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September 2018
Region 3: Southcentral Washington
(Benton, Franklin, Kittitas and Yakima counties)
Fisherman holding two smallmouth bass he caught and landed at the same time on the same lure.
Photo credit: Brice Garrison

Salmon and steelhead: The fall chinook fishery is underway, but returns for both fall chinook and coho are well below forecast on the Columbia River.  Anglers may keep one adult fall chinook as part of their limit from the Highway 395 bridge upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Salmon and steelhead are closed to fishing downstream of Highway 395 as detailed in this rule change and this news release.

The Yakima River is open for fall chinook and coho fishing but this regulation may be modified as a result of the low returns. The current daily limit is six salmon and anglers may keep two adults as part of their daily limit. The fish do not need to be adipose clipped to be harvested. The Yakima River is closed to fishing for salmon at night. The Yakima River and the Columbia River from the Highway 395 bridge upstream is closed to fishing for steelhead.

The Snake River is also open for fall hatchery chinook salmon and hatchery steelhead from the mouth (Burbank to Pasco railroad bridge) to the Oregon state line. Adult hatchery chinook and jack chinook over 12 inches may be retained in the Snake River. Gear restrictions apply and adipose fins must be clipped on adult fall chinook and all steelhead for retention. Jack chinook may be retained whether clipped or not. And anglers should note that the limit for steelhead on the snake is one hatchery fish after reassessment of the pre-season forecast as detailed in this rule change.

Sturgeon: The Columbia River in Lake Umatilla and Lake Wallula (John Day Dam to Priest Rapids/Ice Harbor Dam) is now closed to the harvest of sturgeon. Anglers may fish “catch and release” for sturgeon.

Walleye:  Walleye should draw plenty of attention this month. Many anglers consider these toothy fish, which bite aggressively in September and throughout much of the fall, to be the best table fare. Several of the state’s best walleye fisheries are in the region, including the Hanford Reach, the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam, and the Columbia River below McNary Dam.

Popular tactics include trolling worm harnesses and spinners behind bottom walkers, trolling deep-diving plugs, jigging blade baits, or plastic baits on jig heads.

Smallmouth bass: Smallmouth bass share habitat with walleye, but sometimes run as deep as 50 feet. They move into the shallows as waters cool and food sources become available. Fishing for these hard-fighting fish tends to improve in September and carries on through October until cold water sends them back to greater depths to spend the winter.

Kokanee: Kokanee are plentiful at Rimrock Reservoir along Highway 12 as well as at Kachess and Keechelus lakes off Highway 90.  These are just a few of the many reservoirs and lakes that feature great kokanee fishing in the region.

High lakes trout fishing: The high lakes around White Pass, Chinook Pass and Snoqualmie Pass are now accessible to trout fishing. WDFW stocks many small, hike-in lakes with rainbow or cutthroat trout fry, and some lakes also have naturally reproducing eastern brook trout populations. Visit WDFW’s high lakes page on Fish Washington to find a lake near you.

Bass and panfish: With the continued warm water temperatures, September anglers can expect good fishing for bass and panfish such as bluegill, crappie, and yellow perch.  

Fishing for these species will only get better in the fall, when they typically increase foraging activity in preparation for the winter months ahead. In the Southcentral Region, there are good opportunities in Scooteney Reservoir (largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, crappie, and yellow perch) and the I-82 ponds (largemouth bass and panfish). 

Stream trout fishing: With streams and rivers flowing more slowly in the upper Yakima basin at this time of year, it is a great time to try your hand at trout fly or spin fishing. Cutthroat, rainbow and eastern brook trout are the predominant species depending on where you’re fishing in the river. 

Cutthroat and brook trout tend to occupy higher elevation areas in the drainage. Anglers need to be aware of which stream or section of river they are fishing as there are trout catch and release sections, bait restrictions and selective gear rules in many areas. 

“All waters in the Yakima basin are closed to the taking of bull trout and wild steelhead, so anglers need to carefully release any of these fish they may inadvertently catch while fishing for other species,” adds Marc Divens, WDFW fish biologist. 

Say no to rock dams: Now is the time of year when bull trout and salmon migrate and spawn in local Yakima basin tributary streams. Please do not build rock dams as they block instream migration for native fish species.

Fire precautions:  Fireworks are prohibited at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state. Please review the description of fire-preventative measures before heading out.

Hunter scouting prospects of back country hunting.
Scouting the back country for hunting prospects,
Photo credit: Ryan Driver

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 here. Hunters planning their seasons may also want to check WDFW's 2018 Hunting Prospects reports, which outline hunting opportunities in specific game management units (GMUs).

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is also highlighting a browser-based, hunting regulations web map for 2018-19 hunting seasons. The web map, available at the hunting section of our webpage, provides more convenient access to Washington’s 2018-19 hunting regulations and allows hunters to find permit and general season hunts based on location, date, weapon choice and more.

Elk: The season’s first archery elk hunts are set to run Sept. 8-20, with spike bull opening Sept. 8 in some GMUs and antlerless starting in others on Sept. 15.  Please consult the Big Game hunting regulations, page 49, for details. 

Deer: Early archery hunts for deer get under way Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 23 or Sept. 28 depending on the GMU. Hunters can get a better idea of past success rates by checking the Game Harvest Reports on WDFW’s website.

Black bear: General hunting seasons for black bear continue through Nov. 15 in the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, only one of which may be taken in eastern Washington. Successful hunters are required to submit a bear tooth to WDFW to determine the animal’s age, and all hunters are urged to avoid shooting sows with cubs.

Grouse study: With upland gamebird seasons drawing near, state wildlife managers are asking hunters to submit the wings and tails of forest grouse they harvest for use in a long-term study of the species in Washington state.

“Our goal is to build datasets to evaluate changes in species composition, sex and age structure of harvested grouse over time,” said Sarah Kindschuh, a wildlife biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “This information will provide insight into trends in our grouse harvest and populations.”

The department is seeking the wings and tails of four species of forest grouse – spruce, ruffed, dusky, and sooty – collected in the eastern, northcentral, southcentral, and coastal regions of the state.
Collection barrel locations are posted on WDFW’s website. If you are not able to submit wings and tails on the day of harvest, please freeze them until you are able to take them to a collection barrel or WDFW office.

Fire precautions:  Fireworks are prohibited at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state. Please review the description of fire-preventative measures before heading out.

Swainson's haek perched on fence post.
Swainson's Hawk.
Photo credit: Cheryl Baker

Songbirds:  Various species of songbirds continue to gather into migrating groups around the region, most noticeably in riparian or streamside area treetops and along power lines. Some birds, including warblers, wrens, vireos, swallows, sparrows, flycatchers and hummingbirds, may have already left the region for more abundant food in southern climates.

Shorebirds: Curlews, plovers, and sandpipers, are also migrating south this month. Some were summer visitors here that are returning to winter homes, others summered farther north in Canada and simply make resting and feeding stopovers in the region.

Raptors on the move:  Ferruginous and Swainson's hawks that summer in parts of the region are migrating south. Some red-tailed, sharp-shinned, and Cooper's hawks that summer farther north are moving into or through the region.

Elk: Now is the time to visit elk country to hear the big ungulates' unique bugling. The peak of the rut is about the third week of September, but a lot of bugling and displaying occurs before then. 

Fire precautions:  Fireworks are prohibited at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700-plus water access sites around the state. Please review the description of fire-preventative measures before heading out.

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