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

September fishing tips and news

Coastal salmon fishing

Resident coho salmon caught in Marine Area 10 near Seattle
Chase Gunnell

The focus on salmon fishing has switched to coho, which should remain decent off the southern ports of Ilwaco and Westport (Marine Areas 1 and 2) and are likely benefitting from a decent forecast. WDFW fishery managers have made some adjustments to make sure each ports’ season can last as long as possible into this month.

The Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) hatchery coho salmon fishery is open daily through Sept. 30 or could close once the coho catch quota of 84,000 is achieved. Daily limit is two and coho minimum size is 16”. Other salmon species no minimum size. Release Chinook and wild coho. A section of Marine Area 1 has reopened from Columbia River north to the tip of Leadbetter Point. The Columbia River Control Zone is closed to fishing for salmon, except open to fishing from the north jetty when adjacent waters north of the Control Zone are open to fishing for salmon or the Buoy 10 fishery is open to fishing from salmon.

Westport (Marine Area 2) is open daily for all coho only through Sept. 30 with an updated coho quota of 14,000 and could close sooner if the quota is achieved. The daily limit is two and coho minimum size is 16”. Other salmon species no minimum size. Release Chinook. The Grays Harbor Control Zone is closed.

Anglers can be notified of any in-season rules changes as they are announced by signing up for WDFW regulation updates. More summer fishing can be found on the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/north-falcon/summaries.

Additional information about this year's sport salmon fisheries and the North of Falcon process can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/nof. Before going to your favorite fishing location, be sure to check for emergency rule changes that could arise prior to and during the season.

Trolling for salmon

Fall salmon in Columbia River and tributaries

The fishing season at the Lower Columbia River mouth from Buoy 10 upstream to West Puget Island is now open for hatchery coho retention only. The Columbia mainstem upstream of Bonneville Dam to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco, is open for salmon and hatchery steelhead retention closes downstream of The Dalles Dam.

Anglers should check the WDFW permanent rules pamphlet and the emergency rules webpage when planning to fish on the Columbia River mainstem and its tributaries.

Releasing salmon properly

Selective fisheries for hatchery-produced salmon and catch-and-release fisheries are increasingly important to 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, sublegal (undersized in inner-Puget Sound region) and out-of-season fish to improve their survival. Watch our YouTube video or read our guide to releasing salmon properly.

Trout fishing

A boy holds a trout
Josh Austin

As water temperatures cool down from the summer heat, trout will become more active. In Lewis County, try Mineral Lake for a mix of rainbow (4,800 planted in mid-August) and brown trout (357 planted in mid-August), and Carlisle Lake for rainbow trout.

Mayfield Lake in Lewis County received 4,978 rainbow trout in August and will provide decent fishing through the month. Kokanee will be fair to good in both Yale and Merwin Reservoirs. Coho are very good in Riffe. Anglers can refer to the Weekly Trout Plant Reports for stocking updates.

Many year-round lakes are still worthwhile ventures for trout fishing. They include Battle Ground Lake, Ft. Borst Park Pond, South Lewis County Park Pond, and Sacajawea Lake.

High mountain trout lakes

Most high elevation or alpine trout lakes are accessible this month for hikers packing their fishing rods while some may take a while to access due to the longer than expected colder weather this past spring. 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 our high lakes page.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 2022 Trout Derby

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. Anglers can track how many tags have been turned in to date, and it also indicates how many tags remain in each lake. 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.

Warmwater fish and walleye

Lake Merwin
WDFW

Warmwater fishing should remain decent this month. Tiger muskies can be found in both Merwin Reservoir and Mayfield Lake. Target largemouth bass at Rowland Lake in Klickitat County and Silver Lake in Cowlitz County. Smallmouth bass and bluegill can be found in Riffe Lake.

Crappie fishing will be good at Silver Lake in Cowlitz County. Yellow perch have been good in Lacamas Lake.Bluegill are active at Kress Lake in Cowlitz County and Lacamas Lake in Clark County. In the Columbia River, the Dalles Pool has been good for walleye and channel catfish as well above and below John Day Dam.

White sturgeon

White sturgeon being held up by fisherman on a boat
AJ Porter

The legal-size white surgeon population is large enough to allow for a limited retention fishery within the Lower Columbia River on Sept. 10, 14 and 17 only from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam and includes the Cowlitz River.

Daily limit is one white sturgeon with an annual limit of two fish. White sturgeon from 44-inches minimum to 50-inches maximum fork length may be retained. (Fork length is measured in a straight line from the tip of the nose to the fork in the caudal fin (tail) with the fish laying on its side on a flat surface, with the tape measure/ruler positioned flat under the fish).

Catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon is allowed on all non-retention days. Catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon is also 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.

Halibut fishing

halibut fishing
Joey Pyburn

Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) and Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2) areas will open to all-depth halibut fishing on Sept. 3-4 and Sept. 23. The halibut season at Neah Bay and La Push (Marine Areas 3 and 4) is open Thursday through Saturday only and starting on Sept. 6, the Neah Bay and La Push will be open seven days per week. Puget Sound (Marine Areas 5 to 10) will reopen daily through Sept. 30 or when the quota is taken.

WDFW will host a virtual public meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., on Oct. 4 to discuss season structure and proposed dates for the 2023 sport halibut season. For more details to participate in the webinar, visit wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut.

The meeting will be recorded and posted online so people can also watch the meetings afterwards at their convenience. For more information on the halibut season-setting process visit PFMC's website. Information on recreational halibut regulations and seasons is available online. Anglers must record their catch on a WDFW halibut catch record card.

Rivers, streams, and beaver pond fishing

Anglers can head to many of Washington’s statewide rivers, streams and beaver ponds open now 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. It is likely some rivers won’t be fishable until after spring snow-runoff is complete.

While most trout stocked in southwest Washington end up in lakes, a handful of stream reaches are also stocked. These include Canyon Creek, the Little White Salmon River above Willard, and Rainey Creek; Canyon Creek was recently planted for the first time in several years, following a wash-out that prevented access. Be sure to check for special regulations by clicking here.

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, 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.

Boating safety

Boat on lake
Andy Walgamott

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.

September hunting tips and news

Hunting

Two hunters carry guns through a field.
Mark Peaslee

September marks the start of this year's hunting seasons for elk, deer, upland game birds and waterfowl. Dates and regulations are listed in the Big Game and Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets.

Hunters planning their seasons throughout Washington may also want to check the 2022 Hunting Prospects reports, which outline hunting opportunities in specific game management districts.

“Our district wildlife biologists write these popular reports to give an in-depth look at what field conditions should look like this year,” said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager. “These prospects have a lot of useful information that can help brand new and experienced hunters 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.

Birds and special hunts: Forest grouse hunting season will once again run from Sept. 15 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.

Hunting throughout the region begins Sept. 1 for mourning dove, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare, raccoon, fox, and bobcat. A special youth-only hunt for ducks and coot in Western Washington is Sept. 24. A pheasant hunt for youth-only is Sept. 17-18, and for hunters 65+ or with disabilities on Sept. 19-23. Canada goose hunts in GMA Areas 1 and 3 are Sept. 3-8 and in Area 2 on Sept. 3-11, and a special youth-only hunt in all three areas is Sept. 24.

Deer: Archery-only hunts for black-tailed deer begin Sept. 1-18 in some southwest Washington GMUs while others run Sept. 1-23. Hunters who take the time to scout and learn the area will increase their likelihood of success. Plan and familiarize yourself with local conditions in advance of going on a hunt. Several District 10 GMUs are among the best in the state for black-tailed deer harvest.

Elk: The season’s first archery elk hunt, set for Sept. 10-22, will include some of the most productive GMUs in the region.

Sign up for in-person hunter education

Hunter education instructor demonstrating safety procedures at shooting range with boy
WDFW staff

The minimum age to take the all-online hunter education course has increased to 18. In 2020, we implemented an all-online hunter education course for students at least 9 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.

September wildlife viewing and recreation

Wildlife viewing

Close up of an upland sandpiper perched on a fencepost.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region

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.

Duck stamp competition: The 2022 Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition will be held virtually on Sept. 23-24. The judging will now only be viewable online. Low resolution scans of the artwork, a contest guidebook and links to Day 1 and Day 2 of the Contest judging will be posted as soon as they are available.

Since 1934, the sale of federal duck stamps has provided critical revenue to support federal wildlife refuges throughout the nation. Most of the proceeds from those sales goes directly to acquire and protect wetland habitat.

Coastal cleanup: The Ocean Conservancy hosts its International Coastal Cleanup this month. Volunteers have the chance to spot some marine mammals and shorebirds while helping to pick up trash on Washington's beaches. The Washington CoastSavers, an alliance of partners and volunteers dedicated to keeping the state’s beaches clean of marine debris through coordinated beach cleanups, education, and prevention, is hosting an event on Sept. 17. Sign up on the Washington CoastSavers webpage or go to the conservancy's webpage.

Wildflower viewing: Late summer and early fall can be good time for wildflower viewing especially along mountains and hillsides. As wildflowers have come into full bloom that means butterflies and bees are enjoying them too. Right now, is one of the better months to see the greatest variety of butterflies.

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.

Help prevent wildfires

Flames in a natural area

With wildfire season already underway, it is important for outdoor recreationists to do their part to prevent wildfires. Restrictions can change at any time so before heading out be sure to check on the area you intend to visit. Fireworks are prohibited year-round on all WDFW-managed wildlife and water access areas. In addition to complying with the year-round fireworks ban, recreationists in Western Washington can help prevent fires by following these practices:

  • Cook camp meals on small camp stoves and light your camp with battery-operated lanterns.
  • If you must have a campfire, keep it small, in the open away from trees, preferably within a metal or stone ring, and put it out cold with water rather than letting it slowly die out through the night.
  • Don’t toss cigarettes or other smoking materials outside.
  • Keep motor vehicles off vegetation and don’t travel off-road.
  • Avoid using chainsaws or other equipment that can emit sparks.

For more information about fires and fire prevention on public lands, visit the Washington Department of Natural Resources' website or the U.S. Forest Service website.

Negative wildlife interactions

A fawn in tall grass

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. View this link to help us keep wildlife wild by following more tips.

Don’t feed bears. Often people leave food out for bears so they can take pictures of them or show them to visiting friends. Over 90 percent of human-bear conflicts result from bears being conditioned to associate food with humans. A wild bear can become permanently food-conditioned after only one handout experience. The unintended reality is that these bears will likely die, being killed by someone protecting their property, or by a wildlife manager having to remove a potentially dangerous bear.

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”

Remember while bird watching in late summer and 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 webpage.

Huckleberries

Huckleberries are starting to come on strong in many areas, after being a little bit delayed by the cool start to the summer. There are lots of public great spots on public lands. Pack a lunch and make a day of it but be aware that you may have competition so take your bear spray.

Wild Washington Live!

Getting ready for school again? Check out our Wild Washington lesson plans and family educational resources that help your learners engage with Washington’s fish, wildlife, and ecosystems. Lesson plans and educational resources include both classroom and outdoor learning components. Learn more at Wild Washington Lesson Plans.

Backyard wildlife activities

Two Rufous hummingbirds feeding from a large circular hummingbird feeder in a backyard garden
Russell Link

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.

Watch out for invasive Asian giant hornets: These new pests were discovered near Bellingham, and researchers are still tracking how widely the hornet has spread. Asian giant hornets are the world’s largest hornet and attack most insects but prefer honeybees and can kill entire hives. They also pose a human threat as their venom is more toxic than any native bee or wasp. Report any sightings of the Asian giant hornet to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Do not approach these insects as they can sting through normal clothing.

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 folks head outdoors for late-summer and early fall, 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.

September Habitat at Home

Habitat at Home: Biodiversity in our community

Bird watching

North America is home over 350 long-distance migratory birds. As the days get shorter migratory birds start making their way south for the winter, which means we’ll soon begin to see exciting birds in our home habitats.

Keep an eye out for Wilson’s Warblers, who spend summers in Canada and Alaska before migrating into Central America. Males are bright yellow with a distinctive black hat and a sweet song. Help these feathered travelers out by keeping water sources cleaned and filled.

Also, considering turning outdoor lights off during migration season to help birds navigate naturally. Learn more about bird migration and how you can help!

Event calendar

Types of events

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

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.