Discover North Central Washington

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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: Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan

Director: Vacant 

1550 Alder Street NW
Ephrata, WA 98823-9699

Email: TeamEphrata@dfw.wa.gov

Telephone: 509-754-4624

Fax: 509-754-5257

October fishing tips and news

Fall chinook salmon

Young angler holds up two trout
Robert Britt

Fishing for fall chinook salmon continues through Oct. 15 on the mainstem Columbia River within the stretches from Priest Rapids Dam to Rock Island Dam. 

Steelhead

The Upper Columbia River steelhead fishing above Priest Rapids Dam is very unlikely to happen this season because of low projected run sizes.

Upper Columbia River steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Under WDFW’s permit, a run-size of 9,550 total steelhead (including 1,300 wild) are needed at Priest Rapids just to open retention fisheries. 

Trout

WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Ryan Fortier says anglers in the region’s high country usually have good success on small fishing waters open through October. Check out the possibilities at Fish Washington’s High Lakes .

Year-round-open Rocky Ford Creek in Grant County is usually a good bet this month for catch-and-release fly-fishing only opportunities. 

Warmwater species

Walleye fishing usually picks up this month on Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir in the Columbia Basin. Yellow perch fishing continues to be good, as it has been all summer for both lakes.

Sprague Lake, on the Adams-Lincoln county line, continues to be productive for largemouth bass, black crappie, and perch.

Hunting opportunities this October

You can find detailed information about hunting around the state in the annual Hunting Prospects. Find more detail about hunting access on private lands at Private Lands Hunting Access.

Quail and partridge

California quail sits on sagebrush with snow
David Hutson

Oct. 3 is the start of hunting for chukar and gray (Hungarian) partridge and quail. 

Traditional quail hunting areas on WDFW lands in the Columbia Basin district include:

  • The Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George;
  • Lower Crab Creek between Corfu and the Columbia River;
  • Gloyd Seeps Unit between Stratford and Moses Lake;
  • The Quincy Lakes Unit near the town of Quincy; and
  • The Dry Falls area at the south end of Banks Lake Unit.

Hunters have numerous opportunities for chukar within the district due to the large amount of habitat that falls under public ownership. Hunters harvest more chukar in this district than any other in the state.

Waterfowl

Duck (except scaup) and goose hunting begins Oct. 3 and the northcentral region’s Columbia Basin is second to none in the state for opportunities and hunter success. Grant County is consistently Washington’s top duck-harvest county. Check the regulations pamphlet to see which days may be closed for goose harvest in specific management areas.

Goose hunters in mid-October could focus a little more on white-fronted geese around Moses Lake, Winchester Lake, and along the Winchester Wasteway; in typical years there are 200-500 white-fronted geese for the first few weeks of the waterfowl season.

One of the more popular waterfowl hunting areas in the Columbia Basin district is Potholes Reservoir. Winchester Lake is another good spot but gets even more pressure. Three Regulated Access Areas in this district are also popular hunting destinations.

Local waterfowl production in the Chelan district is up again this year and hunters should have good opportunities in traditional areas and where permission to access ponds/lakes can be secured. Hunting along the Columbia River is usually consistent but dictated by local weather patterns.

The Okanogan district offers comparatively modest waterfowl hunting opportunities, with the largest concentrations of birds found at the mouth of the Okanogan River and on the Columbia River. River levels are running around average or a little below normal.

Modern firearm deer

Deer hunting with modern firearms begins Oct. 17. 

Okanogan County is prized for its mule deer hunting, although white-tailed deer are also abundant, particularly in Game Management Units (GMUs) 204 and 215. Surveys from the last couple of years show a slight decrease in deer populations following some extreme fires, droughts, and modestly difficult winters.

The highest densities of mule deer can be found in the western two-thirds of Okanogan County. White-tailed deer, meanwhile, grow more abundant as you move east. Overall, total general season harvest and success rates are anticipated to be around 2018 numbers, somewhere above the 10-year low and below the five-year average.

Douglas County is another good mule deer hunting area, and productivity remains consistent there, but it is dominated by private lands for which access permission must be secured. As a result, hunters have less opportunity to pursue deer freely across habitats, as they have to pay attention to ownership boundaries. Learn more about private lands hunting access at our website.

The Columbia Basin’s GMUs also produce good mule deer hunting opportunity, with most deer harvest in GMUs 272 (Beezley) and 284 (Ritzville). Given the modest escapement of bucks in 2017 and likely good recruitment of fawns, hunters should expect an average year for mule deer hunting throughout Grant and Adams counties.

Pheasant

The regular pheasant hunting season opens Oct. 24, and Grant County is consistently Washington’s top pheasant-harvest county. Winter and spring precipitation levels were about average, and reports from the field are painting an optimistic picture for the upcoming hunting season.

The largest wild populations of pheasants on WDFW lands in the Columbia Basin district are within the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George. Mixed bags of wild and released birds are also likely to be had in lower Crab Creek, Gloyd Seeps, Quincy, and Dry Falls units.

Farm-raised roosters are periodically released at sites across the region and are the best bet in the Okanogan and Chelan/Douglas districts, where wild bird habitat is scarcer. See details at Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program.

Modern firearm elk

Modern firearm elk hunting begins Oct. 31.  Elk occur primarily along the southern boundary of Chelan County as an extension of the Colockum herd further to the south. In 2017, muzzleloader hunters in Chelan County had a 1.6 percent success rate, while archers had a 10 percent success rate and modern firearms hunters were at 3.6 percent. Most of the elk harvested come out of GMU 251. Elk are few and far between in Okanogan County. Even in GMU 204, where the majority of the district’s limited harvest occurs, elk generally occur only in small groups scattered over the landscape.

Wildlife viewing close to home

Recreate Responsibly

Recreate Responsibly logo

#RecreateResponsibly to protect yourself, others, and the outdoors. Review the guidelines below before heading out on your outdoor adventure!  

  • Know before you go. Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don't go. If it's crowded, have a back up plan (or two). 
  • Explore locally. Limit long-distance travel and make use of local parks, trails, and public spaces. Be mindful of your impact on the communities you visit.
  • Plan ahead. Bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering.
  • Leave no trace. Respect public lands and waters, as well as native and local communities. Take all your garbage with you.
  • Practice physical distancing. Keep your group size small. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
  • Play it safe. Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained. 
  • Build an inclusive outdoors. Be an active part of making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities.

Bird migration

This month the Columbia Basin is full of fall migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and other water birds, including sandhill cranes. The network of rural roads through Grant County around Potholes Reservoir provides easy viewing from vehicles. WDFW’s Columbia Basin Wildlife Area and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Columbia National Wildlife Refuge provide more access for viewing. 

For those who enjoy backyard bird feeding, influxes of seed-eating birds, that may have spent the summer further north, may descend on your offerings for a day or two or perhaps through the fall and winter. Watch for goldfinches, pine siskins, nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, sparrows, and many other birds.

Deer

Both white-tailed and mule deer bucks are in the “rut” or breeding mode from late October thru November. Wildlife biologists say that can mean they’re moving across the landscape with less than their usual wariness, challenging each other and looking for does – including near roadways, and not just at dawn or dusk. Deer viewing may be excellent, but motorists traveling through deer country – which is virtually all of the region – should be alert, aware and prepared for possible collisions with these animals. See Tips for Driving in Deer Country in “Living With Deer” information.

Black bears

With daylight hours shrinking fast, the chances for other low-light roadside wildlife encounters increase, too. Black bears in particular are tough to spot in the growing dimness as they roam farther and wider in search of food, including closer to roads. Bears are instinctively trying to fatten up as much as they can before going into winter dens later this fall.

WDFW officials remind all wildlife enthusiasts – both homeowners and recreationists in bear country – to avoid attracting bears by keeping any possible source of food out of their reach. That includes wild bird seed and suet, pet food, garbage, compost piles, and unpicked fruit or vegetables in orchards and gardens. Learn more at Living with Black Bears.

Event calendar

Types of events

  • Community event
  • Key date
  • Public meeting