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WEEKENDER
WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, Washington 98501-1091
Internet Address: http://www.wa.gov/wdfw
September 3-16, 2003   Contact: Margaret Ainscough, (360) 902-3408
 

Salmon fishing offers sizzling end to summer, dry weather hampers hunters
 
OLYMPIA— Salmon fishing continues to sizzle as summer’s end draws near.
 
On Sept. 2, anglers at Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River were averaging the highest catches of the season—one chinook for every two rods and nearly two coho per rod. Buoy 10 fishing was so hot that some anglers had caught their three-fish daily limits by 8 a.m.
 
On the ocean, Ilwaco charterboat skippers reported full limits for their salmon-fishing customers, with anglers overall averaging 1.8 fish per rod, virtually all of them coho. Westport-based anglers were landing chinook in the 30- to 40-pound range, LaPush reported about one-fish-per-person catches of coho and anglers out of Neah Bay averaged slightly more than a-fish-and-a-half per person.
 
Meanwhile to the north, a big pink salmon run into northern Puget Sound rivers has kept thousands of anglers busy, with returning coho on the horizon.
 
Upland, early archery elk seasons open Sept. 8, and early archery deer hunting, as well as dove and forest grouse hunts, have been open since Labor Day. However, summer’s unusually long run of dry, warm weather has prompted new rounds of restrictions that affect hunters and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
 
Extreme wildfire danger has prompted a ban on off-road travel or parking on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lands. No off-road travel or parking is allowed off graveled roads or parking areas, including in designated “Green Dot” road management areas, where visitors normally are allowed to park or camp 100 feet from an open road. Hunters are additionally advised to check the undersides of their vehicles to remove any vegetation that could ignite from hot exhaust systems, avoid smoking outside cars and use ashtrays for all ashes and cigarette butts. Outdoor fires are banned in virtually all areas of the state and hunters are advised that many private and public lands are under fire, travel and access restrictions.
 
Current recreational opportunities are detailed below by region:
 
Northern Puget Sound:
Fishing: As expected, the big pink salmon run into northern Puget Sound rivers has kept thousands of anglers busy during late summer. Popular saltwater spots for pink fishing, including Humpy Hollow, Possession Point and the Shipwreck, all between Everett and Edmonds, are steadily producing pink salmon, as well as some sizeable coho. “Catches in the marine areas should start transitioning out of what has been primarily a pink show into more and more coho,” said WDFW fish biologist Curt Kraemer. The peak for coho catches in north Sound marine areas is typically the third or fourth week of September, depending on the weather. Small herring, spoons or imitation squid trolled behind a flasher on a downrigger can all be effective in getting coho to bite. Bag limits have been increased to four fish per day through Sept. 15 in Marine Area 9 to take advantage of the big pink salmon run. No more than two may be coho, and all chinook and chum must be released. River fishers have been taking their share of pink salmon, particularly on the Skagit and Snohomish river systems. At last report, the Skagit was still running pretty high and muddy, thanks to glacial runoff. Water conditions – and pink salmon catch rates – should start to improve on the Skagit as cooler nighttime temperatures are help ease the muddy runoff condition, Kraemer said. Brightly colored flies, pink Spin-Glos and sand shrimp, or small pink spoons can all be extremely effective in culling a few pink salmon from what is shaping up to be an extremely strong run. An upper portion of the Skagit – from the Dalles Bridge at Concrete to the mouth of the Cascade River – opens Sept. 16 to salmon fishing. The daily limit is four salmon, no more than three coho and no more than two chum. Release all chinook. The Snohomish River has been red-hot for pink salmon fishing, even though water flows are extremely low. Don’t forget that the Skykomish River, a tributary to the Snohomish, opened Sept. 1 for salmon fishing with a four-fish daily limit, no more than two of which can be coho and chum. All chinook must be released. The Sky produced the new world record pink salmon in 2001. Local angler Avis Pearson was lucky enough to land a 14.49-pound monster pink (appropriately dubbed “Humpzilla”) on Sept. 22. The Snoqualmie River opened Sept. 1 to salmon fishing with a two-fish daily limit. All chinook and pink salmon must be released. The lower portion of the Green (Duwamish) River opens Sept. 16 with a six-fish daily limit, no more than two of which may be adults, and a 12-inch minimum size. All chinook must be released. Lake fishers should start to see fishing improve for a number of species as the weather transitions from summer to fall. Trout fishers will find the best success trolling small flies at first or last light, or by still-fishing near the bottom during the daytime. Perch fishing should be red-hot over the next month and a half. Look for the fish to begin schooling by size and going deeper into the water column. Anglers looking for a little post-Labor Day solitude can check out any number of alpine lakes for great late-summer trout fishing.
 
Hunting: Extremely dry conditions have made hunting difficult. Early archery deer season got under way Sept. 1, while high buck season opens Sept. 15 in the Alpine Lakes and Glacier Peak wilderness areas, as well as a portion of the Henry Jackson Wilderness Area. Early archery elk season runs from Sept. 8-21 this year, while bear and cougar seasons continue. Check for road closures and other potential access restrictions because of the high fire danger before heading out. Be sure to check the 2003 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules pamphlet for detailed hunting information. Pamphlets are available at hundreds of retail outlets, from any WDFW regional office, or online at http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/wlm/game/hunter/huntregs2003.pdf on the Internet.  Bird hunters are facing the same tough hunting conditions as big-game hunters. Tinder dry woods make a quiet stalk virtually impossible, and access can be restricted to traditional hunting areas because of the heightened fire concern. Forest grouse and dove seasons got under way Sept. 1, while the band-tailed pigeon hunt begins Sept. 15. The September opener for Canada geese hunting runs Sept. 6-11 in management areas 1, 2A and 3. Check the 2003-04 Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet for more information. The pamphlet is available at http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/wlm/game/water/water.htm on the Internet. Extreme wildfire danger has prompted a ban on off-road travel or parking on WDFW lands. No travel or parking is allowed off graveled roads or parking areas, including in designated “Green Dot” road management areas, where visitors normally are allowed to park or camp 100 feet from open road. Hunters are additionally advised to check the undersides of their vehicles to remove any vegetation that could be ignited by hot exhaust systems and to avoid smoking outside cars and use ashtrays for all ashes and cigarette butts. Outdoor fires are banned in virtually all areas of the state and hunters are advised that many private and public lands are under fire, travel and access restrictions.
 
Wildlife viewing: A small transient orca pod put on a show near Skagit Bay recently, according to sightings reports posted on the Orca Network website (http://www.orcanetwork.org/sightings/map.html on the Internet). The transient orcas, including a few juveniles, caught, killed and ate two harbor seals in quick fashion near the bay. Unlike the resident pods, transient orcas feed on seals, sea lions and other marine mammals. Puget Sound’s resident pods eat primarily fish and squid. Both transient and resident orca pods have been seen throughout the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound in recent weeks. The harbor seals that became a snack for the transient orcas may have searching Skagit Bay for a meal themselves in the form of a few of the hundreds of thousands of salmon that are moving through the bay on their way to the Skagit River and its tributaries to spawn. The bulk of the salmon now entering the river are pink salmon, but coho and chum salmon are also showing up in the river. Spawning will reach its peak later in the fall, but sharp-eyed streamwalkers should be able to see some spawning now. Late summer is a great time for a birding excursion, with some species already on the move through the region toward winter ranges. Beaches and mudflats are top choices to watch shorebird migrations, as well as shorebird predators. Peregrine falcons can often be seen picking off a few shorebirds along saltwater areas, including Padilla Bay near the town of Burlington and the Samish Flats near Edison. Inland, look for sharp-shinned hawks working forests and fields for their next winged meal. Birds and other backyard wildlife are likely relying heavily on birdbaths and other water sources. Remember to keep birdbaths clean and full of fresh water. 
 
Southern Puget Sound/Olympic Peninsula:
Fishing: Rough water and persistent foggy conditions along much of the Pacific coast during the last few days of August slowed down what has been a tremendous summer of salmon fishing. However, there are still plenty of fish available for harvest, particularly coho, said WDFW fish biologist Wendy Beeghley. Ilwaco proved to be the most productive port last week, with virtually all charterboat skippers reporting full limits for their customers. Overall, anglers averaged 1.8 fish per rod, virtually all of them coho. Beeghley said many of the fish were in the 10- to 12-pound range. Westport-based anglers are still landing some nice chinook, including quite a few in the 30- to 40-pound range. Anglers there averaged about a fish and a half per person, two-thirds of which were coho, which averaged right around 10 pounds. LaPush reported about one fish per person, nearly three-quarters of them coho. Beeghley said chinook and pink salmon have all but disappeared from the catch along the north coast. Anglers fishing out of Neah Bay averaged slightly more than a fish and a half per person, mostly coho (averaging about nine pounds apiece), as well as a smattering of pink salmon. Charterboat trips for tuna continue from Westport and Ilwaco, and some skippers were reporting fantastic catches of as many as 20 fish per person. Willapa Bay remains spotty for chinook. River fishing for salmon and steelhead remains difficult throughout the region, thanks to extremely low water levels in virtually all systems. Nevertheless, summer-run steelhead are stacking up in the Bogachiel River system near the hatchery, and summer-run coho can be found in the Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers, said WDFW fish biologist Bill Freymond. “Fishing at this point is tough at best,” Freymond said, adding that if the low water conditions persist, the river entry timing for many stocks could be affected. Low flows are also evident on Hood Canal streams. Two tributaries, the Skokomish and Quilcene rivers, are getting lots of fishing pressure, and producing some nice fish. About one in four anglers on the Skok has been managing to land a chinook, while coho catch rates on the Quilcene remain steady. South Puget Sound’s Nisqually and Puyallup rivers have been a little slow for chinook, but the Puyallup has been producing fair catches of chinook, coho and pink salmon. Remember to respect all access and fishing rules.
 
Hunting: The region’s early hunting seasons for forest grouse, doves and – for archers – deer – all got under way Sept. 1, as did Canada geese hunting in Management Area 2B. The early goose hunt is to help thin local populations before protected dusky geese begin showing up in the fall. All hunters are reminded to get landowner permission before heading out. Extreme wildfire danger has prompted a ban on off-road travel or parking on WDFW lands. No travel or parking is allowed off graveled roads or parking areas, including in designated “Green Dot” road management areas, where visitors normally are allowed to park or camp 100 feet from open road. Hunters are additionally advised to check the undersides of their vehicles to remove any vegetation that could be ignited by hot exhaust systems and to avoid smoking outside cars and use ashtrays for all ashes and cigarette butts. Outdoor fires are banned in virtually all areas of the state and hunters are advised that many private and public lands are under fire, travel and access restrictions.
 
Wildlife viewing: Shorebird migration continues along the Olympic Peninsula as huge flocks of seasonal visitors head from their summer breeding areas to wintertime haunts. Look for thousands of spotted sandpipers, killdeer, greater yellowlegs, sanderlings, black turnstones, dunlin, long-billed curlews, phalaropes and many more migrants. While traditional birdwatching areas along the southern coast are fine spots – including Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, Long Beach, Westport, Grayland and Ocean Shores – birders can also check out the smaller, more secluded beaches along the north coast and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Birds crossing the Strait will be eager to stop on the beaches and in estuaries there to refuel on insects and other food before continuing south. Thousands of turkey vultures cross the Strait in September and October, and one of the best places to watch the big birds with the red heads is at Salt Creek, about 16 miles west of Port Angeles in Clallam County.
 
Southwest Washington:
 
Fishing: Salmon fishing is big news at Buoy 10, with anglers averaging one chinook for every six rods and almost one hatchery coho per rod on Labor Day weekend. On Sept. 2, that average increased to the highest of the season—one chinook for every two rods and nearly two coho per rod. Some anglers caught their three-fish limits by 8 a.m. The hatchery coho were tipping the scales at up to 18 pounds, says WDFW regional fish biologist Joe Hymer. By the end of August, 61,739 angler trips had been tallied at Buoy 10, with 12,799 chinook and 32,417 coho caught, he reports. Buoy 10 anglers continue to enjoy a bonus bag limit of three salmon per day, not more than one of which may be a chinook. And the fishing is improving upriver as the salmon head up the Columbia—in the last week of August boat anglers below Bonneville Dam were averaging one adult chinook salmon for every three rods. Bank anglers were catching one chinook per 10 rods. Anglers out Sept. 2 at the mouth of the Cowlitz River averaged nearly a chinook per rod. Boat fishing hot spots are between the mouths of the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers, Hymer notes. Coho catches are increasing, and early coho are starting to appear in the Cowlitz, Lewis and Toutle rivers. Up to three hatchery adult coho per day may be kept in each of those systems. Anglers should start to see increasing numbers of fall chinook on those rivers, as well as the Elochoman, Kalama and Washougal rivers. Above Bonneville Dam the mouths of tributaries such as Drano Lake and the White Salmon and Klickitat rivers are likely to be the most productive spots. Steelhead catches are still good inside those Bonneville Pool tributaries and on the Cowlitz River too. Meanwhile, kokanee fishers are doing well at Merwin and Yale reservoirs, although the maturing fish are beginning to change color. Boat anglers recently were averaging 10 kokanee per rod at Yale, and 3.5 fish per rod at Merwin last week, Hymer notes.
 
Hunting: Seasons are proceeding as scheduled with early archery elk hunting set to open Sept. 8, and early archery deer and forest grouse hunts continuing since their Labor Day openers. Although deer numbers are projected to be similar to past years, continuing dry weather is expected to put a large crimp in hunter success. The tinder-dry conditions make it more difficult for hunters to move quietly in the woods, and the extreme wildfire danger has prompted restrictions, including a ban on off-road travel or parking on WDFW lands. No off-road travel or parking is allowed off graveled roads or parking areas, including in designated “Green Dot” road management areas, where visitors normally are allowed to park or camp 100 feet from open road. Hunters are additionally advised to check the undersides of their vehicles to remove any vegetation that could ignite from hot exhaust systems, avoid smoking outside cars and use ashtrays for all ashes and cigarette butts. Outdoor fires are banned in virtually all areas of the state.
 
Wildlife viewing: This is a great time of year to practice fish-species identification skills with a trip to Bonneville Dam, suggests Joe Hymer, regional fish biologist. Almost 18,000 adult chinook salmon passed by the dam’s fish-viewing windows Sept. 2, along with 4,600 coho and 7,600 steelhead.  See spring chinook salmon being spawned and watch fall chinook making their way up fish ladders as they return to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. Or visit the Cowlitz Wildlife Area where you are likely to see black-tail deer. Bald eagles have been spotted frequently in the Kosmos unit of the wildlife area. A Tweeters website correspondent reports late August sightings of two osprey, several red-tailed hawks, harriers, American bitterns, greater yellowlegs and great egrets at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge’s River S unit.
 
Eastern Washington:
 
Fishing: Hatchery steelhead fishing is picking up steam in much of the region, especially with the recently announced hike in the bag limit to three fish a day on some southeast Washington waters. Areas affected by the increase include portions of the Grande Ronde River, Mill Creek (in Walla Walla County), the Snake, Touchet, Tucannon and Walla Walla rivers (see WDFW’s Aug. 27 fishing rule change at http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/fish/regs/fishregs.htm on the Internet for details on affected areas). Since cooler water attracts fish, steelheading prospects are best in areas such as the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers and the mouths of cool-water tributaries like the Clearwater and Tucannon, suggests Chris Donley, regional fish biologist. Fishing success should continue to build to a peak in mid-October, he adds. Cooling weather is expected to improve fishing for trout and crappie, as well. Williams, Badger and West Medical lakes are good prospects for trout, which Long Lake and Eloika are yielding pan-size crappie. Late-summer insect hatches should entice rainbow and cutthroat trout to bite, aiding dry-fly anglers on many lakes in the central and northern areas of the region.
 
Hunting: Seasons are proceeding as scheduled with early archery elk hunting set to open Sept. 8, and dove, forest grouse and early archery deer hunts continuing since their Labor Day openers. WDFW field biologists saw good numbers of doves pre-season, and the past mild winter is expected to result in good elk numbers in traditionally producing areas, says WDFW Game Manager Dave Ware. Although dry weather has kept doves in the area it is likely to put a crimp on archers’ success. Not only do the tinder-dry conditions make it more difficult for hunters to move quietly in the woods, the extreme wildfire danger has prompted a ban on off-road travel or parking on WDFW lands. No travel or parking is allowed off graveled roads or parking areas, including in designated “Green Dot” road management areas, where visitors normally are allowed to park or camp 100 feet from open road. Hunters are additionally advised to check the undersides of their vehicles to remove any vegetation that could be ignited by hot exhaust systems and to avoid smoking outside cars and use ashtrays for all ashes and cigarette butts. Outdoor fires are banned in virtually all areas of the state and hunters are advised that many private and public lands are under fire, travel and access restrictions.
 
Wildlife viewing: Shorebirds are migrating into the region from the north. Reardan Ponds in Lincoln County are always a good bet for seeing rare and common species, from killdeer to knots. Many of migratory song birds are beginning to come through, too; the entire month of should be good for seeing warblers, chickadees and others species. Good places to look are islands of habitat in the "wheat desert,” local cemeteries in farming country and streamside woodlands. Now is the time to hike into elk country (Blue Mountains or Selkirks) to hear roaring bulls. Bull elk should be into pre-rut activities, which include their unique bulging, creating wallows and gathering harems of cows. The peak of the rut is about the third week of September, but a lot of bulging and displaying occurs before then.
North Central Washington:
Fishing: Anglers should stay posted for a tentative summer chinook opening on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers. Watch WDFW’s fishing rule change webpage at http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/fish/regs/fishregs.htm or check the Fishing Hotline at (360) 902-2500, press 2 for recreational rules. The Methow River remains open for trout fishing through the end of September. Fishing so far has been good with anglers landing fish at the rate of about two-trout-per-hour and cutthroat averaging 20 inches in length, reports Heather Bartlett, WDFW fish biologist. Davis, Campbell and Cougar lakes all opened Sept. 1, although anglers will have to wait for water levels to rise for better fishing. Campbell, in particular, is extremely low at present, Bartlett noted.
Hunting:  Although no specific reports are available, dove hunting should be productive in those parts of the region where weather has remained mild. The greatest dove hunting success is usually by those who have discovered the magic combination—water  and wheat stubble—and who have secured access to private lands. The season continues through the Sept. 15.  Forest grouse hunters should be taking limits in Okanogan County, but no game checks have been made. Early goose season should be productive in the Columbia Basin, the state’s number-one waterfowl hunting area; more geese are harvested throughout all of the goose seasons in Grant County alone than any other part of Washington. The extreme wildfire danger has prompted a ban on off-road travel or parking on WDFW lands. No travel or parking is allowed off graveled roads or parking areas, including in designated “Green Dot” road management areas, where visitors normally are allowed to park or camp 100 feet from open road. Hunters are additionally advised to check the undersides of their vehicles to remove any vegetation that could be ignited by hot exhaust systems and to avoid smoking outside cars and use ashtrays for all ashes and cigarette butts. Outdoor fires are banned in virtually all areas of the state and hunters are advised that many private and public lands are under fire, travel and access restrictions.
 
Wildlife viewing: Up to 16 different species of raptors or birds of prey can be seen now at Chelan Ridge, above Lake Chelan north of Manson. Because warm air lifts and creates easy soaring thermals there, the ridge is a natural migration corridor for eagles, hawks, and falcons migrating to winter habitat during September and October. The most commonly sighted raptors are the Northern harrier, Cooper’s hawk, Sharp-shinned hawk, Red-tailed hawk, Prairie falcon, American kestrel, and Golden eagle. For more information on Chelan Ridge, check out www.fs.fed.us/r6/oka/birds/migration.html. Shorebirds and some waterfowl are grouping up for southbound fall migrations, and the Columbia Basin is one of the best areas on the eastside to watch them. Between the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge and WDFW's thousands of acres in wildlife lands in Adams and Grant counties, there are plenty of spots to see avocets, curlews, phalaropes, plovers, sandpipers, and other shorebirds, plus mallards, teal, Canada geese, and other waterfowl.
South Central Washington:
Fishing: Creel census is continuing at Leech Lake and Naches River, and numbers are posted on WDFW’s web page  at http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/fish/regions/reg3/troutfishing.htm Fishing at Leech Lake off White Pass, a fly-fishing only lake, continues to be very good based on recent creel checks, reports Jim Cummins, WDFW fish biologist. Twenty anglers checked on two days caught 18 rainbow trout and 59 eastern brook trout.Most of the fish were released.The rainbows were generally running from 13 -19 inches, while the eastern brookies are generally less than 12 inches. Naches River is also productive. Recent creel checks indicate some fly fishing anglers are doing very well, while others find slower fishing.Anglers should check the regulation pamphlet before fishing the Naches and other rivers, because most have special regulations.There is a new catch-and-release area on the Naches, from the confluence with the Tieton River toRattlesnake Creek. The annual water management change, known as "flip-flop," is underway, substantially increasing flows in the Tieton River, and lowering water levels in the upper Yakima River.This makes September prime time for some of the best fly fishing of the year in the Yakima catch-and-release section above Roza Dam.Fishing effort is expected to be heavy.With the low flows, and fall caddis hatches, anglers can easily wade the river and find good dry fly action.Yakima rainbow trout generally range from 8 to 20 inches, but most are 11 to 13 inches. The Yakima above Roza Dam is catch and release only, with selective gear rules in effect. Anglers are looking forward to a strong run of fall chinook in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia. Although the season is open, few fish are showing yet, but by mid-September, fishing should be very good. Steelhead fishing remains closed until October 1. With bull trout beginning to spawn, anglers are reminded that fishing for bull trout is closed.In addition, some streams, and sections of streams are totally closed to all fishing to protect spawning bull trout.September is the best time of year to fish high mountain lakes. Most named hike-in lakes in Kittitas and Yakima counties have planted or contain naturally reproducing fish, including cutthroat, rainbow, and eastern brook. Fly gear or light spinning gear will often take fish.Anglers are encouraged to keep only fish that they will eat while in the high country. Back-country anglers are reminded that therefire closures in most areas including wilderness areas.Additional information is available at the WDFW web page at http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/outreach/fishing/highlake.htm
Hunting: Although no specific reports are available, dove hunting should be productive in those parts of the region where weather has remained mild. The season continues through Sept. 15. Early archery elk hunters should be doing well in the spike bull or antlerless season that starts Sept. 8. Early goose season should be excellent in the Tri-Cities area, with harvest in Benton and Franklin counties usually making up most of the region’s totals. Extreme wildfire danger has prompted a ban on off-road travel or parking on WDFW lands. No travel or parking is allowed off graveled roads or parking areas, including in designated “Green Dot” road management areas, where visitors normally are allowed to park or camp 100 feet from open road. Hunters are additionally advised to check the undersides of their vehicles to remove any vegetation that could be ignited by hot exhaust systems and to avoid smoking outside cars and use ashtrays for all ashes and cigarette butts. Outdoor fires are banned in virtually all areas of the state and hunters are advised that many private and public lands are under fire, travel and access restrictions.
 
Wildlife viewing: A good area to view spawning salmon during the month of September is in the vicinity of Lake Easton State Park, below Lake Easton.  Bull elk are bugling around Raven's Roost in the Little Naches River drainage in the far northwestern corner of Yakima County (follow Hwy. 410 northwest of Naches). For the best viewing opportunities, arrive just before daylight (or plan to camp in one of the many forest service campgrounds in the area), and walk the Cougar Valley trail. Elk are normally visible on the open hillsides until about 7 a.m., when they move down into timber. Before you go, check with the Wenatchee National Forest trail and road conditions during this intense wildfire season on the Internet or at (509) 662-4335.

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