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

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September 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 September 15, 2011)

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

Hunters take to the field,
salmon move in from the ocean

The sun is setting earlier and there's a chill in the morning air – signs of the coming change of season.  Fall is in the air, and hunters are heading out for the first major hunting seasons of the year. 

Archery hunts for deer got under way around the state Sept. 1, when hunting seasons also opened for forest grouse, mourning dove and cottontail and snowshoe hare. Other seasons set to open this month include an archery hunt for elk, a black powder hunt for deer, and a turkey hunt in some areas of eastern Washington.

Hunters should, however, be aware that fire warnings are in effect throughout the state. On the Olympic Peninsula, the U.S. Forest Service has closed the Duckabush and Mt. Juniper trails until a forest fire burning in the area can be contained.

A youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant and other game birds runs Sept. 24-25 statewide. To participate, hunters must be 15 years old or younger and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting.

“Waterfowl populations are at record levels, but all that rain last spring took a toll on upland game birds,” said Dave Ware, statewide game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Hunting seasons for deer and elk look promising in most areas.”

So do this month's fishing prospects. On the Columbia River, thousands of hefty fall chinook salmon are pushing upstream into tributaries below and above Bonneville Dam. Farther north, coho salmon are moving east through the Strait of Juan de Fuca in increasing numbers.

“After Labor Day we usually see a big push of ocean coho move into Puget Sound,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a WDFW fish biologist. “We should see more and more of those ocean fish make their way into the Sound as the month progresses.”

Regardless of where they’re bound, hunters and fishers should be aware of two changes affecting license fees and permits approved this year by the state Legislature:

  • License fees:  Starting Sept. 1, the base price of most Washington hunting and fishing licenses increased for the first time in more than a decade. The new fees will help meet rising costs and address a shortfall in revenue for managing hunting, fishing and the fish and wildlife species that make those activities possible. New prices are posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/license_fees.html.
  • Discover Pass:  A Discover Pass is now generally required for vehicle access to state parks, campgrounds, boat launches and wildlife areas – although some exceptions apply. An annual pass costs $35 and a one-day pass available for $11.50 when purchased online, by phone, or from retail license vendors. However,  holders of most annual fishing and hunting licenses do not need the new pass to use WDFW lands and water-access sites. Some lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are also exempt. For more information, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/discoverpass/.

Meanwhile, crab fishing in most areas of Puget Sound is set to close Sept. 5, and WDFW is reminding crabbers that summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 1 – whether or not they actually caught crab this year. Completed cards can be submitted by mail or online at http://bit.ly/WkXeA from Sept. 5 through Oct. 1.

For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available this 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 fishing the marine areas of Puget Sound should still find some pink salmon in early September. But the bulk of the pink run will have made its way into the region’s rivers by the middle of the month.

Pink salmon fishing is starting to pick up in the rivers as we move into September,” said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Freshwater fishing opportunities for pink salmon should be good early in the month.”

In northern Puget Sound, Thiesfeld recommends fishing for pink salmon in the Snohomish, Stillaguamish, Skagit and Snoqualmie rivers.

Back on the saltwater, anglers are hooking some bright ocean coho in portions of Puget Sound, said Thiesfeld. “We should see more and more of those ocean fish make their way into the Sound as the month progresses,” he said.

Point No Point, Jefferson Head, Possession Bar and Shipwreck should be good spots to hook ocean coho, Thiesfeld said. Anglers fishing those areas – or other waters of marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) – have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release chinook. In Marine Area 10, anglers also must release chum salmon through Sept. 15, while those fishing in Marine Area 9 must release chum through Sept. 30.

Marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) are also open for salmon. Anglers fishing those two marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release chinook salmon.

Another option is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but can keep only one chinook. Anglers in Marine Area 7 must release chum and wild coho.

Thiesfeld said the best bet for freshwater anglers fishing for coho salmon in the region might be the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers, where abundant runs are expected to return this year. Other options for coho include the Nooksack, Skagit and Stillaguamish rivers.

Meanwhile, most areas of Puget Sound will close to recreational crab fishing at sunset on Labor Day. The only two areas of the Sound that will remain open to crab fishing after Labor Day are marine areas 7-North (Gulf of Georgia) and 7-South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham). Crabbing in those two areas is open through Sept. 30.  

Sport fishers who crab in marine areas 7-North and 7-South after Labor Day must record their catch on winter catch record cards. Winter cards are now available at sporting good stores and other license vendors across the state.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. See WDFW's sport-crabbing website for more information.

Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 1 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2011 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2012 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online. Additional information is available on WDFW’s website.

WDFW will announce winter crab seasons for Puget Sound in early October, after completing its assessment of the summer fishery.

Elsewhere, Lake Sammamish is open for salmon fishing, with a daily limit of four salmon, of which two may be chinook. All sockeye must be released, and fishing is closed within 100 yards of the mouth of Issaquah Creek. Sammamish Lake’s larger neighbor, Lake Washington, opens Sept. 16 to coho fishing. Anglers will be allowed four coho per day (minimum size 12 inches) from waters north of the Highway 520 Bridge and east of the Montlake Bridge.

Hunting: In the coming weeks, hunters have several options to consider as early hunting seasons open throughout September. Archery-only hunts for deer and cougar begin Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 23, while archery hunts for elk are open Sept. 6-18. Muzzleloader-only seasons for deer and cougar start Sept. 24, followed by the early muzzleloader hunt for elk that begins Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, bear hunts are under way in the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, which is open through Nov. 15, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington.

The statewide forest grouse and dove hunting seasons open Sept. 1. The dove hunt lasts through Sept. 30, while the season for forest grouse runs through Dec. 31. In addition, an early Canada goose hunt is open Sept. 10-15 in Goose Management Areas 1 and 3, while the band-tailed pigeon season runs Sept. 15-23.

Hunters under the age of 16 will have an opportunity to go afield for ducks, geese, coots and pheasants during a special youth hunt Sept. 24-25. Youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult – at least 18 years old – who is not hunting.

Hunters 65 years or older will have the opportunity to go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 26-30. Hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Oct. 1.

Before going afield, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for details.

Black bear hunters should also test their bear species identification skills through a new interactive program on WDFW’s website. The program includes information on how to correctly identify black bears and grizzly bears. 

Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal endangered species laws. Whereas black bears are classified as a game species. “This test was developed to help black bear hunters be sure of their targets,” said Dana Base, a WDFW wildlife biologist. “We encourage hunters to test their knowledge about the two species before going afield.”

Wildlife viewing: Birdwatchers have an opportunity to do some birding in the Edmonds area during the Puget Sound Bird Fest Sept. 9-11. The festival is a celebration of birds and nature in and around downtown Edmonds. The event features guided walks, speakers, field trips and educational activities. For more information, visit the Puget Sound Bird Fest website.

Whalewatchers should have several opportunities in September to spot orca whales in the San Juan Islands. The resident orcas are feasting on salmon runs now making their way along the shores of the islands. One of the best spots to view whales is from Lime Kiln State Park on the western shore of San Juan Island, where all three resident pods – J, K and L – can sometimes be seen together forming what is known as a “superpod.” 

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: Starting Labor Day, anglers fishing off the Washington coast can again catch and keep one chinook salmon per day as part of their daily catch limit.

Fishery managers for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the change a week after announcing that anglers would be required to release any chinook salmon they catch in coastal waters.

Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for WDFW, said updated harvest data show that ocean catch rates slowed enough prior to the chinook closure on Monday (Aug. 29) to allow anglers to resume catching chinook salmon Sept. 5. 

“When we announced the chinook closure, harvest rates were at record levels,” Pattillo said. “Since then, the catch has slowed substantially and we’re confident that we can keep the fishery open through the end of the season.”

Anglers fishing in all ocean areas can currently catch up to two marked, hatchery coho salmon per day, and those fishing in marine areas 3 and 4 can also catch one additional pink salmon per day. Starting on Labor Day, they will again be able to substitute a chinook salmon for one coho salmon in their daily catch.

Salmon fishing is scheduled to continue through Sept. 18 in marine areas 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores), 3 (LaPush) and most of Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay), except for Makah Bay east of the 124 degrees, 41 minutes line which closed Sept. 13. . Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) is open through Sept. 30, although salmon fisheries in those areas could close early if catch quotas are reached. Milward reminds anglers to check for any rule changes at WDFW’s website.

In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, anglers fishing in late August were having some success catching ocean coho, said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW. “The pink run is moving into the rivers, so anglers are turning their attention to coho salmon,” he said. “Labor Day weekend is usually the peak of the hatchery coho run in the Strait.”

Anglers fishing marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) have a two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release chum, chinook and wild coho. Regulations change in Marine Area 5 on Sept. 19, when anglers will no longer have a bonus bag limit for pink salmon but they will be allowed to retain wild coho.

“Fishing for coho salmon should get even better in the middle of the month, when anglers fishing Marine Area 5 can retain any coho salmon,” Thiesfeld said.

Farther south, salmon fishing opens Sept. 1 north of Ayock Point in Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), where the daily limit is four coho. All other salmon species must be released. The same rules apply to the Quilcene/Dabob bay fishery, which opened for salmon fishing Aug. 16.

Salmon fishing is currently open south of Ayock Point, where anglers can retain two chinook as part of their four salmon daily limit. However, they must release chum salmon.

In the southern portion of Puget Sound, anglers fishing Marine Area 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) have a two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release wild chinook. Anglers fishing Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook and wild coho.
 
Because salmon fishing rules vary depending on the marine area, anglers should check the Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet before heading out on the water.

Meanwhile, most areas of Puget Sound will close to recreational crab fishing at sunset on Labor Day. The only two areas of the Sound that will remain open to crab fishing after Labor Day are marine areas 7-North (Gulf of Georgia) and 7-South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham). Crabbing in those two areas is open through Sept. 30. 

Sport fishers who crab in marine areas 7-North and 7-South after Labor Day must record their catch on winter catch record cards. Winter cards are now available at sporting good stores and other license vendors across the state.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. See WDFW's sport-crabbing website for more information.

Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 1 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2011 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2012 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online. Additional information is available on the WDFW website.

WDFW will announce winter crab seasons for Puget Sound in early October, after completing its assessment of the summer fishery.

In freshwater, the popular salmon fishery on the Puyallup River is in full swing. Anglers fishing the Puyallup should continue to hook pink salmon through the middle of September, when the focus will shift to coho. Anglers are reminded that the Puyallup River is closed to fishing Sept. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13 from the 11th Street Bridge to the City of Puyallup outfall structure across the river from the junction of Freeman Road and North Levee Road.

Elsewhere, several rivers around the region open to salmon fishing Sept. 1, including the Carbon River in Pierce County; Copalis River, Van Winkle Creek and Joe Creek in Grays Harbor County; the Bear and Niawiakum rivers in Pacific County; and Clearwater River in Jefferson County. Salmon fisheries on the Skokomish and Nisqually rivers are already under way.

Before heading out, anglers should check the Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet for all rules and regulations.

Hunting: In the coming weeks, hunters have several options to consider as early hunting seasons open throughout September. Archery-only hunts for cougar get under way Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 23. Archery hunts for deer also are open Sept. 1-23, except in six of the region’s Game Management Units – 638, 653, 602, 607, 612 and 618 – that are only open Sept. 1-18. Archers can go afield for elk Sept. 6-18.  

Hunters should, however, be aware that fire warnings are in effect throughout the state. On the Olympic Peninsula, the U.S. Forest Service has closed the Duckabush and Mt. Juniper trails until a forest fire burning in the area can be contained.

Muzzleloader-only seasons for deer and cougar start Sept. 24, followed by the early muzzleloader hunt for elk that begins Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, bear hunts are under way in the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, which is open through Nov. 15, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington.

The statewide forest grouse and dove hunting seasons open Sept. 1. The dove hunt continues through Sept. 30, while the season for forest grouse runs through Dec. 31. In addition, an early Canada goose hunt will be open Sept. 1-15 in Goose Management Area 2B (Pacific County) and Sept. 10-15 in Goose Management Areas 1 and 3, while the band-tailed pigeon season runs Sept. 15-23.

Hunters under the age of 16 will have an opportunity to go afield for ducks, geese, coots and pheasants during a special youth hunt Sept. 24-25. However, Goose Management Area 2B is not open for Canada geese during the youth hunt. Youth hunters must be accompanied by an adult – at least 18 years old – who is not hunting.

Hunters 65 years or older will have the opportunity to go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 26-30. Hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Oct.1.

Before going afield, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online for details.

Black bear hunters should also test their bear species identification skills through a new interactive program on WDFW’s website. The program includes information on how to correctly identify black bears and grizzly bears. 

Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal endangered species laws. Whereas black bears are classified as a game species. “This test was developed to help black bear hunters be sure of their targets,” said Dana Base, a WDFW wildlife biologist. “We encourage hunters to test their knowledge about the two species before going afield.”

Wildlife viewing: A popular attraction in September is the return of hatchery chinook salmon to the Deschutes River near Olympia as they begin their annual spawning run. Onlookers can watch thousands of fish gather below the Fifth Avenue Bridge in downtown Olympia before they enter Capitol Lake and move up the fish ladders to the Tumwater Falls Hatchery.

In Sequim, a three-day festival celebrating wildlife and the environment will be held Sept. 23-24 at Dungeness River Audubon Center at Railroad Bridge Park, 2151 W. Hendrickson Road. For more information on the Dungeness River Festival, which will feature presentations, events and hands-on environmental activities, visit the Audubon center’s website.

Southwest Washington

Fishing:  September is prime time for salmon fishing in the Columbia River Basin, as large numbers of fish move upriver and into tributaries on both sides of Bonneville Dam.  Anglers fishing the lower river from Buoy 10 to the dam this season are expected to reel in nearly 32,000 fall chinook and 8,000 hatchery coho – most of them, this month.

“Prospects are good for salmon fishing this month, but it's important to remember these fish are on the move,” said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “As the month goes on, successful anglers will follow the fish upriver and into the tributaries.”

The retention fishery for chinook salmon ended Aug. 28 at Buoy 10, but will resume Sept. 16 – two weeks ahead of schedule – under emergency rules. Hatchery coho should remain strong below Rocky Point throughout the month.

Anglers will also get three extra days this month to catch chinook salmon upriver from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to the Lewis River. That stretch of the river closed to chinook retention Sept. 10, but will open Sept. 16-18 under an agreement between fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.

As of Sept. 10, the daily catch limit is two adult salmon or hatchery steelhead – or one of each – in all open areas of the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam.

“Anglers targeting chinook do best in fairly deep water – 40 to 50 feet down,” Hymer said. “Some of the best fishing for both salmon and steelhead will be at the mouth of tributaries, where the fish hold up before heading upstream.”

As the month progresses, salmon fishing will heat up farther upstream in the tributaries, Hymer said. He reminds anglers of several new rules that will be in effect on various rivers this season:

  • Grays, Elochoman, and Washougal rivers – Waters will be closed to fishing immediately above and below the racks/weirs (when they’re in place).
  • Cowlitz and Tilton rivers – Starting Sept. 1, night closure and anti-snagging rules will be in effect on the Cowlitz River from the posted PUD markers on Peters Road to the mouth of Ohanepecosh and Muddy Fork and on the Tilton River from the mouth to West Fork. When the anti-snagging rule is in effect, only fish hooked inside the mouth may be retained. This hooking rule has been in effect from Mill Creek to Barrier Dam on the Cowlitz River since April and runs through November. Also, starting Sept. 12, all unmarked chinook on the Tilton River from the mouth to the West Fork.
     
  • Kalama River – A stationary gear restriction will be in effect from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31 from the railroad bridge below I-5 upstream to the natural gas pipeline. (Historically, the markers at the mouth of the river were the lower boundary for this rule.) The railroad bridge now marks the lower boundary for the stationary gear restriction, the night closure and anti-snagging rule. 
     
  • North Fork Lewis River – Anglers can retain unclipped chinook salmon from Sept. 10-30 from the mouth to Merwin Dam.
  • Wind and White Salmon rivers – The daily limit is based on the most liberal regulation in effect on those two rivers or the adjacent section of the mainstem Columbia River. This rule effectively allows anglers to keep an unmarked fall chinook near the mouth of those two rivers.

Anglers should also be aware that the White Salmon River will be closed to fishing for 12 hours Sept. 17 to allow an interagency clean-up team to remove derelict boats, campting gear and other debris before Condit Dam is breached to improve fish passage in late October.

Like last year, anglers can retain up to six hatchery adult coho on all tributaries to the lower Columbia River with hatchery programs. Those rivers include the Cowlitz, Deep, Elochoman, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Klickitat, Lewis (including North Fork), Toutle (including Green and North Fork) and Washougal. Regulations for these and other fisheries are described in WDFW's Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.

Anglers planning to fish the North Fork Lewis River should be aware that the Yale Park boat ramp will be closed from Sept. 5 through October. PacifiCorp will be making upgrades include resurfacing the parking lot, adding parking lines and providing a wheelchair-accessble route through the day-use area. The Beaver Bay boat ramp at the upper end of Yale Reservoir will remain open.
There are, of course, a variety of other fishing opportunities besides salmon available to area anglers this month. Anglers are still catching walleye below Bonneville Dam and trout fishing is still an option at Tilton River and a number of lowland lakes, including Swift Reservoir and Mayfield Lake.

But for anglers who don't mind a hike, September is a great time to head for the high wilderness lakes around Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens. Hymer recommends three such lakes – Goose, Council and Tahkalhk – that offer drive-in access.

“The mosquitoes should die down around the high mountain lakes after the first frost arrives,” Hymer said. “Sure, the fish are usually small, but the leaves are beginning to turn, the air is crisp and you can really experience the change of season.” 

Hunting:  Early hunting seasons get under way this month for deer, elk, geese and a variety of other game birds. Hunting conditions should benefit from rain predicted in early September, although some game birds show the signs of this year’s wet, cold spring, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager.

“Waterfowl populations are at record levels, but all that rain last spring took a toll on upland game birds,” Ware said. “Meanwhile, deer and elk wintered well in most areas.”

The early archery season for black-tailed deer got under way Sept. 1 in a variety of Game Management Units (GMU) around the region, with an early archery hunt for elk running Sept. 6-18.  Muzzleloaders will then take to the field to hunt for deer Sept. 24-Oct. 2.

Like last year, taking antlerless elk will be illegal during general muzzleloader or modern firearms seasons in GMUs 5468 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River) and 578 (West Klickitat). In addition, a three-point antler restriction will be in effect for all general elk hunting seasons in those three areas.

Before heading out, hunters are strongly advised to check WDFW's Big Game rules pamphlet for regulations specific to each GMU.

Other hunting seasons opening Sept. 1 include those for forest grouse, mourning dove and cottontail and snowshoe hare. The statewide season for band-tailed pigeon runs Sept. 15-23.

Goose hunting runs Sept. 1-15 in Goose Management Area 2B, and Sept. 10-15 in goose management areas 2A and 3. Hunters planning to hunt in areas 2A (Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties) or 2B (Pacific County) should check the special requirements for those hunts on page 19 of WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet.

This year's youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant, California quail, bobwhite and chucker is set for Sept. 24-25. To qualify, hunters must be younger than 16 and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting. No geese may be taken in goose management areas 2A or 2B during the youth hunt.
  
Hunters 65 years or older will have the opportunity to go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 26-30. Hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants starting Oct. 1.

As in seasons past, access to private forest land continues to be a major issue for hunters. The St. Helens Land Access program, designed to improve access to elk hunting on Weyerhaeuser's St. Helens Tree Farm, is now entering its fifth year, and volunteers are needed to make that effort successful. Orientations for volunteers are scheduled Sept. 21 at the Region 5 office in Vancouver and on Oct. 26 at the Cowlitz PUD in Longview. Those interested in participating can sign up for an orientation and specify their availability on WDFW’s website.

Wildlife viewing: The Columbia River ecosystem and its primitive inhabitant, the sturgeon, will be honored in Vancouver on Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Fifteenth Annual Sturgeon Festival. The free, one-day festival runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way.

The popular event, hosted by the City of Vancouver with participation by WDFW, includes a traveling reptile zoo and other fun and educational activities for all ages. But the focus is on Columbia River sturgeon, a primitive fish that has not changed substantially since it emerged in the Jurassic period. Reaching 5 to 6 feet in length, some sturgeon live to be more than 100 years old.

A photo contest with the theme “Scene a sturgeon lately?” will be held the day of the event. Details are available on the City of Vancouver’s website.

Eastern Washington

Fishing:  September fishing can be very productive throughout the eastern region, with cooling lake water for trout and growing runs of steelhead and salmon in rivers.

The Snake River hatchery steelhead season is open Sept. 1 through March 31, when up to three hatchery marked (adipose-fin-clipped) steelhead can be kept. For the first time in recent history, the entire Snake River also opened Sept. 1 to retention of hatchery chinook salmon.  

Glen Mendel, WDFW southeast district fish biologist, said the fishery is possible because of the large run of upriver bright hatchery fall chinook expected to return to the Snake River this year. Those fish are making their way up the Columbia to the Snake and should start to make up some of the catch by mid-September. The season could remain open through Oct. 31, unless catch rates exceed or run size fails to meet expectations.

As with steelhead, all wild chinook – which are protected under the Endangered Species Act – must be released immediately without removing them from the water. But anglers can keep three hatchery marked (adipose fin-clipped) fall chinook adults (24 inches in length and larger), and three adipose fin-clipped jack fall chinook (less than 24 inches, but at least 12 inches). The rule is consistent with Idaho regulations allowing harvest of hatchery fall chinook in the Idaho boundary waters of the Snake River.

Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for chinook or steelhead in the Snake, and they must stop fishing for salmon and steelhead for the day once they have retained three hatchery steelhead, regardless of whether the salmon daily limit has been retained.

Several of the region’s best rainbow and/or cutthroat trout fishing lakes close at the end of September. This month is the last chance to fish Badger, Fish, West Medical and Williams lakes in southwest Spokane County; Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County; and Fan Lake in Pend Oreille County.  Amber and North Silver lakes in Spokane County shift to catch-and-release only on Oct. 1.

Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist, said that depending on air and water temperature changes and fall insect hatches, those lakes can be almost as productive as the first weeks of the season in the spring.

Two other lakes in the central district – Lincoln County’s Coffeepot Lake and Spokane County’s Downs Lake – close at the end of the month, but are usually good bets in September for yellow perch fishing.  Coffeepot also yields rainbows and black crappie.

Plenty of lakes throughout the region remain open through October or year-round, and can provide good fishing in September. Clear Lake, near the town of Medical Lake, has brown trout biting during the month and usually produces good catches of crappie and largemouth bass as fall advances.  Stevens County’s Deer and Loon lakes continue to provide a variety of fish, from bass to kokanee. Lake Roosevelt and Sprague Lake both offer good-size rainbows.

Fishing at hatchery-trout-stocked Tucannon River impoundments in the southeast district slowed in the heat of the summer, but should pick up this month with cooling water temperatures. Three of the seven – Beaver, Deer and Watson lakes – have had low water levels for the past month and are likely not fishable. But Big Four, Blue, Curl and Rainbow lakes may be worth trying.

The Tucannon fishing lakes are on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area, where manager Kari Dingman reports extremely dry conditions. She reminds fishers who plan to use the area’s campgrounds that there is a ban on campfires through September, by order of the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Hunting:  The first hunting seasons in the region opened Sept. 1, including black bear in the Northeastern and Blue Mountains management areas and early archery deer in select Game Management Units (GMUs).

Black bear hunters in GMUs 101-121 will want to take the newly available bear species identification test online. The program includes information on how to correctly identify black bears and grizzly bears. 

Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal endangered species laws. Whereas black bears are classified as a game species. “This test was developed to help black bear hunters be sure of their targets,” said Dana Base, a WDFW wildlife biologist. “We encourage hunters to test their knowledge about the two species before going afield.”

Kevin Robinette, WDFW regional wildlife program manager, said deer hunting prospects for both whitetails and mule deer are relatively good throughout the region.  Bowhunters after white-tailed deer in GMUs 117 and 121 need to be aware of a new four-antler-point minimum this year.

Mourning dove hunting also opened Sept. 1 and the best opportunities are usually in the southeast district near the Snake, Touchet and Walla Walla rivers where birds tend to be more abundant – at least until cooler weather moves them south. An increasing number of exotic Eurasian collared doves are being observed throughout the region and since hunting for them is open year-round without bag limits, they might provide opportunity when native mourning doves migrate out.

Also opening Sept. 1 are seasons for forest grouse, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares, raccoon, fox, and bobcat.

Early archery elk hunting begins Sept. 6 in select GMUs. WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager Kari Dingman reported at the end of August that bull elk started bugling and
herding up cow elk in the Blue Mountains.

Some special permit opportunities on both elk and deer for limited numbers of successful applicants also get under way at various times this month in select GMUs.

Early fall turkey hunting begins Sept. 24 in most of the region’s GMUs, and WDFW wildlife biologists report that the big birds appear to be in healthy numbers just about everywhere.

Sept. 24-25 is the special youth only waterfowl and upland game bird hunting season that gives hunters under 16 years of age a jump start on the general seasons that open later this fall. Non-hunting adults at least 18 years of age must accompany young hunters, and they should note all the special weekend season rules in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet.

WDFW Upland Game Bird Specialist Joey McCanna also advises those who accompany youth bird hunters to check out changes in the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program bird release sites. Non-toxic shot is required for all upland bird hunting on all pheasant release sites statewide to protect other wildlife species including waterfowl and raptors. 

Wherever hunters go this fall, WDFW officials ask for care and caution with any potential fire-starting activity. Due to dry conditions, forested wildlife areas that are protected by Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildfire fighters are under campfire bans and other restrictions through the month of September.

Wildlife viewing:  September is a good month to watch deer and elk throughout the region.  WDFW wildlife biologist Woody Myers said deer fawns and elk calves are more visible now, both alongside their mothers during late summer foraging and as they grow more independent.  Bucks and bulls are polishing their antlers, removing summer velvet in preparation for sparring over breeding rights. Elk and moose are beginning the “rut” or breeding season now, with a peak about the third week of September. Bull elk are bugling late in the evening and early morning to let other bulls know of their breeding territories.

Kari Dingman, WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area manager, confirms that Blue Mountains elk have started bugling and the bulls are starting to herd up with cows.

Myers also notes this is a good time to watch for early migrating waterfowl that are grouping and starting to move south through eastern Washington.  These include blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, and northern pintails. Stopover areas in the region for some of these ducks include the Reardan Wildlife Area in Lincoln County and Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Spokane County. 

Other bird species, including various species of swallows and blackbirds, are gathering into large groups that reflect this year’s production.  Watch for congregations on power lines and in trees, especially near water where insects are abundant for the birds’ foraging.  By the end of the month, if not before, these groups will also start moving south. 

September is usually the last month to see hummingbirds in this region. This year’s young are actively feeding on late summer blooming flowers that produce nectar, or at sugar-water feeders. By the end of the month they will be migrating south with parent birds.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing:  Starting Sept.14, anglers will get their first chance to catch summer chinook salmon in the tailrace of the hydroelectric powerhouse operated by the Chelan County Public Utility District in Chelan.

The new fishery, scheduled to run through Oct. 15, is restricted to the outfall area extending one-third of a mile downstream from the safety barrier near the powerhouse to the railroad bridge at the Columbia River.

No fishing will be allowed in the Chelan River between the tailrace and Lake Chelan, said Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  Signs will be posted there and in other areas off-limits to anglers.

“This opening will test whether we can conduct a fishery in such a small area,” Korth said. “Starting this year, a lot of hatchery-reared fish will be moving through the tailrace, and we’d like to give anglers a chance to catch some.”

The daily catch limit will be six summer chinook salmon, including up to three adult fish – of which only one may be a wild adult. The minimum size is 12 inches. Any chinook with an attached floy (anchor) tag and/or with one or more holes (round, approximately ¼ inch diameter) punched in the caudal (tail) fin must be released.

Because of the unique nature of the fishery several other rules will also be in effect. See the WDFW news release at http://bit.ly/nrgdaj for more information.

Meanwhile, some popular rainbow trout lakes in Okanogan County that have been under catch-and-release rules all spring and summer are shifting to “catch and keep” fishing. Starting Sept. 1, anglers will be allowed to catch five trout a day on Campbell, Cougar and Davis lakes in the Winthrop area.

WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff says anglers at these lakes can expect fish in the 10-12- inch range, with carryovers up to 15 inches. Bait is allowed on all three lakes, but last year’s new county ordinance prohibits gas-powered motors on Davis Lake.

September is also a good time to hike up to one of many alpine lakes in Okanogan County and cast for cutthroat trout, Jateff said. With dry conditions and some wildfires already burning, anglers should watch for burning restrictions on public lands.

Jateff also notes that anglers should watch for an announcement about an opportunity to fish without limits at three Okanogan County trout lakes that are scheduled to be treated this fall to get rid of undesirable fish species. Alta Lake near Pateros, along with Fish Lake and Schallow Pond near Conconully, will have catch limits lifted later this month, so that anglers can remove as many fish as possible before rehabilitation next month.

Starting Sept. 1, the fishery for hatchery summer chinook salmon that opened on the lower Wenatchee River will expand to include the stretch from Peshastin Creek to above Dryden Dam and the Icicle Creek road bridge west of Leavenworth. Anglers can retain two adipose-fin-clipped adult or jack summer chinook salmon, but all other fish must be released. Selective gear rules and night closure are in effect. The season is scheduled to run through Oct. 15.

For all the rules on these and other seasons, anglers should check the fishing pamphlet or emergency rule updates at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Hunting: The Northcentral region has many hunting opportunities during the month of September with seasons for deer, black bear, forest grouse, mourning dove, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare all opened Sept. 1. 

The early archery deer season runs Sept. 1-23 in Game Management Units (GMUs) 204-242 in Okanogan County for any whitetail and is open Sept. 1-15 for three-point-minimum mule deer.  Deer are scattered throughout their range with most still in the higher elevations this time of year, said WDFW wildlife biologist Jeff Heinlen of Tonasket. Successful applicants for permit hunts in designated deer areas will take the field Sept. 8-Oct. 8.  These permit hunts help reduce damage to agriculture lands in the district.

The archery deer season also includes opportunities to harvest mule deer and the occasional whitetail in the Beezley, Ritzville, and Wahluke units (GMUs 272, 284, 278).  Hunts in those GMUs have a three-antler-point minimum rule Sept. 1-15, but antlerless deer are legal Sept. 16-23.     

The modern firearm high buck hunt in the Pasayten Wilderness (GMU 203) runs Sept. 15-25. Heinlen says areas of the Pasayten burned by the Tripod and Tatoosh wildfires are now producing high-quality summer forage for deer and may be productive during the high hunt.  

Black bear opened Aug. 13 in the Okanogan black bear management area west of the Okanogan River and the northeastern “A Unit” on the east side of the river opened Sept. 1. Heinlen said black bears range throughout all habitats in the Okanogan, and should soon be spending most of the day foraging to get ready for their winter hibernation.

The statewide season for forest grouse opened Sept. 1, and Heinlen is optimistic about this year’s prospects. “Even though a wet spring may have hurt some hatches in some areas, good numbers of grouse have been observed overall in the district,” he said. “We ask hunters to deposit grouse wings in the marked barrels set up in the Chewuck area and in the town of Conconully. These wing collections have provided years of valuable data, thanks to hunters’ cooperation.”

Meanwhile, Finger reports good numbers of mourning doves observed throughout the Potholes, Desert, and Gloyd Seeps units of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area. “The best morning shooting is probably going to occur in wheat fields,” he said. “Birds typically leave the roost before shooting hours begin. In the evening, hunters can target the wheat fields or roost sites. Roost sites are typically within willows or Russian olive trees and often occur close to feeding areas and a water source.” 

Heinlen notes that good numbers of mourning doves have been observed in the Chiliwist Wildlife Area. He reminds dove hunters that since that area is a pheasant-release site, non-toxic shot is required for all bird hunting.

Cottontail rabbit populations remain low throughout the Okanogan, but appear to have improved slightly over last year. Hunters should have their rabbit identification down pat, because jackrabbits occur in the same habitat as cottontails and are not open to hunting. The 2006 Tripod wildfire burned much of the snowshoe hare habitat in Okanogan County, although hare populations appear to be doing well outside the fire boundary and are most productive in the lodge pole pine forests at higher elevations.

Sept. 24-25 is the special youth-only waterfowl and upland game bird hunting season that gives hunters under 16 years of age a jump start on the general seasons that open later this fall. Non-hunting adults at least 18 years of age must accompany young hunters and should note all the special weekend season rules in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet.

WDFW Upland Game Bird Specialist Joey McCanna also advises those who accompany youth bird hunters to check out the changes in the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program bird release sites. In the Northcentral Region the Swakane wildlife area will not receive pheasants this year because of the 2010 wildfires there. Non-toxic shot is required for all upland bird hunting on all pheasant release sites statewide to protect other wildlife species including waterfowl and raptors. 

Wildlife viewing:  September is the beginning of fall waterfowl and other bird migrations through the Columbia Basin and some spectacular viewing opportunities.

WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Moses Lake reports that hundreds of American white pelicans are grouping up in North Potholes Reservoir area. Good numbers of the big birds can be seen from the Job Corps dike at the south end of North Potholes Reserve. 

By the end of the month, groups of Canada geese and a myriad of duck species will be highly visible on or near the Basin’s waterways.

WDFW wildlife biologist Dan Peterson notes that hawks and other raptors are also migrating at this time.  The North Central Audubon chapter is sponsoring the second annual Chelan Ridge Hawk Migration Festival, Sept.17 -18, based in Pateros and Mazama. For details see the chapter’s website.

Smaller birds are also preparing to move south this month. WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin reports that juvenile hummingbirds are actively foraging at flowers and feeders, getting ready for their upcoming migration. Common nighthawks can be seen foraging in mass in the evenings in the lower elevations. 

Southcentral Washington

Fishing:   Counts of chinook salmon and steelhead passing McNary Dam have been climbing day by day, setting the stage for popular fisheries throughout the region. While those fisheries often start out slow, they can ramp up quickly by mid-September as more fish move past the dam.

“There's a lot of anticipation out there right now,” said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Anglers are catching fish here and there, but they know a lot more are headed our way. By the middle of the month, we could have several thousand upriver brights in the Hanford Reach.”

According to the preseason forecast, 760,600 fall chinook salmon will enter the Columbia River this year, and about two-thirds of them will move past Bonneville Dam. 

Most areas of the Columbia River have been open for salmon fishing since Aug. 1, and two major tributaries will open in September. The Yakima River opens for salmon fishing Sept. 1 from the Columbia River upstream to Prosser Dam, although the area around the Chandler Powerhouse will remain closed as in previous years. “The best fishing on the Yakima is in October, but some fish will start moving in this month,” Hoffarth said. 

Farther east, the Snake River also opened Sept. 1 for hatchery fall chinook above the Highway 12 Bridge. Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead in the Snake River. Anglers are advised to check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet and emergency rules for all waters before heading out.

Meanwhile, the fishery for hatchery steelhead in the Hanford Reach will open Sept. 16, two weeks ahead of schedule. Strong returns of both wild and wild fish passing Priest Rapids Dam prompted the early opener from Highway 395 to the old Hanford townsite. 

Anglers can retain two hatchery steelhead per day, identifiable by a missing adipose fin with the healed scar, measuring at least 20 inches. Any legal-size hatchery fish must be retained. For more information, see the Fishing Rule Change at http://1.usa.gov/n4ISk4.

Anglers are also catching some hatchery steelhead, and the harvest should pick up throughout the month, Hoffarth said. Catches were above normal – but still slow – in late August on the Columbia River from the Highway 395 Bridge (Blue Bridge) downstream. Hoffarth noted that steelhead fishing above the Highway 395 Bridge is not scheduled to open until Oct. 1, but could open earlier if the numbers pick up.

Effective Sept. 1, the Snake River opens for hatchery steelhead fishing with barbless hooks. “As with salmon, look for fishing to improve as the water cools and more fish move upriver,” Hoffarth said. “Steelhead move fast. They don't stay in one spot very long, so anglers have to be there when they arrive.”

Meanwhile, walleye fisheries are in full swing, producing nice catches in the Columbia River above and below McNary Dam, as well as in the Snake River. Sturgeon fishing is restricted to catch and release in most of the Columbia River, including Lake Wallula and the Hanford Reach.

Trout fishing is also still an option in many southcentral region rivers and streams, including the Yakima, Naches, Little Naches, and Bumping rivers in Yakima County, and the upper reaches of Taneum Creek, Naneum Creek, Manastash Creek, and the forks of the Teanaway in Kittitas County. Most rivers and creeks have special regulations like selective gear rules that prohibit bait. Most also have statewide trout catch limits of two trout with an 8-inch minimum size. Anglers should check the rules pamphlet for all details.

Hunting:  Early hunting seasons get under way this month for deer, elk and a variety of game birds. WDFW wildlife managers remind all hunters to respect private property and secure permission to hunt before season openers. WDFW's Go Hunt webpage provides maps and other information to find hunting access.

The early archery season for white-tailed and mule deer got under way Sept. 1 in a variety of Game Management Units (GMU) around the region, followed by an early archery hunt for elk running Sept. 6-18.  Muzzleloaders will then take to the field to hunt for deer Sept. 24-Oct. 2.

Before heading out, hunters are strongly advised to check WDFW's Big Game rules pamphlet for regulations specific to each GMU.

Other hunting seasons opening Sept. 1 include those for forest grouse, pheasant, mourning dove and cottontail and snowshoe hare. The statewide season for band-tailed pigeon runs Sept. 15-23.

This year's youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant, California quail, bobwhite and chucker is set for Sept. 24-25. To qualify, hunters must be younger than 16 and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting. Hunters 65 years or older will then take the field for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 26-30.

Wildlife viewing:  As the summer’s end draws near, bull elk can be heard bugling throughout the region. Now is the time the bulls start to establish breeding territories, and their call is unmistakable. The Raven's Roost area in the Little Naches River drainage in the northwestern corner of Yakima County is traditionally one of the best places to hear them. Follow Hwy. 410 northwest of Naches, and walk the Cougar Valley trail just before daylight for the best results. Elk may be visible on the open hillsides until about 7 a.m., when they move down into timber. But their bugling might be heard throughout the day, particularly early and late.

Fall bird migrations are also in full swing. Watch for flocks of nighthawks, sparrows and an array of other species flying high near sunset. Neotropical birds, like warblers and vireos, are also moving through the region on their way south. Many hummingbirds migrate south at higher elevations along the Cascades Crest. The meadows around Chinook pass are a great place to view late-season hummers, which are moving down the mountains with the blooms of nectar-producing flowers.