The trout season shifts into high gear April 24, when several hundred lowland lakes throughout the state open for fishing. The annual trout derby kicks off the same day, with thousands of dollars in prizes available to anglers in the form of tagged fish stocked in lakes across Washington. The derby is open to anyone with a valid 2021 fishing license; no entrance fee or registration required. Just catch a tagged trout anytime between April 24 and Oct. 31 and you win!
Many other lakes statewide are open year-round, and regularly stocked with catchable rainbow trout and other species, including in the lead-up to opening day. See what lakes have been recently planted at our stocking report, and see this year's statewide trout and kokanee stocking plan for more information about when lakes in your area might be stocked.
Time to go fishing! WDFW hatchery staff have been hard at work this month stocking nearly 400 6-14 lb. steelhead in Borst Park pond in Centralia, Lake Inez in Elma, and Lake Sylvia in Montesano, with new fish stocked each week through early April.
Washington's fishing seasons for coastal bottomfish and lingcod opened in mid-March and Puget Sound halibut is scheduled to open April 22 with the coast and Marine Area 5 opening to halibut in early May.
Planning for Washington’s summer salmon fishing season is underway. Several public meetings will be held in early April as fishery managers continue to develop the 2021 salmon seasons, which will be finalized in mid-April. For more information on the meetings, visit our public meeting web page. For a guide to the North of Falcon salmon season setting process, visit our blog.
Prepare for the boating season
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program wants boaters to be prepared for the upcoming season by taking a safety education course. In Washington state, boaters who operate a vessel with a 15 horsepower engine or greater must be certified and carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course. Boaters have three options to get certified: an instructor-led course; an online self-study; or a home study and equivalency exam for boaters who already have a lot of boating experience. More information about courses and the boater education card can be found at www.boatered.org.
The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 statewide. A youth hunt for ages 15 and younger is April 3-4. For more information on Washington’s turkey season, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.
Take hunter education
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, WDFW is offering an online course for students at least nine years old. As with in-person hunter education classes, successful completion of the course is only the beginning of a hunter’s learning journey. Hunters can find hunter education course information, as well as valuable short video resources to reinforce safety practices for new hunters, on WDFW's website. Experienced hunters who have never taken a hunter education class may also find them valuable.
Prior to purchasing their first Washington state hunting license, all individuals born after Jan. 1, 1972 must show proof that they have completed a hunter education class. Certifications from other states are valid in Washington; just show your hunter education card to the license dealer.
Waterfowl spring migration has started for birds on the Pacific Flyway
WDFW recently hosted a live virtual tour of some of the best viewing locations for ducks, swans, and geese around the state.
The virtual event included live broadcasts from the estuarine shoreline at Three Crabs, in Sequim, Silver Lake, near Spokane, to learn about conservation partnerships and contributions of hunters to wetland conservation and restoration on the channeled scablands of northeastern Washington, and to McNary National Wildlife Refuge located alongside the Columbia River, near the Tri-Cities, to hear about the waterbirds and other wildlife you can see at the refuge.
This event is available now on YouTube. Find information about the event locations, the Pacific Flyway, and conservation partnerships on WDFW’s Medium blog.
Recreate Responsibly this winter
Recreate Responsibly to protect yourself, others, and the outdoors. Review the guidelines below before heading out on your outdoor adventure!
Know before you go. Some areas can become dangerous wither winter conditions. Research your destination, as roads and facilities may be closed in winter.
Explore locally. Consider exploring locally, as driving and parking may be more challenging in winter. If you travel, be mindful of your impact on native and local communities.
Plan ahead. Check local conditions and prepare for the elements, packing extra layers, waterproof clothing, and avalanche safety gear for the backcountry.
Leave no trace. Did you know that snow is our water supply? Keep our winter playgrounds clean. Pack out any human or pet waste and be respectful of the land.
Practice physical distancing. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth. When possible, opt to eat and rest outside. If you feel sick, stay home.
Play it safe. Know your limits and your gear. Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury.
Build an inclusive outdoors. Everyone deserve to experience a winter wonderland. Be an active part of making the outdoors safe, accessible, and welcoming for all identities and abilities.
Be a good steward
Do your part to "Leave No Trace" when enjoying public spaces and encourage your family and friends to do the same!
Plan ahead and prepare
Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Dispose of waste properly
Leave what you find
Minimize campfire impacts
Be considerate of others
Share your volunteer photos
We want to see the outstanding work you’ve done to benefit fish and wildlife! We're grateful for all the volunteers who provide their time and talents by contributing to projects that benefit fish, wildlife, and habitat. Volunteer hunter education instructors are committed to ensuring that hunters have safe, legal, and ethical hunts. Many volunteers work directly with WDFW, but many also volunteer through partnerships and local projects around the state.
Share your photos or videos of your volunteer time with us at wdfw.wa.gov/share and select the category "Volunteer Activities".
Habitat at Home, formerly known as the Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Program, is the department's effort to encourage Washingtonians to connect with nature where they live. We hope these resources will help you discover fun and effective ways you can help support wildlife, regardless of your expertise, how much space you have, or where you live.
By creating habitat for wildlife at home, you are helping to offset the acres of habitat that are lost to housing and urban development each year in Washington. Every little bit can help decrease habitat fragmentation, especially in highly urbanized areas.
Our new Habitat at Home Starter Kit provides an introduction to the basics of gardening for pollinators, selecting native plants, and how to identify common backyard birds. Contact us to request a starter kit.
Habitat at Home yard sign
If you already provide wildlife habitat at home (food, water, shelter, and space to raise young), you can apply for a Habitat at Home yard sign. We want to learn about your habitat and recognize your efforts to help Washington wildlife.
Planning your garden
Are you thinking about what to plant in your garden this year? Whether you garden for the beauty of being surrounded by plants or to produce fruits and vegetables, you can help wildlife at the same time!
Co-planting is a great way to benefit both your garden and pollinators. Consider including an herb garden close to your produce garden to attract pollinators. Include plants that pollinators love, such as thyme, lavender, rosemary, sage, and oregano. Produce such as squash, eggplant, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, and other flowering plants may increase in yield because of pollination.
If you’re looking to specifically help pollinators, look for plants that provide nectar at different times of the year to increase food availability year-round. Plants that flower around April or August and September are especially helpful for pollinators.
During cold months like March, birds need more energy to survive. Ordinarily, this is a great time to put out bird feeders, especially if you don’t have the space for plants. However, we are still seeing reports of salmonellosis in birds and are asking residents to keep bird feeders down.
Feeders can pose health risks to birds if not maintained correctly and many people don’t realize that like humans, birds are susceptible to diseases, including salmonellosis, mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, avian pox, and more. Proper feeder hygiene is something you’ll need to uphold if you plan on keeping up your feeder up or have bird feeders in the future.
Use proper feeder food
Preventing disease at your feeders starts with the type of food you are providing. One way to help keep your feeder clean is to avoid using seed mixes, as it can encourage overcrowding and food waste. Mixes are good at attracting birds that enjoy both large and smaller seeds, but unless both types of birds visit your feeder on a regular basis, the leftover seeds - that often are pushed to the ground - can be a recipe for mold and attracting rats, mice, coyotes, bears, skunks, racoons, and other wildlife. This can lead to wildlife that become habituated to being fed and can pose future problems. For this reason, it is also best to only put out one day’s worth of food in your feeder so that it won’t spoil before it’s eaten.
Using seeds that have already been hulled can also prevent waste, as hulls will be dropped to the ground anyways when birds are feeding. Start with smaller quantities and add more as needed. If you’d still like to offer a variety of seeds, opt for several bird feeders that are well-spaced from one another that each hold their own type of seed. If using a platform feeder, be sure to clean it daily with new seed put out. These feeders get particularly messy and can pose a greater risk to keeping birds healthy.
Keep it clean
Cleaning your feeders is critical to keeping your birds happy and healthy. With the current salmonellosis outbreak, we recommend cleaning feeders daily by first rinsing well with warm, soapy water. Then, soak in a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can spray the surfaces with this solution if that’s easier and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse well with cool water and let dry for at least 10 minutes to air out any fumes.
If you also provide a birdbath, this cleaning regimen works for that, too. It’s equally important for birds to have access to clean drinking water! Just be sure to either remove or cover the birdbath while it is soaking in bleach to avoid pets, children, or animals from encountering the bleach.
It’s also important that the areas below and around your feeder be kept free of seed and feces that can create unsanitary conditions. Placing feeders above surfaces that are easy to clean like decks or concrete will make the cleanup much quicker and easier. You can also opt to place a mesh screen or mat beneath feeders. Additionally, you can opt to attract birds that are less messy eaters, like chickadees and nuthatches.
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.