Discover South Central Washington

Sunrise on hillside at the Quilomene Wildlife Area Unit

"Some of WDFW’s activities in the region are at risk because of our budget situation. At the agency level, we face a roughly $26 million shortfall due to increasing costs and declines in federal funding. . "

South Central Regional Director Mike Livingston. Read Mike's full budget message below, or learn more about our 2020 supplemental budget.

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

Fish Washington this January

Steelhead: Fishing for steelhead will remain closed from McNary Dam upstream to the old Hanford

Yakima River in Winter
Yakima River in WinterJulie Cyr

townsite powerline crossing this winter and spring. The Snake River from the mouth upstream to the Couse Creek boat ramp will also remain closed to fishing for steelhead. Tributaries to the Snake River including Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon, and the lower Grand Ronde rivers will open December 28 and remain open through April 15 with a one hatchery steelhead daily limit. Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for steelhead in the Snake River tributaries.

Sturgeon: The John Day Pool (Lake Umatilla) reopens in January for retention of white sturgeon measuring 43 to 54 inches from their snout to the fork in their tail. Fishing is closed at night.

Walleye: There’s also a chance of catching a monster walleye in the Columbia River in and around the Tri-Cities. While walleye fishing can slow down during the winter months, both the current and previous record-holding fish were harvested at this time of year.

Winter whitefish:  The fishery is open through February 29th on the Naches River (mouth to Tieton River) and on the Yakima River (Sunnyside Dam to 3,500 feet below Roza Dam and from Roza Dam to Easton Dam).  The catch limit is 15 per day, but anglers are required to use only one hook measuring no more than 3/16-inch from point to shank (hook size 14) and bait is allowed.  Anglers must release all fish except whitefish.

Trout: A catch-and-release trout fishery is open year-round on the Yakima River from Roza Dam to Easton Dam under selective gear and whitefish gear rules. Fishing is closed above Easton Dam until the first Saturday in June. Also, many lakes around the state have been stocked with 5- to 10-pound broodstock rainbow trout over past months. Lakes, including those stocked recently for Black Friday like North Elton Pond, can be found in the Weekly Trout Plant Reports.

Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show:  The Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show, Jan. 17-19, features the latest in outdoor equipment, a kids’ fishing pond, a free air-rifle range, fishing and hunting seminars, retriever demonstrations and much more of interest to outdoors women, men and children.  Stop by and visit with staff at the WDFW exhibit.  Visit the show’s website for details and admission prices.


January hunting tips and news

Waterfowl: If you haven’t taken advantage of the waterfowl season yet, consider giving it a try in January.

Scaup and wigeon
Scaup and wigeonD. Kuehn

Most big-game hunts are closed for the year, but waterfowl season runs through Jan. 26 in some areas. The rules are outlined in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet.

As colder weather is settling in, larger geese and ducks are shifting from higher altitudes and more northern regions, providing a final opportunity for those ready to bundle up, fill their thermos, and get outside for some great waterfowl hunting.

Washington is one of the few states where all five diving ducks occur in the winter. The deeper waters and islands of the Columbia River serve as the perfect habitat for full plumage canvasback, redhead, scaup (lesser and greater), and ring-necked duck to congregate as ice and snow limit the amount of open water on the landscape.

Mandatory hunter reporting: Hunters are required to report their hunting activity by Jan. 31 for each special permit acquired and each deer, elk, bear, cougar, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey tag they purchased last year. Those who do not meet the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can buy another license. Those who report by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for a special incentive permit. See the Big Game Hunting Pamphlet for more information.

The Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show, Jan. 17-19, features the latest in outdoor equipment, a kids’ fishing pond, a free air-rifle range, fishing and hunting seminars, retriever demonstrations and much more of interest to outdoors women, men and children.  Stop by and visit with staff at the WDFW exhibit.  Visit the show’s website for details and admission prices.

January wildlife viewing tips

Elk at Oak Creek Wildlife Area
Tony Sirgedas

Elk herds return to Oak Creek Wildlife Area: In winter, hundreds of hungry elk and big-horn sheep descend on WDFW's Oak Creek Wildlife Area, where visitors can watch them dine on alfalfa hay and pellets. The department’s winter feeding program gets underway once the snow starts to pile up, possibly in January. We are continuously monitoring the weather, wildlife presence, and range condition, but we are not feeding yet even with the recent snowfall. Supplemental feeding is a tool that WDFW uses to prevent damage to neighboring private agricultural crops, saving the department from expensive damage claims. As of late December, we have closed the vehicle gates on the Oak Creek wildlife area, including Oak Creek Road (USFS 1400), Bethel Ridge Tie Road, and the Mud Lake Road. Public entry, including by foot, will be prohibited around feed sites once elk feeding starts. Signs will be posted at that time.

To check the status of the feeding program, Oak Creek visitors can hear a recorded message on the headquarters phone by calling (509) 653-2390. Tour reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance by calling (509) 698-5106, once winter feeding starts.

A valid state Discover Pass or WDFW Vehicle Access Pass is required to park at the Wildlife Area. Visitors can purchase a One-Day Discover Pass at the Wildlife Area with cash or check, once the feeding starts. Vehicle Access Passes are free with the purchase of certain fishing and hunting licenses.

Winter feeding closures: While the Oak Creek and Joe Watt feed sites provide for public viewing outside the elk fences, public access to these areas is restricted to minimize disturbances to elk challenged by the cold weather. Visitors should watch for signs stating “No Public Entry,” prohibiting both motorized and pedestrian access.

Current closures, which will remain in effect until May 1, include:

  • The Bethel Ridge Tie and Oak Creek roads in the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima. The Sanford Pasture Area will be closed to motorized vehicles on Dec. 31.
  • The area surrounding the Joe Watt Canyon and Robinson winter feed sites in the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area near Ellensburg are closed to all public entry.
  • The area surrounding the Mellotte feed site in the Wenas Wildlife Area, near Selah is closed to all public entry.

Recreation and habitat projects

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

Scenic view of Cowiche Unit landscape

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.

Recreational opportunities are abundant on the new property, and include hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, and bird watching. The low-elevation and close proximity to Yakima make it an ideal destination for local outdoor recreationists and visitors. Read more in the recent news release

A budget message from Mike

Mike Livingston, South Central Region Director
Mike Livingston, South Central Region Director


Welcome and thanks for visiting the Region 3 web page, a new feature we will be using to communicate with you about specific regional topics. I’ll be using this first installment as an introduction to the region and provide a brief message on WDFW’s budget situation.

I’m continually impressed with how many people enjoy, and depend, on the land and water in south central Washington. The Yakima Valley is called the fruit basket of the nation and the water that nurtures that fruit comes from our mountains and streams. It’s the same water our fish and wildlife and people depend on. Our natural resource economy of farming and outdoor recreation is a large part of our culture in south central Washington and I’m proud to be part it!

This region, with its abundant public lands, provides a ton of outdoor opportunities. Hunters can pursue big game, upland birds, and waterfowl. My yellow lab and I enjoy the months long bird hunting seasons here. We also have great opportunities for watching unique wildlife like Lewis’ woodpecker, sage sparrows, and big horn sheep to name a few.

Fishing is another favorite pastime of mine. Whether you like to fish for rainbow trout on the Yakima River, bank fish for stocked trout at a lowland lake, or pursue salmon or steelhead on the Columbia, there’s an opportunity for you.

WDFW manages over 400,000 acres across five wildlife areas in south central Washington. These lands exist for fish and wildlife and for people to enjoy. On these wildlife areas and elsewhere, we are working to restore forest and river health, produce wild and hatchery fish, maintain public access, and manage wetlands for waterfowl and other species.

A major attraction to the region is our elk herds. Each year we get an influx of hunters interested in harvesting an elk from the Yakima or Colockum herds. We manage these herds to maximize hunter opportunity. We feed a good portion of the Yakima Herd to keep them away from agriculture and this creates a wildlife watching opportunity. Many people visit the Oak Creek Visitor Center in the winter to observe the elk being fed each day.

No matter what your outdoor interests are, south central Washington has something to offer you. WDFW’s Region 3 staff work hard to ensure these resources are available for people today and tomorrow. They are some of the most dedicated professionals I know.


Some of WDFW’s activities in the region are at risk because of our budget situation. At the agency level, we face a roughly $26 million shortfall due to increasing costs and declines in federal funding (see our budget webpage for more details). In Region 3 the budget shortfall means that:

  • Our forest health work to prevent catastrophic wildfire on our wildlife areas is at risk of not being completed. For example, there are 2,100 acres of recently thinned forests in the 115,000-acre L.T. Murray that need prescribed fire. Potential budget cuts risk our ability to implement these treatments. 
  • Cuts to fish production may include Naches Hatchery, which stocks over 100,000 catchable rainbow trout in over 60 lakes in Region 3. Without this hatchery, production would shift to other facilities, and our long-term ability to stock some lakes would be uncertain.
  • We currently have 357 active Master Hunters residing in the region (24% percent of entire program). They assist the department in maintaining fence and other infrastructure, educate fellow hunters about regulations, provide for habitat restoration, and pick up trash. Locally, they also play a significant role in our work to minimize conflict between agricultural interests and deer and elk. Statewide, our Master Hunter Program contributes 13,000 hours of annual work, valued at $390,000, toward wildlife-related efforts. Without additional funding, these benefits are at risk.  
  • Our wildlife conflict staff expand the work of our department beyond emergency response by providing technical assistance to reduce negative human-wildlife interactions and promote non-lethal options. Proposed reductions to conflict management services would require the department to more aggressively reduce deer and elk numbers near agricultural zones to reduce conflict. 

If you value these at risk services in the Region, I invite you to visit our budget webpage to learn more. After that, if you have questions, please feel free to contact me!

Thanks for reading my message and I wish you the best in all your outdoor and conservation pursuits.


Mike Livingston

South Central Washington Regional Director

Watch Mike Livingston and Kelly Susewind's digital open house.

Event calendar

Types of events

  • Community event
  • Commission meeting
  • Key date