Fishing: The blackmouth salmon season is winding down in the region, but halibut fisheries in Puget Sound are coming up soon. For freshwater anglers, one of the most anticipated fishing opportunities occurs later this April, when the lowland lakes trout season kicks off.
Beginning April 24, anglers can cast a line in many of the region's lakes, where thousands of legal-sized trout have been planted. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW's website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants ).
"This is our biggest fishing season opener and it traditionally draws more than 300,000 anglers of all ages," said WDFW Director Phil Anderson. "It’s a good time to gather family and friends at local waterways to cast off winter and celebrate spring."
Because the lowland lake trout opener traditionally draws the biggest crowds, it’s especially important for everyone to be patient and safe at boat launches and docks, Anderson noted. "Everyone in boats, and all children on shore, should use personal flotation devices," he added.
This year’s opener offers a new opportunity for lake fishers. Anglers may purchase a 2-pole endorsement which allows them to fish with two rods in most of Washington’s lakes. Gear rules and daily limits still apply. Many anglers will see the use of two poles as a way to double their fun by using two different types of tackle, or fishing at two different depths. Go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/twopole/lakes.php for a list of lakes where two poles are not allowed.
On the saltwater, selective fisheries for hatchery blackmouth - resident chinook - continue through April 15 in Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet), and through April 30 in marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner). Anglers fishing in any of those areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.
The halibut season is just around the corner. The season is scheduled to run from May 1 through May 30 in marine areas 6-10, where fishing will be open three days a week - Thursday, Friday and Saturday - and closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when those marine areas will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Current regulations for all freshwater and saltwater fisheries are available in WDFW's Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).
Hunting: The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. Hunters have a three-gobbler limit - two birds in eastern Washington and one bird in western Washington. For more information, a Wild Turkey Spring Season brochure is available at WDFW regional offices and on the department's website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/turkey ).
There’s still time to comment on a draft plan to guide management of the state’s white-tailed deer populations. Developed by WDFW over the past year, the five-year plan outlines strategies for sustainably managing the game animals throughout their range in eastern Washington. Other key goals include maintaining stable deer-hunting opportunities for state citizens and reducing deer-related damage to crops and other personal property.
The draft plan, along with an electronic comment form, is posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildlife/management/white-tailed_deer . Public comments will be accepted through April 23 before a final plan is reviewed by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and forwarded to the WDFW director for approval.
Wildlife viewing : Gray whale sightings continue to draw whalewatchers to the region. The large marine mammals have been milling about the Whidbey and Camano islands area the last several weeks during their annual journey north. Most of the whales are headed to the Arctic Ocean, where they spend the summer feeding, before heading back south to the coast of Mexico. Some gray whales stop short of migrating all the way to the Arctic and instead linger in the waters of the Pacific Northwest during the summer months. For information on whale sightings, visit the Orca Network website at http://www.orcanetwork.org/sightings/map.html .
Meanwhile, birdwatchers have an opportunity to take part in the "Wings Over Water" Northwest Birding Festival April 17 in Blaine. The festival features wildlife viewing field trips, arts and crafts, speakers, raptor presentations, and activities and games for children. For more information visit Blaine's Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.blainechamber.com/wow .