Discover Southwest Washington

Klickitat river seen through the trees

Customer service staff in the Ridgefield 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.

Counties served: Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania, Wahkiakum

Director: Kessina Lee

5525 S 11th Street
Ridgefield, WA 98642

Email: TeamRidgefield@dfw.wa.gov

Telephone: 360-696-6211

Fax: 360-906-6776

May fishing tips and news

Trout

Two young people show fish they caught
Courtesy Michael Moriarty

Spring has sprung, and the big kickoff was the lowland lakes trout fishing opener on April 23 that saw happy anglers, trout willing to bite and ideal weather conditions!

“For the most part the weather cooperated around the state and there seemed to be a lot of happy anglers,” Steve Caromile, the WDFW inland trout manager said. “Catch rates were decent in many lakes and should be improving over the next few weeks.”

The statewide total for opening day (April 23) saw 2,432 anglers surveyed statewide caught 7,794 trout and released 2,629 for an average of 3.2 caught and 2.1 kept per angler. In Region 5, creel surveys taken at six lakes showed 205 anglers with 450 trout kept and 374 released for 2.2 kept and 4.0 total trout caught per angler. You can view a complete lowland lakes trout fishing season opener report on the WDFW webpage.

In Lewis County, 75 anglers interviewed – which is just a fraction of the actual turnout as the 8 a.m. effort count revealed more than 250 anglers – at Mineral Lake (one of the most popular opening day lakes in Washington) kept 220 trout and released 75, translating to 2.9 kept and 3.9 total trout caught per angler; and a Carlisle Lake survey showed 62 anglers with 49 and 69 for 1.1 and 1.9. In Klickitat County, Rowland Lake had 30 anglers with 82 and 217 for 2.7 and 10.0; Horsethief Lake was 7 anglers with 3 kept for 0.4; and Spearfish Lake had 31 anglers with 76 and 33 for 2.5 and 3.5

Trout plants will continue this spring with an expected total 2022 Region 5 plant of 470,163 catchable-size trout; 93,000 put-and-grow; 13,350 jumbos; and 100,000 fry/fingerling planted last year. Anglers can refer to the Weekly Trout Plant Reports for weekly stocking updates.

Many year-round lakes are generating good trout fishing including Battle Ground, Klineline Pond, Lacamas, Ft. Borst Park Pond, South Lewis County Park Pond and Sacajawea. Riffe Lake is decent for coho and rainbow trout and Merwin and Yale reservoirs are best for kokanee. Please note that the Swift Reservoir in Skamania County opener doesn’t occur until the Saturday before Memorial Day, which is May 28 for this year.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 2022 Trout Derby

Trout Derby

The statewide WDFW Trout Derby commenced on opening day and runs through Oct. 31 with thousands of tagged trout lurking in more than 100 statewide lakes. Anglers who catch a tagged trout can win over 800 donated prizes totaling around $37,000. The average number of tags turned in was 55 percent in 2021. On opening day (April 23) a total of 80 tags were turned in for prizes out of 847 tagged fish which equates to about 9.6% turned in. Anglers can track how many tags have been turned in to date, and it also indicates how many tags remain in each lake. 

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.

American Shad

Shad in Columbia River

Look for another excellent shad return with the run peaking later this month and into June. In 2021, 5.8-million shad returned compared to the 10-year average of 3.7-million shad. Once daily counts at the Bonneville Dam fish ladder hit 20,000-plus shad it is time to go fishing. Click here to track shad counts. Look for shad along the rip-rap shoreline below Bonneville Dam, and from Washougal to Kalama. Shad prefer fast, swift running current. Many are caught less than 15 to 30 feet from shore. Cast shad darts; red and white colored flies with a small hook; colored beads in red, bright orange or metallic silver or gold; small crappie-like jigs; or small wobbler type spoons or spinners. Learn more about shad and how to catch these hard fighting fish.

Get paid to fish!

Northern pikeminnow in a net on a dock
Jim Souders

The 2022 Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward fishery, which pays anglers $6-$10 for each qualifying fish, kicked off May 1 and continues until the end of September.

This program targets large northern pikeminnow, the primary fish  predator of juvenile salmon and steelhead throughout the Columbia and Snake river systems. The rewards this year have increased, beginning at $6 each for the first 25 Northern Pikeminnow caught during the season. Anglers are paid $8 for each fish they catch from 26-200, and $10 for every fish caught over 200 cumulatively. This is up from $5, $6 and $8 rewards in previous years. Tagged pikeminnow are worth $500 each, and in 2021 the top angler earned more than $61,000 – just from fishing!

The goal of the program is not to eradicate pikeminnow, but to harvest 10 to 20 percent of the larger fish that might prey on endangered or threatened salmon and steelhead species.

To see where anglers have been having luck reeling in pikeminnow, and for more information on the program and helpful tips on how to catch pikeminnow, visit the program webpage. You can also check out our Pikeminnow 101 seminar from last year, which has great tips for getting started.

Spring Chinook salmon

Salmon fishing near buoy 10
Ken Stunz Ken Stunz

For hatchery spring Chinook, the Lewis River follows fishing rules published in current sport fish rules pamphlet. The Kalama River is open until further notice from the mouth upstream to 1,000 feet below the fishway at Kalama Falls Hatchery. The Cowlitz River is closed to spring Chinook retention now until further notice.

The Columbia tributaries above Bonneville will 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. 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.

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.

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.

Warmwater fish and walleye

Crappie fishing is holding its own at Silver Lake in Cowlitz County. There are some yellow perch starting to be caught in many southwest region lakes. Bluegill are getting active at Kress Lake in Cowlitz County and Lacamas Lake in Clark County. Rowland Lake is good for pumpkinseed; and bluegill and smallmouth bass can be found in Riffe Lake. The Dalles Pool has been good for walleye as well as above and below John Day Dam.

photo of stugeon and angler
Eric Braaten

White sturgeon

The white sturgeon fishery is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays only from May 11 through June 4 as well as May 30, from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to the Wauna powerlines, which crosses Puget Island near Cathlamet, and includes adjacent Washington tributaries. All sturgeon fishing -- including catch-and-release fishing -- closes at 2 p.m. on those days. Anglers may retain only white sturgeon measuring 44 to 50 inches from the tip of their nose to the fork in their tail (“fork length”). Catch limits during the season are one legal-size white sturgeon per day and two legal-size fish per year. Only one single-point, barbless hook is allowed when fishing for sturgeon. Anglers may not fish for or retain green sturgeon, which is a federally protected species. Estuary anglers will be allowed to harvest up to 1,920 of the estimated 100,014 legal-size sturgeon below Bonneville Dam. The lower Columbia River is open for catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon on days closed to retention.

Catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon is open year-round on many stretches of the Columbia River in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools. Be sure to check permanent rules in the Sport Fishing Regulations pamphlet.

Lastly, 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.

Boy with salmon

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. This includes Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) in the ocean, and areas from Buoy 10 at the Columbia River mouth upstream along with some tributaries. 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.

Photo of two boats anchored next to one another with anglers plunking

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 during 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. Learn more about WDFW’s mass-marking program.

May hunting tips and news

Photo of a man and women wearing camouflage knelling by a freshly harvested turkey with a river in the background.
Sally McKerney

Wild turkey hunting

The statewide spring wild turkey hunting general season is open through May 31. In Region 5, Klickitat County is the most popular area to find and hunt wild turkey. WDFW provides public hunting opportunity not just on Wildlife Area lands but also on private lands enrolled in the Private Lands Access Program. Please visit Private Lands Hunting Access website to see a list of available properties. For questions about the Region 5 Private Lands Access Program properties, contact Monique Ferris, WDFW Region 5, Private Lands Biologist at 360-906-6721 or email monique.ferris@dfw.wa.gov. For more information, visit the Wild Turkey hunting webpage, and click here for hunting prospects.

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.

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 instructor demonstrating safety procedures at shooting range with boy
WDFW staff

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 and recreation

Wildlife viewing

A migratory flock of about 2 dozen sandhill cranes foraging in a farm field in Washington.

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.

The Vancouver Audubon holds monthly bird watching and field trip activities in the spring. Click here for a list of upcoming events.

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes are arriving in the Vancouver Lowlands to begin their annual mating dance. Thousands of the large birds – with wingspans of up to seven feet – will visit prime feeding areas such as the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge before leaving for the long trip north. The cranes have plenty of company while they’re in the area. Great egrets, tundra swans, belted kingfishers and a wide variety of other birds are also arriving for spring.

Find the best places for bird watching by exploring routes along the Great Washington State Birding Trail. The site features where to see mountain golden eagles, bald eagles, cedar waxwings, dark-eyed juncos, American white pelicans, and more.

A Cascade torrent salamander between rocks in a creek
Michael A. Alcorn - Creative Commons

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. Click on this link to read 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.

bat flying

Report bat observations

Have you seen a bat flying during the day or in freezing weather? These could be signs of a serious disease called white-nose syndrome. Please report your observations online or call 360-902-2515. White-nose syndrome does not pose a threat to humans, pets, or other wildlife. 

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.

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.

person hiking on a trail with mountains all around
Naomi Gross

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.

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.  To find out more about an introduction to native plant gardening go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/living/backyard#native-plants.

Event calendar

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Meet your regional director: Kessina Lee

Kessina Lee, Southwest Region Director

Kessina Lee, the Southwest Regional Director (Region 5), joined WDFW in 2018. In her role as the Director’s representative in the region, Kessina works in close coordination with each program, as well as in collaboration with federal, Tribal, and local partners on implementing the WDFW mission of protecting native fish and wildlife, and providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing opportunities for Washingtonians.

Prior to coming to WDFW, Kessina worked as the statewide aquaculture specialist for the Washington Department of Ecology. Before arriving at Ecology, Kessina was a Sea Grant policy fellow working on ocean and coastal issues with the Oregon Legislature’s Coastal Caucus and for the office of Oregon Governor Kate Brown. She also spent nearly a decade studying marine mammal strandings in the Pacific Northwest, as well as interactions between fish and sea lions on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Kessina holds bachelor's and master’s degrees in biology from Portland State University and has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1989. In her free time, Kessina enjoys gardening, traveling, kayaking, and hiking with her German shorthaired pointer.