Discover Southwest Washington

View from a height of the Columbia River with green hills and forested banks

Southwest - Region 5

Customer service staff in the Ridgefield Regional Office are available for walk-in service 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday excluding legal holidays.

The Cowlitz Wildlife Area field office in Morton is open to the public Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., excluding legal holidays. This office now sells licenses and Discover Passes, and supports pelt sealing.

Counties served
Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania, Wahkiakum
Office hours
Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. excluding legal holidays

5525 S 11th Street
Ridgefield, WA 98642
United States

Rian Sallee

Fishing tips and news

New to fishing in Washington? Check out our Fish Washington blog post for a guide on how to get started.

2023-24 Sport Fishing Rules 

The 2023-24 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet is available online and at hundreds of license dealers around the state. The updated rules can help anglers make decisions about how to spend their time on the water. The 2024-2025 sport fishing rules and pamphlet are expected in June, and go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Current fishing regulations and emergency Fishing Rule Changes are also available online at

Boy holding fish with dog on dock
Photo by Josue Estrada

Purchase your 2024 fishing license

Now that spring has arrived, Washingtonians will need to purchase 2024-2025 recreational hunting and fishing licenses effective April 1. Licenses can be purchased from WDFW’s licensing website, and from hundreds of license vendors around the state.

Trout and kokanee fishing in lakes and ponds

While most lakes in southwest Washington are year-round, the lowland lakes trout fishing season opened April 27. Despite cold and wet weather throughout the state, many anglers had a productive opening weekend, with fishing expected to heat up in the coming weeks.

For a recap of the lowland lakes trout opener, read our latest blog post.

WDFW hatchery personnel have been busy planting lakes with catchable trout this spring. Lakes stocked with rainbow trout in recent weeks include:

The 2024 expected plant for Region 5 is 472,251 catchable trout; 93,000 put-and-grow; 13,320 jumbo; and 100,000 fry/fingerling. Planted trout will average 10 to 12 inches with some measuring 14- to 18-inches. For the full breakdown of recent and future statewide plants, please visit the trout stocking webpage.

Lowland lakes in the area that should produce in May include Horsethief, Spearfish, and Rowland lakes in Klickitat County, and Carlisle and Mineral lakes in Lewis County. Anglers should be aware that Swift Reservoir in Skamania County does not open until May 25.

Lake Merwin and Yale Reservoir are producing kokanee at various depths, though anglers are advised to check the wind forecast before hitting the water.

Logo for the 2024 WDFW trout derby.

Annual statewide trout derby

Coinciding with the lowland lakes trout opener was the kickoff of the Department’s annual statewide trout derby at more than 100 stocked lakes in Washington state. Over 100 participating businesses are offering more than 800 prizes valued at over $42,000.

“The trout derby is a very popular activity for Washington anglers of all ages and backgrounds,” said Steve Caromile, inland fish program manager with WDFW. “The hard work of fish and hatchery staff along with the generosity of our vendors has made the trout derby something anglers look forward to each year.”

Several lakes in southwest Washington are stocked with derby fish including:

The derby is open to anyone with a valid 2024 fishing license. There is no entrance fee or registration required. Simply catch a tagged trout anytime between April 27 and Oct. 31 and you win! Plus, children aged 14 and under fish for free.

For more information about this year’s trout derby, please visit the trout derby webpage.

Fishing the tributaries

Spring Chinook fishing in the Kalama and Cowlitz rivers will be open through July 31, with the Klickitat River open to salmon fishing through May 22. Wind River and Drano Lake remains open to salmon fishing. The Lewis River closed to salmon fishing after April 30, but remains open to hatchery steelhead retention year-round.

Based on preseason forecasts, daily limits were reduced to one adult salmon in Drano Lake, as well as the Wind, Kalama, Klickitat, and Cowlitz rivers. Adult salmon must be both adipose and ventral clipped for retention in the lower Cowlitz River.

Learn about changes to Lewis River steelhead production in a recent blog post.

For recent catch reports, see our Southwest Washington fishing reports webpage.

Anglers should review the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for the water they plan to fish, as well as check the emergency rule changes before heading out. Regulations may be modified in-season as returns materialize.

Anglers fishing for steelhead on the Lewis River.
Photo by WDFW

Lower Columbia River salmon and steelhead

With the fishery expected to have already met its allowable catch, recreational spring Chinook and steelhead fishing above Bonneville Dam closed April 30.

While the fishery was originally scheduled to run through May 2, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon determined that catches of upriver spring Chinook have already been met for the Columbia River section that runs from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Oregon/Washington border.

Learn more about managing Columbia River salmon in our latest blog post.

Spring Chinook and steelhead fishing below Bonneville Dam closed April 11. Washington and Oregon took joint state action to extend the fishery multiple times, offering six additional fishing days.

Fishery managers will monitor the fisheries, dam counts, and hatchery returns in-season and adjust as necessary. The run-size update typically occurs in mid-May.

Steelhead plants in area lakes

In addition to rainbow trout, several southwest Washington lakes were stocked with steelhead in recent months, with plans to plant more. Over 600 steelhead have been stocked in southwest region lakes including:

Planted fish will have a yellow tag along their dorsal fin with a phone number for WDFW staff, who will track the program’s success. Anglers should note that tagged steelhead are not part of WDFW’s annual trout derby, so there is no prize for catching them.

Rainbow trout
Photo by Jon Tienhaara

Trout fishing in rivers and streams

While several southwest Washington rivers, including the Lewis, Kalama, and Cowlitz rivers, are currently open to trout fishing, the Saturday before Memorial Day is when many rivers, streams, and beaver ponds typically open for trout and gamefish under the annual Statewide Freshwater Rules.

Be sure to check the Fish Washington mobile app or online regulations for any emergency fishing rule changes in effect to protect wild salmon, steelhead, and rainbow and cutthroat trout.

Warmwater fish

Crappie fishing is holding its own at Silver Lake in Cowlitz County. Yellow perch are being encountered at many southwest region lakes including Lacamas Lake in Clark County. Rowland Lake in Klickitat County has been a good option for targeting bluegill and pumpkinseed. Smallmouth bass anglers have had success in Riffe Lake in Lewis County, with Kress Lake in Cowlitz County producing largemouth bass bites. Those in pursuit of tiger muskie are finding action at Mayfield Lake in Lewis County.

Now is the time to target walleye in the Columbia River as the post-spawn bite is on in the Dalles Pool, as well as above and below John Day Dam. Walleye anglers should note that designated areas of the Columbia River (below several dams) are closed to fishing with sturgeon spawning sanctuaries in effect. See sturgeon section below for more information.

Northern pikeminnow angler with his catch
Photo by WDFW

Get paid to fish

The 2024 Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward fishery, which pays anglers $6 to $10 for each qualifying fish, and up to $500 for a tagged fish, opens May 1 and runs through Sept. 30. Funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, this program contributes to conservation by harvesting a portion of the largest pikeminnow preying on threatened salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia and Snake River basins. In 2023, the top angler earned over $100,000—simply from fishing! Visit for more information, including registration, rules, and regulations, then watch the webinar on YouTube to get started.

The shad are coming

Record shad returns over the past decade have turned the Columbia River into one of the most consistent and easily accessible sport fisheries in the region. In 2023, over four million American shad migrated through the Columbia River system. With a similar run expected in 2024, anglers will be tracking shad counts in late May. Once daily counts at the Bonneville Dam fish ladder hit 20,000-plus shad, it’s time to go fishing. For more information, visit the American shad webpage or read our blog from last year. 

Sturgeon spawning sanctuaries in effect

From May 1 through Aug. 31, sturgeon fishing will be closed in several designated areas of the Columbia River with spawning sanctuaries in effect. Areas closed to sturgeon fishing include below Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day, and McNary dams. A spawning sanctuary is needed as these areas are prime spawning habitat and handling sturgeon during this period could adversely impact their spawning success.

Sturgeon fishing in the Columbia River remains open for catch and release fishing only in some non-sanctuary sections. Please check permanent and emergency rules before heading out.

Fish Washington mobile app

Fish Washington app receives major upgrades

WDFW launched an upgraded version of the Fish Washington mobile application on April 9, now available to download on both Apple iOS and Android devices. The new version is designed to run more smoothly while using less data and device memory.

Developers completely rewrote the app’s code, which now features a single code base for both iOS and Android platforms. This means a smaller app size, less frequent updates, and fewer bugs. Other improvements include:

  • Location-enabled United States Geological Service (USGS) river gauges.
  • More consistent emergency regulation delivery.
  • Map upgrades.

The new version will show the full water body name and description on emergency regulation cards. With a data connection, the app also includes National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) tidal predictions for marine waters and portions of the Columbia River, as well as river gauges from multiple data providers. Users can ask questions, make suggestions, or report issues at Learn more in our news release.

Boating safety

With freshwater fishing season openers in March and April, the Washington State Park 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.

Hunting tips and news

For an overview of hunting in Washington and how to get started, visit our Hunt Washington blog post.

2023-24 Hunting Regulations 

The 2023-24 Game Bird and Small Game Hunting Regulations and Big Game Hunting Regulations pamphlets are available online and at hundreds of license dealers around the state. The updated rules can help hunters make decisions about how to spend their time in the field. 2024-25 hunting pamphlets will be available soon.

Current hunting regulations are also available online at

Spring turkey.
Photo by Tanner Baumgartner

Latest big game hunting regulations and special hunt applications now available

WDFW has released the latest big game hunting season and regulation information, including a decision from the WDFW director about 2024-2026 hunting season rule change proposals. The Department also invites hunters to submit their 2024 special hunt applications by May 15. For more information, refer to our news release.

Wild turkey hunting

Washington’s statewide general turkey season continues through May 31. Find all you need to know about this year’s opportunity in the regulations pamphlet.

In the Southwest region, Klickitat County is the most popular area to find and hunt wild turkey. WDFW provides public hunting opportunity on both Wildlife Area lands and private lands enrolled in the Private Lands Access Program. For more details including a list of available properties to hunt, visit the Private Lands Hunting Access webpage.

Sign up for in-person hunter education

Hunter education is a mandatory program designed to promote knowledge and skills to continue our proud hunting tradition. WDFW offers two types of hunter education courses that teach firearms and outdoor safety, wildlife management, and hunter responsibility. All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 must show proof of hunter education course completion before purchasing their first Washington hunting license. For more information, visit the Hunter Education web page.

Morton office opens to the public

WDFW is pleased to announce that our office in the City of Morton is now open to the public. Office hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., excluding legal holidays. Previously, the office was only open by appointment. The office will be able to assist with fishing and hunting license sales, Discover Pass sales, local access information, and pelt sealing. Learn more in our recent news release.

Head to for info on hunting, angling, and more

WDFW has rolled out a promotional website for all things hunting, angling, foraging, recreating, and more. At, you’ll find informative how-to articles on the season’s major fishing and hunting opportunities, as well as a portal to online license sales and a regular update on WDFW’s latest Life Outdoors articles.

Each quarter, new fishing and hunting highlights are posted to help you get ready and take part in Washington’s current and upcoming opportunities. Dedicated to current agency promotions, outdoor recreation information, and educational content, preps you to meet with success in the field and on the water.

Large bull Roosevelt elk standing in a green field
Photo by Eric Koltes

Hoof disease in elk 

As many hunters know, Treponeme-Associated Hoof Disease (TAHD) has spread among elk in Western Washington in recent years. While elk are susceptible to many conditions that cause limping or hoof deformities, the prevalence and severity of this new affliction – now known as treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD) – suggests something different.

In 2021, WDFW implemented an incentive-based pilot program to encourage Western Washington (400, 500, 600 series GMUs) hunters to harvest limping elk, potentially reducing prevalence of the disease over time. General season or permit hunters can choose to participate in the program by submitting elk hooves at one of the many collection sites in western Washington. 

See the WDFW website for the locations of collection sites. Hunters that submit hooves with signs of TAHD (for example, abnormal hooves) will be automatically entered into a drawing for a special incentive permit for the following license year. Multiple bull permits in western Washington with season dates of Sept. 1 – Dec. 31 will be awarded. Additionally, all participants will receive a custom, waterproof license holder. 

What hunters can do to help: 

  • Harvest a limping elk from any 400, 500, 600 series GMUs.
  • Turn in your elk hooves along with complete registration forms at one of several collection sites in western Washington. 
  • Report elk: Hunters can help WDFW track TAHD by reporting observations of both affected and unaffected elk on the department’s online reporting form. 
  • Clean shoes and tires: Anyone who hikes or drives off-road in a known affected area can help minimize the risk of spreading the disease to new areas by removing all mud from their shoes and tires before leaving the area. 

Wildlife viewing and recreation

Searching for places to watch wildlife or recreate on State Wildlife Areas or WDFW Water Access Areas? Visit our Places to Go webpageWildlife Area map or Water Access Area webpage for ideas.

Or visit our wildlife viewing webpage for more information and tips on wildlife watching!

Deer fawn in green vegetation.
Photo by Don Ashmore

Leave wild babies wild

April is a busy month for the birth of baby animals. If you find 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. Read our blog to learn about when not to rescue wildlife and what to do if you encounter certain species.

For wildlife that do require care, WDFW relies on permitted rehabilitators. Rehabilitators are trained and highly skilled in providing the unique attention needed for injured or orphaned wildlife, and care deeply for the animals entrusted to them.

Visit our website to learn more about Washington’s wildlife rehabilitators and find one near you. Remember to thank the rehabilitators in your region for the important work they do on behalf of our state’s wildlife!

Practice bear awareness this spring

Black bears are common throughout Washington, including suburban areas. Both when preparing for hibernation and awakening from it, they look for high-calorie foods that are easy to obtain. These may include garbage, bird feeders (both seed and liquid), fruit trees, and pet food.

As human populations encroach on bear habitat, people and bears have greater chances of encountering each other. Food sources provided by humans, whether intentionally or not, can attract bears. Removing these attractants is the best way to encourage bears to move along and focus on natural food sources.

Ask your local waste management company if bear-resistant containers are available or if individually purchased bear-resistant containers are compatible with the company’s equipment. Secure your garbage cans, such as in a shed or garage, and put them out the morning of pickup — not the night before. To help reduce odors, freeze meat and fish waste before disposing of it and spray garbage cans with disinfectants.

More information on living with bears is available on our website and our blog.

Sandhill cranes

As spring approaches, sandhill cranes are making their way to the Vancouver lowlands for their annual mating ritual. Thousands of these majestic birds, with wingspans of up to seven feet, will flock to key feeding grounds, including the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, before embarking on their journey northward.

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.

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 near ponds, waterways, and greenbelts. Amphibians and reptiles are both important members of aquatic (water) and terrestrial (land) ecosystems, using different habitats throughout the year, and it’s especially noticeable and visible during spring. For more information, visit the amphibian and reptile or species webpages.

Conserving species and habitats

Looking for more info on wildlife conservation and species management around Washington? Check out our Bi-Weekly Wildlife Program reports.

Check out our March/April 2024 Director's Bulletin for more conservation highlights!

Wildlife watching
Photo by WDFW

Wild Washington Youth Education program

Spring is a great time to explore your neighborhood and discover the habitat needs of local wildlife. Did you know that wildlife often utilize entire neighborhoods to access essential resources such as food, water, shelter, and space? To understand how your neighborhood supports local wildlife, we’ve put together a scavenger hunt for you and your family to find and identify different elements of wildlife habitat in your community. The hunt will have you search for elements like trees, shrubs, bird feeders, bird and bat houses, and water sources like streams and ponds. To download and print the scavenger hunt, please click here.

Transform your lawn

Support wildlife, mow less, and conserve water by transforming your lawn! Grassy lawns have replaced healthy wildlife habitat and contribute to water shortages across Washington. Transforming your lawn into a native wildlife meadow creates habitat for pollinators, birds, and bats. Plus, the native plants need much less water than a conventional lawn. Learn how to transform your lawn with these tips.

Submit comments on bald eagles, peregrine falcons

WDFW is seeking public input on its draft periodic status reviews for the bald eagle and peregrine falcon.

Both species have previously been removed from Washington’s list of state endangered species due to population recovery in the state. Based on the latest available information, WDFW biologists recommend that both birds retain their status as successfully recovered.

The public comment periods for the bald eagle and peregrine falcon draft status reviews are open through May 27. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is tentatively scheduled to consider these topics in June. Learn more in our news release.

Join the WDFW team

If you’d enjoy preserving, protecting, and perpetuating the state’s fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities, then check out some of our current job openings or sign up for job alerts. From fishery technicians and environmental planners to data scientists, archaeologists to wildlife biologists, a career with WDFW makes a difference. 

Volunteer opportunity spotlight 

WDFW welcomes volunteers of all abilities who want to contribute to the conservation of fish, wildlife, and habitat. Diverse volunteer opportunities are available, including projects on state wildlife areas and water access areas, habitat restoration projects, Hunter Education instruction, and assisting at outreach events.   

For more information about the volunteer program and upcoming volunteer opportunities, visit the WDFW volunteer webpage.  

Meet your Regional Director: Rian Sallee

Rian Sallee, Region 5 Regional Director
Photo by WDFW

Rian Sallee has worked in the non-profit, private and government sectors on environmental protection and conservation, specializing in water quality policy. She joined WDFW in 2022 from the Washington State Department of Ecology where she led the Vancouver Field Office with a focus on environmental justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Rian is honored to serve WDFW as Region 5 Director. She looks forward to co-creating a culture of belonging at the agency informed by our shared values and the legacy of the exceptional work and dedication of our employees. She is motivated to collaborate internally between regions and across programs, and externally to support our partnerships. Rian enjoys working at the intersection of people, science and policy and is excited to connect with and learn from our employees throughout the state as they work to conserve Washington’s fish, wildlife and the habitats that support them.

Rian serves as Vice-Chair of the Board of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. She is from the Midwest and spent years living and working on Lake Erie which instilled in her a passion for and commitment to natural resource conservation and environmental protection. She holds a Master of Environmental Science degree from Miami University in Ohio.