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May 2018
Region 1: Eastern Washington
(Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla and Whitman counties)
Fisherman holding a derby-tagged trout he caught at Watts Lake.
Tim Farrand caught a derby-tagged trout at Waitts Lake on opening day.

April 28 opening season: May is always a prime fishing month throughout the region with action heating up on waters that opened April 28, along with those that opened earlier. 

Cool, rainy and windy conditions throughout the region may have reduced opening day participation at some waters, but creel checks by WDFW staff show many who braved the weather did well with catches of rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout

In Spokane County, Williams Lake anglers released many fish since the average catch measured 5.5 fish per angler, including some 24- to 25-inch rainbows. Badger Lake anglers caught an average of 3.7 trout each, including some 21-inch rainbows. Anglers had slow fishing at Fish Lake, averaging less than two fish each, including a 16-inch brown trout.  Clear Lake was also a little slower, with anglers averaging less than two fish each, including a 20-inch rainbow trout. West Medical Lake, which is in need of rehabilitation with a goldfish invasion, saw just over one trout per angler average, but the creel did include some 19-inch rainbows.  

In Stevens County, Rocky Lake anglers released as many fish as they kept, with an average of almost six fish each, including some 21-inch rainbows. At Mudgett Lake anglers averaged four fish each, including several 19-inch rainbows.  Anglers averaged 3.5 fish each at Cedar Lake, including some 20-inch rainbows and one tagged derby fish. Waitts Lake anglers averaged almost three trout each, including some 19-inch rainbows and one tagged derby fish. Anglers at Starvation Lake averaged 2.4 trout each, with a few 23-inch rainbows and one tagged derby fish.

In Pend Oreille County, participation at Diamond Lake was definitely down with the weather, but anglers averaged 2.6 fish each, including some 23-inch rainbows.

In Ferry County, Lake Ellen produced an average catch of just over five trout each, including many 17-inch rainbows. 

In Lincoln County,Fishtrap Lake saw an average of 2.6 trout per angler, including some over 21 inches.

For more details, see 2018 Lowland Lakes Opening Day (April 28) Trout Creel Results.

Before heading out, anglers should check the Sport Fishing Rules, which are valid through June.

Catch a fish, win a prize:  WDFW's lowland lake trout derby continues in May and runs through Oct. 31. Anglers with an applicable 2018-19 freshwater, combination, or all-in-one Fish Washington fishing license who catch one of more than 1,000 tagged fish can claim prizes provided by license dealers located across the state. A list of lakes with prize fish and details on how to claim prizes is available at the derby website.

Even if you don’t land a prize, plenty of trout are available to harvest. WDFW has been stocking in the region for months. A complete trout-planting schedule for eastern Washington lakes and ponds is available on the region’s catchable trout plants page.

Other open trout waters: All of the Tucannon River impoundments (man-made lakes) on the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County that opened March 1 have been re-stocked with hatchery rainbow trout and anglers are catching fish.

Curl Lake is the one Tucannon impoundment that opens later to allow its use as an acclimation pond for spring chinook salmon. In the rules pamphlet, Curl was scheduled to open April 28. But this year Curl will open on May 26 to allow it to be used for steelhead acclimation. Check the rule change for details.  

Kari Dingman, WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager, notes that May is the last month to fish Rainbow Lake, which will close June 1 to allow completion of dredging work this summer for long-term improvements.  Campground 3 and the access road to Deer Lake will be closed for construction work, although anglers can still wade the river to fish Deer Lake. The access road and campground will be reopened this fall after construction is complete.

Rock Lake, open year-round in Whitman County, continues to be a good spot for catches of both brown and rainbow trout, some of pretty good size. 

Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County, which has been open since March 1, is providing rainbow trout catches.  Coffeepot is under selective gear rules, with a minimum size limit of 18 inches and a daily catch limit of one trout.  

Year-round open Z Lake, on the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County, has rainbow trout up to 20 inches long that have grown from annual hatchery fry plants.

Lake Spokane (Long Lake), the year-round-open impoundment on the Spokane River between Nine Mile Dam and Long Lake Dam, continues to fish well for rainbow trout both for boat and bank anglers. 

Anglers are also still catching rainbow trout and kokanee in year-round-open Lake Roosevelt

Before heading out, anglers should check the Sport Fishing Rules, which are valid through June.

Warmwater fish species:  May is usually the month when water temperatures start rising and opportunities improve for catches of black crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, green sunfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, tiger muskie, walleye, and yellow perch

Eastern Spokane County’s Liberty Lake has yellow perch and black crappie, and Newman Lake has largemouth bass, black crappie, and tiger muskie. Southwest Spokane County’s Silver Lake has largemouth bass, bluegill, and tiger muskie. Downs Lake, east of Sprague in southwest Spokane County, has largemouth bass, yellow perch, and black crappie.

Fishing for walleye in the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt is usually prime in May. Long Lake (Lake Spokane) on the Spokane-Stevens county line usually produces walleye, both smallmouth and largemouth bass, perch, and crappie this month and next. Anglers are encouraged to harvest any northern pike encountered in either one of these year-round waters since this invasive, highly-predatory species is considered a threat to all other fish.

Southern Stevens County’s Deer Lake has bass, black crappie and perch when waters warm up.
Box Canyon Reservoir  and Boundary Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River in Pend Oreille County usually provide nice catches of smallmouth bass starting in May.

Before heading out, anglers should check the Sport Fishing Rules, which are valid through June.

Snake River spring chinook: Three sections of the Snake River are open two days a week for spring chinook salmon fishing until further notice. The area below Ice Harbor Dam is open only on Fridays and Saturdays each week, and the areas below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston are open only on Sundays and Mondays each week.  

The reason for the limited days is to help prolong the season and to ensure sharing of fishing opportunities with upriver fishery zones and compliance with Endangered Species Act (ESA) restrictions and harvest allocations available for the Snake River. The return of spring chinook is supposed to be relatively good, and the season arrangement allows one weekend day of fishing in each section. 

Daily limit is six hatchery chinook (adipose fin clipped), of which no more than one may be an adult chinook salmon (24 inches or more). For all areas open to chinook salmon harvest, anglers must cease fishing for salmon when the hatchery adult limit has been retained for the day. All chinook salmon with the adipose fin intact, and all bull trout and steelhead, must be immediately released unharmed.

See all details in the Fishing Rule Change, and watch for closure of this special season.

Kids’ Fishing Event: Some afternoon fishing time slots are still available for late registrants or walk-ins at the May 5 Kids’ Fishing Event at Clear Lake in Spokane County. For details and directions, see the 2018 Youth Fishing Event Calendar on WDFW’s website.

A northeast Washington turkey hunter bagged her limit of two birds during the Spring season.
A northeast Washington turkey hunter bagged her limit
of two birds during the Spring season.

Spring wild turkey: Hunting for wild turkey continues through the month of May and there are plenty of the big birds throughout the region, especially in the northeast district.

“As the snow melts this month, the turkeys start to spread out a bit and move up, off the valley floors, giving hunters the opportunity to find birds in more places,” said WDFW Northeast District Wildlife Biologist Annemarie Prince. “And remember, if you’ve already bagged one bird, you can get a second tag and harvest another for a total of two turkeys in eastern Washington during the spring season.”

Prince notes there is plenty of turkey hunting opportunity on public land in Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties, including the Colville National Forest, the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge, and WDFW’s Sherman Creek, LeClerc Creek and Rustlers Gulch wildlife areas. The Chewelah Chamber of Commerce turkey hunting webpage includes maps of good turkey hunting areas in all three counties.

WDFW wildlife areas in the southeast part of the region – Asotin Creek, Chief Joseph, and W.T. Wooten – provide good turkey hunting, too. Wooten manager Kari Dingman reports many turkey hunters were successful in the first two weeks of the season and toms are still strutting around now.

Spring turkey hunters who plan to also hunt turkeys this fall should wait to file their required hunting report until after the fall season. For more information, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Apply for special hunting permits: Hunters have through May 23 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons. Special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special permit, hunters planning to hunt for deer or elk must purchase an application and hunting license for those species and submit the application with their preferred hunt choices. Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by WDFW in June.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW's website. Applications must be submitted on the website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free.

If purchasing and applying online, hunters must first establish an online account by creating a username and password. Information on how to create a username and password in the WILD system can be found here. Hunters can also click the “Customer Support” link on the WILD homepage for additional assistance. Hunters who already have a username and password can login to purchase and submit their applications.

Most special hunt permit applications cost $7.10 for residents, $110.50 for non-residents, and $3.80 for youth under 16 years of age. The exception is the cost for residents purchasing applications for mountain goats, any bighorn sheep ram, any moose, and "quality" categories for deer and elk. Those applications cost $13.70.

Results of the special permit drawing will be available online by the end of June. Winners will be notified by mail or email by mid-July.

Poster for World Migratory Bird Day 2018
Catbird perched on branch.
The catbird is one of hundreds of neotropical migrants
back in eastern Washington now. (Photo by Tom Munson).

Birds:  The 25th annual International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is usually celebrated on the second Saturday of May near the peak of many bird migrations, with birdwatchers looking for nearly 350 bird species moving from their wintering grounds south of the U.S. border to nesting habitats in North America. But 2018 is the “Year of the Bird,” celebrating the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so every day this year is “bird day.” Look for local birding events this month and next through the IMBD website or through local Washington Audubon chapter websites.

Saturday, May 5, is the Global Big Day of bird species counting, sponsored by eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and other partners. Birdwatchers of all experience levels can spend 10 minutes or the full 24 hours of that day counting bird species seen or heard anywhere, from backyards to public wildlife areas, and report them online to boost the world-wide citizen scientist database.

Saturday, May 12, is the 7th annual Floods, Flowers and Feathers Festival at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge  near Cheney in southwest Spokane County. The festival is a celebration of birds, wildflowers, and the ancient, flood-created, channeled scabland in the area, including field trips, presentations, and kids’ activities. This event is again this year in conjunction with the town of Cheney’s MayFest.

This month is a good time to visit WDFW wildlife areas throughout the region for good bird watching opportunities. Watch for colorful songbirds, raptors or birds of prey, waterfowl and shorebirds, and more at Asotin Creek and Chief Joseph wildlife areas in Asotin and Garfield counties; W.T.Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia and Garfield counties; Revere Wildlife Area in northwest Whitman County; Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County; and LeClerc Creek and Rustlers Gulch wildlife areas in Pend Oreille County.

Black-necked stilts, yellowlegs, killdeer, and other shorebirds, along with a bald eagle or two, have been seen at Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area and the Reardan Audubon Lake Unit in Lincoln County. Many waterfowl species that visited the areas earlier this spring have already migrated north, notes WDFW area manager Juli Anderson, but the nesters will soon produce goslings and ducklings.

“We have lots of new bluebird and kestrel nest boxes around Swanson Lakes, thanks to a Boy Scout project this spring,” Anderson reported. “They’re quite visible along our roadside boundaries and we’ve already seen kestrels claim some of the new big boxes.”

Anderson also notes that most trails at Swanson Lakes are finally dry enough to hike now without mud boots. But ticks are plentiful so use of gaiters and bug repellent, and thorough tick-checks, are important for all visitors. Water remains high at the Reardan unit, but birding should be productive from the viewing blinds.

The month of May is also a good time to transform backyards into safe stopover sites for migrating birds by planting native vegetation, providing fresh water, and keeping cats indoors. WDFW’s Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary program provides detailed information about how to help birds in this way.

Wildflowers and more: WDFW wildlife biologist David Woodall says May is a great month to view native wildflowers in bloom on the Blue Mountains wildlife areas in the southeast district.  Some of the earliest flowers, like trillium and glacier lilies, are peaking on the Asotin and Chief Joseph wildlife areas in Asotin County. Many other blooms will follow this month, including phlox, serviceberry, arrowleaf balsamroot, and Indian paintbrush.

Kari Dingman, WDFW W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area manager, also says April showers and sunshine have brought an abundance of May flowers. Willows, dogwoods and other shrubs are blooming in the riparian area along the Tucannon River, and yarrow, larkspur and other wildflowers are in the upland areas.

“I’ve heard reports of people finding mushrooms, however, I haven’t spotted any myself yet this year,” Dingman said. “Visitors to the Wooten with their eyes on the ground should also look up, especially at the ridge above the Tucannon Fish Hatchery where wild bighorn sheep lambs will be visible this month.”

Dingman noted that the mud from all of the April rain is finally drying up and leaving the Wooten’s campgrounds easier to use. She reminds visitors that Rainbow Lake, Campground #3, plus the access road to Deer Lake, will close June 1 to allow completion of the Rainbow Lake reconstruction project.

Leave wild babies in the wild: This month and next many wildlife species produce young. WDFW biologists remind outdoor recreationists and backyard wildlife enthusiasts to leave those wild babies in the wild, even when they might appear to be orphaned or abandoned. 

Keep dogs and cats confined to avoid problems with baby birds fledging from nests and on the ground. Give a wide berth to deer fawns found alone; almost always they don’t need help because parent animals are foraging nearby and leaving them alone to avoid drawing predators with their own body scent.  Learn more about when not to rescue wildlife on WDFW’s Living with Wildlife webpages.

Avoid wildlife conflicts:  Wild animals reproducing this month can become a nuisance if they take up residence under a porch, in a crawl space, or in a garage or attic. Skunks and raccoons are among the most common in this region, but bats, squirrels and woodpeckers can become problems, too. Sealing up spaces where these animals try to nest or den is the first step to avoid nuisance situations.  Learn more about Preventing Conflicts With Wildlife

Outdoor recreationists or rural homeowners may inadvertently have closer-than-comfortable wildlife viewing encounters with potentially dangerous wildlife, from protective cow moose with calves to black bears, coyotes or cougars. 

Conflict situations can be prevented by being alert and aware of surroundings and taking some precautions when hiking, picnicking or camping. Most wild animals want to avoid people, so hike in groups and make noise to alert wildlife in the area of your presence. Keep a clean picnic spot or campsite since food odors attract hungry animals, especially bears. Learn more about bears, cougars, coyotes and moose on WDFW’s Living with Wildlife webpages.

Region One: Eastern Washington Region Two: North Central Washington Region Four: North Puget Sound Region Six: South Sound/Olympic Peninsula Region Five: Southwest Washington Region Three: South Central Washington