Category Archives: Headlines

WA Wolf Meetings Start This Week

If you’re heading for the Clarkston, Richland or Yakima areas for deer hunting this week — or are a hunter who lives nearby — you might swing into town on an evening. WDFW will hold 6:30-9 p.m. public-comment meetings on its draft wolf management in each city Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

For an update on the scope of the plan, check out KC Mahaffey’s article in the Wenatchee World.

And see Scott Sandsberry’s piece on the “Great Wolf Debate” in the Yakima Herald-Republic.

This week’s meetings will be held:

  • Clarkston, Tuesday, Oct. 20, Walla Walla Community College lecture hall, 1470 Bridge St.
  • Richland, Wednesday, Oct. 21, Pacific NW National Laboratory auditorium, 904 Battelle Blvd.
  • Yakima, Thursday, Oct. 22, Red Lion Hotel Yakima Center, 607 E. Yakima Ave.

Next week, meetings will be held in Colville, Spokane, Vancouver and Aberdeen.

For the full schedule, click here.

Head’s Up, Rufus Woods Fans

Anton Jones weekly fishing report for Lake Chelan and North-central Washington waters includes the following update on Rufus Woods triploids:

We need to talk about Rufus.  I think that everyone needs to re-think their expectations for this fishery.  I spoke with the Colville tribal fish biologist to find out about triploid numbers this year.  I will try to distill this discussion down to it’s essentials.  First, during 2006 and 2007, the previous owner released around 300,000 extra triploid rainbows into the system.  This created a “bubble” in this fishery that has led to angler success that was not sustainable and expectations that are not realistic.  The tribe targets releases of 2,000 fish per month or 24,000 per year.  The new owner of the pens is a professional seafood company and is much less susceptible to inadvertent releases.  Because of an inadvertent 30,000 fish release in May there are no more scheduled releases for a while.  The silver lining in all this is that eventually, a lot of fisherman will go elsewhere which will reduce the pressure and allow for the growth of those double-digit triploids that we all crave.

New Area Opens On Methow For Steelhead


Additional section of the Methow River
to open for steelhead fishing Oct. 21

Action: Open the Methow River from the second powerline crossing upstream of Pateros to the first Highway 153 Bridge.

  • The daily limit will be four adipose fin-clipped, hatchery steelhead, 20-inch minimum size.
  • Mandatory retention of adipose fin-clipped hatchery steelhead.
  • Selective gear rules apply, no bait allowed.
  • A night closure is in effect for the duration of the fishery.
  • Release any steelhead with one or more round holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin.
  • Boats with motors are not allowed.

Location: The Methow River from the second powerline crossing upstream of Pateros to the first Highway 153 Bridge.

Effective date: Oct. 21, 2009.

Species affected: Steelhead.

Other information: Anglers are required to release all steelhead with an adipose fin.  Any steelhead caught with an intact adipose fin may not be removed from the water and must be released immediately.

Reason for action: Sufficient numbers of wild steelhead have moved upriver from this section, allowing anglers additional opportunity to harvest adipose fin-clipped steelhead with minimal impact to wild fish. The fishery will reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead and consequently increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds. Higher proportions of naturally produced spawners are expected to improve genetic integrity and stock recruitment of upper Columbia River steelhead through perpetuation of steelhead stocks with the greatest natural-origin lineage.

Information contacts: Jeff Korth, Region 2 Fish Program Manager, (509) 754-4624, Bob Jateff, District 6 Fish Biologist, (509) 997-0316.

Swift Reservoir Season Extended


Action: Keeps Swift Reservoir open to fishing for the public.

Effective date: Nov. 1 through Nov. 30, 2009

Species affected: All game fish and salmon

Location: Swift Reservoir (Skamania County)

Reason for action: In previous years the reservoir closed at the end of October to reduce the handling of stocked fingerling rainbow trout.  Rainbow trout are now stocked in the spring just prior to opening day (last Saturday in April). There is a proposal in the agency Sport Fishing Rule Change process for 2010-2012 to make this a permanent change.  There is insufficient time to adopt permanent rules.

Other Information: The boat ramp will not be maintained during the extension. Anglers should be aware of floating debris in and around the boat dock area. If vandalism, too much snow or the reservoir level becomes an issue, the boat ramp will be closed down.

From dam to markers approximately 3/8 mile below Eagle Cliff Bridge, landlocked salmon rules remain in effect.

From markers approximately 3/8 below Eagle Cliff Bridge, selective gear rules except motors allowed, remains in effect.  Landlocked rules apply.

Information Contact: Stacie Kelsey, Inland Fish Program 360-906-6706

‘A Little Bit Of Greed’: 1 Tag, 2 Bulls

The Daily News of Longview reports on elk poaching charges filed against four Kelso residents.

A year after allegedly shooting two Blue Mountains bull elk, a 6×6 and a 6×7, Christopher Mayeda is due in a Columbia County court in December to face trial for “unlawful hunting of big game, unlawful transportation of wildlife, hunting license violations and providing false information,” according to the paper.

The article states that Mayeda had a muzzleloader permit for the Dayton Unit, but after shooting the first bull, he put the tag of his wife, Tracey, on it and had her come over and get it. Then he went back to hunting and bagged the second elk.

“There’s just a little bit of greed getting involved there,” WDFW warden Bill Lantiegne told the paper.

Mrs. Mayeda is also due in court in December.

Two others, Steven Hamm and Jason Ford, also face charges from the incident.

For an interesting read, be sure to scroll through the 50-plus comments in response to the newspaper’s article, some real gems.

Grays Salmon Season Extended


Action: The mainstem and West Fork of the Grays River will remain open to fishing for hatchery salmon and steelhead through October 25

Species affected: Hatchery coho, hatchery chinook, and hatchery steelhead

Effective dates: Immediately through Oct. 25, 2009


  • Mainstem Grays River from mouth to South Fork
  • West Fork Grays River from the mouth to the hatchery intake/footbridge.

Daily limits: Salmon daily limit is 6 fish of which no more than 2 adult chinook may be retained.  Release chum, wild coho, and wild chinook.  All chinook must be adipose and/or ventral fin clipped to be retained.

In addition, up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Wild steelhead and all other game fish must be released.

Reason for action: Based upon recent field observations, large numbers of early stock coho have been holding in the lower Grays.  Originally, the salmon and steelhead season was scheduled to close Oct. 15.  This extension will allow additional opportunity to harvest surplus hatchery fish.  However, it will close before larger numbers of chum salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act are typically present.

Other information: Night closure, anti-snagging rule, and stationary gear restrictions are also extended through Oct. 25.

Information contact: (360) 696-6211.  For latest information press *1010.

Western Washington Waterfowl, Deer Prospects

While I fire up the hunting rig and drive nearly 200 miles east and north to chase deer this weekend, one of my old friends will be firing up his hunting rig and driving about 2 miles from his Snohomish County home to chase deer this weekend.


You can actually find good deer hunting fairly close to Puget Sound’s major cities, BUT you need to find the right clearcuts.

Then there are waterfowl seasons, which also open this weekend, to consider.

Here’s a roundup of prospects, courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:
The modern firearm season for deer gets under way Oct. 17, when general hunting seasons also will open for ducks and geese .

Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager, said conditions for waterfowl hunters could be decent at the start of the season. “The rain this week could improve habitat conditions inland and move the birds off the bays and estuaries, making for ideal hunting opportunities in the region,” he said.

Duck season will be open through Oct. 21, and then re-open again Oct. 24. Goose hunts will be open through Oct. 29 in the region, and then start again Nov. 7. However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) will run from Oct. 17 through Jan. 31 without a break.

Snow geese populations look especially strong, and the department is expecting a significant increase in the number of birds wintering in the area this year, Kraege said. On average, about 80,000 snow geese annually winter in the region. “There was excellent snow goose production on the breeding grounds earlier this year, and about 40 to 50 percent of the fall population is expected to be made up of juvenile birds,” he said.

Kraege reminds hunters who want to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area that they must have written authorization to hunt for snow geese in Goose Management Area 1 and written authorization to hunt the quality hunt units. Hunters also must possess a Washington small game hunting license and a state migratory bird validation, as well as a federal migratory bird stamp.

For more information on how to participate in the quality hunt program, which is a cooperative project with several local landowners and residents, visit WDFW’s website at .

Also opening Oct. 17 is the cougar season for hunters using any weapon. Meanwhile, hunting seasons continue for bear, grouse, California quail, bobwhite and pheasant .

Pheasant hunters should note that the department will release pheasants this fall at the Skagit Wildlife Area’s Samish Unit rather than the Headquarters Unit, where a substantial portion of land is no longer suitable for pheasant hunting. WDFW is temporarily moving its pheasant release program to the Samish Unit because an estuary restoration project has returned portions of recreational land on the Headquarters Unit to intertidal habitat for fish and wildlife. Pheasants will be released several days a week on the Samish Unit through Nov. 7.

Hunters also should be aware that starting Oct. 1, the Cypress Island Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) will be closed to overnight camping at Cypress Head and Pelican Beach campgrounds – the only places to camp in the NRCA. The campgrounds will reopen for seasonal overnight camping on Memorial Day weekend next year.

A popular destination for kayakers and boaters, Cypress Island NRCA is still open for day-use activities all year long. Cypress Island NRCA, located in the San Juan Islands, offers primitive camping, lakes, and miles of trails. The NRCA is managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Natural Area Program. For more information, visit DNR’s website at .

With the modern firearm season for black-tailed deer kicking off Oct. 17, hunters may want to consider heading to the Vail Tree Farm in Thurston County, where youth hunters with a special-permit got a head start Oct. 10. A check conducted during the Oct. 10-11 weekend, showed 51 youth hunters with 29 deer. “People reported seeing lots of deer in the area and I’d say there was a high degree of satisfaction,” said Greg Schirato, regional wildlife manager. In addition to the Vail Tree Farm, the modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31 in many game management units (GMU) throughout the region. Schirato advises hunters to check WDFW’s 2009 Big Game Hunting pamphlet at for specific rules and GMU boundaries.

Also starting Oct. 17, hunters targeting cougar may use any legal weapon in most areas of the state. Specific dates and rules are available in the Cougar Hunting Season and Rules at .

Meanwhile, a five-day, statewide season for ducks, coots and snipe runs Oct. 17-21, reopening Oct. 24. Goose-hunting seasons also get under way Oct. 17 in several areas and continue daily through Oct. 29 before picking up again Nov. 7. Goose management area 2B (Pacific County) is open Saturdays and Wednesdays only Oct. 17 through Jan. 16. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

The pheasant, quail and bobwhite season currently under way, runs through Nov. 30.

Eric Holman, WDFW wildlife biologist, said hunters willing to brave the rain should have a reasonable chance of taking a deer. “I’d recommend sticking to the lower elevations, because there is a greater density of deer there,” he said. “We’re not expecting a banner year for deer hunting, but those who work at it should do well.”

Holman also recommends that hunters review the Big Game Hunting pamphlet ( ) for regulation changes in specific game management units (GMU). Within the Wind River unit (GMU 574), for example, hunters can now take “any buck.” Within the West Klickitat unit (GMU 578), the antler restriction has been raised from two points to three. Boundaries also have changed for those two units and for GMUs 388, 568 and 572.

For current information about access to Weyerhaeuser lands, hunters can call the company’s toll-free hotline at 1-866-636-6531.

In most counties, the cougar-hunting season also opens Oct. 17 to hunters using any weapon, although that hunt will not start until Oct. 31 in Klickitat County and five other counties where a pilot hunt for cougars using dogs is scheduled to begin later this year.  The other counties affected by the new rule are Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille.

The general cougar hunt was delayed in those six counties to help biologists evaluate the pros and cons of using dogs in hunts designed to manage the state’s cougar population, said Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore manager. “Deer hunters take cougars under different circumstances than hunters specifically pursuing cougars with the use of dogs,” Martorello said. “We need clear information on the effects of those strategies on the cougar population as we develop future hunting seasons.”

Meanwhile, bird hunters will take to the field Oct. 17 for ducks, coots and snipe . Goose-hunting seasons also get under way that day in goose management areas 3 (including Lewis and Skamania counties) and 5 (including Klickitat County), although Goose Management area 2A (including Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and most of Clark County) will remain closed until mid-November to protect dusky Canada geese.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

If I get another report of friends catching salmon in the Lower Columbia, lower Sky or lower ____, or friends of friends catching steelhead in the Inland Northwest while I’m strapped into this damned desk, I will go insane.

Consider this your official way to drive the editor insane, fishing highlights from around Washington, courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:

Anglers fishing the region’s rivers and streams are still reeling in some coho salmon, while saltwater anglers have turned their attention to blackmouth and chum salmon. “We’re now transitioning to blackmouth and chum in the marine areas,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “It’s been a slow transition so far, but it could pick up as more chum move into the region and opportunities to hook blackmouth increase.”

Anglers fishing for blackmouth – resident chinook – in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) can keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild coho. Those fishing in Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) also have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Anglers fishing for chum salmon may want to try waters around Point No Point (north end of the Kitsap Peninsula) and Possession Bar (southern portion of Whidbey Island). Those two areas are often hot spots for chum salmon, Thiesfeld said. Anglers fishing those areas, or other waters of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet), have a daily limit of two salmon but must release chinook.

“When fishing for chum salmon, anglers should try trolling slow and using a flasher with a green coyote spoon, or a green, purple or pink mini hoochie,” Thiesfeld said.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that only portions of marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) are open for salmon fishing. Salmon fishing in Marine Area 8-1 is restricted to the Oak Harbor area, west of a line from Forbes Point to Blowers Bluff. Anglers fishing Oak Harbor have a daily limit of two coho only.

In Marine Area 8-2, salmon fishing is limited to the south end of the area, south of a line from Randall Point to the south end of the Everett Naval Station dock. Anglers in that area have a two salmon daily limit, but must release chinook.

In the freshwater, there have been reports of anglers catching a few coho in the Skykomish and Snohomish rivers. Anglers fishing those two rivers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release chinook.

Elsewhere, Lake Sammamish is open for salmon fishing, with a daily limit of four salmon, up to two chinook may be retained. All sockeye must be released, and fishing is closed within 100 yards of the mouth of Issaquah Creek.

Lake Washington also is open for salmon. Anglers are allowed four coho per day (minimum size 12 inches) from waters north of the Highway 520 Bridge and east of the Montlake Bridge.

As area salmon fisheries make the transition from coho to blackmouth and chum, thousands of Washingtonians are preparing for the first razor clam dig of the fall season. Evening razor clam digs are scheduled at Twin Harbors (Oct. 16-19); Long Beach and Copalis (Oct. 16, 17 and 18); and Mocrocks and Kalaloch Beach (Oct. 17 and 18).

Digging at all beaches is restricted to the hours between noon and midnight. The best time to start is an hour or two before low tides, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. He also recommends that diggers take lights or lanterns with them.

Because the digs are scheduled on variable days, Ayres reminds people to check the dates to make sure the beach they choose is open for digging. A map showing the locations of razor clam beaches is available at .

Harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

A license is required for anyone age 15 or older. Any 2009 annual shellfish/seaweed license or combination fishing license is valid. Another option is a razor-clam only license available in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the various options are available on the WDFW website at

Opening dates and evening low tides in October are:

* Friday, Oct. 16 ( 5:50 p.m. -0.5 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
* Saturday, Oct. 17 (6:38 p.m. -0.8 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Sunday, Oct. 18 (7:23 p.m. -1.1ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Monday, Oct. 19 (8:06 p.m. -1.1 ft.) Twin Harbors

More digs are tentatively scheduled Nov. 4-7, Nov. 14-17, Dec. 2-5, Dec. 31-Jan.3.

Meanwhile, anglers looking for salmon fishing opportunities have a few options as the coho season shifts to chum and blackmouth in Puget Sound. “The fishing’s been pretty good out of Port Angeles where folks still have some time to catch blackmouth and coho ,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. A creel check conducted at the Freshwater Bay Ramp during the Oct. 10-11 weekend showed 18 anglers with seven chinook and six coho. The non-selective fishery runs through Oct. 15 in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), while Marine Area 6 (Port Angeles) closes Oct. 31. Anglers are reminded that only coho may be retained in Dungeness Bay. In non-selective fisheries, anglers may retain fish whether or not they have a clipped adipose fin.

The daily limit in both marine areas is two salmon of any species, but only one fish may be a chinook.

Farther south, anglers are finding coho in the Skokomish River in Mason County, which has been a good producer in the past few years, Thiesfeld said. Anglers may keep up to four adult salmon as part of a six-fish daily limit, but must release chum salmon through Oct. 15. No chinook retention is allowed.

Other fishing opportunities coming up in Puget Sound include chum and blackmouth retention in Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) beginning Oct. 16.

Anglers fishing in marine areas 11 and 13 (Vashon Island to South Puget Sound) may retain wild chinook as part of their two-fish daily limit, but will be restricted to one chinook starting Nov. 1. All wild coho caught in Marine Area 13 must be released through Oct. 31.

On the freshwater, anglers are reminded that starting Oct. 16 only hatchery coho and jack chinook may be retained on a number of area rivers, including the Chehalis, Elk, Johns, Satsop and Wishkah rivers in Grays Harbor County and the Skookumchuck River in Thurston County. The Dungeness River in Clallam County opens to salmon fishing Oct. 16 with a daily limit of four coho only.

Anglers fishing in the Quillayute system – which includes the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah and Dickey rivers – can keep two adult salmon, plus two additional adult hatchery coho as part of the six-fish daily limit. No wild coho may be retained.

Because retention rules and fishing regulations vary on the many rivers and streams throughout the region, anglers are advised to check the 2009-2010 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at before heading out.

For a change of pace, anglers may want to venture out some evening and try jigging for squid , which generally make their way through Puget Sound in fall and winter. “We’re heading into the peak of the fishery and Puget Sound has some good piers to fish from,” said Greg Bargmann, WDFW marine ecosystem manager. Good bets include the Les Davis Pier in Tacoma and the Elliott Bay pier in Seattle. “Last year, squid fishing success seemed to be down, but squid populations can change greatly from year to year and it’s hard to predict success,” Bargmann said. “The squid caught during the fall and winter are not the large Humboldt squid in the news earlier this year, but are the smaller market squid which seldom exceed 12 inches in length.”

Squid fishing is open year-round with a daily limit of five quarts or 10 pounds. Best success usually occurs at night. Legal gear includes a baitfish jig, a maximum of four squid lures or a hand dip net. Each angler must have a separate container. Squid fishing is closed in Hood Canal (Marine Area 12). More information on squid fishing is available at . Information on fishing piers is available at /  .

Anglers are catching sturgeon from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam, while late-run coho salmon continue to draw lots of attention above and below the dam. For trout, Swift Reservoir is still a solid bet for rainbows and the Cowlitz River continues to yield some nice, foot-long cutthroat.

Success rates for legal-size sturgeon have been highest in the gorge, but catches have been scattered throughout the Wauna-to-Bonneville section of the lower Columbia River that reopened Oct. 1, said Joe Hymer, WDFW fish biologist. The action dropped off somewhat after the first few days of fishing, but Hymer expects fishing to pick up with the arrival of the fall rains.

“The rain stirs things up, and sturgeon respond to that,” he said. “It should get things moving again.” White sturgeon may be retained from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only through the end of the year.

Rain and higher flows should also improve fishing for late-run coho , which were already producing decent catches from Buoy 10 to the Bonneville Pool before the skies opened up in mid-October. In the tributaries, fishing has been productive on the Cowlitz River and especially at the mouth of the Klickitat River, where three out of four anglers have been catching coho, along with some chinook and hatchery steelhead .

Bank anglers have also been catching coho on the North Fork Lewis River, although the majority have been dark fish or wild coho that must be released, Hymer said. “The rain should help move more bright, late-stock coho into the Lewis River, as well as the Kalama and Washougal rivers where fishing has been slow,” he said.

Columbia River anglers should also note that Oct. 15 is the last day the anti-snagging rule – which prohibits certain types of fishing gear – will be in effect from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam. Hymer strongly recommends, however, that anglers check the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet ( ) for other regulations applicable to specific rivers in the Columbia River Basin.

So far, this year’s overall coho returns are running close to expectations, Hymer said. “The early run exceeded the pre-season forecast of 467,000 fish and the late run is looking promising,” he said. “We expect to see late-run fish returning through November and beyond, but a total return of 700,000 coho to the Columbia River – as originally forecast – still looks like a real possibility.”

If that forecast proves accurate, this year’s coho run to the Columbia would be the largest since 2001.

At the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, Tacoma Power recovered 10,260 coho adults, 910 jacks, 1,354 fall chinook adults, 290 jacks, 26 summer-run steelhead adults and 105 sea-run cutthroat trout during the week ending Oct. 10. With the new collection facility in operation, fish can be processed faster now, Hymer said.

During the same week, Tacoma Power crews released fish at four sites:

* Mayfield Lake at the Ike Kinswa State Park boat launch: 912 fall chinook adults and 257 jacks, 89 coho adults and three jacks.
* Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton: 269 coho adults and 12 jacks.
* Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam: 1,128 coho adults and 92 jacks.
* Upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood: 786 coho adults and 49 jacks.

Reports on fish plants by Tacoma are available at .

At Lake Scanewa, 34 boat anglers racked up 25 rainbow trout , 12 adult coho and one jack in a recent creel survey. Twenty-eight bank anglers accounted for 15 rainbows, two adult coho and one jack coho. On the upper Cowlitz, 42 bank anglers kept 17 adult coho and released three others.

Meanwhile, boat anglers fishing the mainstem Columbia River near Camas/Washougal have been averaging three walleye per rod. Fishing should be good until the river cools, Hymer said.

The special season for fall chinook salmon that opened Sept. 1 on the lower Snake River will close as scheduled Oct .15. WDFW district fish biologist Glen Mendel of Dayton reports very few fall chinook have been caught in that fishery.

On the other hand, Snake River steelhead action continues to be very good. According to WDFW enforcement officers, night fishing for steelhead has been especially productive near the Snake’s confluence with the Clearwater River on the Idaho border. Mendel noted, however, that officers have issued several warnings for illegal use of barbed hooks and other violations on the river.

As of Oct. 7, the daily catch limit on the mainstem Snake River (including boundary waters with Idaho) increased from three to five hatchery-marked steelhead (clipped and healed-over adipose or ventral fin), of which not more than three may equal or exceed 32 inches total length. The five-fish daily limit (but not the upper size restriction) also applies to the section of the Grande Ronde River from the County Road Bridge to Oregon state line. All steelhead caught in the Grand Ronde from the mouth to County Road Bridge (about 2.5 miles upstream) must be released.

Mendel explains that the catch limit was liberalized because only a small number of the large return of hatchery steelhead are needed for hatchery broodstock, and that removing excess hatchery steelhead will benefit wild steelhead listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Meanwhile, many streams and lakes throughout the region close Oct. 31 for trout and other species fishing. WDFW enforcement officers checking anglers note that many lakes are producing good catches in the final weeks of the season. Waters closing to fishing Oct. 31 are noted in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reminds anglers that this year’s special hatchery steelhead fishery on the upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, Methow and Okanogan rivers, includes mandatory retention – anglers must keep any adipose-fin-clipped hatchery origin steelhead at least 20 inches long until they reach the daily catch limit of four fish. After they have retained four fish, anglers must stop fishing for hatchery steelhead.

Any wild steelhead caught – those with an intact adipose fin – must be immediately released unharmed without being removed from the water. Anglers also must release any steelhead with one or more round holes punched in the tail fin.

“This fishery helps remove hatchery-origin steelhead and increases the proportion of wild natural-origin steelhead returning to spawning areas,” Jateff said.

The Icicle River will be open through Nov.15 from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam. Anglers fishing the Icicle also will be allowed to retain three coho salmon (minimum size 12 inches) per day, but must release coho equipped with an anchor tag.

The Similkameen River will open to hatchery steelhead retention beginning Nov. 1.

Catch and size limits have been lifted temporarily for Okanogan County’s Buck Lake, scheduled for rotenone treatment this month to improve future fishing. No size or catch limits are in effect through Oct. 25; Buck Lake will be closed to fishing Oct. 26 until further notice.

Many trout fisheries throughout the region close Oct. 31. There are also several that remain open through November, or are open year-round. check the 2009-2010 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at for details

The Columbia River closed Oct. 15 to the retention of all salmon between the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco and Priest Rapids Dam. The in-season forecast for fall chinook escapement to the Hanford Reach has fallen below the natural spawning escapement goal of 28,800 adult chinook. All salmon must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.

WDFW district fish biologist Paul Hoffarth notes anglers can continue to fish for and retain hatchery steelhead between the old Hanford town site wooden power line towers and Priest Rapids Dam through October 22. Angling for hatchery steelhead from McNary Dam to the old Hanford town site wooden powerline towers will remain open after Oct. 22 under the regulations listed in the fishing rules pamphlet at . Effective Nov. 1, the daily catch limit is reduced to two hatchery steelhead. Wild steelhead (adipose fin intact) must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.

Hoffarth’s recent weekly creel checks on Hanford Reach steelhead showed a total of 327 steelhead caught with 261 hatchery steelhead retained. For the season so far, 957 steelhead have been caught, 625 hatchery steelhead retained, and 272 wild steelhead have been released.

The Yakima River will close to all fishing for all species on Oct. 22. Hoffarth’s weekly creel checks on the Yakima showed effort and harvest picking up with 175 adult chinook, 37 jacks, and 10 adult coho caught. One wild steelhead was caught and released. For the season so far, 214 adult chinook, 37 jacks, and 10 adult coho have been harvested.

Hoffarth also notes walleye fishing has been good in the Tri-Cities area. “Nothing incredible, but if you put in a little time you should come away with a fish or two,” he said.

Eastern WA Deer, Elk, Upland Previews

Along with fall’s flights down the flyway and deer and elk migrations out of the mountains comes another large movement: that of hunters heading for Eastern Washington.

Saturday marks the opening day for muley, whitetail and duck seasons east of the Cascades, and even now sportsmen are driving that way with packed trucks, trailers and RVs.

I’m headed that way too — and I’ll be bringing my steelhead rods and jigs and spoons to hit the Wenatchee and Methow — tomorrow, and hope to see ya’ll out there in the hills.

NEXT weekend, on the 24th, pheasants open, and prospects are good.

And then, two weekends from now, is the opening day of elk season on the dry side of the state.

Below, you’ll find a preview from biologists across Eastern Washington on what you should find afield.

Some of the region’s most popular hunting begins Oct. 17 with the opening of modern firearm general deer seasons. More than 25 percent of the state’s annual deer harvest usually occurs in this area, most during modern firearm season.

The north end of the region traditionally provides the highest harvest of whitetails – specifically in game management units 117 (49 Degrees North), 121 (Huckleberry) and 124 (Mount Spokane). WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist Dana Base of Colville notes, however, that overall deer harvest may be somewhat lower than the ten-year average this year.

“The long-term population trend for white-tailed deer here continues to drift downward with the continued loss of acreage in cereal grain and alfalfa hay farm production,” Base said. “Two hard winters back to back, with excessive snow and cold, have further exacerbated this situation.”

Mule deer appear to have weathered the past two winters better than the whitetails, but their populations also show the same spotty pattern as whitetail populations, Base said. Some areas have stable to increasing numbers and other areas are in decline.

Base reminds hunters that the first of many deer harvest check stations of the season will be conducted on Hwy. 395 just north of Deer Park on Sunday, Oct. 18. The check station is voluntary, but Base strongly encourages hunters to stop, whether they’ve harvested game or not, to help the department build information about the season and condition of deer.

The recent WDFW acquisition of more acreage along the West Branch of the Little Spokane River in southern Pend Oreille County has hunters eager to explore newly public land. But WDFW Eastside Lands Supervisor Brian Trickel warns that there is no boundary surveying, mapping, fencing or signing of the 2,772 acres (roughly between Horseshoe and Fan lakes), so the risk of trespass on adjacent private property is very high.

“We urge hunters to be patient and wait for more definitive rules for the property,” Trickel said. “But if they attempt to use the property now they must be respectful of private landowners.” He emphasized that no unauthorized motor vehicles are allowed anywhere on the property.

Deer hunting in the south end of the region should be fair to good. WDFW district wildlife biologist Pat Fowler of Walla Walla says mule deer populations are stable along the breaks of the Snake River and in the lowlands. Although white-tailed deer populations have declined in some areas, the population overall is still strong and will offer excellent hunting opportunity, he said. The foothills of the Blue Mountains and river bottoms hold the largest concentrations of white-tailed deer. Much of the foothill lands are in private ownership, so permission is necessary before hunting.

In most of the state the cougar hunting season also opens Oct. 17 to hunters using any weapon, but that hunt has been delayed until Oct. 31 in Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille counties, which are part of a pilot hunt for cougars using dogs Dec. 19 – March 31. WDFW carnivore manager Donny Martorello explains the delay here and in three other counties (Chelan, Okanogan and Klickitat) is designed to help biologists evaluate the pros and cons of using dogs in hunts to manage the state’s cougar population. “Deer hunters take cougars under different circumstances than hunters specifically pursuing cougars with the use of dogs,” Martorello said. “We need clear information on the effects of those strategies on the cougar population as we develop future hunting seasons.”

Waterfowl season also opens Oct. 17 and runs through Oct. 21, then picks up again Oct. 24 – Jan. 31 – a gap that allowed for the two-day September youth waterfowl hunting season within the federal framework for migratory bird hunting. The early part of the season could be better than usual because of early cold, wet weather moving ducks and geese into and through the region sooner than expected. The 2009 waterfowl regulations have a few changes this year, including a daily bag limit of two pintail, one canvasback, and three scaup (which doesn’t open until Nov. 7.)

Pheasant hunting opens Oct. 24 and WDFW upland game bird specialist Joey McCanna of Spokane says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that wild pheasant numbers in eastern Washington may be fairly good this season. Biologists throughout the central and southeast districts of the region have been observing good brood sizes, he said.

The best areas to hunt are usually along river and stream drainages, from Rock and Union Flat Creek and the Palouse River to the Snake, Touchet, Walla Walla, and Tucannon rivers. Agricultural areas brushy hillsides and draws are prime, but hunters must seek permission to access private land. Acreage enrolled in WDFW’s “Feel Free to Hunt” and “Register to Hunt” programs can be a good bet, and hunters need to scout out those program signs in the field.

Later in the season, hunters may also choose to seek out game-farm rooster pheasants at release sites; see for details.

WDFW enforcement officers report that chukar partridge hunting, which has been under way since Oct. 3, has been fairly productive for most hunters along the Snake River breaks. Most checked had several birds bagged.

Modern firearm elk season runs Oct. 31 through Nov. 8 in several units throughout the region. The southeast district is traditionally the best, with the greatest numbers in the Blue Mountains, but only spike bulls can be harvested.

“Calf survival has improved in recent years,” WDFW biologist Fowler said, “but is still 15 percent below optimum levels, which does have a negative impact on the number of spike bulls available for harvest. The Wenaha sub-herd (GMU-169) still remains below historic population levels, which hurts overall hunting opportunity in the Blue Mountains,  but hunters can expect propsects to be similar to previous years.”

Fowler said hunters lucky enough to draw one of the 80 “any bull” special permits will find excellent hunting opportunity this year. Most of those special hunts begin Oct. 26, but a few new permits were already used last month.

Central district units 124-142 are open for any elk, bull or cow, but private land access must be secured for most hunting. WDFW district wildlife biologists Howard Ferguson and Mike Atamian of Spokane recently helicopter-surveyed elk in and around Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in the Cheney (130) unit and counted a total of 260, 35 bulls, 146 cows, and 79 calves. Relative to previous years of the same aerial survey, that total was down, but they also saw a herd of about 100 elk just outside the survey area. Including those animals would bring the count above the yearly average of 316. Biologists are currently attempting a ground count and composition of the herd.

Ferguson reminds hunters the refuge is not open to elk hunting this year, but might be by next fall. For now, private property access permission must be obtained.

WDFW biologist Base says elk are fewer and further between in the northeast district, but the population at least does not appear to have been as heavily impacted by the last two winters as white-tailed deer. “Finding elk is the biggest challenge here,” he said. “There’s so much closed canopy forest where they can effectively hide and ‘sit out’ the season.”

Base asks that hunters be extremely careful about identifying game before shooting, especially in the northeast district where there are many “look alikes,” including threatened and endangered species.

“Mountain caribou which can be confused with elk and moose, lynx with bobcat, grizzly bear with black bear, and gray wolf with coyote,” Base said. “Once a bullet or arrow is launched, there is no calling it back.”

Waterfowl season runs Oct. 17-21, then picks up again Oct. 24 – Jan. 31 – a gap that allows for the two-day September youth waterfowl hunting season within the federal framework for migratory bird hunting.

WDFW waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore of Moses Lake reports ducks are moving into the Columbia Basin in ever-increasing numbers, thanks to unseasonably cold temperatures bringing ducks out of their molting and staging areas a little early.

“Cold temperatures mean higher energy demands for ducks,” Moore said. “When scouting for your opening day spot, check the water for abundant floating seeds – a good calling card for hungry ducks. Some areas with excellent natural seed production include shallow water areas on the Gloyd Seeps Wildlife Area, North Potholes Wildlife Area, and the Frenchman and Winchester Restricted Access Areas.”

Moore noted duck hunters partial to the Winchester Wasteway will find a little more open canopy, thanks to the vegetation management efforts of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area staff. A combination of fall aerial herbicide application and spring burning on invasive Phragmites has resulted in more open water and a healthy smartweed response, she said.

“Taverner’s cackling geese and lesser Canada geese are already staging in the Stratford area north of Soap Lake by the thousands,” Moore said. “Their numbers will build as high as 30,000 by the end of October. These geese will focus their feeding efforts on harvested wheat fields in the area before moving south through the Columbia Basin.”

Moore reminds waterfowlers the 2009 regulations have a few changes this year, including a daily bag limit of two pintail, one canvasback, and three scaup (which doesn’t open until Nov. 7.)

WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger said the outlook for the opening weekend for ducks is good. “Given the recent relatively cold conditions, waterfowl hunters can expect large numbers of early season migrants now such as green-winged teal, American wigeon , and northern pintails ,” he said. “November will bring large numbers of mallards, gadwalls, wigeon, teal, scaup, redheads , and canvasbacks . December typically provides the peak of mallards, ringnecks, and canvasbacks, while other dabbling and diving species continue their journey south.”

Also opening Oct. 17 is modern firearm general deer season in many game management units (GMUs) throughout the region.

Most overall deer harvest in the Columbia Basin occurs in the Beezley (272) and Ritzville (284) units. WDFW wildlife biologist Brock Hoenes just conducted a “test” pre-season deer survey in GMU 272 and observed 129 deer along a route where 342 deer were observed during post-season surveys in November last year. Although observations represent a very small sample size, the resulting buck-doe-fawn ratios were 21:100:61 – almost identical to the post-season ratio of 21:100:69 obtained last year.

Finger reminds deer hunters that GMU 284 is dominated by private property and access permission must be secured. GMU 272 includes 53,000 acres of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex, most of which is open to hunting.

“Deer hunters should fare quite well overall during the 2009 season in the Basin,” Finger said. “Last year’s post-hunt fawn-to-doe ratios indicate herd productivity was moderate in all surveyed units and buck-to-doe ratios have steadily increased the past few years. Despite last winter’s formidable conditions, we did not observe above normal winter mortality and populations are believed to have remained stable or increased slightly.”

All deer hunting in GMU 290 (Desert) – Oct. 31- Nov. 8 and later in November – is through special permits by drawing. With post-hunt ratios of 50 bucks per 100 does,

Finger expects high success rates to continue this year. Public land hunting is widely available in the unit with 41 percent in the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, including riparian areas associated primarily with the Winchester and Frenchmen Wasteways, rolling, sandy dunes, and varying densities of shrub cover.

WDFW district wildlife biologist Dave Volsen of Wenatchee says deer hunting prospects in Chelan and Douglas counties are good this year. Mild winters have allowed for good deer survival with fawn numbers strong in Chelan County, he says, although they’re lower in Douglas County due to drought conditions. Post-season surveys indicate good buck escapement in Chelan County, but less so in Douglas, where open habitat allows for high harvest.

“Road densities are high in Douglas County, and that ensures access to almost all areas, resulting in high harvest and ultimately few older-aged bucks post- season.” Volsen said. “Hunters throughout this two-county district often see more of their fellow hunters than game animals. While Chelan County has a large amount of habitat, road densities are relatively low, thereby concentrating hunters in these areas. I encourage hunters to find habitat less traveled, with limited vehicle access, or, with permission, access onto private land where hunting pressure and disturbance is lower.”

Hunters are reminded the Chelan Ranger District of the Wenatchee National Forest is implementing annual fall road closures to provide for buck escapement. Closed as of Oct. 15 are Oss Peak Road # 8200 – 117, gated at both ends, and Mitchell Creek Road #8215, 8200-112, although ATV’s and motorcycles are still allowed. For more information, contact the Chelan Ranger District at 509-628-4900.

In the north end of the region, mule deer hunting prospects continue to be down, although recent cold, wet weather could improve prospects. WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin says that’s due to an average 70 percent over-winter fawn mortality during the 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 winters.

“Even though last winter was not as bad, fawn numbers did not improve as anticipated, with spring surveys showing 31 fawns per 100 does in the Methow and 42 fawns per 100 does in the Okanogan,” Fitkin said. “We attribute this to poor forage conditions on the winter range.”

Fitkin noted that white-tailed deer are less abundant than mule deer throughout the district but are found in most valley bottoms where they fared better over the last four winters. Prospects should be somewhat better for those hunters targeting whitetails, he noted, but since most are on private lands, hunters must seek permission for access in advance of the season.

In most of the state, the cougar hunting season also opens Oct. 17 to hunters using any weapon, but that hunt will not start until Oct. 31 in Chelan and Okanogan counties, which are part of a pilot hunt for cougars using dogs in a later season (Dec. 19 – March 31). WDFW carnivore manager Donny Martorello explains the delay there and in four other counties (Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Klickitat) is designed to help biologists evaluate the pros and cons of using dogs in hunts to manage the state’s cougar population. “Deer hunters take cougars under different circumstances than hunters specifically pursuing cougars with the use of dogs,” Martorello said. “We need clear information on the effects of those strategies on the cougar population as we develop future hunting seasons.”

Pheasant hunting opens Oct. 24 and WDFW upland game bird specialist Joey McCanna of Spokane says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that wild pheasant numbers on the east side of the state may be fairly good this season.

WDFW biologist Finger notes that even though winter conditions were harsh and spring conditions were cool in the Basin, there has been no large-scale pheasant mortality. “Most hunters who invest considerable effort and cover a lot of ground will cross paths with a few wild birds,” he said.

Later in the season, hunters may also choose to seek out game-farm-raised rooster pheasants at release sites; see for details. Non-toxic shot is now required at all pheasant release sites in the Columbia Basin.

Modern firearm elk hunting opens Oct. 31 in several units throughout the region, but few have great numbers of elk, harvest is traditionally low, and the overall hunter success rate is roughly 2 percent lower than the statewide average.

The Mission unit (251) traditionally has the highest elk harvest, WDFW biologist Volsen notes, with 42 being taken last year. Hunters should take note that GMU 251 has changed to a “true spike” restriction in 2009 to aid bull recruitment in the Colockum herd.

Hunters planning to hunt – or scout a hunt – in northwest Yakima County should be aware that access to State Highway 410 has been closed since Oct. 11, when a massive landslide pushed a quarter-mile section of the highway into the Naches River. The Washington State Patrol closed a 47-mile section of SR 410 between Lake Tipsoo in Mount Rainier National Park to the junction with U.S. Highway 12, five miles west of Naches. The Bethel Ridge Road is currently restricted to evacuees. See the Washington Department of Transportation website at  for updated information.

WDFW district wildlife biologist Jeff Bernatowicz says hunters will have to find alternate routes to access portions of Game Management Units (GMU) 342 (Umtanum), 346 (Little Naches), 352 (Nile), 356 (Bumping), and 360 (Bethel). Those traveling from the east will be most affected, he said.

Modern firearm deer season opens Oct. 17 and Bernatowicz says there might be a slight increase in deer numbers this year in the Yakima district.

“Fawn production has been pretty good, but the hair-slip syndrome seems to be a nagging problem,” he said. “We’ve seen a deer population decline by 30 to 50 percent since about 2003, first documented in Game Management Units 328 – 346, then spreading south through GMUs 352 – 368.”

WDFW district wildlife biologist Mike Livingston of Pasco reports deer population estimates in the southeast are below the five-year average for the area, and this year’s hunting may not be as good as last season.

“Our highest concentrations of deer, which are mostly mule deer with just a few whitetails, are in GMU 381 Kahlotus in Franklin County,” he said. “We get a large percentage migrating in from northern units later in October and November. Hunter success rates here average about 33 percent for modern firearm, but that tends to be high due to restricted access and lack of cover for deer.”

Livingston notes most of the district is private, open country farmland. There are some WDFW “Feel Free To Hunt” and “Hunt By Written Permission” acres where hunters can gain access to deer, but he advises pre-season scouting.

Waterfowl hunting also opens Oct. 17 and recent cold, wet weather may be pushing migrant ducks and geese into the South Columbia Basin sooner than usual.

That’s good, Livingston says, because local duck production seems to have been low this year. He notes there are lots of places to hunt ducks and geese in the district, like small ponds and lakes on WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Widlife Area and Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch and else where in north Franklin County. The Corp of Engineers and USFWS provide hunting areas along the Snake and Columbia Rivers for both bank and boat hunters.

Pheasant hunting opens Oct. 24 and WDFW upland game bird specialist Joey McCanna of Spokane says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that wild pheasant numbers on the east side of the state may be fairly good this season.

Livingston agrees, noting spring conditions were favorable with lots of nesting and brood rearing cover. “Insects including grasshoppers were abundant and it looks like pheasant broods are around where habitat remains,” he said. “It may take a couple more years of favorable weather to boost populations significantly, but overall, it should be a better pheasant hunting year than last.”

The best pheasant habitat in the district is in north Franklin County on and surrounding WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Wildlife Area and the Register To Hunt Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch. Other habitat areas include the Hanford Reach National Monument’s Ringold Unit, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge along the Columbia, and the Corps of Engineers Big Flat and Lost Island Habitat Management Units along the Snake River.

Bernatowicz reports bird production in Yakima and Kittitas counties is typically better with higher than average moisture and temperatures. “This spring started out cool and dry, although average moisture in May and June seemed to greatly improve production over 2008,” he said. “The problem is that most populations appeared to be pretty low going into the 2009 nesting season. Bird numbers are improving, but it will probably take a few years to return to above average.”

Bernatowicz noted the Yakama Nation conducts standardized pheasant surveys each summer, and this year’s indicated good production.

Later in the season, hunters may also choose to seek out game-farm-raised rooster pheasants at release sites; see for details. Bernatowicz notes the Millerguard release site west of Ellensburg has been moved because target shooters caused unsafe conditions. Hunters can get directions to a new site on WDFW property near Whiskey Dick Mountain from the Yakima regional office at 509-575-2740.

Modern firearm elk season opens Oct. 31 and Bernatowicz reminds hunters that   GMUs 328 (Naneum), 329 (Quilomene), 334 (Ellensburg), and 335 (Teanaway) have been changed to a “true spike bull” regulation.

A true spike bull is one with both antlers without branching originating more than four inches above where the antlers attack to the skull.

“The change was made because most of the yearling bulls were being harvested during the general elk season,” he said. “The low recruitment has left the Colockum herd well below bull escapement objectives.”

Bernatowicz also notes an error in the hunting rules pamphlet – GMU 330 (West Bar) is not open to general season elk hunting.

As for prospects, Bernatowicz expects bull harvest to be down. “Our elk calf ratio data collected in February and March was consistently low across the range,” he said. “In the Colockum herd, with a total of 4,000 elk, we have 20 calves per 100 cows and just five bulls per 100 cows. In the Yakima herd, with a total of 9,200 elk, we have 30 calves per 100 cows and 17 bulls per 100 cows. Since calves surveyed in March are spike bulls in the fall, chances of taking one this season are down.”

WDFW biologist Livingston says elk hunting in the southeast district is limited to lands surrounding the west and south boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument (GMU 372).

“Hunts are geared toward addressing crop damage on surrounding wheat farms, vineyards and orchards,” he said. “Access is extremely limited to either a couple pieces of state land north of Prosser and Benton City and private land through special permit drawings. The best way to secure access is to apply for a special permit through the Landowner Hunt Program. If selected, permit holders are guaranteed a one day guided hunt. Most permits are limited to antlerless opportunity for youth hunters, but a few elk permits are issued each year. Surveys in January 2009 yielded a total herd estimate of 639 elk with 49 bulls and 15 calves per 100 cows. The high bull ratio is typical for this herd since they can seek refuge on the federal Hanford lands during hunting season. The calf count was below average and was likely a result of the stress the cows experienced from a wildfire that burned in August 2007.”