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

May fishing tips and news

Trout

Two young people show fish they caught
Courtesy Michael Moriarty

Many lakes in the south-central region are open year-round, so catchable-size trout plants began much earlier than other areas of the state. The WDFW trout stocking plan shows Region 3 lakes in 2022 will receive 132,045 catchable-size, 4,000 put-and-grow, and 11,900 jumbo trout, plus 870,000 fry-fingerling trout that were planted in 2021.

Lakes already with planted trout are Columbia Park Pond (6,000 catchable-size trout plus 4,200 jumbos) in Benton County; Dalton (16,000 plus 150), Marmes Pond (1,500 plus 50), and Powerline Ponds (800 jumbos) in Franklin County; and Easton (6,100 catchable-size), Fiorito North (9,000 catchable-size), Kiawanas (1,800 plus 200), Lavender (4,500 plus 200), Mattoon (9,000 plus 300), McCabe (3,000 plus 300), Mill (300 catchable-size) and Naneum juvenile youth only (2,400 plus 200), Woodhouse Pond (300 catchable-size) in Kittitas County.

Thousands of catchable-size and jumbo trout were also planted in Clear, Dog, Granger Pond, Lost, Myron, Rotary, Sarge Hubbard Park, and the I-82 ponds in Yakima County. Check the Weekly Trout Plant Reports to see what’s happening in area lakes.

WDFW has been stocking in the region for months. A complete trout-planting schedule for south central lakes and ponds is available on the region's catchable trout plant reporting page.

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 Tims Pond in Yakima County. Learn more about WDFW's Annual Trout Derby.

WDFW hosts kids fishing events 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.

A catch-and-release trout fishery is open year-round on the Yakima River from Roza Dam to Easton Dam under selective gear rules. Fishing is closed above Easton Dam until the Saturday before Memorial Day.

Salmon and steelhead

Hatchery spring Chinook salmon fishing opens in early May along two sections of the Snake River. The 2022 Columbia River forecasted return of upriver spring Chinook salmon is sufficiently abundant to allow for harvest opportunity. The current allocation based on the preseason forecast and prior to a run update is 542 fish for recreational fisheries in the Snake River (harvest plus release mortalities).

An area of the Snake River known as “Zone A” is open Tuesdays and Fridays only, beginning May 3, until further notice, from Texas Rapids boat launch (located on the south side of the river upstream of the mouth of Tucannon River) to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam. This zone includes both shores and the rock and concrete area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as “The Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility).

An area of the Snake River known as “Zone B” is also open Wednesdays and Thursdays only, beginning May 4, until further notice from the South Bound Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco upstream about 7 miles to the fishing restriction boundary below Ice Harbor Dam. The fishing season in both zones could close at any time depending on harvest levels. Click here for specific rules, catch limits and other information.

Three anglers fishing in the water of a stream.

The 2022 forecast for upriver Columbia spring Chinook numbers is 122,900 fish, which would be the highest predicted return since 2016 and 81% of 10-year average of about 152,300, and above the 91,756 fish that returned last year.

The Columbia River mainstem above Bonneville Dam closed for spring Chinook on May 3 (it was originally scheduled to be open through May 5) as the recreational fishery was expected to surpass its allowable catch. WDFW fishery managers will monitor the run and assess the potential for additional opportunities. A run-size update typically occurs in mid-May.

The Columbia tributaries above Bonneville should improve soon for spring Chinook. The Wind River is open until further notice from the mouth to 800 yards downstream of the Carson Fish Hatchery. Daily limit is 6 salmon and hatchery steelhead; up to 1 adult salmon and 1 hatchery steelhead or up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Release all salmon other than spring Chinook.

Drano Lake is open until further notice in the waters downstream of markers on the point of land downstream and across from Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery and upstream of the Highway 14 Bridge. Daily limit is 2 salmon and hatchery steelhead of which up to 1 may be an adult Chinook. Release all salmon other than spring Chinook.

The Klickitat River from the mouth to Fisher Hill Bridge is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays only through May 27. Daily limit is 2 salmon and hatchery steelhead of which up to 1 may be an adult salmon and release wild Chinook. Beginning May 28 until further notice the daily limit 6, of which up to 1 may be an adult. Release wild Chinook.

The Klickitat from 400 feet upstream of #5 fishway to boundary markers below Klickitat Salmon Hatchery is open through May 28 until further notice. The daily limit is 6 of which up to 1 may be an adult salmon and release wild Chinook.

Anglers can keep an eye out for an emergency rule change sometime this month to see if there’s a chance for a Yakima River spring Chinook fishery to occur in May.

Before heading out the door, anglers should check the WDFW permanent rules pamphlet and the emergency rules webpage when planning to fish on the Columbia River mainstem. Beginning May 16, the Columbia River mainstem downstream of Bonneville Dam opens under permanent rules for shad fishing, and downstream of the I-5 Bridge, anglers may also keep hatchery steelhead (up to 2 fish daily through June 15) and hatchery jacks. After June 15, steelhead is a 1 fish daily limit due to the expected low forecasts when open.

Also, anglers can start making plans for Washington’s statewide rivers, streams and beaver ponds that open the Saturday (May 28) before Memorial Day 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.

Woman in Seahawks cap holding a walleye with it's mouth open showing its teeth.
Ashley Caldwell

Walleye

Fishing for walleye will continue to improve over the next couple of months. Lots of good water from The Dalles upstream to Wanapum in the Columbia River, Lake Herbert G West (Lower Monumental Reservoir) in the Lower Snake River, plus Moses Lake, Potholes Reservoir, Scooteney, Banks Lake, and finally Lake Roosevelt. Good time to plan a trip.

White sturgeon

The sturgeon harvest quotas have been met for the lower Columbia River reservoirs including John Day. Fishing is limited to catch-and-release only. 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. Sturgeon sanctuaries located immediately downstream of the lower Columbia River dams and Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River go into effect from May 1 through August 31. No fishing, not even catch-and-release, is allowed within these sanctuaries during these months to allow mature sturgeon to spawn and recover. Remember you must use one single point barbless hook when fishing for sturgeon and fishing at night is not allowed. Please review the Washington Sport Fishing Rules for additional restrictions on sturgeon fishing including the upstream section of the Hanford Reach.

Bass, catfish, and walleye heating up

Catch rates should improve on area rivers for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and walleye through spring. Some of the year’s best fishing for channel catfish and smallmouth bass will be in May in the Yakima, Palouse, and Walla Walla rivers. Check for specific rules and regulations and what river areas are open for fishing.

Salmon fishing

The 2022-2023 salmon seasons have been tentatively set with some improved opportunities in the ocean driven by strong expected coho returns. Look for a variety of marine and freshwater areas to go and wet a line this summer and fall. The seasons – cooperatively developed by WDFW and treaty tribal co-managers – allow recreational salmon anglers a chance to start making plans now to go fishing. Learn more about the 2022-2023 salmon seasons.

New license reminder

Now that it’s spring, Washingtonians must have a new 2022-2023 recreational hunting and fishing licenses. 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.

Boat on lake
Andy Walgamott

Boating safety

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.

Assistance needed for mass-marking salmon

WDFW is looking for volunteers and hiring paid positions to assist fin clipping salmon at statewide hatcheries that occurs for several months in the spring and early summer. Anyone interested in volunteering at a WDFW hatchery can click on the WDFW’s website. Anyone interested in applying for a paid marking position can look for positions in their area and apply through Kelly Services. These temporary, full-time positions pay $16.49 per hour with the ability to start immediately, no experience required, and training provided. Click here to learn more about WDFW’s mass-marking program.

May hunting tips and news

young man with harvested turkey and rainbow in distance.
Jim Eaton

Wild turkey hunting

The statewide spring wild turkey hunting general season is open through May 31. For more information, visit the Wild Turkey hunting webpage, and click here for hunting prospects. If you are interested in giving turkey hunting a try but not sure how to get started or haven't been successful on your own in the past, there are opportunities to be accompanied by an experienced turkey hunter for mentored hunts in northeast Washington.

Special hunting permit application

Hunters can submit special hunt applications through May 19 for deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and fall turkey seasons. WDFW will conduct a drawing from this year’s applicants to select 2022 permit winners by the end of June. Hunters who successfully draw a special permit gain the opportunity to hunt at special times or places, opportunities for ages and sexes of wildlife not usually allowed in general season hunts and hunting opportunities for species which aren’t abundant enough to allow general hunting seasons. Special hunt permits offer a chance to participate in a unique hunt while directly supporting conservation and management in Washington.

To apply for a deer or elk special permit, hunters must first buy a hunting license before applying with their preferred hunt choices. Applicants for mountain goat, moose, and bighorn sheep do not need to buy a license before they apply.

Instructions and details on applying for special permit hunts begin on page 16 of Washington’s 2022 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet, available on WDFW's website and in print at dealer locations across the state, and on the vendor website later this month.

Hunters can buy applications and licenses from license vendors, in-person at the Natural Resources Building in Olympia, regional offices, or on WDFW's WILD system. Hunters must submit applications at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/login. Hunters can also purchase a variety of general season licenses at these locations for hunting opportunities that do not require a special permit. Hunters buying and applying online must create a username and password in the Department’s WILD system if they have not already done so.

Most special hunt permit applications cost $7.10 for residents, $110.50 for non-residents, and $3.80 for youth under age 16. Resident applications for mountain goat, bighorn sheep ram, moose, and "quality" categories for deer and elk run $13.70. WDFW will post the results of the special hunt permit drawing online by the end of June. WDFW will also notify winners by mail or email by mid-July.

A meadow gives way to pine forest and mountains in the distance
Daro Palmer

Be respectful on private lands

The public is fortunate to have the opportunity to hunt private property through WDFW's Private Lands program. Some people in Eastern Washington of late have been target shooting on private lands, leaving a mess. If you hunt private property, please be respectful. Visit the WDFW Medium to read about opportunities to hunt and recreate on private lands.

Hunter education

Most hunting seasons have ended, but it is best to prepare 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 more information, visit the Hunter Education webpage.

Reporting your harvest

Mandatory hunter harvest reporting allows the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to better manage game species throughout the state and set permit levels for upcoming seasons. This in turn allows for more hunting opportunities. For more information, visit the hunting reporting webpage.

May wildlife viewing

Wildflower viewing

wildflowers on shrubsteppe
Alan Bauer

Spring is usually a really good time to get bedazzled over wildflowers in South Central Washington, although some blooms are a bit behind because of the recent cold, wintry-like weather. Given that fact, this month still holds a lot of promise for viewing and photographing a bright pop of shrub steppe wildflowers and most of the low elevation areas are typically pretty good.

Places to view wildflowers are on Cowiche Canyon Conservancy Land (off Sunset Road near Snow Mountain Ranch is a popular non-WDFW hiking area owned by the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy); Oak Creek Wildlife Area (Waterworks Canyon, Bear Canyon, and Tieton River Trail); the Wenas Wildlife Area (Black Canyon and Skyline Trails); and the LT Murray Wildlife Area (Quilomene and Whiskey Dick units). In fact, you can find early spring wildflowers putting on a show all the across Washington that are noteworthy of a visit as the season begins to change.

Hills and trees on the Colockum Wildlife Area under a cloudy sky

Gates open for wildlife viewing

Starting May 1 at 6 a.m., WDFW will open the gates to winter closure areas on the Oak Creek, Wenas, LT Murray, and Colockum wildlife areas. Portions of these wildlife areas closed in winter to protect elk and other species from human disturbances will again be open to those who want to spend some time in Washington’s backcountry.

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.

Huge elk herd at Oak Creek
Hunter Ventoza

Four gates open May 1 at 6 a.m. at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, located seven miles west of Naches. One is a vehicular restriction only gate at the top of Cleman Mountain that accesses the Mud Lake and Sanford Pasture areas. The other three include the U.S. Forest Service, 1400 Oak Creek Road and two provide access to the Bethel Ridge Tie Green Dot Road. The winter closure areas within the Oak Creek and Cowiche units will also open to the public at the same time.

Located 18 miles west of Selah, the Mellotte gate at the Wenas Wildlife Area opens May 1 at 6 a.m. providing access to the north side of Cleman Mountain. The area holds a range of habitat including riparian zones, shrub-steppe, and forestlands. This is a popular area for bird watching, shed hunting, and hiking. 

At the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, Joe Watt and Robinson gates open May 1 at 6 a.m. The Whiskey Dick unit east of Ellensburg also opens at 6 a.m. that day. Some roads on the wildlife areas are still snow covered at high elevations. To protect roads and resources, Hannah Bates, the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area manager, is asking visitors not to drive on soft, wet roads and to use caution.

At the Colockum Wildlife Area south of Wenatchee, the West Bar Road opens to vehicle traffic May 1. Although the road is only 2.5 miles long, it provides access to the Columbia River and is a popular area to look for shed antlers in spring.

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.

Birders look through binoculars in field

Explore a birding event or site near you

The Yakima River Canyon Bird Fest 2022 is May 13-15 in Ellensburg. Right now, is the best time for migrating songbirds and raptors in the area. Learn more about the event.

The Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society serving Benton and Franklin counties Bateman Island bird walks begin at 8 a.m. on May 7 at Wye Park. Lisa Hill and other LCBAS birders lead local bird walks typically on the first Saturday of each month and the walks are aimed at beginning birders. Click here for more information.

The International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is May 14 near the peak of many bird migrations, with birdwatchers looking for hundreds of bird species moving from their wintering grounds south of the U.S. border to nesting habitats in North America. Look for local birding events this month and next through the IMBD website or through local Washington Audubon chapter websites.

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.

Sandhill Cranes

The annual migratory stopover of nearly 35,000 sandhill cranes happens in the Columbia Basin, along with lots of other early spring wildlife activity. Sandhill cranes are large, prehistoric-looking birds that migrate through the Pacific Flyway, stopping to feed and rest in the Columbia Basin on their way to nesting sites in Alaska. The greatest concentration of cranes can be found in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge marsh units: Frenchmen Reserve, Potholes Reservoir, Scooteney Reservoir, and Winchester Reserve.

Close up of an adult Columbia torrent salamander on a mossy rock.
William Leonard

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

May is a 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. Learn more about living with wildlife.

Black bears have also begun to emerge 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. 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. Click here for details: https://wdfw.medium.com/spring-babies-do-they-need-your-help-49a32b73b105 or Spanish version at https://wdfw.medium.com/deja-a-los-cervatillos-en-paz-9c25db43aca8.

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:

Visit WDFW’s Life Outdoors webpage to find out the outdoor recreation theme for the current month.

Submit pictures of you, your friends, or family participating in the month’s featured outdoor recreation theme on WDFW’s website.

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 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.
Snag tree in forested area

Play it safe

  • Hazards, avalanche slopes and designated safe routes are not marked.
  • Have proper footwear with good traction, micro-spikes, extra clothing, water, and a headlamp.
  • Snow hides hazards like streams. Use your poles to poke snow before stepping on it if you hear water.
  • Stay on the trail, even if it means walking on snow or mud.
  • Turn around instead of crossing steep, snow–covered slopes. A fall could be disastrous.
  • Avoid stepping onto snow cornices as they may collapse under your weight. Assume that snow on the edge of precipices is unstable. Falling into snow moats around trees and near logs or rocks can cause injury. Avoid getting too close.
  • Weather can change quickly, causing hard-to-navigate conditions, including whiteouts or dangerous stream crossings due to rapid snowmelt.
  • Beware of avalanches. Snow is increasingly unstable this time of year and may slide or collapse.

Remember, you are responsible for your own safety!

May Habitat at Home

Habitat at Home: May is Gardening for Wildlife Month 

Girl prepares plants for garden

Did you know that gardening with native plants can increase biodiversity and support human health and well-being? Support wildlife in your area this May by planting native species during Gardening for Wildlife month.

Learn about the impact of wildlife gardens and find what species of plants are beneficial for wildlife in your region. You can also learn more by following the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. Go to this link for an introduction to native plant gardening https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/living/backyard#native-plants.

Event calendar

No events found this month for this region. Check the agency calendar for more events.

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.