Anglers age 15 and older are required to have a valid 2021-22 fishing license to fish in Washington state waters after March 31. Licenses are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453), and from license dealers around the state. The current Fish Washington rule pamphlet remains valid through June 30.
April fishing opener
A reminder that many lakes that formerly opened on April 1 are now either open year-round, open March 1, or open the fourth Saturday in April, which is April 24 this year.
North Teal Lake is expected to be good for decent-sized rainbow trout. Both boat and shore fishing is available at North Teal, with a gravel launch suitable for small boats. Both Hampton lakes should also offer good opportunity for 12-inch and over rainbows.
Dry Falls Lake on the north end of Grant County near Coulee City, is expected to have some of the best fishing on the April opener. The lake is under selective gear rules with no combustion motors allowed. And with a one-fish daily catch limit, there’s a lot of catch-and-release fishing available. Rainbows in the 14 to 16-inch range are common at Dry Falls, but there are also some nice brown and tiger trout.
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 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.
Two Okanogan County lakes also open April 1
Spectacle Lake just south of Loomis, and Washburn Island Pond, a diked lake off the Columbia River near Fort Okanogan State Park due east of Brewster off Highway 17 open April 1.
In Chelan County, the top prospect is Wapato Lake, about two miles north of Manson. It is known as a consistent producer of fat, feisty rainbow trout.
Lake Chelan has been producing a few limits of kokanee. Thus far, anglers can expect to catch kokanee in the 9 to 13-inch range. There’s no minimum size limit on Lake Chelan kokanee and the daily catch limit is 10 fish (not included in the five-trout daily limit).
Antilon Lakes, open year-round northwest of Chelan, will produce some nice brown trout this month as the ice melts. Lower Antilon typically fishes better than Upper Antilon, with 14- to 18-inch brown trout common.
Rufus Woods Lake, the Columbia River reservoir off Chief Joseph Dam, is generally good for rainbow trout and walleye in the spring and walleye fishing picks up as the weather warms.
Walleye fishing is also expected to pick up this month at Moses Lake in the Columbia Basin. In spring, the lake gets increased flows from Crab Creek when the local irrigation district turns on the water to the East and West Low canals. The higher flows coincide with the walleye spawning migration into Crab Creek in early April.
Three inch, dark-colored curly tail grub attached to a jig that can weigh up to half an ounce have been successful in catching Crab Creek walleye in the past. Anglers will want their jig to be in contact with the bottom of the creek for the fish to see it.
Potholes Reservoir also has great walleye fishing in April, along with bank fishing for trout along the east shore.
Stan Coffin Lake, in the Quincy Wildlife Area, often has excellent fishing for largemouth bass in spring. Anglers should have good success fishing just offshore in eight to ten feet of water.
With freshwater fishing season openers in April, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program reminds you to take a boater safety education course, if you haven’t already, to be prepared for the season. In Washington, boaters who operate a vessel with a 15 horsepower engine or greater must carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course.
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.
Bird watching is picking up throughout the region as migrants move into and through northcentral Washington.
Grant and Adams counties in the Columbia Basin are teeming with waterfowl of all kinds, including Canada geese, tundra swans, sandhill cranes, and various duck and shorebird species. Cranes and most other birds can be observed around Frenchmen Reserve, Potholes Reservoir, the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, and many units of WDFW’s Columbia Basin Wildlife Area.
WDFW’s Sinlahekin Wildlife Area is particularly good in early spring for bird watching, with trumpeter and tundra swans, goldeneye, bufflehead, ring-neck ducks, hooded mergansers, and more.
Coexist with black bears
Black bears are leaving winter dens, some with new cubs in tow, and looking for easy meals. WDFW biologists remind homeowners in bear country to keep garbage secured and pet food indoors, and to remove bird feeders. Learn more about Living with Black Bears on the WDFW website.
Negative wildlife interactions
Smaller mammals like raccoons and skunks can become a nuisance this time of year when they start to nest in places like crawl spaces, under porches, or corners of garages or storage sheds. Learn how to enjoy these wildlife neighbors without problem on WDFW’s website.
And with more people getting out into nature, you may inadvertently have a too-close-for-comfort encounter with potentially dangerous wildlife, like bears, coyotes or cougars. Conflicts can be prevented by being alert and aware of surroundings and taking precautions when hiking, picnicking, or camping. Most wild animals want to avoid people, so make noise to alert animals to your presence. Keep a clean picnic spot since food smells attract animals, especially bears. Learn more about bears, cougars, coyotes, and moose on our Living with Wildlife webpages.
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.
Here are more tips on how to protect yourself, others, and the outdoors:
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 late-season snow and dangerous spring-to-winter condition photos from across the state can be found here.
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.
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.
Learn more about the recent outbreak of salmonellosis in pine siskins on WDFW's blog.
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.