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November 2018
Region 5: Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)
Chinook salmon swimming in shallow water.

Columbia River salmon/steelhead: Most of the mainstem Columbia River is closed to fishing for salmon and steelhead until further notice.

On Sept. 13, low returns of upriver bright (URB) fall chinook salmon prompted an emergency closure of all salmon fishing from the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to Hwy 395 in Pasco. Steelhead fishing has also been closed in those waters since Aug. 27 due to weak runs.

WDFW issued an explanatory statement describing the factors that led to the early closure of this year’s fall chinook fishery in the mainstem Columbia River.

Fishing the tributaries: While fishing is closed for salmon and steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River, a number of area rivers and streams are open for both species. Here are some of the best options for anglers willing to brave November weather to catch some fish:

  • Elochoman River – Steelhead.
  • Cowlitz River (including lower Cowlitz, upper Cowlitz below Forest Rd 1270, and the Cispus River) – Coho and steelhead.
  • Washougal River from the mouth to the bridge at Salmon Falls (including the West Fork) – Coho.
  • Kalama River – Coho.
  • Lewis River (including the North Fork) – Open for chinook, coho, and steelhead until Nov. 13, when the mouth to Johnson Creek closes for salmon retention and the section between Johnson and Colvin creeks closes to all fishing.
  • Toutle River (including South Fork) – Steelhead.
  • Klickitat River – Coho.
  • Coweeman River (Cowlitz Co.) – Steelhead.

On the Wind and White Salmon rivers, the rules for steelhead and night fishing have been restored to those listed in the 2018-19 Sport Fish Rules pamphlet.

In addition, several creeks opened Nov. 1 for salmon and steelhead fishing Nov. 1, including Abernathy, Germany, Mill, and Coal creeks. Also open for steelhead fishing this month are Cedar Creek and Salmon Creek in Clark County, and Rock Creek in Skamania County.

Check the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet and Emergency Fishing Rules for the latest regulations in these waters. 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. 

Sturgeon: Retention fishing is closed in all areas of the Columbia River, but catch-and-release fisheries are open in all areas of the Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam.

Trout: WDFW is stocking six regional lakes for the annual Black Friday fishery, which gets underway the day after Thanksgiving. The stocking schedule is available online for Klineline Pond and Battle Ground Lake in Clark County; Kress Lake in Cowlitz County; South Lewis County Park Pond and Ft. Borst Pond in Lewis County; and Rowland Lake in Klickitat County.

Meanwhile, Yale Lake has been having a great year for kokanee. Merwin Reservoir has been a bit slow, but fishing is picking up. (Anglers can check pool levels here.) Swift Reservoir closes Nov. 30.

Warmwater fish: While the fishery is slowing as winter approaches, anglers are still catching bass and crappie in Rowland Lake along the west shore. Some nice bass are also striking lures in Battle Ground Lake, and Vancouver Lake continues to produce crappie and bluegill.

Tiger muskie are still available in both Merwin Reservoir and Mayfield Lake, and anglers are boating walleye above and below John Day Dam on the Columbia River and near The Dalles Dam. 

Mature buck looking into camera
Mature buck. Photo by Darla Case

Choose your hunt: November is prime time for hunting in southwest Washington, whether for elk, deer, or waterfowl. Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s Hunting Prospects, Game Harvest Reports, and Go Hunt online mapping tool to determine which areas to hunt.

Elk and deer: Hunters with modern firearms will take the field for elk Nov. 3-14, then stalk deer during the late buck hunt Nov.15-18. Records show that approximately one-third of the region’s annual buck harvest occurs during this four-day hunt, when the rut is on and bucks are on the move.

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season hunting opportunities in select game management units (GMUs) in southwest Washington. Archery hunts for deer and elk begin Nov. 21, when muzzleloaders also return to the field to hunt deer.

Deer and elk populations throughout the region are still recovering from the harsh winter of 2016-17, but this past year’s relatively mild winter has improved prospects for the upcoming deer harvest in particular. Elk counts are up by 5 percent in District 10, but the population is still below the objective.

Even so, District 10 (Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties) generally offers some of the best elk hunting in the state. As in previous years, hunters should do well in GMUs 506 (Willapa Hills), 520 (Winston), 530 (Ryderwood) and 550 (Coweeman).

GMU 560 (Lewis River), which includes part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, also offers some fine prospects. Hunters heading out to GMUs 388 (Grayback) and 382 (East Klickitat) should be aware that hunts in those areas require an eastern Washington elk tag.

As most hunters know, hoof disease has been spreading among elk in the St. Helens and Willapa herds in recent years. To help contain the disease, hunters are now required to remove the hooves of any elk they harvest in southwest Washington and leave them on-site. Wildlife managers also ask that hunters report any elk showing signs of the disease.

Bear and cougar: The black bear season ends Nov. 15, but cougar hunting is scheduled to run through next April or until harvest guidelines are met. Bear hunters are urged not to shoot sows with cubs (30-50 pounds), which tend to trail their mothers in fall. For more information on all these hunts, see the Big Game Pamphlet, available on WDFW’s website.

Waterfowl: Local-grown mallards are providing early-season hunting opportunities for waterfowl hunters, but more birds are on the way. Reinforcements are expected this month, as northern ducks start pushing down from British Columbia and Alaska in large numbers.

Northern geese are also expected to arrive in strong numbers, since population levels – particularly of white-fronted geese – are well above the 10-year average. For that reason, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved new daily bag limits last year that allow bird hunters to take up to four Canada geese, six white geese, and 10 white-fronted geese a day.

Goose hunting resumes Nov. 3 after a five-day hiatus in Goose Management Area 3 (Lewis and Skamania counties) and resumes Nov. 24 on a Saturday-Sunday-Wednesday schedule in Goose Management Area 2 (Cowlitz, Clark and Wahkiakum counties).

Hunters must possess a special hunting authorization to hunt in Area 2 at this time of year, and should be aware that Dusky Canada geese are off-limits to hunting. (See page 21 of the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet for more information.)

Upland game: Seasons remain open as listed in the pamphlet for forest grouse, pheasant, quail, northern bobwhite, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares. Information about pheasant-release sites in southwest Washington is available in the Western Washington Pheasant Release Program brochure.
Geese in flight

Birds on the wing: Migrating waterfowl are building toward peak levels in southwest Washington, providing prime viewing opportunities for people throughout the region. Swans, geese, ducks and other birds are on display throughout the Vancouver Lowlands and other areas of southwest Washington.

Birding in hunter orange: With hunting seasons under way in many parts of the region, some birders have called WDFW to ask whether they should wear hunter-orange clothing while in the field. “It's not a legal requirement for bird watchers,” said Bill Tweit, a WDFW policy analyst and avid birder. “But it only makes sense to make every effort to let hunters know where you are when you’re sharing the same area.”

Christmas Bird Count: Birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 119th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2018, through Jan. 5, 2019. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science.

Free admission: Washington State Parks is offering free admission to the parks on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, when day-use visitors will not need a Discover Pass. Entrance fees also will be waived on that day for visitors to Mount Rainier National Park, where people can also visit for free that day.

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