Discover North Puget Sound

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

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

Director: Brendan Brokes

16018 Mill Creek Boulevard
Mill Creek, WA 98012-1541

Email: TeamMillCreek@dfw.wa.gov

Telephone: 425-775-1311

Fax: 425-338-1066

Fishing tips and news

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

Marine Area 10 reopens for resident Chinook

Four anglers fishing from a boat on Puget Sound with Mt. Rainier in the distance
Anglers mooching Puget Sound for blackmouth (resident Chinook) with Mount Rainier in the background. Chase Gunnell

Central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10) reopened Feb. 1 for salmon. The daily limit is two salmon and only one hatchery-marked Chinook may be retained, though it's not uncommon to encounter small resident coho during this fishery. Chinook minimum size limit of 22 inches and no minimum size on other salmon species. Release all wild Chinook.

Be sure to check fishing regulations or the Fish Washington mobile app for updates before hitting the water.

This fishery is scheduled to remain open through March 31 but could close sooner if the Chinook encounter guideline is attained. Guidelines set by WDFW include a Chinook total encounter of 7,152 fish, sublegal encounter of 6,295 and unmarked (wild Chinook) encounter of 1,089.

The venerable Tengu Blackmouth Derby will also resume on Feb. 5 in Elliott Bay. Learn more in our recent blog post.

Innovative grassroots study helps remove mystery surrounding sea-run cutthroat trout

A new study by fishing community volunteers, a local conservation group and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) on sea-run cutthroat trout was recently released shedding new light about this fish that inhabits coastal and inner-marine waterways of the western United States, including Puget Sound and Hood Canal.

The one-year study titled “Technology-Based Solutions Provide the First Estimate of Sea Lice Infections for Wild Coastal Cutthroat Trout” on the American Fisheries Society website was a grassroots effort that received financial backing and on-the-water support from volunteers in the fishing community and local conservation groups. Learn more in this blog post.

Angler fishing for winter steelhead

Hatchery steelhead fishing open in terminal areas through Feb. 15

Fishing for hatchery steelhead remains open through Feb. 15 in several terminal areas near hatcheries including around Reiter Ponds on the Skykomish River and Tokul Creek on the Snoqualmie River. See our steelhead stocking webpage and check regulations for details.

WDFW fish biologists and tribal co-managers have forecasted that 5,211 wild steelhead will return to the Skagit River in 2023. We hope to hold a catch and release steelhead fishing season on the Skagit and its major tributary the Sauk River in early 2023. Please stay tuned for updates or learn more in our December blog post.

Trout fishing in year-round lakes

Several year-round lakes mainly west of the Cascades continue to be planted with trout. Click here to find out what lakes are currently open and here for weekly trout plants.

Check out the WDFW Medium blog for tips and videos on how to catch trout.

Squid fishing around Puget Sound

Squid jigging in Puget Sound

Puget Sound squidding typically winds down in February, but recent positive reports from Seattle and Tacoma area piers show that some squid opportunity remains.

Learn more about squid fishing on our webpage or in this January 2022 blog post

Squid feed mainly at night and are attracted to light, which is why public piers are good locations for anglers. Hungry squid lurk in the dark fringes near patches of lighted water and then dart into the bright area in pursuit of food such as young herring and other small fishes.

Because a boat isn’t needed and minimal equipment is required, squid-jigging is one of the most inexpensive ways to catch squid. Anglers should take a headlamp, camping lantern or large flashlight for unlit locations. Boat-based squidders use their sonar to locate schools of squid in deeper water during the day, or use lights to attract them nearer to the surface at night, both of which can be very effective.

Anglers will need a valid shellfish/seaweed license, available online at the WDFW licensing website or through the many license dealers across the state.

Looking for other saltwater fishing opportunities? Catch and release fishing for sea run cutthroat trout as well as year-round fishing seasons for flounder and dogfish are other ways to stay busy on the water during the winter months.

Fish consumption advisory for King County lakes

Our partners at the Washington Department of Health have issued a new fish consumption advisory warning against eating several species of fish in Lake Washington, Lake Meridian, and Lake Sammamish due to the presence of harmful chemicals.

The advisory includes a "Do Not Eat" recommendation for bass, pikeminnow, carp, and cutthroat trout from Lake Washington.

Puget Sound salmon gear selection

Gear selection has become an important factor when it comes to recreational salmon fishing in Puget Sound especially during the Winter Chinook salmon season. A key role in angler success is choosing the proper lure or bait, and gear also has an important role in fisheries management. To ensure these salmon fisheries are successful long-term, it is vital that anglers learn how to reduce catching sublegal (undersized) Chinook.

Learn more on our blog or check out our YouTube video on salmon gear selection.

Hunting opportunities and news

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

Waterfowl hunting

Youth, Veterans and Active Military can take part in a special statewide waterfowl hunt on Feb. 4. This can be a quality experience for those who qualify as few hunters are in the field.

Reminder that Skagit County is closed for brant goose this season due to low numbers of brant surveyed. 

Hunting retriever carries back a duck in its mouth
Richard Eltrich

A snow goose late season hunt will occur in Goose Management Area 1 (parts of Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties) from Feb. 11-21. Hunters should check WDFW regulations for specific areas where hunting is allowed and other rules.

Scouting and private lands access will be key to consistent success. The geese will be overwintering in areas such as the Skagit Valley where there is ample feed, or beginning to migrate back northward later in the late-season as weather warms.

Small game hunting

The statewide cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare season is open through March 15. For details on hunting these species and other small game, go to:
www.eregulations.com/washington/hunting/game-bird/small-game-seasons.

Wild turkey hunting

Looking further down the calendar the statewide spring wild turkey hunting season begins in April and it's not too early to start scouting and planning. For details, go to www.eregulations.com/washington/hunting/game-bird/wild-turkey-seasons.

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. Agency staff cover topics ranging from shellfish gathering and turkey hunting to the Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program and from big-game scouting and hunting throughout the year to trout fishing with the whole family. 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.

A girl holds a duck and a gun
Photo courtesy Kelly Stewart

Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest

Our annual Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest is happening now! This year’s photo contest theme is “Who hunts?”

We're looking for photos of you, your friends, and your family enjoying hunting in Washington to be featured on the cover of this year’s Big Game Hunting Pamphlet. Send us your photos for a chance to win!

For more information and to submit your photo, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/big-game/contest. Entries must be submitted through the WDFW website by February 15.

Hunter education

Hunting season may be in the rear-view mirror, but it is best to preparing ahead on taking the hunter education course. These courses reinforce important firearm and hunting safety principles, hunting ethics, basic survival and first aid, wildlife identification and conservation. For details, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/requirements/education/basic.

Updated access rules for Samish River Unit of Skagit Wildlife Area

WDFW has modified the access rules at the Samish River Unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area, commonly known as the East 90 or Edison site.

There are now specific zones for different recreation opportunities to support quality experiences and visitor safety. There is a Hunters Only Zone that is the southern and eastern portion of the property encompassing the Edison West (371) and Edison East (372) hunting access sites (see attached map), and a wildlife viewing zone outside the Hunters Only Zone. The Hunters Only Zone includes a safety buffer of approximately 250 yards.

Samish River Unit access sign Dec 2022

All users in the Hunters Only Zone must park in the designated parking spot and follow all posted rules for their designated area including being fully licensed as a Washington hunter.

The new access rules are posted at the field entrances and there is increased signage at the boundary of the Hunters Only Zone. Violations of these site rules may be subject to prosecution under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 77.15.160, RCW 77.15.210, and/or RCW 77.15.230.

For more information on hunting the Samish River Unit Edison West (371) and Edison East (372) hunting access sites, please visit our Private Lands Hunting Access program webpage.

This is a seasonal access rule, applying from the beginning of the general waterfowl hunting season on the second Saturday in September and running through the first Saturday in February.

These rules are a pilot effort for the remainder of the 2022-23 hunting season and may be made permanent after consultation with WDFW’s Skagit Wildlife Area Advisory Committee. Spatially separating user groups on this small Wildlife Area Unit will increase safety and improve experiences for all users while reducing the potential for negative interactions or conflict.

Cougar hunting seasons

The early cougar hunting season runs through Dec. 31. Starting Jan. 1, 2023, cougar hunters may continue to hunt cougar through April 30, except in GMUs where the harvest guideline has been reached and the WDFW director has closed cougar hunting for the season.

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.

Tips for living with coyotes

Coyote pup

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.

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 keep reading for tips to avoid conflicts with coyotes. Or learn more in this recent blog post

Tips for investigating winter animal tracks

With early snow, animal tracking activities are a great way to spend time outdoors with your family. You may not even have to look very far to find animal sign; animal tracks can be found on your balcony, in your backyard, or in a nearby park.

But what animals left those tracks? To help you and your children in your investigation, you may want to print out or take a screen shot of some animal track guides. We like this mammal track guide from Wenatchee Naturalist and this list of resources from National Wildlife Federation. You may also find animal track guides at your local library.

Animal tracks
  • Be aware that wintering wildlife should not be disturbed so that they do not expend energy stores they need to survive the winter. The activities described here can be enjoyed without actively tracking nearby animals and forcing them to move.
  • Keep your eyes on the ground. When you spot a track ask your child how many toes they count, do they see claw marks, what shape is the heel. Based on this information, ask them what animal they think they’ve found and why.
  • If you’re having trouble finding animal tracks, look near water.
  • Early morning is a good time to investigate what animals are nocturnal.
  • Look for other signs such as scat, fur, feathers, claw marks on trees, etc. For more information, read this animal tracking guide.
  • Measure the distance between tracks. Ask children if they think the animal was running or walking based on its tracks.
  • If you live in or are visiting Washington wolf country, you can also check out our family activity called Tracking Wolves.

If you are a library card holder, you can check out a Discover Pass from your local library and explore any WDFW wildlife area, Washington State Park, or Department of Natural Resource property.

Visit Fir Island Farm Reserve to watch snow geese and waterfowl

Flocks of snow geese have arrived in the North Puget Sound Region! Located in the central Skagit estuary, the Fir Island Farm Reserve Unit is part of the Skagit Wildlife Area and is closed to hunting to provide refuge for snow geese and other migratory waterfowl as well as raptors and shorebirds. It is renowned around the region as one of the best places for bird watching, especially for viewing massive flocks of snow geese during winter. 

View of hundreds of snow geese in green farm field and huge flock of snow geese in flight above in the background
Snow geese at Fir Island. Roy Murdock

The unit is located on Fir Island Road, about 2.7 miles west of the South Fork Skagit River bridge in Conway. A recent restoration project completed in 2016 restored approximately 130 acres of farmland to intertidal estuary providing critical juvenile rearing habitat for Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook and other salmon.

Where hunting is allowed, birders, waterfowl hunters, 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 the birds and their habitat.

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

Avian flu facts

Keep an eye out for avian influenza

With the weather cooling off and waterfowl flocking together to feed, WDFW is seeing an uptick in reports of avian influenza, also known as bird flu. Avian influenza occurs naturally among wild aquatic birds (ducks, geese, swans, gulls and terns, and shorebirds) and can infect poultry and other bird and animal species. The virus spreads among birds through saliva, nasal secretions, feces, and contaminated surfaces. 

If you encounter a sick or dead bird, do NOT touch or move it and report it right away. Attempting to nurse a bird back to health or transport it to a wildlife rehabilitator can spread the virus to areas where it didn’t exist before.

Common questions and answers regarding avian influenza, including what it is, the risk to humans (minimal but precautions should be taken), how to protect wildlife by preventing its’ spread, how to protect your domestic animals, and where we stand with the avian influenza outbreak in Washington, can be found in this blog post

Additional information can be found in this presentation WDFW veterinarian Dr. Katie Haman, DVM, MSc, recently made to a chapter of the North American Falconers Association.

Feeding wildlife

With winter here we are getting a lot of questions about how wildlife are faring. Deer, elk, moose, and other animals are biologically engineered to survive the winter. So for those who want to help, the best thing you can do is give wildlife lots of space and please do NOT feed them as it often does a lot more harm than it helps.

Many well-meaning Washington residents in urban and suburban areas enjoy feeding deer in their yards. Although some people see this type of feeding as helping these animals, it can hurt them and potentially cause illness and death for the animal. View this webpage to help us keep wildlife wild by following more tips.

Conserving species and habitats

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

Stillaguamish Restoration and Recovery

Stillaguamish Chinook salmon

Originating on the western slopes of the Cascades near the Mountain Loop Highway and flowing into Port Susan and Puget Sound near the city of Stanwood, the Stillaguamish River—including the North and South forks—is small compared to many other Washington rivers.

Yet due to seriously endangered runs of wild Chinook and other fish species, impacts on Stillaguamish salmon play a major role in fisheries management throughout the Puget Sound Region and beyond.

Collaboration is growing to restore this dynamic watershed and its fish runs while supporting local communities. Learn more in our new video "Into the Stillaguamish"

Wild Washington Youth Education Program: Junior Duck Stamp

If you have a youth artist in your family, there’s still time to submit their art to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) art contest. The program blends art and science and helps teach K-12 youth about wetland and waterfowl conservation. If you have a student who is interested, learn more about contest rules and eligibility.

The object of the contest is for students to engage with waterfowl and wetland conservation by drawing or painting a native North American duck, goose, or swan. All entries must be postmarked or in-hand at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), by February 15, 2023.

Junior Duck Stamp Contest
Ridgefield Refuge Complex
28908 NW Main Ave
P.O. Box 457
Ridgefield, WA 98642

Teachers can also engage students in wetland education and conservation using the year-round youth and educator guide. To learn more, check out the full Junior Duck Stamp Conservation Education Curriculum.

Habitat at Home: Biodiversity in our community

February is for the birds.  

Backyard Bird Count
Laura Rogers

Grab your binoculars and cell phones and get ready for the Great Backyard Bird Count! Every February folks around the world come together to count their local birds, wherever they live or happen to be. This fun, free, program is accessible to everyone.  

How it works

  1. Pick a spot to for watch birds (at home, in your community, on your vacation; any place will work!) 
  1. Watch or listen for birds for 15 minutes or more, at least once between February 17-20, 2023 
  1. Make note of the species you see or hear. (If you don’t know, take notes and ID them later using the provided resources). 
  1. Count ALL the birds you see or hear. (Make your best estimate of how many birds you saw of each species.) 
  2. Pick a method that works for you and submit your count!  
  • Merlin Bird ID app (phones) 
  • eBird Mobile app (phones) 
  • eBird web page (desktops and laptops) 

If you are in the Seattle area, join WDFW and our partners at the Environmental Science Center at Bird Fest in Burien for some hands-on learning, bird walks, and more on February 18th! 

Visit our Habitat at Home webpage to see how you can provide habitat for wildlife, anywhere you live, work, and play.

For more on backyard habitats, also see our recent blog posts Adventures with Pacific Northwest Bat Houses and Small Spaces Also Provide Essential Wildlife Habitat.

Keep an eye out for invasive European green crabs

WDFW and allies including Native American tribes and shellfish growers finished an unprecedented year of trapping for European green crabs. These invasive crabs pose a threat to native shellfish, eelgrass, and estuary habitat critical for salmon and many other species.

European green crab identification graphic, 2022

You can help by photographing and reporting suspected European green crabs at: wdfw.wa.gov/greencrab.

European green crab (EGC) are shore crabs and are found in shallow areas—typically less than 25 feet of water—including estuaries, mudflats, intertidal zones, and beaches. They are not likely to be caught by recreational shrimpers or crabbers operating in deeper water, but may be encountered by beachgoers, waders, clam and oyster harvesters, or those crabbing off docks or piers in shallow areas. The most distinctive feature is not their color—which can vary from reddish to a dark mottled green—but the five spines or teeth on each side of the shell.

More than 269,000 EGC were caught and removed from Washington waters in 2022. Of these, most were caught on Washington’s outer coast in Willapa Bay.

In the Salish Sea area, the Lummi Nation’s Sea Pond continues to be a hot spot, and small numbers of green crabs continue to be removed from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, Drayton Harbor, and Bellingham and Padilla bays. Learn more in our recent blog post

European green crabs have not been confirmed in the Salish Sea south of northern Hood Canal and Marrowstone Island in Admiralty Inlet. Early-detection monitoring continues across central and south Puget Sound.

At this time, we are not asking the public to kill suspected green crabs. This may sound counterintuitive but is intended to protect native crabs from cases of mistaken identity. As a Prohibited species, it is illegal to possess a live European green crab in Washington.

New WDFW report recommends 1,000-yard buffer around endangered Southern Resident orcas

A new report released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recommends that the Legislature increase the vessel buffer for recreational boaters, commercial whale watching operators, and guided paddle tours around Southern Resident killer whales to 1,000 yards to further support orca recovery. 

Orca at sunset off Golden Gardens park in Seattle
Southern Resident Killer Whales off Seattle at sunset over the summer. Chase Gunnell

Prompted by Senate Bill 5577, the report considers the effectiveness of rules for recreational boaters and commercial whale watching operators aimed at protecting Southern Residents from the effects of vessel noise and disturbance. 

Listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, Southern Resident killer whales face three main threats: lack of food, contaminants in their food, and vessel noise and disturbance as they forage and communicate using echolocation. Center for Whale Research’s September 2022 census recorded the Southern Resident population at just 73 individuals.

Just this past summer, the Department designated 12 Southern Residents as vulnerable after researchers demonstrated they were in the lowest body condition state—the bottom 20% for the whale’s age and sex—which is associated with a two-to-three times higher rate of mortality.

Event calendar

Types of events

  • Key date
  • Community event
  • Public meeting
  • Commission meeting
  • Advisory group meeting

Meet your Regional Director - Brendan Brokes

Brendan Brokes, Region 4 Director
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.