March 1 opener: March is traditionally a transitional time for ice conditions on area lakes so if you are heading out to fish, you will want to brush up on ice safety guidelines first. As things warm up later in the month, WDFW fish hatchery crews will be busy stocking rainbow trout around the region.
Medical Lake, near the town of the same name in southwest Spokane County, was limited on the March 1 opener due to ice. In the past, this lake has had consistent insect hatches in March that make fly fishing very productive. Hopefully that will be the case again this year when things warm up later in the month. A reminder that Medical Lake is under selective gear rules, the trout daily catch limit is two (with a 14-inch minimum size limit), and the lake has a prohibition on all motors
Downs Lake, also in southwest Spokane County, warms up earlier than other Spokane County lakes due to its location and depth of less than 12 feet. Fishing for Largemouth bass is typically fair at Downs in later March as well as Rainbow trout.
Liberty Lake in eastern Spokane County was also covered in ice for the March opener, as was Deer Lake in southern Stevens County, and most other area lakes. Later in March, Deer Lake is best for lake trout, and brook and rainbow trout fishing is usually fair this month.
At the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, the Tucannon Lakes remained iced over in early March. Assistant Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman says the lakes are open, per fishing regulations, but it could be a while before there is open water.
Campgrounds near the lakes are also open but, according to Dingman, getting trailers into them could be tricky (and not recommended for early March), as staff does not plow campground roads. Conditions at Wooten change quickly, so call 509-758-3151 if you are thinking of visiting.
Pampa Pond in Whitman County, and Fishhook Pond in Walla Walla County also opened March 1 and are both known for good early spring fishing. Fishing at both these ponds is from the shore only; floating devices are prohibited
Once things warm up later in the month and conditions allow, Amber Lakein southwest Spokane County offers pretty consistent fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout, as in years past. A reminder- Amber is under selective gear rules, and anglers can keep one trout over 18 inches daily throughout the season, which runs March 1 through November 30. Also, internal combustion motors are prohibited on this water.
Winter-only fishing: March is the last month to fish the region’s winter-only trout lakes – Hatch and Williams in Stevens County and Fourth of July in Lincoln County and Spokane County’s Hog Canyon Lake. All still have ice, but of varying degrees of depth and safety, so it’s more important than ever for anglers to use caution.
WDFW Central District Fish Biologist Randy Osborne says anglers should always test ice conditions before venturing out on what looks like an iced-over lake, and be prepared with safety equipment.
Year-round fishing: Fishing atLake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir, continues to improve and some anglers are doing well and catching limits of rainbow trout both from the bank and from boats. The lake is known for burbot, kokanee, and rainbow trout fishing this time of year. Depending on conditions, the spring drawdown of the lake by the Bureau of Reclamation often starts in March so call 509-754-7800 before heading out to make sure boat launches are still accessible.
Roosevelt anglers need to remember the regulation implemented to protect native redband rainbow trout. Any trout with an intact adipose fin caught in Lake Roosevelt from Grand Coulee Dam to the Little Dalles power line crossing must be released. Only hatchery-produced trout, marked with a clipped adipose fin, can be retained. The daily catch limit is still five trout, not including kokanee. But there is no limit on how many of those fish can exceed 20 inches. The same rule is in effect on the Spokane Arm and Sanpoil Arm of Lake Roosevelt. In addition, from the Little Dalles power line crossing to the Canadian border, the daily catch limit is only two trout (marked hatchery or unmarked wild), with a minimum size of 18 inches.
Other year-round-open fishing waters to try this month for trout include Long Lake (Lake Spokane), Rock Lake in Whitman County, and Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line. Osborne says Sprague Lake and parts of Lake Spokane still have ice but when that thaws and people can either get on the water or fish from shore, trout fishing should be pretty decent.
Eloika Lake in northern Spokane County is usually productive in March for ice fishing, depending on conditions. Brown trout, largemouth bass, and yellow perch are your best bet at Eloika this time of year.
Bighorn Show: Too cold for the kids out on the water? Try fishing indoors at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s 59th annual Bighorn Outdoor Adventure Show, March 21-24 at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. Some 5,000 trout are stocked in three huge indoor lakes for kids to catch at “Fishing World,” and there’s a “Virtual Reality Fishing Simulator,” fishing demonstration tank, and hundreds of fishing equipment and charter service vendors. There are also many free fishing seminars by experts. WDFW staff will be on site selling fishing licenses and Discover Passes, and talking with visitors about all things fish and wildlife.
Kids fishing event registration: Registration is open for the annual Clear Lake Kids Fishing Event, scheduled for Saturday, May 4. This event is a great way to get kids ages 5-14 outdoors and involved in the sport of fishing. Registration forms, directions, and the WDFW kids fishing video can be found on the WDFW Youth Fishing Calendar.
Boating safety: The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program wants boaters to be prepared for the upcoming season by taking a safety education course. In Washington state, boaters who operate a vessel with a 15 horsepower engine or greater must be certified and carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course.
Apply for a multiple-season tag: Deer and elk hunters have until March 31 to enter their names into the drawing for a 2018 multiple-season tag, which can greatly increase the opportunity for success in the field.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will hold the drawing in mid-April, randomly selecting names for 8,500 multiple-season deer tags and 1,000 multiple-season elk tags.
Winners of the drawing can purchase a special tag allowing them to participate in archery, muzzleloader, and modern firearm general hunting seasons for deer or elk in 2019. Winners who purchase the multiple season elk tag can participate in general elk hunting seasons in both eastern and western Washington.
The deadline to purchase the multiple-season tag is July 31.
Winners may also choose any weapon type when applying for a special hunt permit for deer or elk.
"With the multiple season tag, hunters have the opportunity to extend their seasons this fall," said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager. "Winners do not need to choose one hunting method over another, so they have more options and flexibility."
Aoude noted that the tags can be used only during general seasons and in game management units open during a modern firearm, muzzleloader, or archery general season. For example, winners may not hunt during the muzzleloader general season in an area not open for the muzzleloader general season.
Hunters can apply only once for each species and their bag limit remains one deer or elk.
A multiple season application can be purchased from authorized license dealers, online at http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/, or by calling 866-246-9453. The application costs $7.10 for residents and $110.50 for nonresidents.
A 2019 hunting license is not required to submit an application, but winners of the drawing must purchase one before they can purchase a multiple season tag.
For more information, visit WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/, or call the Licensing Division at 360-902-2464.
Deer and elk: Deer and elk throughout the region are more visible this month as they forage for food and look for grass to start popping up through the snow. It is this time of year when WDFW wildlife biologists say these animals are in the worst condition due to food shortages and deep snow. Give these animals space as they shift from winter to spring diets and never feed wildlife. A sudden change from a natural to hay or other diet can cause health issues for the animals, as well as lure them to areas where they are vulnerable to attack by predators or being hit by vehicles.
Some parts of area WDFW wildlife areas are closed in March to protect deer, elk and other animals as they try to regain strength for the spring months. At the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area, Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman says snow conditions have moved elk down into the Cummings Creek area. Dingman says it is important to respect closed areas at this time, both at Wooten and the Asotin Creek and Chief Joseph wildlife areas in Asotin County, and Sherman Creek in Ferry County.
Bird migration: Cold, snowy weather has delayed the return of waterfowl to the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area. Juli Anderson, Wildlife Area Manager, also says she is seeing much less water in ponds and creeks in the area, compared to last year, which could also deter birds. At many sites there is just a layer of snow over weeds in the dry bottoms.
A covey of California quail showed up at Anderson’s office recently, probably due to snow that makes it hard to forage in the brush, and WDFW staff providing them with grain to eat. Hungarian partridge and pheasants have recently shown up as well, along with some returning dark-eyed juncos and red-winged blackbirds.
Waterfowl have begun migrating into and through the region, despite recent cold snaps. This is in part due to their movements being triggered by increasing daylight hours. Male ducks are in their breeding plumage in March, which makes for good wildlife viewing and photographing.
Other year-round resident birds are also starting their spring behaviors. Great blue herons are gathering at communal nesting sites, wild tom turkeys are starting to strut and gobble to find hens and defend territories, and owls, eagles, and other large raptors are already incubating eggs in nests made last month.
Tundra Swan Festival: One highlight of March is the return of the Tundra Swans. The big, beautiful birds stop through the Pend Oreille River Valley in northeast Washington annually as they journey to breeding grounds on the Arctic tundra. The Tundra Swan Festival, sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and the Pend Oreille Region Tourism Alliance, is Saturday, March 16 this year in Cusick, WA. WDFW’s swan specialist will give a presentation and there will be workshops, booths, vendors and a bus trip to Calispel Lake to observe the swans. Reservations are available by calling 1-844-PORTA-US or at http://www.porta.us/.
Nuisance wildlife: Smaller mammals, like raccoons, skunks and marmots, are abundant throughout the region in both rural and urban environments, and can become a nuisance at this time of year when they start to nest in places like crawl spaces, under porches, or corners of garages or storage sheds. Learn how to enjoy these wildlife neighbors without problems at WDFW’s Living with Wildlife webpages.
Bears: Bears can also be a nuisance in spring, although most of the region’s black bears won’t emerge from winter hibernation until sometime in April. When they do come out, they will be hungry, and Northeast District Wildlife Biologist Annemarie Prince says now is the time to be proactive to avoid problems. She suggests building a bear-proof garbage shed and securing things that will attract hungry bears. That means taking down bird feeders, fencing or caging compost piles, and protecting beehives.