Discover Southwest Washington

Klickitat river seen through the trees

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

October fishing tips and news

Columbia River salmon

Fishing on the lower Columbia River generally slows down throughout October, but the river reopened Oct. 1 to Chinook retention from Buoy 10 to Warrior Rock, and remains open for hatchery coho retention throughout the month, so anglers still have some good late-season opportunities to reel in a salmon. 

From Buoy 10 to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line, anglers can keep up to six salmon throughout October and up to three can be adults, of which only one may be a Chinook. All salmon and steelhead other than Chinook and hatchery coho must be released. 

The rules are similar for the stretch of river from Rocky Point/Tongue Point to Warrior Rock, though anglers there can only keep two adults, of which only one can be a Chinook. See the emergency rule for additional details. 

All of the lower river remains closed to steelhead as returns continue at record-low numbers in 2021. 

Rules and regulations vary depending on the section of river; be sure to visit WDFW’s emergency rules webpage for specific regulations for the portion of river where you’re hoping to fish, and consult the 2021-22 Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet for all permanent regulations. 

Fishing the tributaries

Fishing has been fairly average on Columbia River tributaries in southwest Washington, though fishery managers did increase the limit for hatchery coho on the Lewis River in September, and the increased limit continues through October. See the emergency rule change for more information.

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 730 beautiful coastal cutthroat trout. Fishing on this lake is best on the water, but 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 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, so be sure to check the Pacificorp website for potential restrictions before heading out.
  • 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.

Warmwater fish

Although water temperatures are cooling, warmwater fishing is still very active in southwest Washington.

  • Horsethief Lake: This lake closes Oct. 31 and produces some nice size bass and walleye.
  • Lacamas Lake: This lake offers some good late-season opportunities for largemouth bass and yellow perch.
  • Riffe Lake: This lake is a popular one for catching smallmouth bass. Anglers should be sure to check the Tacoma Public Utilities website for information about lake levels and ramp openings/closures.

Northern pikeminnow fishery extended

Northern pikeminnow in a net on a dock
Jim Souders

This year's Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward fishery, which pays anglers $5-$8 for each qualifying fish, has been extended for two additional weeks until Oct. 17.

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 worth $500 each, and in 2019, the top angler earned more than $50,000 – 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, 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 annual trout derby continues through Oct. 31. Specially tagged trout are stocked in more than 100 lakes across Washington with over 1,000 prizes up for grabs valued at more than $38,000. The derby is open to anyone with a valid fishing license; no entrance fee or registration required. Just catch a tagged trout at a participating lake and you win!

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 the rules for the area where they plan to hunt, as well as any possible access restrictions or closures.

Hunters should make sure to check this year’s rules in the 2021 Big Game Hunting pamphlet or the Game Bird and Small Game pamphlet before heading out. WDFW’s Hunting Prospects, past Game Harvest Reports and the Hunt Planner 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. 3, followed by the highly popular modern firearms hunt Oct. 16-31. Several Game Management Units (GMUs) in District 10 are among the best in the state for black-tailed deer harvest. The highest 2020 general-season buck harvests within District 10 occurred in GMUs 550 (Coweeman), 520 (Winston), 530 (Ryderwood), 501 (Lincoln), 505 (Mossyrock) and 506 (Willapa Hills).

Elk

The early muzzleloader season for elk runs Oct. 2-8, prior to the general 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.

Bear and cougar

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

Waterfowl

General hunting seasons for ducks, coots and snipe run Oct. 16-24 and resume Oct. 27-Jan. 30. Goose hunting also gets underway Oct. 16, 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 Game Bird and Small 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. 1 in GMUs 568-578, and this year’s season continues throughout the month. Find additional information and regulations in the rules pamphlet.

Upland game birds

Hunting seasons for pheasant, quail, bobwhite and forest grouse that got underway in late September continue under rules outlined in the Game Bird and Small Game pamphlet

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

Pinning and sealing

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

  • Eastern Region 1 - 509-892-1001
  • North central Region 2 - 509-754-4624
  • South central Region 3 - 509-575-2740
  • North Puget Sound Region 4 - 425-775-1311
  • Southwest Region 5 - 360-696-6211
  • Coastal Region 6 - 360-249-4628
  • Olympia Headquarters – 360-902-2515

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

Wildlife viewing and recreation

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 is returning this year with some in-person events combined with virtual options, including self-guided tours of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, as well as vendors and music in downtown Ridgefield.

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.

#LifeOutdoors photo contest

Share your outdoor adventures for a chance to win outdoor gear!

Woman and young child sit outside tent at campsite in mountains with lake and trees behind them
August winners of #LifeOutdoors photo contest. Jonathan Dykes

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 now through December 2021 for a chance to win a Cabela’s gift card! Each month has a new theme and a new winner with September’s photo themes highlighting ADA-accessible outdoor recreation and/or National Public Lands Day.

Participating is simple:

  1. Visit WDFW’s Life Outdoors webpage from now through December 2021 to find out the outdoor recreation themes for the current month.
  2. Submit pictures of you, your friends, or family participating in the month’s featured outdoor recreation themes on WDFW’s website.
  3. When submitting your photo, select #LifeOutdoorsWA in the category section. In the description area, tell us a little about your experience!
  4. 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.

Habitat at Home

Create an edible garden with native plants

Strawberries, green onions, and salad greens are just a few of the delicious vegetable garden staples that have native alternatives to benefit both you and wildlife!

Growing native edible plants is ideal for those who:

  • Enjoy eating food
  • Like saving money, water, and time
  • Want to contribute to wildlife conservation

Native plants are a great choice for many reasons. First, they are adapted to the natural rainfall, climate, and soil of the area and as a result tend to be very low maintenance. This means you won’t have to spend as much time and money on watering and caring for your garden.

Additionally, these plants have co-evolved with native wildlife species and are best suited for supporting these species. One drawback of planting non-native plants is that they often don’t support insect species during all life stages. Studies have shown that caterpillar and bird abundance and overall biodiversity are significantly higher in urban gardens that are filled with native plants compared to gardens without native plants. By using native plants, you are helping to support a more robust insect population, which is critical to pollination and the support of many other wildlife species such as birds.

Keep in mind that some species will require you to plant more than one for them to reproduce via pollination. Research your plants ahead of time to gain a better understanding of what will work best for you. Most native plants will come back year after year with no need to replant. If you decide to grow a native edible garden this year, show us how you did! Use the hashtag #habitatathome to share your photos with us on social media.

Strawberries

Close up of wild strawberry plant
Peter Pearsall, USFWS

Coastal strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis), woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca), and wild or blue-leaved strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) are three great native alternatives to traditional strawberries. In fact, the coastal strawberry is one of two varieties that were hybridized to create the modern supermarket strawberry. Coastal and wild strawberries are drought tolerant and prefer full sun and well-drained soils. Woodland strawberries do great in semi-shade under trees and shrubs. If you’d like to make full use of the plant, add the young leaves to salads and soups!

Onions

Close up of nodding onion (Allium cernuum)

The nodding onion (Allium cernuum) is a delicious and stunning alternative to green onions. The entire plant is edible (raw or cooked), including the flowers! It’s a drought-tolerant plant often found in prairies and rocky bluffs. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It blooms in early summer, but you can harvest it for food year-round, though it will die back in the winter. The nodding onion is equally as beautiful as it is delicious and can be used ornamentally in your yard.

Lettuce

Close up of miner's lettuce

Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) is an easy-going plant that can be the main ingredient in your salads. It is thin and crunchy and has a mild sweetness to it. Like other lettuce plants, it is shade tolerant and will become bitter in taste if exposed to too much direct sunlight. It’s great eaten raw or cooked like spinach, and the whole plant is edible!

Share your backyard wildlife photos

We want to see what birds and other wildlife visit your habitat. Share your photos or videos with us at wdfw.wa.gov/share and select the category “Wildlife Viewing”. 

Event calendar

Types of events

  • Public meeting
  • Community event
  • Key date

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.