Big-game hunters are shifting their sights from deer to elk, while bird hunters look forward to new flights of ducks and geese. Anglers, meanwhile, are reeling in an assortment of coho, chinook and chum salmon from waters around the state, and crab fishing is reopening in Nov. 1 in two areas of Puget Sound.
Temperatures are dropping and more rain is in the forecast, but that is welcome news for many hunters around the state, said Don Don Kraege, waterfowl manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
"Hunters did well during the first couple weeks of the season because the weather distributed the birds throughout the area," Kraege said. "There’s more blustery weather in the forecast, and that should continue to improve hunting prospects on both sides of the Cascades."
Those same conditions, including an early snowfall in the mountains, has also helped to improve success rates for deer hunters during the modern-firearm season, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. That season wraps up by the end of October, followed by general elk-hunting seasons running Oct. 31-Nov. 8 in eastern Washington and Nov. 7-17 on the west side of the state.
For more information about upcoming elk hunts, see WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm . Bird hunters can check the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Season pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/water.htm for area-specific hunting regulations.
Anglers may be more interested to know that chum salmon are gathering at the mouth of the Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal, catch rates for hatchery steelhead are improving on the Snake River and hatchery coho are still biting well on the Cowlitz and Klickitat rivers.
In addition, two areas of Puget Sound are set to reopen Nov. 1 for late-season crab fishing and two razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled for later in the month. Starting Nov. 1 at sunrise, recreational crab fishing will reopen in Marine area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and most of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) seven days a week. (The portion of Marine Area 9 south of a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point will remain closed for the season.)
More razor-clam digs are scheduled Nov. 4-7 and Nov. 14-17, subject to the results of marine toxin tests. Final word on those digs will be available on WDFW’s shellfish hotline (866-880-5431), website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/ ) and local news media.
For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities available around the state, see the regional reports below:
Fishing: Anglers are still hooking a few coho in the region’s rivers and streams, but chum will soon be taking center stage. Meanwhile, some anglers fishing areas of Puget Sound have been reeling in blackmouth and will soon have the option of dropping a crab pot in select areas.
Starting Nov. 1 at sunrise, Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and most of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2010. The portion of Marine Area 9 south of a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point will remain closed for the season.
Crab fishing also will 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 summer. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal), currently open Wednesdays through Saturdays, will close for the season at 6 p.m. Oct. 31.
Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 6 (Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual recreational 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. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. For more information about recreational crabbing in Puget Sound, see WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab .
While on the Sound, why not fish for blackmouth ? Effort has been low, but anglers have hooked a few of the resident chinook in central Puget Sound. Anglers fishing Marine Area 10 have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.
Beginning Nov. 1, opportunities for blackmouth will increase, as marine areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 open for chinook. Anglers fishing those marine areas will have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Anglers are reminded that Marine Area 7 closes to salmon retention Nov. 1.
In the rivers, the coho season is winding down and chum salmon will soon be arriving in greater numbers. There are reports of anglers still catching a few coho in the region’s streams but, overall, fishing has been slow.
Lake Sammamish is also an option for freshwater salmon anglers, who have a daily limit of four salmon, and can retain up to two chinook. 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, but only for a few more days. Anglers fishing the lake, which is open through Oct. 31, are allowed four coho per day (minimum size 12 inches) from waters north of the Highway 520 Bridge and east of the Montlake Bridge.
Before heading out, anglers should check the regulations for all freshwater and saltwater fisheries in WDFW's Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).
Hunting: Wet and windy weather has made for good waterfowl hunting early in the season, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. "Hunters did well during the first couple weeks of the season because the weather distributed the birds throughout the area," he said. "There’s more blustery weather in the forecast, and that should continue to improve hunting prospects on both sides of the Cascades."
More and more snow geese and dabbling ducks continue to arrive in the area, Kraege said. "It’s still early in the migration, but the numbers of birds should continue to increase as we head into November," he said.
Goose hunts are 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. The duck hunting season also is open through Jan. 31.
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 http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/snow_goose .
Upland bird hunters have until the end of November to bag 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.
The early modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31. Up next for hunters is the modern firearm season for elk, which gets started Nov. 7 in select game management units. 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
Hunters can find more information on hunting season prospects at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects . 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: More and more birders are making their way to the region to view snow geese , which also continue to arrive in increasing numbers. About 80,000 snow geese winter in western Washington each year. Most of those snow geese congregate in the Skagit Valley, and can be found in the area from mid-October through early May.
Several birders have even spotted some blue geese among this year’s flock. The blue geese , rare visitors to western Washington, were reported numerous times in a field on Fir Island. One birder spotted seven blue geese, along with 18 cackling geese and a juvenile white-fronted goose . "They formed their own tight little group within the larger flock," according to the report on the Tweeters birding website ( http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/ ). "I have never seen so many blue geese in one spot."
Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are beginning to make preparations for the annual Christmas Bird Count , scheduled Dec. 14, 2009 through Jan. 5, 2010. Specific counting dates have already been announced in several areas of western Washington, where birders turn out by the hundreds to count and categorize the birds they see to benefit avian science. Those interested should watch the Audubon website at http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/ for details.