Discover Eastern Washington

Hills and trees reflected in a lake

"... the Department continues to face challenging budget issues that have only gotten worse since the 2008-09 recession. Rising costs are impacting our ability to meet our mission to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and habitat while providing outdoor opportunities – and the balance of our dedicated/most reliable fund source, the State Wildlife Account, will be depleted by March 2020."

~ Eastern Washington Regional Director Steve Pozzanghera. Read Steve's full budget message below, or learn more about our 2020 supplemental budget.

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

Director: Steve Pozzanghera

2315 North Discovery Place
Spokane Valley, WA 99216-1566

Email: TeamSpokane@dfw.wa.gov

Telephone: 509-892-1001

Fish Washington in January

A fishermen holds up two large trout
Courtesy John BigleyJohn Bigley

Winter-only/Ice-fishing: The mild early winter in Eastern Washington means ice fishermen will have to be

extremely cautious in January. Ice fishing is only safe after extended periods of below freezing temperatures, which hasn’t happened yet this season. WDFW does not monitor ice depth or condition so be extremely careful when ice fishing.

Major winter fisheries include Eloika, Lake Spokane (Long Lake), Roosevelt, Rock, Fourth of July, Hog Canyon, Hatch, and Williams (in Stevens County) lakes. In December, Williams, Fourth of July, and Lake Roosevelt were experiencing excellent winter fisheries, and that is expected to continue into January. Both boat and bank fishing at Roosevelt is hot. For tips for shore fishing, see the Lake Roosevelt winter shoreline fishing video.

A reminder that in 2018 Diamond, Jump Off Joe, and Waitts lakes all became year-round open lakes. They are all good perch fisheries – including rainbow, brown, and yellow perch – and should provide good ice fishing when safe ice forms.

Waitts Lake is also good for rainbow and brown trout in January, but Rock Lake in Whitman County is known for being the best winter trout fishery in the region. 

Lake whitefish is another good winter fishery in Eastern Washington. Whitefish can be found in Lake Roosevelt, the Little Spokane River, and the Kettle River in northeast Washington. In January they are usually spawning in groups about 40 to 50 feet below the surface. Watch this Fishing for Whitefish in Washington video for not only tips on catching them, but also information on whitefish biology, management, gear, and habitat.

Burbot fishing is also good on Lake Roosevelt in winter, especially near the mouth of the Colville and Spokane rivers. Bead and Sullivan lakes in Pend Oreille County can also be good for burbot fishing. Depending on conditions, they can be caught through the ice or by casting jigs or plunking bait from shore. No worries if you’ve never fished for burbot, this burbot fishing video can help.

Other lakes: Newman Lake in eastern Spokane County is also open year-round and has decent winter fishing for black crappie. Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county border is known for its good trout fishing in January.

Spring and Blue lakes, on the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in southeast Columbia County, were stocked with rainbow trout this fall but don’t develop enough ice for safe ice fishing, so access is limited once the shoreline ices over.

Steelhead: From the mouth of the Snake River (Burbank to Pasco railroad bridge at Snake River mile 1.25) to the Couse Creek Boat Ramp, the Snake River will remain closed for steelhead fishing through March 31 due to low returns.

From Couse Creek Boat Ramp upstream to the Idaho/Oregon state line there is a daily limit of one hatchery steelhead.

The daily limit for steelhead in the Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon, and Grande Ronde rivers has also been reduced to one hatchery fish through April 15. Affected locations include:

  1. Walla Walla River from the mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line.
  2. Touchet River from the mouth to the confluence of the North and South Forks.
  3. Tucannon River from the mouth to the Tucannon Hatchery Road Bridge.
  4. Grande Ronde River from mouth to the Washington/Oregon state line.

The 2019 return for upper Columbia and Snake River summer steelhead has fallen well below the predicted 118,200 fish. Reduced limits are intended to minimize impact on wild steelhead and ensure hatchery brood escapement needs are met.

Please refer to the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits and safety closures. 

January hunting news and tips

A dog waits inside a duck blind

Mandatory hunter reporting: Hunters are required to report their hunting activity by Jan. 31 for each special

permit acquired and each deer, elk, bear, cougar, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, and turkey tag purchased in 2019. Those who do not meet the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before buying another license. Those who report by Jan.10 will be entered into a drawing for a special incentive permit. See the Big Game Hunting Pamphlet for more information.

Upland game birds: Hunting for pheasant, quail, chukar, and gray or Hungarian partridge continues into mid-January. A reminder that non-toxic shot is required for upland bird, dove, and band-tailed pigeon on all pheasant release sites statewide.

Waterfowl: Duck and goose hunting continues through Jan. 26. Due to the mild winter so far, there is still open water on popular hunting areas such as the Pend Oreille River, Lake Roosevelt, and the Colville River.
 
Spring bear permit applications: The application period for the region’s 500+ special spring bear hunting permits begins Jan. 2 and runs through Feb. 28. Details are in the Spring Season: Wild Turkey and Black Bear pamphlet.  

January wildlife viewing news and tips

First Day Hikes: Usher in the new year with a hike through Washington State Parks! First Day Hikes take place at several area state parks, including Columbia Plateau Trail, Field Springs, Mount Spokane, and Riverside State Park. These ranger-led events include snowshoe treks in some areas and wildlife viewing opportunities. Jan. 1 is also a “free day,” along with Jan. 20, when you do not need to have a Discover Pass to use state parks.

Birds: January is a great bird-watching month, with birds more visible against winter landscapes and bare trees. Bald eagles can be seen along the Snake River, Lake Roosevelt, and other large waterways feeding on fish or waterfowl.

Rough-legged and red-tailed hawks can be seen all over the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area this time of year, especially perched on power poles.

Other birds common in the area in winter months include black-capped and mountain chickadees; red-breasted, white-breasted, and pygmy nuthatches; Cassin’s and house finches; red crossbill; pine siskin; American goldfinch; common redpoll; evening grosbeak; northern pygmy owl; Clark's nutcracker; and gray and Steller’s jays.

Deer, elk, sheep, moose: Antler sheds can be found starting in January, but it is best to wait until late spring to go shed hunting to avoid inadvertently harassing or stressing animals on winter range. Collecting naturally shed antlers is legal, but if too many people descend on an area before wintering animals have left, the animals could be disturbed, which threatens their survival at the harshest time of the year.

Deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep also move to lower elevations to feed and become more visible this time of year. If you encounter them, keep a good distance to avoid stressing them.   

At the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in southeast Washington, the annual closure of the Cummings Creek drainage is effective Jan. 1 through April 1 to keep elk off surrounding private agricultural lands. The drainage is used as winter range for almost 300 elk. Human activity during winter months in the past has caused the animals to try to get through a fence that is intended to keep them off private property where they can cause crop damage. Limiting access to humans means less damage to the fence and private property.

The winter gates are also closed to the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, limiting motor vehicle access. Access is still welcome on foot.

Wildlife tracking: Finding and identifying animal tracks in the snow while cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking can help teach children about local species. Common tracks seen include porcupines, river otters, bobcats, deer, elk, moose, coyotes, squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, grouse, and quail.

Recreation and habitat projects

Heller Bar Access Area improvements

The Heller Bar Access Area, located on the west bank of the Snake River in Asotin County, is popular year-round for recreational boaters, anglers, and rafters who enjoy the beautiful landscapes of southeast Washington.

Landscape view of Heller Bar Recreation Area

Along with a 25-foot wide concrete boat ramp, the Heller Bar Access Area features several camping areas and restrooms that are ADA accessible. People can also hand launch kayaks and rafts along the scenic river beach. A second boat launch was installed this year to reduce crowding and accommodate more users.

The region surrounding the Snake River holds significant meaning to the indigenous people who have called these lands home for hundreds of years. WDFW is working closely with Nez Perce tribal experts and a professional archaeologist to follow a mitigation plan and ensure we are protecting cultural resources during boat ramp construction.

The mitigation plan will also address the fading connection between tribal youth and their ancestral culture and homeland. Mitigation funds provided by WDFW will create a hands-on, interactive curriculum incorporating Nez Perce land, language, culture, and traditions connected to the Heller Bar Access Area.

A Budget Message from Regional Director Steve Pozzanghera

Steve Pozzanghera, Eastern Region Director
Steve Pozzanghera, Eastern Region Director

Washington residents love the outdoors. In eastern Washington, we are fortunate to experience four seasons where we can hike, mountain bike, fish, hunt, camp and photograph and watch wildlife.  For many of us, our lifestyles are built around being outdoors. This not only benefits our personal health, it also contributes to the economic well-being of the state. Fishing, hunting and wildlife watching activities contribute over $4.5 billion annually to Washington’s economy. For every $1 invested in WDFW through the State General Fund, it is estimated that fish and wildlife related activities return $3.50 back to the state coffers. 

Despite this return on investment, the Department continues to face challenging budget issues that have only gotten worse since the 2008-09 recession. Rising costs are impacting our ability to meet our mission to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and habitat while providing outdoor opportunities – and the balance of our dedicated/most reliable fund source, the State Wildlife Account, will be depleted by March 2020.  

Given these challenges, the Department sought permanent increases to both State General Funds and to the State Wildlife Account during the 2019 legislative session.  The legislature assisted by providing  $24 million in one-time State General funds to WDFW. While this helped, there remains an ongoing  $6.7 million need to maintain existing at-risk activities including habitat conservation work, hatchery production, wildlife surveys and programs that support hunting,  shellfish management and public health, public assistance with wildlife  conflicts,  Columbia River salmon and steelhead fishing, land management, and customer service. 

Some specific examples of how our Region will be impacted if funding is not obtained for at-risk activities include reductions to our forest health and habitat treatments on WDFW wildlife areas like Swanson Lakes, Rustler’s Gulch, LeClerc, and Sherman Creek and the 4-O Ranch. These cuts will impact the health and usability of these popular public lands.

Statewide, the Master Hunter program contributes 13,000 hours of annual volunteer work that is oriented toward wildlife related conservation projects. This work, valued at $390,000, could be lost without additional funding. Given that currently 200 WDFW Master Hunters reside in Spokane County (13% of total), these local volunteer conservation projects will be lost. 

The hunter education program also faces cuts. In 2018, this program and its volunteers helped 1,700 people in Region 1 meet requirements to hunt. Reductions that result in fewer hunting and fishing license sales jeopardizes 25% of the WDFW budget that comes from hunting and fishing licenses.

Lastly, if funding for these at-risk activities is not secured, the Department’s wildlife conflict staff could also face cuts. Conflict specialists work with the public to provide technical, and in some cases financial, assistance that reduces negative interactions between people and wildlife.  

In addition to the $6.7 million of at-risk activities identified above, the 2019 legislative session resulted in an additional $12.5 million in newly legislated cost increases for WDFW. That, coupled with an additional $6.8 million in emergent needs caused by continued population growth, means we need to seek additional funding for monitoring salmon and steelhead fisheries, post wildfire habitat recovery, helping property owners protect fish, implementing the Columbia River salmon policy, and maintaining the Fish Washington mobile app.

In total, the Department’s request from the legislature for the 2020 session is $26 million. You can get additional information on the WDFW budget here.

I encourage you to call or email if you have questions about the Agency budget, or where you can go to hunt, fish or wildlife watch. I also ask that you support the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as we work to not only maintain current services that benefit the citizens and the fish and wildlife resources of Washington, but also work to provide you with more services into the future.

- Steve

About Steve Pozzanghera
Steve Pozzanghera is the Eastern Region (Region 1), Regional Director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Prior to taking the Regional Director position in Spokane, Steve served as the Department’s first Carnivore Section Manager working in the Wildlife Program in Olympia. He then became the Deputy Assistant Director of the Wildlife Program before making the move to Region 1. Steve has a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Management from West Virginia University and a Master’s degree in Wildlife Science from the University of Tennessee. Steve enjoys hunting, fishing, and preparing food to serve others – especially on a barbecue. Watch a digital open house with Steve and WDFW Director Kelly Susewind.

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