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

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November 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 November 21, 2011)

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

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

There’s more than one way to put a turkey on your table for Thanksgiving.  As the holiday draws near, thousands of hunters are looking forward to the wild turkey season that gets under way Nov. 20 in northeastern Washington. 

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

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

For anglers, Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of winter steelhead fishing in western Washington, where anglers can also reel in coho and chum salmon moving in from the ocean. On the eastside, fly fishers are flocking to a hot catch-and-release steelhead fishery on the Grand Ronde River, where anglers can retain up to three marked hatchery fish per day on the lower river starting Nov. 1.

Rather serve shellfish?  Seven areas of Puget Sound are currently open for crab fishing, and two more – marine areas 11 (Tacoma) and 13 (South Puget Sound) – are scheduled to reopen Nov. 21.

In addition, a razor clam dig has been scheduled later in the month. Four beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks – will open to razor clam digging on evening tides on Friday, Nov. 25. Three of those beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks – will remain open to digging Saturday, Nov. 26.

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

North Puget Sound

Fishing: Anglers are still finding coho in the region’s rivers, but most of the action will shift to steelhead in the coming weeks. On Puget Sound, the late-season crab fishery is under way, and more marine areas are scheduled to open for chinook.

Beginning Nov. 1, marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) open for chinook salmon fishing. Anglers fishing those marine areas, as well as Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area), have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon.

Anglers are reminded that Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) closes to salmon retention Nov. 1.

Saltwater anglers have been reeling in chum salmon as October comes to a close. Salmon anglers may want to try fishing waters around Point No Point (north end of the Kitsap Peninsula) and Possession Bar (southern portion of Whidbey Island) – two areas of Marine Area 9 that are often hotspots for chum salmon in early November. 

Before heading out, anglers can check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.

While on the Sound, why not drop a crab pot? Sport crabbing reopened in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7, 8-1, 8-2, and a portion of Marine Area 9 north of a line that extends from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.

Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) will reopen for sport crabbing at 8 a.m. on Nov. 21.

In each area, crabbing is allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31. 

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 10, 12 (Hood Canal) and the portion of marine area 9 south of line that extends from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff. The annual quotas in those areas were reached during the summer fishery, said Rich Childers, shellfish policy coordinator for WDFW.

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

All crab caught in the late-season fishery should be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards are available at license vendors across the state. Those catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2012. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s catch record card webpage.

Meanwhile, several rivers are open in November for salmon fishing, including the Nooksack, Skagit, Cascade, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish, Wallace, Snoqualmie and Green.

Some of those rivers – the Skagit, Snohomish and Green – are also good spots for winter steelhead fishing, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager. “Anglers can certainly find some steelhead early in the month, but around Thanksgiving is when fishing usually starts to improve,” he said.

Because regulations vary for each river, anglers should check WDFW’s sportfishing regulations pamphlet before heading out.

For trout anglers, Beaver Lake near Issaquah could be the best place to cast for rainbows in November. About 2,300 hatchery rainbows – averaging 2 to 3 pounds each – are scheduled to be released into the lake Nov. 8. To facilitate fish planting, WDFW will close the Beaver Lake access site at sunset on Nov. 7 and reopen the site at sunrise on Nov. 9. Beaver Lake, however, will remain open to fishing while the access site is closed. Beaver Lake, which is one of several westside lowland lakes open to fishing year-round, is best fished by small boat, although anglers also can be successful fishing from shore.

Hunting: November is prime time for waterfowl hunting in the region, where more and more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. After a couple weeks of good hunting, there’s typically a lull in the action in late October, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. “But hunting usually improves in mid-November, when the number of migrants arriving in the area picks up along with the wet and windy weather,” he said.

Goose hunts are open through Oct. 27 in the region, then resume again Nov. 5. However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) will run through Jan. 29 without a break. The duck hunting season also is open through Jan. 29.

Kraege said the snow goose season got off to a good start in the Skagit area. “This year we’ve seen higher numbers of snow geese and higher numbers of juvenile birds, which often leads to better hunting success,” he said.

Hunters who would like to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area should visit WDFW’s website for information on the rules and requirements.

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

Meanwhile, the modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31. Then comes the modern firearm season for elk, which is open Nov. 5-15, and the late modern firearm season for deer that runs Nov. 17-20.

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 23, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open the following day, Nov. 24.

Bear and cougar hunts are also open in the region, although the bear hunting season closes Nov. 15.

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

Planning on hunting near Samish Bay?  Skagit County, along with WDFW, is asking hunters to help clean up the watershed by using portable toilets and cleaning up after their dogs. The county has installed 13 portable toilets and 16 pet waste stations for people and pets recreating in the area.

“Human and pet waste are contributors to the fecal coliform pollution problem in the Samish,” said Dan Berentson, Skagit County's Natural Resource Division manager. “We encourage the public to use these waste stations and help keep the Samish clean.”

The waste stations were installed through the efforts of the Clean Samish Initiative, which includes WDFW, Skagit County and a number of other state and local organizations. For more information, see the county’s website.

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

Birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count, scheduled Dec. 14, 2011 through Jan. 5, 2012.  Specific counting dates will soon be announced in some areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  For details on the Christmas Bird Count, check the Audubon website.

Meanwhile, there have already been reports of returning chum salmon in Piper’s Creek at Carkeek Park in Seattle. Chum salmon can usually be found in the creek from mid-November through mid-December. The peak of spawning generally occurs during the first week of December, when visitors would likely have the best opportunity to view the spawning salmon.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: Anglers fishing for salmon often turn their attention to blackmouth and chum in November. But shellfish really take center stage as more areas of Puget Sound re-open for sport crabbing and the razor clam season gets under way on coastal beaches.

October wraps up with a razor clam dig at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. More on that opening, scheduled Oct. 28-29, is available at WDFW’s razor clam website.

Early in November, WDFW will proceed with another evening razor clam dig at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks. Opening dates and evening low tides are:

  • Nov. 11, Fri. – 6:48 p.m., (-0.4 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Nov. 12, Sat. – 7:23 p.m. (-0.4 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Later in the month, razor clammers will have another opportunity. Opening dates and evening low tides for that dig are:

  • Nov. 25, Fri. – 6:27 p.m. (-1.9 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Nov. 26, Sat. – 7:14 p.m. (-1.8 ft.); Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Clam diggers should plan to take lights or lanterns for the nighttime digs and to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out. No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the razor-clam beaches. Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2011-12 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website and from license vendors around the state. More razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled Dec. 10 and Dec. 22-23.

Rather catch crab? Sport crabbing reopened in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7, 8-1, 8-2, and a portion of Marine Area 9 north of a line that extends from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.

Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) will reopen for sport crabbing at 8 a.m. on Nov. 21.  

In each area, crabbing is allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31.

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 10, 12 (Hood Canal) and the portion of marine area 9 south of line that extends from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff. The annual quotas in those areas were reached during the summer fishery, said Rich Childers, shellfish policy coordinator for the department.

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

All crab caught in the late-season fishery should be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards are available at license vendors across the state. Those catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2012. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s catch record card webpage.

Anglers on the Sound can also pursue blackmouth – resident chinook. Beginning Nov. 1, anglers fishing marine areas 5 (Sekiu), 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) can keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. However, salmon fishing in Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) is only open through Oct. 31.

Elsewhere, anglers fishing Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) have a daily limit of four salmon, but only one of those fish can be a chinook.

Before heading out, anglers can check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with WDFW’s sampling program collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.

November is when the action heats up in the region for chum salmon. Popular fishing spots include the Hoodsport Hatchery area of Hood Canal and the mouth of Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet. Other areas where anglers can find chum salmon include the Dosewallips and Duckabush rivers in Jefferson County and Minter Creek in Pierce/Kitsap Counties. Those three rivers open for salmon fishing Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, salmon fisheries remain open through Nov. 30 on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh and Sol Duc rivers. Also open for salmon fishing through November are the Elk, Hoquiam and Johns rivers in Grays Harbor County; and the Bear and Niawiakum rivers in Pacific County. In Mason County, the Skokomish River is open for salmon fishing through Dec. 15.

Winter steelhead fisheries get under way in November on several rivers, including the Bogachiel, Calawah, Hoh, Quillayute and Sol Duc. Beginning Nov. 1, anglers fishing those rivers have a daily limit of three hatchery steelhead. “Anglers can certainly find some steelhead early in the month, but around Thanksgiving is when fishing usually starts to improve,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager. 

Grays Harbor-area rivers, such as the Satsop, Wynoochee and Humptulips, also are good bets for anglers once steelhead start to arrive, said Leland.

Because regulations vary for each river, anglers should check WDFW’s sportfishing regulations pamphlet before heading out.

Hunting:  November is prime time for hunting in the region, offering a variety of opportunities from waterfowl to big game.

The modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31. Then comes the modern firearm season for elk, which is open Nov. 5-15, and the late modern firearm season for deer that runs Nov. 17-20.

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 23, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open the following day, Nov. 24. 

Bear and cougar hunts are also open in the region. However, the bear hunting season closes Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, hunters also have opportunities for waterfowl in the region, where more and more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses.

After a couple weeks of good hunting, there’s typically a lull in the action in late October, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. “But hunting usually improves in mid-November, when the number of migrants arriving to the area picks up along with the wet and windy weather,” he said.

The statewide season for ducks, coots and snipe resumed Oct. 22 while goose-hunting closes Oct. 27 and then reopens Nov. 5 in Goose Management Area 3. Hunting in Goose Management Area 2B (Pacific County) is open Saturdays and Wednesdays only from Nov. 5-Jan. 21.
 
Hunters may also pursue pheasant, quail and bobwhite through Nov. 30. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

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

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

Birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count, scheduled Dec. 14, 2011 through Jan. 5, 2012.  Specific counting dates will soon be announced in some areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  For details on the Christmas Bird Count, check the Audubon website.

Southwest Washington

Fishing:  Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the popular winter steelhead fishery, although some anglers will undoubtedly start working their favorite rivers well ahead of time. The first two steelies of the season arrived at the Cowlitz Hatchery during the third week of October and lots more are right on their tails.

Catch totals will take off once the first big storm of the season has soaked the region with heavy rains, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Steelhead move upriver on pulses of water,” Hymer said. “Once the sky opens up and the rivers start to swell, we’ll see more fish on the move.”

Major destinations for hatchery-reared steelhead include the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis (east and north forks), Washougal, Elochoman and Grays rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County, he said. Other waters opening for steelhead fishing Nov. 1 are Abernathy, Coal and Germany creeks, the Coweeman River and Cedar Creek in Clark County and Mill Creek in Cowlitz County.

Only hatchery-reared steelhead, which have a clipped adipose fin, may be retained in regional waters.  All wild, unmarked fish must be released unharmed.

Anglers planning a trip should be aware that the White Salmon River is closed to all fishing until further notice. Designed as a safety measure, the closure took effect Oct. 25 – one day before Condit Dam was breached using explosives. 

Pat Frazier, WDFW regional fish manager, said the rush of water pouring through the 125-foot dam is expected to destabilize the river banks, and deposit large amounts of sediment and dangerous debris in the river channel.  Frazier said the fishing closure will remain in effect until WDFW can assess the conditions and ensure public safety.

Condit Dam, a 98-year-old structure owned by PacifiCorp, is located on the White Salmon River about three miles from its confluence with the Columbia River. Breaching the dam is expected to open up 14 miles of habitat for chinook salmon and 33 miles of habitat for steelhead.

On other rivers, late-run coho salmon may be the best target for anglers who want to catch fish. Although the coho run has peaked, those fish should generate some action on the mainstem Columbia and many of its tributaries right through November, Hymer said.

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

State regulations allow anglers to catch and keep up to six adult coho salmon per day on the Cowlitz, Klickitat, Kalama, Lewis and Washougal rivers, as well as the lower portion of the Grays River.  Several rivers also remain open for chinook salmon, although some close Nov. 1.

Effective that day, the No. 5 fishway on the Klickitat River closes upstream to chinook fishing, the Wind River closes to all salmon fishing as does the stretch of the Columbia River from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam.

However, like last year, the lower Grays River and the West Fork – including the area around the hatchery – will be open for salmon through Dec. 31. Steelhead fishing will continue in those waters through mid-March.

For all these waters, anglers should check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet for specific rules affecting fisheries. In addition, WDFW’s Hatchery Escapement Reports can provide a good indication of the number of fish returning to each river.

Caught your fill of salmon and steelhead for the year?  Here are some other options to consider:

  • Razor clams: Four beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks – will open to razor clam digging on evening tides on Friday, Nov. 25. Three of those beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks – will remain open to digging Saturday, Nov. 26. No digging will be allowed any day before noon. For more information, see WDFW’s Razor Clam Webpage.
  • Sturgeon:  Anglers are still reeling in legal-size sturgeon above the Wauna powerlines on the lower Columbia River. Bank angling has been consistent near Longview and below Bonneville Dam, while boat anglers have done best between Camas and Kalama. The fishery is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through the end of the year or until the quota is met.
  • Cowlitz cutthroats: October is prime time to catch sea-run cutthroat trout on the Cowlitz River, but the fish usually keep biting through November. The best fishing is from Blue Creek near the trout hatchery on downriver. Anglers may retain up to five hatchery-reared cutthroats per day as part of the daily trout limit on the lower Cowlitz River, where the fish generally range from 12 to 20 inches.

Hunting:  November is prime time for hunting in southwest Washington, offering a variety of hunting opportunities from waterfowl to big game. Relatively mild conditions last winter, together with early rainfall this fall, should make for good hunting conditions in the days ahead.

Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s 2011 Hunting Prospects report for staff biologists’ assessment of this year’s seasons.

Elk hunters with modern firearms will take the field Nov. 5-15, less than a week after the close of the early season for black-tailed deer. Archers and muzzleloaders will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during the late season that begins Nov. 23 in selected game management units (GMUs) around the region.

Sandra Jonker, WDFW regional wildlife manager, reminds elk hunters of several rules adopted last year that remain in effect in Game Management Units (GMUs) 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River) and 578 (West Klickitat). In all three areas, taking antlerless elk is prohibited during modern firearms and muzzleloader seasons. In addition, a three-point antler restriction has been adopted for all general elk hunting seasons in those three areas.

Meanwhile, WDFW is again seeking volunteers to help facilitate additional weekday motorized access for hunters during special elk permit seasons on the Weyerhaeuser St. Helens Tree Farm. Partners in the St. Helens Land Access Program, now in its fifth year, include Weyerhaeuser and a number of volunteer organizations. For more information, see WDFW's Access Program's website.

Another popular hunt, the “late buck” season for black-tailed deer, runs Nov. 17-20 in select GMUs throughout western Washington. Although the late-buck season is only four days long, it usually accounts for about a third of all the deer taken each year by hunters in the region.

“One reason why hunters are so successful during the late season is that the bucks are more active,” Jonker said. “By then, the temperatures have dropped and the rut is coming to an end.”

As with elk, a late season for deer will open Nov. 23 for archers and Nov. 24 for muzzleloaders, in some GMUs. For more information on hunting seasons for deer and elk, see the Big Game Pamphlet, available on WDFW’s website.

Hunters with a valid license can also take a cougar through Dec. 31 anywhere in the South Cascades or Klickitat zones this year. The black bear season ends Nov. 15 throughout the state.

Waterfowl seasons opened Oct. 15 in most southwest counties, where the early hunt focused on local birds. At Grays Bay, a check station contacted 21 hunters with 29 ducks – mostly pintails and widgeons – on opening day. The new WDFW launch at Oneida Road was full with boats and vehicles. 

After a couple weeks of good hunting, there’s typically a lull in the action in late October, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. “But hunting usually improves in mid-November, when the number of migrants arriving to the area picks up along with the wet and windy weather,” he said.

Hunters planning to hunt geese should pay close attention to the opening and closing dates for goose management areas 2A, 3 and 5 described in the state Migratory Waterfowl pamphlet. Special hunting rules for area 2A, which opens Nov. 12, are noted on page 19 of the pamphlet.

Hunters may also pursue pheasant, quail and bobwhite through Nov. 30. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

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

From his backyard in Battle Ground, one veteran birder recent reported seeing cackling geese, Canada geese, white-fronted geese, wood ducks, downy woodpeckers and three dozen other species – over a period of several days. At Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, he also counted nearly 170 turkey vultures flying overhead.

Also at Ridgefield, reports of a Lewis’s woodpecker present at the Birds and Bluegrass festival in October have been confirmed. A photographer got some nice photos of it during the event, according to a report on the Tweeters birding website. Lewis’s woodpeckers are fairly common in eastern Washington but rare west of the Cascades. They are large, unusual-looking woodpeckers with dark iridescent green-black backs, pink undersides, gray breasts and collars, and red faces rimmed with black.

Birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count, scheduled Dec. 14, 2011 through Jan. 5, 2012.  Specific counting dates will soon be announced in some areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  For details on the Christmas Bird Count, check the Audubon website.

Anyone planning to be afield in the weeks ahead should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are getting under way throughout the region. While hunters have a responsibility to make sure of their target before they shoot, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing an orange wind-breaker and make their presence known to hunters.

Current hunting seasons are highlighted above in the Hunting section of this report.  For more information about specific times and locations, see the 2011 Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet on the WDFW website.

Eastern Washington

Grand Ronde Steelheading
Grand Ronde Steelheading
Heller Bar Snake River
Heller Bar Snake River

Fishing: Steelhead fishing has been excellent on the Grande Ronde River, a tributary of the Snake River in the region and state’s southeast corner.

“Many people from all over the state and from out of state are on our Chief Joseph Wildlife Area fishing the Ronde,” reported WDFW Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex Manager Bob Dice. “Fly fishing for steelhead has been extremely popular there.”

Dice reminds anglers that the lower portion of the Grande Ronde, about two-and-a-half miles from the mouth to the County Road bridge, is under selective gear rules (artificial flies or lures with single-point barbless hooks) and all steelhead must be released year-round.  The upper portion of the Grande Ronde, from the County Road bridge to the Oregon state line, opens Nov. 1 to daily retention of up to three hatchery-marked steelhead.

Glen Mendel, WDFW southeast district fish biologist, said another productive fishing spot has been the Heller Bar area of the mainstem Snake River, just below the mouth of the Grande Ronde.

Snake River steelhead and fall chinook salmon fishing overall remains slow, although the month of November often marks the start of more action with cooler air and water temperatures, Mendel said. He also noted that anglers will see new state boundary signs on the Snake at its confluence with the Clearwater River on the Idaho border, thanks to a cooperative effort with Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The signs on the north shore of the Snake where it bends to the west in Washington should help clarify where either state’s fishing license is valid.

Latest creel surveys on Snake River drainage steelhead show the best catch rates are in the Tucannon River (average of six hours of angling effort per hatchery steelhead kept), Snake mainstem upstream of interstate bridge at Clarkston (nine hours per kept steelhead), and Snake mainstem from Lower Granite Dam to interstate bridge (about 10 hours per fish.) Walla Walla River steelheading saw an average of 15 hours of effort per hatchery steelhead kept.  Fall Chinook fishing has been very slow.

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reminds anglers that the Tucannon River impoundments on the Wooten close to fishing Oct. 31.

Many of the region’s other top-producing trout fishing lakes are also closed by November. But there are a couple of exceptions and several year-round-open waters worth trying.

Southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lake remains open through the end of November for catch-and-release, selective gear fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout.

Waitts Lake in Stevens County is open through February and provides fishing rainbow and brown trout, largemouth bass, and yellow perch.
 
Big net-pen-reared rainbow trout and some kokanee are available at year-round-open Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam. Big rainbows continue to provide action at Sprague Lake, the year-round waterway that sprawls across the Lincoln-Adams county line just south of Interstate 90.

Rock Lake in Whitman County, open year-round, is still producing catches of rainbow and brown trout, along with some largemouth bass.

Trout, bass, perch, crappie, and others species are available at Spokane County’s year-round-open Eloika, Newman and Silver lakes.  Newman Lake’s public access site boat ramp should be completely repaired and useable by Nov. 1.

Hunting: Modern firearm general elk hunting season and some special permit elk hunting runs Oct. 29 through Nov. 6 in select game management units throughout the region. The southeast’s Blue Mountains herds are providing the best opportunities again this season, although that hunt is under a spike bull only rule.  WDFW southeast district Wildlife Biologist Paul Wik reports elk sub-herd populations near management objectives with improved calf survival in recent years to provide higher numbers of yearling bulls for harvest. Hunters lucky enough to draw the “any bull” permits will find excellent opportunity this year, with observations of several bulls scoring over 400 in Boone and Crocket measurement, he said.  Mild weather conditions last winter and excellent rainfall during the spring and early summer have provided for optimum antler growth.

Elk are traditionally much fewer and further between in the central and northeast districts of the region where any elk is legal to harvest.  In the central district, hunter access is an issue, since most elk herds are found on private land or on Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. Howard Ferguson, WDFW central district wildlife biologist, notes that Turnbull permit-only elk hunts to address habitat damage (62 cow tags and 1bull tag) were offered again this year.

In the northeast district, finding elk is the biggest challenge with so much densely forested areas. Dana Base, WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist, reports that the most successful northeast elk hunters tend to be archers and muzzleloaders as their seasons are at a time nearer the rut when elk are more vocal and easier to find and approach.

Late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting in select game management units runs Nov. 23-Dec. 8. Check the regulations pamphlet for legal elk definitions and all other rules.

Late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting season runs Nov. 5-19 in northeast Game Management Units (GMU) 105, 108,111, 113, and 124 for any buck.

GMUs 117 and 121 are also open for the late buck hunt, but are under a new four-antler-point minimum rule. Late archery and muzzleloader deer hunting is also available in select units starting Nov. 24. Check the rules pamphlet for all details.

The earlier deer hunting season during the last half of October started slow, with fewer hunters and fewer harvested deer.  By the second full weekend of that hunt, however, hunting participation and success was picking up. Biologist Base reports check stations conducted on Highway 395 north of Deer Park saw some 177 hunters with 29 deer for about a 16 percent success rate, which is similar to last year at that time.

The later deer hunt is usually the most productive since it coincides with the rut or breeding season when bucks are less wary, noted WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers. “They’re on the move more then but also more focused on searching for does, so they are more vulnerable to hunters in the woods,” he said.

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

All big and small game hunters in the northeast district who might harvest coyotes (open year-round) are reminded to be sure of species identification because wolves are in the area. The gray wolf is protected as an endangered species under state law and may not be shot or killed. See wolf-coyote comparisons on page 71 of the hunting rules pamphlet.

Upland game bird hunting seasons continue, and although quail and partridge may actually be more numerous overall, most of the focus tends to be on pheasants, which opened Oct. 22.

“Pheasants are spottily distributed, with the best populations in good habitat, including broad riparian margins and forb-rich CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) lands,” said WDFW private lands biologist Kurt Merg, “There are some immature roosters that have not yet attained their full adult plumage, so restraint is especially important in the early season to avoid shooting a hen.”

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

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman said pheasant hunters in the southeast end of the region have been harvesting a few of those and other birds.

“The Hartsock Unit should be stocked a few more times during the season,” Dingman said. “There are several larger roosters that were seen in the area before the first release that are probably holdovers from past years.”

Waterfowl hunting season also continues, with the best of it still ahead when migrants come through the region from Canada.  Most northeast district duck hunting concentrates on the Pend Oreille River, mostly for diving ducks like goldeneyes. Canada geese are also available on major water bodies such as Lake Roosevelt, the Pend Oreille River, and large farm fields in valley bottoms. Spokane and Lincoln counties are within goose management area 4, which is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the season; the rest of the region is within goose management area 5 which is open daily.  In the southeast district, most waterfowl hunting is even later, in December and January.

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW's Hunting Prospects website. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports. For hunting rules, see the 2011 regulation pamphlets.

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

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

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

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

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reports a diversity of wildlife to watch along the Tucannon River in the southeast district of the region, including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and turkeys.  “It’s just a beautiful time to be outdoors,with the leaves changing colors, sunny days, and frosty nights,” Dingman said.

Bird migrations continue throughout the region. WDFW volunteer Kim Thorburn recently reported spotting flocks of pipits, a few straggling sandpipers,  and a rough-legged hawk at Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing:  Anglers can catch and keep hatchery steelhead on the Similkameen River starting Nov. 1, a day after the special fishery for coho salmon closes on the Methow, Wenatchee and Icicle rivers. A Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement is required to participate in any of these fisheries.

Meanwhile, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff reports that a few lowland rainbow trout lakes are still open for catch-and-release trout fishing through the month of November, specifically Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Rat Lake near Brewster. Selective gear rules are in effect for these three lakes.

Anglers interested in catching yellow perch could try Patterson Lake near Winthrop,  Jateff said. “Expect average size on these perch to be seven to eight inches,” he said.  “There’s no daily limit and no minimum size. We encouraged anglers to retain all perch caught regardless of size.”

Several year-round waters in the region can provide decent fishing opportunity in November. Banks Lake has a little bit of everything – smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, yellow perch, walleye, kokanee, even lake whitefish. Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir have most of those species, plus net-pen-reared rainbow trout.

Hunting:  Waterfowl hunting action can really start to heat up in the Columbia Basin in November if temperatures start to cool down and bring migrant ducks and geese from the north. Small Canada geese (Lesser’s and Taverner’s) have arrived at Stratford Lake in Grant County and more are likely on the way, said Rich Finger, WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist.

Biologists in the Columbia Basin also report that hunters are seeing a fair number of pheasants and quail, along with a few chukars. Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage.)

Meanwhile, modern firearm elk hunting season runs Oct. 29 through Nov. 6 in some game management units and through Nov. 15 in others. The Mission Game Management Unit (GMU 251) in Chelan County traditionally has the highest elk harvest in the region. Hunters should take note that GMU 251 is under a “true spike” regulation to aid bull recruitment in the Colockum herd.

Late archery deer hunting seasons run Nov. 23 – Dec. 15 for whitetails in some units, and Nov. 21 – 30 for mule deer in other units.

Black bear hunting continues through Nov. 15 in the region. WDFW Chelan district wildlife biologist Dave Volsen reports that bear hunters are not having the same success as last year. 

“The berry crop failure last year forced bears to travel widely in a search for food, thus exposing them to hunters,” he said. “This year’s late spring and summer have delayed the decline of forage in the high county, giving bears more feeding opportunities. It’s likely bears are traveling less to feed before going into dens, and are tougher to find.” 

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW's Hunting Prospects website. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports. For hunting rules, see the 2011regulation pamphlets.

Wildlife viewing: November is a great time for a road trip through the Columbia Basin to watch incoming and outgoing migratory waterfowl. WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger reports that small Canada geese (Lesser’s and Taverner’s) have arrived at Stratford Lake in Grant County and more are likely on the way.

WDFW wildlife biologist Rich Beausoleil of Wenatchee reports that bald eagle viewing is also picking up as the birds head to their traditional northcentral region wintering areas. “On my way to Republic, and especially from Wenatchee to Pateros, I had numerous sightings without even trying,” he said.

The peak of the white-tailed and mule deer breeding season is in mid-November, offering a chance to see antlered bucks vying for dominance over other bucks or seeking does. WDFW wildlife research biologist Woody Myers says buck deer can be less wary of humans at this time, so viewing may be as easy as from a roadside.

Still, Myers reminds motorists to be extremely cautious when the deer are not. Motor vehicle collisions with deer increase at this time, not just because the deer are less wary but because shortened daylight hours simply have more motorists on the roads in the dark.

Southcentral Washington

Fishing:  A recent photo in the Yakima Herald-Republic showed an angler hip deep in the upper Naches River near Cliffdell against a backdrop of fall color, capturing the spirit of the season. 

“It’s a great time of the year to be out on the water,” said John Easterbrooks, south-central regional fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “The scenery’s great and the fishing for wild rainbow and westslope cutthroat trout can be fantastic.”

Easterbrooks has been advising anglers who want that experience to act soon, because  most area rivers and streams close to fishing at the end of the day Oct. 31. Examples include the Naches, Little Naches, and Bumping rivers and the section of the Yakima River below Roza Dam in Yakima County. Taneum, Naneum, and Manastash creeks in Kittitas County also close to fishing that day.

Oct. 31 is also the last day of the extended salmon season in the Hanford Reach, where anglers have caught a record catch of more than 10,000 adult fall chinook and over 2,500 jacks.  Anglers were still averaging 1.7 chinook per boat through the middle of the month.

That leaves hatchery steelhead, usually the main attraction in November. The season opened Sept. 16 – two weeks earlier than usual – but anglers have been working hard for their fish ever since, said WDFW fish biologist Paul Hoffarth at WDFW’s Dist. 4 office in Pasco.

“Steelhead fishing has been unusually slow at a time when it should be ramping up,” Hoffarth said. “We’ve been seeing 20 anglers come in with one fish among them.”

This year’s forecast is below the 10-year average, but that does not fully account for the low number of hatchery steelhead in angler’s creels in the Reach, Hoffarth said. Like last year, creel surveys and fish counts at the Ringold Springs Rearing Facility indicate a dearth of one-salt fish returning from the ocean for the first time. 

Although counts of two-salt fish are generally on track, one-salt fish generally make up three-quarters of the catch, Hoffarth said. “I hope I’m wrong, but it looks like we could be in for another tough month of steelhead fishing in this area.”

Anglers can retain two marked hatchery steelhead from the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco to the wooden powerline towers at the Old Hanford townsite. Hatchery steelhead can be identified by a clipped adipose fin and/or a ventral fin clip. All unmarked steelhead must be released unharmed.

For more information about fishing seasons and regulations in the region, see the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet.

Hunting:  November is prime time for hunting in central Washington, with a variety of openings for waterfowl and big game. The cold spring took a toll on some upland game-bird species, but hunting prospects look good for both elk and waterfowl.

Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s 2011 Hunting Prospects report for staff biologists’ assessment of this year’s seasons.

Elk hunters with modern firearms, archery equipment and muzzleloaders take the field Oct. 29 in various game management units (GMU) around the region. Archers will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during a late season that runs Nov. 23-Dec. 8 in designated GMUs.

Jeff Bernatowicz, a WDFW wildlife biologist, said surveys conducted last spring show increased elk populations and production this year. “Since calves surveyed in March are spike bulls in the fall, bull harvest is expected to increase in 2011,” he said, noting that the northern part of District 8 (Yakima and Kittitas counties) had the best recruitment.

Hunting areas for elk abound in District 8, where most public lands and private timber lands are open to hunters. That is not the case in District 4 (Franklin and Benton counties), where hunting opportunities are largely limited to private property surrounding the western and southern boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument (Game Management Unit 372).  

Late-season hunting opportunities for deer will get under way Nov. 20 for muzzleloaders in several GMUs and for archers Nov. 23 in GMU 373. Bear hunting ends Nov. 15 statewide.

For more information about these hunts, see WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet available online and at license vendors around the state.

Meanwhile, hunting seasons continue throughout the region for geese, ducks, coots, snipe, California quail, chukar, forest grouse, pheasant, partridge, cottontail and horseshoe rabbit.

The wet spring appears to have dampened production of forest grouse and quail in some parts of the region, but ducks clearly benefitted from all that rain. As usual, hunting success will likely drop off once local ducks “get educated,” then pick up in late November as migrant birds start arriving in large numbers, said Mike Livingston, a regional WDFW wildlife biologist.

Livingston notes that Mesa Lake, along with the small ponds and lakes on WDFW's Windmill Ranch and Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch, can provide good hunting for ducks and geese. The Snake and Columbia Rivers and associated water bodies can hold tens of thousands of ducks when the weather gets below freezing.

Hunters planning to hunt waterfowl should check the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for information about seasons in specific management areas before they head out.   

For pheasants, Windmill Ranch and Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch in northern Franklin County are also good bets. Each hunting area has two parking areas with a maximum of five vehicles per lot and has Register to Hunt boxes on site. Hunters might also consider buying a hunting permit for the Yakama Reservation near Toppenish for the excellent waterfowl and upland game hunting opportunities that it provides.

Wildlife viewing:  November is the peak breeding season for both white-tailed and mule deer, so now is the time to watch antlered bucks vying for dominance over other bucks or seeking does. “The bucks are less wary during the rut, which improves roadside viewing opportunities, but people still need to be very cautious around these animals,” said Woody Myers, a WDFW research biologist. 

Meanwhile, a new bird blind in the northeast corner of the Yakima Area Arboretum is giving birders a closer look at avian visitors. “The blind will enable us to get close looks at the birds without scaring them off,” an area birder reported to BirdYak, a website dedicated to birding in Yakima County. Josh Latimer, a Boy Scout, built the blind for his Eagle Scout project.

In Kittitas County, a birder reports mountain bluebirds, golden-crowned kinglets, ruby-crowned kinglets, white-crowned sparrows and numerous other fall migrants at the Wild Horse Wind Farm along the Vantage Highway. “The calling hermit thrushes and varied thrushes also presented a nice audio quiz with their similar ‘chup’ notes,” he wrote in a posting on the Tweeters birding site.

Birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count, scheduled Dec. 14, 2011 through Jan. 5, 2012.  Specific counting dates will soon be announced in some areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science.  For details on the Christmas Bird Count, check the Audubon website.

Anyone planning to be afield in the weeks ahead should be aware that a number of hunting seasons are getting under way throughout the region. While hunters have a responsibility to make sure of their target before they shoot, non-hunters can help to avoid an accident by wearing an orange wind-breaker and make their presence known to hunters.

Current hunting seasons are highlighted above in the Hunting section of this report.  For more information about specific times and locations, see the 2011 Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet on the WDFW website.