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January 2019
Region 3: Southcentral Washington
(Benton, Franklin, Kittitas and Yakima counties)
A boat and dog on the banks of the Yakima River.
Boat and dog on the banks of the Yakima River. Photo by Julie Cyr

Salmon and steelhead: Fishing for salmon and steelhead is once again open on the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the river upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge near Pasco. 

The Snake River is also open, but is generally slow this time of year. With a few warm days and snow melt, anglers could see some fish moving into tributaries like the Walla Walla, Touchet, Tucannon, and the lower Grand Ronde rivers, but anglers’ chances will improve on these waters in February. Reminder: the daily limit in the Snake River and tributaries is one hatchery steelhead this year.

Sturgeon: The John Day Pool (Lake Umatilla) reopens in January for retention of white sturgeon measuring 43 to 54 inches from their snout to the fork in their tail.

Walleye: There’s also a chance of catching a monster walleye in the Columbia River in and around the Tri-Cities. While walleye fishing can slow down during the winter months, both the current and previous record-holding fish were harvested at this time of year.

Winter whitefish: The fishery is open through Jan. 31 on the Naches River (mouth to Tieton River) and on the Yakima River (Sunnyside Dam to 3,500 feet below Roza Dam and from Roza Dam to Easton Dam.) The catch limit is 15 per day, but anglers are required to use a single-point hook measuring no more than 3/16-inch from point to shank (hook size 14).

Whitefish anglers should target deep pools below riffles and try a small fly, tipped with a maggot for bait.

Trout: A catch-and-release trout fishery is open year-round on the Yakima River from Roza Dam to Easton Dam under selective gear and whitefish gear rules. Fishing is closed above Easton Dam until the first Saturday in June. Also, many lakes around the state have been stocked with 5- to 10-pound broodstock rainbow trout over past months. Lakes, including those stocked recently for Black Friday like North Elton Pond, can be found in the Weekly Trout Plant Reports.

Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show: The Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show, Jan. 18-20, features the latest in outdoor equipment, a kids fishing pond, a free air-rifle range, fishing and hunting seminars, retriever demonstrations and much more of interest to outdoors women, men and children. Stop by and visit with staff at the WDFW exhibit. Visit the show’s website for details and admission prices.

Snow goose in flight.
Snow goodse. Photo by Dennis Werlau

Waterfowl: If you haven’t taken advantage of the waterfowl season yet, consider giving it a try in January. Most big-game hunts are closed for the year, but waterfowl season runs through Jan. 27 in some areas. The rules are outlined in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet.

As colder weather is settling in, larger geese and ducks are shifting from higher altitudes and more northern regions, providing a final opportunity for those ready to bundle up, fill their thermos, and get outside for some great waterfowl hunting.

Washington is one of the few states where all five diving ducks occur in the winter. The deeper waters and islands of the Columbia River serve as the perfect habitat for full plumage canvasback, redhead, scaup (lesser and greater), and ring-necked duck to congregate as ice and snow limit the amount of open water on the landscape.

Also this year the goose bag limit was split, allowing goose hunters to take advantage of more liberal bag limits and the opportunity to use both the four Canada goose and six snow goose limits. Hunters should explore areas in Benton and Franklin counties, where there is still time to take advantage of the Columbia Basin Stubble Retention – Hunt By Reservation sites, a program funded in part by the purchase of a migratory bird permits.

Mandatory hunter reporting: Hunters are required to report their hunting activity by Jan. 31 for each special permit acquired and each deer, elk, bear, cougar, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey tag they purchased last year. Those who do not meet the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can buy another license. Those who report by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for a special incentive permit. See the Big Game Hunting Pamphlet for more information.

Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show:  The Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show, Jan. 18-20, features the latest in outdoor equipment, a kids fishing pond, a free air-rifle range, fishing and hunting seminars, retriever demonstrations and much more of interest to outdoors women, men and children.  Stop by and visit with staff at the WDFW exhibit.  Visit the show’s website for details and admission prices.

Pair of elk foraging for food in the winter snow.
Elk foraging during winter snow. Photo by Tony Sirgedas.

Herds return to Oak Creek: In winter, hundreds of hungry elk and big-horn sheep descend on WDFW's Oak Creek Wildlife Area, where visitors can watch them dine on alfalfa hay and pellets. The department’s winter feeding program gets underway once the snow starts to pile up, possibly in January.

To check the status of the feeding program, Oak Creek visitors can hear a recorded message on the headquarters phone by calling (509) 653-2390. Tour reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance by calling (509) 698-5106, once winter feeding starts.

A valid state Discover Pass or WDFW Vehicle Access Pass is required to park at the Wildlife Area. Visitors can purchase a One-Day Discover Pass at the Wildlife Area with cash or check, once the feeding starts. Vehicle Access Passes are free with the purchase of certain fishing and hunting licenses.

Winter feeding closures:
While the Oak Creek and Joe Watt feed sites provide for public viewing outside the elk fences, public access to these areas is restricted to minimize disturbances to elk challenged by the cold weather. Visitors should watch for signs stating “No Public Entry,” prohibiting both motorized and pedestrian access.
Current closures, which will remain in effect until May 1, include:

  • The Bethel Ridge Tie and Oak Creek roads in the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima.  The Sanford Pasture Area will be closed to motorized vehicles on Dec. 31.
  • The area surrounding the Joe Watt Canyon and Robinson winter feed sites in the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area near Ellensburg are closed to all public entry.
  • The area surrounding the Mellotte feed site in the Wenas Wildlife Area, near Selah is closed to all public entry.

Additional information, including maps showing winter road closures, is available at WDFW regional and district offices.  Green dot maps are also available online now at the Green Dot Maps website.

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