Discover Eastern Washington

Hills and trees reflected in a lake

Staff furloughs

With Washington’s economy hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is planning one day of agency-wide furloughs each month through November.

While public safety-related needs will remain staffed, most other WDFW services, including customer service, will be unavailable Friday, Oct. 16, and Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Counties served: Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman

Interim Director: Chris Donley

2315 North Discovery Place
Spokane Valley, WA 99216-1566


Telephone: 509-892-1001

October fishing tips and news

A boy holds a large steelhead
Photo courtesy of Reese Overly


Steelhead and fall Chinook seasons are in full swing. If you plan to fish them, please check the emergency rules for the area and species you plan to fish for as there are multiple rules for the Snake (fall Chinook and steelhead) and for steelhead in tributaries (Touchet, Walla Walla, Tucannon, and Grande Ronde). 

Trout/mixed species 

October can be a great time to fish many of the region’s trout lakes, rivers, and streams. Some Spokane County trout lakes closed Sept. 30, but there are lots of options going into winter. Clear and Liberty lakes provide rainbow and brown trout, bass, and other fish through October. Amber Lake (under selective gear rules) remains open through November, providing opportunity to catch rainbow and cutthroat trout.

Year-round Eloika Lake has brown trout, largemouth bass, and black crappie. October is an excellent time to fish Sprague Lake for big rainbow trout and largemouth bass, and additional crappie are being stocked in the lake currently in an effort to improve the crappie fishery there. Lake Spokane (or Long Lake) is also an excellent October destination for crappie, rainbow trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and walleye.

October can also be a productive month for fishing the Spokane River but Osborne reminds fishermen that it is a selective gear rule from Nine Mile Dam upstream to the Idaho border. That means single barbless hooks and bait is prohibited. The river is also catch and release, except for two hatchery rainbow trout (those missing their adipose fin) daily. These regulations are in place to protect the native redband rainbow trout.

Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, has good action from big rainbows and walleye this time of year, especially in the northernmost reaches of the reservoir.

As always, Blue and Spring lakes, off the Tucannon River within the Wooten Wildlife Area near the town of Dayton, will be stocked before the general deer rifle season opener. Unlike past years, the flood of the Tucannon River last spring left the layout a little different at the Wooten. For instance, part of the river now runs through the Hartsock Unit instead of along the bottom of the hill. Also, the footbridge to Watson Lake was washed out and has not been replaced yet. Watson, Big 4 Lake, and Curl Lake were not stocked with fish this year due to flood damage. 

Wherever you plan to fish, before heading out, it is a good idea to review the current sport fishing rules pamphlet for possession limits and safety closures.

Last month for statewide trout derby

The 2020 Statewide Trout Derby will run through Oct. 31. The free event features more than 100 stocked lakes and over 100 participating businesses offering 1,000+ prizes valued at more than $40,000. For more on how it works, visit the derby webpage

Remember to recreate responsibly and keep a distance of at least six feet between you and other anglers. Avoid crowding on banks, piers, or at boat ramps.

October hunting news

A hunter sits on a rock outcropping
Photo courtesy Devan Reid

Planning your hunt

October is prime time for hunting, with various seasons opening throughout the state, including deer and elk, ducks, and geese. Due to wildfires in September, if you usually hunt private property or timber company land, please check with property owners before heading out. Some private properties in eastern Washington were impacted by fire and other public and timber lands are closed due to the continued fire danger.

Also be sure to check this year’s rules in the 2020 Big Game Hunting pamphlet or the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet before going hunting. WDFW’s Hunting Prospects guide and past Game Harvest Reports can be helpful in determining where to hunt.

There also is a hunting regulations web map for the 2020-21 hunting seasons. It provides convenient access to Washington’s hunting regulations and allows hunters to find permit and general season hunts based on location, date, weapon choice, and more.

Modern firearm deer

The general season for modern firearm hunting for both white-tailed and mule deer begins Oct. 17. The region’s best white-tailed deer hunting is in District 1, in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties. White-tailed deer are the most abundant in that district while mule deer are usually harvested in GMUs 101 and 121.

The region’s central district (Spokane, Lincoln, and Whitman counties) has almost equal hunting opportunities for both white-tailed and mule deer, although most of it is on private property, where securing permission is key. The best white-tailed hunting is usually in GMUs 124 and 127. The best mule deer hunting is in GMUs 136, 139, and 142.

The southeast district, made up of Asotin, Garfield, Columbia, and Walla Walla counties, is best known for mule deer. GMUs with the highest success rates -145, 149, 178, and 181- also have the most private land so access can be limited. GMUs 166 and 175 have the most public land but also the lowest success rates, in part due to high hunter numbers.

Modern firearm elk

The modern firearm general season for elk starts in October in eastern Washington. The best opportunities are in the southeast district of the Blue Mountains where there are more elk overall and traditionally milder winter weather. GMU 166 has had the highest success rate for general season hunters in recent years, but also one of the higher densities of hunters because it is made up mostly of public lands. A portion of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness extends into this GMU and offers backcountry hunting opportunities.

Central district elk hunting is mostly on private lands in GMUs 124, 127, and 130, with harvest numbers increasing in GMUs 139 and 142. Hunters on private lands in GMU 130 have the highest success, probably due to its proximity to the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The best elk hunting in northeast Washington is in the Pend Oreille sub-herd area, which includes GMUs 113, 117, and 111.

Bear identification test 

Bear season continues through Nov. 15. If you plan to hunt bear in GMUs 101, 105, 108, 111, 113, 117, 203, 204, 209, 215, 418, or 426, you must successfully complete the WDFW bear identification test first, or an equivalent test from another state and carry proof of successful completion.

While grizzly bears are rare in Washington, a small population exists in northeast Washington, and their presence has also been documented in the Okanogan Highlands and the North Cascades. Hunters in these areas are also strongly encouraged to carry bear spray while hunting.

Upland game bird

Hunting begins Oct. 3 for chukar and gray (Hungarian) partridge. These birds are mostly found along the the Snake River and throughout Asotin County’s grasslands.

Pheasant hunting begins Oct. 24 in eastern Washington, with most of the action in Whitman County and south of the Snake River. In addition to wild birds, pheasant hunting opportunities are enhanced with releases of farm-raised roosters at sites across the region. Details can be found at on the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program web page.

Mountain quail hunting is closed throughout eastern Washington this fall but California quail can be hunted from Oct. 3 to Jan. 18, 2021.


Hunting for ducks and geese begins in mid October, although the best hunting in this region starts in late October or November. Mallards and Canada geese are most often harvested but wood ducks that nest in the Pend Oreille, Colville, and Kettle river valleys can provide early season hunting opportunities. Canada geese are usually abundant throughout the season in the Pend Oreille, Colville, Kettle, Columbia, Spokane, and Snake river valleys, especially in the bottom areas where there is extensive farmland.


Moose hunting starts in October and takes place in the region’s northeast district, all by special permits that were drawn from last spring’s applicants.

Wildlife viewing

Fire aftermath at the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area
Fire aftermath at the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area

Wildfire impacts

Fall is typically a great time for wildlife watching but wildfires in September could have an impact on where and what animals you see this year. A reminder to please not feed wildlife at any time, but especially following wildfire. While it is well-intentioned, there have been some efforts this fall to organize the feeding of deer, elk, and other animals displaced by wildfires in eastern Washington. This isn’t advisable for several reasons:

  • Many things like hay or apples that people tend to feed to wildlife aren’t good for animals in large doses and can eventually lead to their death if enough is consumed.
  • Feeding wildlife concentrates animals in one area where they can transmit disease to each other or makes them more susceptible to being hit by cars.
  • Animals fed by humans can become habituated to humans. When feeding stops, they can become aggressive in their efforts to get food and have to be relocated or killed later.
  • Feeding wildlife prevents animals from seeking suitable new habitat and encourages them to hang around populated areas.

Another result of this year’s wildfires is that habitat restoration work will be underway. Fall months are the prime seeding window in the shrubsteppe for bunch grasses and sagebrush. Typically these restoration efforts are on smaller focused sites, easily avoided by hunters, but this year work will be on a much larger scale.

Sharing space with hunters

If you watch birds, hike, camp, or do other recreational activities, be aware that a number of hunting seasons are underway throughout the region. While the majority of hunters follow safety rules and carefully verify their targets, non-hunters can help to avoid accidents by wearing hunter’s orange clothing and making their presence known to hunters.


November is “the rut”, or breeding season, for both white-tailed and mule deer bucks. That means they are more visible, but less careful. Be alert and aware when driving, as collisions with deer are common this time of year. See Tips for Driving in Deer Country for more information.

Black bears 

Bears are preparing for winter by bulking up this time of year and may come close to roads and human development. Avoid attracting bears by keeping food sources out of their reach. That includes bird feed, pet food, garbage, compost piles, and unpicked fruit or vegetables in orchards and gardens. Learn more at Living with Black Bears.

Fire restrictions

Fire bans remain on many public lands due to the dry conditions and high fire danger. Some lands available for public use, such as Hancock Forest Management in northeast Washington, are currently closed due to fire danger. Please obey all posted closure signs and respect landowner restrictions to ensure that future access is allowed.

Educational activities for families

Looking for fun ways to engage your kids and have fun together as a family? Check out our educational resources for themed lessons and activities you can enjoy together as a family. WDFW is also offering a new service this year for educators - wildlife-themed curriculum for grades 3-12. Check out the Wild Washington curriculum and share with the parents and teachers you know. 

Event calendar

Types of events

  • Community event
  • Key date
  • Public meeting