Thanksgiving Turkey? How About Duck, Venison, Salmon, Clams or Crab?

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Venison DinnerGeneral turkey-hunting seasons are closed for the year, but hunters and anglers still have plenty of opportunities to contribute to the Thanksgiving Day feast in the days ahead.

The late buck season – already under way in Eastern Washington – gets started tomorrow (Nov. 13) on the west side of the Cascades for deer hunters using modern firearms. Conditions are looking good for those hunters, as well as for archers and muzzleloaders who will take to the field later this month, said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“The high winds and rain that are blowing through the state have cleared a lot of leaves from the trees, which should improve hunters’ visibility,” Ware said, adding that the recent blustery weather could also improve waterfowl hunting. “With these conditions, however, hunters should check the weather reports and avoid flooded areas that could be potentially dangerous.”

While seafood may be less traditional Thanksgiving fare, it certainly is in season. The chum salmon return is nearing its peak in rivers and streams throughout Puget Sound, while the winter steelhead fishery in western Washington is just getting started.

Rather serve shellfish? Crab fisheries are open seven days a week in several areas of Puget Sound, and WDFW has scheduled a razor-clam dig on ocean beaches Nov. 13-16.

For more information on these and other hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching opportunities around the state, see the regional reports below:

Salmon Steak DinnerNorth Puget Sound

Fishing: Heavy rains and high winds made fishing difficult in mid-November. Many freshwater fisheries are on hold as anglers wait for several swollen rivers to drop back into shape. Fishing effort also is down on Puget Sound as saltwater anglers wait for blustery conditions to subside.

“Fishing has been tough recently throughout the region, mostly due to the poor weather,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “We’ve seen a big drop in angler effort out there, but that will likely pick up once weather conditions become more favorable.” 

Once the weather does improve, Thiesfeld recommends fishing for blackmouth salmon – resident chinook – in marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton). Anglers fishing Marine Area 10 can keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Those fishing in Marine Area 9 also have a two-salmon daily limit but can keep up to two hatchery chinook per day. Wild chinook salmon, which have an intact adipose fin, cannot be brought aboard the boat in Marine Area 9.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that there are still a lot of shakers out in the Sound, and suggests using larger spoons and plugs to minimize the catch of those juvenile chinook. “Treat those fish with extreme care when releasing them because they are next year’s crop of blackmouth,” he said.

Sport crabbing also is an option out on the Sound. Marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 12 (Hood Canal) recently reopened for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2. Crab fishing also remains open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since June 18.

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) or 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual quota.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/index.htm .

Trout DinnerMeanwhile, freshwater anglers waiting for rivers to become fishable again might want to try casting for trout at Beaver Lake. About 1,800 hatchery rainbows – averaging approximately 3 to 5 pounds each – were recently released in the lake. Beaver Lake, one of several westside lowland lakes open to fishing year-round, is best fished by small boat, although anglers can also be successful fishing from shore. The daily bag limit is five fish, and bait anglers must keep the first five trout they catch.

Before heading out to the lakes, rivers, or Puget Sound, anglers should check the rules and regulations for fisheries in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).

Hunting: The modern firearm season for elk closed Nov. 10. Up next for modern firearm hunters is the late black-tailed deer season, which runs Nov. 13-16 in select game management units. Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities, when deer and elk hunts open Nov. 19 in select game management units.

Waterfowlers have through Jan. 25 to hunt for ducks and geese in the region, while upland bird hunters have until the end of November to bag pheasant . For information about WDFW’s pheasant release sites, see the Western Washington Pheasant Release pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/wwapheas.htm ).

Other hunts open in the region include cougar, grouse, California quail and bobwhite seasons. Bear hunts are also open, but the season closes Nov. 15.

Waterfowl and upland game bird hunters are reminded to avoid harvesting or handling any birds that are obviously sick or found dead, follow good hygiene when cleaning game birds, and report birds found dead to WDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-8768. 

Before going afield, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm ) and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/water.htm ) for details.

Wildlife Viewing: Several birders in the region have made their way to the Boeing Ponds to catch a glimpse of a great egret . Several visitors to the Ponds have spotted the large white bird recently. A rare visitor to the Puget Sound region, great egrets are mainly found in the wetlands and arid steppe of eastern Washington. In the winter, some can be found at the mouth of the Columbia River and along the Washington coast.

Elsewhere, a few birders spotted several species during a rainy and windy day at Marymoor Park in Redmond. Highlights of the trip included a bufflehead , a Wilson’s snipe , a barn owl , a Townsend’s warbler , a western meadowlark and a purple finch .     

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: Fall rainstorms temporarily stalled chum fishing in mid-month, but anglers can look forward to catching some winter-run steelhead once rivers drop back into shape. Meanwhile, the late-season Dungeness crab fishery is now under way in a number of marine areas, and a razor-clam dig is coming up soon.

Salmon fishing on coastal rivers has been hampered by recent heavy rains, but catch rates should improve once the weather gets better, said Scott Barbour, WDFW fish biologist. “Virtually every river is out of shape right now, but on the bright side, the rain is also bringing in the fish,” he said.

By the time conditions improve, anglers can start thinking about the winter steelhead season, Barbour said. “December is the big month for hatchery steelhead on the North Olympic Peninsula – including the Quillayute River system ad Hoh River – but early returns start showing up around Thanksgiving,” he said. Starting Dec. 1, wild steelhead retention rules go into effect on those rivers. Before heading out, anglers are advised to review retention rules in WDFW’s 2008/2009 Fishing in Washington pamphlet (wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm).

Fried Razor ClamFour evening razor clam digs are scheduled at Copalis and Mocrocks Nov. 13-16, while Long Beach and Twin Harbors are scheduled for three evening digs Nov. 14-16. Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park is closed for the fall season due to a low abundance of razor clams.
 
Evening low tides during the dig are at 6:27 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13 (-1.6 ft.), 7:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14 (-1.8), 8:04 p.m. Saturday Nov. 15 (-1.6), 8:54 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16 (1.2).

Clam diggers are encouraged to take lights or lanterns with them due to the timing of the low tides. He also recommends checking weather and surf forecasts before heading out. Digging is restricted to the hours between noon and midnight.

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

A license is required for anyone age 15 or older. Any 2008 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 licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . Clam diggers are not required to display their licenses on outer clothing.

Meanwhile, as the chum salmon season nears its peak, the big fish can be found in virtually every small stream in the area. The most popular fishing spots include the mouth of Kennedy Creek on Totten Inlet (where 68 anglers were checked with 13 fish on Nov. 8 and 9) and near the Hoodsport Hatchery on Hood Canal (where 91 shore anglers recently landed 177 chum). Anglers are reminded that the daily limit on the Hoodsport “hatchery zone” is four salmon, with a maximum of two chinook.

Although the chum fishery is producing results for anglers, the overall run size is lower than expected, said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “We now expect to see about 350,00 chum returning to south Puget Sound, which is about half our original forecast,” he said. “We’ll learn more as the season progresses.”

Other areas now open to chum-salmon fishing include the Dosewallips and Duckabush rivers in Jefferson County, and Minter Creek in Pierce/Kitsap counties. Thiesfeld advises anglers to check WDFW’s 2008/2009 Fishing in Washington pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ) for other stream openings and closures.

Thiesfeld also noted that November’s blackmouth fishery off Sekiu (Marine Area 5) has been producing results for those making the trip north. “The effort’s been low, but folks going out have been averaging a fish per rod,” he said.

Recreational crab fishing got under way Nov. 1 in four marine areas of Puget Sound and will be open seven days a week through Jan. 2. Crab fishing is open in marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 12 (Hood Canal).

Crab fishing will also remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since June 18.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/index.htm .

Hunting: The late-buck, black-tailed deer season starts with a modern-firearm hunt that runs Nov. 13-16 in western Washington. Following on the heels of the four-day hunt, archers and muzzleloaders will take to the field for the late deer and elk season, which starts Nov. 19.

Hunters planning to hunt big game this year should check WDFW’s 2008 Big Game Hunting pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm before heading afield.

Goose hunting re-opened in Management Area 3 on Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 25. In Pacific County (Area 2B), where the season runs from Oct. 11 through Jan. 10, hunters must have written authorization to hunt, which requires passing a goose identification test. Goose hunting in Pacific County is allowed on Saturdays and Wednesdays only.

Roasted Baked DuckThe season for duck , coot and snipe reopened Oct. 18. Hunters may also pursue pheasant, California quail and bobwhite through Nov. 30. Meanwhile, the statewide forest grouse season continues through Dec. 31.

Check the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/wwapheas.htm for the department’s pheasant release sites.

Waterfowl and upland game bird hunters are reminded to avoid harvesting or handling any birds that are obviously sick or found dead, follow good hygiene when cleaning game birds, and report birds found dead to WDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-8768. 

Wildlife viewing: Each weekend throughout November, visitors can walk the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail for an up-close look at thousands of chum salmon returning to local streams. Located just above the Kennedy Creek estuary on Totten Inlet, the trail is off U.S. Hwy 101 between Olympian and Shelton. The stream is one of the most productive chum salmon streams in Washington. While there visitors can find numerous species of migrating shorebirds or hike around the estuary. More information on the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail is located at http://www.spsseg.org/index.php/kennedy-creek-salmon-trail/ .

With winter coming on, outdoor buffs will have a chance to view seldom-seen birds and animals such as white-tailed ptarmigan, saw-whet owl, goshawk, Cooper’s hawk, mountain chickadee, evening and pine grosbeak, mountain goats, sheep, porcupine, red fox, mink, weasels and skunk . Hikers and bird watchers are reminded to be sensitive to the needs of animals. Avoid close contact by stopping and going around them or wait for them to move. Help animals conserve their food supply by avoiding damaging brush, trees and grass. Stay on established routes or trails and view birds and animals from a distance. For more information, visit the Washington State Parks’ website at http://www.parks.wa.gov/winter/wildlife.asp .

Southwest Washington

Fishing:   Winter-run steelhead are moving into Columbia River tributaries where anglers are still catching hatchery coho , but fishing success for both species depends a great deal on the weather.  Rainstorms, followed by clear skies, have made stream conditions highly variable in recent days.

“The Kalama River has been running high and dirty, but fishing conditions could improve there and elsewhere if the rain lets up,” said Joe Hymer, WDFW fish biologist.  “Especially at this time of year, it really pays to check river conditions before you head out.”

Hymer recommends that anglers check stream-flow conditions on two websites before leaving home: http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/river/river.cgi?zoom?2?1.1.1.1.0_1.1.1.1_1?zoom?62,343?165,253 and http://waterdata.usgs.gov/WA/nwis/current/?type=flow .

Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of the fishery for winter-run hatchery steelhead , although the season is already under way on several tributaries to the lower Columbia River.  On the Grays River, fishing for hatchery steelhead opens from the mouth to the Highway 4 Bridge on Nov. 15.

But the best bets for hooking up with hatchery steelhead or coho salmon right now are the Lewis and Cowlitz rivers, where dams help to moderate stream flows, Hymer said.  On the Lewis River, anglers have been averaging about one hatchery coho for every two rods, although about half of those fish were released because they had turned dark.  Some bright winter steelhead have also been showing up in the catch.  Bank anglers had the best luck fishing near the salmon hatchery.

Bank and boat anglers are also catching hatchery steelhead – some weighing in the teens – downstream from the trout hatchery on the Cowlitz River.  They are also still catching some hatchery coho, although that run is clearly winding down.  As of Nov. 5, more than 47,000 adult coho had returned to the hatchery, already one of the top 10 returns to that facility on record.  In addition, nearly 10,300 coho jacks were counted by that date, the second-highest return since 1990.

Sea-run hatchery cutthroat are also keeping anglers busy fishing below the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery.  More than 4,700 cutthroat had returned to the salmon and trout hatcheries through Nov. 5, and more are still on the way. 

The fishery below the trout hatchery is ideal for anglers who permanently use a wheelchair, because Tacoma Power built a fishing site specially for them at the hatchery outfall.  The daily trout limit is five fish per day, with a minimum length of 12 inches.  Most returning fish average 14 inches, Hymer said.

Anglers are still reeling in some legal-size sturgeon from the Wauna power lines upstream to Bonneville Dam, but the fishery – like the water temperature – is starting to cool down.  Hymer suspects the action will shift to the area around the Willamette River, where higher water temperatures are more inviting to chilled sturgeon.

In October, anglers made 16,000 fishing trips to catch Columbia River white sturgeon and took home 3,000 legal-size fish, Hymer said.

Hunting: The general elk-hunting season for hunters using modern firearms is over for another year, but several other big-game hunts are coming right up. The late-buck season runs Nov. 13-16 for hunters using modern firearms, followed by deer and elk seasons for archers and muzzleloaders starting Nov. 19.
 
Although the late-buck season is only four days long, it usually accounts for about a third of all the deer taken each year by hunters in the region, said Jerry Nelson, WDFW wildlife biologist. One reason is that is that bucks are more active, both because temperatures have dropped and because the late season takes place near the end of the rut, he said. Another is that, by now, autumn winds have blown down a lot of leaves that make deer harder to spot during the early season.

“Recent wind and rain should help improve conditions for the late-buck season,” Nelson said. “This is definitely shaping up to be a good hunt.”

For information about hunting rules in specific game management units, hunters are advised to check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet, posted on WDFW’s website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm ).

The general bear-hunting season ends Nov. 15, while the hunt for cougar without the use of dogs will continue through March 15 in most counties.  But in Klickitat County, cougar hunting will be restricted to muzzleloaders and archers Nov. 20-30 under rules adopted after the Big Game Hunting pamphlet was printed.  That change is designed to accommodate a new pilot hunt for cougars with the aid of dogs set to start Dec. 1.

Meanwhile, goose hunting is open throughout the region, where numbers of waterfowl continue to grow as more birds move in from the north. As in past years, hunting in Goose Management Area 2A (Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and part of Clark County) is restricted to hunters who have successfully completed a goose-identification test administered by WDFW. Hunting in most sections of Area 2A is limited to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only. The exception is the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where goose hunting opens Nov. 13 and is restricted to Thursdays, Saturdays and Tuesdays.
 
Those interested in hunting geese at the Ridgefield refuge must reserve a blind through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For information, see the agency’s website at http://www.fws.gov/ridgefieldrefuges/RNWRHuntAppInstruct.htm . For information about hunting rules in all areas, see WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/water.htm ).

Waterfowl and upland game bird hunters are reminded to avoid harvesting or handling any birds that are obviously sick or found dead, follow good hygiene when cleaning game birds, and report birds found dead to WDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-8768. 

Wildlife viewing: Migrating waterfowl are now reaching peak levels in southwest Washington, providing prime viewing opportunities for birders throughout the region. Swans, geese, ducks and other waterfowl of all descriptions are on display throughout the Vancouver Lowlands, including seven subspecies of Canada geese ranging from cackling geese to less-common Aleutian geese .

Other birds are around, too.  One contributor to the Tweeters birding website ( http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/ ) spotted a shrike at Hunter Gate and a cinnamon teal on Rest Lake during his trip to the refuge.  Another observed a rough-legged hawk and a Harlan’s red-tailed hawk foraging in the mowed fields.

In Skamania County, a birder reported seeing a canyon wren on Beacon Rock, inquiring whether that was unusual.  Another contributor to the website said he had seen that species at Beacon Rock before, but always in spring.  The canyon wren is more often heard than seen, and its falling series of whistles is one of the more familiar bird calls of the canyons of the western United States.

Eastern Washington

Fishing:   Sprague Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line, continues to produce fast and fat catches of rainbow trout , at least for anglers willing to brave recent rain and wind. Chris Donley, WDFW district fish biologist from Spokane, said hatchery trout stocked last spring are at least 16 inches long and many are one-and-a-half pounds. Donley reminded anglers the daily catch limit is five trout.

Southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lake remains open for catch-and-release-only fishing through November for rainbow and cutthroat trout .  

Snake River hatchery steelhead fishing continues to be productive, according to anecdotal reports at this time. The latest WDFW creel surveys will be posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/snake/index.htm .

Hunting: Late modern firearm, white-tailed buck deer season continues through Nov. 19 in Game Management Units 105 – 124 in the northeast portion of the region where the rut is in full swing. Dana Base, WDFW district wildlife biologist, reported that the Nov. 8-9 hunter check stations at Chattaroy and Deer Park showed the number of hunters checked was similar to last year, but the success rate was much lower. This year, 181 hunters with 13 deer were checked over the weekend (7 percent success rate). Last year, 189 hunters were checked with 45 deer (24 percent success rate).  Base believes last winter’s extended snowy, cold conditions reduced deer populations in some areas. Final weekend hunter check stations will be conducted at Chattaroy Nov. 15 and Deer Park Nov. 16, and will include collection of deer lymph node tissue samples for WDFW’s ongoing Chronic Wasting Disease survey.

Late archery and muzzleloader deer and elk hunting opens in select units Nov. 20 and should be productive with wintery conditions forecasted.  

With black bear hunting closing Nov. 15, bear hunters must send in hunting reports with tooth samples. Reports filed within 10 days of kill gain eligibility for special deer or elk hunting permits next year. Unsuccessful hunters can file reports through Jan. 10 to be eligible. For all details on hunter reporting see https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses_hunter_report.html .

Moose hunting ends Nov. 30 for 128 special permit holders in about nine select units in the north half of the region.

Kurt Merg, WDFW private lands supervisor, reported that pheasant hunting is a challenge because birds are wary after several weeks of hunting, at least in Whitman County. “Pheasants seem to be in larger groups now, but they’re flushing at long range,” he said, “Even hunters with dogs are challenged.”  Forecasted snow could help hold birds, at least in the best cover habitat which includes private acres in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Some of those properties are also in WDFW’s “Feel Free To Hunt” and “Register To Hunt” programs, indicated on posted signs. Farm-raised rooster pheasant releases continue periodically up to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at all of the region’s dozen release sites, mostly south of the Snake River. See all release site details at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/ewapheas.htm .

Merg also noted that waterfowl appear to be less concentrated than they were just two weeks ago, and perhaps less abundant overall. “We hope that cold weather in Canada will push more waterfowl our way,” he said.

Goose hunters in Lincoln, Spokane and Walla Walla counties, where goose hunting is available only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, get a few extra days this month with the Thanksgiving holiday. Thursday, Nov. 27, and Friday, Nov. 28, are open to goose hunting in that zone.

Waterfowl and upland game bird hunters are reminded to avoid harvesting or handling any birds that are obviously sick or found dead, follow good hygiene when cleaning game birds, and report birds found dead to WDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-8768. 

Hoping to bag a bird for the Thanksgiving dinner table, late fall wild turkey permit hunters will be out in northeast Washington units Nov. 20 through Dec. 15.

Wildlife viewing:   The Blue Mountains Audubon Society chapter’s annual “Turkey Trot Sunday” is Nov. 16, when members and others interested in bird watching will look for wild turkeys and other birds in Walla Walla and Columbia counties. Last year the field trip yielded 38 species, including 365 turkeys, two pygmy owls , two northern shrikes , two western bluebirds and a long-eared owl . Call Tom Scribner at (509) 529-8628 to participate and plan to meet at 9 a.m. at Harper Joy Theatre parking lot on the Whitman College campus.

Wild turkey viewing is almost guaranteed in many parts of Stevens County. Taking a drive along Hwy. 25 from Fruitland to Kettle Falls, on Hwy. 231 from Ford to Valley, or on virtually any local road across the county will yield glimpses, if not photographic opportunities, of the abundant big birds.

With the peak of the white-tailed deer breeding season or rut in mid-November, those Stevens County routes may also produce views of bucks vying for dominance with other bucks seeking does. Buck deer can be less wary of virtually everything else at this time, so motorists are reminded to be cautious. Shortened daylight hours also increase the chance of deer-car collisions now.

Tundra swans and other migrating waterfowl have been spotted at WDFW’s Reardan’s Audubon Lake, just outside the town of Reardan off Hwy. 2 in eastern Lincoln County.

If recent rainy, cold weather makes the indoors more inviting than the outdoors, consider visiting the new “Dabblers, Divers, Murderers and Travelers” bird exhibit at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC) in Spokane (2316 W. 1st Ave., in Brown’s Addition just west of downtown.) The exhibit was created with help from the Spokane Audubon Society chapter and features bird taxidermy and photography, including more than 200 mounted specimens collected by early Spokane Bird Club members. The exhibit, which runs through March 15, also offers children’s activities such as computer games, drawing tables, quizzes, and binocular use. For museum hours and fees, see http://www.northwestmuseum.org/northwestmuseum/ .

Backyard bird feeding enthusiasts are reminded to clean feeding stations to avoid spreading bird diseases. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning feeders. Report cases of multiple dead birds to WDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline, 1-800-606-8768.

North Central Washington

Fishing:   Bob Jateff, WDFW district fish biologist from Omak, said the hatchery steelhead fishery on the upper Columbia River that opened Nov. 6 continues with a daily catch limit of two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead of at least 20 inches. The open area is from Rocky Reach Dam upstream to 400 feet below Wells Dam. Steelhead with an intact adipose fin, and those bearing an anchor floy tag, must be immediately released unharmed without being removed from the water.

Jateff explained this special fishery (not listed in the rules pamphlet) targets the abundant return of hatchery fish that exceeds the number needed to meet spawning goals. Removing hatchery-origin steelhead allows more wild steelhead onto the spawning grounds to help further wild fish recovery efforts. Jateff encourages anglers to keep the first two hatchery steelhead caught to help protect the wild population.

Night closure and selective gear rules apply. While anglers are required to use single, barbless hooks and knotless nets, motorized vessels and bait are allowed. The fishery is scheduled to remain open through March 31, 2009, but could close earlier if the allowable incidental impact to wild steelhead is reached.

Jateff also noted the Similkameen River, from its mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam, will open to fishing for adipose fin-clipped hatchery-origin steelhead Nov. 15 and continue until further notice. Jateff said this special fishery (also not listed in the rules pamphlet) is designed to achieve the same goal as the upper Columbia — reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead and increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds.

“It will improve genetic integrity and stock recruitment of upper Columbia River steelhead through perpetuation of steelhead stocks with the greatest natural-origin lineage,” he said. “So again, we strongly encourage anglers to retain the first two adipose fin-clipped hatchery-origin steelhead caught. And once you’ve caught your two fish, you’re done for the day.”

Jateff reminds Similkameen steelheaders to immediately release any steelhead with an intact adipose fin without removing it from the water, and to release any steelhead with an anchor floy tag attached. Selective gear rules and night closure apply. Whitefish gear rules do not apply during steelhead season.

Fall fishing on the Columbia Basin’s Potholes Reservoir , where water levels are rising, is producing largemouth bass from the Sand Dunes area and walleye for trollers. Big rainbow trout from earlier net pen releases also continue to be caught.

Hunting:   Mikal Moore, WDFW waterfowl specialist, reported that duck numbers continue to build in the north Columbia Basin, particularly mallards and American wigeon.  “We’re seeing the beginning of the Canadian duck migration through eastern Washington,” she said. “The recent weather system should encourage a big push in the next week.  We’re also starting to see larger concentrations of diving duck species, including redhead, goldeneye, bufflehead, ruddy duck , and scaup .”

Randy Hill, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist from the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, reported canvasbacks concentrated on the Wells Pool of the Columbia River.  Moore reminds hunters the canvasback season is closed this year and to watch for these birds on riverines and deeper water ponds and lakes. 

Moore also reported numerous small Canada geese are showing up in traditional roosting and loafing areas in the Columbia Basin, such as Moses Lake and Royal Lake. Goose hunters throughout the region, where goose hunting is available only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, get a few extra days this month with the Thanksgiving holiday. Thursday, Nov. 27, and Friday, Nov. 28, are open to goose hunting in that zone.
 
Complete results of recent aerial waterfowl surveys will be posted soon on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/reg/eventopp/events2.htm .

Waterfowl and upland game bird hunters are reminded to avoid harvesting or handling any birds that are obviously sick or found dead, follow good hygiene when cleaning game birds, and report birds found dead to WDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-8768. 

Pheasant hunting continues throughout the region, with opportunity boosted by periodic releases of farm-raised roosters. The birds are released at ten sites throughout the Columbia Basin and in Okanogan County, including WDFW’s Sinlahekin, Chiliwist, and Quincy Wildlife Areas. See all release site details at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/ewapheas.htm .

Late archery deer hunting opens Nov. 20 in select game management units. For details see the Big Game Hunting Rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm .

Wildlife viewing:   Scott Fitkin, WDFW district wildlife biologist from Winthrop, reported deer viewing in the Methow Wildlife Area should be good now or very soon, particularly after the late, special-permit deer hunting season, which closes Nov. 18. Both mule deer and white-tailed deer are in the middle of their breeding season or rut at this time, and bucks can sometimes be more visible. Buck deer can be less wary of virtually everything else at this time, so motorists through the Methow Valley are reminded to be cautious. Shortened daylight hours also increase the chance of deer-car collisions now.

Fitkin also notes wintering bald eagles are noticeable along the river corridors, particularly in the Methow Valley. On the Okanogan side, bighorn sheep from the Mt. Hull herd are commonly visible near the road along Highway 97, a few miles south of Oroville.

Backyard bird feeding enthusiasts are reminded to clean feeding stations to avoid spreading bird diseases. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning feeders. Report cases of multiple dead birds to WDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline, 1-800-606-8768.

South Central Washington

Fishing: The fishery for hatchery steelhead in the Ringold area of the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities has been picking up this month with anglers allowed to keep any hatchery steelhead with a clipped adipose fin. Earlier in the season anglers were restricted to keeping only those with both a clipped adipose fin and a clipped right ventral fin, said Paul Hoffarth, WDFW fish biologist from Pasco.
 
“The dual clippings identify fish reared in the Ringold Hatchery,” Hoffarth said. “Until November, we target those fish exclusively to make sure we get enough fish above Priest Rapids Dam to meet escapement goals.”

The fishery is open through March 31, 2009 from the Highway 395 bridge at Pasco/Kennewick upstream to the wooden powerline towers at the old Hanford town site.

Hunting: Mikal Moore, WDFW waterfowl specialist, reported duck numbers continue to build in the Columbia Basin, particularly mallards and American wigeon .  “We’re starting to see the beginning of the Canadian duck migration through eastern Washington,” she said. “The recent weather system should encourage a big push in the next week.  We’re also starting to see larger concentrations of diving duck species, including redhead, goldeneye, bufflehead, ruddy duck , and scaup .”

Randy Hill, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist from the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, reported canvasbacks are concentrated on the Wells Pool of the Columbia River.  Moore reminds hunters the canvasback season is closed this year and to watch for these birds on riverines and deeper water ponds and lakes. 

Moore also reports numerous small Canada geese are showing up in traditional roosting and loafing areas in both the north and south parts of the Columbia Basin. Goose hunters in Benton, Franklin, and Kittitas counties, where goose hunting is available only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, get a few extra days this month with the Thanksgiving holiday. Thursday, Nov. 27, and Friday, Nov. 28, are open to goose hunting in that zone.

Complete results of recent aerial waterfowl surveys for the South Basin will be posted soon on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/reg/eventopp/events3.htm

Waterfowl and upland game bird hunters are reminded to avoid harvesting or handling any birds that are obviously sick or found dead, follow good hygiene when cleaning game birds, and report birds found dead to WDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline at 800-606-8768. 

Pheasant hunting opportunity is boosted at release sites throughout the region. For details see http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/ewapheas.htm

Late season archery and muzzleloader deer hunting seasons open Nov. 20 in a few select game management units. For details see the Big Game Hunting Rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm .

Wildlife viewing: The Yakima Valley Audubon Society chapter is hosting a field trip to the McNary National Wildlife Refuge and the Tri-Cities area Nov.15 to study a variety of dabbling and diving ducks, geese , and other waterfowl at the height of fall migration. The trip will likely also yield views of birds of prey, gulls, and songbirds. Meet trip leader Bill Drenguis (509-965-5808) at the Valley Mall parking lot west of I-HOP at 7:30 am for this all-day trip.

The Lower Columbia Audubon Society chapter meeting in Kennewick on Tuesday, Nov. 25, will feature Andy Stepniewski speaking on raptors of Washington. Stepniewski is the author of “Birds of Yakima County” and is well-known for his expertise on Washington’s birds of prey, which include 22 diurnal or day-flying species and 15 owls. The program begins at 7 p.m. at Kennewick Lutheran Church on Yelm Street and Highway 395.

Backyard bird feeding enthusiasts are reminded to clean feeding stations to avoid spreading bird diseases. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning feeders. Report cases of multiple dead birds to WDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline, 1-800-606-8768.

This could be a good time to take a family road trip to see a unique wildlife spectacle in the region – bighorn sheep rams banging their massive headgear as they battle for breeding dominance. The Umtanum herd can be seen from the Yakima River Canyon Road, the Clemens Mountain herd near the WDFW winter feeding site on Clemens Mountain near Naches, and the Tieton herd up and around Highway 12 near White Pass.

Elk and bighorn sheep winter feeding at WDFW’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area has not yet begun, although a few animals are already starting to gather near some of the traditional feeding sites.