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

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May 2011

(This document is updated periodically throughout the month to reflect current rules and opportunities. Please download the latest copy before heading out! Last updated May 17, 2011)

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

Fishing options sprout in May
for trout, shrimp, lingcod, halibut

This is the time of year when new fishing opportunities start popping open like daffodils in the afternoon sun. On various dates in May, shrimp and lingcod fisheries open in Puget Sound and halibut seasons get under way there and off the coast. There will also be a razor-clam dig May 18-22 at various coastal beaches.

But none of those fisheries draw bigger crowds than the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, which opened April 30 statewide. For opening day catch rate reports by county and lake, click here.

Millions of trout, ranging from eight-inch “catchables” to five-pound jumbos, will be planted during the season, which runs through October, said Jim Uehara, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) inland fish manager.

“We stock lakes with trout for the whole season, not just opening day,” Uehara said. “Trout fishing should be most productive in lowland lakes through June, and then again in September. Fishing should be good in the higher-elevation lakes, and those stocked with kokanee, right through the summer.”

For most anglers, a valid 2011-12 fishing license is required to participate in any of these fisheries, now that 2010-11 licenses have expired. The exception is young people under age 15, who fish for free in Washington state.

Licenses and permits are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state. A list of license vendors is available online and from local WDFW offices.

Key dates for fisheries opening in May include:

  • May 1 – Halibut fishing opens in Marine Area 2 off the south coast (Westport and Ocean Shores) and Puget Sound opens for lingcod.
  • May 5 – Halibut fishing opens in Marine Areas 6-10 in Puget Sound, and in Marine Area 1 off the south coast (Ilwaco).
  • May 7 – Shrimp fishing opens in areas of Puget Sound. Also Mocrocks Beach is open for razor clam digging May 7-8.
  • May 12 – Halibut fishing opens in marine areas 3 and 4 off the north coast (La Push/Neah Bay).
  • May 16 – Fishing opens for hatchery steelhead, sockeye salmon and shad on a section of the lower Columbia River.
  • May 18-22 – Twin Harbors Beach open for morning razor-clam dig.
  • May 20-22 – Mocrocks Beach open for morning razor-clam dig.
  • May 21-22 – Long Beach open for morning razor-clam dig.

Fishing regulations and other information about fisheries scheduled or under way around the state are available in Weekender Regional Reports and in the 2011-12 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet posted on WDFW’s website.

Meanwhile, anglers should be aware that Catch Record Cards for last year’s fishery are due to WDFW by April 30. Card holders are required to report their catch of salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and halibut, whether they caught fish or not. The completed cards should be mailed to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Fish Program, Catch Record Cards, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA 98501-1091.

Hunters are advised that May 18 is the last day to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. WDFW will select permit winners by random drawing in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license. Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website.

North Puget Sound  

Fishing: The blackmouth salmon season comes to a close at the end of April, but openings for halibut, lingcod and shrimp fisheries are coming up. For freshwater anglers, one of the most anticipated fishing opportunities gets under way at the end of April with the lowland lakes trout season.

Beginning April 30, anglers can cast a line in many of the region's lakes, where thousands of legal-sized trout have been planted. “This is the biggest fishing day of the year,” said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Lakes in every county are well-stocked, so fishing families can keep travel costs down by enjoying good angling close to home.”

Under statewide rules, anglers have a daily limit of five trout on most lakes. Released legal-sized trout, caught with bait, count toward the daily bag limit. Before heading out, anglers should check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for all regulations.

Even after the opener, fishing should be good throughout the season as WDFW continues to stock lakes with trout. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW's website.

On saltwater, selective fisheries for hatchery blackmouth – resident chinook – are coming to a close. Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) close at the end of the day April 30. Marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) are already closed to salmon fishing.

The halibut season, however, is just around the corner. The fishery is scheduled to run from May 5 through May 29 in marine areas 6-10. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18. These fisheries will be open three days a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) but are closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

All areas that will be open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.

Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 (Tacoma) and 13 (southern Puget Sound) to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

Fishing for lingcod and cabezon also gets under way in May. During the hook-and-line season (May 1-June 15), there's a one-fish daily limit for lings, with a minimum size of 26 inches and a maximum size of 36 inches. The season for cabezon also opens May 1, when anglers will have a daily limit of two fish with no minimum size limit.

Don't forget those shrimp pots. The shrimp season opens May 7 in Puget Sound. In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. Here are the fishing schedules for the Puget Sound region:  

  • Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 7, 11, 14 and 25. Additional dates and times may be announced if sufficient quota remains.
  • Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open May 7, 11 and 14 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains.
  • Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding shrimp districts): Open daily beginning May 7 at 7 a.m. The spot shrimp season closes when quota is attained or Sept 15, whichever comes first, except for Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
  • Marine Area 7: Opens May 7 at 7 a.m. and will be open May 11, 13, 14, 25 and 28. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains. The season for coonstripe and pink shrimp (with area and depth restrictions) runs daily from June 1 through Oct. 15.
  • Marine areas 8, 9, and 10: Open May 7 and May 11 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains.
  • Marine Area 11, extending from the northern tip of Vashon Island to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 7 only.

More details on the shrimp fishery are available on WDFW's recreational shrimp fishing website.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information, a Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphletis available online.

Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. WDFW will select permit winners by random drawing in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website. The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are described in the 2011-12 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and on the department’s website.

Wildlife viewing: Wildlife viewers can watch two bald eagle chicks and their parents on WDFW’s Lake Washington Eagle Cam. The two eaglets – hatched the week of April 18 – occasionally can be seen feeding on freshly caught fish brought to them by the adult birds.

People interested in the region's wildlife also might want to drop in on the Backyard Wildlife Festival. The event begins at 9 a.m. May 14 at the Tukwila Community Center, and features a variety of activities and educational opportunities on how to attract and support wildlife through gardening and landscaping, as well as creating and preserving wildlife habitat. For more information, check the wildlife festival website

Meanwhile, reports of gray whale sightings continue in Puget Sound waters. Several whale watchers have spotted the large marine mammals milling about the Whidbey and Camano islands area the last several weeks. The whales are part of a larger population making its annual journey north from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, where the animals spend the summer feeding before heading south again. While most continue on to Alaska, some gray whales linger in the waters of the Pacific Northwest during the summer months. The best way to spot a gray – from land or sea – is to look for "spouts" of water that can reach 10 to 12 feet in the air when the whales exhale.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: More spring fishing opportunities begin in May, when shrimp and lingcod fisheries open in Puget Sound and the halibut season gets under way there and off the coast. But for freshwater anglers, one of the most anticipated fishing opportunities starts at the end of April with the lowland lakes trout season.

Beginning April 30, anglers can cast a line in many of the region's lakes, where thousands of legal-sized trout have been planted. “This is the biggest fishing day of the year,” said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Lakes in every county are well-stocked, so fishing families can keep travel costs down by enjoying good angling close to home.”

Under statewide rules, anglers have a daily limit of five trout on most lakes. Released legal-sized trout, caught with bait, count toward the daily bag limit. Before heading out, anglers should check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for all regulations.

Even after the opener, fishing should be good throughout the season as WDFW continues to stock lakes with trout. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW's website.

Meanwhile, the last razor-clam dig of the season is set to begin May 18 at Twin Harbors Beach, followed by openings at Mocrocks and Long Beach. Digs have been approved May 18-22 at Twin Harbors Beach, May 20-22 at Mocrocks Beach and May 21-22 at Long Beach. No digging will be allowed at any beach after noon.

Washington’s two other razor-clam beaches – Copalis and Kalaloch – are closed for the season. Ayres cautions diggers to observe the boundary between Mocrocks Beach and Copalis Beach, which are adjacent to one another north of Grays Harbor.

Mocrocks Beach, which is open for digging May 20-22, lies north of the Copalis River and includes Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips. Copalis Beach, now closed for the season, lies south of the Copalis River and includes Ocean Shores, Oyhut and Ocean City.

Ayres also reminds diggers to avoid signed upland beach areas at Long Beach and Twin Harbors, which are closed to protect nesting western snowy plovers. At Long Beach, the closed areas are located north of the Oysterville Road from the state park boundary north to Leadbetter Point. At Twin Harbors, the closed areas are located from just south of Midway Beach Road to the first beach-access trail at Grayland Beach State Park.

Rather catch finfish? Lingcod fishing opportunities expand May 1, when the fishery opens in Puget Sound. Lingcod fisheries in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores), 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay) are already under way. For more information on lingcod fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

The halibut season also is just around the corner. The 2011 recreational halibut seasons approved for Washington's marine areas are:

  • Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 5, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 17. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 5 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The 2011 catch quota is 15,418 pounds.
  • South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 1, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 22). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2011 catch quota is 43,500 pounds.
  • North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 12, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 21. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen the week of June 2. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 16. The 2011 catch quota is 108,792 pounds.
  • Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles, Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 5 through May 29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26 through June 18. These fisheries will be open three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2011 combined catch quota for these areas is 58,155 pounds.

All areas that will be open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.

Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 13 (South Puget Sound) to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

Don't forget those shrimp pots. The shrimp season opens May 7 in Puget Sound. In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day.

Here are the fishing schedules for the Puget Sound region:

  • Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 7, 11, 14 and 25. Additional dates and times may be announced if sufficient quota remains.
  • Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open May 7, 11 and 14 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains.
  • Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding shrimp districts): Open daily beginning May 7 at 7 a.m. The spot shrimp season closes when quota is attained or Sept 15, whichever comes first, except for Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
  • Marine Area 7: Opens May 7 at 7 a.m. and will be open May 11, 13, 14, 25 and 28. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains. The season for coonstripe and pink shrimp (with area and depth restrictions) runs daily from June 1 through Oct. 15.
  • Marine areas 8, 9, and 10: Open May 7 and May 11 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains.
  • Marine Area 11, extending from the northern tip of Vashon Island to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 7 only.

"Fishing prospects in many areas are looking even better than last year," said Mark O’Toole, a shellfish biologist for the department, who noted that he expects a strong turnout by shrimp fishers – especially on opening day. "Some of the boat ramps can get pretty crowded, so we encourage fishers to be patient and wait their turn."
 
That will be especially important at Twanoh State Park, a popular access site on Hood Canal where construction work will limit parking facilities for boaters through June. The State Parks and Recreation Commission encourages fishers to use an alternate launch site – especially during the season opener. More details on the shrimp fishery are available on WDFW's recreational shrimp fishing website.

Anglers are reminded that salmon fishing in marine areas 11 and 12 closes at the end of the day April 30. In addition, wild steelhead retention closes at the same time on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Dickey, Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers.  

However, a couple of rivers are open for salmon fishing, including the Quillayute and a portion of the Sol Duc. The Hoh River also opens for salmon May 14. For details on those and other fishing opportunities, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit – two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information, a Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet is available online and at WDFW regional offices.

Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. WDFW will select permit winners by random drawing in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website. The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are described in the 2011-12 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and on the department’s website.

Wildlife viewing: Birders interested in spring bird watching might want to attend the annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, which will be held April 29 through May 1. This event takes place during the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds as they stop at the Grays Harbor estuary to feed and rest before departing for their nesting grounds in the Arctic. For more information, visit the shorebird festival website.
Elsewhere, weekend nature programs are under way at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge in Thurston County. Programs – which include guided nature, bird and photography walks – are open to the public and free of charge, however, the $3 refuge entrance fee still applies.  The programs last between one and two hours, depending on the presenter and topic.  For more information, visit the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge events webpage or call (360) 753-9467.

Southwest Washington

Fishing: With thousands of spring chinook salmon moving up fish ladders at Bonneville Dam, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon have agreed to reopen the popular salmon fishery on the lower Columbia River through June 15.

Starting Sunday, May 15, boat and bank anglers can fish for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon from Rocky Point/Tongue Point upriver to Beacon Rock. Bank fishing will also be allowed four miles farther upriver to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.

Anglers can retain one hatchery-reared adult chinook salmon as part of their daily limit.
All wild chinook not marked as hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released unharmed.

In areas open to spring chinook fishing, anglers may also retain sockeye salmon and hatchery steelhead under regulations outlined in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.

Since late April, the number of chinook salmon passing Bonneville Dam has increased dramatically, opening the door to additional fishing opportunities, said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). 

“The fish took their time moving upriver, but they’re making up for it now,” LeFleur said. “This opening will give anglers another chance to catch spring chinook on the lower river.”

On May 11, state and tribal fishery managers raised their initial estimate of upriver-bound spring chinook from 198,400 fish to 210,000 fish, making thousands more chinook salmon available for harvest on the lower river. LeFleur noted that fishery managers may also consider extending fishing seasons above Bonneville Dam – including the Snake River – at a later date. 

Meanwhile, anglers continue to catch fish in area tributaries, where the daily limit is two spring chinook, two steelhead, or one of each. The Wind River and Drano Lake are traditional hotspots for spring chinook in May, although anglers should be aware that all sport fishing will be closed at Drano Lake on Wednesdays through June. Other prospects include the White Salmon River as well as the lower Klickitat River, the later which is open for fishing Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Below Bonneville, anglers can find hatchery spring chinook and steelhead in several rivers, including the Cowlitz, Lewis, and Kalama. The Cowlitz River is usually the best bet for spring chinook, and also offers good fishing for winter and summer run steelhead.

Other fishing opportunities in May include:

  • Trout: Several popular trout-fishing lakes are scheduled to open April 30, including Mineral Lake in Lewis County, Rowland Lake in Klickitat County and Swift Reservoir in Skamania County. All were freshly planted for opening day, and will likely draw a big crowd. Plenty of year-round lakes will also be open for trout, and many are scheduled to be planted with catchable-size fish in May.  (See the southwest Washington Trout Stocking Schedule for details.) Starting May 1, anglers may use two poles on Swift Reservoir from the dam to markers below the Eagle Cliff Bridge. Those looking to catch kokanee are advised to try Merwin Reservoir, which has been hot for the landlocked salmon in recent weeks.
  • Warmwater fish: Fishing for walleye tapers off in May when the fish turn their attention to spawn, but bass fishing should pick up as water temperatures rise. Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day pools should be good bets for both species.
  • Sturgeon: The retention fishery below the Wauna powerlines on the Columbia River closes May 1, but reopens May 14 seven days a week with a one-fish daily limit, fork-length requirement of 41 to 54 inches. The retention fishery above the powerlines is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a fork-length requirement of 38 to 54 inches. Starting May 1, fishing is prohibited in spawning sanctuaries below Bonneville, John Day, McNary and Priest Rapids dams. See the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet for details.
  • Razor clams: Long Beach will open May 21-22 for a morning razor clam dig, the last of the season. No digging will be allowed after noon.

Hunting:  Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. WDFW will select permit winners by random drawing in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/special_permits.html. The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are described in the 2011-12 Big Game Hunting rules pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and on the department’s website.

Meanwhile, the spring wild turkey season runs through May 31 around the state. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing: May is prime time to watch spring chinook salmon and summer steelhead move upstream past the fish-viewing window at the Bonneville Dam visitor center. By mid-month, thousands of fish are expected to move past the dam in a single day. To get there, 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.

Bird-watching is also in full swing right now, with large numbers of neotropical species returning to the region. Birds spotted in recent weeks include greater and lesser yellowlegs in the Woodland Bottoms; orange-crowned and yellow-rumped warblers in the Pierce National Wildlife Refuge in Skamania County, Eurasian collared-doves in Stevenson County; and Townsend’s solitaires near the fish hatchery at Drano Lake.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is also alive with birdlife, from warbles to American white pelicans. A website, updated daily by volunteers, keeps visitors informed about what species they can expect to see.

Eastern Washington

Fishing:  Spring chinook fishing on the Snake River will close in mid-May, although lowland lakes are looking good for trout for months to come.

“Fishing is great all month in all of our open waters,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Central District Fish Biologist Chris Donley. “If you can’t catch a fish anywhere that is open in the month of May you should take up needlepoint.” 
 
But high catch rates for spring chinook on the Snake River during the first week of the month pushed the total harvest up to limit for the season. As a result, the section of the Snake below Harbor Dam was set to close for springers May 14, followed by the other two sections of the river May 16.

All three areas were originally scheduled to remain open through the month.

“The fish were slow in getting to the Snake, but when they did arrive they came in large numbers,” said John Whalen, WDFW eastern regional fish program manager.

Whalen noted, however, that there is a chance the fishery could reopen if strong returns of fish continue to push up the estimated size of the run. The catch limit for the Snake River fishery is governed by a federal permit, because the wild portion of the run is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

For more information on the closure, see WDFW’s fishing regulations website.

For trout fishing, best bets include Badger, Williams, West Medical, Fish, and Clear lakes in southwest Spokane County and Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County, Donley said.  Anglers usually average about two trout each at all of these waters. Most have rainbow trout, but some also have cutthroat and tiger trout.

Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said a couple of Stevens County lakes that open in late April are often among the state’s top 10 in catch rates. Cedar Lake, near the Canada border, and Rocky Lake, just south of Colville, last year provided limits of five rainbow trout for every angler out on the opener. “The month of May this year could be colder, maybe even snowier, than usual,” Baker said. “But the fish are here for anglers willing to brave the weather.”

Other good trout fishing in Stevens County can be found at Waitts, Loon, Deep, the Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes, and Potter’s Pond. Selective gear fisheries like Bayley, Rocky and Starvation lakes are also good through May.

Pend Oreille County’s Big Meadow and Yocum lakes usually provide anglers an average of two to three trout each. Other good producers include Diamond, Frater, North and South Skookum, Marshall and Sacheen lakes.

New this fishing season, and effective May 1, is a ban on the use of lead weights or lead jigs measuring 1 ½ inches or less along the longest axis at Big Meadow, Yocum and South Skookum lakes where loons are known to breed and rear young. The ban is intended to improve loon survival by keeping the birds from being poisoned by ingesting small lead fishing gear lost by anglers. For more information on this new rule, check WDFW’s website.

The lead restriction is also in effect at three other northeast lakes that host nesting loons: Ferry County’s Swan and Ferry lakes, and Stevens County’s year-round-open Pierre Lake. No fishing flies containing lead are allowed at fly-fishing-only Long Lake, another loon-nesting water in Ferry County.

In the south end of the region, where many lakes and ponds are either open year-round or have been open since the first of March, WDFW hatchery trout stocking continues to keep fishing productive through May.  Excessive rain and snow this spring has delayed some fish stocking in some of the Tucannon River impoundments, said WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman.

“But now all of the lakes have been stocked again and Big Four Lake, our fly-fishing only lake, was finally stocked for the first time this season, now that the river level is back down,” Dingman said.

Check the complete trout stocking plan for details. The latest weekly stocking reports are available here.

WDFW officials are reminding anglers to clean boats thoroughly before transporting them between fishing waters this season.  WDFW’s eastside Aquatic Invasive Species biologist Mike Wilkinson said that mandatory boat inspections at various water access sites throughout the state begin this month to try to prevent the illegal transport or spread of everything from milfoil to zebra mussels. For more information, see WDFW’s Aquatic Invasive Species website.

Hunting:  Spring turkey hunting continues through May. WDFW Northeast District Wildlife Biologist Dana Base says the highest number of turkeys are in Game Management Unit (GMU) 117 (Chewelah) and 108 (Douglas) in Stevens County. Flocks are rebuilding from recent hard winters and turkey numbers are relatively healthy throughout the northeast district, where traditionally two-thirds of the state’s spring turkey harvest occurs.

In the south end of the region, where the second highest turkey harvest usually occurs, WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reports turkeys are still plentiful but hunting pressure has dropped since the opener April 15.

Turkey hunters are reminded to file hunting activity and harvest reports by phone or on-line as soon as possible, unless they plan to hunt turkeys this fall. Check all details in the Wild Turkey Spring Season hunting regulations pamphlet.

Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons. WDFW will select permit winners by random drawing in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website.  The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are described in the 2011-12 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and on the department’s website.

Wildlife viewing: The month of May is probably the best time to see the greatest diversity of bird life in the region, from geese to warblers.

“Neo-tropical migrants are returning from wintering grounds south of the border, while some are just passing through on their way further north to breed and nest,” said Howard Ferguson, WDFW central district wildlife biologist. “And of course all our year-round resident birds are also more active – singing to establish breeding and nesting territories, going through mating rituals, building nests, and some earlier-nesters even starting to rear young. Our extended cold temperatures and even late season snowfall don’t deter them, since it’s mostly photoperiod, or length of daylight hours that triggers all the activity.”

Ferguson recently observed a “flash mob” of mountain bluebirds passing through WDFW’s Swanson Lakes wildlife area, on their way to higher elevation nesting meadows. Several western bluebirds are already occupying numerous nestboxes on the wildlife area, which offers the grassland habitat they prefer.

Several swallow species are back in the region, building nests in trees, banks, cliffs, and barns, “as their common names indicate,” Ferguson said. Violet-green swallows are among those that nest in snags or dead trees or will readily use nest boxes built to their specifications. For more on building bird nest boxes for a variety of species, see WDFW’s Living With Wildlife webpage.

International Migratory Bird Day, always the second Saturday of May, is being celebrated by Spokane Audubon Society with a work party at Turnbull National Wildlife

Refuge, five miles south of Cheney on Cheney-Plaza Road. From 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 14, the work party will restore native riparian habitat on the refuge to benefit birds and other wildlife species. Hundreds of native saplings will be planted and fencing will be built to protect the trees from browsing by deer, elk, and moose. All are welcome to help, but interested groups should call the refuge (509-235-4723) in advance to help organizers plan, especially for the potluck lunch that follows the work party. Wear long-sleeved work clothes, sturdy footwear and work gloves, and bring shovels, pliers, and potluck contributions, if possible. Check online for more information on International Migratory Bird Day.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing:  Although many regional lakes have been open for trout fishing since early March or April, anglers can look forward to more options – and rising catch rates – during the month of May.

In Okanogan County, the traditional king of catch rates at this time is Pearrygin Lake, near Winthrop. Pearrygin usually produces a daily limit of five rainbow trout – most 10 to 12 inches, some up to 15 inches, with a few one to pound triploids -- for most anglers early in the season, said Bob Jateff, a district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). 

Fish Lake, northeast of Conconully, and Alta Lake, southwest of Pateros, are also good producers of rainbow catches through May. Last year, both averaged three trout per angler on the opener. Conconully Reservoir, south of Conconully, and Conconully Lake, east of town, are also good bets, giving up an average of two trout per angler per day.

Other newly opened lakes in Okanogan County that fish well include some with special rules: Big Twin Lake, near Winthrop, is under selective gear rules and a one-fish daily catch limit; Chopaka Lake, near Loomis, is fly-fishing only with no boat motors allowed. Aeneas Lake, near Tonasket, is also fly-fishing only with no boat motors allowed, but has some brown trout up to 18 inches.

Blue Lake, located within WDFW’s Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, also has some brown trout as well as rainbows, and is under selective gear and electric motors only rules. Blue is also one of three Okanogan County lakes with a new restriction this season to protect loons that breed and rear young there.

Effective May 1, there is a ban on the use of lead weights or lead jigs measuring 1 ½ inches or less along the longest axis at Blue Lake, and on Bonaparte and Lost lakes, northeast of Tonasket, where loons also occur. The restriction is intended to improve loon survival by keeping the birds from being poisoned by ingesting small lead fishing gear lost by anglers. (For more information on this new rule, see /conservation/loons/.)

In Chelan County, top trout producing lakes include Clear Lake, south of Wenatchee, and Wapato Lake, north of Manson. In Douglas County, Jameson Lake, south of Mansfield, usually provides good fishing and is well-stocked. In Grant County, Blue and Park lakes near the town of Soap Lake, and Warden Lake east of O’Sullivan Dam on Potholes Reservoir are also well-stocked and traditionally fish well through May and beyond.

For the complete trout stocking plan for fishing waters throughout the region, see /fishing/plants/statewide/ . For the latest weekly stocking reports, see  /fishing/plants/weekly/.

All salmon and steelhead anglers are reminded to turn in 2010-11 catch record cards as soon as possible, whether or not you harvested anything or even fished at all. The cards help contribute to a data base that supports season setting.

No matter where in the region or what kind of fishing you pursue, WDFW officials are reminding anglers to clean their boats thoroughly before transporting them between fishing waters. WDFW’s eastside Aquatic Invasive Species biologist Mike Wilkinson notes that mandatory boat inspections at various water access sites throughout the state begin this month to try to prevent the illegal transport or spread of everything from milfoil to zebra mussels. For more information, see /ais/.

Hunting:  Spring turkey hunting continues through May, when much of the harvest is expected to occur.

In Chelan County, WDFW district wildlife biologist Dave Volsen of Wenatchee reports most roads within spring turkey habitat are open, but hunters may still find some access restrictions with late snow accumulation. In Okanogan County, WDFW district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin of Winthrop expects more action this month, since snow restricted access to middle elevation turkey hunting areas earlier.

Turkey hunters are reminded to file hunting activity and harvest reports by phone or on-line as soon as possible, unless they plan to hunt turkeys this fall. Check all details in the Wild Turkey Spring Season hunting regulations pamphlet.

Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons. WDFW will select permit winners by random drawing in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/special_permits.html. The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are described in the 2011-12 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and on the department’s website.

Wildlife viewing:  WDFW Sinlahekin Wildlife Area assistant manager Justin Haug reports mountain bluebirds are back in the Okanogan area to nest and have been spotted in an area newly burned to reinvigorate native vegetation. Other recent sitings there include yellow-rumped warblers, ospreys, pied-billed grebes at Forde Lake,  common loons at Spectacle Lake, and a pair or otters at Conners Lake.

Mountain Bluebird Otters Mountain Bluebird Common Loon Pied-billed Grebe
Photos by Justin and Cari Haug

Large flocks of sandhill cranes and Canada geese also have been passing through to northern nesting areas.  One to two hundred white-tailed deer are regularly seen in the area’s alfalfa fields in the evenings. Mule deer are moving through on their annual migration. Ruffed grouse are drumming in riparian areas and blue grouse are “hooting” from the hillsides. Even early season butterflies are coming out with warming weather; already seen on the Sinlahekin are California tortoiseshell, spring azure, spring white, mourning cloak, cabbage white, satyr comma, and Sara’s orange-tip.

WDFW district wildlife biologist Dave Volsen says this is the best time of year for viewing wildlife in Douglas County, with sagebrush habitat “coming alive.”

“Wildflowers are starting to bloom across shrub-steppe habitat, and breeding bird numbers are increasing,” Volsen said. “Golden eagles, peregrine falcons and osprey have retuned and are establishing nests or already tending young. Sandhill cranes are migrating through and are often seen in large numbers.  Spring “greenup” is under way and mule deer are foraging on new growth early and late in the day across the county.”

Volsen says high and middle elevations in Chelan County are still covered in snow, concentrating deer below.  Greenup is occurring throughout the area and leaf out is starting at the lower elevations.

WDFW Wells Wildlife Area manager Marc Hallet reports 84 Canada goose nests found on the Columba River’s Wells Pool islands and structures. Most nests are on the islands between Brewster and Pateros. Geese can be opportunistic nesters, as evidenced by where some of their nests are found – four are on osprey nest structures, one is on a beaver lodge, one is on a rock, and one is even on an old tire.

WDFW Columbia Basin Wildlife Area manager Greg Fitzgerald reports great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, double crested cormorants, and great egrets are setting up nests in the trees on the North Potholes Reserve. Fitzgerald notes that no access is allowed within the south portions of the reserve between April 1 and July 31 to minimize disturbance to the nesting birds, but a small viewing area has been established on the southeast edge of the reserve to provide the best view.  Several species of waterfowl may also be viewed from vehicles by driving along the Job Corps Dike.  Access to the area is from the “power line” road through North Potholes, off the south frontage road, 2 ½ miles east of I-90 Exit 174, east of Moses Lake.

May 14 is International Migratory Bird Day, and the annual Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest, May 12-15, is a good way to celebrate the event. For details on all of the field trips, art shows, lectures, entertainment, and other activities involved, see http://leavenworthspringbirdfest.com . For more on International Migratory Bird Day, this year with the theme “Go Wild, Go Birding!”, see http://birdday.org/birdday.

Southcentral Washington

Fishing:  The Ringold bank fishery for spring chinook salmon will close May 20 at 9 p.m., due to poor returns to the Ringold Springs Rearing Facility. As of mid May, no chinook had been observed in the hatchery trap and few age 5 fish were counted in the sport harvest.

However, two sections of the Yakima River are open to fishing for hatchery spring chinook salmon in May.

The Yakima River from the Interstate 182 bridge in Richland (river mile 4.5) to 400 feet downstream of Horn Rapids (Wanawish) Dam (river mile 18.0) will be open from May 7 through June 15. The section of the Yakima from the Interstate 82 bridge at Union Gap (river mile 107.1) to the BNRR bridge approximately 500 feet downstream of Roza Dam (river mile 127.8) will be open from May 14 through June 30.

Meanwhile, crews from WDFW continue to stock lakes with catchable-size and jumbo trout throughout the region. In Yakima County, Clear Lake is in line to receive 10,800 catchables in May, Dog Lake 3,500 and Lost Lake 2,000. Dog Lake will also get more than 400 jumbo trout weighing up to 1½ pounds apiece, with another 1,000 jumbos going to Lost Lake in Kittitas County and 500 to Columbia Park Pond, a popular fishing hole in Kennewick reserved for anglers under age 15 and people with disabilities. A complete trout-planting schedule for southcentral lakes and ponds is available on the WDFW website.

Hoping to catch a legal-size sturgeon?  John Day Pool (Lake Umatilla) is now catch-and-release only, but Lake Wallula remains open through July for retention of sturgeon measuring 43 inches to 54 inches from snout to fork. Anglers should be aware that sanctuary areas described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet are closed to fishing – including catch-and-release – from May 1 through July 31.

For a different experience, try hooking one of the large catfish now showing up at the mouths of rivers including the Yakima, Walla Walla, and Palouse. “Bring a good rod and strong line and expect a fight if you hook into one of these monsters,” Hoffarth said.

Walleye fishing is also picking up at Scooteney Reservoir, with fair catches reported. Bass fishing should also improve as soon as the water warms a bit.

Hunting:  Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state. WDFW will select permit winners by random drawing in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/special_permits.html. The cost for each application is $6.50 for residents, $60.50 for non-residents, and $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are described in the 2011-12 Big Game Hunting rules pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and on the department’s website.

Meanwhile, the spring wild turkey season runs through May 31 around the state. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing: Starting at 6 a.m. May 1, the gates open to thousands of acres of prime wildlife and recreational lands at several WDFW Wildlife Areas in the region. Closed in winter to protect elk and other species from human disturbances, access roads snaking through Oak Creek, Wenas and several other wildlife areas will again provide passage to Washington’s backcountry.

“A lot of people come in May to look for shed antlers, but mostly we get families out looking to have fun and hike around,” said Ross Huffman, manager of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. “Either way, visiting a wildlife area is a great way to get out and enjoy the spring weather.”

Four gates will open May 1 at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, located 15 miles west of Naches. One is at the U.S. Forest Service 1400 Oak Creek Road, two provide access to the Bethel Ridge Road and another leads to Garret Canyon. The Oak Creek and Cowiche units will also open to the public at the same time.

Area managers opened the Tieton River Trail in early April after determining that doing so would not disturb a pair of nesting eagles. “The trail leads to two popular rock-climbing areas – Royal Columns and The Bend,” said Bruce Berry, assistant manager at Oak Creek. “It’s also teeming with wildlife and spring flowers.”

Located 15 miles west of Selah, the Mellotte gate at the Wenas Wildlife Area will open May 1, providing access to the north side of Cleman Mountain. “The area grades from riverine to shrub-steppe to forestlands, and provides plenty of bird-watching opportunities,” said Cindi Confer, Wenas Wildlife Area manager.

Confer noted that wildlife areas throughout the region operate on a “green dot road management” system: If a road is posted with a green reflective dot, it is open to motor vehicles. Otherwise, it is closed to motor vehicles. “But it’s important that visitors use good judgment,” she said. “If a road is soft and wet, we ask people not to drive on it, regardless if it has a green dot.”

At Colockum Wildlife Area south of Wenatchee, the West Bar Road will open to vehicle traffic May 1. Although the road is only 2.5 miles long, it provides access to the Columbia River and is a popular area to look for shed antlers in spring. At the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, two gates – Joe Watt and Robinson – will open May 1, as will the Whiskey Dick unit northeast of Ellensburg.

Visitors to all of these areas should be aware that campfires are prohibited through Oct. 15 and no developed campgrounds are available.