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The Weekender Report
The latest in fish and wildlife recreational opportunities across Washington State

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November 2014

(This document is updated periodically throughout the month to reflect current rules and opportunities. Please download the latest copy before heading out! Last updated November 10, 2014)

Contact: (Fish) 360-902-2700
                (Wildlife) 360-902-2515

Put a turkey on your table -
or duck, venison, or razor clams

There’s more than one way to put a turkey on your table for Thanksgiving. Rather than head to the grocery store, thousands of hunters plan to get their birds during the hunting season for wild turkey that gets under way Nov. 20 in eastern Washington.

Then again, who says turkey has to be the center of attention on Thanksgiving Day? November is also prime time to hunt ducks, geese, elk, deer, pheasant, forest grouse and a variety of other game around the state.

“Waterfowl hunting usually picks up around the middle of the month, when the wet and windy weather starts pushing more migrating birds into the area from the north,” said Don Kraege, waterfowl manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “That’s good news for waterfowl hunters from the Skagit Valley to the Columbia Basin.”

For anglers, Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of winter steelhead fishing in western Washington, where coho and chum salmon also are moving in from the ocean. On the eastside, anglers are still reeling in hatchery steelhead from the upper Columbia River and several major tributaries.

Rather serve shellfish? Most areas of Puget Sound are currently open for crab fishing, and two multi-day razor clam digs are scheduled at various ocean beaches in November.

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count that gets under way in December. Sponsored by Audubon, the event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count see the Audubon website at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.

For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available this month, see the Weekender Regional Reports posted on WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide current information about recreational opportunities around the state.

North Puget Sound
(Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties)

Fishing:  Anglers are still finding coho in the region’s rivers and even some marine areas, but most of the action for salmon will shift to blackmouth in Puget Sound. For those fishing trout in the Puget Sound area, several lakes have been stocked recently, creating opportunities now and through the winter.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been stocking 47 western Washington lakes with some 340,000 catchable-size trout this fall and winter. 

Increased bag limits are also allowed on 20 lakes in Island, King, Pacific, Snohomish, Thurston and Grays Harbor counties, doubling angler’s catch limits from five to 10 trout on selected lakes.

A list of lakes to be stocked, those offering the bonus bag limit, and the department's stocking plan is available for viewing at the department’s Fall into Fishing webpage.

The stocking effort also includes lakes in southwest Washington for the Nov. 28 Black Friday opener, which offers Westside anglers the opportunity to skip the shopping malls, get outside and enjoy fishing on the day after Thanksgiving.

Videos on basic and cold-weather techniques for trout fishing can be found on the department’s YouTube page.

Meanwhile, fishing for blackmouth salmon gets underway in marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet). Anglers fishing those marine areas, as well as Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area), have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Anglers are reminded that Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) closes to salmon retention Nov. 1.
 
Anglers have been doing very well in Marine Area 10, especially at places such as Jefferson Head and Richmond Beach. Good bets for blackmouth in the month ahead include Useless Bay, Possession Bar and Westpoint, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager. Blackmouth are resident Puget Sound chinook salmon.

Anglers support the blackmouth winter chinook fishery through their license purchase, a portion of which goes to the Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Fund. The fund currently supports a variety of recreational fishing opportunities through the release of more than one million yearling and almost nine million sub-yearling chinook each year.
    
As October came to a close, saltwater anglers were also reeling in increasing numbers of large and powerful chum salmon. Good bets in coming weeks include Point No Point off the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula, Port Orchard/Chico Creek, and Possession Bar south of Whidbey Island. 

Before heading out, anglers may want to check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with the department collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound. 
 
While on the Sound, why not drop a crab pot? Sport crabbing is open in most marine areas of Puget Sound seven days a week through Dec. 31. The exceptions are Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island).

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website.

All Dungeness crab kept in the late-season fishery must be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards are available at license vendors across the state. Those catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2015. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s recreational crab fishing website.
 
Hunting: November is prime time for waterfowl hunting in the region, where more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. Typically, opportunities for hunting migrating birds pick up along with wet and windy weather, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.

“During high wind events, ducks using north Puget Sound bays typically look for new resting and feeding locations on inland lakes, ponds, and flooded fields until the storm passes,” says Kraege. “This leads to better conditions for hunters able to take advantage of these situations.”

The seasons for snow, Ross’ and blue geese in Goose Management Area 1 (Island, Snohomish, and Skagit counties) and ducks are under way throughout November and run continuously through Jan. 25. The hunting season for other geese such as Canada geese and white-fronted geese resumes Nov. 1 and proceeds through Jan. 25 in all Puget Sound areas.

Upland bird hunters have through Nov. 30 to hunt pheasants and quail in western Washington, while the forest grouse season runs through Dec. 31.    

Meanwhile, the modern firearm season for elk is open Nov. 1-12.

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season hunting opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 26, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open Nov. 27 in select western Washington game management units.

Cougar hunts are open through December, but bear season closes Nov. 15.

Hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for details. Also, area-by-area summaries of the hunting prospects throughout the state are available on WDFW’s hunting prospects webpage.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, reminds hunters of WDFW’s fourth-annual 2015 Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest. With year’s theme “Women: Hunting Through the Generations,” the winning photo will be used to illustrate the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year. “We hope that hunters throughout the state pack their cameras and share their pictures with the rest of the hunting community,” Ware said.

Wildlife viewing:  More and more birders are making their way to the region to view snow geese, which also continue to arrive in increasing numbers. Thousands of snow geese winter in western Washington each year. Most of those birds congregate in the Skagit Valley, and can be found in the area from mid-October through early May. A great place to view the snow geese is at the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit of WDFW’s Skagit Wildlife Area. For more information on the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit, visit WDFW’s website.

Birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 115th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2014 through Jan. 5, 2015. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula
(Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Thurston and Pacific counties)

Fishing: Chum salmon and hatchery winter steelhead are moving up are rivers, while crabbing and razor clamming continue this month. Area lakes are also being stocked in preparation for trout fishing.

November is primetime for chum fishing opportunities in south Sound and Hood Canal, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Chum have been arriving in those areas since last month.”

In marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Sound), anglers can keep two salmon daily but must release wild chinook. In south Sound, anglers who have a two-pole endorsement can fish with two poles. In Hood Canal, anglers can keep four salmon daily, up to two of which can be hatchery chinook.

Salmon fishing also remains open through Nov. 30 in most Olympic Peninsula rivers, including the Quillayute, Hoh, Bogachiel, Calawah and Dickey.

Those same rivers are open for hatchery winter steelhead fishing, which traditionally kicks into high gear around Thanksgiving. The first fish to arrive usually head for the Humptulips and Bogachiel rivers, followed by runs to other area rivers.

“Hatchery steelhead fishing should steadily improve as the month progresses,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.
All wild steelhead, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released. Anglers are reminded to check regulations in Washington’s Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet before heading out. 

Meanwhile, WDFW has been stocking 47 western Washington lakes with some 340,000 catchable-size trout this fall and winter. Vance Creek #2 in Grays Harbor County received 7,500 catchables in October, and Nahwatzel Lake in Mason County got 5,000. The department plans to put 3,000 trout into Thurston County’s Long Lake this month.

Increased bag limits are allowed on 19 lakes in Island, King, Pacific, Snohomish, Thurston and Grays Harbor Counties, doubling anglers’ daily catch limits from five to 10 trout on selected lakes. See the “Fall into Fishing” page for a list of lakes offering the bonus bag limit, the lakes stocked, and the department's recently updated stocking plan.

The stocking effort also includes stocking lakes in southwest Washington for the Nov. 28 Black Friday opener, which offers west side anglers the opportunity to skip the shopping malls, get outside, and enjoy fishing on the day after Thanksgiving.

Videos on basic and cold-weather techniques for trout fishing can be found on the department’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/thewdfw.

Clam diggers can count on one – and most likely two – multi-day razor clam digs this month. One dig has been for early November and a seven-day dig is tentatively planned later in the month.

The first dig of the month has been approved on the following days and evening low tides:

  • Nov. 4, Tuesday; 4:26 p.m., -0.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 5, Wednesday; 5:14 p.m., -0.7 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 6, Thursday; 5:59 p.m., -1.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 7, Friday; 6:42 p.m., -1.2 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Nov. 8, Saturday; 7:24 p.m., -1.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
  • Nov. 9, Sunday; 8:05 p.m., -0.7 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Nov. 10, Monday; 8:47 p.m., -0.3 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 11, Tuesday; 9:31 p.m., 0.2 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors

Later in the month, shellfish managers have tentatively scheduled another set of digs, which will move forward if the marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat:

  • Nov. 20, 2014, Thursday; 5:06 p.m., 0.0 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 21, 2014, Friday; 5:45 p.m., -0.5 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Nov. 22, 2014, Saturday; 6:24 p.m., -0.8 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Copalis
  • Nov. 23, 2014, Sunday; 7:05 p.m., -1.0 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Nov. 24, 2014, Monday; 7:47 p.m., -1.1 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 25, 2014, Tuesday; 8:32 p.m., -0.9 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 26, 2014, Wednesday; 9:19 p.m., -0.5 feet, Long Beach, Twin Harbors

Diggers were fairly successful in October at harvesting their limit of 15 clams each day, rough weather proved challenging some days, said Dan Ayres, WDFW shellfish manager. Ayres reminds diggers to bring lanterns or headlamps to these evening digs. More information on razor clam digging is available on WDFW’s razor clam webpage.

Prefer crab? Sport crabbing is open in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 12 (Hood Canal), and 13 (South Puget Sound).

Crabbing is allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31 in each area.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

All Dungeness crab caught in the late-season fishery must be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid through Dec. 31. Winter catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2015. Additional information is available on WDFW’s website.

Hunting: Deer and elk hunters will have plenty of opportunities this month, while grouse, pheasant and goose-hunting swing into high gear.

The month begins with modern firearm season for elk Nov. 1-12, followed by a late season for muzzleloaders and archers starting Nov. 26. Hunters looking to harvest a Roosevelt elk in District 17 (Pacific and Grays Harbor counties) often find the most luck hunting the Willapa Hills elk herd in GMUs 658, 672, 673 and 681. In District 16 (Clallam and west Jefferson counties), the highest level of elk harvests have occurred in GMUs 615, 602 and 607.

Black-tailed deer hunters also have several late-season opportunities this month beginning with modern firearms Nov. 13-16. Archery season begins Nov. 26 and muzzleloader season opens the next day, Nov. 27. The best opportunities to harvest black-tailed deer in the region include GMUs 663, 648, 672, 660, 621, 627 and 633.

Both elk and deer hunters should note that several private timber companies in the region have decided to charge fees for access this year rather than continue to offer free access. Hunters are advised to check WDFW's hunter access webpage for details.

Fall black bear season continues on the coast and around Puget Sound game management units through Nov. 15. Prospects for harvesting a black bear in District 16 are good to excellent due to low elevation berry production.

For those seeking forest grouse, the statewide hunting season opened Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 31. The harvest of grouse in Clallam County (District 16) rivals all other counties in south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic National Forest and Skokomish Valley in District 15 also are popular grouse hunting areas.

Goose-hunting season is open Nov. 1 through Jan. 25. However, anyone hunting for goose in Pacific County (goose management area 2B) is reminded the area is open only on Saturdays and Wednesdays during that same period.

The general season for duck, snipe and coot runs through Jan. 25.

An increase in the breeding population of migratory ducks in Alaska is expected to bring good hunting opportunities in several locations around the south Sound and Olympic Peninsula. The best hunting locations in Thurston County include near the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge as well as the Henderson, Budd and Eld Inlets.

In District 17 (Pacific and Grays Harbor counties), the highest concentrations of ducks are near Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor and the Chehalis and Willapa River valleys. WDFW Wildlife Areas in this district offer good waterfowl hunting opportunities.

Rather hunt for quail? The season is open in western Washington through Nov. 30. District 15 (Mason, Kitsap and east Jefferson counties) has the largest population of mountain quail in the state. Locations to try include Department of Natural Resources land parcels on the Tahuya Peninsula and the industrial timberlands between Shelton, Matlock and McCleary. Walk-in opportunities are also numerous on timber company clearcuts around Mason Lake.

Pheasant season in western Washington goes through Nov. 30. A total of 1,900 pheasants will be released over the season (on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays) at the Skookumchuck wildlife unit in District 11 (Thurston and Pierce counties). The Scatter Creek Wildlife unit will release about 3,900 birds, also on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Hunters are encouraged to check WDFW’s hunting prospects webpage to get an area-by-area summary of what they can expect. Before heading out, hunters also should check the Big Game Hunting Pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for regulations.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, reminds hunters of WDFW’s fourth-annual 2015 Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest. With year’s theme “Women: Hunting Through the Generations,” the winning photo will be used to illustrate the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year. “We hope that hunters throughout the state pack their cameras and share their pictures with the rest of the hunting community,” Ware said.

Wildlife viewing: November is a good month to visit the Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve, which is located on Totten Inlet off U.S. Highway 101 between Olympia and Shelton. The creek is one of the most productive chum salmon streams in Washington. While there, visitors can find numerous species of migrating shorebirds or walk the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail.

Fall is also a great time to visit the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. Songbirds, such as northern shrikes, varied thrushes and yellow rumped warblers, can be found wintering there, while peregrine falcons and other raptors continue to arrive for the season. Waterfowl numbers are also increasing.

Birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count, scheduled Dec. 14 through Jan. 5. Specific counting dates will soon be announced in some areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science. For details on the Christmas Bird Count, check the Audubon website.

Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)

Fishing:  After a banner fall chinook season, area anglers are turning their attention to winter steelhead fishing. Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the popular fishery, but some anglers start working their favorite rivers well ahead of time. Catch totals usually start to ramp up as area rivers swell from the falling rain.

“Steelhead move upriver on pulses of water,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. “Once the sky opens up, we’ll see more fish on the move.”

Anglers can catch and keep two hatchery steelhead on the mainstem Columbia River as part of their daily limit for adult salmonids. On most area tributaries, the limit is two hatchery steelhead plus the salmon limit listed for individual rivers in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.
In all waters, only hatchery-reared steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained. All wild, unmarked steelhead must be released unharmed.

Major destinations for hatchery-reared steelhead include the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis (east and north forks), Washougal, Elochoman and Grays rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County. Starting Nov. 1, several other rivers and creeks open for steelhead fishing, including Abernathy, Coal, Germany and Mill creeks and the Coweeman River in Cowlitz County, and Cedar Creek in Clark County.

WDFW’s Hatchery Escapement Reports can provide a good indication of the number of fish returning to each river. “Based on the early summer run, we might have a few more winter steelhead this year, but we’ll know a lot more once they start moving into the rivers,” Hymer said. 

Until then, late-run coho salmon may be the best bet for anglers who want to fish area tributaries. Catch rates for coho and chinook salmon were also decent on the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, and Klickitat rivers, plus Drano Lake, in late October.

“These are fairly large fish, some weighing up to 20 pounds apiece,” Hymer said. “The trick is getting them to bite. The best time is when they are moving upriver, drawn by high water. Otherwise, it can be hard to get their attention.”

State regulations allow anglers to catch and keep up to six adult coho salmon per day on the Cowlitz, Klickitat, Kalama, Lewis and Washougal rivers – and on the lower portion of the Grays River. Except in the Klickitat River, only those fish with a clipped adipose fin may be retained. Several rivers – including the North Fork Lewis below Colvin Creek – also remain open for salmon. However, the Wind River closes to all salmon fishing Nov. 1 as does the stretch of the Columbia River from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam.

“We’re seeing lots of coho jacks at Bonneville this year, which is good news for areas above the dam next season,” Hymer said.
Caught your fill of salmon and steelhead for the year? Here are some other options to consider:

  • Cowlitz sea-run cutthroats: The best fishing is typically downriver from Blue Creek near the trout hatchery. Anglers may retain up to five hatchery-reared cutthroats per day as part of the daily trout limit on the lower Cowlitz River.
  • ‘Black Friday’ trout:  Hatchery crews have been stocking lakes six lakes in southwest Washington with thousands of large rainbow trout in preparation for WDFW’s third-annual “Black Friday” fishing event on the day after Thanksgiving. Area lakes receiving fish – mostly 12-17 inches with some five pounders – include Fort Borst Pond, South Lewis County Park Pond, Kress Lake, Klineline Pond, Battleground Lake and Rowland Lake.
  • Razor clams:  Evening razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled Nov. 4-11 and Nov. 20-26 at Long Beach and other beaches farther north. WDFW will announce final word on those digs once marine toxins tests have been completed. For more information, go to the department’s Razor Clam website.

Hunting: November is prime time for hunting in southwest Washington, whether for elk, deer or waterfowl. Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s 2014 Hunting Prospects and Go Hunt online mapping tool to determine which areas to hunt.

Prospective hunters also should be aware of the new limited fee-based access system on Weyerhaeuser lands in southwest Washington. See Weyerhaeuser’s recreational access website for information about the company’s new access policy.

Elk hunters with modern firearms will take the field Nov. 1-12, just a day after the close of the early season for black-tailed deer. Archers and muzzleloaders will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during the late season that begins Nov. 26 in select game management units (GMUs) around the region.

By expanding hunting opportunities, WDFW intentionally reduced the Mount St. Helens elk herd from the historic highs of the past decade to sustainable levels identified in the St. Helens Elk Herd Plan. Even so, plenty of animals are available to maintain the region’s standing as one of the top producers in the state.

Like last year, some of the region’s best hunting will be in GMUs 506 (Willapa Hills), 520 (Winston), 530 (Ryderwood) and 550 (Coweeman). GMU 560 (Lewis River), most of which is located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, also offers some fine prospects. Hunters heading out to GMUs 388 (Grayback) and 382 (East Klickitat) should be aware that hunts in those areas require an Eastern Washington elk tag.

As most hunters know, hoof disease has been spreading among elk in the St. Helens and Willapa herds in recent years. To help contain the disease, hunters are now required to remove the hooves of any elk they harvest in southwest Washington and leave them on-site. They are also asked to report any elk showing signs of the disease.

To report diseased elk or learn more about hoof disease, see WDFW’s hoof-disease webpage.

Immediately following the late elk season, hunters using modern firearms will get another chance to take a black-tailed deer during the popular late-buck hunt that runs Nov. 13-16 in select GMUs. Archers will get their shot starting Nov. 26, with the muzzleloader season opening the next day.

The black bear season ends Nov. 15, but cougar hunting is scheduled to run through next March. For more information on all these hunts, see the Big Game Pamphlet, available on WDFW’s website.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, reminds hunters of the department’s fourth-annual 2015 Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest. With year’s theme “Women: Hunting Through the Generations,” the winning photo will be used to illustrate the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year. “We hope that hunters throughout the state pack their cameras and share pictures with the rest of the hunting community,” Ware said.

Meanwhile, locally produced mallards are providing early-season hunting opportunities for waterfowl hunters throughout the region. Reinforcements are expected this month, when northern ducks start pushing down from British Columbia and Alaska in record numbers.

Goose hunting reopens Nov. 1 in Goose Management Area 3 (which includes Lewis and Skamania counties) and gets under way Nov. 8 for authorized hunters in Goose Management Area 2A (Cowlitz, Clark and Wahkiakum counties). Be sure to check the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet for regulations, particularly the special rules for Area 2A.

As for upland game, seasons remain open as listed in the pamphlet for forest grouse, pheasant, quail, northern bobwhite, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares.

Wildlife viewing:  Migrating waterfowl are building toward peak levels in southwest Washington, providing prime viewing opportunities for people throughout the region. Swans, geese, ducks and other waterfowl of all descriptions are on display throughout the Vancouver Lowlands and other areas of southwest Washington.

With hunting seasons under way in many parts of the region, some birders have called WDFW to ask whether they should wear hunter-orange clothing while in the field. “It's not a legal requirement for bird watchers,” said Bill Tweit, a WDFW policy analyst and avid birder. “But it only makes sense to make every effort to let hunters know where you are when you’re sharing the same area.”

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 115th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2014 through Jan. 5, 2015. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.

Eastern Washington
(Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens,  Walla Walla and Whitman counties)

Fishing: The Snake River steelhead fishery is traditionally good in November with the onset of cooler, clearer waters. This year’s returns are better than last season, said regional Fish Program Manager John Whalen. Up to three hatchery-marked steelhead (missing adipose fin) can be retained daily. Check WDFW’s website for details.

Despite what the rules pamphlet says, the first of November is NOT the start of catch-and-release steelhead fishing on the Tucannon River. By emergency rule change earlier this fall, all steelhead with a missing adipose fin caught in the Tucannon must be retained. Catch-and-release of hatchery steelhead is not allowed. The daily limit is reduced to two hatchery steelhead per day. The reason for the change is to provide more protection for natural-origin steelhead.  Removal of stray hatchery steelhead that primarily enter the Tucannon in the fall prevents them from spawning and provides a refuge area for early returning wild steelhead.

Steelhead fishing on the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities should be good this month because so many hatchery-origin fish have been “recycled” there by WDFW Ringold Springs fish hatchery staff.  “We’re seeing more hatchery steelhead returning to the hatchery trap this year than in the last 10 years of trapping records,” said hatchery manager Mike Erickson. “In the last two weeks of October we’ve recycled more than 400 steelhead to the river downstream in the Tri-Cities area so that anglers have additional opportunities. As temperatures cool these fish should be biting.”

Rainbow trout fishing is available for the first time this month and next in two of the man-made impoundments off the Tucannon River that normally close at the end of October. By a special rule this year, Blue Lake and Spring Lake on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area are open through Dec. 31. Both are well-stocked with catchable-size rainbows from the Tucannon Fish Hatchery and should provide good fishing until the end of the year.

Southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lakeremains open through the end of November for catch-and-release, selective-gear fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout. WDFW District Fish Biologist Randy Osborne reports that fishing has been good at Amber and the trout are in very good condition. 

Rainbow trout fishing at Sprague Lake on the Lincoln/Adams county line has been good this fall.  Osborne reminds Sprague Lake trout anglers that although the daily limit is five fish, only two trout over 20 inches may be retained.

Good rainbow trout fishing is also available now at Long Lake (Lake Spokane), and Osborne says it should get even better through the fall.  These are the sterile rainbows that are stocked (155,000 annually) through a cooperative effort by WDFW and Avista.  Some of these fish were raised by WDFW and some by Trout Lodge. The fish stocked in June are now running between 10 and 12 inches and are very healthy and robust.

Osborne says anglers should also be able to find some opportunity this month for yellow perch on two year-round lakes in Spokane County – Silver Lake, near Cheney, and Newman Lake, near the Idaho border.  With the mild weather that has been hanging on this fall, Osborne says anglers fishing Liberty Lake, just outside of Spokane, should find some fall largemouth bass and smallmouth bass action.

Z-Lake on WDFW’s Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County should still be a fair place to catch a fat rainbow trout, reports area manager Juli Anderson. “That is, if you stay out of the shallows on the north and south ends of Z Lake,” she said.  “Remember, too that this is a walk-in fishing site.  We just inspected the aeration system to ensure the hatchery trout in the lake have oxygen over the winter, and everything’s looking good.”

Lake Roosevelt, the year-round Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, has good rainbow trout fishing this month and some walleye opportunities.

Waitts Lake in Stevens County is open through February and provides rainbow and brown trout, largemouth bass, and yellow perch.
 
Hunting:  Some of the best deer hunting in the region occurs this month, with the late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting season Nov. 8-19 in northeast Game Management Units (GMU) 105, 108,111, 113, and 124 for any buck. GMUs 117 and 121 are also open for the late buck hunt, but are under a four-antler-point minimum rule.  The later deer hunt is usually the most productive since it coincides with the rut, or breeding season, when bucks are less wary.

Deer hunter check stations near Deer Park and Chattaroy will be conducted the last weekend of the hunt, Nov. 15-16, to help provide information about success rates and deer body condition.  Hunters 65 and over, disabled, or youth (under 16) can harvest antlerless whitetails during the Nov. 8-19 late season in special deer areas. WDFW deer research biologist Woody Myers encourages those hunters who harvest antlerless whitetails to stop by one of the check stations so that organs can be collected from those deer to learn more about productivity and survival. Antlerless hunters can also provide organs for the study at the Eastern Region office in Spokane Valley; detailed information on this study and directions for organ collection are online.

Late archery and muzzleloader deer hunting is also available in select units starting Nov. 20 or 25, depending on unit. Late archery white-tailed deer hunting in GMU 101 opens Nov. 10. Check the rules pamphlet for all details.

Moose hunting by special permit holders only continues through this month in several units throughout the region. Successful moose hunters are reminded to help with a WDFW study on moose parasites and diseases by bringing the head and organs of their harvested animal to the regional office in Spokane Valley or district office in Colville.

Modern firearm general elk hunting season and some special permit elk hunting ends Nov. 2 in select game management units throughout the region. Late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting in select game management units runs Nov. 25-Dec. 8. Check the regulations pamphlet for legal elk definitions and all other rules.

Black bear hunting continues in most of the region’s units through Nov. 15.The Selkirk Mountain ecosystem in the northeast district includes some state and federally protected grizzly bears, so black bear hunters are advised to clearly identify species. WDFW’s website includes a good Bear Identification Program, including a video and interactive test.

All big and small game hunters in the northeast district who might harvest coyotes (open year-round) are reminded to be sure of species identification because wolves are in the area. The gray wolf is protected as an endangered species under state law and may not be shot or killed. See wolf-coyote comparisons on page 72 of the hunting rules pamphlet.

Late fall wild turkey hunting opens Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 15 in GMUs 105-154 and 162-186. One either sex turkey can be taken. The big birds are abundant throughout the region.

Upland game bird hunting seasons continue at least through the year, if not longer. Good numbers of wild pheasants are reportedly in the central and southeast districts of the region, where many private landowners allow hunting through various WDFW access programs. It appears to be a good pheasant production year at WDFW’s Revere Wildlife Area in Whitman County.  Pheasants also seem more numerous at WDFW’s Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County where they’re usually more scarce.

WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Manager Juli Anderson says it also seems to have been a good hatch year for Hungarian partridge. She reminds bird hunters that sharp-tailed grouse and sage grouse are closed to hunting so be sure of bird identification before shooting.

Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage.)

Waterfowl hunting season also continues, with the best of it still ahead when migrants come through the region from Canada.  Most northeast district duck hunting concentrates on the Pend Oreille River, mostly for diving ducks like goldeneyes. Canada geese are also available on major water bodies such as Lake Roosevelt, the Pend Oreille River, and large farm fields in valley bottoms.

Spokane, Lincoln and Walla Walla counties are within Goose Management Area 4, which is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the season, plus Veterans Day (Nov. 11) and Thanksgiving Day and the day after (Nov. 27-28).  The rest of the region is within Goose Management Area 5 which is open daily.  In the southeast district, most waterfowl hunting is best even later, in December and January.

Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County is usually full of waterfowl, but it will take more rain this month to offset very dry conditions that are keeping the birds away from usual haunts. An exception is Z-Lake, a walk-in-only rimrock lake in the Lake Creek drainage where geese have been noted. Geese might also be available on other lakes and ponds in this drainage on adjacent U.S. Bureau of Land Management and private property.

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW's Hunting Prospects webpage. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports. For hunting rules, see the 2014 regulation pamphlets.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, reminds hunters of WDFW’s fourth-annual 2015 Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest. With this year’s theme “Women: Hunting Through the Generations,” the winning photo will be used to illustrate the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year. “We hope that hunters throughout the state pack their cameras and share their pictures with the rest of the hunting community,” Ware said.

Wildlife viewing:  Land-locked sockeye salmon, better known as kokanee or sometimes silver trout, are viewable this month as they spawn in Pend Oreille County’s Harvey Creek. Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said the fish can be seen near the bridge on the south end of Sullivan Lake, northeast of the town of Ione off Sullivan Lake Road.

Migrating waterfowl and even a few shorebirds continue to be observed at Reardan Audubon Lake Wildlife Area in Lincoln County, just west of Spokane. Among species recently noted from the area’s viewing blinds were greater yellowlegs, western sandpiper, tundra swan, northern shoveler, Canada goose, and mallard.

Backyard birdwatchers might be setting up feeding stations this month to attract birds for close-up viewing. WDFW biologists remind them that while supplemental feeding is a way to increase bird watching enjoyment, it doesn’t necessarily help birds. In fact, if feeders are not maintained well, feeding can harm birds. See WDFW’s Winter Bird Feeding webpage for more information.

November is breeding season for white-tailed and mule deer, and that can mean more visible bucks.

“Buck deer are on the move this month, searching for does and less wary of almost everything else,” explained WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers. “The peak of the rut, or breeding season, is usually late November, but throughout the month bucks may be more visible.”

Myers cautions motorists to be alert and aware of this seasonal activity when driving through deer habitat – which is most of the region.

“Deer-vehicle collisions increase at this time of year not just because of deer being more active and less wary, but also because of changing daylight hours,” he said. “Declining day length means that deer will be active during periods of darkness. This is also when we change from daylight savings time to standard time, creating peak commuter drive times that coincide with darkness and high deer activity periods.”

Northcentral Washington
(Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties)

Fishing:  November can be a very “profitable” time to fish for many species in some of the region’s waterways, according to WDFW Northcentral Region Fish Program Manager Jeff Korth.

“It may be all about fish feeding to put on some weight for winter,” Korth said.  “Walleye fishing is hot at this time on Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir and other big waters. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing is also very good in the fall.  And as the water cools, trout lakes start to kick in again. November is one of the better months for cutthroat fishing in Lake Lenore.”

WDFW fish biologist Aulin Smith reports it’s a great time to fish for rainbow trout on Banks Lake and recommends fishing the areas around Coulee Playland resort, “million dollar mile,” and at Coulee City Park. 

“They tend to move in along the shorelines and up into the shallows,” Smith said. “Some boat anglers have good success trolling crankbaits in the area known as Devils Lake at the north end of Banks, and along the west wall at the south end. I’ve checked anglers with big rainbows over 20 inches and one that was 24 inches off the bank. The bank anglers are plunking marshmellows and worms. The fishing should get better as it gets colder.”

Smith noted that some anglers are finding good yellow perch fishing in deeper weed lines in Banks Lake. “Sometimes a school of perch moves into the Coulee City marina area,” he said.  “Perch have been running around 10 inches.”

Smith also reports over 500,000 kokanee were recently stocked in Banks Lake and should provide good fishing in the future.

A few lowland rainbow trout lakes in Okanogan County are still open for catch-and-release trout fishing through the month of November -- Green and Lower Green lakes near Omak, and Rat Lake near Brewster.  Selective gear rules are in effect for these three lakes.

Anglers interested in catching yellow perch could try year-round-open Patterson Lake near Winthrop in Okanogan County. Expect average size on these perch to be seven to eight inches.  There’s no daily limit and no minimum size, and anglers are encouraged to retain all perch caught regardless of size.

Salmon and hatchery steelhead fishing on the Upper Columbia River and several of its tributaries continues this month.  

The Similkameen River opens Nov. 1 for the hatchery steelhead retention season, which has been under way since Oct. 8 on parts of the mainstem Columbia and the Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, and Okanogan rivers. This season requires retention of hatchery steelhead (identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin), with a daily catch limit of two. Selective gear rules and night closure are in effect, except the use of bait is allowed on the mainstem Columbia River.  All steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.

Chinook salmon fishing is open through the month on the Columbia from Priest Rapids Dam to Chief Joseph Dam  with a daily catch limit of six (marked or unmarked), of which only three may be adult chinook ( 24 inches or better).

Coho salmon fishing is open through the month on the Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Chief Joseph Dam, and on the Wenatchee, Icicle, and Methow rivers with a daily catch limit of two coho of minimum size 12 inches. 

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license when fishing any of these tributaries of the Columbia.

All details of these special rule fisheries (not listed in the 2014 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet) areavailable on the department’s website.

Hunting:  Waterfowl hunting action can really start to heat up in the Columbia Basin in November if temperatures drop and bring migrant ducks and geese from the north.  Expect large numbers of mallards, wigeon, gadwalls, teal, scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks. Early season migrant Canada geese (Lesser and Taverner’s) begin to scatter from their initial staging area at Stratford Lake to alfalfa or grain fields near Moses Lake and the Columbia River.

Water levels at the Frenchmen Regulated Access Area are a little lower than expected, but Winchester Regulated Access Area water levels are very good, with water in front of all blinds.

Diving ducks, like canvasbacks, redheads and scaup, are usually hunted along the Columbia River, particularly at Wells Pool, Wanapum Pool, and Priest Rapids Pool.

Dabbling ducks, like mallards, pintails, teal, gadwall and wigeon, are more commonly found on the plateau, where grain, corn and wheat fields and shallow wetlands attract them. Canada geese also feed primarily in wheat and alfalfa fields.

The entire northcentral region is within Goose Management Area 4, which is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the season, plus Veterans Day (Nov. 11) and Thanksgiving Day and the day after (Nov. 27-28).

Upland game bird hunting began last month and continues through the year. Columbia Basin hunters are reportedly seeing a fair number of pheasants and quail and harvesting a few chukars. Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage).

More private, high-quality land will become available to area waterfowl and upland game hunters later this month when hundreds of acres in the Columbia Basin Cropland Hunting Access Initiative (CHAI) goes online via WDFW’s in the Hunt by Reservation system. Under this program, formally known as the Corn Stubble Retention Program, one group of up to four hunters will be allowed to access the sites at a time.

CHAI sites open for reservations at 8 a.m., 14 days prior to hunt dates. Those dates can fill up quickly, but open on a first-come, first-served basis if hunters with reservations don’t show up or leave early (indicated by no vehicles in the designated parking area of the site). Most CHAI sites also have days set aside for youth and disabled hunters. For more information, contact WDFW's Northcentral Region office at TeamEphrata@dfw.wa.gov or call 509-754-4624.

Modern firearm elk hunting season ends Nov. 2 in some game management units and runs through Nov. 15 in others. The region overall is not a big elk hunting area, with almost all harvested elk from Chelan County, which includes the northern extension of the Colockum herd. The Mission Game Management Unit (GMU 251) traditionally has the highest elk harvest in the region, but elk density is not very high. Hunters should take note that GMU 251 is under a “true spike” regulation to aid bull recruitment in the Colockum herd.

Some late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting is also available through Nov. 15 in a few units. Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet for all details.

Late archery deer hunting seasons run Nov. 26-Dec. 15 for any white-tailed deer in some units, and Nov. 21-30 or Nov. 26-Dec. 8 for mule deer in other units. See all details, including antler point restrictions on mule deer, in the Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet.

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW's Hunting Prospects website. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, reminds hunters of WDFW’s fourth-annual 2015 Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest. With this year’s theme “Women: Hunting Through the Generations,” the winning photo will be used to illustrate the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year. “We hope that hunters throughout the state pack their cameras and share their pictures with the rest of the hunting community,” Ware said.

Wildlife viewing: November is a great time for a road trip through the Columbia Basin with binoculars and spotting scopes to watch incoming and outgoing migratory ducks and geese.

Large numbers of mallards, wigeon, gadwalls, teal, scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks typically arrive in the Basin this month.  The diving ducks -- canvasbacks, redheads and scaup – are found along the Columbia River, particularly at Wells Pool, Wanapum Pool, and Priest Rapids Pool.  The diversforage over beds of submerged aquatic vegetation such as pondweeds and milfoil. The dabblers, like mallards, are more commonly found on the plateau, where grain, corn and wheat fields and shallow wetlands attract them. Canada geese will also be found now feeding primarily in wheat and alfalfa fields.

Late October and early November are often full of “first-of-the-season” sightings of other migrant birds, signaling coming winter.  The first couple of rough-legged hawks of the season were recently spotted in Douglas County.

Backyard birdwatchers might be setting up feeding stations this month to attract birds for close-up viewing. WDFW biologists remind people that while supplemental feeding is a way to increase bird watching enjoyment, it doesn’t necessarily help birds. In fact, if feeders are not maintained well, feeding can harm birds. See WDFW’s Winter Bird Feeding webpage for more information.

November is the also the month to watch coho salmon returning to Beebe Creek near Chelan to spawn. WDFW Chelan Wildlife Area Manager Ron Fox says that coho and their redds, or spawning gravel beds, are visible from the bridges spanning Beebe Creek and from two viewpoints that provide close access to the creek. Returning coho numbers usually peak in mid-November.

With the peak of both white-tailed and mule deer breeding season also this month, it’s a good time to view antlered bucks vying for dominance over other bucks or seeking does. WDFW wildlife research biologist Woody Myers says buck deer can be less wary of virtually everything else at this time, so viewing may be as easy as from a roadside. But he reminds motorists to be extremely cautious. Motor vehicle collisions with deer increase at this time, not just because the deer are less wary but because shortened daylight hours simply have more motorists on the roads in the dark.

Southcentral Washington
(Benton, Franklin, Kittitas and Yakima counties)

Fishing:  November is the time when most anglers turn their attention to steelhead, although coho salmon are also an option through Nov. 16 on a section of the Yakima River this year. With coho returning in record numbers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) opened the special fishery in late October from the Interstate 82 bridge at Union Gap to the “closed water” line 3,500 feet downstream of Roza Dam.

“For the first time in 14 years, we’re getting enough coho back to the Yakima River to open a sport fishery,” said Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist based in Yakima. “More than 15,000 fish were counted passing Prosser Dam through Oct. 20.”

Under the new rules, anglers can catch and keep up to two coho – hatchery or wild – per day. Barbless hooks are required, and steelhead must be released. Other rules, including gear restrictions and night closures, are outlined in the Fishing Rule Change notice on WDFW’s website.

Meanwhile, bank anglers have been picking up some hatchery steelhead in the Hanford Reach and other areas of the Columbia River where the fishery is open. An estimated 281,000 summer steelhead are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, and the bulk of the run has passed Bonneville Dam and is moving upriver.

“This is a sizable run that should offer good fishing this month and right through spring,” said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish biologist based in the Tri-Cities. “Catch rates should pick up in the Hanford Reach and farther upriver as the month progresses.”

In the Tri-cities area, the Columbia River is open for steelhead fishing upstream to the wooden powerline towers at the old Hanford townsite through March 31. A second area of the Hanford Reach will open from the Vernita (Hwy 24) Bridge upstream to Priest Rapids Dam on Thanksgiving Day.

WDFW hatchery crews boosted fishing prospects near the Tri-Cities by recycling 400 steelhead returning to the Ringold Spring fish hatchery in late October. “We’re seeing more hatchery steelhead returning to the hatchery trap this year than in the last ten years of trapping records,” said hatchery manager Mike Erickson.

However, anglers should be aware of a new rule that closes all fishing along the Franklin County shoreline between markers located 100 feet upstream and 100 feet downstream from Ringold Springs Hatchery Creek and extending 100 feet toward mid-river.

Even so, Ringold still offers plenty of fishing access by boat or on shore. Hoffarth noted that steelhead orient to the seams and slots nearest the eastern bank of the river, both above and below the hatchery intake creek at Ringold. Many hatchery fish spend the winter there until they’re either caught or until the rising waters in spring send them into the hatchery intake creek.

Bank anglers work the seams close to shore, fishing progressively deeper throughout the day as the suns climbs higher and as anglers’ casts and boat traffic spook fish deeper and further from shore. First thing in the morning, steelhead often lie in as little as 5 feet of water, but can be found as deep as 20 feet late in the day.

Boat anglers use trolling motors to hold parallel to the bank, slipping downstream slowly, and casting toward shore and the slots and seams where steelies hold. Some boaters backtroll plugs as well.

Popular lures for Ringold and other regional steelhead fisheries include scented or baited bucktail or marabou jigs in black, black and red, black and purple, and “nightmare” patterns. Jigs are fished close to the bottom below slip bobbers.

Other good offerings for steelhead throughout the region include drifting corkies with yarn, eggs, shrimp, or nightcrawlers – or trolling or backtrolling diving steelhead plugs in chrome colors: red, purple, green, and pink. Black with silver-sparkle overlay is another good choice.

Some anglers remove the hooks from plugs and attach four feet of leader followed by a corky or spin and glo and a tempting bait like coon shrimp or eggs. This method – called “diver and bait” fishing – works best in moving water.

Steelhead fishing can be even better farther down the Columbia in the still-water forebay behind McNary Dam, where a large concentration of steelhead stocks from throughout the basin hold for the winter. A similar wintering scenario exists in forebays behind other Columbia and Snake River dams, including Ice Harbor Dam upstream of the town of Burbank.

Trolling lighted plugs at night is popular and productive at McNary and in other dam forebays, but anglers should take special precautions to stay safe at night, including legally lighting boats in the bow and stern to stay visible to other anglers.

Diehard anglers also know that November offers good bass and walleye fishing as they pack on pounds before slipping into lethargy for the winter, usually in December.

Virtually every section of the Columbia and Snake rivers in south central Washington holds large populations of both smallmouth bass and walleye. Anglers should start in 15-25 feet on the edges of the main river channels.

Anglers can also look forward to reeling in some large broodstock rainbow trout from a half-dozen small lakes and gravel-pit ponds in and around Yakima and Ellensburg.

Stocking dates have not been set yet, but WDFW usually starts planting these 3-10 pound fish mid- to late November. Anglers can check the Trout Plant Reports to see when these fish are available.

Target lakes include North FioRito, Mattoon, I-82 Pond #4, Rotary, Myron and Reflection Pond. These broodstock plants are designed to supplement carryover trout and warmwater fish such as yellow perch, crappie, largemouth bass and channel catfish. North Elton Pond near Selah will also be stocked with half-pound rainbow trout prior to that lake opening Dec. 1. 

Anglers are reminded that most of the streams in the upper Yakima Basin close to fishing Oct. 31, then reopen Dec. 1 in some areas for winter whitefish season. An exception is the section of the Yakima River above Roza Dam, which remains open to catch-and-release fishing year around.

Anglers should always check the Washington Sportfishing Rules pamphlet and any applicable rule changes before wetting a line.

Hunting:  After a warm, dry October, area hunters are counting on some snow and colder weather to get game animals moving this month. That would go a long way to improve hunters’ success in the field, said Scott McCorquodale, regional WDFW wildlife manager.

“The warm weather last month was great for hiking, but not so much for hunting,” he said. “We’re hoping for more favorable conditions for the hunting days open this month.”

This year’s modern-firearm season for elk runs through Nov. 2 in most areas, but remains open through Nov. 15 in game management units (GMUs) 373d, 379 and 381. Archers will return to the field for spike bulls and antlerless elk starting Nov. 26 in several GMUs.

Based on the latest surveys, there is no shortage of elk in the region. After a mild winter and high survival rates last year, the Yakima and Colockum elk herds were both above their respective population objectives going into the fall hunting seasons.

“Yakima and Kittitas counties historically have some of the best elk hunting in the state, and that could be the case again this year if the weather cooperates,” McCorquodale said.

Most of the region’s deer hunters have left the field by November, but there are some late-season general hunts for archers and muzzleloaders. They, too, will benefit from some colder, wetter weather.

The black bear season ends Nov. 15, but cougar hunting is scheduled to run through next March. For more information on all these hunts, see the Big Game Pamphlet, available on WDFW’s website.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, reminds hunters of WDFW’s fourth-annual 2015 Big Game Hunting Pamphlet Cover Photo Contest. With year’s theme “Women: Hunting Through the Generations,” the winning photo will be used to illustrate the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year.

“We hope that hunters throughout the state pack their cameras and share pictures with the rest of the hunting community,” Ware said.

Meanwhile, locally produced mallards are providing early-season hunting opportunities for waterfowl hunters throughout the region. Reinforcements should start arriving this month, when ducks – driven south by northern storms – start pushing down from British Columbia and Alaska in record numbers.

But just how many of them will touch down in the region remains to be seen. Last year, despite a typical freeze around Thanksgiving and a thaw in January, many northern ducks passed straight through. As a result, the region’s duck harvest declined by nearly 50 percent.

With luck and favorable weather, this season will be more like 2012, when the ducks stuck around and the harvest spiked.

Waterfowl seasons run through Jan. 25 around the region. Seasons for upland game remain open forest grouse, pheasant, quail, northern bobwhite, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares as listed in the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet.

More private, high-quality land will become available to area waterfowl and upland game hunters later this month when hundreds of acres in the Columbia Basin Cropland Hunting Access Initiative (CHAI) goes online via WDFW’s in the Hunt by Reservation system. Under this program, formally known as the Corn Stubble Retention Program, one group of up to four hunters will be allowed to access the sites at a time.

CHAI sites open for reservations at 8 a.m.,14 days prior to hunt dates. Those dates can fill up quickly, but open on a first-come, first-served basis if hunters with reservations don’t show up or leave early (indicated by no vehicles in the designated parking area of the site). Most CHAI sites also have days set aside for youth and disabled hunters. For more information, contact WDFW’s Southcentral Region office via email or call 509-575-2740.   

Before heading out, hunters are advised to check WDFW's Big Game rules pamphlet for regulations specific to each GMU. WDFW’s Go Hunt online mapping tool and annual Game Harvest Reports can also be helpful in determining which areas to hunt.

Wildlife viewing: Late November is typically the time when large numbers of migrating ducks and geese move south into Washington from far-north locations seeking open water and warmer temperatures. The spectacle of waterfowl can be amazing when bad weather concentrates large numbers of birds, especially on the McNary National Wildlife Refuge. 

Also in November, mule deer bucks are in the rut, looking for does and often encountering male challengers. It’s rare to witness bucks fighting or bucks and does breeding, but it is very common to see bucks walking around in broad daylight when their hormones get the upper hand over their survival instinct.

With hunting seasons under way in many parts of the region, some birders have called WDFW to ask whether they should wear hunter-orange clothing while in the field. “It's not a legal requirement for bird watchers,” said Bill Tweit, a WDFW policy analyst and avid birder. “But it only makes sense to make every effort to let hunters know where you are when you’re sharing the same area.”

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 115th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2014 through Jan. 5, 2015. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.