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

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April 2012

(This document is updated periodically throughout the month to reflect current rules and opportunities. Please download the latest copy before heading out! Last updated April 17, 2012)

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

Start of lowland lakes trout season one of many ‘opening days’ in April

For many anglers, “opening day” is synonymous with the start of the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, which gets under way April 28 this year. More than 300,000 Washingtonians are expected to descend on trout-stocked waters throughout the state that Saturday to kick off the new season.

But anglers – and hunters, too – are also looking forward to a variety of other “opening days” this month, as seasons ranging from lingcod fishing on the north coast to a statewide turkey hunt get under way. A morning razor clam dig also has been approved on several ocean beaches April 21-23.

“April really marks the start of the new year for fishing and hunting,” said Joe Stohr, deputy director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Some winter fisheries are still going strong, but the annual cycle is beginning again with a new year of outdoor activities.”

For most people, a valid 2012-13 fishing or hunting license will be required to get in on the action after March 31, when all 2011-12 licenses expire. The exception is young people under age 15, who may fish for free.

Licenses and permits are avaiIable online (https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/), by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state. A list of license vendors (http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/) is available online and from local WDFW offices around the state.

Key dates for anglers and hunters to keep in mind in April include:

  • April 7-8 – A two-day spring turkey hunt for hunters age 15 and younger is scheduled statewide.
  • April 15 – The general spring turkey hunt opens for hunters of all ages and runs through May 31. See WDFW's Washington Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for more information.
  • April 16 – Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) opens for lingcod.
  • April 21-23 – A morning razor-clam dig has been approved at several ocean beaches. For details, see WDFW’s razor clam webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.
  • April 28 – Several hundred lowland lakes open to trout fishing across the state for the biggest "opening day" of the year.

For more information about these and other outdoor activities coming up in the weeks ahead, see the region-by-region Weekender Reports on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month for changes in fishing rules and other developments throughout the state.

North Puget Sound

Fishing:  One of the state’s most popular fishing openers is scheduled for later in the month, when the lowland lakes trout season gets under way.

The lowland lakes trout season begins April 28, when many lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – will open for fishing. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website.

But, until then, other fishing opportunities are available in the region.

Numerous lakes that are open year-round are being be stocked with catchable-size trout. Those lakes include:

  • King County: Angle, Green, Meridian, Fivemile, Fish, Sawyer, Desire, Alice and Beaver.
  • Snohomish County: Blackmans, Gissberg Ponds (Twin Lakes), Flowing, Ballinger, Cassidy, Shoecraft, Silver and Panther.
  • Island County: Cranberry.

In saltwater, fishing in March was slow for salmon anglers in the region, said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for the WDFW. “It’s been very spotty,” he said. “We’ll get reports of decent fishing one day, and then it cools off for several days. So they’re out there, but people definitely need to put some time in on the water to have any success.”

Anglers fishing marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Marine Area 9 is open only through April 15, while Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is already closed to salmon fishing.

Thiesfeld said anglers might want to consider fishing the Strait of Juan de Fuca – Marine Areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait) – where salmon fishing has been much better. However, time is running out to hook a salmon in those waters. The two areas, which have a daily limit of one salmon, are open only through April 10.

Meanwhile, it’s not too early to start planning for halibut fishing, which opens in May. The 2012 recreational halibut seasons approved for Puget Sound are:

  • Marine Area 5: From May 24-28, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday for Memorial Day weekend. From May 31 through June 23, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. WDFW has also set Thursday, May 23 as the opening day of the 2013 season.
  • Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: From May 3-19, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. From May 24-28, the fishery will be open each day (Thursday through Monday) for Memorial Day weekend. From May 31-June 2, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. WDFW has also set Thursday, May 2 as the opening day of the 2013 season.
  • Marine Areas 11, 12, 13: These areas will remain closed to halibut fishing this year to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.

In all marine areas open to fishing, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction. Anglers may possess a maximum of two fish in any form, and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.

For more information on the halibut fishery, including seasons in Washington’s ocean areas, click here.

Prefer shellfish? Sport fishing for spot shrimp in Puget Sound opens May 5. Shrimp fishing opportunities in various areas of Puget Sound will be similar to last year, although there is one change this season that was made to avoid an extreme minus tide, said Mark O’Toole, a shellfish biologist for WDFW.

Unlike previous years, the shrimp fishery will not reopen on the following Wednesday after the May 5 opener. Instead, the fishery will reopen in most areas on Friday, May 11. “With such an extreme low tide on that Wednesday (May 9) it only made sense to shift the second day of fishing to Friday,” O’Toole said. "We don’t want to leave shrimpers stranded 100 feet from the boat ramp on a low afternoon tide.”     

In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. Spot shrimp seasons for various areas of Puget Sound are:

  • Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 5, 11, 12 and 16.
  • Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 5, 11, 12 and 16.
  • Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding shrimp districts): Open daily beginning May 5 at 7 a.m. The spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept 15, whichever comes first. The exception is Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
  • Marine Area 7: Opens May 5 at 7 a.m. and will be open May 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19.
  • Marine areas 8, 9, 10 and 11: Open May 5 and May 11 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Additional dates and times will be announced for these areas if sufficient quota remains.

For a description of the marine areas and fishing rules, including regulations for coonstripe and pink shrimp fishing seasons, see WDFW’s Recreational Shrimp Fishing website

Anglers are reminded that all 2011-2012 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers 15 years of age and older must purchase a 2012-13 license. Licenses and permits are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 7-8 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing: Reports of gray whale sightings are on the rise, particularly in the waters around Whidbey and Camano Islands. The whales are part of a larger population making its annual journey north from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, where the animals spend the summer feeding before heading south again. While most continue on to Alaska, some gray whales linger in the waters of the Pacific Northwest during the summer months.

Back on land, birders have been reporting sightings of peregrine falcons at Snoqualmie Falls. One birder spotted the female “apparently incubating eggs” in a crevice across the river from the observation area. Built for speed, peregrine falcons have long pointed wings and a narrow tail. The falcons nest on rocky cliffs, such as the steep wall of Snoqualmie Falls, and are often found near mountainous or rocky areas during breeding season. The agile falcons mostly prey on other birds, and are known for diving from above – sometimes at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour – and snatching birds out of the sky with their strong talons.  Birders can check the Tweeters birding website for the latest reports on the falcons, as well as other birds.

People interested in the region's wildlife also might want to drop in on the Backyard Wildlife Festival next month. The event begins at 9 a.m. May 12 at the Tukwila Community Center, and features a variety of activities and educational opportunities on how to attract and support wildlife through gardening and landscaping, as well as creating and preserving wildlife habitat. For more information, check the wildlife festival website.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: The popular lowland lakes fishing season gets under way later in the month. Many lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – open for fishing April 28. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website.

Until then, anglers have plenty of other fishing opportunities in the region.

One option is to dig some razor clams during an opening approved at several ocean beaches April 21-23. Opening dates and morning low tides are:

  • April 21, Saturday (7:28 a.m., -0.3 feet): Long Beach, Twin Harbors only
  • April 22, Sunday (8:01 a.m., -0.4 feet): Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
  • April 23, Monday (8:35 a.m., -0.4 feet): Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks

No digging will be allowed after 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 harvester’s clams must be kept in a separate container, said Dan Ayers, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW.

Noting that 2011-12 state fishing licenses expire March 31, Ayres reminds diggers age 15 or older that they must purchase a 2012-13 license to participate in the April openings. Various licenses, ranging from a three-day razor-clam license to a multi-species combination license, are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Also on the coast, the lingcod fishery is under way in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores) and 3 (LaPush). Beginning April 16, Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) also will open for lingcod. For lingcod fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet. For information on the deepwater portions of marine areas 1 and 2 that are closed, check the fishing rule change on WDFW’s website. 

Meanwhile, fishing for salmon is still an option. Marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait) are open through April 10. “Salmon fishing in the Strait has been good over the last couple weeks,” said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manager for WDFW. “I’d recommend fishing those two areas before they close.”

Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon), 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (South Puget Sound) are also open for salmon fishing in April.

Anglers fishing marine areas 11 and 12 have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Those fishing the Strait of Juan de Fuca – marine areas 5 and 6 – and Marine Area 13 have a daily limit of one salmon.

In freshwater, anglers still have an opportunity to hook wild steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula. As in years past, anglers may retain only one wild steelhead per license year on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Wild steelhead retention continues through April 15 on the Clearwater, Hoh and Quinault rivers, and April 30 on the other rivers. Anglers should be aware that portions of the Dickey River closed in mid-March. For more information on steelhead fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

Anglers should note that the halibut season gets under way in May. The 2012 recreational halibut seasons approved for Washington's marine areas are:

  • Marine Area 1 (Columbia River):  Opens May 3, three days per week (Thursday-Saturday) until 80 percent of the quota is achieved, or until July 14, whichever is earlier.  The fishery will reopen Aug. 3 and continue three days per week (Friday-Sunday), until the remaining quota is taken, or until Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The early quota is 9,516 pounds; the late quota is 2,379 pounds.
  • Marine Area 2 (Westport):  Opens May 6, two days per week (Sunday and Tuesday) for three consecutive weeks. The area-wide fishery will be closed May 27 and 29. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will open the following Sunday and/or Tuesday and continue until the quota is reached, or until Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The northern nearshore area will open May 6 and continue seven days per week until the nearshore quota is reached, or until Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The quota for the area-wide fishery is 40,739 pounds; the quota for the northern nearshore fishery is 2,000 pounds.
  • Marine areas 3 and 4 (La Push and Neah Bay): Opens May 10, two days per week (Thursdays and Saturdays) through May 19. If enough harvestable fish remain to be caught, the fishery will re-open May 31 and/or June 2 and possibly on additional days (Thursdays and Saturdays) until the quota is reached or Sept. 28, whichever occurs first. The combined quota for both areas is 108,030 pounds.
  • Marine Area 5: From May 24-28, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday for Memorial Day weekend. From May 31 through June 23, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. WDFW has also set Thursday, May 23 as the opening day of the 2013 season.
  • Marine areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: From May 3-19, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. From May 24-28, the fishery will be open each day (Thursday through Monday) for Memorial Day weekend. From May 31-June 2, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. WDFW has also set Thursday, May 2 as the opening day of the 2013 season.
  • Marine areas 11, 12, 13: These areas will remain closed to halibut fishing this year to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.

In all marine areas open to fishing, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction. Anglers may possess a maximum of two fish in any form, and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.

Prefer shellfish? Sport fishing for spot shrimp in Puget Sound opens May 5. Shrimp fishing opportunities in various areas of Puget Sound will be similar to last year, although there is one change this season that was made to avoid an extreme minus tide, said Mark O’Toole, a shellfish biologist for WDFW.

Unlike previous years, the shrimp fishery will not reopen on the following Wednesday after the May 5 opener. Instead, the fishery will reopen in most areas on Friday, May 11. “With such an extreme low tide on that Wednesday (May 9) it only made sense to shift the second day of fishing to Friday,” O’Toole said. "We don’t want to leave shrimpers stranded 100 feet from the boat ramp on a low afternoon tide.”    

In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. Spot shrimp seasons for various areas of Puget Sound are:

  • Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 5, 11, 12 and 16.
  • Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 5, 11, 12 and 16.
  • Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding shrimp districts): Open daily beginning May 5 at 7 a.m. The spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept 15, whichever comes first. The exception is Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
  • Marine Area 7: Opens May 5 at 7 a.m. and will be open May 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19.
  • Marine areas 8, 9, 10 and 11: Open May 5 and May 11 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Additional dates and times will be announced for these areas if sufficient quota remains.

For a description of the marine areas and fishing rules, including regulations for coonstripe and pink shrimp fishing seasons, see WDFW’s Recreational Shrimp Fishing website

Anglers are reminded that all 2011-2012 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers 15 years of age and older must purchase a 2012-13 license. Licenses and permits are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 7-8 for people age 15 and younger. For more information, check out the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet.

Wildlife viewing: For those interested in spring bird watching, two popular birding festivals are coming up in the region. The first takes place along the bays, estuaries and beaches near the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the Olympic Peninsula Birdfest in Sequim March 30-April 1. The annual festival, sponsored by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, Dungeness River Audubon Center and Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, offers a full slate for beginning birders, experts and others who enjoy the outdoors. Events include guided birding trips, boat tours, silent auction and banquet. Participants with a little extra time on their hands can sign up for a three-day, two-night birding cruise through the San Juan Archipelago. For more information, visit the festival’s website.

The second festival takes place in Grays Harbor County, where the annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival will be held May 4-6. This event takes place during the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds as they stop at the Grays Harbor estuary to feed and rest before departing for their nesting grounds in the Arctic. For more information, visit the shorebird festival website.

Southwest Washington

Fishing: The sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River has been extended through April 22 to allow anglers to catch more hatchery-reared fish available for harvest.
 
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon approved an eight-day extension, based on catch reports that show current harvest levels remain well below expectations. The fishery was initially scheduled to close at the end of the day Friday, April 13.
 
During the extended fishing period, the sport fishery will be closed Tuesday, April 17, to accommodate a possible commercial fishery.
 
Cindy Le Fleur, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said poor river conditions continue to delay the run, resulting in low catch rates for anglers.
 
“We have scheduled another meeting April 19 to further discuss the season,” Le Fleur said. “But we really need to start seeing higher numbers of fish make their way upriver before we can consider any additional fishing opportunities in late April.”
 
The extension does not affect spring chinook fisheries under way above Bonneville Dam.

Anglers fishing downriver from the dam may retain one marked, adult hatchery chinook per day. All wild chinook salmon must be released immediately.
 
Along with the eight additional fishing days in April, lower-river anglers could get another chance to catch spring chinook in May, once fishery managers update the run forecast.
 
To guard against overestimating this year’s run, Le Fleur said the states are managing spring chinook fisheries with a 30 percent buffer until the May update.

News of any additional fishing days will be announced on WDFW’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/), the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500), the Region 5 hotline (360-696-6211*1010) and through local news media.

Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery is open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis through May 2 between the Tower Island powerlines six miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines during that time.
Anglers fishing above Bonneville Dam can keep two marked adult spring chinook per day.

The mainstem Columbia River is also open for retention of shad through May 15 on days and in areas open for retention of adipose fin-clipped spring chinook.

Fishing for chinook salmon and hatchery steelhead is also open on a number of tributaries to the Columbia River under rules outlined in the 2011-12 Fishing in Washington pamphlet. Hymer said fishing for winter hatchery steelhead is still going strong, particularly on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers, noting that summer-run steelhead are moving in right behind them.

Anglers are limited to one adult hatchery-reared chinook a day on the Kalama and Lewis rivers, but can keep two hatchery fish a day on the Wind River and Drano Lake. Starting April 1, the lower Klickitat River is open for spring chinook fishing Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. The daily limit is two hatchery chinook, two steelhead, or one of each. 

Sometime in early April, WDFW plans to expand the popular fishing area at the mouth of the Wind River by pushing the outside boundary 100 yards out into the Columbia River. John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist, said the expansion is designed to help relieve crowding at the mouth of the Wind River, where up to 200 boats a day often compete for space during the peak of the spring chinook season.

Approximately 8,400 hatchery-reared adult spring chinook salmon are expected to return to the Wind River this year, compared to 7,800 last year.

“The public has asked us for years to move the fishing boundary out into the Columbia,” Weinheimer said. “We’re trying it this year on an experimental basis to see if we can do that without a significant impact on federally protected spring chinook and summer steelhead bound for the upper Columbia River.”

Once the buoy line has been moved, WDFW will open the expanded area for fishing and announce the regulation change on its website

The expansion is being funded by fees paid by anglers for a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement, which is required to fish the Columbia or its tributaries. The Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement Advisory Board, which allocates that funding, approved spending $33,300 to hire a biologist and a technician to monitor the catch and analyze the data over a three-month period.

Hymer noted that a similar expansion is in the works at Drano Lake. Building on the bank-only fishing opportunity near the outlet that opens April 16, fishery managers plan to keep  a bank-fishing area outside Drano Lake open after the mainstem Columbia closes in early May.

He added, however, that anglers should also expect to see more Yakama Nation tribal fishing in the lake. Starting in mid-April, subsistence fisheries from fishing platforms will be allowed from noon Monday through 6 p.m. Thursday each week through mid-June. As in recent years, a set net fishery also will take place Tuesday night into Wednesday during the same period. 

“We ask that both tribal and non-tribal fishers respect each others’ space,” Hymer said.

As with spring chinook, fishing for white sturgeon has been slow, with low participation in recent weeks. Fisheries below Bonneville Dam are open on the following schedule:

  • Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines:  Retention of white sturgeon is allowed daily through April 30 and from May 12 through July 8. Through April 30, sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. From May 12 through the end of the season they must measure 41 inches to 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited. 
  • Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam: Retention of white sturgeon is allowed three days per week (Thursday through Saturday) through July 31 and from Oct. 20 through Dec. 31. Sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.

Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock is closed to fishing at least through April 30.

Rather catch some trout?  Several popular lakes – including Mineral Lake (Lewis County), Swift Reservoir (Skamania County) and Rowland Lake (Klickitat County) – open for business April 28. In addition, many year-round lakes throughout the region will be stocked with thousands of rainbow trout over the next few weeks – some weighing up to a pound a piece.  See how many, and where, on WDFW’s regional stocking report.

Now is also a good time to start plying the waters for walleye and bass from Bonneville Dam up to McNary Dam. “Catch rates for both species should pick up right through spring,” Hymer said.

Hunting: The general spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state, with a youth only hunt set for April 7-8. For information about these hunts, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department’s website.

Wildlife viewing: Spring has arrived, and so have the birds that come with it. Turkey vultures, a harbinger of the new season, have been spotted around the region along with songbirds of all shapes and colors. One birder described the scene at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in a post on the Tweeters birding website:

“It was in the sky over Ridgefield that things got busy and hinted at the change coming – turkey vultures teeter-tottered on V-shaped wings! TV’s never show up until warmer weather is around the corner. And then there were scores of swallows flashing iridescent green and blues – both tree and violet-green filled the air over the ponds.”

Another correspondent – this one from Longview -- reported seeing three turkey vultures fly by his window while he was watching a basketball game. “Stepping outside there was a kettle of 23 over my house that all streamed off to the north a few minutes ago,” he wrote.

Sandhill cranes are also beginning to congregate in fields throughout the region. More than 130 sandhill cranes were recently spotted in Woodland Bottoms near Dike Road and Whalen, along with a great heron. Less common is the vermillion flycatcher that has been sighted several times at Ridgefield in recent weeks. These birds – the males are unmistakable due to their bright red coloring – are seldom seen north of New Mexico.

Birds aren’t the only species in transit these days. Spring chinook salmon have reached the fish-viewing window at Bonneville Dam in increasing numbers, with thousands more moving upriver right behind them.

To monitor daily fish counts from home, check the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website. Or stop by the Washington Shore Visitor Complex and see the annual parade of fish for yourself. To get there, take Washington State Highway 14 east to Milepost 40 (about 5 miles from Stevenson) and turn into the Bonneville Dam visitor center. The visitor center is the glass building at the end of the powerhouse.

Eastern Washington

Fishing:  Spring chinook fishing on the Snake River gets under way later this month, followed by the lowland lakes season opener on April 28. Hundreds of thousands of trout will be waiting in lakes throughout the region when anglers hit the water for opening day.

Best bets in the central district include Badger, Williams, West Medical, Fishtrap and Clear lakes, which will be well-stocked and grow fish well, said John Whalen, regional fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

In Stevens County, Whalen recommends Waitts, Loon, Deep, Cedar, Potter’s Pond, Bayley, Rocky, Starvation and the Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes. In Ferry County, he likes Ellen, Davis, Swan and Trout lakes, and favors Diamond, Frater, Big Meadow, North and South Skookum, Marshall and Sacheen lakes favors  in Pend Oreille County.

But anglers don’t have to wait until the end of April to catch some nice trout, Whalen said. Lots of lakes that opened for business March 1 are still producing well, he said.

For example, Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County is producing rainbow trout up to 22 inches, mostly on flies. Coffeepot is under selective gear rules (no bait, artificial flies and lures only, knotless nets), a minimum size limit of 18 inches and daily catch limit of one trout.

Liberty Lake, in eastern Spokane County offers good catches of brown trout that run up to 25 inches. Liberty still has lots of good fishing for both those trout and, as the water warms, some of the earliest yellow perch and crappie.
 
Downs Lake in southwest Spokane County receives hatchery “catchable-size” rainbow trout, but it should also fish well this month for largemouth bass. Downs also has yellow perch and crappie. Medical Lake, near the town of the same name in southwest Spokane County, has brown and rainbow trout.

Catch-and-release fishing on both rainbow and cutthroat trout at Amber Lake in southwest Spokane County has been good. Amber is under selective gear rules and shifts to a catch-and-keep season on April 28 when the daily limit is two trout of at least 14 inches. Rainbows with clipped adipose fins caught at Amber must be released even after April 28.

A year-round fishery at Rock Lake in Whitman County is consistently good for catches of both brown and rainbow trout.

Year-round Lake Roosevelt keeps producing big rainbows most days, with some kokanee and walleye. Anglers should keep in mind that the portion of the reservoir from the Kettle arm upstream to Barstow Bridge closes April 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day (May 25).

Deer Lake in southern Stevens County, which opened March 1, is finally warming up and likely producing some catches of rainbow and lake trout, with bass, crappie and perch catches not far behind.

In the south end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments, on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area, have been producing nice rainbow catches since opening March 1. Area manager Kari Dingman said Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes are all well-stocked with hatchery trout and slowly warming up as spring advances.

Anglers are reminded that all fishing rules in the 2011-2012 regulations pamphlet apply throughout the month of April. New rules take effect May 1, 2012, and will be available in pamphlets online and at license dealers later this month.

Anglers are also reminded that all 2011-2012 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers 15 years of age and older must purchase a 2012-13 license. Licenses and permits are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

April 20 is the deadline for registration for the May 5 Kids’ Fishing Event at Clear Lake in Spokane County. For details on the registration form, see the Youth Fishing 2012 Event Calendar on WDFW’s website.

Meanwhile, four sections of the Snake River in southeast Washington will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon this month, starting April 20 with the stretch below Ice Harbor Dam. Three other sections of the river, near Little Goose Dam, Lower Granite Dam and Clarkston, will open April 25.

The daily catch limit for most of the open areas is two hatchery-reared adult chinook – marked with a clipped adipose fin – and four hatchery jacks measuring less than 24 inches. The exception is the area along the south shoreline of the Little Goose Dam (including “the wall”) upstream to the juvenile-bypass return pipe, where anglers may retain only one adult chinook salmon and one hatchery jack per day.

In all areas, anglers are required to use barbless hooks, and must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult chinook salmon. All chinook with the adipose fin intact, and all steelhead, must immediately be released unharmed. 

Whalen said the fishery below Ice Harbor Dam is tentatively scheduled to remain open through May 24 – and through May 31 in the other areas – but may close earlier if impacts on wild stocks reach federal limits. “Our ability to closely monitor this fishery, as required by federal permit, is due in large part to funds from the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement,” Whalen said. “Without the monitoring, we wouldn’t be able to open this fishery.”

The section of the Snake River scheduled to open April 20 below Ice Harbor Dam extends from the Highway 12 bridge at Pasco upstream about seven miles to about 400 feet below the dam.

The three sections of the river scheduled to open April 25 are:

  • Near Little Goose Dam: From the railroad bridge approximately a half-mile downstream from the mouth of the Tucannon River, upriver to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam, and from Little Goose Dam to the Corps of Engineers boat launch approximately one mile upstream of Little Goose Dam. This zone includes the area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility and the walkway area locally known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility.
  • Below Lower Granite Dam:  From Casey Creek Canyon Road in Garfield County (located about six miles downstream of Lower Granite Dam) to about 400 feet below Lower Granite Dam.
  • Near Clarkston:  From the intersection of Steptoe Canyon Road with Highway 193 in Whitman County, upriver about 12 miles to the Idaho state line (identified as a line from the north end of the rock levee on the east side of the Greenbelt boat launch near the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office), northwest across the Snake River to the Idaho/Washington marker on the north shore. 

Whalen strongly encourages anglers to review regulations specific to each area, posted on WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/. General fishing regulations for the Snake River effective through April 30 are available in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/). The new sport fishing rules pamphlet for 2012-13 will be available in stores and online May 1. 

Hunting:  Spring turkey hunting gets under way this month, for youth hunters (under 16 years of age) April 7-8 and for all hunters April 15-May 31.

The turkey harvest in the northeastern game management units (101-136) has been down somewhat in recent years, but still accounts for more than half of all the gobblers taken during the spring season statewide. The southeast units (139-186) have averaged 12 percent of the statewide harvest.

“If I had to choose just one area to hunt this spring based on our winter transect data on turkey densities it would be somewhere near the Inchelium Highway in game management unit 101 in Ferry County,” said Dana Base, WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist. “But there are also plenty of good places to try to bag a bird in Stevens County, too. Just be sure to have landowner permission before you hunt.”

The Colville Chamber of Commerce celebrates “Wild Turkey Daze” in the “Wild Turkey Capital of Washington” throughout the season. For family events, guide services and other information, visit the chamber’s website.

Turkey hunters should check all rules for the season in the regulations pamphlet.  Spring turkey hunters who plan to also hunt this fall should wait to file their required hunting report until after the fall season.

Wildlife viewing: Birdwatchers throughout the region are reporting “First of Year” (FOY) sightings of many migrant bird species that either nest here or are moving through to nesting grounds further north.

Ospreys have returned to the Lewis and Clark Valley – Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington – according to WDFW Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Biologist David Woodall. Watch for these “sea hawks” setting up housekeeping on traditional nesting areas along the Snake River.

Killdeer and kingfishers are back throughout the region. So, too, are tundra swans, especially along the Pend Oreille River and northern lakes, says Howard Ferguson, WDFW central district wildlife biologist. Both western and mountain bluebirds are also back in the region, looking for tree cavities or nest boxes to start their family-rearing. “Swallows are just beginning to show up now,” Ferguson said. “It’s a little later than usual in some areas, for whatever reason.”

WDFW Private Lands Program biologist Kurt Merg reports hearing turkeys and seeing bluebirds, but his FOY bird on March 28 was a flycatcher, specifically a western wood-pewee.

Waterfowl numbers, including mallards, widgeons and northern pintails, have been visibly high in the region for the past month, with lots of standing water in fields and floodplains.

Ferguson said that WDFW’s Reardan Audubon Lake Wildlife Area, just south of the town of Reardan in eastern Lincoln County, is a good place to spot waterfowl, along with migrating shorebirds.  Information about those birds will soon be available on site, he noted, with a public dedication of visitor kiosks scheduled for April 29 at 2 p.m.

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reports green up is under way throughout the Tucannon River valley and wildlife activity is ramping up. “The turkeys have been strutting and gobbling and the songbirds are singing,” she said. “Spring is finally here!”

Dingman notes the Cummings Creek portion of the wildlife area that had been closed since the first of the year to protect wintering wildlife opens to entry April 1.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing:  Dozens of the region’s lakes opened  to fishing April 1, most in Adams and Grant counties of the Columbia Basin.

With cold, wet, windy weather on the opener, fishing effort was down, reported  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) district fish biologist Chad Jackson of Moses Lake.

“Dry Falls Lake had the best fishing on the opener for those willing to brave the high winds and cold temperatures,” he said.  “Successful anglers were primarily using small black chironomids at depths of15 to 25 feet.  Anglers who fished three to five hours on the opener caught-and-released five trout on average.  Trout size was fair to good, ranging from 10 to over 20 inches.  It appears that last year’s cold spring shortened the growing season for trout in Dry Falls Lake, as yearlings should easily be 12-14 inches by the opener ,instead of 10-12 inches.  Smaller yearling trout size has been observed in other lakes in the Basin this year.  Over the next couple months these trout should grow to a nicer size. “

Dry Falls Lake, which is in the north end of Grant County near Coulee City,  should continue to provide good fishing through the spring. It’s a Selective Gear Rule fishery with an internal combustion motor prohibition and a one fish daily catch limit. In addition to rainbow trout, Dry Falls gets stocked with brown and tiger trout.

Jackson said  the Hampton and Teal lakes fished poor on the opener averaging from one to two trout per angler.  However, trout caught from these lakes were very nice sized, ranging mostly from 14 to18 inches.

North and South Teal lakes, among the “Seep Lakes” south of Potholes Reservoir and north of Othello, were rehabilitated in 2010 and restocked with rainbow trout fry in 2011. Upper and Lower Hampton lakes, north of Othello on the wildlife refuge, are usually good producers in this early season, but Jackson predicted they only be fair at best. “The Hamptons are in need of rehabilitation to remove nuisance fish species that impact trout fry survival,” he said. “There are still some good size trout in the two lakes for the patient angler.”

Many of the other waters that opened  April 1 are within the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, including the Pillar-Widgeon chain of lakes. “These small lakes should be fair to good through the spring,” Jackson said.  “We encourage anglers to fish three to five of these lakes in an outing in order to catch a decent number of rainbow trout.”

One refuge fishery – Para-Juvenile Lake, seven miles northwest of Othello on the Adams-Grant county line – opened April 1 only to anglers up to 14 years of age. It’s a good spot to take kids to catch bass and sunfish.

Beyond preparation for the vagaries of spring weather, Jackson reminds anglers to have a new fishing license, valid April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013, in hand before participating in this opener.

All 2011-2012 Washington state fishing licenses expired at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers 15 years of age and older must purchase a 2012-13 license. Licenses and permits are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Anglers fishing Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir should be aware that creel checks are now under way to learn more about the two fisheries.
 
The creel checks are being conducted at several access sites on both year-round-open waters through October. Anglers interviewed during the survey will be asked several questions, including what county they live in, how long they fished that day, what species they were targeting, what they caught (both kept and released), and the size of those fish.

“This new effort is the first comprehensive creel survey on these waters in at least five years,” said Marc Petersen, a WDFW fish biologist who is leading the Moses Lake survey. “Our goal is to better understand these two fisheries and develop best management practices.”
 
Dave Burgess, a WDFW fish biologist who is leading the Potholes Reservoir survey, said accurate data from anglers is key to making good management decisions. “We really appreciate the cooperation and patience of anglers that are contacted this spring and fall,” Burgess said. 

Hunting: Spring turkey hunting gets under way this month, for youth hunters (under 16 years of age) April 7-8, and for all hunters April 15-May 31.

Turkey hunters should check all rules for the season in the regulations pamphlet. Spring turkey hunters who plan to also hunt this fall should wait to file their required hunting report until after the fall season.

Wildlife viewing: The first half of April usually provides good viewing of Sandhill cranes throughout the Columbia Basin, where thousands of the birds make their annual migration stopover to feed and rest before going on north to nesting grounds in Canada.  The big birds are usually seen using grain fields in the area five to 15 miles west and northwest of Othello. By late April most have moved on.

Burrowing owls are also seen in the Basin now, mostly east of Othello, on the ground or perching on structures less than four feet high. They can often be seen very close to roads, so viewers are advised to park some distance away and observe from vehicles to avoid disturbance and potential nest abandonment.

Washington ground squirrels and their newly emerging pups can sometimes be observed at this time along gravel roads in the Seep Lakes Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, or between highway 262 and the Lind Coulee arm of Potholes Reservoir.  These squirrels are protected, so avoid disturbance by observing from a distance.

WDFW Okanogan District Wildlife Biologist Scott Fitkin says April is usually a good time to view mule deer on low elevation spring range, particularly in the Methow Valley of Okanogan County. Fitkin says with low energy reserves at this time of year, deer can easily be stressed. That means wildlife watchers should keep their distance and use binoculars, scopes and telephoto camera lenses.

Fitkin also reports spring bird migration is well under way throughout the north district, with lots of waterfowl on local lakes and rivers. Both the Sinlahekin and Methow wildlife areas are great spots for viewing migrating songbirds, including bluebirds, swallows, and blackbirds.

Southcentral Washington

Fishing:  This is the time of year that area anglers start thinking seriously about trout, because the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is planting plenty of fish in local waters right now. Thousands of catchable-size trout are scheduled to be planted in Columbia Park Pond, Dalton Lake, Matoon Lake, FioRito Lake, Powerline Lake, Marmes Lake, and other lakes in April. Several lakes are also being stocked with jumbo trout, weighing over a pound apiece.

“Rotary Lake in Yakima has been particularly good with some trout up to two pounds apiece,” said Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist based in Yakima. “As the weather continues to warm and the March winds subside, fishing should pick up in lakes throughout the region.” 

A complete trout-planting schedule for southcentral lakes and ponds is available on the WDFW website.

Anderson reminds anglers that all 2011-2012 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers age 15 and older must purchase a 2012-13 license. Licenses and permits are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Most steelhead sport fisheries are now closed in the Columbia and Snake rivers, although a “bank only” fishery adjacent to WDFW’s Ringold Springs Hatchery near the Tri-Cities is open April 1 through April 15. Bank anglers may retain two hatchery steelhead per day along the Franklin County shoreline between the WDFW marker a quarter-mile downstream from the Ringold irrigation wasteway outlet and the marker a half-mile upstream from Spring Creek. 

Meanwhile, spring chinook salmon will be moving into the area in increasing numbers throughout the month of April. On the Columbia River, anglers can keep two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook per day through May 2 (or until the quota is reached) from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. The lower Yakima River opens to spring chinook fishing May 1.

“The run appears to be late this year, but springers usually start arriving in fishable numbers around the middle of April,” Hoffarth said. “Anglers should keep an eye out for emergency rules that open and close fishing on short notice.” For updates, he recommends checking the department’s website, the Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) and local news media.

Sturgeon anglers are also advised to stay abreast of new regulations. As of late March, anglers could still catch and keep legal-size sturgeon in Lake Umatilla (John Day Dam to McNary Dam), but that fishery will close as soon as the 500-fish quota for those waters is reached. Anglers planning to fish the lake should keep an eye on the WDFW website for possible updates.

Farther upriver, the sport fishery for white sturgeon above McNary Dam (Lake Wallula) is scheduled to run through July 31. 

In both areas, anglers may retain only those white sturgeon that measure between 43 inches and 54 inches when measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail.

Rather catch warm-water fish? Catch rates should continue to improve on area rivers for smallmouth bass, channel catfish and walleye in April right through spring.

Hunting: The general spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state, with a youth only hunt set for April 7-8. For information about these hunts, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department’s website.

Wildlife viewing: Othello’s Sandhill Crane Festival is over for another year, but plenty of the magnificent birds – often in flocks of a hundred or more – can be seen throughout the region. A hundred cranes were recently spotted flying over Tampico in Yakima County and birders have reported hundreds more along the banks of the Columbia River to Vancouver.

The McNary National Wildlife Refuge just southeast of the Tri-Cities is a good place to look for waterfowl and shorebirds of all kinds right now. Many species are nesting there, including mallards and redhead ducks, black-crown night herons, great blue herons, pied-billed grebes, long-billed curlews, burrowing owls, long-billed marsh wrens, and yellow-headed, red-winged, and Brewer's blackbirds.

Area birders recently spotted two pairs of snowy owls hunkered down in the fields up near the windmills above Finley on 9 Canyon Road. They also saw horned larks and meadowlarks trying to fly in the wind.