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. WDFW staff will continue to wear masks while providing customer service, and the public is encouraged to wear a mask. 

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

Email: TeamYakima@dfw.wa.gov

Telephone: 509-575-2740

Fax: 509-575-2474

October fishing tips and news

Salmon fishing on Columbia River

Columbia River Chinook fishing
Jerrod and Katlynn Gibbons

Fall Chinook salmon fishing in the Hanford Reach should remain decent through the middle of this month. The inseason cumulative count at McNary Dam is 123,987 adult fall Chinook salmon compared to the 10-year average of 177,560 and only seven percent lower than the 2021 return of 133,268. A strong proportion of fall Chinook salmon in this year’s return was expected to be larger four-year-old and five-year-old fish. The latest creel checks showed boat anglers averaged better than a fish per boat (1.2) or 12 hours per fish. Bank anglers are Ringold are doing well compared to prior years due to a strong return of fall Chinook to Ringold Springs Hatchery, averaging one Chinook salmon per 17 hours.

This will be the second year of adult coho salmon returning to Ringold Springs Hatchery. In 2021, 3,000 coho salmon returned to the hatchery. The coho salmon are a late run and most are expected to arrive from late October through December. The daily limit in this area of the Columbia River is six salmon, but only two adults. Anglers can keep hatchery or wild salmon, Chinook and coho salmon only but must stop fishing after they retain two adult salmon.

The lower section of the Hanford Reach (I-182 Bridge upstream to old Hanford townsite powerline) is schedule to remain open through Dec. 31 to provide anglers the opportunity to target the late returning coho salmon to Ringold Springs Hatchery.

The lower reach will open for Ringold Springs hatchery origin steelhead on Oct. 1 from the I-182 Bridge to old Hanford powerline crossing. See the WDFW website for additional information.

Further upstream, the Upper Columbia River is open through Oct. 15 for coho salmon retention from Priest Rapids Dam to Wells Dam; and from Hwy. 173 Bridge at Brewster to the rock jetty at the upstream shoreline of Foster Creek (Douglas County side) through Oct. 15. Returns of upper Columbia River-bound coho salmon are sufficient to meet conservation objectives and to provide for sport angler harvest between Priest Rapids Dam and Wells Dam. Fishing closures around dams remain in effect and click on the WDFW website for additional information and regulations.

Snake River fall Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead fishing

A boy holds a large steelhead he caught.

Fall Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead fishing is open this month on some sections of the Snake River.

Special rules apply when fishing on the Snake River between Washington and Idaho. Anglers should continue to check WDFW emergency regulations webpage for new and changing seasons or sign up for email notifications of any rule change at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/lists. In addition, anglers are reminded to refer to the 2022/23 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other rules and regulations.

 

Lower Yakima River fall salmon fishing

Yakima River with grass rustling in front
Jason Wettstein

The Lower Yakima River is open to fall Chinook and coho salmon fishing through Oct. 31 from the Hwy. 240 Bridge in Richland (river mile 2.1) to the Grant Avenue Bridge in Prosser (river mile 47.0).

Current fish passage through the Prosser Diversion indicates that fall Chinook and coho salmon are expected to return in sufficient numbers to provide sport fishing opportunity for anglers in the Lower Yakima River. For details on regulations for this section of the Yakima River, click on the WDFW website.

Releasing salmon properly

Selective fisheries for hatchery-produced salmon and catch-and-release fisheries are increasingly important in providing recreational fishing opportunities around Washington. To ensure these salmon fisheries are successful long-term, it is vital that anglers do their part to comply with all regulations, especially how to properly release unmarked, undersized and out-of-season fish to improve their survival. Watch our YouTube video or read our guide to releasing salmon properly.

Bass and walleye fishing

Woman holds up bass fish
Julie Jackson

Walleye and smallmouth bass are available to catch throughout the Columbia River and Snake River. Walleye should draw plenty of attention during fall and are aggressive biters and known to be delicious table fare. Several of the state’s best walleye fisheries are in the region, including Wallula Junction, the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam, and the Columbia River from Boardman upstream to McNary Dam.

Popular walleye tactics include trolling worm harnesses behind bottom walkers, trolling deep-diving plugs, jigging blade baits, or plastic baits on jig heads.

Smallmouth bass share the same habitat with walleye, but sometimes run as deep as 50 feet. They move into the shallows as food sources become available. Fishing for these hard-fighting fish tends to carry on through October until cold water sends them back to greater depths to spend the winter.

There is no minimum size and no limit on the number of walleye, bass or channel catfish anglers can keep while fishing in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Scooteney Reservoir southeast of Othello has a nice mix of perch and walleye.

The extended warm water temperatures, should create decent fishing for bluegill, crappie, and yellow perch. Autumn is prime period for these species when they typically increase foraging activity in preparation for the winter months ahead. In the region, there are panfish opportunities in Scooteney Reservoir and the I-82 Ponds.

Trout and kokanee fishing in lakes

A boy holds a trout
Josh Austin

Look for kokanee on Rimrock and Bumping reservoirs in Yakima County, and Keechelus and Kachess reservoirs in Kittitas County.

Try for trout at Easton, Kiawanas, Lavender, Mattoon, McCabe, Mill and Naneum (juvenile youth only), and Woodhouse Pond in Kittitas County. You can also find planted trout in Clear, Dog, Granger Pond, Lost, Myron, Rotary, Sarge Hubbard Park, Tim’s Pond, and the I-82 Ponds in Yakima County.

Check the Weekly Trout Plant Reports to see what’s happening in area lakes. You can find out what Region 3 lakes were planted by going to the WDFW trout stocking plan.

Rivers, streams, and beaver pond fishing

Yakima River in the autumn
Jason Wettstein

Anglers can head to many of Washington’s rivers, streams and beaver ponds open through Oct. 31. Beaver ponds located within or connected to streams listed as open to trout and other game fish follow the same rules as the stream. Be sure to check for special regulations by clicking here.

With streams and rivers flowing more slowly in the upper Yakima basin at this time of year is a good to try fly or spin fishing for trout. Cutthroat, rainbow and eastern brook trout are the predominant species depending on where you’re fishing in the river. A catch-and-release trout fishery is open year-round on the Yakima River from Roza Dam to Easton Dam including areas above the dam and under selective gear rules. Fishing for cutthroat and rainbow trout will also improve on rivers such as the Naches, Yakima, and many small streams and tributaries around the state.

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.

Angler fishes at alpine lake.

High mountain lakes fishing

October is a productive month to hike into the high lakes in the Goat Rocks Wilderness near White Pass and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Snoqualmie Pass as there are fewer mosquitos and fishing can be great!

WDFW stocks many small, hike-in lakes with rainbow or cutthroat trout fry, and some lakes also have naturally produced eastern brook trout populations.

Almost 200 small lakes, ranging from about 3,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation, lie on public land around Washington. You can find information on high lakes on the WDFW web page.

White sturgeon fishing

Fishing is limited to catch-and-release only and autumn is an ideal time to fish for sturgeon in sections of the Columbia and Snake rivers. 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.

Lake Wallula (McNary Reservoir), except for the Hanford Reach upper section, is open year-round for sturgeon but limited to catch-and-release only. The fishery extends from McNary Dam upstream to Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia River and upstream to Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River.

Remember you must use one single point barbless hook when fishing for sturgeon and fishing at night is not allowed. Favorite baits are roll mop herring, salmon bellies, shad, and squid. Please review the Washington Sport Fishing Rules for additional restrictions on sturgeon fishing including the upstream section of the Hanford Reach.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 2022 Trout Derby

WDFW Trout Derby

Try your luck now through Oct. 31 to catch thousands of tagged trout lurking in more than 100 statewide lakes. Anglers who catch a tagged fish can win over 800 donated prizes totaling around $37,000. Lakes with tagged trout are Dalton in Franklin County; Easton Ponds, Fiorito North and Mattoon in Kittitas County; and I-82 Ponds 4 and 6, Lost, Myron, Rotary and Tim’s Pond in Yakima County. Visit the 2022 Trout Derby page for details.

Kids fishing events

Visit the youth fishing events page for kids fishing events hosted by WDFW and held throughout the year. Other fishing groups, clubs, and organizations such as the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation also host yearly events to promote youth fishing.

Boat on lake
Andy Walgamott

Boating safety

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.

October hunting tips and news

Hunting

A father and son hike through a field
Photo courtesy David Whitmer

October is the start of upland bird, waterfowl, as well as modern firearm deer, muzzleloader elk, and modern firearm elk seasons.  Hunters planning their hunts throughout Washington including Region 3 may want to check the 2022 Hunting Prospects reports, which outline hunting opportunities in specific game management districts. These prospects have a lot of useful information that can help brand new and experienced hunters to plan their season.

Hunters can use the hunting regulations web map, which allows them to find permit and general season hunts based on location, date, weapon choice, and more. Recent surveys indicate 2022 should be another good hunting year.

Fall black bear season continues through Nov. 15. Bear hunters in certain Eastern Washington GMUs are reminded that it’s possible to encounter some protected grizzly bears, so species identification is critical. If you're hunting in those areas, you must score 80% or higher and carry proof that you have passed the WDFW test or an equivalent test from another state.

The early youth-only waterfowl day is Oct. 1. There are many places to hunt ducks and geese in Benton and Franklin counties including locations on WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Unit, Mesa Lake Unit, Scooteney Reservoir, Sunnyside Wildlife Area Units, and Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch.  Banding this year indicated a good local mallard hatch and youth should find plenty of ducks on the wildlife areas.

In Yakima and Kittitas counties, the best waterfowl hunting is in the Lower Yakima Valley, especially on Yakama Nation lands, which has abundant opportunity along the Yakima River. The Yakama Nation’s Satus Wildlife Area is the most popular and open to hunting Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. The main Satus Wildlife Area is very popular due to relatively easy access to wetlands. Hunting can be just as good on Mosebar ponds and north Satus. A Yakama Nation license is required to hunt tribal lands.

The Sunnyside Unit on WDFW managed land has several managed wetlands like the Rice Paddies, Johnson Wetland and for the first time in three seasons the Haystack Ponds. The Johnson Unit and Haystack Ponds provide ADA blinds. Visit the Let’s Go Waterfowl Hunting on the WDFW website.

Forest grouse hunting season is open through Jan. 15, 2023, to protect brood hens with chicks. You can see that and other information in this year’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons and Rules pamphlet. A special youth-only hunt in Eastern Washington is Oct. 1.

For those planning a pheasant be sure to look at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program document on the WDFW webpage for maps and sites.

Sign up for in-person hunter education

learning to shoot

The minimum age to take the all-online hunter education course has now increased to 18. In 2020, we implemented an all-online hunter education course for students at least nine years old.  Recognizing the importance and value of in-person and hands-on firearm safety instruction,

WDFW’s goal has always been to move back to, or towards, in-person course delivery when it made sense to do so. While the COVID landscape is still a bit uncertain, things are getting back to normal. We recognize that this change may take some time to get used to, and we are committed to offering as many in-person courses as we can. For more information, visit the Hunter Education webpage.

October wildlife viewing

Wildlife watching

Northern pintail ducks
Dennis Werlau/WDFW

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 south down the Pacific Flyway through the South Central Washington region. Some of these ducks have already starting arriving and resident ducks and geese are already visible in some locations. Drake ducks are beginning to regain breeding plumages and numbers of snow and white-fronted geese will build this month along with familiar Canada geese. The viewing and photography blind at the Headquarters of the McNary National Wildlife Refuge near Burbank 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.

Raptors are on the move and Ferruginous and Swainson's hawks that summer in parts of the region are migrating south. Some red-tailed, sharp-shinned, and Cooper's hawks that summer further north are moving into or through the region.

Those planning on hiking in the high country of the South Cascades, can often see everything from mountain bluebirds to mountain goats.

Around White Pass, check out Dog Lake and the surrounding forests and meadows for ring-necked ducks, Barrow’s goldeneye, osprey, red-naped and Williamson’s sapsuckers and pine siskin. Listen for barred owls in the dense forests behind nearby Leech Lake.

At Chinook Pass, look for whistling hoary marmots and browsing mule deer. Scan the peaks for mountain goats, and watch for blue grouse, gray jay, mountain chickadee and a variety of other birds.

Along with songbirds and raptors, visitors at Umtanum Creek may see elk, deer, bighorn sheep and myriad smaller mammals with beavers are active around Umtanum, which flows past stands of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, black cottonwood, aspen, and willow.

Shared space with hunters

A woman watches birds through a spotting scope.

Birders and others afield in the coming weeks should be aware that several hunting seasons are underway throughout the region. While many 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.

Explore a birding event or site near you

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.

Don’t be a litterbug: Not littering… It’s that simple!

Littering Department of Ecology
Washington Department of Ecology

If everyone does their part, we can keep Washington beautiful and litter free. While 75 percent of Washington residents never litter, 18 million pounds of waste accumulates on roads, parks, and recreation areas every year and costs the state millions of dollars in cleanup efforts, and negatively impacts the environment, wildlife, and public safety. Simple tips to avoid this issue is to have a container for collecting trash; when visiting parks and recreation areas, bring a bag with you to pack out what you packed in; hold onto trash until you reach a waste receptacle at a gas station, rest area or your destination; safely secure your cargo on the road. When we all look out for each other, it makes a big difference! Visit the Washington Department of Ecology website for more information.

Negative wildlife interactions

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. Read our pamphlet on feeding deer in urban and suburban areas to help us keep wildlife wild.

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 and clean food scraps off of your grill after use.

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.  You should also remove bird feeders and outdoor pet food to reduce the chance of conflict with bears, raccoons, and skunks in your neighborhood.

Avian influenza “Bird Flu”

While bird watching in late-summer or early fall or on other adventures, if you encounter a sick or dead bird, please report it to WDFW’s online reporting tool.

Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, has been spreading across the state since this spring and continues to affect both domestic and wild birds, although reports of sick and dead birds have decreased in recent months.

Avian influenza viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect poultry and other bird and animal species. A raccoon found in Spokane Valley was recently confirmed to have the virus. This is the second case of avian influenza transferring to raccoons in Washington. This is not a major concern as it is not unexpected and we do not expect this to have a large impact on wildlife species outside of birds.

If you encounter dead or sick wildlife, please do not touch it, transport it to a vet or attempt to nurse it back to health. There is no vaccination and no treatment for avian influenza and moving an animal infected with it can spread the virus to new areas. More information on this virus is on the WDFW avian influenza webpage.

Wild Washington Live!

With school back in swing, now is the perfect time to check out our new 3rd grade lesson bundle, “State of Salmon.” This Next Generation Science Standards encourage students to put on their scientist, engineer, and social scientist caps while they explore salmonid species and discover how WDFW raises healthy salmon in hatcheries. This lesson bundle pairs excellent with new and existing Salmon in the Classroom programs. Check it out today! Learn more at Wild Washington Lesson Plans.

Backyard wildlife activities

Close up of a female and male western bluebird

Learn how to landscape for wildlife: Vegetation is key to attracting a variety of wildlife. Native plants provide the food, shelter, and nesting habitat for songbirds, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other wildlife. You can use this extra time at home to map out how you’d like your property to look and figure out which plants would thrive where you live. Visit the Washington Native Plant Society’s website for resources.

Add a water source to your yard: Put in a birdbath, garden pond, or other source of water outside your home. A safe place to bathe and drink will act as a magnet to many animals. You can make a simple birdbath with things you probably already have. Visit the Audubon’s website for an easy do-it-yourself bird bath using an old cake pan or flower-pot tray.

Build a bird house or nest box: Add bird houses to your property, or better yet, try to leave snags (dead trees) if they don’t pose any risk. Cavity-nesting birds have been especially impacted by urban development. A bird house of the proper dimensions can substitute for snags where these birds used to nest. There are lots of easy instructions online to build your own bird house or nest box. Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Backyard Birding webpage for resources.

Keep your cats and wild birds safe: Domestic cats can make great pets, but when they are allowed to roam outdoors, there can be serious consequences to local wildlife. Cats kill about 2.4 billion birds every year in the U.S. alone. Visit the American Bird Conservancy website for information on their Cats Indoors Program and learn how to keep pet cats and wild birds safe. You may even consider an outdoor enclosure for your cat.

Make a window cling to protect birds: Up to a billion birds die each year from flying into glass. You can help prevent that from happening at your house by making your own window clings using recycled plastic and puffy fabric paint. Check out this tutorial video from the Audubon Society.

Life Outdoors

Share your outdoor adventures for a chance to win outdoor gear!

Send us your best #LifeOutdoorsWA photos of how you spend time outdoors! Your photos may be featured on WDFW’s Facebook and Instagram to celebrate the variety of ways people enjoy outdoor lifestyles and to inspire others to spend time in nature.

Enter our monthly photo contest for a chance to win a Cabela’s gift card! Each month has a new theme and a new winner.

person hiking on a trail with mountains all around
Naomi Gross

Share your outdoor adventures for a chance to win outdoor gear!

Send us your best photos of how you spend time outdoors!

Your photos may be featured on WDFW’s Facebook and Instagram to celebrate the variety of ways people enjoy outdoor lifestyles and to inspire others to spend time in nature.

Enter our monthly photo contest for a chance to win a Cabela’s gift card! Each month has a new theme and a new winner.

 

Participating is simple:

  1. Visit WDFW’s Life Outdoors webpage to find out the outdoor recreation theme for the current month.
  2. Submit pictures of you, your friends, or family participating in the month’s featured outdoor recreation theme on WDFW’s website.
  3. When submitting your photo, select #LifeOutdoorsWA in the category section. In the description area, tell us a little about your experience.

On the last Friday of the month, a winner will be selected and featured on WDFW’s Facebook and Instagram. Winners will also be contacted via email to receive their prize.

When sharing your photos on social media, be sure to use #LifeOutdoorsWA!

Recreate Responsibly

As more folks head outdoors for fall 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.

October Habitat at Home

Habitat at Home: Bats on the move – Where our local bats go for winter, how to exclude, how to help!

Bat Facts

While we might be focusing on bats for Halloween, October and November are when our 15 Washington bat species prepare for winter. Around this time, Hoary bats are heading south for the winter to California and Mexico. Some year-round resident species, like little brown bats will move to higher elevation or seek out cool, safe places nearby to hibernate. Silver-haired bats and California Myotis are two species that remain active year-round in Washington.

Not much details are known about winter hibernating bats in Washington because they tend to hibernate alone or in small groups, and research has been limited. It’s important not to disturb bats while hibernating, so if you encounter any please quietly and quickly leave and report them to WDFW. You can help us learn more by using the WDFW bat colony reporting tool if you find a winter hibernating roost (known as a hibernaculum).

Did you find bats in your building structures this summer? While bats aren’t rodents and don’t gnaw or destroy infrastructure, they have messy guano (feces) and for some, having bats living outside buildings is better. Late autumn is the ideal time to exclude bats safely and humanely from structures. Review instructions on how to check that they’re gone, by creating one-way doors, and sealing up holes.

White-nose syndrome, a fungus that only affects hibernating bats, is dangerous for local bats during this time. Reports estimate the disease has killed between 5 to 7 million bats, such as little brown bats in Eastern North American since it was first discovered in 2006 and was first confirmed around Washington in 2016.

Event calendar

Types of events

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

Meet your South Central Regional Director

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.