Columbia River salmon/steelhead: Much of the mainstem Columbia River remains closed to fishing for salmon and steelhead until further notice.
Portions of the river reopened for hatchery coho beginning Oct. 18, but closures resume Nov. 1 in the Bonneville Pool from Bonneville Dam to the Dalles Dam. The Dalles Dam to the Highway 395 Bridge also remains closed.
The waters below Bonneville remain open, and anglers on the stretch of river from Rocky Point/Tongue Point Line to Bonneville Dam can keep six fish with a minimum size of 12 inches, of which two can be adult hatchery coho, or one adult hatchery coho and one hatchery steelhead. All other salmon must be released.
Fishing the tributaries: A number of Columbia River tributaries remain open for those anglers willing to brave the brisk November weather. Check the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet and emergency fishing rules for the latest regulations in specific areas of these waters. The daily limit for steelhead on most tributaries is two or three hatchery fish – plus the salmon limit listed for individual rivers in the pamphlet or emergency rule. Only hatchery-reared steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.
Elochoman – Open for hatchery steelhead.
Cowlitz (including lower Cowlitz, upper Cowlitz below Forest Rd 1270) – Open for hatchery coho and steelhead.
Cispus – Open for hatchery Chinook, coho, and steelhead.
Coweeman River (Cowlitz Co.) – Hatchery Chinook, coho, and steelhead.
Sturgeon: Retention fishing is closed in all areas of the Columbia River, but catch-and-release fisheries are open in all areas of the Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam.
Trout: WDFW is stocking six regional lakes for the annual Black Friday fishery, which gets underway the day after Thanksgiving. The stocking schedule will be available online for Klineline Pond and Battle Ground Lake in Clark County; Kress Lake in Cowlitz County; South Lewis County Park Pond and Ft. Borst Pond in Lewis County; and Rowland Lake in Klickitat County.
Trout fishing has also started picking up in Rowland Lake, Battle Ground Lake, Mayfield Lake and Lake Sacajawea.
Kokanee fishing is good in both Yale and Merwin Reservoirs.
Warmwater: Crappie and perch are being caught in Silver Lake. Bluegill are being caught in South Lewis County Park Pond and Kress Lake, and there are still some tiger musky in Merwin Reservoir (in and around Speelyai Bay).
Choose your hunt: November is prime time for hunting in southwest Washington, whether for elk, deer, or waterfowl. Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s Hunting Prospects, Game Harvest Reports, and Hunt Planner Webmap online mapping tool to determine which areas to hunt.
Elk and deer: Hunters with modern firearms will take the field for elk Nov. 2-13, then stalk deer during the late buck hunt Nov.14-17. Records show that approximately one-third of the region’s annual buck harvest occurs during this four-day hunt, when the rut is on and bucks are on the move.
Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season hunting opportunities in select game management units (GMUs) in southwest Washington. Archery hunts for deer and elk begin Nov. 27, when muzzleloaders also return to the field.
Deer and elk populations throughout the region have not fully recovered from the harsh winter of 2016-17, even though the winters of 2017-18 and 2018-19 were relatively mild. Hunters should expect a generally less productive elk hunting season during the 2019 hunt, and WDFW has reduced antlerless hunting opportunity accordingly.
Even so, District 10 (Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties) generally offers some of the best elk hunting in the state. The highest general season harvests in 2018 occurred in GMUs 506 (Willapa Hills), 530 (Ryderwood), 520 (Winston), and 550 (Coweeman).
GMU 560 (Lewis River), which includes part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, also offers some fine prospects. Hunters heading out to GMUs 388 (Grayback) and 382 (East Klickitat) should be aware that hunts in those areas require an eastern Washington elk tag.
As most hunters know, hoof disease has spread rapidly among elk in southwest Washington in recent years. To help contain the disease, hunters are required to leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site. Hunters who see elk with deformed hooves are encouraged to report their observations to WDFW.
Bear and cougar: The black bear season ends Nov. 15, but cougar hunting is scheduled to run through next April or until harvest guidelines are met. Bear hunters are urged not to shoot sows with cubs (30-50 pounds), which tend to trail their mothers in fall. For more information on all these hunts, see the Big Game Pamphlet.
Waterfowl: Mallards are providing early-season hunting opportunities for waterfowl hunters, but more birds are on the way, as northern ducks push down in large numbers from Canada and Alaska.
Northern geese are also expected to arrive in strong numbers. Goose hunting resumes Nov. 2 after a brief hiatus in Goose Management Area 3 (Lewis and Skamania counties) and resumes Nov. 23 on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays in Goose Management Area 2 (Cowlitz, Clark and Wahkiakum counties).
Hunters must possess a special hunting authorization to hunt in Area 2 at this time of year, and should be aware that Dusky Canada geese are off-limits to hunting. (See page 21 of the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet for more information.)
Upland game: Seasons remain open as listed in the pamphlet for forest grouse, pheasant, quail, northern bobwhite, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares. Information about pheasant-release sites in southwest Washington is available in the Western Washington Pheasant Release Program brochure.
Birds on the wing: Migrating waterfowl are building toward peak levels in southwest Washington, providing prime viewing opportunities for people throughout the region. Swans, geese, ducks and other birds are on display throughout the Vancouver Lowlands and other areas of southwest Washington.
Christmas Bird Count: Birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 120th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2019, through Jan. 5, 2020. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers to count and categorize the birds they see for science.
Free admission: Washington State Parks is offering free admission to the parks on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, and Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving, when day-use visitors will not need a Discover Pass. Entrance fees also will be waived on Nov. 11 for visitors to Mount Rainier National Park, where people can also visit for free that day.
Mount St Helens Wildlife Area gets a 1,453-acre addition!
This summer, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) transferred 1,453 acres of land to create a new unit of the Mount St Helens Wildlife Area. This partnership exemplifies the missions of RMEF and WDFW to protect habitat for elk and other wildlife, while also securing public access for hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists.
The new Merrill Lake Unit features a combination of wildlife, unusual geology, spectacular waterfalls, and dense forest, making it an ideal destination for an outdoor adventurer. A stunning waterfall on the Kalama River is a popular site for hikers. The unit includes old-growth forest, located primarily on an ancient lava flow—tree casts can be found in the lava flow—and also has a large stand of lodgepole pine, which is a very unique feature.
Kessina Lee, the Southwest Regional Director (Region 5), joined WDFW in 2018. As the policy lead and Director’s representative in the region, Kessina works in close coordination with each department program, as well as 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 an aquaculture specialist for the Washington Department of Ecology. Before arriving at Ecology, Kessina was a Sea Grant policy fellow engaged in 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 a master’s degree in biology from Portland State University and has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1989. In her free time, Kessina enjoys traveling, hiking, kayaking, and her German shorthaired pointer.