Discover Coastal Washington

Skokomish river winds through its estuary

Counties served: Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, Thurston

Director: Larry Phillips

48 Devonshire Road
Montesano, WA 98563

Telephone: 360-249-4628

Fax: 360-249-1229

The Weekender

Fish Washington this October

Crabbing with the grandkids
Mike Cole

Crab: Several marine areas of Puget sound have reopened for recreational crab fishing on Oct. 1. Marine areas 4 (Near Bay), 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point), 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Ports Susan and Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet).

In each area, crabbing will be allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31. Sport crabbers are reminded that setting or pulling traps from a vessel is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset.

For more information on pending dates and marine areas, please see our Sept. 30 news release.

Razor clams: Diggers should have a couple opportunities to hit the beaches this fall. Razor clam season kicked-off with a 3-day opener at Long Beach from Sept. 27-29. To view tentatively scheduled digs through December, see our Sept. 13 news release.

Final approval of all scheduled openings will depend on  results of marine toxin tests, which are usually conducted about a week before a dig is scheduled to begin.

State shellfish managers estimate the razor clam population is up compared to last season at most beaches.

Salmon (marine areas): Salmon fishing has ended for most Puget Sound marine areas.

For those that haven’t yet closed for the season have had their daily coho limit reduced to one. All angers in the following areas have a daily limit of 2 up to 1 coho may be retained and must release all chum, wild coho and Chinook: Area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, Skagit Bay) through Oct 31. 

Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area) is open to salmon fishing through Nov. 15 with a daily limit of 2 salmon. 1 coho may be retained. Release all Chinook.

In Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal), anglers may retain 4 salmon per day; up to 2 may be hatchery Chinook. Release wild Chinook and sockeye. Oct. 1-Oct. 15: release chum.

In Marine Area 13 (South Sound), anglers have a daily limit of 2 salmon. 1 coho may be retained. Release wild Chinook and wild coho. Open until further notice.

Salmon (rivers):  Anglers can also head to the Grays Harbor basin tributaries, Hoquiam, Wishkah, Wynoochee, Satsop and Chehalis Rivers, where the coho are starting to show up. Anglers are allowed to keep two adult salmon as part of their six-fish daily limit but must release adult chinook.

Quillayute River (from Olympic National Park boundary upstream to confluence of Sol Duc and Bogachiel rivers) is open for all species. Only one barbless hook allowed. Closed Mondays in October including both Tuesday October 1 and 29. 

Salmon is open Sept. 16 - Nov. 30. Minimum size 12". Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained of which only 1 may be a wild Chinook or wild Coho. Release all Sockeye.

For the Sol Duc River (from mouth to concrete pump station at Sol Duc Hatchery),  salmon is open Sept. 16 - Nov. 30: Minimum size 12". Applying to all species: Only one barbless hook allowed. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained of which only 1 may be a wild Chinook or wild Coho. Release all Sockeye.

Those fishing the Dickey (from Olympic National Park Boundary upstream to the confluence of the east and west forks), Bogachiel (mouth to Hwy 101 Bridge) and Calawah (mouth to Hwy 101 Bridge) rivers can keep up to 3 salmon, minimum size 12" of which one may be an adult.

On the Hoh River (from Olympic National Park Boundary upstream to Dept. of Natural Resources Oxbow campground boat launch), the daily limit is 6, minimum size 12" of which 2 may be adults, but only 1 of the adults may be a Chinook. Salmon open until Nov. 30. For all species, only one barbless hook is allowed.

Byron Rubio holds up his Opening Day catch of Rainbow Trout.

Trout: Several lakes in the region will be teeming with trout after the department stocks them this month. Check WDFW’s website mid-month for a full list of lakes that will be stocked in October.

Ocean bottomfish: The bottomfish season wraps up on Oct. 20 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 2 (Westport), 3 (LaPush), and 4 (Neah Bay) west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line.

In Marine Area 4, the lingcod fishery closes Oct. 15 both east and west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line, while lingcod fishing closes in areas 1-3 on Oct. 20. The winter closure in Marine areas 1 through 3 and Marine Area 4 west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line does not include surfperch when fishing from the shore.


October hunting tips and news

Young deer in a grass field with velvet horns
Tony Sirgedas

Deer: The muzzleloader season for deer runs through Oct. 6, followed by the highly popular modern firearms hunt, which begins Oct. 12.

There are ample general season deer hunting opportunities for archery, muzzleloader, and modern firearm hunters in District 15 (east Jefferson, Kitsap and Mason counties). Field observations and recent harvest trends suggest good deer hunting potential exists in Game Management Units (GMUs) 621, 627, and 633. GMU 651 remains a popular hunting unit, but portions of this unit owned by Green Diamond Resources will require an access permit. Good deer hunting also can be found in lower elevation habitats in GMU 636.

Elk: The early muzzleloader season for elk runs Oct. 5-11, overlapping the early season for deer in many of the same areas.

In District 11 (Pierce and Thurston counties), hunters should try scouting for elk leaving the Mount Rainier National Park and following the Carbon River northwards into the Clearwater Wilderness Area and the White River into the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Lands east of the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort (outside ski boundaries once ski season officially opens) offer good opportunity for high-elevation, rugged elk hunting with plenty of robust elk. Hunters also should also scout the area from the Skookumchuk Wildlife Area south to the northern boundary of the Centralia Coal Mine (GMU 667).

Bear and cougar: The fall black bear season runs through Nov. 15. The early cougar-hunting season runs through Dec. 31.

Forest grouse: The statewide hunting season runs through Dec. 31. Hunting on any forest lands throughout District 16 (Clallam and west Jefferson counties) should offer good grouse hunting opportunities. The harvest of grouse in Clallam County is one of the highest in the region. The Olympic National Forest and Skokomish Valley in District 15 also are popular grouse hunting areas.

Goose: The goose hunting season runs Oct. 12-26 in most counties in the region, and then again Nov. 23 through Jan. 12. Goose hunting in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties is open Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays only from Oct. 13-28, but the dusky goose season is closed. 

Duck, snipe and coot: The general season for duck, snipe and coot is open Oct. 13-31. 

The best duck-hunting locations in Thurston County include near the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge as well as Henderson, Budd and Eld inlets.

Young boy sits in grass with a duck whistle
Ted Tatum

There are a number of areas in District 17 (Pacific and Grays Harbor counties) that offer good waterfowl hunting opportunities. The highest concentrations of ducks are near Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor and the Chehalis and Willapa River valleys. WDFW Wildlife Areas in this district also offer good waterfowl hunting opportunities. Other public land opportunities occur on the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.

Quail: The season opened Sept. 28 in western Washington and runs through Nov. 30. Although frustratingly unpredictable, quail in District 15 (Mason, Kitsap and east Jefferson counties) are most likely to be found in two- to six-year-old clear-cut forests, under power lines, and in tall stands of scotch broom throughout Mason and Kitsap counties. Their tendency to run rather than fly or hold for a pointing dog makes them an especially challenging upland game bird. Locations to try include the DNR parcels on the Tahuya Peninsula northwest of Belfair and the industrial timberlands between Shelton, Matlock, and McCleary. Walk-in opportunities are also numerous on timber company clear-cut forests around Mason Lake.

Pheasants: Pheasant season in western Washington opened Sept. 28 and goes through Nov. 30. In District 11 (Thurston and Pierce counties), the department will release about 2,000 pheasants at WDFW’s Skookumchuck Wildlife Area and roughly 3,900 pheasants at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area. Those releases occur on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays. Another 4,000 pheasants will be released at Joint Base Lewis-McCord. The dates of release depend on military training activities on the base.

Hunting prospects: Hunters are encouraged to check WDFW’s hunting prospects webpage to get an area-by-area summary of what they can expect. Before heading out, hunters also should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for regulations.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is also highlighting a browser-based, hunting regulations web map for 2019-20 hunting seasons. The web map, also available at the hunting section of our webpage, provides more convenient access to Washington’s 2019-20 hunting regulations and allows hunters to find permit and general season hunts based on location, date, weapon choice and more. 

October wildlife viewing

Salmon-viewing: Late October is a great time to visit the Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve, which is located on Totten Inlet off U.S. Highway 101 between Olympia and Shelton. The creek is one of the most productive chum salmon streams in Washington. While there, visitors can find numerous species of migrating shorebirds or walk the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail.

In Thurston County, Tumwater Falls Park continues to offer views of salmon as they make their way up the Deschutes River. The 15-acre park runs adjacent to Capitol Boulevard and Interstate 5 in Tumwater.

Elk herd in South Bend, Washington
Benedetta Roy

Elk-watching: Visitors to the Olympic Peninsula should be on the alert for the autumn Roosevelt elk rut. A great place to hear a bull elk bugle or clack antlers with a rival is the Quinault River valley upstream from Lake Quinault. The elk are most active during the early morning and evening hours. Observers should give the elk plenty of room, since they are easily disturbed and potentially dangerous.

Hunter orange: Birders and others afield in the coming weeks also should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are getting underway throughout the region. While most hunters make sure of their target before they shoot, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing orange to make their presence known to hunters.

Wildlife Program activity reports

For more Wildlife Program updates, see the biweekly wildlife activity reports.

Managing wildlife populations

Elk Survey: Biologists Tirhi and Butler assisted the TransAlta Corporation with the annual elk survey of the Centralia Mine, located in Thurston and Lewis counties. The survey began at 7:15 a.m. but was grounded half way through due to low, heavy fog impeding visibility (and safety). Eventually the fog lifted to enable the survey to resume and conclude. One hundred ninety nine elk were counted during the 3.15 minute survey (includes grounding time) as follows: 128 cows, 34 calves, 15 spike bull, five rag horn bull, and 17 branched bull. The bull to cow ratio was 29 and the calf to cow ratio was 27, both of which suggest a healthy and growing subherd. WDFW and TransAlta cooperate to annually provide a senior and a disabled permit hunt opportunity on the Centralia Mine, which is closed to the general public due to federal mine reclamation requirements. These are highly successful and desirable hunts to those members of our hunting community. If you qualify, permit application information can be found in our WDFW hunting pamphlet (search Centralia Mine).

Western Pond Turtle: Biologists Butler and two dedicated volunteers trapped western pond turtles early this month looking for candidates for shell disease treatment. The goal was to trap 12 candidates to send to the PAWS Wildlife Center for shell disease treatment. In total, 21 turtles were transported to the Veterinary Specialty Clinic of Seattle for CT scans. Of those, only 11 turtles were selected as possible treatment candidates and transported to PAWS. Shell disease treatment is still experimental, as the etiology of the disease is still being studied. However, treating a variety of USD cases and following their recovery in the coming years will help inform veterinarians as to the effectiveness of the treatments.

Oregon Spotted Frog Habitat Management: Biologist Butler met with the regional project coordinator for the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) at an Oregon spotted frog site to discuss reed canary grass mowing strategies. In previous years, reed canary grass was cut from designated experimental plots at this site. However, due in part to inconsistent water depths between years, there has been no advantage found between the various plot designs. This year, WDFW will work with a WCC crew to cut large strips along both sides of the creek. A self-propelled brush cutter was tested at the site in hopes to provide another tool to use besides hand held brush cutters, but the terrain and grass height quickly proved too much for the larger mower. The WCC crew is scheduled to assist with mowing for two days using hand held brush cutters.

Conserving natural landscapes

Biologists survey the after effects of the prescribed burn
Biologists Lowery and Cook survey the after effects of the prescribed burn

Restoration at the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area South Unit Using Prescribed Fire: Biologists Cook and Tveten, as well as South Puget Sound Wildlife Area Manager Lowery, participated in the execution of a successful prescribed fire at the South Unit of the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area on Sept. 12. Sites were prepared by mowing the perimeter of each burn unit to prevent the spread of unwanted flames. They teamed up with partners from the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) to coordinate into burn teams for igniting and holding the fire within well-defined polygons. Of the 28 acres identified and prepared for burns, about 13 acres of prairie habitat actually received this critical restoration treatment (units B1, B2, C3, D1, and D2), which will help maintain overall grassland structure as well as critical habitat for many at-peril species. Biologist Randolph stationed herself at the North Unit of Scatter Creek Wildlife Area to monitor smoke impacts and inform burn teams of downwind effects. This is the first prescribed fire to occur on site since the catastrophic 2017 wildfire.

Mazama Pocket Gopher Recovery and Working Farms: Biologist Tirhi completed the final draft of the South Puget Sound Prairie and Prairie Species Conservation Grant Conservation Easement (Wheeler Property) Management Plan and submitted it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (funds grantor) for review. The management plan dictates all site management per the conservation easement between WDFW and the landowner, including all agricultural activities, forest management, infrastructure, monitoring, and more.

Recreation and habitat projects

WDFW partnered with Ducks Unlimited to add 1,100 acres of land to benefit wildlife and people near Westport

Group cutting a ribbon
WDFW celebrates with partners the addition of 1,100 acres of land in Grays Harbor County.

In close partnership with Ducks Unlimited, WDFW bought 1,100 acres of land near Westport in Grays Harbor County. We will manage the new property as an addition to the Elk River Unit of the Johns River Wildlife Area. A second phase to purchase an additional 600 acres is expected to be finalized by the end of the year. 

The new property features diverse natural resources, including large freshwater and saltwater wetland areas and old-growth Sitka spruce trees. A variety of wildlife use the area for year-round habitat, including several species of waterfowl, Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, and black bears.

The site will also provide additional recreation opportunities, including hiking, birding, and big-game and waterfowl hunting. Public access will initially be on a walk-in basis from the perimeter of the property, as plans to improve access are ongoing. Read the recent news release to learn more. 

Meet your Regional Director: Larry Phillips

Larry Phillips, South Puget Sound and Coast Region Director
Larry Phillips, South Puget Sound and Coast Region Director

Larry Phillips has served as the South Puget Sound and Coast (Region 6) Director since 2016. Larry was first employed by the Department in 1996 as a Fisheries Technician collecting creel survey data on the Snake River.  In 1998 he was hired as a permanent employee by the Fish Program in Spokane and later transferred to Olympia to serve as the Area Fish Biologist for South Puget Sound. In 2007 Larry was promoted to District Fish Biologist. He remained in this position until 2015 when he was promoted to Inland Fish Program Manager with state-wide responsibilities. In 2016 Larry promoted to his current position. Larry holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston (Idaho) and a master’s degree in Fisheries Science from Eastern Washington University. Larry enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking and camping.