Fishing: Anglers have so many options this time of year that they should consider taking time off from whatever less important activity keeps them off the water. Freshly stocked lowland lakes will open Saturday, April 24, to an estimated 300,000 anglers, and youth fishing events are in full swing. The halibut and shrimp seasons open beginning May 1, and a morning razor-clam dig begins Friday, April 16, at three Washington beaches.
Regional lakes stocked with thousands of trout await South Sound anglers. Devereaux Lake in Mason County is being stocked with 5,000 rainbows - 500 of them 14 inches or larger. In Clallam County, Sutherland Lake is being stocked with 10,000 rainbows, and Bogachiel Pond will be getting 4,100 rainbows in advance of a Kid’s Day event. Clear, Kapowsin, Spanaway, Tanwax and Ohop lakes in Pierce County also will be getting upwards of 10,000 fish each. Silver Lake will be stocked with over 31,000 fish, 1,300 of them 14 inches or longer. Find WDFW’s stocking schedule by county and lakes here http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants . For tips on fishing options by water and county take a look at Washington Fishing Prospects (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/prospects/ ).
In Thurston County over 600 kids are expected to show up Saturday, April 17, for the Kids’ Klassic Family Fish-in at Woodland Creek Community Park. Registration for the event is closed. The next South Sound Kids’ Fish-In event will be held Saturday, May 15, at American Lake in Lakewood. Advanced registration is required. To register go to Go Play Outside Washington’s web site (http://www.gopaw.org/kids_fish-in_program ) and download a registration form.
Meanwhile, people looking forward to digging razor clams can do so at the following times and beaches:
Friday, April 16, (8:32 A.M., -0.7) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
Saturday, April 17, (9:12 A.M., -0.7) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only
Sunday, April 18, (9:56 A.M., -0.6) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only
All of the digs start in the morning and end at noon. WDFW also has announced a tentative razor-clam dig for late April and early May. A final decision on the dig will be based on tests for marine toxins to determine if the clams are safe to eat.
Prospective clammers who live north of Lacey should be forewarned that overnight and weekend repairs to Interstate 5 will make it considerably more difficult to get to and from Washington’s coast. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced that repairs to the highway between Lacey and Tacoma will close north and soundbound lanes between now and September, resulting in traffic backups that could stretch for miles. For a schedule of closures go to WSDOT’s website (http://bit.ly/dgnuQy ).
Two other fisheries scheduled to open soon are halibut and shrimp .
The 2010 recreational halibut season - which starts May 1 off Ilwaco and May 2 off Westport - will be cut a little short this year. The largest single factor affecting this year’s fishery is a 15 percent reduction in the Pacific coast halibut quota set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, said Michele Culver, a WDFW regional director. In Washington, sport anglers will be allowed to catch 192,699 pounds of halibut, compared to 214,110 pounds last year.
Constraints on fishing opportunities will be most apparent in Puget Sound, due to the combination of this year’s reduced quota and an excessive catch last year. WDFW estimates that Puget Sound anglers caught more than 114,000 pounds of halibut in 2009 - well over the 57,393-pound quota.
Opening for Washington’s marine areas are:
Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 1, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or through July 18. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 6 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or the end of the day on Sept. 26, whichever occurs first. The 2010 catch quota is 13,436 pounds.
South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 2, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 23). Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2010 catch quota is 35,887 pounds.
North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 13, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 22. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen June 3 and 5. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 17. The 2010 catch quota is 101,179 pounds.
Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 28 through June 19. Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 1 through May 30. These fisheries will be open three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2010 combined catch quota for these areas is 50,542 pounds.
Shrimp seasons open May 1 in all marine areas and for most species. The length of the season varies by area. The rules and dates for shrimping will be published in the state’s annual Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which comes out later this month. Information is available now at WDFW’s recreational shrimp page (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/shrimpreg/shrimpindex.shtml ).
One change from previous years is that Discovery Bay will be open to shrimping for the first time since 2005, when it was closed due to low abundance. The Bay will be open at least two days, May 1 and May 5.
Out on the coast, fishing for lingcod , rockfish and other species is beginning to pick up. After a few weeks of terrible ocean conditions, boats were finally able to get out of Westport late last week.
"After having to cancel about 10 days in a row the ocean has finally laid down," said Erica Crust, WDFW’s ocean port sampler. "Charter boats are back to targeting rockfish and lingcod. A few charters got their limits of lingcod over the weekend, with some in the mid to upper 20 pound range."
The lingcod season opens on Friday, April 17 in Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay).
Crust reminds anglers that recreational fishing for bottomfish or lingcod is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms in Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) from March 15 through June 15. However, anglers may retain sablefish and Pacific cod in these waters from May 1 through June 15. Retention of canary and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited in all areas.
The minimum size for lingcod in marine areas 1-3 is 22 inches, while the minimum size in Marine Area 4 is 24 inches. All areas are open seven days a week. Additional information about the lingcod fishery and other bottomfish is available on the WDFW Fishing Hotline (360) 902-2500 or online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .
It’s a good thing these other fisheries are picking up because steelhead and salmon fisheries have been slow. A creel check counted conducted at boat ramps in Port Angeles and Port Townsend counted 11 chinook April 10. Elsewhere, there were few anglers and even fewer fish taken.
Creelers checked only about a dozen wild steelhead on the Lower and Upper Hoh River during the second weekend in April, and creel counts ended April 1 on the Quillayute system. Retention fishing closes at the end of the day April 15 on the Hoh River, but will remain open through April 30 on the Quillayute River system.
To take advantage of all these opportunities, anyone 15 years and older must have an applicable 2010-11 fishing license. Licenses can be purchased on-line at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov , by phone (866) 246-9453, or in person at more than 600 license vendors throughout the state. A list of vendors is at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors . Updates on the razor clam season are at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/razorclm/season.htm
Hunting: The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted new hunting rules at its meeting last weekend. New hunting rules reflect changes in game populations since the current three-year plan was adopted last year. They include:
Reducing antlerless elk hunting in the Yakima area.
Reducing antlerless deer hunting in northeast Washington and the Olympic Peninsula.
Providing additional permits for spring black bear hunting and delaying start dates for fall black bear hunting in some areas.
Increasing permit hunting for cougar in southeast Washington.
Changing the fall turkey hunt in southeast Washington from a limited permit-only hunt to a general hunt.
Along with the new hunting rules, the commission also approved a new application system for special-hunt permits that will give hunters more options by allowing them to apply for deer and elk permits in several different categories. The system applies "points" accrued by unsuccessful permit applicants from previous years to each of the new permit categories.
The amended hunting rules, which take effect May 1, will be included in WDFW’s new Big Game Hunting pamphlet, which will be available by late April at license dealers, WDFW offices, and online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regs_seasons.html .
The spring wild turkey season runs April 15 through May 31 around the state. 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 .
Wildlife viewing: For those interested in spring bird watching, the 15th annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival will be held April 30 through May 2. This event takes place during the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds as they stop at the Grays Harbor estuary to feed and rest before departing for their nesting grounds in the Arctic. For more information, visit http://www.shorebirdfestival.com/ or call (800) 303-8498.