Hunting & Fishing Report: Down at the Crossroads: Lots of August Options


The middle of August is a littered mess of outdoor options. The field is full of potential adventures while the weather attempts to wither the masses and send them scrambling back to the indoor harbor of shade and air conditioning.

With all of the options clashing with natural obstacles, it’s enough to make the undermotivated among us settle for a cold brew and preseason football chatter.

For those with a surplus of fortitude and an unwavering adventurous spirit though, the dog days of August are perfect for beating the trail and breaking a sweat.

Ocean fishing is in full swing, but many area lakes are also brimming with fat and happy trout. One option is a once a year event, but the other offers a tempting modicum of shade.

River fishing has been slow lately, mostly thanks to the heat, but that doesn’t mean everyone has been skunked. Some folks have even turned their backs on the summer salmon run in favor of hard fighting walleye and time tested sturgeon, even though the latter is a catch and release only fodder fish.

With fall sports kicking off this week (hello high school football!) and the first day of school an Olympic shot-put toss away, parents and pupils alike are feeling the pinch to make the most of a quickly dwindling supply of lazy days.

A crazed set of ultrarunners took the time recently to run from the south side of Mount St. Helens all the way to the finish line on the track at White Pass High School in Randle. The course covered 200 miles and 4,200 feet of rise and fall, all while the scorching sun did its best to melt the competitors into their shoes. The fastest runner completed the course in just 62 hours and slept for only 65 minutes.

If that doesn’t make you take stock of your life, you may be more rational than you’re giving yourself credit for.

Hunters are also starting to take the field as bears are now legal quarry and deer and elk hunters begin to scout the backcountry in preparation of September’s blast off into general hunting seasons. A proliferation of locked gates and required passes though will ensure that most backroad adventurers will put plenty of miles on their pedometers in order to get off the well worn path.

Speaking of which, wildflowers are in bloom at high altitudes if you need a reason to head for the hills, while wildlife of all stripes are moseying about in the prelude to open blasting season. In fact, a certain sports editor managed to bump headlong into a friendly group of mountain goats atop Mount Ellinor prior to reporting for work earlier this week. No goats or editors were harmed in the process.

Soon the colors around us will change and the pace of life will shift along with the visual palette. The heat index may drop with the arrival of fall but there is no guarantee that life will afford you the time to utilize the reprieve.

In nature, nothing should be taken for granted, especially time. So if the options are too abundant and the heat has your brain fried, get on down to the crossroads and try to flag a ride.

It’d be a shame to let the last days of summer pass you by.


On Aug. 16 anglers fishing in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) saw their daily catch change to include two Chinook. The daily creel limit is still two salmon and as before, seafaring anglers are required to release wild coho.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife made the rule change after sampling indicated that Marine Area 1 has enough Chinook remaining to permit the additional harvest without going over the catch guideline. The change does not affect Marine Areas 2, 3 or 4. Marine Area 1 is slated to close on Aug. 31, while the three other areas are scheduled to close on Aug. 21.

The most recent catch data from Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) shows that salmon anglers averaged more than one fish per two rods. About 75 percent of that catch consisted of coho. As of Aug. 7 about one third of the Chinook and coho quotas had been harvested. Fishing was reported as slow off of the North Jetty.

Heading in from the salt water to the mouth of the Columbia River, boat anglers at Buoy 10 averaged just one Chinook per 7.4 rods last week and hooked a few coho as well. Last year during the same period boat anglers averaged one Chinook for every 3.5 rods and nearly one coho per two rods. The Buoy 10 fishery will remain open through Labor Day (Sep. 5), with a two salmon daily limit, of which only one may be a Chinook or hatchery steelhead. Additionally, Chinook retention is limited to clipped fin hatchery fish on Sundays and Mondays. The North Jetty will remain open seven days a week at both Buoy 10 and Marine Area 1. From Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam only one hatchery steelhead may be retained per day through the end of the year.

The most recent estimate from the WDFW shows 19,891 angler trips to Buoy 10 so far this season with a harvest of about 3,388 Chinook and 178 coho.

Continuing the trip up the Columbia, things have continued to be rather slow on the lower river downstream of Bonneville Dam and the extended heat wave is not helping the bite one bit. Last week on the lower Columbia officials reported a total of 5,424 angler trips with a haul of 379 Chinook, 232 summer steelhead and a whopping three silvers. Roughly half of the kings were hooked near Tongue Point, a short jaunt upriver from the Buoy 10 fishery. In the Bonneville Pool 18 boat anglers were sampled with a haul of two adult Chinook and seven steelhead, plus five steelies tossed back.

Taking a look up the Columbia’s various tributaries the effort and results have been depressed in a similar fashion to the mainstem.

On the Cowlitz River last week the WDFW sampled 69 boat anglers with two adult Chinook and one jack and 48 steelhead on board. Another 70 bank anglers reported a haul of two adult Chinook and five steelhead. There were four adult Chinook, two jacks and one steelhead released. The bulk of the catch was reported from Mission Bar upstream although boat anglers have been having some luck camping out near the mouth.

Up at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery Separator last week workers recovered 95 spring Chinook adults, 32 jacks, 20 mini-jacks, seven fall adult Chinook, one jack, and 584 summer-run steelhead in addition to six cutthroat trout. Tacoma Power’s seasonal steelhead recycle program ended on Aug. 15 after two months of trucking fish back down river. That program saw at least 3,292 summer-run steelhead returned to the I-5 bridge from the salmon separator. Of those recycled fish at least 994 have been reported as either caught or returned to the separator. River flow at Mayfield Dam on Monday was reported at about 3,440 cubic feet per second. River visibility was 12 feet.

On the North Fork Lewis River last week nine bank anglers were sampled with a four steelhead on the string.

At Drano Lake the WDFW sampled 186 boat anglers with 22 adult and four jack fall Chinook and 71 steelhead in the box. One Chinook and 52 steelhead were released.

Up in Snohomish County a lake angler put the kibosh on a 39-year old records for the biggest largemouth bass caught in the state. Bill Evans of Bothell caught the 12.53 pound bass on Aug. 8 in Lake Bosworth using a Strike King 5-inch Shim-E-Stick, wacky-rigged on a 1/0 hook.

The record breaking bass was 23 inches long with a girth of 22.5 inches and weighed nearly one full pound more than the previous record.

“As soon as I set the hook, I knew it had to be a big one because the bottom pulled hard and it just wouldn’t quit,” Evans said in a press release. “When she finally tried to jump, she could only get her head out of the water.”

Evans said he realized just how big the fish was when he tried to pull it onto the boat.

“She just kept getting heavier and heavier,” said Evans in the release. “I put her in the livewell, but she didn’t even fit — her tail stuck out”.

Looking back out on the river wild scene, the WDFW recently designated the NIsqually and Elwha rivers as wild steelhead gene banks. As such, both of the rivers are now off limits to the release of hatchery reared steelhead in order to prevent habitat competition and interbreeding between wild and hatchery fish. The WDFW noted that fishing may be allowed to continue on the rivers so long as the wild steelhead runs “are strong enough to allow it.” No parameters for what constitutes a “strong” run were provided.

“The Nisqually and Elwha rivers can play a major role in the recovery of wild steelhead populations in the Puget Sound area,” said Jim Scott, special assistant to the WDFW director, in a press release. “This new designation, along with other conservation efforts already underway, will help us reach that goal.”

Other options included the Skagit and Sauk river but the WDFW has delayed making a decision on a northern Puget Sound gene bank until additional reviews can be studied.

The Elwha River had its two hydroelectric dams removed beginning 2012 which opened an additional 40 miles of salmon habitat, much of which is inside the Olympic National Park. Studies have shown that the winter steelhead population of the Elwha has remained genetically distinct through the dam era despite a winter hatchery steelhead program that operated until 2011. The Lower Klallam Tribe plans to end their interim hatchery steelhead program once river conditions improve and objectives for wild steelhead returns are reached.

The WDFW noted that the Nisqually River was a prime candidate for gene bank status thanks to efforts by the Nisqually River Council to protect and restore fish habitat. No hatchery winter-steelhead has been released into the Nisqually watershed since 1982. The number of wild steelhead spawning in the river surpassed 1,000 fish in 2015 and doubled that return in 2016.

The addition of the Nisqually and Elwha rivers to the state’s steelhead gene bank pool brings the total number of designated gene bank watersheds to 14 around the state.


General bear hunting seasons opened up in the South Cascades and Coastal zones on Aug. 15. Those openings followed on the paws of most other bear hunting zones, which opened on Aug. 1. Each hunter is allowed as many as two bear kills per general season but only one of those hunts may be consummated in eastern Washington.

Upon harvesting a bear hunters are required to submit a bear tooth to the WDFW in order to determine the animal’s age. As a matter of course, the WDFW encourages hunters to refrain from shooting sows with cubs.

In order to actively hunt bears a person must possess a current hunting license. Self-defense kill scenarios will be subject to investigation by the WDFW. In order to prevent unlicensed kills hunters are rarely, if ever, allowed to keep any part of an animal killed in such a manner.

"This is a good time to locate game animals and get the lay of the land, particularly if you're planning to hunt a new area," said Mick Cope, WDFW deputy assistant wildlife director, in a press release. "But it can get hot out there in August, so it's important to stay hydrated and be aware of fire danger."

Bear hunters are sharing the field with Master Hunters hounding deer and elk in some areas throughout August. However, the vast majority of ungulate hunters will have to wait until at least September for their chance to take a legal shot.

Looking forward to September, when most general hunting season begin to pop off, hunters with a penchant for pig may want to consider heading to the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant County. The WDFW has closed the Desert Unit of the Wildlife Area for the duration of August as they attempt to eliminate a population of wild hogs that have been frequenting the area for at least a year now. Officials will set up bait stations and attempt to shoot the animals from a helicopter.

“We first started receiving public reports of wild pigs in the wildlife area last July,” said Matt Monda, WDFW wildlife manager for north central Washington, in a press release. “One of our officers shot a pregnant sow two months later, and we’ve occasionally picked them up on remote cameras over the past year. We don’t want this to get out of hand.”

Monda added that, “We’re hoping this closure will have minimal impacts on wildlife area visitors. With the hot weather and buggy conditions, August is the time of year the Desert Unit is least visited by wildlife watchers, anglers and hunters.”

Once the WDFW is finished with their pig punishing efforts hunters will be free to try their hand at the cloven hooved animals. The WDFW noted that since pigs are not wildlife there are no hunting regulations that dictate when, where, or how they may be hunted. The Grant County Sheriff confirmed that hunters do not need a license to hunt feral swine, but they also warned that unlicensed hunters using the presence of pigs as cover to unlawfully pursue deer should expect a hard smack from Johnny Law.

The USDA warns that wild pigs may harbor diseases not found in domestic pigs, or native wild animals and they do not endorse hunting wild pigs in Washington. Instead, the USDA encourages those who observe a feral hog to report their sighting to their Squeal on a Hog hotline at 1-888-268-9219.

As always, coyotes can be hunted year round in Washington.


Persistent hot weather and tinder dry conditions have prompted the Commissioner of Public Lands, Peter Goldmark, to expand the statewide burn ban to include campfires on all DNR-protected lands. That burn ban will remain in effect through Sep. 30.

“After a relatively mild summer, we are entering a period of critical fire weather on both sides of the Cascades,” said Goldmark in a press release. “The greatest fire danger right now comes from carelessness. It’s essential that people understand the risks involved and do not spark any fires.”

Goldmark noted that there will likely be an increased risk in coming days as a high-pressure weather patterns limit the impact of the moist marine layer that typically helps to reduce the spread of wildfire. The lasting affects of last year’s drought have also left Washington increasingly susceptible to wildfires.

“Our fire crews have been effective so far this season in keeping fires small and getting them out quickly,” said Goldmark in the release. “I ask all Washingtonians to give them a hand by being careful and responsible when working or playing on our iconic landscapes.”

So far this fire season Washington has experienced 527 fires that have charred 3,372 acres. At the same point last year there had been 803 fires on 319,551 acres. By the end of the 2015 fire season, the worst on record, more than one million acres were burnt.

The statewide burn ban now applies to state forest, state parks and forests protected by DNR firefighters. The ban prohibits outdoor burning, including campfires in fire pits and the use of charcoal. Liquid or propane camp stove that do not require charcoal and come equipped with an on/off switch are permitted.

The burn ban does not include federally managed lands like national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges or any other areas managed by federal agencies.