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  More to do Outside!

September 2018
Region 5: Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)
Fisherman on boat with salmon he caught in Drano Lake.
Salmon caught in Drano Lake
By Robert Davidson

Columbia River salmon/steelhead: Starting Sept. 13, fishing for salmon will be closed on the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 upstream to Hwy 395 in Pasco under new rules approved today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.

Deep River in Washington and other tributaries in Oregon (Youngs Bay, Tongue Point/South Channel, Blind Slough and Knappa Slough) are also closed to salmon and steelhead angling.  

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) already prohibited steelhead retention in much of the same area of the Columbia River several weeks ago, and the new emergency rule closes angling for both salmon and steelhead in those waters as well.

Bill Tweit, Columbia River fishery coordinator for WDFW, said the counts of fall chinook at Bonneville Dam are 29 percent below preseason forecasts, and on-going fisheries are approaching the allowable catch limits under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

"We recognize that this closure is difficult for anglers, but we have an obligation to meet our ESA goals so that fisheries can continue in the future," he said.

Tweit said the upriver fall chinook run provides the bulk of the harvest opportunity for fall fisheries, but that returns in recent years has been declining due to unfavorable ocean conditions. The preseason forecast for this year is 47 percent of the 10-year average return of upriver bright fall chinook.

The new emergency fishing rule is posted on WDFW's website at

Fishing the tributaries: Chinook salmon fishing will close Sept. 22 on the lower Cowlitz River and the Washougal River due to low chinook returns. Those fisheries will remain closed until further notice.

Anglers are also reminded that Drano Lake and the Wind River are closed to steelhead retention until further notice. Anglers are advised to check for any additional emergency rules affecting fishing on the tributaries before they head out.

On the Klickitat River, anglers can catch up to three adult chinook and two adult coho -- per day. In addition, up to two adult coho per day may be retained from the Klickitat River and three adult coho from Drano Lake.

Anglers should also be aware that signs marking the area that is closed to fishing around the fish release site at Gust Backstrom Park on the Tilton River have been moved to expand the no-fishing area to 300 feet from 100 feet. This change is designed to give salmon released now and later in the season a better chance to recover under low, warm-water conditions and to help maintain an orderly fishery at the park. Anglers can harvest hatchery salmon outside the posted closed waters.

Sturgeon: A sturgeon retention fishery is set for two Saturdays, Sept. 15 and 22, on the Columbia River from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam and all adjacent Washington tributaries. White sturgeon from 44-inches minimum to 50-inches maximum fork length may be retained. All other waters below McNary Dam are closed to sturgeon retention, but catch-and-release fishing is permitted in those waters.

Trout and other species: Summer is winding down, but a number of great fishing opportunities are still available. WDFW planted about 3,500 rainbow trout into Merwin Reservoir in July, and anglers are still catching them on the west side of the. Mayfield Lake has also received just over 8,000 rainbows, and fishing has been good near Mossyrock Hatchery and Ike Kinswa State Park.

Mineral Lake is still producing great catches, and Council and Takhlakh lakes are also doing well (but pack some bug spray). Yale Reservoir is the place to go for kokanne, although catches are also picking up at Merwin Reservoir. Anglers should be aware the water levels rise and fall at Merwin, sometimes leaving boat ramps unusable, so it’s a good idea to contact PacifiCorp at (800) 547-1501 for a report on river levels.

Meanwhile, anglers are catching tiger muskies in Mayfield Lake and Merwin Reservoir, and the smallmouth bass in Riffe Lake are looking particularly good this year. Walleye fishing has also been good on the Columbia River above and below John Day Dam and above The Dalles Dam.

Successful archery hunter with buck he harvested.
Early archery deer hunter

Planning your hunt: September marks the start of this year's hunting seasons for elk, deer, upland game birds and waterfowl. Dates and regulations are listed in the Big Game and Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets, available on this website. Hunters planning their seasons may also want to check WDFW's 2018 Hunting Prospects reports, which outline hunting opportunities in specific game management districts in southwest Washington. See Game Harvest Reports for past harvest rates by district.

Hunters are also strongly advised to check fire conditions in areas they plan to hunt before going afield.

Deer: Early archery hunts for deer get underway Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 23 or Sept. 28 in various game management units (GMU). Following the hard winter of 2016-17, surveys found a decrease in the area deer population, but this year’s winter survey showed that fawn survival had returned to its historical average.

Elk: The season’s first archery elk hunt, set to run Sept. 8-20, will include some of the most productive GMUs in the region. Those units, which account for biggest harvest in the region, include GMUs 520 (Winston), 506 (Willapa Hills), 530 (Ryderwood), 550 (Coweeman) and 560 (Lewis River).

Hunters should expect a generally less productive season this year, due to the lingering effects of the harsh winter of 2016-17.

As most hunters know, hoof disease is an ongoing problem among elk in southwest Washington. While there is no evidence that the disease affects humans, it has taken a toll on the region’s elk population. To help contain the disease, WDFW asks that hunters:

  • Leave the hooves of any elk taken in the affected area on site.
  • Call the number on the collar of any collared elk taken so WDFW can retrieve information on these animals, which are part of an ongoing study.

Geese: Early goose-hunting seasons run Sept. 1-9 in Goose Management Area 2 (including Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and Clark counties), Sept. 8-13 in Area 3 (including Lewis and Skamania counties), and Sept. 8-9 in Area 5 (including Klickitat County). Like last year, hunters will have an expanded daily limit of 10 white-fronted geese, 6 white geese, and 4 Canada geese.

Those new to waterfowl hunting might want to check out the “Let’s Go Waterfowl Hunting” webpage, which provides an introduction to the sport.

Special youth and senior hunts: Like last year, the special bird hunt for hunters under age 16 is split between two weekends, providing more options for them and the non-hunting parents, guardians or mentors who accompany them. The hunt for ducks and geese is set for Sept. 22-23 on the west side of the state and Sept. 29-30 on the eastside. For the first time, young hunters can harvest 10 white-fronted geese in addition to four Canada geese during the special hunts.

Youth hunters can also hunt pheasant Sept. 22-23 statewide, and senior hunters and those with disabilities will get their chance Sept. 24-28. Hunters age 65 and older can participate in a special pheasant hunt Sept. 25-29.

Upland game seasons: General hunting seasons get underway Sept. 1 for forest grouse, as well as cottontail and snowshoe hare. Seasons for quail and northern bobwhite run from Sept. 29 to Nov. 30 in western Washington. The regular pheasant season gets underway Sept. 29 on the west side of the state and Oct. 20 on the eastside. Hunters looking for a place to hunt should check out WDFW's Private Lands Access Program, which provides a variety of options around the region.

Poster graphic for the Sturgeon Festival

Sturgeon Festival: The Columbia River ecosystem and its primitive inhabitant, the sturgeon, will be honored here Saturday, Sept. 15, at the 22nd Annual Sturgeon Festival.

The free, one-day festival runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way in Vancouver. The festival is hosted by the City of Vancouver in partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

While sturgeon have top billing, the popular festival features a variety of entertaining and educational activities for all ages. Special events include a live reptile show, two live bird shows, Eartha the Ecological Clown, and a group walk from 3-4 p.m. to the Columbia River. WDFW will also dissect several species of fish to give festivalgoers an understanding of the sturgeon’s unique anatomy. Look here for a complete schedule of events.

Prevalent in the Columbia River, the sturgeon is a primitive fish that has not changed substantially since it emerged millions of years ago. Sturgeon are a long-lived species, reaching five to six feet in length by the age of maturity. A few sturgeon in the Columbia River have been verified to be over 80 years old.

Duck stamp competition: The 2018 Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition will be held Sept. 14-15 at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. Contest judging for this event will begin at 10 a.m. each day. The winner will be announced on Sept. 15.

Since 1934, the sale of federal duck stamps has provided critical revenue to support federal wildlife refuges – including Ridgefield and Steigerwald – throughout the nation. Virtually all of the proceeds from those sales goes directly to acquire and protect wetland habitat.

While waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older are required to purchase them, anyone can contribute to conservation by buying duck stamps. The winning design from this month’s competition will appear on stamps starting July 2019.

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