Discover North Puget Sound

Starfish on lichen-covered rocks on beach

Staff furloughs

With state revenue hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, 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. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience. 

Counties served: Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Whatcom

Director: Brendan Brokes

16018 Mill Creek Boulevard
Mill Creek, WA 98012-1541

Telephone: 425-775-1311

Fax: 425-338-1066

TeamMillCreek@dfw.wa.gov

Fishing tips and news

Winter crabbing opens in several marine areas Oct. 1

Map of open areas

Waters reopening to sport crabbing Oct. 1 include marine areas 4 (Neah Bay, east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), and 12 Hood Canal (North of Ayock Point).

In each open area, crabbing will be allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31.

For marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass) and 8-2 (Port Susan/Everett), WDFW resource managers’ preliminary harvest assessments indicate much of the available quota has already been taken. Once summer Catch Record Card (CRC) reporting closes on Oct. 1, these two areas could be reconsidered for a winter season.

Sport crabbing will not reopen for winter in marine areas 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) and 11 (Vashon Island). Recreational crabbers attained the state quota in these areas this summer. Marine area 13 (South Puget Sound) also remains closed to support conservation and recovery of Dungeness crabs in this area.

Sport crabbers are reminded that setting or pulling traps from a vessel is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset.

Reel in a salmon in Puget Sound 

Some marine areas in Puget Sound are open for salmon fishing. Check out the Sport Fishing Rules for additional details on salmon fishing opportunities and locations. Both the rules pamphlet and WDFW’s recreational salmon fishing webpage include illustrations of salmon and other species to help identify your catch.

Catch coho salmon in local river

Stillaguamish River: The Stillaguamish River is open for coho salmon and hatchery steelhead fishing through Nov. 15. Rules for trout and other gamefish during this time are catch and release.

Coho salmon hooked in the water

Nooksack River: Spinners are a popular tactic for Nooksack coho. Anglers are allowed to keep up to four coho, only two of which may be wild (adipose fin present). Anglers must release all chum salmon. 

Cascade River: The Cascade River is open through Nov. 30 for coho fishing (Thursdays through Sundays) with a daily limit of four fish.

Make sure to review the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for more details on rules and regulations for these rivers. 

Enjoy a day of fishing at a local lake

Fall fishing is often overlooked by anglers, but October can be one of the best times of year to reel in a nice-sized trout. Fish that have been growing all summer become more active with cooler temperatures. Find a lake near you. 

Some lowland lakes close Oct. 31, including Langlois Lake (King County), Lake Margaret (King County), Lake Padden (Whatcom County), Silver Lake (Whatcom County), Lake Ki (Snohomish County), and Sixteen Lake (Skagit County). 

Last month for statewide trout derby

The 2020 Statewide Trout Derby will run through Oct. 31. The free event features more than 100 stocked lakes and over 100 participating businesses offering 1,000+ prizes valued at more than $40,000. For more on how it works, visit the derby webpage

Remember to recreate responsibly and keep a distance of at least six feet between you and other anglers. Avoid crowding on banks, piers, or at boat ramps.

Practice physical distancing for creel reports

Recreational fishery samplers collect catch information at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound. To keep anglers and WDFW staff safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, please practice physical distancing and give others at least 6 feet of space as you share information about your catch. 

Stop at aquatic invasive species check stations

If you will be taking your boat out for the weekend, don’t forget to stop if you pass a boat check station. Quagga and zebra mussels, milfoil, and other aquatic invasive species can “hitchhike” from one water body to another on your boat if you don’t clean, drain, and dry it and the gear in it every time after leaving the water.

Properly decontaminating boats can prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental damage by organisms that invade ecosystems and negatively impact water quality, power and irrigation systems, native wildlife, and recreation opportunities. 

Hunting tips and news

Plan your hunt

Hunter wearing orange vest and backpack with trees in background
Jack Murrey

October is prime time for hunting, with statewide seasons opening for deer and elk as well as ducks and geese. Hunters planning their season may want to check past Game Harvest Reports and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2020 Hunting Prospects for this year’s outlook in specific game management units (GMUs). Dates and regulations are listed in the Big Game and Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets. Additional resources, including Game Management Unit maps and information about pheasant release programs, are available on our places to go hunting webpage.

Deer and elk

The early muzzleloader elk season will take place Oct. 3-9. The popular modern firearm season for black-tailed deer kicks off Oct. 17. 

Bear and cougar

The fall black bear season runs through Nov. 15. The early cougar-hunting season runs through Dec. 31.

Migratory game birds

General hunting seasons for ducks, geese, coots, and snipe get underway Oct. 17 and – with the exception of short break – run through Jan. 31.  

Upland game birds

General seasons for California quail, partridge, and northern bobwhite kick off Oct. 3, and pheasant hunting for all ages begins Oct. 24.

Take your hunter education course online

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, WDFW has cancelled all in-person Hunter Ed classes until further notice.

You still have a couple options. You may take the online hunter education course and a Virtual Field Day to replace the in-person Field Skills Evaluation. This course takes approximately 10 hours to complete, but students can do it in multiple sittings. You can register for and complete the online hunter education course. Next, register for and complete the online Virtual Field Day course

You may also qualify for a once-in-a-lifetime Hunter Education Deferral, which allows a one year deferral for individuals new to hunting who are accompanied by an experienced hunter. More information can be found on the Hunter Education deferral program page.

Another option is to enroll in a later course. You may choose to postpone completion of hunter education and enroll in class after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Both the traditional classroom course and the online class plus in-person field skills evaluation course will be available.

For assistance, email huntered@dfw.wa.gov or call 360-902-8111.

Enjoying nature

Recreate Responsibly

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

Recreate Responsibly logo
  • 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. 

Educational activities for families

Looking for fun ways to engage your kids and have fun together as a family? Check out our educational resources for themed lessons and activities you can enjoy together as a family. WDFW is also offering a new service this year for educators - wildlife-themed curriculum for grades 3-12. Check out the Wild Washington curriculum and share with the parents and teachers you know. 

Snow geese fly in for a landing in a field

Look for snow geese at Fir Island Farm Reserve Unit

About 80,000 snow geese winter in western Washington each year, and many will make their way to the region this month. Most snow geese congregate in the Skagit Valley, and can be found in the area from mid-October through early May. A great place to view the birds is at the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit of WDFW's Skagit Wildlife Area

Keep a lookout for invasive Asian giant hornets

There is a new pest in Washington – the Asian giant hornet. Discovered last year near Bellingham, it's not yet known how widely the hornet has spread. Asian giant hornets are the world’s largest hornet and attack most insects but prefer honeybees and can kill entire hives. They also pose a human threat as their venom is more toxic than any native bee or wasp. Report any sightings of the Asian giant hornet to the Washington State Department of Agriculture at agr.wa.gov/hornets. Do NOT approach these insects as they can sting through normal clothing.

Meet your Regional Director - Brendan Brokes

Brendon Brokes, Region Four 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.

Recreation and habitat projects

Fir Island Farm Estuary Restoration Project

After 10 years of collaboration, we are excited to celebrate an important milestone for the Fir Island Farm Estuary Restoration Project. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently transitioned ownership and operations of the project’s infrastructure to our partners at the Skagit County Consolidated Dike, Drainage, and Irrigation Improvement District #22 (District).

The infrastructure consists of 5,800 feet of marine dike, tide gates, a 7-acre drainage storage pond, and a pump station.

View of restored estuary at Fir Island Farm Reserve

10 years of partnership

For the last 10 years, the District and WDFW have worked closely together to make the Fir Island Farm Estuary Restoration Project a success in providing neighboring farms, homes, and roads with reliable drainage and protection from tides, storm surge, and effects of climate change.

As subject matter experts on drainage and flood protection, the District provided critical information on design criteria and operations requirements for the project’s infrastructure. WDFW staff worked with District commissioners throughout the project to incorporate their input.

The department extends our sincere appreciation to the District for their willingness to share knowledge and expertise, and work with us towards a common goal.

Chinook salmon recovery in the Skagit

The Skagit River System Cooperative (a tribal cooperative) and WDFW collaboratively authored the Skagit Chinook Recovery Plan, which identifies Skagit estuary habitat as a bottleneck to salmon recovery and calls for approximately 2,700 acres of estuary restoration.

The Fir Island Farm Reserve was identified as an important area to restore habitat for salmon because it was historically part of the estuary, which provided critical rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon.

131 acres of tidal marsh restored

The Fir Island Farm Reserve is tucked between the north and south forks of the Skagit River at the edge of a vast agricultural landscape. Freshwater from the Skagit River and saltwater from Puget Sound come together and form channels that meander through mudflats and marsh. Until 2016, the entire Reserve was managed agricultural fields that were diked and drained.

Project construction was completed in 2016, which restored 131 acres of estuary habitat to benefit salmon, maintained flood protection and drainage for neighbors, and provided public access to a unique ecological area.

Watch the video below to see the first tide in 100 years come back onto the site in 2016.

Now, the restored marsh provides seeds, shoots, bugs, and worms that feed juvenile salmon, forage fish, waterfowl, and shorebirds, which in turn provide food for endangered southern resident killer whales, provide recreational opportunities and food for people, and support tribal culture.

See a bird’s eye view of restored estuary at the Fir Island Farm Reserve in the video below.

Being a good neighbor

The Skagit River delta is home to rich soils and a thriving agricultural landscape where farms produce over 80 commercial crops. These crops rely on drainage and flood protection. Estuary restoration often requires moving infrastructure (setting back dikes, for example), which can impact agricultural drainage.

To off-set this impact and be a responsible partner with the farming community, the project included construction of a pump station, drainage storage pond, and tidegates to maintain drainage for neighboring farms. In addition, the setback dike was designed to account for future coastal flooding and the impacts of sea level rise.

 

New pump station and outlet at the Fir Island Farm estuary restoration site in Skagit County.

Monitoring the effects

A monitoring and adaptive management plan outlined ecological, drainage, and flood protection measures the project needed to meet.

Drainage and flood protection
We monitored the height of the setback dike, and water height and salinity in neighboring farm fields. Monitoring data from 2016 through 2019 showed the infrastructure performs as expected.

Ecological
Monitoring data showed the site is supporting thousands of juvenile salmon, and invasive cattail plants are under control. We also learned that a hard soil layer underneath the site may cause a delay for channels to develop and native vegetation to take hold. This information is valuable so we can adaptively manage this site and apply lessons learned for future projects.

 

Aerial photo 3 years post restoration.

Plan your visit

The Fir Island Farm Reserve attracts thousands of snow geese, swans, ducks, and shorebirds in the fall through early spring. Managed agricultural fields provide a winter feeding and resting area for snow geese and other waterfowl next to the Skagit Bay estuary.

A short trail along the dike offers stunning views of Skagit Bay and abundant opportunities for shorebird and waterfowl watching. Local birders have reported 80 distinct species at the Fir Island Farm Reserve this spring.

 

The Fir Island Farms Reserve is a fantastic birding destination.

Event calendar

Types of events

  • Public meeting
  • Community event
  • Key date