Discover Eastern Washington

Hills and trees reflected in a lake

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

April fishing tips and news

A little girl holds several trout
James Wilkin

Renew your fishing license

With the April 24 fishing opener coming right up, now is the time to replace your Washington state fishing licenses that expired March 31!

Licenses are available online, by phone at 1-866-246-9453), and from license dealers around the state. 

April 24 fishing opener

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 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!

Find a lowland lake near you, and be sure to check the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for statewide regulations and to see which lakes open April 24. Most waters around the region will be stocked with rainbow trout by then. 

"A couple lakes that should fish well for the opener are Badger and West Medical lakes in Spokane County," said WDFW central district fish biologist Randy Osborne. “Badger Lake, in particular, would be a great place to take your family on the opener, whether fishing from a boat or along the shore at the WDFW access site; plenty of room and plenty of fish, including rainbows, Westslope cutthroat, and kokanee.” 

West Medical Lake should be decent fishing for rainbows and brown trout. Fishtrap Lake, on the Lincoln/Spokane County line, should also be good this year.

In northeast Washington, Waitts, Cedar, and Starvation lakes in Stevens County; Ellen Lake in Ferry County; and Diamond and Sacheen lakes in Pend Oreille County are prime opening day fishing lakes.

Already open/year-round waters

With ice coming off area water bodies, the fish are hungry.

“Southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lake continues to be a popular selective gear fishery” said Osborne. “The season runs March 1 through November 30, and anglers are allowed to keep one trout (either Westslope cutthroat or rainbow) over 18 inches each day.”  

Internal combustion motors are prohibited on Amber.

Medical Lake, near the town of the same name in southwest Spokane County, has rainbow and brown trout. This lake is also under selective gear rules with a daily limit of two trout of at least 14 inches, and no motors of any kind allowed. Osborne says the use of bait is strictly prohibited on all lakes managed under selective gear rules.

Downs Lake, also in southwest Spokane County, receives hatchery “catchable-size” rainbow trout, and should also fish well this month for largemouth bass, yellow perch, and black crappie.

Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County is producing rainbow trout and yellow perch, mostly on flies. Coffeepot is under selective gear rules, a minimum size limit of 18 inches, and a daily catch limit of one trout. 

Pacific Lake in Lincoln County held water for a number of years Osborne says, but water levels have continued to drop to the point where anglers cannot launch boats and WDFW hatchery staff could not stock fish this year. 

Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County, opened on March 1 and is offering decent catches of brown and rainbow trout. As the water warms, Liberty provides some of the earliest yellow perch and crappie fishing in the area.  

Year-round-open Rock Lake in Whitman County is consistently a good spot for both brown and rainbow trout.

Sprague Lake, on the Lincoln/Adams County line, is expected to fish well for the nice rainbows it’s known for. Sprague also has really good largemouth bass fishing that will kick in as the water warms up.

Fishing from the banks of Lake Spokane (Long Lake) continues to be productive for rainbow trout this spring. Once water levels rise enough to use the main boat ramps, boat anglers should find good fishing for not only rainbows but also yellow perch, crappie, and both largemouth and smallmouth bass.

At the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in southeast Washington’s Columbia County, only four of the Tucannon Lakes are open to fishing following flooding last year - BlueSpringRainbow, and Deer lakes. Big 4 Lake won’t be stocked in 2021 due to flood damage and Watson Lake’s footbridge was washed away by flood waters, so you must wade the river or walk in from Deer Lake to access it. Spring runoff hasn’t started yet so river levels are sporadic at this time.

April hunting news

A man and child walk down a road dressed in camoflauge
Nick Rezek

Spring wild turkey

The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 statewide. The annual youth-only hunt for ages 15 and younger is April 3 and 4. More information on turkey season is in the 2021 Spring Wild Turkey and Black Bear Hunting Regulation Pamphlet. WDFW’s Turkey Takeover blog series can also help, with info on turkey populations in Washington, how to find turkeys, how to find a “mentored hunt” if you’re not sure how to get started turkey hunting yourself, and gear you will need to be successful.

If you plan to hunt in northeast Washington, an area known for great turkey hunting, WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist Annemarie Prince can expand on those tips.  

“Turkeys are moving to higher elevations as the snow recedes,” she said. “LeClerc Creek and Rustlers Gulch wildlife areas in the northeast district usually have a good number of gobblers. The winter closure gates on the Bisbee Mountain and Trout Lake roads on the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area re-opened April 1. The map below can help hunters looking for public land opportunities to locate good areas for turkey hunting.”

A map of public lands for hunting turkey in northeast Washington


Turkeys are also abundant on private land, especially in Stevens County and in the central district of the region. WDFW biologists encourage hunters to do pre-season scouting and secure permission to hunt private lands. Some private landowners have registered agreements for access and can be found at WDFW’s Private Lands Hunting Access webpage.

WDFW’s Asotin Creek, Chief Joseph, and W.T. Wooten wildlife areas also provide good turkey hunting each year.

Hunter Education

WDFW urges new hunters to complete Hunters Ed now to hunt spring turkey or any season this year. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, WDFW is offering an online course for students nine years old and older. Those under nine can complete the online course but must also attend a field skills evaluation before they can become certified.

Hunter Education courses cover firearm and hunting safety, basic wildlife conservation, ethics, and more. They are one of the primary methods the department uses to help hunters stay safe and ensure they are familiar with rules that protect public safety and maintain healthy wildlife populations.

All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 must complete a Hunter Ed course to buy a hunting license. The Hunter Education deferral is another option for students 10 and up who want to try hunting before completing a hunter education course. The deferral allows a person to go hunting with an experienced hunter for one year before completing Hunter Ed.

Wildlife viewing

Goldfinches gathered at bird feeder
Doug Kuehn

Use caution when resuming wild bird feeding

A drop in the number of reports of sick or dead birds across Washington means backyard bird feeders

can be put back up, but with caution. An outbreak of salmonellosis in pine siskins and other songbirds had WDFW asking people with bird feeders and baths to put them away earlier this winter to discourage wild birds from congregating and potentially passing salmonella bacteria to each other.

Since WDFW first put out word of the outbreak in January, reports of sick or dead birds have decreased substantially, but they are still coming in.

“The disease is still circulating, and we could see the numbers jump back up if we ease precautions too quickly,” said WDFW veterinarian Dr. Kristin Mansfield. “If you usually feed birds at multiple feeders, consider putting up only one or two- widely spaced on your property- to start.”

You may also wish to use feeders that accommodate fewer birds (such as tubes rather than platforms) and continue to keep the ground below bird feeders clean of feces and seed casings that could spread salmonella. More information on salmonellosis and how you can continue to help protect wild birds is in an updated blog post.

Waterfowl migration

The annual spring migration of birds is starting, with thousands of ducks and geese moving into or through the region and making stopovers to feed and rest in agricultural fields and water bodies before heading further north. Others are finding mates and nesting spots to produce offspring locally.  

Spring openings

Every winter, gates are closed at area wildlife areas to keep vehicles from entering areas used as winter wildlife range, in order to protect deer, elk, and moose. Those gates opened for the season on April 1, including on Bisbee Mountain and Trout Lake Roads at the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, at the Asotin Creek Wildlife Area, and the  W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in southeast Washington.

"We are still having spring weather down here (yesterday it was snowing, today the sun is shining) so be prepared for changing weather,” said Assistant W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman. “We haven't had spring runoff yet so the river levels are still sporadic.”

Safety while recreating

Coyote pups are appearing this time of year so keep dogs leashed when in coyote country to avoid conflicts with protective coyote parents. Learn more about Living with Coyotes on WDW’s website.

Also be sure to keep dogs on leashes in wolf country and be very observant when recreating as you could accidentally wander into a wolf denning area. If you notice abundant signs of wolves or see a den, leave the same way you came and avoid disturbing the wolves as much as possible. Here is more information on recreating with your dog in wolf country.

Avoid encounters with bears

Black bears are leaving their winter dens, some with new cubs in tow, and looking for easy meals. If you live in bear country, please keep garbage secured and pet food indoors, and put away bird feeders for a while to avoid attracting hungry bears. Learn more about Living with Black Bears on the WDFW website.

If you live in Northeast Washington, sign up for one of our virtual ‘Bear Aware’ classes. WDFW is teaming up with Defenders of Wildlife, Washington State University Extension, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, and the Pend Oreille County Library on these free trainings. They cover bear safety, tips and tricks to reduce wildlife conflicts around your home, bear spray instruction, safety tips for recreating, and more. Pend Oreille County participants will receive a free can of bear spray (while supplies last).

Some events require registration in advance. Available classes and how to register:

Bears and cougars around the home- April 13, 2021 6-8 p.m.
To register: (509) 447-2401 or https://extension.wsu.edu/pendoreille/nrs/bear-aware/

Bear Aware while hiking- April 14, 2021 6:30-8:00 p.m. (registration not required)
To register: https://pocld.org/event-directory/

Bear Aware for children! April 17, 2021 4-5 p.m. (registration not required)
To register: https://pocld.org/event-directory/

Bears and cougars around the home- April 20, 2021 6-8 p.m.
To register: (509) 447-2401 or https://extension.wsu.edu/pendoreille/nrs/bear-aware/

Bear Aware while hiking- April 22, 6-8 p.m.
To register: (509) 447-2401 or https://extension.wsu.edu/pendoreille/nrs/bear-aware/ or (509) 447-2401

Leave wild babies wild

April is a busy month for the birth of baby animals. A reminder that if you run into fawns, baby birds, or other young animals, please leave them be, even if they appear to be orphaned or abandoned. Most animals have a parent foraging or hunting nearby. Read our blog to learn about when not to rescue wildlife.

#RecreateResponsibly

With the seasons changing, here are tips on safe recreation: 

 Plan ahead

  • Tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be home. Travel with a buddy when possible. 
  • Always carry survival gear with you. The 10 Essentials include clothing, shelter and food in case you have to spend the night outside.
  • Have a reliable map and compass skills to traverse snow-covered trails. These can be challenging to follow, particularly in backcountry areas.
  • While electronic locators and communication can be helpful, they cannot be always be relied upon while in the backcountry.

Play it safe

  • Hazards, avalanche slopes and designated safe routes are not marked.
  • Have proper footwear with good traction, micro-spikes, extra clothing, water, and a headlamp.
  • Snow hides hazards like streams. Use your poles to poke snow before stepping on it if you hear water.
  • Stay on the trail, even if it means walking on snow or mud.
  • Turn around instead of crossing steep, snow–covered slopes. A fall could be disastrous.
  • Avoid stepping onto snow cornices as they may collapse under your weight. Assume that snow on the edge of precipices is unstable. Falling into snow moats around trees and near logs or rocks can cause injury. Avoid getting too close.
  • Weather can change quickly, causing hard-to-navigate conditions, including whiteouts or dangerous stream crossings due to rapid snowmelt.
  • Beware of avalanches. Snow is increasingly unstable this time of year and may slide or collapse.
  • Remember, you are responsible for your own safety!

More Resources

Habitat at Home

Flames in a natural area

Prescribed burns in eastern Washington

Annual prescribed burns on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lands in eastern

Washington are planned to start in April, as conditions allow. Controlled fire  reduces the risk of wildfire and improves habitat for animals such as deer, elk, and bighorn sheep.   
 
Prescribed fires burn off accumulations of vegetation and logging debris, which reduces the risk of high-intensity wildfires that destroy wildlife habitat.  
 
“Conducting these prescribed fires helps us to preserve ecosystems, restore nutrients, and lead to more desirable plant growth in the future,” said WDFW Lands Division Manager Cynthia Wilkerson. “In 2021, we’re planning to treat 2,700 acres of WDFW-managed public lands with prescribed fire, or restoration fires as we sometimes call them.” 

Prescribed fires in the following areas will begin in the coming month, weather permitting: 

  • Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, 524 acres in Ferry County, 10 mile west of Kettle Falls  

  • Rustlers Gulch Wildlife Area, 523 acres in Pend Oreille County, 15 miles southwest of Newport  

  • Methow Wildlife Area, 248 acres in Okanogan County, 10 miles northeast of Winthrop 

  • Colockum Wildlife Area, 500 acres in Chelan County, 10 miles southeast of Wenatchee 

  • Oak Creek Wildlife Area, 90 acres in Yakima County, 15 miles west of Naches 

  • Grouse Flats Wildlife Area, 400 acres in Asotin County, 40 miles southwest of Clarkston  

  • 4O Wildlife Area, 387 acres in Asotin County, 45 miles southwest of Clarkston. 

Signs will be posted in advance of each burn to inform recreationists about the fires. Public safety is a major consideration for the controlled burns. They are monitored continuously until out. And, while crews burn when conditions are favorable, smoke can still impact visibility. People living, working or recreating in areas where burning is taking place are asked to keep an eye out for fire equipment and personnel and slow down if experiencing reduced visibility on roadways.  

Meet your Regional Director: Steve Pozzanghera

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

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 barbeque.

Event calendar

Types of events

  • Community event
  • Public meeting
  • Key date