Fishing: With water temperatures rising, the month of August is usually best for warmwater-species fishing throughout the region.
Chris Donley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) district fish biologist, said mixed-species waters are a good bet. Yellow perch, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and crappie can usually be caught at Coffeepot Lake in Lincoln County, Downs and Chapman lakes in southwest Spokane County, Newman and Liberty lakes in eastern Spokane County, Eloika Lake in north Spokane County, and the Spokane River reservoir of Long Lake and Deer and Waitts lakes in Stevens County.
Fishing at rainbow and cutthroat trout lakes near Spokane – like Amber, Badger, Clear, Fish, Williams, and West Medical lakes – is best early in the morning or at night, Donley says. The lower Spokane River has nice rainbows and browns, but river anglers need to be aware of catch limits, gear restrictions, and other rules listed in the fishing pamphlet.
Catfish and sturgeon fishing is usually productive in the Snake River system in the southeast part of the region in August. Catfish are often landed in the backwaters and sloughs throughout the mainstem Snake, as well as in or near the mouths of tributaries like the Tucannon River.
Sturgeon fishers are reminded of the minimum 43-inch and maximum 54-inch tail fork length and the daily catch limit of one sturgeon. The Snake and its tributaries upstream of Lower Granite Dam are catch-and-release only for sturgeon. The section of the Snake just east of the Tri-Cities, from the mouth to Ice Harbor Dam, is also catch-and-release for sturgeon starting Aug. 1.
Fishing has slowed considerably for rainbow trout in the small man-made lakes off the Tucannon River on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, said area manager Kari Dingman. With or without good fishing, lots of folks like to escape city heat with a weekend camping trip to the area. Dingman said hot and dry conditions, along with a recent wildfire, have resulted in a ban on campfires.
Dingman also reminds fishers and other recreationists that a U.S. Forest Service road, bridge and culvert over the Little Tucannon River are under re-construction for the first half of August, so state campgrounds Panjab North and South, along with the Sheep Creek and Meadow Creek trailheads, will be inaccessible during the project.
In the north end of the region, kokanee and walleye fishing continues to be good at Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam. Kokanee fishing is also productive at Stevens County’s Loon Lake during night time hours.
Some of the high elevation lakes on U.S. Forest Service property in the northeast district that are stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout may be good destinations for camping and fishing weekends. In Ferry County, try Davis, Ellen, Empire, Swan and Trout lakes. In Stevens County, try Gillette, Heritage, Sherry, Summit, and Thomas lakes. In Pend Oreille County, try Carl’s, Cook’s, Frater, Halfmoon, Leo, Mystic, Nile, No-Name, Petit, South and North Skookums, and Yokum lakes. More information on these mostly small fishing lakes can be found in WDFW’s 2010 Fishing Prospects at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/prospects/index.htm.
Anglers are reminded to be extra careful with anything that could start wildfires in the region’s hot and dry conditions. Plans should include a check on campfire restrictions on public lands. See Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fire information by county at http://fortress.wa.gov/dnr/firedanger/BurnRisk.aspx. Current wildfire conditions in Washington are available at http://www.inciweb.org/state/49/.
Hunting: The first hunting season in the region begins Aug. 1 for black bear in Lincoln and Whitman County Game Management Units (GMU) 133 Roosevelt, 136 Harrington, 139 Steptoe and 142 Almota (part of the “Columbia Basin” bear management unit). Black bear hunting opens Aug. 14 in Spokane County GMUs 124 Mount Spokane, 127 Mica Peak and 130 Cheney (or “Northeastern B” bear management unit).
Successful black bear hunters must submit a bear tooth to WDFW for age data collection. Tooth envelopes are available at the Eastern Region office, 2315 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley (509-892-1001). All black bear hunters must report hunting activity, either over the phone at 1-877-945-3492 or online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses_hunter_report.html. Successful bear hunters who report within 10 days of harvest are entered in a drawing for special hunting permits.
Wildlife viewing: Sometimes wildlife steps into your view without warning. WDFW Wildlife Biologist Woody Myers reminds drivers traveling through deer, elk and moose country to be observant of increased activity of whitetail and mule deer does and fawns, and elk and moose cows and calves, especially during morning and evening hours. “The young animals are old enough now to be a little bolder and more curious about things, so fawns and calves may stop in the middle of the road to look at you,” he said.
Myers said fawns and calves are the normal prey of cougars. “Where there are abundant deer and elk, there is likely a cougar hunting in the vicinity,” he said. Hikers, especially those on trails used regularly by wildlife, should be alert and aware of possible cougar encounters. Travel in groups that make enough noise to warn animals of your approach and keep children close by.
Black bears continue their summertime foraging, including raids on unsecured garbage cans, as well as picnic and camp sites where food is not properly stored. Myers reminds both backyard wildlife viewers and weekend recreationists to avoid drawing bears into close quarters by being careful with anything that bears might eat. “That includes a lot of things because bears are omnivores – they’ll eat both plants and animals,” he said. “Bears also have excellent noses and can smell those food sources from great distances.”
Warm summer evenings are a good time to listen for wildlife, from coyotes howling to owls hooting and poorwills calling. Slowly shortening summer days increasingly provide views of bird groups. “Watch for gathering flocks of some songbird species, like blackbirds and swallows, which include this summer's offspring,” Myers said. “Many of these young birds are now flying and will soon be concentrating at staging areas in anticipation of the coming fall migration.”
WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Manager Juli Anderson said conditions are drying out fast in Lincoln County. Both Swanson lakes and many smaller pothole lakes and ponds are completely dry already, lowering chances of seeing waterfowl or other bird concentrations in the area, she said. Anderson notes a burn ban is now in effect for all of Lincoln County.