This is the time of year when there is plenty to do in the outdoor world in the Pacific Northwest. Turkey hunting season is well underway, and there are all kinds of options and opportunities for catching a fish or two.
First, the fishing. Just about every lake in our region, and throughout Washington state, is now open for trout fishing. Lakes around the Yakima and Kittitas Valleys were stocked with trout in late April, and more trout will be planted in the lakes going forward.
If you want to know when and where the trout will be stocked, just check the Region 3 section of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website. It’s very helpful with lots of information.
As the waters in the Columbia River and at reservoirs around Eastern Washington start warming, the fishing for walleye and bass will pick up. Reports from guides who have been working the Columbia near Umatilla and below the John Day Dam show they are having some very productive days for walleye.
The same is true for walleye fishing in the upper Columbia, in the waters just below Grand Coulee Dam, and in Lake Roosevelt. Banks Lake should also start heating up for both walleye and bass.
The kokanee fishing at Roosevelt can be best described as spasmodic. The fish are nice-sized but seem to be few and far between. And the trout fishing has been off and on, too.
Anglers looking for a good kokanee bite should head to Lake Chelan. The fishing has been very good there, and this year the landlocked salmon are running up to 15 inches in length. Plus, anglers are catching the occasional chinook salmon.
Speaking of chinook salmon, the spring salmon run on the Columbia has picked up steam over the past week, giving anglers a decent chance at catching a beautiful, bright chinook. The hot spots for fishing have been on the Willamette near Portland, at the Wind River near Stevenson, and at Drano Lake.
With the runs hitting four digits for several days in a row, you can bet there will be plenty of anglers at those spots trying to catch a big spring chinook.
As you read this, I am on a salmon fishing marathon, fishing seven days out of the last eight. The fishing has been fairly consistent and we have put some nice fat springers in the boat.
Other than the sockeye salmon that return to the Columbia in mid-summer, spring chinook are the very best eating salmon of the whole year, prized for their beautiful, bright orange meat.
The winter blast we had a couple weeks ago and the cool temperatures made the early days of the spring turkey hunting season a challenge. Some hunters found up to two feet of snow in their favorite hunting spots in the higher elevations of Klickitat County and up north around Colville.
Still, if you believe Facebook, (and you have to, right? It is Facebook) by the photos being posted, many hunters have found good success, with some filling both of their spring turkey tags.
The birds usually follow the snow line up the mountain, looking for fresh shoots of plants, insects and other things to eat as the thaw continues.
Early season toms are not as educated, but hunting later in the season can be just as good, if not better, because most of the hens are sitting on nests, and the toms can be susceptible to calls as they look for hens that haven’t t been bred.
Another advantage of hunting later in the season is that there are fewer hunters in the woods. Some have filled their tags, while others have moved on to other pursuits.
The turkey season runs until the end of this month.
The fall hunting seasons are still at least five months away, but now is the time to start planning for those hunts. The WDFW has opened up the applications for special big game hunting permits. All the permits are issued through a special drawing.
The new hunting regulations are now available online at the WDFW website, and will be available in printed pamphlet version in the next couple weeks. The applications for the special permits are available now, either online or through local license dealers. Special permit applications need to be in by May 19. Results will be available in early June.
There is a cost to apply. Special hunt permits applications are $7.10 each, and the very special hunt applications for “quality” hunts cost $13.70 per application.
Earlier this year the Fish and Wildlife commission approved the special permit numbers proposed by the regional biologists. A quick review of the numbers shows there are going to be more cow elk special permits for our area, but for other species there will be fewer permits.
Get your special hunt apps in and then forget about it for a month and go try to fill a turkey tag or two, or catch some of the beautiful fish available right now. It’s a great time to be in the outdoors.