The sun is setting earlier and the leaves are beginning to turn color – signs of another change of season. Fall is in the air, and hunters are heading out for the first major hunting seasons of the year.
Archery hunts for deer get under way around the state Sept. 1, when hunting seasons also open for forest grouse, mourning dove, cottontail rabbit, and snowshoe hare. Other seasons set to open this month include archery hunts for elk, muzzleloader hunts for deer, and a turkey hunt in some areas of eastern Washington.
A youth-only hunt for ducks, geese, pheasant and other game birds runs Sept. 20-21 statewide. To participate, hunters must be 15 years old or younger and be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not hunting.
Meanwhile, an estimated run of 1.5 million Chinook salmon – and hundreds of thousands of coho – is moving up the Columbia River, drawing anglers by the thousands. Further north, Chinook and coho are also pushing into Puget Sound from the ocean, while eastside anglers await a surge of Chinook and steelhead on the Snake River.
As new fishing seasons open, others are coming to an end. Crab fishing in most areas of Puget Sound is set to end Labor Day at sunset, and Fish &Wildlife is reminding crabbers that summer catch record cards are due to Fish &Wildlife by Oct. 1 – whether or not they actually caught crab this year. Completed cards can be submitted by mail or online at http://bit.ly/WkXeA from Sept. 2 through Oct. 1.
South Sound/Olympic Peninsula
Fishing: Salmon fishing heads into its final month in September in most of Washington’s ocean waters and state fisheries managers expect it to be a good one. Halibut and Puget Sound crab seasons also wind down this month.
All areas except Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) are open as of Sept. 1 for both hatchery and wild coho fishing.
All four marine areas have a daily catch limit of two salmon. Anglers are allowed to keep two Chinook per day in ocean waters off Westport (Marine Area 2), La Push (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4), while anglers fishing in Marine Area 1 can keep only one Chinook daily.
The ocean salmon fisheries are scheduled to continue through Sept. 30 in marine areas 1 and 2 and through Sept. 21 in marine areas 3 and 4. However, a portion of Marine Area 3 will reopen Sept. 27 through Oct. 12.
Salmon are still moving down from Canadian waters and into Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where September often is the peak month for coho fishing, said Ryan Lothrop, WDFW Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager. Anglers fishing in marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (Strait of Juan de Fuca) have a daily catch limit of two salmon.
Anglers fishing Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) will have additional fishing opportunity with the opening of waters north of Ayock Point. That section is open Sept. 1 through Oct. 15 with a daily catch limit of four coho only. Waters south of Ayock Point have been open since July 1. That section has a combined daily catch limit of four fish, two of which can be Chinook.
Also in area 12, Lothrop reminds anglers that the Hoodsport Hatchery Zone is closed until further notice. However, anglers with disabilities can continue to fish from the ADA-accessible fishing platform. Any changes to that fishery would be posted on the emergency rules webpage.
Fishing for Chinook in Puget Sound can also be good in September in marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound), Lothrop said.
Meanwhile, salmon fishing starts Sept. 1 in several coastal rivers, including the Hoh, Clearwater, Humptulips. Salmon fishing on the Wynoochee and Satsop rivers gets under way Sept. 16.
Catch limits and regulations in Washington’s waters vary by time and location, so anglers should check the Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet and emergency rule website before heading out.
Halibut fishing will continue in September along the mouth of the Columbia River (Marine Area 1). Anglers can hook a halibut any day of the week between the all-depth fishery, open Thursday through Sunday, and the new nearshore fishery, open Monday through Wednesday. The halibut season closes Sept. 30 in Marine Area 1 unless the seasonal catch quota is reached prior to that date.
Anglers can keep bottomfish while having halibut onboard in the nearshore fishery on the days it’s open. Both the nearshore and the all-depth fishery have a one-halibut daily catch limit. More information on the halibut fishery can be found on Fish &Wildlife’s recreational ocean halibut webpage.
Crabbing will close Sept. 1 in most areas of Puget Sound except in Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia) and South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham), where the season is open through Sept. 29.
Hunting: September marks the start of hunting seasons for deer, upland game birds and waterfowl. Dates and regulations are listed in the Big Game and Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets, available on Fish &Wildlife’s website.
Hunters planning their season may also want to check Fish &Wildlife’s 2014 Hunting Prospects report and Game Harvest Reports, which together provide a look at upcoming opportunities and previous success rates in specific game management units (GMUs).
Early archery hunts for deer run Sept. 1-26, overlapping with archery hunts for elk Sept. 2-14. Most early muzzleloader seasons for deer start Sept. 27, followed by the early muzzleloader hunt for elk that begins Oct. 4 in designated game management units (GMU) throughout the region.
The best opportunities to harvest black-tailed deer in the region include GMUs 663, 648, 672, 660, 621, 627 and 633. Hunters looking to harvest a Roosevelt elk in District 17 (Pacific and Grays Harbor counties) often find their best opportunities are associated with the Willapa Hills elk herd and include GMUs 658, 672, 673 and 681. In District 16 (Clallam and west Jefferson counties), the highest level of elk harvests have occurred in GMUs 615, 602 and 607.
Both elk and deer hunters should note that several private timber companies in the region have decided to charge fees for access this year rather than continue to offer free access. Hunters are advised to check Fish &Wildlife’s hunter access webpage for details.
Meanwhile, bear hunts are under way in the region. Hunters are allowed two bear during the general season, which is open through Nov. 15, but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington.
Prospects for harvesting a black bear in District 16 are good to excellent due to low elevation berry production. In districts 17 and 15 (Mason, Kitsap and east Jefferson counties), bear harvest tends to happen opportunistically, when hunters are targeting elk and deer, rather than targeting bear.
For those seeking forest grouse, the statewide hunting season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 31. The harvest of grouse in Clallam County (District 16) rivals all other counties in south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic National Forest and Skokomish valley in District 15 also are popular grouse hunting areas.
September also offers opportunities to hunt doves, geese and band-tailed pigeons. The dove hunt opens Sept. 1 and lasts through Sept. 30. In addition, an early Canada goose hunt is open Sept. 1-15 in area 2B, and Sept. 10-15 in Goose Management Areas 1, 2A, and 3. The band-tailed pigeon season runs Sept. 15-23.
Hunters under the age of 16 will have an opportunity to go afield for ducks, Canada geese, coots and pheasants during a special youth hunt Sept. 20-21. For those new to waterfowl hunting, WDFW has established the “Let’s Go Waterfowl Hunting” webpage to introduce the sport.
Hunters 65 years or older will have an opportunity to go afield for pheasants during a special senior hunt Sept. 22-26. Western Washington hunters of all ages can hunt pheasants beginning Sept. 27.
Before going afield, hunters should check the Big Game Huntingpamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for details. Black bear hunters can test their bear species identification skills through an interactive program on Fish &Wildlife’s website. The program includes information on how to correctly identify black bears and grizzly bears.
Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal endangered species laws.
Fish &Wildlife is continuing to seek comments on 2015-17 hunting season proposals through Sept. 22. Visit the season setting website for details.
Wildlife viewing: In Sequim, a popular festival celebrates wildlife Sept. 26-27. The Dungeness River Festival, hosted by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, offers nature activities for adults and children alike. The Dungeness River Audubon Center, where the festival will be held, also hosts a variety of classes and nature walks through early October, including a Sept. 20 course called “Climate Change Action on the Olympic Peninsula.” More information is available on the center’s webpage.
The return of hatchery Chinook salmon to the Deschutes River near Olympia is another draw for wildlife-watchers. Onlookers can watch thousands of fish gather below the Fifth Avenue Bridge in downtown Olympia before they enter Capitol Lake and move up the fish ladders to the Tumwater Falls Hatchery.
The Lake Sylvia Fall festival will be held Sept. 20 at the state park and includes trail running and mountain biking races, a plant identification walk and an art walk in the woods. Details can be found on the festival webpage.
Also on Sept. 20, the Ocean Conservancy hosts its International Coastal Cleanup. Volunteers have the chance to spot some marine mammals and shorebirds while helping to pick up trash on Washington’s beaches. Sign up on the conservancy’s webpage.