With the new year dawning, thousands of hunters and anglers across Washington state were quietly hoping for a winter storm. Duck hunters and steelheaders, in particular, had come to see the dry, mild weather that marked the end of 2013 as too much of a good thing.
“Dry, calm weather is nice, but it doesn’t make for great duck hunting conditions,” said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Ducks like water, and that is in short supply in the fields around the state.”
A good downpour would also improve fishing for winter steelhead on the Columbia River and elsewhere around the state, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist based in Vancouver, Wash.
“Salmon and steelhead get active and move upriver when rivers and streams rise,” Hymer said. “A lot of anglers would welcome a good hard rain, the sooner the better.”
Statewide waterfowl seasons run through Jan. 26, while steelhead seasons vary by area, as described in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/).
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to celebrate the new year by heading outdoors, including:
- Razor clams: Ocean beaches will be open to razor clam digging for 13 days in January, providing marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. See http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html for more information.
- Trout fishing: WDFW is stocking 13 rivers in southwest Washington with 30,000 rainbows through the end of the month. For weekly stocking reports there and elsewhere, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.
- Wildlife watching: Bald eagles, snow geese, elk, big-horn sheep and other wintering wildlife are on display in many parts of the state.
Rain or shine, winter weather is an important consideration wherever you go. Ice fishing can be a dicey proposition in many parts of the state and a sudden rainstorm rains can render a river “unfishable” – even dangerous – virtually overnight.
“Preparation is essential for any outdoor activity, especially in winter,” said Mike Cenci, WDFW deputy chief of enforcement. “Check the weather conditions, river conditions and road conditions – and let people know where you’re going before you head out.”
WDFW fish and wildlife managers want to pass along a few other seasonal reminders:
- Crab reports: The Puget Sound crab fishery closed Dec. 31, and crabbers are required to report their winter catch by Feb. 1.
- Hunter reports: Hunters who purchased tags for black bear, deer, elk or turkey are reminded that reports are due by Jan. 31 for each 2013 license, permit or tag they purchased.
For more information about the full array of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available over the next month, see the Weekender Regional Reports posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide current information about recreational opportunities around the state.