Discover South Central Washington

Sunrise on hillside at the Quilomene Wildlife Area Unit

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: Benton, Franklin, Kittitas, Yakima

Director: Mike Livingston

1701 South 24th Avenue
Yakima, WA 98902-5720

Telephone: 509-575-2740

Fax: 509-575-2474

October fishing tips and news

Stream trout fishing: With streams and rivers flowing more slowly in the upper Yakima basin at this time of year, it is a great time to try your hand at trout fly or spin fishing. Cutthroat, rainbow and eastern brook trout are the predominant species depending on where you’re fishing in the river.

Cutthroat and brook trout tend to occupy higher elevation areas in the drainage. Anglers need to be aware of which stream or section of river they are fishing as there are trout catch and release sections, bait restrictions and selective gear rules in many areas.

All waters in the Yakima basin are closed to the taking of bull trout and wild steelhead, so anglers need to carefully release any of these fish they may inadvertently catch while fishing for other species.

Sturgeon:  The fall is a great time to fish for sturgeon. The Columbia and Snake Rivers are open for catch & release only. The flows are low, the weather is nice, and the water temperatures are down making for a less stressful event for anglers and fish alike. Favorite baits are roll mop herring, salmon bellies, shad, and squid. Remember you must use one single point barbless hook when fishing for sturgeon and you cannot fish at night.

Walleye: October is a great time to hook these toothy gamefish below McNary Dam, said WDFW biologist, Paul Hoffarth. Several of the state’s best walleye fisheries are in the region, including the Hanford Reach, the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam, and the Columbia River below McNary Dam. Popular tactics include trolling worm harnesses and spinners behind bottom walkers, trolling deep-diving plugs, jigging blade baits, or plastic baits on jig heads.

Walleye jumping out of the water.

Fishing for Bass and Panfish turns on in the fall as they ready for winter with water temperatures beginning to drop. 

Salmon and Steelhead:   Hanford reach salmon fishing should be good through the middle of October. Daily limit is 6 salmon but anglers are limited to two adults. Anglers must stop fishing when the adult limit is retained. Anglers can harvest fall chinook and coho, both hatchery and wild. Anglers can use barbed or barbless hooks when fishing for salmon in this area of the Columbia River. Anglers may fish with two poles for any species except sturgeon with two-pole endorsement. Steelhead will open in the lower section of the Hanford Reach (Interstate 182 bridge at Richland upstream to the old Hanford townsite powerline crossing) on October 1. Anglers are limited to harvesting only one Ringold Springs Hatchery steelhead daily. Ringold Springs steelhead are adipose clipped and right ventral fin clipped.  All other hatchery and wild steelhead must be immediately released.

Many sections of the Columbia River will be closed to fishing for steelhead in fall and  through the winter due to the anticipated low returns. The Snake River however is open for steelhead with a daily limit of 1 hatchery steelhead. Barbless hooks are required and anglers are not permitted to use two rods when fishing for steelhead in the Snake River.

The Yakima River is currently closed to fishing for salmon but WDFW biologists are closely monitoring the fish counts. If the numbers improve the fishery will open by emergency regulation in October.

October hunting tips and news

New hunting prospects: 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).

A mother and child are seen in hunter orange

Deer and elk: The muzzleloader season for mule deer runs through Oct. 4 in select GMUs, followed by the popular modern-firearms hunt Oct. 17-27. Meanwhile, muzzleloaders will have a chance to hunt for elk Oct. 3-9 in many of those same areas.

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.  Mallards make up most of the harvest in the region and dabblers prefer shallow wetlands, particularly those that flood seasonally.

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.

Wildlife viewing in October

Migratory birds heading south:   Millions of mallards, teal, wigeon and other ducks are expected to fly south from their northern breeding grounds this year, and many of those birds will be heading down the Pacific Flyway. Barring early storms, those migrants won’t arrive until later this fall, but resident ducks and geese are already on display throughout the region. Casey Pond near Burbank at McNary National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to watch them dabble and preen.

Along with waterfowl, large numbers of bald eagles will begin to flock to the region in pursuit of salmon carcasses and waterfowl as the month progresses.

Bald eagle perched on a tree
Robert Haney

Shared space with hunters:  Birders and others afield in the coming weeks should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are underway throughout the region. While the majority of hunters follow safety rules and carefully verify their targets, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing hunter’s orange clothing and making their presence known to hunters.

Watch wildlife, drive carefully: With vivid fall colors emerging across the region, October is a good time to see wildlife, but with that opportunity comes danger on the roads. As temperatures cool, animals become more active, including young animals without much road savvy. Be sure to keep a watchful eye while traveling.

Recreation and habitat projects

4,486 acres of land near Yakima protected for the benefit of wildlife and people

WDFW worked closely with Forterra and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) to buy 4,486 acres of land near Yakima in the foothills of the eastern Cascades. WDFW will manage the new property as an addition to the Cowiche Unit of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area.

The site serves as key habitat and a migration corridor for an astonishing array of species, including mule deer, elk, Neotropical birds, raptors, bats, and more than 70 butterfly species. The expanded Cowiche Unit will also conserve more than seven miles of Cowiche Creek, an important spawning and rearing habitat for bull trout, coho, and chinook salmon. 

Digital Open House for South-Central WA with RMEF and Forterra


Event calendar

Types of events

  • Community event
  • Key date
  • Public meeting

Meet your South Central Regional Director

Mike Livingston, the South Central Regional Director (Region 3) grew up fishing, hunting and playing in the forests of southeast Michigan. He received a bachelor’s degree in Conservation from Northern Michigan University, a bachelor’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Management from Michigan State University and a master’s in Wildlife Science from New Mexico State University.

Photograph of South Central Region Director, Mike Livingston
Mike Livingston, South
Central Region Director

Since 1996 Mike has worked in eastern Washington and held wildlife biologist positions with the Army’s Yakima Training Center, the Yakama Nation, and WDFW as District Wildlife Biologist in the Tri-Cities. In 2012, he was promoted to his current position as WDFW’s Region 3 Director. As Regional Director, he oversees operations in the region and gets to work on big collaborative conservation projects such as the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. When not working, you can often find him outside with his: family, friends, dog, shotgun, fishing rod, and/or backpack.