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

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April 2013

(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 12, 2013)

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

Statewide lake fishing opens April 27,
capping off a month of outdoor fun

For many anglers, “opening day” is synonymous with the start of the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, which gets under way April 27 this year. Hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians typically descend on trout-stocked lakes to kick off the state’s biggest outdoor event.

To prepare for the upcoming season, hatchery crews from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have been working since last year to stock more than 17 million fish in over 600 lakes throughout the state. Anglers can find how many went where at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/statewide/.

But anglers – and hunters, too – are also looking forward to a variety of other “opening days” this month for seasons ranging from razor clam digs on ocean beaches to turkey hunting throughout the state. Many communities throughout the state are also hosting festivals this month to mark major bird migrations including sandhill cranes, waterfowl and shorebirds.

“April really marks the start of the new year for fishing, hunting, and a wide range of outdoor activities,” said Joe Stohr, WDFW deputy director. “The annual cycle is beginning again and a lot of us are glad to see it arrive.”

For most people, a valid 2013-14 fishing or hunting license will be required to participate in those activities after March 31, when all 2012-13 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 to keep in mind in April include:

  • April 1 – Several dozen lakes in the Columbia Basin open to fishing
  • April 5-7 – Othello Sandhill Crane Festival, based in Othello in Adams County; for more information see http://www.othellosandhillcranefestival.org/
  • April 6-7 – A two-day spring turkey hunt for hunters age 15 and younger is scheduled statewide.
  • April 9-14 – A six-day morning razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled on various ocean beaches. For details, see WDFW’s razor clam webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.
  • 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 24-30 – The month’s second morning razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled on various ocean beaches. For details, see WDFW’s razor clam webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.
  • April 26-28 – The Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, based in Hoquiam, celebrates shorebirds. For information, see  http://www.shorebirdfestival.com/.
  • April 27 – Hundreds of 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
(Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties)

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 season begins April 27, when many lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – will open for fishing.

But, until then, several year-round fishing lakes have already been stocked with trout and should provide good fishing opportunities early in the month. Waters stocked with trout averaging 10 to 12 inches in length include Alice, Angle, Beaver, Green, Meridian and Sawyer lakes in King County; and Ballinger, Blackmans, Cassidy, Chain, Flowing, Gissberg Ponds (Twin Lakes), Ketchum, Loma, Lost (Devil’s), Martha, Panther, Shoecraft, Silver and Tye lakes in Snohomish County.

Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website. Anglers should also check the Fish Washington rule pamphlet before heading out.

Freshwater anglers also can cast for trout on the lower Skagit River. The Skagit, from the mouth to Highway 536 at Mount Vernon, is open from March 28 through April 30 for gamefish. Anglers fishing the lower Skagit River have a daily limit of two trout. Check the emergency fishing rule change for details. 

Salmon fishing also is an option. Several marine areas of Puget Sound are still open for salmon. Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) have a daily limit of one salmon, but must release wild chinook. Anglers fishing marine areas 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. Marine Area 9 is open only through April 15, while Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is already closed to salmon fishing.

“Anglers really need to put some time in on the water in early spring, when fishing for blackmouth salmon is often pretty spotty,” said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishing manager.

Lothrop said anglers might want to turn their attention to the Strait of Juan de Fuca where fishing for blackmouth has recently improved, especially off Sekiu. However, time is running out to hook a salmon in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), as well as Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait). The two areas are open only through April 10. 

Meanwhile, saltwater anglers can start planning for halibut fishing, which opens in May. Details on the upcoming halibut season are available on WDFW’s website

Prefer shellfish? Puget Sound’s spot shrimp season is also set to begin in May, and the season is expected to run from one day to several weeks longer in various areas of the Sound, due to policy changes recently adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

“Recreational shrimp fishers will see a real difference in the length of this year’s seasons, particularly in the San Juan Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca,” said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish manager. “Sport fisheries in other areas are also likely to pick up some extra fishing days under the updated policy.”

Details on the upcoming shrimp season are available here.

Anglers are reminded that all 2012-2013 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers 15 years of age and older must purchase a 2013-14 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 6-7 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 increasing, especially in the waters around Whidbey and Camano Islands. A couple kayakers even had a close encounter with a few grays, according to a recent story in the Everett Herald. The large whales surfaced nearby to feed, and the kayaker was able to catch some great video, which is available on the Herald’s website.

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.

Farther inland, birders have been reporting sightings of peregrine falcons at Snoqualmie Falls. One birder spotted the female “settling in on her eggs” on a large ledge near the falls. 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 in the region.

People interested in the region's wildlife might want to drop in on the Backyard Wildlife Festival next month. The event begins at 9 a.m. May 11 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
(Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Thurston and Pacific counties)

Fishing:  Anglers can look forward to a number of new fishing opportunities in the weeks ahead, including the opening of the lowland lakes trout-fishing season, shrimping and halibut fishing.

To prepare for the popular statewide trout opener, hatchery crews from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have been working since last year to stock more than 17 million fish in over 600 lakes throughout the state. The statewide trout-stocking plan shows where those fish are going, county by county.

WDFW has also tentatively scheduled two morning razor clam digs this month, one running April 9-14 and the other April 24-30. As usual, final approval of those digs will depend on the results of marine toxin tests, which will be announced about a week ahead of time.

For more information on those digs, see WDFW’s Razor Clam website. Also, sport clam and oyster seasons are opening early at Oak Bay and South Indian Island.  For those interested in these areas, please check the fishing rule change.

Whether planning to dig clams or catch trout, everyone age 15 and older will need to purchase a 2013-14 license to participate in the April openings, since current fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. Licenses are available online (https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/), by phone (1-866-320-9933) and from license dealers around the state.

Meanwhile, fishing for salmon remains an option. Marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait) are open for chinook through April 10.  According to Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager, Sekiu has been a very good choice for anglers seeking salmon.

Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), (11 (Tacoma-Vashon), 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (South Puget Sound) are also open for salmon fishing in April.

Anglers fishing marine areas 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 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 13) have a daily limit of one salmon.

Lingcod fishing is also open in marine areas 1-4 under rules described in the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. The fishery expands to areas of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca on May 1.

In freshwater, anglers still have an opportunity to hook wild steelhead on some rivers 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 through April 30 on the other rivers. For more information on steelhead fishing regulations, check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

In addition to the fisheries opening this month, anglers can look forward to seasons opening in May for halibut and shrimp. For information on the upcoming halibut season, see the news release on the WDFW website. A news release outlining the 2013 shrimp season is also available on the website.

Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. The general season follows a special hunt April 6-7 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 April 5-7. 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 April 26-28. 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.

Finally, don’t miss the “Welcome the Whales” parade and festival, April 20 and 21 in Langley, Whidbey Island.   For more information, visit the Orca Network’s event website.

Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)

Fishing:  The sport fishery for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River has been extended through April 12 under an agreement reached by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon. During that period, the recreational fishery will be closed April 9 to accommodate a possible commercial fishery.

With harvest levels running well below expectations, the two states added six days to the recreational fishing season previously set to continue through April 5.

Through March, anglers had caught just 1,500 adult spring chinook salmon, about 25 percent of the 6,100-fish harvest expected by this point in fishery, said Ron Roler, Columbia River Policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). 

“The season definitely got off to a slow start, but the bulk of the run is starting to move in,” Roler said. “River conditions are excellent – low and warm – so we will be monitoring the fishery closely to make sure the catch doesn’t exceed the established guideline.”

Guy Norman, WDFW southwest regional director, said fishery managers from both states will watch the catch throughout the extension period and close the fishery earlier if necessary. “We want to keep the fishery open through April 12 – and perhaps even longer – but we have to hold the catch within the guideline,” Norman said. “The situation can change very quickly in April when the fish start moving upriver in large numbers.”

Norman noted that fishery managers will also meet in May to consider whether potential changes in the runsize will allow a late-season opening.

After three years of strong spring chinook returns, this year’s fishery is based on a projected run of 141,400 upriver fish, about 25 percent below the 10-year average. By comparison, approximately 203,000 fish destined for areas above Bonneville Dam returned to the Columbia River last year.

Upriver fish make up the bulk of the catch, although spring chinook returning to the Willamette, Cowlitz and other rivers below Bonneville Dam also contribute to the fishery.

Sport fishing for salmon and steelhead is scheduled through April 12 on the lower Columbia River from the mouth upriver to Beacon Rock, and to bank anglers up to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam. The daily limit below Bonneville Dam is two adult hatchery-raised fish and no more than one adult chinook.

Anglers fishing the mainstem Columbia River are required to use barbless hooks and release any wild, unmarked salmon, steelhead or cutthroat trout they intercept.

Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery is open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis through May 5 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 Tower Island powerlines during that time. The daily limit above the dam is two adult chinook salmon.

Barbless hooks are not currently required on Columbia River tributaries, although that issue will likely be considered during this year’s North of Falcon season-setting process.

Fishing for salmon and steelhead remains open on the Cowlitz River and at Drano Lake, consistent with standing rules described in the Fish Washington rules pamphlet. The Klickitat River will open April 1 under the same rules and limits as last year. 

However, fishing on several other tributaries to the Columbia River will be closed or curtailed in several of those rivers this year to meet spawning goals at area hatcheries. Rivers affected by emergency rules are:

  • Lewis River: All chinook must be released from the mouth upstream to the mouth of the East Fork until further notice. The mainstem Lewis remains open for hatchery steelhead.
  • North Fork Lewis River: All chinook must be released from the mouth of the East Fork upstream to Merwin Dam until further notice. Through May 31, fishing is closed for all species from Johnson Creek (located downstream from the Lewis River Salmon Hatchery) upstream to Merwin Dam. The North Fork Lewis from Johnson Creek downstream remains open to fishing for hatchery steelhead,
  • Kalama River: All chinook must be released from the boundary markers at the mouth upstream to the upper salmon hatchery (Kalama Falls Hatchery). The Kalama River remains open to fishing for hatchery steelhead.
  • Wind River: From April 1 through July 31, anglers will be limited to one hatchery chinook or one hatchery steelhead per day from the mouth (boundary line/markers) upstream to 400 feet below Shipherd Falls. Wild chinook and wild steelhead must be released. All fishing is closed until further notice from 400 feet below Shipherd Falls upstream, including all tributaries.

For additional information, see the rule change notices on the WDFW website.

Meanwhile, anglers can catch and keep white sturgeon from Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam, and in The Dalles and John Day pools. Fishing has been slow, but anglers have been landing a few legal-size fish, particularly in the Dalles and John Day pools.

Effective April, the annual statewide retention limit for sturgeon is two legal-size fish under a measure recently approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. The daily limit remains at one legal-sized fish. The change in the annual limit, also adopted by Oregon, is designed to help address the decline of legal-size sturgeon in the lower Columbia River in recent years.
Fishing seasons approved for 2013 in the lower Columbia River are as follows:

  • Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines:  Retention of white sturgeon is allowed daily through April 30 and from May 11 through June 30. Through April 30, sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. From May 11 through the end of the season they must measure between 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 June 15 and from Oct. 19 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. Effective through April 30, angling is prohibited from a line between the upstream end of Sand Island, located east of Rooster Rock State Park, to a marker on the Oregon shore downstream to a line between the lower end of Sand Island and a marker on the Oregon shore.
  • Pools above Bonneville Dam: Retention fishing closed Feb. 10 in Bonneville Pool, but additional days are possible in June. Retention fisheries in the two reservoirs between The Dalles and McNary dams will remain open until their respective 300-fish and 500-fish guidelines are met.

Rather catch some trout? Hundreds of lowland lakes open for trout fishing April 27 throughout the state, drawing tens of thousands of anglers out for their first cast of the year. While most lakes in southwest Washington are open year-round, “opening day” does mark the start of trout fishing in such perennial favorites as Mineral Lake, Fort Borst Park Pond, Carlisle Lake, Davis Lake, and Plummer lake (Lewis County), Swift Reservoir, Swift Power Canal, and Kidney Lake (Skamania County) and the Rowland Lakes, Spearfish and Horsethief Lake (Klickitat County).

For news on razor clam openings, see WDFW’s razor clam website.

Hunting: The general spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state, with a youth only hunt set for April 6-7. For information about these hunts, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department’s website.

Watchable wildlife:  A recent glut of smelt in the lower Columbia River has prompted a feeding frenzy by birds, salmon and sea lions in the river. In late March, WDFW biologists observed more than a dozen bald and golden eagles feeding on spawned-out smelt floating on the surface of the water in the Columbia and Cowlitz rivers. Gulls, terns, and sea lions were also seen feasting on smelt in a number of areas.

The main run of smelt is probably over for the year, but the dead forage fish will likely be a focus of attention for predators in early April as well, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. Good spots to observe the spectacle are along the river at Kalama, the Woodland area, Willow Grove near Longview, and County Line Park along the Columbia at the Wahkiakum/Cowlitz County line.

Meanwhile, spring chinook salmon are moving past the fish-viewing window at Bonneville Dam in increasing numbers. To check 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
(Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens,  Walla Walla and Whitman counties)

Fishing: Some of the region’s best trout fishing will begin at the end of the month with the lowland lakes season opener on April 27.

“Some of those waters that open April 27 around Spokane that are well-stocked and where fish grow well include Williams, West Medical, Fishtrap, and Clear,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) central district fish biologist Randy Osborne in Spokane. “One that we rehabilitated last year that should be very good this season is Fish Lake near Cheney.”

Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said many trout lakes in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties that open on April 27 are traditionally good bets. Those include Stevens County’s Waitts, Cedar, Rocky and Starvation lakes; Ferry County’s Ellen and Davis lakes; and Pend Oreille County’s Diamond, Marshall and Sacheen lakes.

But there’s plenty of good fishing to be had until then, too.

The daily bag limit for walleye doubles to 16 fish beginning April 1 on Lake Roosevelt, the lower San Poil River, and the lower Spokane River from the mouth at Hwy. 25 bridge upstream to 400 feet below Little Falls Dam. For details check the emergency fishing rule change.

Meanwhile, catch-and-release fishing for 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 27 when the daily limit will be two trout of at least 14 inches. Rainbows with clipped adipose fins caught at Amber must be released even after April 27.

Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County is producing rainbow trout, 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, is a good bet for brown trout and, as the water warms, 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.

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, perch catches not far behind.

Rock Lake, open year-round in Whitman County, is consistently a good spot for brown and rainbow trout. Another year-round trout fishery that provides a secluded and productive experience for anglers willing to walk a mile, is Z-Lake on the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County. 

In the south end of the region, anglers fishing the Tucannon River impoundments on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area have been catching nice rainbow trout. Area manager Kari Dingman said Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes are all well-stocked with hatchery trout and warming up.

Anglers are reminded that all fishing rules in the 2012-2013 regulations pamphlet apply throughout the month of April. New rules take effect May 1, 2013, and will be available in pamphlets online and at license dealers later this month.

Anglers are also reminded that all 2012-2013 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers over 15 years of age must purchase a 2013-14 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.

April 19 is the deadline for registration for the May 4 Kids’ Fishing Event at Clear Lake in Spokane County. For details on the registration form, see the Youth Fishing 2013 Event Calendar.

Hunting:  Spring wild turkey hunting gets under way this month, for youth hunters (under 16 years of age) April 6-7, and for all hunters April 15-May 31.

Turkeys on mainstreet in Dayton
Turkeys on mainstreet in Dayton

The Eastern Region is traditionally the heart of the state’s spring turkey hunting season. Over the past decade, an average of nearly 70 percent of the spring harvest of turkeys in Washington has come from the northeast game management units 101-136.  The southeast units 139-186 have averaged nearly 15 percent of the statewide harvest. 

In the southeast units, WDFW’s Asotin Creek, Chief Joseph, and W.T.Wooten wildlife areas provide good turkey hunting.  Hunting may be closer to home for some, however, as WDFW staff in Dayton recently documented wild turkeys walking down mainstreet.

The northeast units saw some decline in spring turkey harvest in 2008-2010 due in part to winter conditions.  But in 2011 – the last year with a complete compilation of harvest reports – harvest was at an all-time high.

Results for both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 winters show an overall lower turkey density for total transect miles surveyed, but that’s as much due to the new, standardized survey design as actual turkey number declines, said Dana Base, WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist in Colville. With that caveat, the surveys show that the highest turkey densities most recently surveyed were in the Chewelah area of Game Management Unit (GMU) 117, and in the Inchelium area of GMU 101.

“There are plenty of good places to try to bag a bird in Stevens County,” Base said. “Just be sure to have landowner permission before you hunt.”

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.

Spring black bear hunting by already-drawn limited special permit opens April 1 in northeast GMUs and April 15 in southeast GMUs. Permit holders can find more information here

Wildlife viewing:  April is a great month to watch for the first returns of migratory bird species that either nest in the region or are moving through to nesting grounds further north in Canada.  Dana Base, WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist in Colville, reports a flock of about 30 violet-green swallows were observed for the first time this year in the Colville Valley on March 19. “Other neotropical migratory birds will be arriving in similar waves as spring progresses,” Base said. “It’s fun to keep track of ‘FOYs,’ or First of Year sightings.”

On WDFW’s Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County, volunteer bird tracker Kim Thorburn recently reported several FOYs – gadwalls, long-billed curlews, tree swallows, loggerhead shrikes, and Savannah sparrows.  Thorburn also noted birds that have been around for a while – a lone tundra swan still hanging around with some Canada geese, lots of rough-legged hawks, a northern shrike, and dunlins, lesser scaup, buffleheads and other dabbling ducks on the lakes.

Waterfowl in general are currently in great abundance at Swanson Lakes, according to area manager Juli Anderson and assistant manager Mike Finch.  They also report great horned owls hooting between sunset and sunrise, cock pheasants crowing, and
Hungarian partridge pairing up.  Anderson also notes a Say’s phoebe is nesting on her front porch again, perhaps the same one as last year or one of its offspring.
In the south end of the region on the Wooten Wildlife Area along the Tucannon River, area manager Kari Dingman reports a variety of songbirds singing and wildflowers blooming. 

Bald eagles are hanging around the lakes and they are sitting on eggs.” Dingman said. “There are still lots of white-tailed deer everywhere, but the elk are moving up with the snowline. The bighorn sheep have been hanging out on ridge above the Tucannon Fish Hatchery.”

Dingman said the Cummings Creek winter closure area opens up on April 1. She also warned that ticks are in abundance so visitors should be prepared.

WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers notes that many white-tailed and mule deer and elk are now using open slopes and fields where new green grass and forbs are appearing. “It’s the first opportunity for these animals to offset the energy deficiency they’ve been experiencing since early December,” Myers said. “Watch for and enjoy these beautiful animals but stay away from them. Disturbance can be harmful to animals that already are experiencing nutritional stress.”

Northcentral Washington
(Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties)

Fishing:  Dozens of lakes in the region open to fishing April 1, most in Adams and Grant counties of the Columbia Basin. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) district fish biologist Chad Jackson of Moses Lake says weather changes can always play and “April Fools” trick on anglers on this opener, so be prepared for fickle spring conditions.

Jackson also reminds anglers age 15 and older they’ll need to have a new fishing license, valid April 1, 2013-March 31, 2014, in hand before participating in this opener.  All 2012-2013 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. 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.

Many of the waters opening April 1 are within the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, including the Pillar-Widgeon chain of lakes, which should provide fair to good rainbow trout fishing. One refuge fishery – Para-Juvenile Lake, seven miles northwest of Othello on the Adams-Grant county line – opens April 1 only to anglers under 15 years of age. It’s a good spot to take kids to catch bass and sunfish.

North and South Teal lakes, among the “Seep Lakes” south of Potholes Reservoir, were rehabilitated in 2010 and restocked each year since with rainbow fry, which have grown to 12-inch catchables. Fishing at both should be good, Jackson says.

Some of the best fishing on the April 1 opener should be at Dry Falls Lake at the north end of Grant County near Coulee City. “This is a selective-gear-rule fishery with an internal combustion motor prohibition and a one-fish daily catch limit, so there’s a lot of catch-and-release fishing,” Jackson said. Most anglers catch more than 10 fish during an outing.  Most of the catch is made up of yearling trout ranging in size from 12 to14 inches, but several carryovers of up to 20 inches have been reported. In addition to rainbows, Dry Falls gets stocked with brown and tiger trout.”

Upper and Lower Hampton Lakes, north of Othello on the wildlife refuge, are usually good producers in this early season, but Jackson said they are in need of the rehabilitation work tentatively planned for this fall. “We need to remove nuisance fish species that impact trout fry survival,” he explained.  “There might still be some decent trout in these lakes for the patient angler who wants to find them.”

Two Okanogan County lakes also open April 1 – Spectacle Lake, just south of Loomis,  and Washburn Island Pond, a diked oxbow lake off the Columbia River near Fort Okanogan State Park due east of Brewster off Highway 17.

WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp says anglers can expect to catch rainbows in the 10-14 inch range at Spectacle. Washburn Island Pond is a warmwater fishery that provides anglers opportunities for largemouth bass, bluegill, and the occasional channel catfish.  Combustible engines may not be used while fishing Washburn.

Several other Okanogan County rainbow trout fisheries shift to catch-and-release only fishing under selective gear rules on April 1. These include Campbell, Cougar, Davis, Green and Lower Green, and Rat lakes.

Jateff notes that Davis Lake, near Winthrop, is still frozen, so anglers should check with local sources before making a trip. When it is ice-free Davis should provide good fishing for rainbows in the 10-14 inch range. 

Rat Lake, near Brewster, should provide good fishing for rainbows and browns up to 14 inches. The Green lakes, west of Omak, should provide rainbows in the 11-13 inch range. 
Many other trout lakes open April 27, when the single biggest fishing season in the state gets under way. 

Jateff said the best bets in Okanogan County will likely be Pearrygin Lake, near Winthrop, with 10-13-inch rainbows; Conconully Lake and Reservoir in the town of Conconully, with lots of rainbow trout and kokanee;  Alta Lake, just west of Pateros, rehabilitated in 2011 to remove goldfish, now with excellent fishing for rainbow trout to 15 inches; and Wannacut  Lake, near Oroville, with 10-13-inch rainbows.

In Chelan County, a good the opener may be Wapato Lake, with quality rainbows from last year’s fingerling plants, plus yellow perch, bluegill and largemouth bass, said Travis Maitland, a WDFW district fish biologist. Other Chelan County waters opening April 27 may see catchable-size trout plants delayed, depending on weather, including  Wenatchee Heights Lakes, Beehive Reservoir,  and Clear, Black, and Lilly lakes.  Anglers can check the Catchable Trout Plant Weekly Reports at  http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/ .     

In Douglas County, Jameson Lake is still a popular fishery and should have some good sized carryovers available. “We also stocked it last fall with about 10,000 catchable-size rainbows that should be very nice size for the opener,” Maitland said. “In addition, Jameson will get 600 large “triploid” rainbows just before the opener.”

Hunting: Spring wild turkey hunting gets underway this month, for youth hunters (under 16 years of age) April 6-7 and for all hunters April 15 – May 31. In the Northcentral Region, which is not known for turkey abundance nor high harvest rates, pre-season scouting and securing permission from landowners is critical.

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

Wildlife viewing: The 16th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival is April 5-7, celebrating the migratory feeding and resting stopover of thousands of sandhill cranes in the Columbia Basin. The big birds have been spotted for the past couple of weeks in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge marsh units, Frenchmen Reserve, Potholes Reservoir, Scootney Reservoir, Winchester Reserve, and grain fields in the area five to 15 miles west and northwest of Othello. Their numbers will likely peak at about 35,000 early this month. Cranes will be viewable through late April when most are on their way to nesting sites in Alaska.  Details on tours, field trips, workshops and other festival events are at  http://www.othellosandhillcranefestival.org/ .

Hooded mergansers on Forde Lake
on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area
Hooded mergansers on Forde Lake
on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Moses Lake reports long-billed curlews have also arrived in the Columbia Basin where they have begun seeking nesting areas.  Curlews can be observed within the Seep Lakes Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area.    

In addition, burrowing owls can usually be 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.

Further north in the region in Okanogan County, WDFW Sinlahekin Wildlife Area manager Dale Swedberg reports western bluebirds and western meadowlarks are common sights throughout the valley. “The lakes are filling up with ducks,” Swedberg said. “Goldeneyes, ring-necked ducks, hooded mergansers, and more. Conners Lake consistently has around 18 trumpeter swans.”  

WDFW Methow Wildlife Area manager Tom McCoy also reports bluebirds are back, and more species are arriving daily. “Green-up is just getting under way here,” McCoy said, “and the wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, and horse-riding opportunities are expanding daily.” 

WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers notes that many mule deer and elk are now using open slopes and fields where new green grass and forbs are appearing.

“It’s the first opportunity for these animals to offset the energy deficient they’ve been experiencing since early December,” Myers said. “Watch for and enjoy these beautiful animals but stay away from them. Disturbance can be harmful to animals that already are experiencing nutritional stress.”

Southcentral Washington
(Benton, Franklin, Kittitas and Yakima counties)

Fishing:  Trout fishing takes center stage in April as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) continues planting thousands of rainbows, kokanee and cutthroat in regional lakes and ponds for the second straight month. Rotary Lake, Tims Lake, Yakima Sportsman Pond, Fio Rito Lakes, Matton Lake – these are just a few of more than two dozen lakes scheduled to receive fish this month. A complete list is posted on WDFW’s trout-stocking website.

Most of those fish run from one-third to a half-pound each, but some weigh in at 1½ pounds, said Eric Anderson, a WDFW fish biologist based in Yakima.

“We’re putting some hefty, great-looking fish out there this year,” Anderson said. “This is a good time to get outdoors and celebrate spring by catching some.”

Anderson notes that all anglers 15 and older must have a 2013-14 fishing license to fish for trout and other species after March 31, when 2012-13 licenses expire. Licenses ranging from a three-day razor-clam license to a multi-species combination license are avaiIable online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Meanwhile, the spring chinook salmon got off to a slow start in the lower Columbia River this year, but the upriver run should start arriving in area waters in mid-April, said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish biologist based in the Tri-Cities. “Anglers should keep an eye out for emergency rules that open and close fishing on short notice,” he said. 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. 

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. The daily limit is two hatchery steelhead along the Franklin County shoreline from the WDFW marker a quarter-mile downstream from the Ringold irrigation wasteway outlet to the marker a half-mile upstream from Spring Creek. 

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 6-7. For information about these hunts, see the Wild Turkey Spring Season pamphlet on the department’s website.

Wildlife viewing:  The Othello Sandhill Crane Festival runs April 5-7 this year in celebration of the thousands of statuesque wading birds that pass through the region each spring en route to their breeding grounds in Alaska. Guided tours give festival-goers the option of walking, biking, or boating to areas of the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge when cranes stop to “fuel up” on their way north. While the cranes are the main attraction, seminars offered at the festival also focus on bats, butterflies, salmon and other regional wildlife.

Of course, the cranes don’t fly off once the festival ends. Thousands can be seen through the month in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, the Frenchman Hills and all the way down the Columbia River Gorge. It’s also a great time to see snow geese, trumpeter swans and even the occasional American pelican in these areas.

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.

Ring-billed gulls, California gulls, Forester's terns and spotted sandpipers also nest in colonies on the river islands in the Hanford Islands Division of the refuge. See the division’s website for more information about birding and the new environmental education center in the area.