Fish & Wildlife weekender for Sunday, Nov. 11


There’s more than one way to put a turkey on your table for Thanksgiving. Rather than head to the grocery store, thousands of hunters plan to get their bird during the hunting season for wild turkey that gets under way Nov. 20 in eastern Washington.

Then again, who says turkey has to be the center of attention on Thanksgiving Day? November is also prime time to hunt ducks, geese, elk, deer, pheasant, forest grouse and a variety of other game around the state.

November is also prime time to hunt deer and elk on both sides of the Cascades.

For anglers, Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of winter steelhead fishing in western Washington, where coho and chum salmon also start moving in from the ocean. On the eastside, anglers are still reeling in high numbers of hatchery-reared summer steelhead from the upper Columbia River and several major tributaries.

Rather serve shellfish? Most areas of Puget Sound are currently open for crab fishing, and two multi-day razor clam digs are scheduled at various ocean beaches in November.

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 113th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2012 through Jan. 5, 2013. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count see the Audubon website at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing: Fall fisheries are under way in the region, where winter steelhead and chum salmon are making their way into the rivers and blackmouth salmon can be found on Puget Sound. Shellfish also are on the menu with the late-season crab fishery open in the Sound and two razor clam digs tentatively scheduled at coastal beaches.

Later in the month, razor clammers will have another opportunity if tests are favorable. Tentative opening dates and evening low tides for that dig are:

Nov. 26, Monday, 5:16 p.m., -0.1 ft, Twin Harbors

Nov. 27, Tuesday, 5:52 p.m., -0.3 ft., Twin Harbors

Nov. 28, Wednesday, 6:27 p.m., -0.4 ft., Twin Harbors

Nov. 29, Thursday, 7:01 p.m., -0.4 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors

Nov. 30, Friday, 7:35 p.m., -0.3 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks

Dec. 1, Saturday, 8:10 p.m., -0.1 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks

“Clam diggers should plan to take lights or lanterns for the nighttime digs and to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out,” said Dan Ayres, Fish & Wildlife’s coastal shellfish manager.

No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the razor-clam beaches. Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2012-13 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on Fish & Wildlife’s website and from license vendors around the state. More razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled Dec. 11-16 and Dec. 28-31.

Prefer crab? Sport crabbing reopened Oct. 13 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 12 (Hood Canal), and 13 (South Puget Sound).

In each area, crabbing is allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31. Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island). The annual quotas in those areas were reached during the summer fishery.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the the department’s website.

Hunting: November brings a variety of hunting opportunities, including those for deer, elk and waterfowl.

The modern firearm season for elk is open Nov. 3-14, and the late modern firearm season for deer runs Nov. 15-18. Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 21, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open the following day, Nov. 22.

Bear and cougar hunts are also open in the region. However, the bear hunting season closes Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, field reports indicate there are higher numbers of dabbling ducks on the coastal bays this year, said Don Kraege, Fish & Wildlife’s waterfowl manager. “Those ducks should stick to the bays early in the month, but as we get more and more rain they will move farther inland,” he said.

As for geese, the numbers of birds have yet to climb, Kraege said. “We have yet to see the numbers of geese we typically see in Pacific County and other parts of southwest Washington,” he said. “It appears migration is delayed. I would expect the number of geese to increase throughout the month.”

The statewide season for ducks, coots and snipe resumed Oct. 20, while goose-hunting reopens Nov. 3 in Goose Management Area 3. Hunting in Goose Management Area 2B (Pacific County) will be open Saturdays and Wednesdays only from Nov. 3-Jan. 19.

Hunters may also pursue pheasant, quail and bobwhite through Nov. 30. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

Before heading out, hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for details. Also, area-by-area summaries of the hunting prospects throughout the state are available on the department’s hunting prospects webpage.

Wildlife viewing: November is a good month to visit the Kennedy Creek Natural Area Preserve, which is located on Totten Inlet off U.S. Highway 101 between Olympia and Shelton. The creek is one of the most productive chum salmon streams in Washington. While there, visitors can find numerous species of migrating shorebirds or walk the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail.

Fall is also a great time to visit the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. Songbirds, such as northern shrikes, varied thrushes and yellow rumped warblers, can be found wintering there, while peregrine falcons and other raptors continue to arrive for the season. Waterfowl numbers are also increasing. In fact, bird watchers should note that a portion of the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail will be closed from Oct. 20-Jan. 27. The closure is required for the safety of visitors while waterfowl hunting takes place on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and WDFW lands near the trail. For more information, check the refuge’s website.