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

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May 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 May 24, 2012)

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

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

This is the time of year when new fishing opportunities start popping open like daffodils in the afternoon sun. Shrimp and lingcod in Puget Sound. Halibut there and off the Washington coast. Spring chinook salmon on the Yakima, Icicle and Chehalis rivers.

But none of those fisheries draw bigger crowds than the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, which opened April 28 statewide. In preparation for opening day, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) planted millions of trout, ranging from 11-inch “catchables” to 11-pound jumbos.

“The weather was good, and so was the fishing,” said Chris Donley, WDFW’s inland fish manager. “We saw a lot of limits taken at lakes throughout the state."

For catch rates at dozens of Washington lakes on opening day, see the news release on the department’s website.

But opening day is just one day of many in the state’s trout season, Donley said. Now the tanker trucks are rolling again, delivering more fish to Washington lakes.

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

For most anglers, a valid 2012-13 fishing license is required to fish in Washington state. The exception is young people under age 15, who 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 is available at /licensing/vendors/ and from local WDFW offices.

Key dates for fisheries opening in May include:

  • May 1 – Lingcod fishing opens in Puget Sound. Also spring chinook fishing opens on the Chehalis River.
  • May 3 – Halibut fishing opens in Marine Areas 6-10 in Puget Sound. Halibut fishing also opens in Marine Area 1 off the south coast (Ilwaco).
  • May 5-7 – Last razor-clam dig of the season, at Twin Harbors only.
  • May 5 – Shrimp fishing opens in areas of Puget Sound.
  • May 10 – Halibut fishing opens in marine areas 3 and 4 off the north coast (La Push/Neah Bay).
  • May 24 – Halibut fishing opens in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu/Pillar Point)

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 /weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month for changes in fishing rules and other developments throughout the state.

For access information and fishing prospects, check out the new Fish Washington! look-up tool on WDFW’s website at /fishing/washington/.

North Puget Sound

Fishing: Lowland lake fishing is officially open for the season, and anglers heading out this spring can expect to reel in larger-than-usual trout in regional lakes.

With more than three million hatchery-reared trout averaging 11-13 inches — two to three inches longer than last year’s average — released into state waters for the spring lake fishing season, there’s still plenty of fishing action remaining after April 28’s official opening day. Millions of other trout stocked last year have grown to catchable size. And some lakes also have been stocked with triploid and jumbo trout weighing up to 11 pounds apiece.

There’ll be an uptick in regional fishing opportunity on Memorial Day weekend, because a number of lakes in King and Snohomish counties will be stocked with more catchable trout prior to the holiday.  The May fish plants not only extend the trout fishing season, they also are timed to minimize predation by migratory cormoranadmints, according to regional Inland Fisheries Biologist Justin Spinelli. Lakes scheduled to receive May catchable-trout plants are: Ballinger, Blackmans, Chain, Gissberg/Twin, Ketchum, Killarney, Loma, Martha (Warm Beach), Roesiger and Shoecraft  lakes in Snohomish County; and Boren, Bitter, Desire, Doloff, Echo, Green, Haller, Holm, Meridian, Morton, Shadow, Spring, Trout and Twelve lakes in King County.

Complete information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website. For access information and fishing prospects, check out the new Fish Washington! look-up tool on WDFW’s website.

As the season progresses and the weather warms, fish move lower in the water. Experts suggest using a weight and fishing off the bottom as the season progresses.

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

Remember to pick up a current Washington freshwater or combination fishing license. Anglers age 15 and older must have a current Washington freshwater fishing license valid through March 31, 2013. Licenses can be purchased online at; by telephone at 1-866-246-9453; or at hundreds of license dealers across the state. For details on license vendor locations, visit the WDFW website.

Freshwater fishing licenses cost $27.50 for resident adults 16 to 69 years old. Fifteen-year-olds can buy a license for $8.25, and seniors 70 and older can buy an annual fishing license for $5.50. Children 14 years of age and younger do not need a fishing license.

May is also a great month for wild coastal cutthroat trout and smallmouth bass in Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, according to WDFW fish managers. Kokanee fishing also should be good in Lake Stevens, as well as Angle Lake in south King County and American Lake in Pierce County, according to WDFW fish biologists.

On saltwater, openings for halibut, lingcod and shrimp fisheries are coming up. Fishing for lingcod and cabezon begins May 1. During the hook-and-line lingcod season (May 1-June 15), there's a one-fish daily limit for lings, with a minimum size of 26 inches and a maximum size of 36 inches. Cabezon anglers have a daily limit of two fish with no minimum size limit.

Halibut sport fishing will be four days longer than last year in much of Puget Sound. Puget Sound anglers will get an extra day to catch the big flatfish during the Memorial Day weekend and three additional days during the course of the season.

Halibut fishing opens May 3 in Marine areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, and San Juan Islands south to the northern tip of Vashon Island). From May 3-19, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. From May 24-28, the fishery in those marine areas 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.

In Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point) the halibut fishery will be open from May 24-28, (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.

In all marine areas open to fishing, there's a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction. Anglers must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.

Marine Areas 11, 12 and 13 (Tacoma waters, Hood Canal and south Puget Sound) remain closed to halibut fishing this year to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.

Meanwhile, the spot shrimp sport fishing season gets under way May 5 in Puget Sound. 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.”

A valid 2012-13 fishing license is required to participate in the fishery.

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.

In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day. For a description of the marine areas and fishing rules, visit WDFW’s Recreational Shrimp Fishing website.

Anglers should note that the opening of the Tulalip Bay Terminal Area salmon fishery will be delayed by two weeks to accommodate the Tulalip Tribes’ ceremonial and subsistence fisheries. The recreational salmon fishery in the Tulalip Bay Terminal Area – known as the “bubble” – is now scheduled to open Friday, May 18. That fishery was originally scheduled to open May 4.

“At the request of the Tulalip Tribes, we are delaying the sport fishery by two weeks to ensure treaty tribal fishers can meet their ceremonial and subsistence fishing needs,” said Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for WDFW. Even with the delay, the Tulalip bubble will be open for recreational salmon fishing two weeks earlier than in previous years, said Pattillo.

Beginning May 18, the Tulalip Bay Terminal Area will be open Friday through noon Monday each week through Sept. 3. The exception is June 9, when the bubble is closed for the Tulalip Tribes salmon ceremony. Beginning Sept. 8, the bubble will be open only on Saturday and Sunday of each week through Sept. 23.

Pattillo reminds salmon anglers fishing the bubble this year that they will be allowed to use two fishing poles from June 10 through Sept. 23, with the purchase of a two pole endorsement.

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

Hunters looking ahead to fall have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW's website. Most special hunt permit applications cost $6.60 for residents, $110.00 for non-residents and $3.30 for youth under 16 years of age. The exception is the cost for residents purchasing applications for mountain goats, any ram and any moose, as well as “quality” categories for deer and elk. Those applications cost $13.20. Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags for each species they wish to hunt. All are available online, by phone, or from a licensed dealer.

Applications must be submitted on the WDFW special permits website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are described on pages 84-85 of the 2012-13 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and on the department’s website. Additional information is available on the special permits page.

Wildlife viewing:  Want to know more about wildlife close to home? If so, visit the twelfth annual Backyard Wildlife Festival in Tukwila. The free event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 12, at the Tukwila Community Center. Activities for both kids and adults include presentations by local experts on gardening and landscaping to attract wildlife, and create and preserve wildlife habitat. For more information, check the wildlife festival website

One backyard in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood was recently visited by a Pacific slope flycatcher, according to the Tweeters birding network. Another birder on the network reports spring migration in full swing at Marymoor Park in Redmond, where birders recently spotted a common loon, a merlin, a mourning dove, several barn owls and Vaux's swifts, Hammond's flycatcher, both Cassin's and warbling vireo, hermit thrush and several species of warblers.  

Spring migration is under way on the water, too, with gray whales and transient orca whales spotted recently in central Puget Sound.  According to the Orca Network, small groups of gray whales sometimes head into Washington's inland waters during the spring northern migration, and some don’t leave until July. About a dozen grays return most years to northwestern Whidbey Island or southeastern Whidbey Island and Port Susan, Camano Island, feeding on ghost shrimp and tubeworms for several months.  Gray whales have been reported feeding in more areas around Whidbey Island, including Holmes Harbor and along Whidbey Naval Air Station and Joseph Whidbey State Park near Oak Harbor.

Birding enthusiasts “migrating” over Interstate 90 can make a detour at exit 38 near North Bend to try for a glimpse of nesting peregrine falcons, recently discovered on the Deception Crag Wall, on U.S. Forest Service land above Olallie State Park. The discovery prompted the Forest Service to ask rock climbers to avoid the popular climbing spot until the juvenile birds leave the nest at the end of June.  

Falcons like to nest in steep rock faces to protect their eggs and young from predators while enjoying a good vantage point for hunting, according to Sonny Paz, a wildlife biologist for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.  The adult birds may be seen from the state park parking lot when they are flying around the nest, according to national forest officials.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: Additional spring fishing opportunities begin in May, when the Chehalis River opens for spring chinook, Puget Sound opens for shrimp and lingcod, and the halibut season opens in the Sound and off the coast. For freshwater anglers, hungry trout are still biting at many of the region’s lakes.

WDFW is adding more trout this month to several of those lakes, including Aberdeen, Failor, Sylvia and Vance Creek Pond #1 in Grays Harbor County; Island and Trails End (Prickett) in Mason County; American Lake in Pierce County; and Long’s Pond and Clear, Lawrence, Offutt and Ward lakes in Thurston County.

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

To participate, anglers must have a current Washington freshwater fishing license valid through March 31, 2013. Licenses can be purchased online; by telephone at 1-866-246-9453; or at hundreds of license dealers across the state. For details on license vendor locations, visit the WDFW website.

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

Freshwater anglers also might want to head out to the Chehalis River, where a spring chinook fishery gets under way May 1. Anglers fishing the Chehalis, from the mouth to the Highway 6 Bridge in the town of Adna, will have a daily limit of one salmon through June 30. 

Anglers should be aware that a portion of the fishing regulations for the Chehalis River in the new Fishing in Washington pamphlet are incorrect. Anglers fishing the Chehalis, from the mouth to high bridge on Weyerhaeuser 1000 line approximately 400 yards downstream from Roger Creek (south of Pe Ell), are not required to follow selective gear rules.  

Meanwhile, the last razor clam dig of the season will take place May 5-7 at Twin Harbors beach. All other coastal beaches in Washington will be closed to razor clam digging until a new season is announced in fall.

Morning low tides will be as follows:

  • May 5, Saturday, 6:32 a.m., -1.5 feet
  • May 6, Sunday, 7:19 a.m., -2.1 feet  
  • May 7, Monday, 8:07 a.m., -2.3 feet

Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day, and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger's clams must be kept in a separate container.

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

Anglers should note that the halibut season also 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). Under emergency rule, this area is set to close to halibut fishing May 21, by which time the quota is expected to be taken. The exception is the northern nearshore area from the Queets River souoth to Point Chehalis, which is managed under a separate quota. Fishing in the nearshore area continues seven days per week, as described on WDFW’s fishing rule webpage.
  • 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.

Don’t forget those shrimp pots. Shrimp fishing opportunities get under way May 5 in Puget Sound. The season 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 salmon fishing in marine areas 11 and 12 closes at the end of the day April 30. In addition, wild steelhead retention closes at the same time on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Dickey, Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers.  

However, a couple of rivers are open for salmon fishing, including the Quillayute and a portion of the Sol Duc. The Hoh River also opens for salmon May 16. For details on those and other fishing opportunities, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

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

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

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492. Most special hunt permit applications cost $6.60 for residents, $110.00 for non-residents, and $3.30 for youth under 16 years of age. The exception is the cost for residents purchasing applications for mountain goats, any ram and any moose, as well as “quality” categories for deer and elk. Those applications cost $13.20.

Instructions and details on applying for special-permit hunts are described on pages 84-85 of the 2012-13 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and online at. Additional information is available here.

Wildlife viewing: Birders interested in spring bird watching might want to attend the annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, which 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.

Elsewhere, weekend nature programs are under way at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge in Thurston County. Programs – which include guided nature, bird and photography walks – are open to the public and free of charge, however, the $3 refuge entrance fee still applies.  The programs last between one and two hours, depending on the presenter and topic.  For more information, visit the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge events webpage or call (360) 753-9467.

Southwest Washington

Fishing:  The spring chinook fishery is currently closed below Bonneville Dam, but will reopen for two days – Saturday, May 19, and Sunday, May 20 – for two days above the dam upstream the Washington/Oregon state line above McNary Dam. Meanwhile, anglers are increasingly turning to area tributaries for salmon and steelhead and to lakes and reservoirs that opened for trout April 28.

With spring chinook returns finally surging, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed to the two-day opening May 19-20 above Bonneville after raising the run forecast from 202,000 fish to 216,500 fish.

On those two days, boat and bank anglers can fish from the Tower Island powerlines to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from the powerlines downriver to Bonneville Dam.

Anglers fishing those waters will be allowed to keep two marked hatchery adult chinook per day. All wild, unmarked chinook must be released unharmed.

Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the two states may consider additional openings – both above and below Bonneville Dam – if the estimated size of this year’s spring chinook run continues to rise.

“All eyes are on the fish counts at Bonneville Dam right now,” LeFleur said. “This run is one of the latest on record, so we really have to gauge from one week to the next how many spring chinook are still coming.”

Any new openings will be announced on WDFW’s website and on the department’s Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500).

Meanwhile, the mainstem Columbia River reopened May 16 for hatchery steelhead, hatchery jack chinook and sockeye below the Interstate 5 Bridge and for shad below Bonneville Dam. Anglers will be allowed to catch and keep up to two hatchery steelhead as part of their six-salmonid daily limit. Shad don’t count, since there’s no daily limit or minimum size.

Below Bonneville, anglers can find hatchery spring chinook and steelhead in several tributaries, including the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers. The Cowlitz River is the best bet for spring chinook while the Lewis river is expected to have smaller returns and are limited to no more than one hatchery adult chinook salmon per day. Summer run steelhead can also be found on the lower sections of the Washougal and East Fork Lewis rivers, where bait is prohibited until the general season starts in early June.

Effective May 1, anglers with a two-pole endorsement can use two poles to fish for spring chinook salmon and other species on sections of the Cowlitz, Lewis and Wind, as described in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet. Starting May 12, that will also be true for Drano Lake.

Starting May 26, the daily limit for hatchery spring chinook on Drano Lake and portions of the Wind River will increase to six fish, including four adults. However, anglers fishing the Kalama River must release all springers starting May 29. For more information, see the WDFW fishing rule webpage. Anglers are reminded Drano Lake is closed to all fishing Wednesdays through June, and that any chinook – adipose-fin clipped or not – may be retained on the upper Wind starting May 1.  

Anglers heading to the Wind River will find they have more room to fish at the mouth,  where WDFW recently expanded the fishing area by moving the outside boundary about 250 yards out into the Columbia River. The department’s stated goal was to relieve crowding in an area that often draws up to 200 boats during the peak of the spring chinook fishery.

“The public has asked us for years to move the fishing boundary out into the Columbia,” said John Weinheimer, a WDFW fish biologist involved in the project. “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 bound for the upper Columbia River.”

Weinheimer said the boundary line will be readjusted during the course of the season if catch monitoring shows a high catch of upper Columbia chinook.

The expansion would not have been possible without financial support from the Columbia River endorsement fee paid by anglers who fish in the Columbia and its tributaries, Weinheimer said. “This is exactly the type of action the sport fishing community has requested be funded with the endorsement dollars,” he said.

Rather catch sturgeon? The retention fishery for sturgeon below the Wauna powerlines on the Columbia River closes May 1, but reopens May 12 seven days a week through July 8 (or when the quota is met) with a one-fish daily limit, fork-length requirement of 41 to 54 inches. The retention fishery above the powerlines is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a fork-length requirement of 38 to 54 inches. Starting May 1, fishing is prohibited in spawning sanctuaries below Bonneville, John Day, McNary and Priest Rapids dams.

In the Bonneville Pool, fishery managers recently approved four additional days of retention fishing: June 15-16 and June 22-23. Based on public input, WDFW carried forward 1,060 fish from the fishery that ended Feb. 18 in those waters to provide a summer season, said Brad James, a fish biologist for WDFW. Anglers will be allowed to retain one white sturgeon a day between 38 inches and 54 inches fork length between Bonneville Dam and The Dalles Dam on those days.

John Day Pool will close for retention of white sturgeon at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, May 21, when the catch is expected to reach the pool’s 500-fish harvest guideline.

Meanwhile, anglers have been filling up stringers with trout caught on freshly stocked lakes open year-round and newly opened April 28 around the region. Rowland Lake in Klickitat County was the regional hotspot that day, followed by Horsethief Lake in Columbia Hills State Park. For kokanne, Merwin and Yale reservoirs are also good bets in May.

WDFW stocked more than 150,000 rainbow trout – some weighing up to a pound apiece – in six area lakes that opened April 28, with thousands more to follow. Mineral Lake in Lewis County got 42,000 of those fish, with tens-of-thousands more going to Rowland, Spearfish and Horsethief lakes in Klickitat County as well as Kidney Lake and Swift Reservoir in Skamania County.

“Trout fishing doesn’t end with opening day,” said WDFW biologist Weinheimer. “Many of these and other lakes will receive additional plants into June, and fishing should be good until the summer heat slows things down.”

Information about trout stocking in southwestern Washington is available on WDFW’s website.

Unlike trout, bass don’t mind a little warm weather and fishing is expected to improve steadily in the pools above the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day dams in the weeks ahead.   

Hunting:  Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state.

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free.

Instructions and details on applying for special-permit hunts are described on pages 84-85 of the 2012-13 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and online. Additional information specific to special hunts is available on a separate webpage.

Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags for each species they wish to hunt. All are available online, by phone, or from a licensed dealer.

Wildlife viewing:  May is prime time to watch spring chinook salmon and summer steelhead move upstream past the fish-viewing window at the Bonneville Dam visitor center. Although this year’s spring chinook run was slow to arrive, thousands of fish are now moving past the dam in a single day.

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

Meanwhile, a long-billed curlew has joined the growing congregation of birds at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, creating some excitement among the birding community. Seldom seen in the area, the long-billed curlew is the largest nesting sandpiper in North America, measuring up to 26 inches long with a curved bill up to 8.5 inches. It is sometimes called the “candlestick bird,” and is the namesake for Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Other notable birds sighted at the refuge in recent weeks include peregrine falcons, lesser yellowlegs, hermit thrush, Hutton’s vireo and American pipit. For an updated list, see the Weekly Bird Sightings on the Friends of the Refuge website.

Think bird-watching is just for fun? In a recent story, the Los Angeles Times described how fifth-graders’ test scores improved since the creation of a bird-attracting garden at a downtown elementary school. 

Eastern Washington

Fishing: The month of May is full of fishing promise throughout the region, with lots of opportunities in trout-stocked lakes that just opened April 28 and at others that opened earlier in March or are open year-round.  Meanwhile, spring chinook salmon are moving into the Snake River. 

Even so, two sections of the Snake River will close early for spring chinook fishing, based on current run projections. The fisheries below Ice Harbor Dam and near Little Goose Dam close May 18 one hour after sunset, under an emergency rule change issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The closure does not affect spring chinook fisheries in the six miles below Lower Granite Dam, or in the Clarkston area. Both will remain open until further notice.

“Because wild salmon in the run are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, these fisheries must be managed within the ESA guidelines,” said John Whalen, WDFW’s eastern region fish program manager.

The specific Snake River closure areas are:

  • From the south-bound State Route 12 Bridge at Pasco, upstream about seven miles to the fishing restriction boundary below Ice Harbor Dam.
  • From the railroad bridge about a half-mile below the Tucannon River mouth, up-river to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam, and from Little Goose Dam to the Corps of Engineers’ boat launch a mile upstream of Little Goose Dam on the south shoreline.  This closure zone includes the area between the juvenile-fish bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam, along the south shoreline of the facility (including the walkway area known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile-fish collection facility).

Snake River areas that will remain open for fishing include:

  • From Casey Creek Canyon Road on the Garfield County shore (approximately six miles downstream of Lower Granite Dam) to the fishing restriction boundary downstream of Lower Granite Dam.
  • From the point in the river next to the intersection of Steptoe Canyon Road and the Wawawai River Road on the Whitman County shore, up-river approximately 12 miles to the Idaho state line (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch northwest across the Snake River to the state line boundary marker on the Whitman County shore).

In open areas, anglers have a daily limit of six hatchery chinook (with a clipped adipose fin) at least 12 inches in length, including no more than two adult fish. Anglers must stop fishing for the day when the hatchery adult limit has been retained.  All chinook with the adipose fin intact, and all steelhead, must be immediately released unharmed. 

The exception is in the Little Goose Dam area, between the juvenile-fish bypass return pipe and the dam along the south shoreline (including the walkway area known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile fish collection facility). In that area, only one jack and one adult hatchery chinook may be retained. Anglers must stop fishing once the one allowed adult fish is retained. 

Fishers should refer to the WDFW emergency regulation enacted for the Snake River for more specific restrictions in effect for this chinook fishery. Emergency regulations are posted on the WDFW website.

Meanwhile, Whalen said the rainbow and cutthroat trout lakes that typically perform well on the late April opener did so again this year. Top producers for average number of trout (in a five-fish catch limit) kept per angler included:  Ferry County’s Ellen Lake (5.0);  Stevens County’s Mudgett Lake (4.1), Starvation Lake (3.7), Cedar Lake (3.3), and Rocky Lake (2.71);  Spokane County’s Williams Lake (3.9) and West Medical Lake (3.1); and Lincoln County’s Fish Trap (3.0).

“The weather on the opener was significantly better this year and angler participation was up accordingly,” Whalen said.  “Anglers were happy with the larger 11- to 13-inch rainbow trout just stocked and many caught fish in the 14- to 19-inch range.”  

Whalen noted the largest fish checked in the region on the opener were a 22-inch brown trout at Waitts Lake in Stevens County, a 21.7-inch tiger trout in Fish Lake in Spokane County and a 20-inch brown trout in Clear Lake in Spokane County.

Anglers should note that the public access site on the northeast shore at Newman Lake in eastern Spokane County is scheduled for re-development. The access area will be closed May 7-8 for re-paving, and the boat launch will be closed May 16 for installation of a new floating dock to assist boat launching. Newman Lake also has private resort boat launching.

In the south end of the region, where many lakes and ponds are either open year-round or have been open since the first of March, WDFW hatchery trout stocking continues to keep fishing productive through May.  WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman notes that Curl Lake is one fishery that opened April 28. Curl is used as an acclimation pond for spring chinook, but is then stocked with catchable size trout for the opener and throughout the spring and summer.

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

A new “Fish Washington” search tool to find fisheries by species, water and county across the state is available online

For the complete trout stocking plan for fishing waters throughout the region, see WDFW’s stocking website.  For the latest weekly stocking reports, click here.

Hunting:  Spring turkey hunting season continues through the month of May.  Dana Base, WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist, says turkeys seem to be widely spread at this point. Many large flocks have broken into small groups of one gobbler with three to five hens, typically found in short grass fields near forest edges. Base says hunting pressure seems to be light.

In the southeast district of the region, WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman reports similar light hunting pressure.  “There just aren’t as many turkey hunters down here this year as in past years,” she said. “And the birds are proving to be extra elusive.”

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

Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons. WDFW will select permit winners by random drawing in late June.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website.  The cost for each application is $6.60 for residents, $110 for non-residents, and $3.30 for youth under 16 years of age. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are described in the 2012-13 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and on WDFW’s website.

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

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

Several swallow species are finallyback in the region, building nests in trees, banks, cliffs, and barns, Ferguson said. Violet-green swallows are among those that nest in snags or dead trees or that will readily use nest boxes built to their specifications; for more on building bird nest boxes for a variety of species, visit WDFW’s website.

Ferguson also noted an urban birdwatching opportunity just west of downtown Spokane near the Spokane River, High Bridge Park, South Inland Empire Way and Sunset Boulevard.  “White-throated swifts are all over the place feeding on insects near the river, and they’re very entertaining to watch as they fly full-speed up into the holes under the I-90 bridge over the river,” he said. 

Ferguson has been in the area looking for returning Peregrine falcons, which used to nest under the bridge and feed on swifts and other birds. Unfortunately no falcons have been seen this year, as for the past several years now.

WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist Dana Base reports several “First of Year” (FOI) spring migrant bird species, including a yellow-rumped warbler, orange-crowned warbler, chipping sparrow, and Wilson’s snipe. “There’s a significant dawn chorus now that it’s warm enough to sleep with a window open at night,” Base said.

In the southeast district of the region, WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman agrees the songbirds are out in force now, along with blooming wildflowers and ticks. Red-tailed hawks and other raptors are in full nesting mode already. And some visitors to the wildlife area have been finding morel mushrooms.  

International Migratory Bird Day, always the second Saturday of May, is being celebrated by Spokane Audubon Society with a work party at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, five miles south of Cheney on Cheney-Plaza Road. From 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 12, the work party will restore native riparian habitat on the refuge to benefit birds and other wildlife species. Hundreds of native saplings will be planted and fencing will be built to protect the trees from browsing by deer, elk, and moose. All are welcome to help, but interested groups should call the refuge (509-235-4723) in advance to help organizers plan, especially for the potluck lunch that follows the work party. Wear long-sleeved work clothes, sturdy footwear and work gloves, and bring shovels, pliers, and potluck contributions, if possible.  

For more on International Migratory Bird Day, including possible other local events, visit the website.

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is also the scene of new spring nature festival this month called “Flowers, Floods, and Feathers.”  On Saturday, May 19, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., refuge staff, along with WDFW biologists and other organizations, will provide learning experiences about wildflowers and native plants, the geology of the unique Channeled Scablands landscape, and a diversity of wildlife for families and individuals of all ages. Some of the nature hikes, bird and plant walks, aquatic life activities, bird banding demonstrations, and kids’ activities require reservations by calling the refuge (509-235-4723). For more information, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.

Northcentral Washington

Fishing:  The Icicle River will open for spring chinook fishing May 19, under a new fishing rule recently announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). An in-season run analysis shows the 7,000 fish to the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, of which only about 1,000 are needed to meet broodstock requirements.

The section of the river open to spring chinook fishing extends from the closure signs located 800 feet upstream of the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.

For more information, see the emergency rule on the WDFW website.

Meanwhile, the month of May—with warming weather and water temperatures— often brings the best trout catches, even in regional lakes that have been open since early March or April.

The region’s top-producing rainbow trout-stocked lake on the April 28 official opening day of lowland lake fishing season, was Warden Lake in Grant County, where anglers averaged 4.09 fish caught and kept.  Anglers at Grant County’s Deep Lake averaged catches over the five-fish daily limit, and kept 3.13 fish, on average, after releases. Park Lake, also in Grant County, had a 2.91 fish per angler average.

In Okanogan County, Wannacut Lake anglers averaged 3.4 trout harvested and Alta Lake averaged 2.92.  WDFW Okanogan District Fish Biologist Bob Jateff reports overall angler effort was down a bit from previous years and fishing success seemed to be hampered by water clouded by recent heavy rains.  

A couple of other lakes—Big Twin near Winthrop and Blue near Sinlahekin—opened April 28 but were not checked because they’re under selective gear rules and one-fish catch limits. Both should be good for rainbows in the 12-16 inch range.  Blue Lake also has brown trout

Chelan County’s Clear Lake saw an average harvest of 2.92 fish per angler on the opener. Anglers at Beehive Lake, also in Chelan County, averaged 2.73 fish harvested.

Douglas County’s Jameson Lake saw an average of only two fish harvested per angler on opening day. But WDFW District Wildlife Biologist Travis Maitland reports a lot more fishing pressure and success at Jameson than creel data indicates, since the creel reports are based only on completed angler trips.

Jateff also noted several Okanogan County selective-gear, catch-and-release waters continue to provide good fishing after their April 1 opener. Davis Lake near Winthrop and Rat Lake near Brewster both have rainbows in the 10-14 inch range, and Rat also has brown trout.

Spectacle Lake near Loomis, which has been open since April 1, has been producing rainbows in the 10-14 inch range with an occasional triploid up to two pounds.  Spectacle also has yellow perch, bluegill, and bass available.

WDFW Fish Biologist Mike Schmuck reports walleye fishing on Moses Lake has been good on the Crab Creek arm (locally known as the “Alder Street Fill”) in downtown Moses Lake.  Smallmouth bass fishing on Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir has been good, with warm weather moving fish into shallower water.  Largemouth bass fishing (catch-and-release only) is picking up on the Quincy Wildlife Area’s Stan Coffin Lake as water temperatures warm into the mid-to high-50s. Stan Coffin Lake also has a healthy channel catfish population with some fish up to five pounds.

A new "Fish Washington" search tool  is available on WDFW’s website to help anglers locate fishing opportunities by species, water and county across the state. The complete trout stocking plan for fishing waters throughout the region also is available online, along with weekly stocking reports.

Hunting:  Spring turkey hunting season continues through May 31. Turkey hunters are reminded to file hunting activity and harvest reports by phone or on-line as soon as possible, unless they plan to hunt turkeys this fall. Check all details in the Wild Turkey Spring Season hunting regulations pamphlet.

Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons. WDFW will select permit winners by random drawing in late June.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW's special permits website.  The cost for each application is $6.60 for residents, $110 for non-residents, and $3.30 for youth under 16 years of age. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free. Instructions and details on special-permit hunts are described in the 2012-13 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and online.

Wildlife viewing:  The second Saturday in May (May 12 this year) brings International Migratory Bird Day. Details on International Migratory Bird Day, including local events, visit the International Migratory Bird Day website.

Birding opportunities continue with the Leavenworth Spring Bird Festival May 17-20. The 10th annual spring birding event in Chelan County features field trips in diverse wildlife habitats, including snow-capped mountains, sunny ponderosa pine forests, lush riparian or streamside zones and shrub-steppe. Participants can learn about the wide variety of migratory birds that move through or breed in the area, and listen to seasonal bird songs.  While birding is the heart of the weekend, activities include wildflower walks, arts events and family fun for birders of all skill levels. Find more information at the Bird Fest website.

Southcentral Washington

Fishing:  Anglers have a chance to land feisty spring chinook salmon and a virtual guarantee of catching good-size rainbow trout in well-stocked lakes around the region in May. Sturgeon also will be available in waters above John Day Dam.

Two sections of the Yakima River are opening to fishing for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon under regulations adopted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Starting Wednesday, May 16, the lower Yakima River will open to fishing for hatchery spring chinook from the Interstate 182 Bridge in Richland to the Grant Avenue Bridge in Prosser.

On Saturday, May 19, the salmon fishery will expand to the upper Yakima River from the Interstate 82 Bridge at Union Gap to the railroad bridge below Roza Dam.

John Easterbrooks, regional WDFW fish program manager, said the lower river is expected to remain open through June 30, while fishing in the upper section will likely continue through July 31.

“The springers are running late this year, but they’re finally moving into the Yakima River,” said Easterbrooks, noting that fishery managers are predicting a return of approximately 5,000 adult hatchery chinook to the Yakima River.

Anglers will have a daily limit of two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook. All wild salmon, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed and must not be removed from the water prior to release. The same is true for all steelhead, as noted in the fishing rule on WDFW’s website. Anglers are required to use single-point, barbless hooks with a hook gap from point to shank of 3/4 inch or less when fishing for salmon. Use of bait is allowed.

In addition, spring chinook fishing on the Columbia River will reopen for two days – Saturday, May 19, and Sunday, May 20 – for two days above Bonneville Dam upstream the Washington/Oregon state line above McNary Dam.

On those two days, boat and bank anglers can fish from the Tower Island powerlines to the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from the powerlines downriver to Bonneville Dam.

Anglers fishing those waters will be allowed to keep two marked hatchery adult chinook per day. All wild, unmarked chinook must be released unharmed.

Fishery managers say they may consider additional openings on the Columbia if the estimated size of this year’s spring chinook run continues to rise. Any new openings will be announced on WDFW’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/) and on the department’s Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500).

Of course, trout are also still an option. WDFW has stocked lakes and ponds throughout the region with thousands of fish since March, and still has a couple months to go. Columbia Park Pond, Dalton Lake, Mattoon Lake and Rotary Lake are just a few of the waters scheduled to be restocked this month. A complete trout-planting schedule for south-central lakes and ponds is available on the WDFW website.

“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, fishing should pick up in lakes throughout the region.” 

Sturgeon anglers are also advised to stay abreast of new regulations. As of late April, 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 retention 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.

Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing above McNary Dam begins Aug. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, 2013.  Sturgeon spawning sanctuaries below Priest Rapids Dam and Ice Harbor Dam close to all sturgeon fishing – both harvest and catch-and-release – May 1.  They reopen for catch-and-release fishing on Aug. 1, as described on pages 75 and 81 of the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet.

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

Anglers age 15 or older are reminded that they must purchase a 2012-13 license to fish state waters. Those who fish for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its tributaries are also required to purchase an endorsement that helps maintain and improve fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River Basin. 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.

Hunting:  Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington state.

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website. Applications must be submitted on that website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free.

Instructions and details on applying for special-permit hunts are described on pages 84-85 of the 2012-13 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and online. Additional information specific to special hunts is available on a separate webpage.

Before applying for a special-hunt permit, hunters must purchase an application and any necessary hunting licenses and transport tags for each species they wish to hunt. All are available online, by phone, or from a licensed dealer.

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

“A lot of people come out May 1 to look for shed antlers,” said Ross Huffman, manager of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. “Last year we had close to 500 people lined up at the gates to get in, including both serious shed hunters and families looking to spend time together and enjoy the hiking in spring.”

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

Also open is the Tieton River Trail, which leads to two popular rock-climbing areas – Royal Columns and The Bend, said Bruce Berry, assistant manager at Oak Creek. “That trail is teeming with wildlife and spring flowers at this time of year.”

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

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

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

Campfires are prohibited through Oct. 15 at all of these areas and no developed campgrounds are available. Visitors are also required to display a current WDFW Vehicle Access Pass or Discover Pass for vehicle access to all WDFW lands and boat launches. Information about purchasing a state Discover Pass is available on WDFW’s website.