Discover North Puget Sound

Boats in the San Juan Islands with Mount Baker in the background

North Puget Sound - Region 4

Customer service staff in the Mill Creek Regional Office are available for walk-in service 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Counties served
Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Whatcom
Office hours
Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. excluding legal holidays
Phone
425-775-1311
Email
TeamMillCreek@dfw.wa.gov

16018 Mill Creek Boulevard
Mill Creek, WA 98012-1541
United States

Director
Brendan Brokes

Fishing tips and news

New to fishing in Washington? Check out our Fish Washington blog post for a guide on how to get started.

2023-24 Sport Fishing Rules

The 2023-24 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet is available online and at hundreds of license dealers around the state. Fishing seasons are in full swing, and the updated rules can help anglers make decisions about how to spend their time on the water.

Current fishing regulations and emergency Fishing Rule Changes are also available online at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.

Skagit and Sauk rivers open for steelhead 

Recreational steelhead fishing will open Feb. 3 through April 17 five days per week Saturdays through Wednesdays only, closed Thursdays and Fridays, on portions of the Skagit and its major tributary the Sauk under catch and release regulations, except up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained.

Anglers fish the Skagit River for winter steelhead. Photo by Luke Kelly
Photo by Luke Kelly

Wild steelhead must be released immediately and may not be removed from the water. Fishing for all other species—including targeting bull trout—remains closed during this fishery.

Learn more in our news release and in the emergency fishing rule for the Skagit River and Sauk River

Other river fishing opportunities

Several terminal areas fisheries continue through February 15 near steelhead hatcheries.

Check our hatchery steelhead smolt stocking webpage, then always review current fishing regulations and check for any emergency Fishing Rule Changes before hitting the water. 

The North Fork and South Fork Nooksack River winter steelhead seasons have closed to minimize impacts to the wild steelhead population. For details, please see the emergency fishing rule change

Resident native trout harvest management town hall announced for Feb. 12

WDFW is hosting an online public meeting on Feb. 12 to discuss developing a new policy to guide management and fisheries for resident native trout. Anglers and anyone interested in the resident native trout harvest management policy development are welcome to attend this public meeting beginning at 6 p.m. Learn more and pre-register for the town hall. 

Trout fishing in lakes

Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington are popular options for anglers looking for big, wild trout over the winter. Most fishing is done by trolling from a boat or kayak, but some dock and shore fishing opportunities are available.

Even if you missed out on the WDFW’s Black Friday trout fishing event, rest assured thousands of planted fish are still lurking in area lakes. See our trout stocking page for information.

Seasonal lowland lakes are now closed but there are many opportunities in lakes open year-round. Check out the WDFW Medium blog for tips and videos on how to catch trout. 

South Sound Chinook and coho salmon

Southern Puget Sound (Marine Area 13) is open year-round and has been fair to good for resident Chinook, and typically picks up for these "blackmouth" as well as resident coho as winter progresses. Anglers here often jig for Chinook around Fox Island. 

Angler holds up a blackmouth salmon she caught
Photo by WDFW
A resident Chinook salmon, also known as winter "blackmouth".

You can also try for resident coho or sea run cutthroat in Area 13 casting a fly or spinner, and they’re accessible from shore at spots such as Purdy Bridge and Tacoma Narrows Park, as well as other area parks and beaches.

For tips, go WDFW's salmon fishing webpage

Fishing for "sea run cutthroat"

Among coastal cutthroat trout, some populations are anadromous around Puget Sound, on the Washington Coast including Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay, and in lower Columbia River tributaries; meaning they spawn in freshwater but live much of their lives in saltwater. Learn more about these unique "sea run cutthroat" and how to fish for them in this February 2022 WDFW blog post and March 2016 YouTube video.

Sometimes called "harvest trout" due to their autumn run timing in many rivers, sea run cutthroat make excellent catch and release quarry on fly fishing gear or light spinning tackle. They typically range from 10- to 20-inches in length, and once located will aggressively bite flies and small spoons or spinners.

The cooler waters of October into January are typically peak cutthroat fishing season, followed by a lull during late January and February when these trout spawn in rivers and creeks across Western Washington. There is often another fishing peak in many saltwater areas from March into June when sea run cutthroat are feeding on salmon fry and small baitfish. 

In North Sound, Coastal and Lower Columbia rivers sea run cutthroat often school up under logjams, overhanging banks, and in other portions of the lower and mainstem rivers where they can ambush smaller fish and insects.

Coastal cutthroat trout
Photo by Alex Blouin, Sage Fly Fish.
A large sea run coastal cutthroat trout.

In South Puget Sound and Hood Canal, cutthroat will stay in shallow nearshore saltwater bays and estuaries most the year—typically caught in water ten feet deep or less, and sometimes as shallow as a few inches—before dashing up small creeks and rivers to spawn in late-January and February.

The Science of Salmon Management

Washington's salmon represent one of the most complex fishery management challenges in the world, and requires partnership and collaboration at the federal, state, tribal, and local levels.

WDFW works to balance conservation and recovery of Endangered Species Act-listed salmon stocks while providing fishing opportunity that supports recreational and commercial fisheries critical to the health and economic well-being of Washington.

Learn how WDFW manages salmon stocks for both Southern Resident orcas and people in this July blog post and our new 3-minute video. After recent in-season closures in Puget Sound, we published a blog post from our Fish Program Director about why these changes were necessary and how salmon fishing in “mixed stock” saltwater areas is managed.

Hunting opportunities and news

For an overview of hunting in Washington and how to get started, visit our Hunt Washington blog post.

2023-24 Hunting Regulations 

The 2023-24 Game Bird and Small Game Hunting Regulations and Big Game Hunting Regulations pamphlets are available online and at hundreds of license dealers around the state. 

Youth, Veterans and Active Military waterfowl hunts

Youth, Veterans and Active Military can take part in a special statewide waterfowl hunt on Saturday, Feb. 3. This can be a quality experience for those who qualify as few hunters are in the field.

Detailed regulations can be found in the Game Bird and Small Game Regulations under Youth, Veterans & Active Military Personnel Hunt Information. More information is also available on our Game bird and small game webpage.

Close up of an adult snow goose in flight
Photo by WDFW

Late goose hunts

Late season goose hunts are available in several goose management areas, see our webpage and game bird regulations for  details. A summary of waterfowl seasons including late goose hunts is also available online.

In Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Whatcom counties and that portion of Snohomish County west of I-5), this hunt is only for white geese (snow geese including Ross' and blue phases) and runs from Feb. 10 through Feb. 20 with a 20 white goose daily limit. A snow goose Harvest Record Card is required and electronic calls are allowed.

Please review the regulations closely as several WDFW-managed public lands are closed during this hunt.

Be aware of avian influenza (bird flu) 

Waterfowl hunters and falconers should be aware that the H5N1 virus of avian influenza is making the rounds again, especially in areas of Western Washington. This is confirmed by WDFW testing of sick or dead wild birds and U.S. Department of Agriculture surveillance of hunter-harvested birds. 

Hunters are encouraged to take precautions to protect themselves and their dogs from the virus. WDFW has specific precautions on our avian influenza webpage under “Human HPAI Safety.” If you encounter a sick or dead wild bird, please report it via our online reporting tool

Harvest reporting reminder

Don’t forget your harvest reporting! All hunters are required to submit a hunter harvest report, even if they didn't hunt. Reports can be submitted online through WDFW's WILD licensing system. See the harvest reporting webpage for additional information.

Sign up for in-person hunter education

Youth archery hunter education
Photo by WDFW

Hunter education is a mandatory program designed to promote knowledge and skills to continue our proud hunting tradition. WDFW offers two types of hunter education courses that teach firearms and outdoor safety, wildlife management, and hunter responsibility. All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 must show proof of hunter education course completion before purchasing their first Washington hunting license.

For more information, visit the Hunter Education web page. 

Head to myWDFW.com for info on hunting, angling, and more

WDFW has rolled out a promotional website for all things hunting, angling, foraging, recreating, and more. At myWDFW.com, you’ll find informative how-to articles on the season’s major fishing and hunting opportunities, as well as a portal to online license sales and a regular update on WDFW’s latest Life Outdoors articles.

Each quarter, new fishing and hunting highlights are posted to help you get ready and take part in Washington’s current and upcoming opportunities. Dedicated to current agency promotions, outdoor recreation information, and educational content, myWDFW.com preps you to meet with success in the field and on the water.

Photographers: Send us your big game pics 

Mountain goat walking nimbly on the rocks
Photo by Andrea Nesbitt

The 2024 Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest is going on now! WDFW is looking for Washington big game photos for next year's Big Game Hunting Rules and Regulations pamphlet. This year's photo contest theme is "Live big game animal."

The winning photo submission will be featured on the cover of next year's big game hunting regulations. Submissions are open until Feb. 15, so don’t delay! 

Hoof disease in elk 

As many hunters know, Treponeme-Associated Hoof Disease (TAHD) has spread among elk in Western Washington in recent years, including in the North Cascades Elk Herd. While elk are susceptible to many conditions that cause limping or hoof deformities, the prevalence and severity of this new affliction – now known as treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD) – suggests something different.

Skagit Valley bull elk in fog
Photo by WDFW

In 2021, WDFW implemented an incentive-based pilot program to encourage Western Washington (400, 500, 600 series GMUs) hunters to harvest limping elk, potentially reducing prevalence of the disease over time. General season or permit hunters can choose to participate in the program by submitting elk hooves at one of the many collection sites in western Washington. 

See the WDFW website for the locations of collection sites. Hunters that submit hooves with signs of TAHD (for example, abnormal hooves) will be automatically entered into a drawing for a special incentive permit for the following license year. Multiple bull permits in western Washington with season dates of Sept. 1 – Dec. 31 will be awarded. Additionally, all participants will receive a custom, waterproof license holder. 

What hunters can do to help: 

  • Harvest a limping elk from any 400, 500, 600 series GMUs 

  • Turn in your elk hooves along with complete registration forms at one of several collection sites in western Washington 

  • Report elk: Hunters can help WDFW track TAHD by reporting observations of both affected and unaffected elk on the department’s online reporting form. 

  • Clean shoes and tires: Anyone who hikes or drives off-road in a known affected area can help minimize the risk of spreading the disease to new areas by removing all mud from their shoes and tires before leaving the area. 

Wildlife watching and recreation

Searching for places to watch wildlife or recreate on State Wildlife Areas or WDFW Water Access Areas? Visit our Places to Go webpage, Wildlife Area map or Water Access Area webpage for ideas.

Or visit our wildlife viewing webpage for more information and tips on wildlife watching!

Skagit Wildlife Area Headquarters Unit to remain closed to public

Following heavy rains and flooding, we have determined that the Skagit Wildlife Area Headquarters Unit near Conway will remain closed to public access until further notice due to safety concerns. Walk-in access is prohibited.

Great blue heron at Skagit Wildlife Area Headquarters Unit in March 2022
Photo by WDFW

WDFW hopes to reopen the Skagit Headquarters Unit to the public later in 2024 once critical public safety and habitat protection work is complete. Learn more in our statement.

Since 2016, multiple high-water events have overtopped dikes in the area, resulting in temporary inundation of public and private property. This construction project will raise and widen the dikes in accordance with Army Corps of Engineers standards. More information is available on this webpage.

Watchable Wildlife: don't feed wild animals

Winter is the hardest time for wild animals to survive, and while we understand the good intention behind humans feeding them, ultimately it harms more than helps wildlife. Animals’ bodies are not adapted to digest many foods. Accustomed to digesting woody browse, they are unable to tolerate corn or apples and hay can be harsh on their systems as well.

The best way to help wildlife in winter is to stay far away from them to avoid causing stress, which uses energy that is in short supply this time of year. View this link to help us keep wildlife wild by following more tips.

Bald eagles, waterfowl, and the Great Backyard Bird Count

Wanting a winter hobby that gets you outdoors? Now is a great time to try bird watching or "birding"! Everyone of all ages and abilities can go watch and enjoy birds at any time of the year.

February is a good time to see bald eagles along the Nooksack and Skagit rivers. Another exciting birding opportunity is watching for brant geese along Puget Sound shorelines and estuaries. Learn more about these unique sea geese in our new blog post

Three western high Arctic brant feeding on sea grasses in shallow water on a marine shoreline
Photo by WDFW

WDFW’s Skagit Wildlife Area continues to offer unique sightings of tens of thousands of wintering snow geese and swans as well as raptors and shorebirds

Not sure where to go? The Great Washington State Birding Trail consists of seven separate loops in the state and maps out new sites to explore as well as species to search for, including a variety of shorebirds, songbirds, waterfowl, and more. 

You can report your bird sightings during The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) happening Feb. 16-19. Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, the GBBC collects data on wild birds and displays results in near real time. Worldwide, more than 160,000 people of all ages and walks of life join the count each February to create a snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds. For more information, or to sign up, visit the Audubon website.

Wildlife watchers: remember the "Rule of Thumb"

Wildlife’s love language? Space. Whenever you encounter wildlife, whether in the backcountry or your neighborhood park, it’s important to give them space using the “Rule of Thumb.” To learn more about how to practice the Rule of Thumb for a safe viewing experience, visit our webpage for ethical wildlife viewing guidelines. When in doubt, always give more space.

Sharing WDFW lands

A photographer kneeling in a field looks at a flock of snow geese in flight
Photo by Lily Huth

With fall bird migration comes many forms of appreciation being expressed for birds. Hunters, birders, and other outdoor recreationists are reminded to be respectful of each other, to safely and responsibly share public lands and waters, and to appreciate that each cares deeply about birds, wildlife, and their habitats. Respectful communication and dialogue go a long way toward creating positive connections between outdoor enthusiasts.

Get tips for sharing WDFW managed lands during hunting seasons.

#LifeOutdoorsWA

The outdoors fits into everyone’s life in unique and personal ways. We want to help people connect with nature wherever they are. Check out our Life Outdoors resources to plan your next adventure, whether it be birding in your neighborhood or camping across the state. We hope to see you in the field and on the water enjoying the Life Outdoors!

Bears are hungry

Bears can be active year-round in lowland areas of Western Washington! Females with new cubs will be particularly hungry and may be attracted to human-provided sources of food such as compost, bird feeders, garbage cans, and fruit trees. 

To avoid attracting bears, secure garbage cans in a shed or fenced area, and keep meat scraps in the freezer until shortly before garbage cans are picked up or hauled away. 

Get more tips in our new blog post, Keep bears wild by cleaning up backyard attractants. Or learn more at wdfw.wa.gov/blackbears and in our new video, below.

Tips for living with coyotes

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are present across nearly all of Washington state, from the shrubsteppe to the alpine, as well as urban and suburban areas. They are common in many larger, wooded green spaces and parks within cities including Seattle.

You may hear coyotes more frequently than you see them, especially when they have pups. Juvenile coyotes are often heard in summer, trying out their voices. Coyote sightings often increase in winter when they are more active, or in late-winter and spring when they may have dens and pups to care for.

Coyote pup
Photo by David Linn

Urban coyotes are a good reminder to keep a close eye on children and small pets or to keep them inside if unsupervised. Visit our coyote webpage or learn more in this recent blog post

Find ADA-accessible facilities to enjoy the outdoors 

 Whether you’re looking for fishing, hunting, or wildlife viewing opportunities, our website offers many tools to find ADA-accessible facilities to enjoy the outdoors. WDFW-managed lands with ADA facilities include water access areas and wildlife areas. Our website also has a list of fishing piers that you can filter by county and availability of ADA-accessible facilities. Visit our blog post to learn more

Conserving species and habitats

Looking for more info on wildlife conservation and species management around Washington? Check out our Bi-Weekly Wildlife Program reports.

Check out our November/December WDFW Director's Bulletin for more conservation highlights!

Updates on WDFW's 25-year Strategic Plan

Girl sitting in wildflowers overlooking alpine lake mountain landscape
Photo by WDFW

This winter, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) 25-Year Strategic Plan turned three, launching us a few years into a long forward-thinking vision for the future of fish and wildlife conservation here in Washington through 2045.

As we look back on our progress in 2023, it’s also an opportunity to pause and reflect on all that we’ve accomplished together in these first few years on the goals outlined in our strategic plan. Learn more about implementing our 25-Year Strategic Plan: A Path to an Improved Era for Fish, Wildlife, and People, in this blog post.

Keeping Washington's habitat connected

Animals rely on movement to survive, in pursuit of food, resources, and seasonal habitat. As Washington's human population grows, the state's natural habitats grow increasingly fragmented. Habitat connectivity is about ensuring animals have the freedom of movement they need to thrive, and WDFW is working hard with its partners to help improve those connections across Washington.

Habitat at Home: native plants support habitat for wildlife

People at the native plant sale
Photo by King County Conservation District

There’s a native plant sale near you and it’s time to reserve your plants! Find your local conservation district and their native plant sale at: www.scc.wa.gov/conservation-district-map.

Planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers boosts habitat for our local wildlife. You can select plants that specifically support the birds and pollinators around you. Then, make sure to certify your Habitat at Home through WDFW.  

Wild Washington Youth Education Program 

Embark on a wild crafting adventure and introduce your learners to Washington’s wildlife though art. Crafting animal track stamps allows kids to explore the imprints left behind by critters in the winter snow and mud. Using simple materials like craft foam, cardboard, and paint, kids can design and carve their favorite animal tracks! Here's an example from the state of Maine.

Learn more on our Wild Washington youth education program webpage!

Tell us about these wildlife species 

WDFW is seeking information from the public about several species as part of a periodic review of wildlife on Washington’s endangered and protected species lists. The Department will use the information gathered during this process to inform Periodic Status Reviews for these state-listed species. 

More information is available in our news release.

Stillaguamish restoration and recovery: Paddling Together 

A relatively small river with a huge impact, the Stillaguamish is at the leading edge of salmon declines and habitat conservation concerns in Washington state and across the West Coast. Yet there is hope. Collaboration is growing to restore this dynamic watershed and its fish runs while supporting local communities, tribes, farms, and fish and wildlife enthusiasts.

We'll soon be launching our latest video on efforts by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians to recover Chinook salmon and restore habitat in this important watershed, including an innovative hatchery broodstock program and projects to reconnect historic river channels. Check out this trailer for our new 10-minute film "Paddling Together", and learn more at: wdfw.wa.gov/stillaguamish

Volunteers needed!

WDFW welcomes volunteers of all abilities who want to contribute to conservation of fish, wildlife, and habitat. Diverse volunteer opportunities are available, including projects on state wildlife areas and water access areas, habitat restoration projects, Hunter Education instruction, and assisting at outreach events.  

For more information about the volunteer program and upcoming volunteer opportunities, visit the WDFW volunteer webpage

Join the WDFW Team 

If you’d enjoy preserving, protecting, and perpetuating the state’s fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities, then check out some of our current job openings or sign up for job alerts. From fish hatchery specialists to environmental engineers and budget analysts to wildlife biologists, a career with WDFW makes a difference. 

Meet your Regional Director - Brendan Brokes

Brendan Brokes, Region 4 Director
Photo by WDFW
Brendan Brokes, Region 4 Director

Brendan Brokes, North Puget Sound Region Director (Region 4), holds a master's degree in fisheries science from Oregon State University and has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1987. He served as the Habitat Program Manager in this region since 2015, after filling a decade-long role as the Assistant Regional Habitat Program Manager.

Before arriving at WDFW in 2001, Brokes worked at Mount Rainier National Park as a researcher and biological technician in aquatic ecology. He also worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service monitoring foreign commercial fisheries compliance.