marine Area 11).

Many piers around Puget Sound are open year-round for salmon fishing. Central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10) reopens Feb. 1 for winter Chinook salmon fishing. Sekiu in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca reopens March 1 for winter Chinook salmon fishing.

Changes to salmon fishing seasons could occur so be sure to consult the regulation pamphlet or WDFW emergency rules webpage before going.

 

 

 

Statewide river and stream fishing

Winter steelhead fishing

Even as temperatures drop there are many options to wet a line in rivers and streams. While some rivers closed to salmon fishing on Nov. 30, portions of the Chehalis, Humptulips and Satsop remain open for coho through Dec. 16. See the recent coastal fishing rule change for details.

The mainstem Nooksack River also remains open for hatchery coho and Chinook through Dec. 31, though is closed for steelhead unless opened by rule change. The Cowlitz River is always a popular fishery this month for both steelhead and hatchery salmon. Speaking of steelhead, fall run fish are still being caught in the upper Snake River and tributaries including the Grande Ronde.

In Western Washington, fishing for early-returning hatchery winter runs should improve throughout the month, typically peaking between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Visit our steelhead stocking webpage for rivers with hatchery steelhead.

While trout fishing often slows as waters cool, westside rivers like the Skagit and Stillaguamish can still offer decent fishing for coastal cutthroat and resident rainbows, and anglers around the state make winter trips to Rocky Ford Creek and the Yakima River for big rainbow trout. Be sure to double-check the regulations before hitting the water!

Winter crab fishing

Boy with Dungeness crab
Claire Young

Two more Puget Sound marine areas are open daily for winter recreational crab fishing through Dec. 31. Anglers can add central Puget Sound in the Seattle/Bremerton region (Marine Area 10) and southcentral Puget Sound around the Tacoma-Vashon Island region (11) to list of places to go.

Others include east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (4), Sekiu-Pillar Point (5), eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (6), San Juan Islands (7), eastern side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2), northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (9), and Hood Canal north of a line projected true east from Ayock Point (12). Coastal areas are also open year-round for crab fishing. To learn more about winter crab fishing and regulations, visit the WDFW website.

Charter/guide fishing tips

Charter boat fishing

Booking a fishing trip of a lifetime can be a daunting task, from deciding what type of trip to finding the right captain and boat. One of the most popular and accessible ways to get started is booking a charter boat or guide. Charters and guides help thousands of Washingtonians and out-of-state visitors get on the water every year.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington has 426 licensed guides and 178 licensed charter boat operators in 2022.

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! Visit the WDFW Medium blog for tips on how to select a charter fishing guide.

Chronic wasting disease surveillance program

Chronic wasting disease

WDFW is expanding its chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance program in eastern Washington’s Region 1. While CWD has not been found in Washington to date it was recently detected in Idaho.

To slow the spread of the disease there are also new rules regarding what parts of harvested deer, elk, and moose can be brought into Washington by those who hunt out of state.

Those hunting in eastern Washington and returning home to other areas of the state are also encouraged to follow these same rules to reduce the chances of spreading CWD within our state.

Keep an eye out for invasive European green crabs

Two European green crabs removed by WDFW from Hood Canal near Seabeck in Kitsap County. Photo WDFW

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 at: wdfw.wa.gov/greencrab. A crab identification guide is also available on that webpage.

European green crab (EGC) are shore crabs and are found in shallow areas—typically less than 25 feet of water—including estuaries, mudflats, intertidal zones, and beaches. They are not likely to be caught by recreational shrimpers or crabbers operating in deeper water, but may be encountered by beachgoers, waders, clam, and oyster harvesters, or those crabbing off docks or piers in shallow areas. The most distinctive feature is not their color—which can vary from reddish to a dark mottled green—but the five spines or teeth on each side of the shell.

Nearly 250,000 EGC have been caught and removed from Washington waters so far in 2022.  Of these, most were caught on Washington’s outer coast, particularly in Willapa Bay. In the Salish Sea area, the Lummi Nation’s Sea Pond continues to be a hot spot, and small numbers of green crabs continue to be removed from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, Drayton Harbor, and Bellingham and Padilla bays.

European green crabs have not been confirmed in the Salish Sea south of northern Hood Canal and Marrowstone Island in Admiralty Inlet. Early-detection monitoring continues across central and south Puget Sound.

At this time, we are not asking the public to kill suspected green crabs. This may sound counterintuitive but is intended to protect native crabs from cases of mistaken identity. As a Prohibited species, it is illegal to possess a live European green crab in Washington.

Sign up for in-person hunter education

Hunter education instructor teaches young boy safe firearms practices

This past June, WDFW increased the minimum age to take that course from nine to 18. Students under age 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. Sign up for in-person hunter education today.

Ice fishing tips and safety

Man kneeling on the snow with a freshly caught trout

WDFW is not able to monitor ice depth so when fishing lakes with ice on them, please use extreme caution. Keep in mind that ice can be very hard to read and strong in some areas but weak in others. It is very hard to get out of a hole in the ice if someone falls in and once wet, the human body can shut down quickly from hypothermia. Do not even walk onto ice if it can't be confirmed to be four or more inches thick.

Other ice fishing safety tips and gear to consider are using an auger or chainsaw to measure ice depth and make multiple holes to check as you work your way out to where you plan to fish; never fish alone; spread members of your party out to avoid too much weight on one area of ice; and bring a spare set of clothes just in case, and a game plan on how you will rescue someone if they do go in. For more information click on the WDFW ice fishing webpage.

Avian influenza

Avian flu facts

With the weather cooling off and waterfowl flocking together to feed, WDFW is seeing an uptick in reports of avian influenza, also known as bird flu. 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 spreads among birds through saliva, nasal secretions, feces, and contaminated surfaces. If you encounter a sick or dead bird, do NOT touch or move it and report it right away. Attempting to nurse a bird back to health or transport it to a wildlife rehabilitator can spread the virus to areas where it didn’t exist before.
 
Common questions and answers regarding avian influenza- including what it is, the risk to humans (minimal but precautions should be taken), how to protect wildlife by preventing its’ spread, how to protect your domestic animals, and where we stand with the avian influenza outbreak in Washington- can be found in this blog post. Additional information can be found in this presentation WDFW veterinarian Dr. Katie Haman, DVM, MSc, recently made to a chapter of the North American Falconers Association.

#LifeOutdoorsWA

person hiking on a trail with mountains all around
Naomi Gross

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.

You can find informative blog posts, reports of monthly recreational opportunities in your area, links to state and federal lands to explore, and how to share photos of your adventures with us. We hope to see you in the field and on the water enjoying the Life Outdoors!

Wild Washington Youth Education Program: Finding animal tracks

wolf tracks in snow

With early snow, animal tracking activities are a great way to spend time outdoors with your family. You may not even have to look very far to find animal sign; animal tracks can be found on your balcony, in your backyard, or in a nearby park.

But what animals left those tracks? To help you and your children in your investigation, you may want to print out or take a screen shot of some animal track guides. We like this mammal track guide from Wenatchee Naturalist and this list of resources from National Wildlife Federation. You may also find animal track guides at your local library. If you live in or are visiting Washington wolf country, you can also check out our family activity called Tracking Wolves. Click on the WDFW's Wild Washington Education Program webpage for more information.

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. 

Anglers’ guide to releasing salmon properly

Selective fisheries for hatchery-produced salmon and catch-and-release fisheries are increasingly important to providing recreational fishing opportunities around Washington.

To ensure these salmon fisheries are successful long-term, it is vital that anglers do their part to comply with all regulations, especially how to properly release unmarked, sublegal (undersized) and out-of-season fish to improve their survival.

Read how to properly release salmon. Watch the salmon release video below.

Habitat at Home

Kinnikinnick
Matt Lavin

Building wildlife habitat with native plants takes some planning ahead. Many preorder sales of native plant are offered in December, making it a great time to get a jump start. Native plants are better adapted to our local region requiring less water and maintenance, and more capable of handling climate change.

Native plants are an integral part of our food chain, supporting more species which increases biodiversity across Washington. To find a native plant sale near you check out the Washington Native Plant Society website or search for a conservation district in your county. Visit our Habitat at Home webpage to see how you can provide habitat for wildlife, anywhere you live, work, and play.

Boating in statewide waters

Boat on lake
Andy Walgamott

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 when venturing on the water.

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.

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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.