Discover South Central Washington

Sunrise on hillside at the Quilomene Wildlife Area Unit

Customer service staff in the Yakima Regional Office are available for walk-in service 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

The Columbia Basin, Ringold Springs, Naches, and Priest Rapids hatcheries will be open under normal business hours 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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

Fishing tips and news

Child holding trout
Bobbie Stallings


There are some important changes beginning this year for Washington’s annual Free Fishing Weekend, which takes place June 10-11. In past years, any species of fish or shellfish open for harvest could be harvested without a license during Free Fishing Weekend. Beginning this year, any fish requiring a catch record card (including sturgeon, salmon, steelhead, and halibut) and all shellfish will still require a license on Free Fishing Weekend. 
All other species open for harvest can still be harvested without a license during Free Fishing Weekend, and options include: 

  • Trout and bass in lowland lakes, and in the many rivers open to gamefish throughout the state. Search for a lowland lake near you and see which lakes have been recently stocked at the WDFW website, as well as this blog post on how to have a successful day on the water as a beginning trout angler. 
  • Lingcod, cabezon, and rockfish on the Washington coast (no boat required; see our blog post on jetty fishing). 
  • Shad on the Columbia River (Learn where and how to catch shad). 

Also on Free Fishing Weekend, no Vehicle Access Passes are required to park at WDFW lands, and no Discover Pass is needed to park on WDFW, DNR, or Washington State Parks lands. 
Even for species that don’t require a license on Free Fishing Weekend, other rules such as seasons, size limits, daily limits, and area closures are still in effect. Anglers should be sure to check the current fishing regulations valid through the end of June before hitting the water, as well as any current emergency rules.

WDFW 2023 Trout Derby runs April 22 to October 31, 2023
WDFW Trout Derby 

The annual WDFW Trout Derby continues through Oct. 31. Thousands of tagged trout are stocked in 100+ lakes. Catch a tagged trout and you win a prize! Click on WDFW trout derby link for details. 

Salmon and steelhead

Preseason forecasts for summer chinook and sockeye to the Columbia River are sufficient to provide anglers opportunity to fish for salmon throughout the Columbia River. Species and daily limits will vary by location. Summer salmon sport fisheries will open by emergency regulation as early as mid-June if the returns meet or exceed the preseason forecasts. On July 1, the 2023-24 State of Washinton Sport Fishing Rules go into effect and the seasons will continue as the emergency rules close.  

Walleye, Bass, Channel Catfish, and Perch

Walleye, bass, channel catfish, and perch fishing in the Columbia, Snake, and tributaries will continue to improve as river temperatures rise, flows stabilize, and water clarity improves. 

White sturgeon being held up by fisherman on a boat
AJ Porter

White sturgeon

Most areas of the Columbia and Snake Rivers are open for sturgeon but are catch and release only. The harvest quotas in the lower Columbia River have all been met for 2023. Sturgeon sanctuaries which do not allow any fishing for sturgeon, not even catch and release, went into effect on May 1. These sanctuaries will remain close to fishing for sturgeon through August 31. See Sport Fishing Rules for complete details on locations of these sanctuaries.  

New license reminder

Now that it’s summer, Washingtonians must have a new 2023-2024 recreational hunting and fishing license. Those age 15 or older must have an applicable fishing and/or shellfish license. Licenses are available by phone at 866-246-9453 or online, and from license dealers around the state. 

Boating safety

Boat on lake
Andy Walgamott

With saltwater and freshwater fishing seasons in full swing, 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. Keep in mind that wearing a flotation device in, on or around water saves lives as drowning is one of the leading causes of fatalities especially among young children. 

Hunting opportunities and news

Two people walk down a lane with turkeys on their backs
Marc Nelson Marc Nelson

Spring wild turkey hunting reports

Spring wild turkey season ended May 31, so it’s time to submit your spring turkey report, even if you plan to hunt turkeys again this fall. Hunters can file reports on the Licensing System webpage

Hunter education

WDFW no longer offers fully remote hunter education courses. The Department continues to offer in-person hunter education courses as well as hybrid courses that combine online and in-person learning. 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.   

Learn more in our news release. 

Wildlife watching and recreation

World Environment Day

Wild Washington  

June 5 is World Environment Day #BeatPlasticPollution 

Did you know that an estimated 19-23 million tons of plastic end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans throughout the world each year? Unfortunately, this plastic pollution commonly gets eaten by or entangles wildlife. Additionally, when plastic breaks down its toxic chemicals pollute our habitats. With summer break and historically moderate temperatures, June is a great time to teach and model conservation stewardship with the learners in your life. For those still in the classroom, check out the #CleanSeas Plastic Challenge with classroom activities to help you reduce and reuse single-use plastics. For families out of the classroom, check out our family educational resources on plastic pollution. You can also search for community clean-ups and volunteer opportunities. Together, we can #BeatPlasticPollution and help our state’s fish and wildlife. 


wildflowers on shrubsteppe
Alan Bauer

Early summer is a good time for wildflower viewing in South Central Washington. Given that fact, this month still holds a lot of promise for viewing and photographing a bright pop of shrub steppe wildflowers. 

Gates open for wildlife viewing 

The Oak Creek, Wenas, LT Murray, and Colockum wildlife areas are now open, and visitors are required to display a current WDFW Vehicle Access Pass or Discover Pass for vehicle access to all WDFW lands and boat launches. Information about purchasing a state Discover Pass is available on the Discover Pass website

These areas are part of a cooperatively managed “Green Dot” road management system, which allows vehicle travel on the roads marked with a round green reflector on a white route marker, providing access for camping, hunting, wildlife viewing, and other uses, while protecting fish and wildlife and their habitats. Green Dot Maps are now available for download from the WDFW’s Green Dot page, and along with a free app, can be used on your smartphone to track your location on the map so you always know where you are. 

There are no developed campgrounds in any of these areas, and campfires are prohibited through Oct. 15. In addition to WDFW’s Wildlife Areas page, the Washington Trails Association is a great resource for information on hikes in the southcentral region and across the state. 

Explore a birding event or site near you 

Two people view wildlife at Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival
Jason Wettstein

Find the best places for bird watching in South Central Washington by exploring routes along the Great Washington State Birding Trail. The Sun and Sage Loop features 53 main sites to see mountain golden eagles, bald eagles, cedar waxwings, dark-eyed juncos, American white pelicans, and more. 

The Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society serving Benton and Franklin counties host local bird walks typically on the first Saturday of each month and the walks are aimed at beginning birders. Visit the Lower Columbia Audubon Society's website for more information

Amphibians and reptiles 

Did you know Washington is home to at least 25 species of amphibians (salamanders and frogs) and 28 reptiles (turtles, snakes, and lizards)? If you hadn’t noticed there’s a lot of ribbit-ribbit, croaking, trilling, hopping, and slithering happening right now around ponds, waterways, and greenbelts. Amphibians and reptiles are both important members of aquatic (water) and terrestrial (land) ecosystems, and they may use different habitats throughout the year, and it is especially noticeable and visible during spring. Click on the WDFW amphibian and reptile webpage or the species webpage to find out more information. 

Negative wildlife interactions 

Raccoon caught eating bread on a porch
Allison D'Ambrosio

June is another 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. Be sure to watch out for rattlesnakes now that things are heating up. Learn more about living with wildlife

Every year we see people who want to “help” fawns left alone in the forest but just because baby animals are alone does not mean they need help. Fight the urge to pick up and rescue bedded fawns — you might save their life. Read the "Spring babies - do they need your help?" blog (also available in Spanish). 

Black bears have emerged from their winter dens hungry and in search of calories after five months of not eating. During this time of increased activity, we're asking for your help to secure un-natural food sources to reduce bear encounters – especially around your home or while on the trail. For more information visit the black bear WDFW webpage. 

Don’t feed bears. Often people leave food out for bears so they can take pictures of them or show them to visiting friends. Over 90 percent of human-bear conflicts result from bears being conditioned to associate food with humans. A wild bear can become permanently food-conditioned after only one handout experience. The unintended reality is that these bears will likely die, being killed by someone protecting their property, or by a wildlife manager having to remove a potentially dangerous bear. 

Manage your garbage. Bears will expend a great amount of time and energy digging under, breaking down, or crawling over barriers to get food, including garbage. If you have a pickup service, put garbage out shortly before the truck arrives—not the night before. If you’re leaving several days before pickup, haul your garbage to a dump. If necessary, frequently haul your garbage to a dumpsite to avoid odors. 

Keep garbage cans with tight-fitting lids in a shed, garage, or fenced area. Spray garbage cans and dumpsters regularly with disinfectants to reduce odors. Keep fish parts and meat waste in your freezer until they can be disposed of properly. 

If bears are common in your area, consider investing in a commercially available bear-proof garbage container. Ask your local waste management company if bear-proof garbage containers are available or if individually purchased containers are acceptable and compatible with their equipment. 

Feeding wildlife 

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 brochure to help us keep wildlife wild by following more tips

Recreate Responsibly 

As the weather warms up and more folks head outdoors for spring-time activities, it is wise to #RecreateResponsibly for potential hazards and dangers. 

Here are more tips on staying safe right now: 

Plan ahead 

  • 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 must 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. 

Remember, you are responsible for your own safety! 

Conserving species and habitats

Habitat at Home

Bats in the night sky
Photo courtesy Clement Falize

What’s better than watching sunset on a warm summer evening? Counting bat passes for community science while watching sunset on a warm summer evening!  
This year WDFW is partnering with Woodland Park Zoo and Bats Northwest to bring the Bat Activity Trends community science program to everyone in Washington. Bats are amazing pest control and an important part of our habitats, but we need your help to learn more about where bats are active in Washington.  

The community science program asks you to go outside in June, July or August and watch the skies for 30 minutes, starting right after sunset. Count each bat you see as it passes by, record the total number after 30 minutes, and submit the number to us online. So easy! So important! So batty!  

All the resources you need to participate are available online. This activity is open to all ages. We have online trainings available on You Tube, or you can attend our free Q&A session on Tuesday, June 6.  

WDFW is also interested in any known bat roosts in Region 3. If you have an active bat house, or know of bats congregating in your barn or shed or natural feature, let us know!  Report sightings here! A biologist may contact you and your location may be used for research to monitor and manage bat populations and the threat of White-nose Syndrome.  

Event calendar

Types of events

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

Meet your Regional Director - Mike Livingston

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

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.