Discover Southwest Washington

Klickitat river seen through the trees

Staff furloughs 

With Washington’s economy hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is planning one day of agency-wide furloughs each month through November.

While public safety-related needs will remain staffed, most other WDFW services, including customer service, will be unavailable Friday, Oct. 16 and Wednesday, Nov. 25.

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

Director: Kessina Lee

5525 S 11th Street
Ridgefield, WA 98642

Telephone: 360-696-6211

Fax: 360-906-6776

TeamRidgefield@dfw.wa.gov

October fishing tips and news

Columbia River salmon

Coho salmon hooked in the water

With fall Chinook runs coming in above preseason predictions, the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco reopened to Chinook and coho fishing on Sept. 19, and Chinook limits increased Oct. 1.

Steelhead must be released throughout the lower river in October. The fishery is scheduled to remain open through the end of the year, but managers will continue monitoring catches and returns and adjust the season as necessary.

The rules vary depending on the section of river; see the rule change for a breakdown of the rules for different areas and dates.

As always, be sure to check the 2020-21 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for all permanent rules and regulations, and keep an eye on the emergency rules webpage for the latest updates.

Sturgeon

Retention fishing for white sturgeon will be open Saturday, Oct. 3 on the Columbia River from the Wauna Powerline crossing upstream to Bonneville Dam, and the Cowlitz River. White sturgeon from 44-inches minimum to 50-inches maximum fork length may be retained. The daily limit is one legal-size fish, with an annual limit of two fish. Green sturgeon must be released. Be sure to check the 2020-21 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for additional rules and regulations.

Trout

October is a great month to catch trout in southwest Washington.

  • Goose Lake: This mountain lake in Skamania County was stocked in late September with more than 1,000 beautiful coastal cutthroat, averaging nearly 1 pound apiece. Fishing on this lake is best on the water. Anglers should be aware that the lake can drop to low levels and the boat ramp may be out of the water, so boats that can be carried in are the best bet. Anglers should contact the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for COVID restriction and road closure information at 509-395-3402.
  • Swift Reservoir: Also in Skamania County, Swift generally heats up for trout fishing from October through November. Anglers may keep up to 10 adipose-clipped rainbows. The lake can be low at this time of year, and be sure to check for potential wildfire or COVID restrictions before heading out at the Pacificorp website.
  • Mayfield Lake: This reservoir in Lewis County has been stocked with thousands of catchable rainbow trout throughout the summer. The daily limit is 10 adipose-clipped rainbow trout. Minimum size for trout is 8 inches.

Pikeminnow program extended

Northern pikeminnow in a net on a dock
Jim Souders

The Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward fishery, which pays anglers $5-$8 for each qualifying fish, has been extended through Oct. 11 at 11 of the program's check stations, and the rewards have increased.

This program targets large northern pikeminnow, the primary piscine predator of juvenile salmon and steelhead throughout the Columbia and Snake river systems. Tagged pikeminnow are now worth $1,000 each, and each individual qualifying fish worth $10!

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, visit WDFW’s website for weekly updates. For more information on the program and helpful tips on how to catch pikeminnow, visit the program webpage.

Catch a fish, win a prize

The fourth-annual statewide trout fishing derby kicked  runs through Oct. 31. All you need to participate is a valid 2020-21 fishing license! We stocked more than 1,000 tagged fish in lakes around the state. For a list of lakes with prize fish and details on how to claim prizes, visit the derby website

October hunting tips and news

October is prime time for hunting, as various seasons open throughout the state for deer and elk as well as ducks and geese. As always, hunting success will greatly depend on weather conditions and hunter persistence. Hunters should also be aware of potential COVID-related restrictions to access areas, as well as the continued possibility of wildfires and associated closures.

Hunters should make sure to check this year’s rules in the 2020 Big Game Hunting pamphlet or the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet before heading out. WDFW’s Hunting Prospects, past Game Harvest Reports and the HuntRegs mapping tool can all be helpful in determining where to hunt.

Deer

Black-tailed deer in fallen leaves
Stephanie Pelham

The muzzleloader season for black-tailed deer runs through Oct. 4, followed by the highly popular modern firearms hunt Oct. 17-Nov. 1. Several Game Management Units (GMUs) in District 10 are among the best in the state for black-tailed deer harvest. The highest 2019 general-season buck harvests within District 10 occurred in GMUs 550 (Coweeman), 520 (Winston), 530 (Ryderwood), 501 (Lincoln), and 506 (Willapa Hills).

Elk

The early muzzleloader season for elk runs Oct. 3-9, prior to the early season for deer in many of the same areas. See the Big Game pamphlet for details.

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.

Waterfowl

General hunting seasons for ducks, coots and snipe run Oct. 17-25 and resume Oct. 28-Jan. 31. Goose hunting also gets underway Oct. 17, though open dates vary depending on the management area, including special dates for the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Check the Western Washington goose management areas section of the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for a full breakdown of seasons and management areas.

Prior to the heavy rains in November and December, duck and goose hunters generally do best along the Columbia River and other large, permanent bodies of water. Later in the season, high water might disperse birds, and hunters may have more success by targeting flooded farmlands.

Duck and goose hunting typically picks up during the rainy season in fall, when birds from northern Canada and Alaska arrive in the area.

Fall turkey

Fall turkey general season began Sept. 26 in GMUs 568-578, and District 9 wildlife biologist Carly Wickhem reported in late September that she was seeing and hearing turkeys everywhere, and anticipating a strong turkey season in the district. This year’s season runs through Oct. 16. Find additional information and regulations in the rules pamphlet.

Bear and cougar

The fall black bear season continues through Nov. 15. The early cougar-hunting season runs through Dec. 31.

Upland game birds

Hunting seasons for pheasant, quail, bobwhite and forest grouse that got underway in late September continue under rules outlined in the Migratory Waterfowl pamphlet.

Information about pheasant-release sites in southwest Washington is available on WDFW’s website.

Changes to animal sealing requirements

When you harvest a bighorn sheep, bobcat, mountain goat, or river otters this season, you must schedule an inspection for  pinning, sealing, or inspection through regional offices or Olympia headquarters.

 In addition to scheduling your inspection, we ask that you practice physical distancing and wear a face covering to your inspection.

Wildlife viewing close to home

Birds and bluegrass 

Fall migration is in full swing on the Vancouver Lowlands with new arrivals showing up daily. Thousands of Canada geese can now be seen in area wetlands, along with great egrets and the occasional American white pelican. Sandhill cranes also often visit the Lowlands in September and October.

And what better time for the Birdfest & Bluegrass festival, which has moved online this year and runs Oct. 2-3, with a trivia night planned for Friday and additional digital events scheduled for Saturday. See updates and schedules at the festival’s Facebook page.

Bugling elk

October is the time to hear elk bugling in the Pinchot National Forest and other backcountry areas. Bull elk are now at the peak of the rut, calling for mates, creating wallows, and gathering harems of cows. The best way to view wild elk is to find a meadow, clearcut, or other open grassland elk have been using and to wait quietly nearby.

However, be aware of open hunting seasons during this time of year and wear bright orange or pink clothing for your safety. Also, care needs to be taken when around adult male elk during the mating season, particularly in areas where they may be accustomed to people.

Recreate Responsibly

Recreate Responsibly logo

#RecreateResponsibly to protect yourself, others, and the outdoors. Review the guidelines below before heading out on your outdoor adventure!  

  • Know before you go. Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don't go. If it's crowded, have a back up plan (or two). 
  • Explore locally. Limit long-distance travel and make use of local parks, trails, and public spaces. Be mindful of your impact on the communities you visit.
  • Plan ahead. Bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering.
  • Leave no trace. Respect public lands and waters, as well as native and local communities. Take all your garbage with you.
  • Practice physical distancing. Keep your group size small. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
  • Play it safe. Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained. 
  • Build an inclusive outdoors. Be an active part of making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities.

Recreation and habitat projects

Mount St Helens Wildlife Area got a 1,453-acre addition!

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. 

Waterfall with surrounding forest

Event calendar

Types of events

  • Community event
  • Key date
  • Public meeting