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

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July 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 July 28, 2014)

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

Fishing heats up in July for salmon, steelhead and crab

Summer fishing seasons are now in full swing, requiring anglers to make some tough decisions about how to spend their time on the water. Salmon, steelhead, crab, as well as trout, bass and walleye – all are now available for harvest in various waters around the state.

But for thousands of anglers, nothing beats the thrill of reeling in a big, feisty salmon. Many are doing just that as waves of chinook move south along the Washington coast, then east into Puget Sound, coastal streams and the Columbia River.

"With strong salmon runs predicted for the Columbia River this year, ocean fishing is likely to remain productive through the summer," said Wendy Beeghley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fisheries biologist for the coastal region.

Several marine areas of Puget Sound open to salmon fishing July 1, joining other salmon fisheries already in progress. Some westside rivers, including the Bogacheil, Calawah and Nisqually, also open for salmon fishing that day, and Baker Lake in Whatcom County opens for sockeye salmon July 10.

Summer steelhead are another option – notably in the Columbia River and many of its tributaries – where 281,000 adult fish are expected to move upriver in the coming weeks. As always, anglers are required to release any wild, unmarked steelhead they intercept in the fishery, which extends from the mouth of the Columbia to the Canadian Border.

Fishing regulations for these and other fisheries are described in WDFW's Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet, available from sporting goods stores and posted online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Rather catch some crab? All but one marine area in Puget Sound will be open for crab fishing beginning July 3. The exception is Marine Area 7, where the crab fishery opens July 17 in the area's southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and Aug. 15 in the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia). See http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/ for all crab-fishing rules.

Meanwhile, WDFW land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors this month to take precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes and outdoor burning are all common causes of wildfires in the state.

Fireworks are prohibited at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700 water access sites around the state, and the department recently issued a burn ban for all wildlife areas east of the Cascade Range.

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

Fishing:  Summer has arrived, and anglers have their pick of fishing opportunities ranging from salmon – in freshwater or salt – to trout and bass at local lakes. Crab fishing is also getting under way in most areas of Puget Sound.

July is the typical kickoff for salmon fishing for most Puget Sound marine areas, said Ryan Lothrop, recreational salmon fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "We are looking at a solid hatchery chinook run this year, and coho and sockeye also are on the move in areas around the Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca."

Lothrop reports the following projections for Puget Sound:

  • 283,000 chinook salmon returning in the months ahead;
  • 873,000 coho salmon moving in behind them; and
  • 23 million sockeye bound for the Fraser River, many by way of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the waters surrounding the San Juan Islands.

Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca salmon fishing opportunities for July include:

  • Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point) opens July 1. Anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional sockeye, but must release wild chinook, wild coho, and chum.
  • Marine Area 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait) opens July 1. Anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional sockeye, but must release wild coho and chum. Additionally, anglers must release wild chinook west of the #2 buoy/Ediz Hook line, and must release all chinook east of that line.
  • Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) opens July 1. Anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional sockeye, but can keep only one chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit.
  • Marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) open July 1. Anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release all chinook through July 15. Beginning July 16, anglers can retain one hatchery chinook – marked with a clipped adipose fin – but wild chinook must be released. Chinook retention is expected to last through early August and will close when the guideline is attained. Anglers should note that chum must also be released in marine area 9 throughout July and in marine area 10 starting July 16.
  • Sinclair Inlet, a portion of Marine Area 10, opens July 1. Anglers fishing Sinclair will have a daily limit of three salmon, but must release wild chinook. Anglers are allowed to use two fishing poles with the purchase of a two-pole endorsement.
  • Tulalip Bay "bubble" fishery, a portion of Marine Area 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), remains open each week from Friday through noon on Monday through Sept. 1. Anglers fishing the bubble have a two-salmon daily limit, and can use two fishing poles with the purchase of a WDFW two-pole endorsement.

Check the Fish Washington rules pamphlet for additional details on salmon fishing opportunities and locations. Lothrop noted that both the rules pamphlet and WDFW's recreational salmon fishing webpage include illustrations of salmon and other species to help anglers identify their catch.

"It's important that anglers take the time to learn the differences between each salmon species – both to protect the resource and to avoid a fine," he said.

It's also time to break out those crab pots. Most areas in Puget Sound will open for crab fishing in July. The exception is in part of Marine Area 7, where the crab fishery opens July 15 in the area's southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and Aug. 15 in the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia).

The crab fishery in marine areas of Puget Sound will be open Thursday through Monday of each week, except in Marine Area 13, where crabbing is allowed seven days a week. Here is a schedule of this year's crab season for Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca:

  • Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 8-1 (Deception Pass to East Point), 8-2 (East Point to Possession Point), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal) open July 3 through Sept. 1. Crabbing is allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Marine Area 7 South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) – Opens July 17 through Sept. 29. Crabbing is allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia) – Opens Aug. 15 through Sept. 29. Crabbing is allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Marine Area 13 (south Puget Sound) – Opens June 1 through Sept. 1. Crabbing is allowed seven days per week.

For additional details on the schedule of openings visit this news release and the recreational crab fishing website.

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. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for WDFW, said test fisheries indicate the crab population in Puget Sound remains abundant. "We continue to see healthy numbers of crab throughout Puget Sound," he said. "With such strong numbers, crabbing should be good from opening day all the way through the end of the summer season."

Information on the rules, including how to properly record and report catch information is available on WDFW's crab fishing webpage. The page includes links to a printable "Crabbing in Puget Sound" brochure and a "Puget Sound Recreational Dungeness Crab Guide," both of which have information on crabbing regulations.

A portion of  Marine area 7 South is also reopening for spot shrimp from July 29 through August 3 as detailed in this rule change.

Three of the region's major rivers also remain open to fishing for hatchery chinook salmon during all or part of July, including:

  • Skagit River: Open through July 15 for hatchery chinook retention from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River Road.
  • Cascade River: Open through July 15 for hatchery chinook salmon from the mouth of the river to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge.
  • Skykomish River: Open through July 31 for hatchery chinook salmon from mouth of the "Sky" to the mouth of the Wallace River.

The daily limit on the Skagit, Cascade and Skykomish rivers is four hatchery chinook, only two of which may be adults (measuring at least 24 inches in length.)

Farther north, anglers will have an opportunity to hook sockeye salmon at Baker Lake beginning July 10. Anglers will have a daily limit of three adult sockeye salmon (minimum size 18 inches in length). All other salmon, as well as bull trout, must be released.

Trout fishing is open at several of the region's rivers. Under the statewide rule for trout, there is a two-fish daily limit and a minimum size of eight inches in rivers and streams. However, some of the region's rivers and streams have a rule requiring trout to be at least 14 inches in length to keep. For details on river fishing opportunities, check the Fish Washington pamphlet.

Of course, trout aren't the only fish available for harvest in Washington's lakes. Fishing for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and panfish (yellow perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill, and black crappie) is in full swing as water temperatures increase and warmwater species become increasingly active. 

Danny Garrett, a WDFW fish biologist, reminds fly fishers that this is an excellent time of year to target bass and panfish with your favorite flies around shoreline structure. For the more information, check out our Fish Washington YouTube video on fly fishing featuring another WDFW fish biologist, Bruce Bolding.

As July progresses, early morning and late evening hours are great times to target bass in the shallows with top-water lures, though bass will look for shade or deep water refuge during the heat of the day, Garrett said.

But yellow perch, the most abundant warmwater gamefish species in western Washington, may be the best target in July. Perch actively feed throughout the daytime, and provide excellent table fare. For more information on where yellow perch are located, and how to catch them, visit the yellow perch species page on the Fish Washington website and WDFW's YouTube video on perch fishing.

With the great variety of fishing available, summer is a terrific time to take a fishing vacation with friends and family. The fish are waiting, along with many other attractions and accommodations that make for unforgettable vacations. WDFW makes planning easy with its "Great Washington Getaways" web feature.

And if you bought a fishing license, but need a combo, WDFW is offering current freshwater or saltwater fishing license holders the opportunity to upgrade to a combination license for under $27 through July 20. The upgrade will give those anglers all the fishing privileges of a combination license at the cost they would have paid if they had purchased one in the first place, said Bill Joplin, WDFW licensing manager. Visit WDFW's news release to learn more about mid-season upgrades to licenses.

Wildlife viewing: The later part of July is a good time to head to the Ballard Locks to check out chinook salmon passing the fish ladder viewing windows. The Ballard Locks are located in northwest Seattle where the Lake Washington Ship Canal enters Shilshole Bay and Puget Sound. For information, call the locks' Visitor Center in Seattle at (206) 783-7059.

WDFW land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors this month to take precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, faulty vehicle or motorcycle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes, and outdoor burning are among the common sources of wildfire starts in the state. Fireworks are prohibited at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700 water access sites around the state.

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

Fishing:  Summer salmon fishing is in full swing this month in Washington's coastal waters and in Puget Sound, where catch rates have been picking up. Sport fishing for crab also shifts into high gear July 3 with the addition of nine marine areas in Puget Sound.

Anglers fishing for salmon off Ilwaco and Westport have been successful in finding both coho and chinook, while those on the north coast are mostly catching chinook, said Wendy Beeghley, fish biologist for the region. 

"With strong salmon runs predicted for the Columbia River this year, ocean fishing is likely to remain productive through the summer," she said.

Anglers fishing in Marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport) can retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. In areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay), the daily limit is two salmon. Wild coho salmon must be released in all four areas.

Beginning July 1, Puget Sound salmon-fishing expands to Marine areas 5 (Sekiu), 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 12 (Hood Canal). Anglers in Marine areas 5 and 6 will be allowed to keep two sockeye in addition to their daily catch limits in those areas.

Catch limits and chinook retention in Puget Sound waters vary by time and marine area, so anglers should check the Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet and emergency rule website before heading out.

"We're expecting a strong run of coho and Frasier River sockeye, although July is a little early to see those fish," said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager. "Conditions also point to potentially productive year for salmon-fishing in the Sekiu area."

Lothrop reminds anglers that they must release chum and wild chinook in most Puget Sound marine areas. Area catch information is updated regularly on the department's Puget Sound creel report webpage. WDFW collects the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.

Several coastal rivers also open to salmon fishing July 1, including the Dickey, Quinault, Bogachiel and, Calawah. The Hoh and Quillayute rivers are also still an option for anglers seeking to catch salmon in freshwater areas.

Anglers can retain two adults in a six-salmon daily limit  in most coastal rivers but can only retain jacks on the Quinault, where single-point barbless hooks are required. Trout fishing also is allowed in the same rivers and streams. Anglers should check the Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet for details.

Rather catch some crab? The sport crab fishery opens July 3 in Puget Sound except for two areas around San Juan Islands, which open later in the summer. Marine Area 13 (south Puget Sound) opened June 1.

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. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for WDFW, said recent test fisheries indicate the crab population in Puget Sound remains abundant. "We continue to see healthy numbers of crab throughout Puget Sound," he said. "With such strong numbers, crabbing should be good from opening day all the way through the end of the summer season."

Information on the rules, including how to properly record and report catch information is available on WDFW's crab fishing webpage. The page includes links to a printable "Crabbing in Puget Sound" brochure and a "Puget Sound Recreational Dungeness Crab Guide," both of which have information on crabbing regulations.

Childers reminds south Puget Sound crabbers to report their catch on 2014 catch cards despite language on the cards that states July 1, 2014, as the start date.

Meanwhile, halibut fishing continues along the mouth of the Columbia River (Marine Area 1). Anglers can hook a halibut any day of the week between the all-depth fishery, open Thursday through Sunday, and the new nearshore fishery, open Monday through Wednesday.

Anglers should check for updates on WDFW's recreational ocean halibut webpage before heading out. Anglers can keep bottomfish while having halibut onboard in the nearshore fishery on the days it's open, said Heather Reed, WDFW coastal policy coordinator. Both the nearshore and the all-depth fishery have a one-halibut daily catch limit.

Wildlife watching:  Warmer weather in July makes for a pleasant time to visit Washington's coast for wildlife-watching. Olympic National Park provides information online about exploring tidepools at its beaches. The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has posted an online guide showing of seabirds, marine mammals, fish and invertebrates (sea stars, anemones and jellyfish) that beach-goers may find. 

All summer long, Olympic National Park is offering ranger-led walks, including a one-hour guided stroll at Hurricane Ridge, where visitors can expect to see wildflowers and wildlife. A list of times and locations are available on the park's events webpage.

The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge announced its summer lecture series, which includes topics like "Wolves in Washington" and "Great Blue Herons of the Puget Sound."  Throughout July and August, the refuge also offers guided walks focusing on subjects like "Raptors of the Delta" and "Amazing Animal Adaptations." The refuge lists activities on its events webpage.

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

Fishing:  Just when it appeared that some of the region’s favorite salmon fisheries were over for the year, resource managers from Washington and Oregon agreed to extend seasons for summer chinook and sockeye in the lower Columbia River through the end of July. Anglers will also get four extra days catch and keep white sturgeon in the Bonneville Pool this month.

Early in the month, salmon managers extended the summer chinook season below Bonneville Dam through July 7 and the sockeye fishery through July 31. Under a later action, the summer chinook fishery will reopen July 11-31.

Seasons adopted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) now stand as follows:

  • Summer chinook: Open July 11-31 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline. Anglers can keep up to two adult hatchery chinook  (with clipped adipose fins) as part of the two-fish daily limit for adult salmonids.
  • Sockeye salmon: Open July 3-31 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline. Anglers can keep up to two sockeye (adipose fin clipped or not) as part of their two-fish daily limit for adult salmonids.
  • Sturgeon: The retention fishery for white sturgeon in the Bonneville Pool will be open July 11-12 and July 18-19. Anglers fishing the Bonneville Pool those days will have a daily limit of one white sturgeon with a fork length of 38 to 54 inches.

Ron Roler, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator, said the extra fishing time for salmon is based on a big boost in the run forecast for both sockeye and summer chinook salmon.

“Salmon are returning well above preseason projections, which gives us room to reopen those fisheries,” Roler said. “We also have 468 white sturgeon in the Bonneville Pool still available for harvest.”

Additional information about those fisheries is available on WDFW’s fishing rules website. Anglers should be aware that sturgeon fishing is prohibited through July 31 from The Dalles Dam downstream 1.8 miles to a line from the upstream dock at the Port of The Dalles boat ramp straight across to a marker on the Washington shore.

Meanwhile, anglers are also gearing up for hatchery steelhead below Bonneville Dam. Based on current projections, 281,000 adult upriver steelhead will enter the Columbia this year along with thousands more bound for lower-river tributaries, which should provide plenty of action in the weeks ahead, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

Anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville can take up to two hatchery steelhead per day as part of their six-fish catch limit, which can also include hatchery jack chinook salmon. All wild fish with an intact adipose fin must be released.

Above Bonneville Dam, fishing seasons are still open for adult hatchery chinook and sockeye salmon, as well as hatchery steelhead. For adult fish, the daily limit remains two salmon, two steelhead, or one of each.

Based on current projections, 281,000 adult upriver steelhead will enter the Columbia this year along with thousands more bound for lower-river tributaries, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). While the upriver run is 20 percent below the average since 2003, those fish should provide plenty of action in the weeks ahead, he said.

"Hatchery steelhead are fun to catch and great to eat," said Hymer, noting that those arriving this month generally run four to eight pounds apiece. "Steelhead tend to run close to shore, so bank anglers should have some great fishing opportunities in the weeks ahead."

Through June 25, a total of 9,994 summer steelhead had passed Bonneville Dam.

Hymer suggests that anglers targeting hatchery steelhead consider fishing area tributaries as well as the mainstem Columbia River. As he sees it, the best bet is probably the Cowlitz River, where fish start arriving in large numbers in early July.

Other options below Bonneville include the Lewis (North and East forks), Washougal, South Fork Toutle, Green, and Elochoman rivers. The Kalama River also recently opened to retention of hatchery spring chinook from the boundary markers at the mouth to 1,000 feet below the fishway at the upper salmon hatchery. Anglers should check the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet and emergency rules for regulations specific to those rivers.

Anglers might also want to try fishing Drano Lake or the lower Wind River, where salmon and steelhead historically dip in to beat the heat. The White Salmon River is another option, although it is still recovering from the removal of Condit Dam, which filled the mouth of the river with sediment.

For trout anglers, access to high mountain lakes continues to improve as the snow recedes. John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist, recommends Takhlakh, Horseshoe, Walupt and Big Mosquito lakes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest this time of year. 

Takhlakh contains recently stocked rainbow trout catchables and broodstock running 5 to 6 pounds. Horseshoe contains beautiful eastern brook trout, browns, and tiger trout, a sterile cross of the two. Mosquito has eastern brook and tiger trout. Walupt has wild rainbows and cutthroat trout. All of these lakes are in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Swift reservoir continues to provide excellent fishing for rainbow trout and landlocked coho. Riffe Reservoir on the Cowlitz river also provides excellent resident coho fishing. For kokanee, Yale and Merwin reservoirs are an excellent choice.

Fishing for bass, walleye, and tiger musky is also warming up in the summer sun, Weinheimer said. Anglers are catching bass and walleye in the Columbia River and tiger musky in the Merwin and Mayfield reservoirs. 

Wildlife viewing:  July is a great time to watch the parade of salmon, steelhead, shad and other fish pass the fish-viewing windows at the Bonneville Dam Visitor Center. Thousands of fish are now on display every day as they move up the fish ladders to continue their journey upriver.

To get to the visitor center, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and park in front of the glass building at the end of the powerhouse. To check on the number of fish passing the dam each day, go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.

Meanwhile, WDFW land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors to take precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes and outdoor burning are all common causes of wildfires in the state.

Fireworks are prohibited at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700 water access sites around the state, and the department recently issued a burn ban for all wildlife areas east of the Cascade Range.

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

Photo of WDFW fish biologist Marc Divens holding a crappie.
WDFW fish biologist Marc Divens recommends crappie
and other warmwater species fishing.

Fishing: July in the region is when anglers can focus on fishing for many mixed species, from trout to bass and other “warmwater” fish. Anglers also have a brief but unique opportunity to fish for spring chinook on the lower Grande Ronde River.

The lower Grande Ronde River will re-open from July 5 through July 7 from the Highway 129 Bridge upstream approximately 12 miles to the farthest upstream Oregon/Washington boundary line.

In late June, the lower Grande Ronde River was opened briefly for spring chinook fishing for the first time in 40 years. Fishery managers in Washington and Oregon wanted to test the feasibility of the fishery and hoped to increase the harvest of hatchery fish destined for the Lostine River in Oregon, said John Whalen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) eastern region fish program manager.

"We had fewer anglers participate in the fishery than we would have liked, so we've decided to re-open it for three more days," Whalen said.
For this limited fishery, anglers should check regulations listed on WDFW's fishing rule change webpage at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of opportunities to fish for warmwater fish this month.

"As lake water temperatures rise in area lakes, trout angling often slows down and warmwater fish species heat up," said Marc Divens, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish biologist. "Those include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, bluegill, black crappie, walleye, tiger muskie, bullhead catfish, and channel catfish."

Divens recommends the following lakes and species for summertime fishing, and notes that most lakes also have fishable populations of bullhead catfish:

  • Newman Lake, in eastern Spokane County, for largemouth bass, black crappie and tiger muskie.
  • Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County, for largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, bluegill and black crappie.
  • Silver Lake, in Spokane County near the town of Medical Lake, for largemouth bass, yellow perch, bluegill and tiger muskie.
  • Downs Lake, in southwest Spokane County near Sprague, for largemouth bass, yellow perch and black crappie.
  • Clear Lake, in Spokane County near the town of Medical Lake, for largemouth bass and bluegill.
  • Deer Lake, in southern Stevens County, for smallmouth and largemouth bass.
  • Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, for walleye and smallmouth bass.
  • Pend Oreille River Box Canyon Reservoir for smallmouth bass.
  • Curlew Lake, in Ferry County, for largemouth bass.
  • Sprague Lake, in Lincoln and Adams counties south of I-90, for largemouth bass and channel catfish.
  • Lake Spokane, or Long Lake, the Spokane River reservoir, for smallmouth and largemouth bass, yellow perch and black crappie.
  • Snake and Palouse rivers in the southeast part of the region for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and black crappie.
  • Grande Ronde River in Asotin County for smallmouth bass.
  • Diamond Lake, near Newport in Pend Oreille County, for yellow perch.
  • Waitts Lake, in southern Stevens County, for yellow perch.

WDFW Central District Fish Biologist Randy Osborne says catches of black crappie and yellow perch are already pretty good at Bonnie and Downs lakes in southwest Spokane County. Newman Lake also has been fishing well for largemouth bass and some really nice black crappie when anglers put in the time to locate them.

But Osborne also says anglers don't have to give up on trout fishing this summer.

"Water temperatures can remain cool enough for decent trout fishing, and you can still reap the benefits of our Father's Day weekend extra stocking of jumbo triploid rainbows at West Medical and Williams lakes in Spokane County," he said. "Clear Lake is also producing some good catches of rainbows, and although a little spotty, anglers at Fish Lake are still finding some decent fishing for rainbow and brook trout. Sprague Lake remains good for rainbow trout, too."

Osborne also noted trout fishing at Long Lake (Lake Spokane) should improve with the triploid rainbows that were stocked in May and June.  That fishery will build with an agreement between Avista and WDFW to stock 155,000 triploid rainbows annually for the next 10 years.

Divens and Osborne also remind anglers they can search for fishing waters by fish species at the "Fish Washington" webpage

WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Manager Juli Anderson reports "varied" fishing success at the Lincoln County area's Z-Lake, with some anglers getting few bites and smaller rainbows and others reeling in trout over 20 inches long. Anderson reminds anglers that Z-Lake is walk-in only and rattlesnakes and ticks are common.

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman said fishing at the small lakes on the Columbia County area slows down in July with warmer weather, but Tucannon River fishing picks up.  Dingman noted the parking area for Blue Lake closes July 1 to use the site for a large wood project under way on the Wooten through the middle of August. Campground 10 will also be closed July 7-12 to use that site for the project's helicopter landing area.

Wildlife viewing: July is a good time throughout the region to enjoy viewing young of the year ungulates – deer, elk, and moose. "Fawns and calves are more visible now," said WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers.  "Elk especially are more easily viewed with formation of large cow-calf groups that can be seen in traditional grazing areas early in the morning and late in the evenings."

Bald eagle in nest
Bald eagle in nest

Myers says white-tailed and mule deer fawns are growing more independent and might be spotted chasing and otherwise playing with each other, while their does browse. Moose calves stay closer to their very protective mothers through the summer, and viewers and photographers need to keep a respectable distance from them.

Myers also noted that buck deer and bull elk and moose are sporting velvet-covered antlers now. 

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reports five bighorn sheep lambs are viewable with their ewes near the Tucannon Fish Hatchery. Dingman also says several broods of wild turkey and pheasant chicks have been seen. Visitors to the Wooten should note that the parking area for Blue Lake closes July 1 to use the site for a large wood project under way on the Wooten through the middle of August. Campground 10 will also be closed July 7-12 to use that site for the project's helicopter landing area.

WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Manager Juli Anderson relays from staff and volunteer prairie grouse trackers that five to six radio-collared sage grouse hens are believed to have chicks with them, and one to two radio-collared sharp-tailed grouse hens have chicks with them, too.

Volunteer grouse tracker Kim Thorburn recently spotted lots of fledging baby birds at Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area.  "The killdeer were frantically trying to get their newly hatched out of the road as I drove by," she said.  "One little one crouched and froze on the road.  It would not take direction from a giant biped, only its parents."

Thorburn also said there were four species of flycatchers vocalizing in the area headquarters office yard: Willow flycatcher, Say's phoebe, and eastern and western kingbirds.

Anderson noted the river otters are still spotted occasionally at Z-Lake on Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area.

Many regional WDFW field staff report visible young-of-the-year ducks, geese, eagles, owls, osprey, and a variety of songbirds.  WDFW Wildlife Biologist David Woodall says it's a perfect time for wildlife watching while floating a river, like the southeast district's Grande Ronde.

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

Family of four on boat with a dozen caught fish.
Palmer Lake Family Fishing

Fishing:  Fishing for summer chinook and sockeye salmon opens July 1 on the Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam up to Wells Dam, and from Brewster to Chief Joseph Dam.  The river section from Wells Dam to the Highway 173 Bridge at Brewster opens July 16.

"The chinook fishing is expected to be about same as last year," said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Regional Fish Program Manager Jeff Korth. "But sockeye fishing should be much better." 

Up to two adult hatchery-marked chinook, and up to four sockeye, can be retained daily, with all wild chinook and coho released.  Anglers should check all the rules for these salmon fisheries as listed in the 2014-2015 Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet.

Anglers should also note that the Yo Yo, Old Vantage Highway, Sunland Estates and Frenchman Coulee water access sites on the Columbia River remain closed through Oct. 31 while repair work on Wanapum Dam continues.

WDFW Chelan District Fish Biologist Travis Maitland said the ongoing spring chinook salmon fishery on the Icicle River will continue through July and should be producing fish of decent quality for about the first week or two of the month.

"As for the Wenatchee River spring chinook fishery," Maitland said, "I foresee it lasting sometime into July but not necessarily through the end of the month.  Anglers are also starting to catch a few Wenatchee summer chinook as well in this fishery, which are typically larger and will be considerably brighter fish than the spring chinook in July." 

Banks Lake anglers are mostly targeting walleye and having mixed results, reports Aulin Smith, of WDFW's Banks Lake Evaluation Project team. "About 80 percent of our walleye population in Banks Lake is comprised of two year olds," Smith said. "So anglers are catching lots of fish, but finding walleye over the required 16-inch minimum takes some work."

Smith also noted that Banks Lake bass fishing is good, with both smallmouth and largemouth taking a variety of presentations. "Perch and rainbow trout are also showing up in the creel," he said. "I recently checked a shore angler with a 24-inch landlocked chinook salmon.  I enjoy trolling crankbaits this time of year because you can cover a lot of water and just about all species of fish in the lake are willing to strike at it."

Okanogan County lake fishing for a variety of species can be very good through July.

Larry Stillwaugh of WDFW's Omak Trout Hatchery said there have been reports that Blue Lake on Limebelt Road near Omak is producing nice brook and rainbow trout from 13 to 16 inches.

"Spectacle Lake is kicking out lots of bluegill," Stillwaugh said. "Bonaparte, Leader, Conconully Reservoir and Conconully Lake are always good bets for kokanee and rainbows 10 inches and up. And there are lots of bass in all those lakes. Fanchers Dam Reservoir near Tonasket has brook and rainbow trout that run 12 to 16 inches. Palmer Lake is red hot for perch and crappie. Patterson Lake should be a great bet for kokanee, and Omak Lake has Lahontan cutthroat trout."

Stillwaugh says Fish Lake on WDFW's Sinlahekin Wildlife Area has been good with 12-inch rainbows. "And Reflection Pond, on the north end of the Sinlahekin, probably still has lots of fish leftover from our extra stocking for Free Fishing Weekend and the 75th anniversary celebration on June 7," he said.

Photo of croud gathered at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area headquarters.
"Explore the Sinlahekin" field trips
start at wildlife area headquarters.

Wildlife viewing: Some unique, guided wildlife viewing is available two weekends this month as the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Washington's first wildlife area – the Sinlahekin in northcentral Okanogan County – continues with free public field trips and presentations on the area's fauna, flora, geology and history.

The sessions are conducted by experts from colleges and universities and other natural resource management agencies, along with WDFW staff.

The July 5-6 sessions cover butterflies; bats; deer and moose; grassland ecology; dragonflies and damselflies and other insects; and habitat restoration. The July 26-27 sessions cover bighorn sheep; bears, cougars and other carnivores; forests; wildfire ecology; historical photo point tour; and bats.

No pre-registration is required to attend the field trips, and all begin at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area headquarters south of Loomis. The complete schedule and driving directions are available on WDFW's website.

WDFW Okanogan District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin notes that this year's mule deer fawns in the Methow Valley are becoming more mobile and visible now. 

"Look for deer with young fawns in open pastures near brushy cover at dawn or dusk," Fitkin said.  "There's also a good chance of seeing mountain goats now at salt licks along the Hart's Pass Road northwest of Mazama."

Waterfowl broods are visible throughout the Columbia Basin. Other big, showy waterbirds, like white pelicans and common egrets, are also easily viewed in and around Potholes Reservoir and other waterways in Grant County.

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

Fishing:  Spring chinook have come and gone, but strong runs of summer chinook and sockeye salmon are moving up the Columbia River right behind them, providing new fishing opportunities in July. Walleye and shad are also on the bite this month, and thousands of newly planted trout await anglers in lakes stretching from the Yakima Valley to the slopes of the eastern Cascades.

Fishery managers anticipate a return of 67,500 summer chinook and 350,000 sockeye salmon this year – most of them headed for the upper Columbia River, said Paul Hoffarth, a regional fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The sockeye run is predicted to be twice the size of the 10-year average, he said.

While both species have a reputation for spurning anglers' lures, Hoffarth said anglers are finding ways to improve their chances of catching them.

"Anglers have been refining their technique over the past few years, and are starting to land more of these fish," he said. "A recent seminar on this subject at the Sportsman's Warehouse in Kennewick drew a standing-room-only audience."

While he doesn't profess to be an expert, Hoffarth said Maglips with herring wraps are often recommended for summer chinook, while sockeye seem to like shrimp, flashers and "anything red."

The fishery for summer chinook and sockeye salmon on the Columbia River is open upstream to Priest Rapids Dam, under a daily limit of two adult hatchery chinook. Through July, only those chinook with a clipped adipose fin may be retained.

A Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead endorsement is required to participate in salmon fisheries on both the Yakima and Columbia Rivers. A two-pole endorsement is also available for anglers fishing the open section of the Yakima River and for salmon fisheries on some areas of the Columbia River. For additional rules on the salmon fishery, see the 2014-15 Fishing in Washington pamphlet. 

Rather catch sturgeon? Anglers can catch and keep sturgeon measuring 43 to 54 inches (fork length) through July 31 in Lake Wallula, which stretches from McNary Dam to Priest Rapids Dam. Fishing is not allowed in sturgeon spawning sanctuary areas below McNary Dam.

Meanwhile, fishing for stocked rainbow trout is still going strong on lowland lakes near Yakima, Ellensburg and Cle Elum. WDFW fish biologist Eric Anderson said he especially likes the prospects at Clear, Leech and Dog Lakes in Yakima County and Lost Lake and Cooper Lake in Kittitas County.

To spice things up, WDFW has also planted hundreds of 1.5-pound jumbo trout in popular "drive to" high-mountain lakes during June, Anderson said. Those lakes include Leech, Dog and Clear lakes near White Pass in Yakima County and Lost and Cooper lakes near Snoqualmie Pass in Kittitas County. 

"All of these lakes also received thousands of catchable sized rainbows (11-13 inches) in June, and should provide excellent trout fishing, for the next month or so," Anderson said.

Anderson noted that kokanee fishing is also picking up at Rimrock Lake in Yakima County. Although the fish are small, anglers have been doing well fishing 10 to 30 feet deep, trolling pop gear (gang trolls) just about everywhere on the lake.

"Trolling a two-ounce trolling sinker and a wedding ring spinner baited with maggots or tuna-scented shoe peg corn 15 to 20 feet deep works great," Anderson said.

Other kokanee hotspots include Bumping Lake, Keechelus Reservoir and Kachess Reservoir. Anderson reminds anglers that a new slot limit for kokanee is in effect at Cle Elum and Cooper lakes in Kittitas County, where only those kokanee measuring nine to 15 inches in length can be retained. The daily limit for trout, including kokanee, is five fish. All bull trout caught while fishing for other species must be released unharmed.

Wildlife viewing:  In 2009, Washington Audubon published "Sun and Sage," a birding guide that points travelers to prime birding areas in the southcentral region of the state. One stop along the way is WDFW's Wenas Wildlife Area, located southwest of Ellensburg, a popular destination for birders, hikers, anglers and campers alike.

Along with songbirds and raptors, visitors may see elk, deer, bighorn sheep and a myriad of smaller mammals. Beaver are active around Umtanum Creek, which flows past stands of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, black cottonwood, aspen and willow.

Here and on other WDFW wildlife areas, land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors to take precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes and outdoor burning are all common causes of wildfires in the state.

Fireworks are prohibited at all 33 WDFW wildlife areas and 700 water access sites around the state, and the department recently issued a burn ban for all wildlife areas east of the Cascade Range.

At Wenas, land managers have also posted notices announcing that all target shooting is prohibited in the area until Oct. 1. WDFW announced the closure after four wildfires scorched areas of the wildlife area earlier this year.

One blaze, which scorched nearly 10,000 acres, is believed to have started at a nearby Cottonwood Creek shooting area and spread across the wildlife area. Two other fires were sparked by target shooting, while fireworks started a fourth, said Cindi Confer Morris, Wenas Wildlife Area manager.

Those fires ignited even though we had already restricted target shooting to morning hours," Confer Morris said.

"This area and the rest of eastern Washington are experiencing drier than usual conditions, which call for added precaution," Confer Morris said. "It's important for the public to take steps to preserve public recreation lands and wildlife habitat."