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: Rian Sallee

5525 S 11th Street
Ridgefield, WA 98642


Telephone: 360-696-6211

Fax: 360-906-6776

December fishing tips and news

Columbia River salmon and steelhead 

Winter steelhead fishing

December looks much the same as November on the Lower Columbia River, as anglers will continue to focus their attention on winter steelhead and late returning coho. Fishing will continue to slow on the mainstem as runs taper off and fish move into the tributaries. 

The lower Columbia is scheduled to remain open for coho salmon fishing until Dec. 31, though the rules vary depending on the section of river. Hatchery coho is open throughout the lower river. Hatchery winter steelhead is also open through Dec. 31 in waters downstream of the Dalles Dam. 

As always, keep an eye on the emergency rule changes page, and be sure to check the permanent rules in the 2023-24 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet before you head out. 

Fishing the tributaries 

Winter steelhead returns will start building in Lower Columbia River tributaries during the month of December, especially the Elochoman, Lewis and Washougal rivers. Reviewing a few years of Sport Catch Reports can give you a good idea of the best times to hit individual rivers. In Southwest Washington, WDFW stocks winter steelhead in the Elochoman, Cowlitz, Washougal, Kalama, Lewis, and Coweeman Rivers, as well as Salmon and Rock Creeks.  

The table below shows southwest Washington rivers with the range of months when fish will be returning, with peak returns generally occurring in the middle of each range.    


Return Strategy  

Expected Fishery Timing   

Elochoman River  


Nov. – Feb.  

Cowlitz River  


Feb. – Apr.  

Kalama River  


Feb. – Apr.  

Lewis River   


Nov. – Feb  

Salmon Creek (Clark Co.)  


Feb. – Apr.  

Washougal River  


Dec. – Feb.  

Rock Creek (Skamania Co.)  


Dec. – Feb.  

Many Columbia River tributaries remain open for salmon and steelhead fishing, and several have seen increased daily limits. These include the Lewis River, Klickitat River, and lower Cowlitz River. Always be sure to check for emergency fishing rule changes for the latest regulations in these waters before heading out.  

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. Be sure to check all permanent rules in the 2023-24 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.  


Lake whitefish

Anglers looking to expand their fishing horizons may want to try the whitefish season on the upper Klickitat River, which runs through the end of February. The Klickitat River is known for producing good numbers of quality fish among anglers who have their whitefishing game dialed in.  


Fall trout fishing

Fishing continues for trout stocked in many lakes statewide in October and November, and there are more to come; keep an eye on the weekly stocking reports for information about other lakes being stocked in December. 

Lakes stocked with 1-pound rainbows in Southwest Washington as part of the Black Friday trout plants in late November continue to provide good opportunity. Stocked lakes include Fort Borst Park Pond and South Lewis County Park Pond in Lewis County, Kress Lake in Cowlitz County, Battle Ground Lake and Klineline Pond in Clark County, and Rowland Lake in Klickitat County. 

Merwin and Yale Reservoirs continue to be good to excellent for Kokanee. 

Warmwater fish 

Abundant crappie can be caught from canals around Silver Lake; anglers are reminded that grass carp can be retained in Silver Lake. 

December hunting tips and news

Ducks and geese 

Photo by Mac Graff

December is the time of year when hunters’ attention turns from deer and elk to ducks and geese, as November’s weather pushes these populations south. 

Goose Management Area 2 (Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties) remains open on select days through Jan. 15, 2024. Hunters are reminded that a special permit is required to hunt in Goose Management Area 2 and that Dusky Canada geese are off-limits to hunting. For more information, see the Game Bird & Small Game pamphlet. Hunters can also learn more at our goose identification testing webpage. Hunters are required to record harvest on a harvest card they get when buying their license. The reporting deadline is March 20, 2024. 

Goose Management Area 3, which includes Skamania County, is open for geese throughout December. 

Upland birds 

Photo of a hunter holding her shotgun and petting her dog with three harvested pheasants.
Photo by Fran Seagren

Pheasant season remains open through Dec. 15 in some areas of Western Washington – be sure to check the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for specifics – and upland bird hunters have through Jan. 15 to hunt forest grouse. Successful forest grouse hunters are asked to submit a wing and tail from each forest grouse harvested; see the webpage for collection barrel locations and additional information. 

Deer and elk 

Archers and muzzleloaders will be in the field for late deer and elk hunts through various dates in December. Rules for those hunts are described in the Big Game Hunting pamphlet

Hunter reporting requirement 

Hunter scans understory in search of elk in snowy setting
Photo by Wiley Volker

Jan. 31 is the deadline for hunters to report their hunting activity for each special permit acquired and each deer, elk, bear, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey tag purchased in 2024. Those who do not meet the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can buy a license next year. 

If you have a small game license, western Washington pheasant license, or migratory bird permit, you can now complete your harvest reports in your online WILD account through WDFW's WILD licensing system

You can submit reports for these licenses from Sept. 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024. You can continue to add additional hunting days, species, locations, and harvests throughout the reporting timeframe as a log. At the end of the reporting timeframe (March 31), all entries will be automatically submitted. 

See the reporting your hunt webpage for additional information. 

Sign up for in-person hunter education 

A volunteer teaching a hunter education course shows a young course participant details of a practice rifle on a table.

Hunter education is a mandatory program designed to promote knowledge and skills to continue our proud hunting tradition. 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. 

December wildlife viewing and recreation

Watchable Wildlife

View of hundreds of snow geese in green farm field and huge flock of snow geese in flight above in the background
Photo by Roy Murdock

Winter is coming! As the snow begins to fly, the snow geese and swans settle in. Thousands of these birds winter in Western Washington having finally landed after their long migration from Alaska and Russia. Looking to watch or photograph these iconic flocks of thousands? We’ve got a blog for that. 


Christmas Bird Count 

Christmas Bird Count

Birders throughout the nation are preparing for the Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14 through Jan. 5, 2024. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. 

Most CBCs are sponsored by local National Audubon Society chapters that welcome newcomers and bird identification novices, so the counts are a great way to learn more about birdwatching. 

Discover Pass 

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for an outdoor enthusiast? Look no further than the Discover Pass, the vehicle-access pass that opens the door to millions of acres of Washington state parks and recreation lands. Purchasers can choose the activation date when buying online or from recreational license vendors

Don’t be a litterbug: Not littering…It’s that simple!

Littering Department of Ecology
Photo by 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.

Negative wildlife interactions

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.

A fawn in tall grass

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.

Life Outdoors

Navarre Peak

The outdoors fits into everyone’s life in unique and personal ways, and we here at WDFW want to foster connections with and appreciation of nature, the wide variety of Washington landscapes, and all forms of outdoor recreation through the Life Outdoors resources. 

We hope to see you in the field and on the water enjoying the Life Outdoors! Visit the WDFW's Life Outdoors blog for more information. 

December Habitat at Home

Gift to humans and wildlife this holiday season! Whether you have a seasoned bird watcher, bat enthusiast, or wildlife-curious beginner in mind, bird and bat houses make great habitat-boosting gifts. Get your craft on with our DIY bird box and bat house instructional guides.   

Wild Washington Youth Education Program

Two people view wildlife at Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival
Photo by Jason Wettstein

You don’t have to have a degree in science to participate in counting birds near you. Families can join Audubon’s 124th annual Christmas Bird Count Dec. 14, 2023- Jan. 5 2024. This early winter bird survey helps contribute valuable data to biologists who monitor bird populations.  

The Christmas Bird Count isn’t only for adults! In our middle school activity, “Counting Birds for Science”, students are introduced to Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, the nation’s first community science project. Community science is a great way to get youth involved in scientific inquiry and hone observation skills. This activity uses technology like Merlin and eBird to help students identify common winter birds and submit data for science. It’s a great activity for winter break and a fun way to connect students to nature and wildlife. 

Habitat at Home

A tree swallow flying up to a bird box
Photo by Jim Cummins

Gift to humans and wildlife this holiday season! Whether you have a seasoned bird watcher, bat enthusiast, or wildlife-curious beginner in mind, bird and bat houses make great habitat-boosting gifts. Get your craft on with our DIY bird box and bat house instructional guides.  

Meet your regional director: Rian Sallee

Rian Sallee, Region 5 Regional Director

Rian Sallee, the Southwest Regional Director (Region 5), joined WDFW in 2023. In her role as the Director’s representative in the region, Rian 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.

Rian has worked in the nonprofit, private and government sectors on environmental protection and conservation, specializing in water quality policy. She joins WDFW 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.