Fishing: With fishing for steelhead and other game fish scheduled to close early on several rivers in the region, the focus is shifting on the marine areas where blackmouth salmon fisheries are under way.
"The San Juan Islands are the best bet for salmon anglers as we head into February," said Steve Thiesfeld, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "Fishing has been good for blackmouth in the San Juans, and hopefully that will continue throughout the month."
Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) - as well as marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) - have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is only open for salmon through Jan. 31.
Thiesfeld said there also have been reports of some nice-size blackmouth caught in Marine Area 9, especially around Possession Bar off the southern tip of Whidbey Island.
Another option is jigging for squid . Winter is prime time to fish for squid in Puget Sound. Good spots include the Elliott Bay Pier in Seattle and the Edmonds Pier. More information on squid fishing is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/ . Information on fishing piers is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/piers/ .
Fishing for steelhead and other game fish is closing early in several river systems in Puget Sound and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to protect wild steelhead. The early closures will affect the Nooksack, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Skagit river systems, as well as several streams along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Most rivers will close Feb. 1, although some waters near WDFW fish hatcheries will remain open through Feb. 15 to provide anglers an opportunity to catch and keep hatchery steelhead. "We’re closing these rivers early because of conservation concerns," said Jim Scott, assistant director for WDFW’s Fish Program. "With low numbers of wild steelhead expected back, we need to take this action to protect those wild fish that do return."
Anglers are reminded that the lower Green River (King County) and the White, Carbon and upper Puyallup rivers closed to fishing for steelhead and other game fish Jan. 16. The upper Green River closes Feb. 1. For more information on all the closures, check the emergency rule changes on WDFW’s website at http://bit.ly/eWIYg3 .
With several of the region’s rivers scheduled to close, freshwater anglers might turn their attention to local lakes. Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish are good spots to fish for perch, cutthroat and smallmouth bass , said WDFW fisheries biologist Danny Garrett. "Lake Sammamish has been producing consistent angling action for cutthroat trout that range from 14-18 inches," he said.
Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all fisheries on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .
The Puget Sound crab fishery is now closed, and crabbers are reminded that they are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Feb. 1. Reports are due for the season running Sept. 7 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught crab. To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html .
Hunting: The waterfowl hunting season wraps up statewide at the end of January. Hunters, who have through Jan. 30 to hunt ducks and geese, should check the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ for details.
Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports on their hunting activities are due by Jan. 31 for each 2010 tag purchased. Hunters can file a report by calling (877) 945-3492, or by the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . Those who miss the deadline must pay a $10 penalty before they can purchase a 2011 hunting license.
WDFW is accepting enrollment applications through Feb. 15 for its Master Hunter program . The department enlists master hunters to participate in controlled hunts to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety. For information, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/masterhunter/ or call 360-902-8412.
Wildlife viewing: Have 15 minutes to spare for bird science? That’s virtually all it takes to contribute to the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual survey of birds sighted throughout the North American continent over a four-day period. This year’s bird count is scheduled Feb.18-21, when birders of all levels of experience are invited to count the number of birds they see in a 15-minute period and enter their tally, by species, on the GBBC website ( http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc ). Participants can conduct their count in their own backyards, in a neighborhood park or anywhere they choose.
Later in February, birders can take part in the Port Susan Snow Goose and Birding Festival in the Stanwood and Camano Island areas. The festival is scheduled for Feb. 26-27, and will feature tours and speakers for the experienced and beginning birder. For more information, visit www.snowgoosefest.org/ .