Some of the most popular fishing opportunities are available for anglers in the coming weeks, including trout in hundreds of rivers, crab in south Puget Sound, chinook in the Columbia River and salmon in ocean waters along the coast.
Sound like fun? Prospective anglers who are interested in fishing but don’t have a fishing license can get in on the action during Free Fishing Weekend, scheduled today and Sunday.
During those two days, no license will be required to fish or gather shellfish in any waters open to fishing in Washington state. In addition, no vehicle access pass or Discover Pass will be required that weekend to park at any of the 700 water-access sites maintained by the Washington Department of Fish &Wildlife.
While no licenses are required on Free Fishing Weekend, other rules such as season closures, size restrictions and bag limits will still be in effect.
In addition, all anglers will be required to complete a catch record card for any salmon, steelhead or halibut they catch that weekend. They also must fill out a catch record card for crab, which is open only in South Puget Sound (Marine Area 13) during Free Fishing Weekend.
Catch record cards and Fish &Wildlife’s Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet are available free at hundreds of sporting goods stores and other license dealers throughout the state.
Of course, this month’s fishing opportunities don’t begin and end with Free Fishing Weekend. Other key dates for anglers include:
• Today – Trout fishing opens in hundreds of rivers across the state.
• June 14 – Traditional recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho get under way in marine areas 1-4.
• June 16 – Fishing for summer chinook and sockeye salmon opens on the Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to Priest Rapids Dam.
• July 3 – Crab fisheries open in most areas of Puget Sound, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available this month, see the Weekender Regional Reports posted on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide up-to-date information about recreational opportunities around the state.
South Sound/Olympic Peninsula
(Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Thurston and Pacific counties)
Fishing: Not only will anglers have more opportunities to catch salmon this month, but they also will have one last shot at hooking a halibut in Puget Sound. And crabbers get an early start to the season beginning June 1 in south Puget Sound.
The mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook opens May 31 in Marine areas 1-4 and runs seven days a week through June 13. In all areas, anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release coho and wild chinook. The fisheries could close earlier if a coastwide quota of 9,000 hatchery chinook is reached.
The rules change June 14 when the traditional ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho get under way in marine areas 1-4. Anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay). Those fishing marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) also will have a two-salmon daily limit, but can keep only one chinook per day.
In Puget Sound, fishing for salmon continues in June in Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound) and opens June 1 in Marine Area 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island). Anglers fishing those areas have a two-salmon daily limit but must release wild chinook. In Marine Area 13, anglers who have a two-pole endorsement are allowed to fish for salmon with two poles.
Catch-and-release fishing for salmon begins June 1 in a section of Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton). The fishery is open from Point Monroe to Meadow Point.
Before heading out, anglers should check the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet online or call the fishing hotline at (360) 902-2500 for additional regulations.
Meanwhile, halibut anglers are turning their attention toward the mouth of the Columbia River now that the rest of Washington’s coast is closed to halibut fishing. Anglers have four days, compared to three in 2013, each week to fish in Marine Area 1. They can fish Thursday through Sunday in the main fishery and Monday through Wednesday in a new nearshore fishery created this year, said Heather Reed, WDFW coastal policy coordinator. “On days when the nearshore fishery is open, anglers can retain bottomfish while having halibut onboard,” Reed said.
Puget Sound anglers will have one last chance to catch a halibut on June 7 when marine areas 5-10 open for a final day. All marine areas open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit with no minimum size requirement. Halibut anglers should check WDFW’s recreational ocean halibut webpage for updates.
Anglers have until June 15 to catch lingcod in marine areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, except Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), which is closed to lingcod fishing. Washington’s coastal waters will remain open for lingcod fishing until mid-October.
The recreational crab-fishing season starts early this year with an opening June 1 south Puget Sound (Marine Area 13). Sport crabbers have fallen short of their quota in Marine Area 13 in recent years, allowing Fish &Wildlife to open that area early, said Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for the agency. Most other marine areas open July 3 for crab fishing but crabbers should check the department’s recreational crab fishing webpage for the regulations.
Crabbers fishing Marine Area 13 should report their catch on 2014 catch record cards starting June 1. Language on the catch cards stating that they are “valid from July 1, 2014 through September 14” has been waived to accommodate a June 1 opening in that marine area.
The final day of the last razor clam dig of the season is set for June 1 on Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches. Diggers should check the department’s razor clam web page for details. This season, which began last September, has been the most productive in more than 30 years, said Dan Ayres, Fish &Wildlife shellfish manager. The next season for razor clams begins in the fall.
Information about other types of clams and oysters now in season is available on the department’s public clam and oyster beaches webpage.
Anglers who prefer trout fishing can head to streams in the region beginning June 7. Rivers that will open that day include Chehalis, Hoh, Queets, Quinnault, Calawah, Bogachiel, Dickey and Quillayute. Skookumchuck Reservoir, Wynoochee Reservoir, Quigg Lake near Montesano and Elk Lake in Clallam County also open June 7 for trout fishing. Anglers should check the sport fishing rules pamphlet for regulations.
Hunting: Hunters who applied for special big-game hunt permits for the upcoming season can find out if they were chosen by checking Fish &Wildlife’s website in late June. Holders of the special permits can hunt at times and locations beyond those authorized by a general hunting license. The application period ran through May 22.
Spring wild turkey hunting ended May 31, and unless hunters are planning to hunt turkeys this fall, it’s time to report your spring turkey hunting activity. Reports are required, whether turkeys were harvested or not. Hunters can file reports two ways: by telephone (toll free at 1-877-945-3492) or online. Hunters who intend to hunt turkeys this fall should wait to report spring activity with their fall activity at the close of fall seasons. The information from hunter reports is used to better monitor hunter effort, distribution, harvest and trends.
Wildlife viewing: As spring turns to summer, wildlife sightings naturally increase for species ranging from butterflies to black bears. One reason, of course, is that animals become more active, emerging from cocoons and dens to feed and breed. Another is that more people are outside to see them.
With so many people out and about, Fish &Wildlife wildlife managers ask that they observe a few basic rules in their interactions with Washington’s wildlife:
• Keep a respectful distance: Using binoculars is a good way to get a close-up view of wildlife species without disturbing them.
• Leave baby animals alone: Deer fawns and baby birds may appear to be abandoned, when a parent may be close-by. Picking up wildlife of any kind can not only be harmful to the animal, it’s illegal.
• Don’t feed wildlife, either intentionally or unintentionally: This requires keeping campsites clean by storing food and garbage securely. Many of the problems with wildlife that require the department’s involvement stem from human hand-outs, in one form or another.
Feeding bears is especially problematic, said Donny Martorello, Fish &Wildlife carnivore section manager. Natural food is scarce until the berries ripen, he said, so bears are looking for an easy meal.
For more information about living with bears and other wildlife, see Fish &Widlife’s Living with Wildlife website.
Resident orcas are making their return to Washington’s waters with multiple sightings being reported on Orca Network. Fish &Wildlife reminds boaters to keep their distance from these and other marine mammals. For information on Washington’s regulations regarding boaters and whales, visit the department’s orca whale management webpage. Federal guidelines can be found at www.bewhalewise.org.