Ocean salmon season starts with a bang as other fisheries heat up around state Ocean salmon fishing got off to a strong start during the first week in July along the Washington coast, where many anglers went home with two-fish limits.  Coho made up the bulk of the catch in most areas, although anglers fishing off Westport have also been catching good numbers of chinook salmon averaging about 18 pounds apiece. 

"This fishery is off to the best start we've seen in several years," said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).  "The fish are good-sized, and anglers are catching them all along the coast."

On the southern coast, Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) is open daily for salmon fishing, while Marine Area 2 (Westport) is open Sundays through Thursdays.  On the north coast, Marine Areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) are open Tuesdays through Saturdays.

As in past years, anglers are required to release any coho salmon not identified as a hatchery fish by a missing adipose fin and a healed scar.  Anglers are advised to check WDFW's Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm) for additional regulations in effect for coastal salmon fishing and other fisheries under way throughout the state.

 Like Dungeness crab, for example.  Recreational crab fishing is now open in all areas of Puget Sound, except the waters north of the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7 North), which open Aug. 15.  Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish policy coordinator, said the fishery is again drawing a big turnout, and that he's heard from a number of fishers.

"Some people say, `Wow, there's crab everywhere!'  Others aren't doing as well," Childers said.  "It's important to remember that crabbing is like any other kind of fishing - just because you pull up an empty pot doesn't mean there aren't crab down there.  The best thing to do is move and come back another time."

Childers reminds crabbers that WDFW has implemented several changes in the catch-card reporting system - including on-line reporting.  For more information on catch reporting and other crabbing rules, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/index.htm on the WDFW website. Holding out for halibut?  Anglers will have one more day - Sunday, July 22 - to catch a big flatfish in marine areas 3 and 4 off the north coast.  The fishery will open at 12:01 a.m. and run until 11:59 p.m. that day.

With temperatures rising and several major wildfires now burning around the state, wildlife managers are urging campers and others spending time outdoors to be especially careful not to spark another blaze.  They note that fireworks are not allowed on any water-access sites or wildlife areas WDFW owns or manages across the state. Campfires are also prohibited, except at a few areas with designated metal fire rings or pits.

For more information about fishing, wildlife-viewing and other activities now available throughout the state, see the regional reports below:

 North Puget Sound

Fishing: Mark-selective chinook fisheries should lure some anglers to the waters of central Puget Sound in mid-July. But until those fisheries start up, anglers in the region have other opportunities, including sockeye on the Skagit and Baker rivers, crab in the Sound and coho salmon in Marine Area 10.

"The resident coho fishery is not as hot as it was last year, but I've heard reports of anglers picking up some real nice fish," said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. "This fishery is a good opportunity for saltwater anglers before those selective fisheries for hatchery chinook salmon get going."

Beginning July 16, anglers will be allowed to keep hatchery chinook - marked with a clipped adipose fin - in marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton). Anglers in each marine area will have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release wild chinook. The chinook selective fisheries run through Aug. 15, or until the quota is reached.  

Thiesfeld reminds anglers to double-check WDFW's Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm) before heading out. "We will be closely monitoring and sampling these mark-selective fisheries," he said. "Our hope is to continue, and even expand, these fisheries. But that can only happen if anglers follow the rules and properly release wild fish."

When releasing salmon, anglers should keep the fish in the water and avoid using a net, Thiesfeld said. If a net is needed, use a rubber net or a soft knotless nylon or cotton net.

Thiesfeld also suggests that anglers:

? Look for the adipose fin while playing the fish, and use polarized sunglasses to reduce glare.

? Avoid the use of light tackle and play the fish quickly to reduce exhausting the fish.

? Modify tackle to reduce potential injury to the fish. For example, use circle hooks when mooching and only one hook on hoochies and bucktails.

? Use a dehooker to remove the hook.

? Cut the leader if the fish has swallowed the hook.

? Avoid touching or handling the fish, especially around the eyes and gills.

? Support the entire length of the fish if it must be lifted out of the water. Do not lift the fish by the tail or jaw.

? Gently place the fish back in the water. 

Anglers can find information on selective fishing and selective fishing techniques, as well as streaming video on how to properly release salmon, on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/selective/techniques/.

Elsewhere, the inner Elliott Bay salmon fishery got off to a slow start. "But it should pick up in the coming weeks," Thiesfeld said. Farther north, salmon fishing in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) has been hit-and-miss.

Meanwhile, the crab fishery is under way in marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9, 10, and the southern and eastern portion of 7. Fisheries in those areas are open on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule, plus the entire Labor Day weekend. See WDFW's sport-crabbing website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/) for more information.

Prefer shrimp? The coonstripe and pink shrimp fisheries are open in marine areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and the northern and central portion of Marine Area 7. For more information on the shrimp fisheries check WDFW's website at http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/shrimpreg/shrimpindex.shtml

In the rivers, the Skagit and Baker sockeye fisheries have been spotty, said Brett Barkdull, another WDFW fish biologist. "Fishing has been a little on the slow side," he said.

On the Skagit, the sockeye fishery is open from the Dalles Bridge to 200 feet above the east bank of the Baker River. On the Baker, anglers can fish from the mouth of the river to the Highway 20 bridge at Concrete. The daily limit on each river is two sockeye at least 12 inches in length.

Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all freshwater and saltwater fisheries in WDFW's Fishing in Washington pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm).

Wildlife viewing: Numerous sightings of common nighthawks have been reported in the region recently. Birders in the Seattle and Renton areas have seen - and heard - nighthawks during the early evening hours. Nighthawks, which have white bars across each long, pointed wing, are most active during dawn and dusk, when they forage for insects while in flight. The birds often migrate in large flocks, sometimes with thousands of other nighthawks. In western Washington, a small number of common nighthawks can be found from June into early September. East of the Cascades, the birds are fairly common in the Columbia Basin.

Elsewhere, birders at Marymoor Park in Redmond came upon a rare sight - a Least flycatcher. The flycatcher, which was spotted in the east meadow area of the park, is an uncommon visitor to western Washington. Although, east of the Cascades, Least flycatchers - the smallest flycatchers found in Washington - are often seen in Okanogan County. Other highlights of the birders' outing included a Hutton's vireo, a red-eyed vireo and a couple of brown creepers. South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Fishing:  Anglers enjoyed a successful kick-off as the coastal salmon season got under way during the first week in July.  Meanwhile, crab fishers dropped pots in Puget Sound, rockfish anglers have been catching limits along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and halibut anglers can take advantage of one more day of fishing off the north coast July 22.

Coastal salmon fishing got off to a fast start with anglers nearing their two-fish limit during the first days, but then dropped off a bit later in the week when the wind kicked up, said Wendy Beeghley, WDFW fish biologist. 

"So far, anglers are enjoying a more successful season than 2006," she said.  "We expected bigger coho returns to the lower Columbia River this year, which directly affect the ocean fisheries. Plus, the weather was great for the opener."

Beeghley said anglers off Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) were catching their limit of mostly coho, while the catch at Westport (Marine Area 2) was about two-thirds coho and one-third chinook. "The chinook are averaging about 18 pounds and the coho are about five pounds," she said.  On the north coast (marine areas 3 and 4), anglers were catching a majority of coho and averaging one fish per person in La Push and nearly one fish per person in Neah Bay.

Still, it's all about the weather.  "When the wind kicked up this past weekend, it was tough for anglers to get out," she said. "The forecast through July 12 isn't that great, but hopefully it will clear up soon so people can get back on the water."

Ilwaco is open daily for salmon fishing; Westport is open Sundays through Thursdays; and La Push and Neah Bay are open Tuesdays through Saturdays.  Beeghley reminds anglers that coastal salmon fishing will remain as specified in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm), or until quotas are met.

On the Strait of Juan de Fuca, creel checks off Sekiu (Marine Area 5) over the July 7 weekend revealed a mix of salmon.  At Van Riper's Resort 165 anglers caught 23 chinook, 31 coho and 53 pinks.  Near Olson's Resort in the same area, 183 anglers averaged one salmon for every three rods and pulled in 100 rockfish.  Meanwhile, 11 anglers checked at the Coho Resort in Sekiu each caught their one-fish limit during the one-day re-opening of the halibut fishery July 7. With enough halibut remaining in the quota, anglers will get one more day of fishing off the north coast this month. On July 22, fishing will be open on all waters in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay).

While results have been sporadic over the past week in Marine Area 11 (Vashon to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge), anglers switching between the Point Defiance Ramp and Boat House over the July 7 weekend averaged nearly a salmon per rod depending on time and location.  All fish caught were chinook.  Success has been more consistent for those fishing near the Vaughn Public Ramp, 20 miles north of Olympia in Case Inlet where anglers averaged about one fish for every two rods during the first week of July.   On July 8, 32 anglers in the area caught 12 chinook and one coho.

Anglers are advised to check the 2007-08 Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm for specific regulations before heading out.

Four additional recreational Dungeness crab areas opened July Fourth, including marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal).  These areas, including marine area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), are open Wednesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 3.

Crabbing is open seven days a week in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu) and 13 (south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge) through Jan. 2. 

"Preliminary reports from the eastern Strait, which opened June 27, are good, said Brad Sele, WDFW shellfish resource manager.  "But it's still too early to tell how the new areas are doing." 

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab with a shell width measuring at least 6? inches, plus six red rock crab of either sex with a shell width of at least 5 inches.  All undersized crab, female Dungeness crab and all softshell crab of either sex must be returned to the water.

Several new catch-reporting requirements are in effect this year:

? Two-card reporting system: All sport crabbers fishing in Puget Sound will be required to report their Dungeness crab catch on separate summer and fall/winter catch record cards during the course of the season.

? On-line reporting: For the first time, sport crabbers will have the option of reporting their catch via the Internet in lieu of mailing in their catch cards. The website address will be printed on the catch cards along with the reporting deadlines.

? No coastal reporting: Catch record cards are no longer required to fish for Dungeness crab on the Washington coast (marine areas 1-4).

The new catch record cards are available from license dealers throughout the state. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/index.htm.

Wildlife viewing: Many species of shorebirds are returning to Washington beaches from the Arctic, and can be readily found at Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, Dungeness Bay and on the outer beaches in the area.  "Large numbers of brown pelicans can be seen at the mouth of the Columbia River and the mouth of Grays Harbor," said Bill Tweit, WDFW policy advisor and avid birdwatcher.  "It's also the end of the nesting season in the higher elevations and lots of adults with freshly fledged young in tow can be observed when hiking in the Olympics, particularly in the alpine meadows."  Swallows are beginning to flock up in readiness for their flight south and can be seen in valley bottoms, particularly during cloudy mornings.

Starting July 11, the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, located north of Olympia off Interstate 5, will host the first of its Annual Summer Lecture Series. The lectures are free and are held every Wednesday evening through Aug. 29. For more information, call 360-753-9467 or go to http://www.fws.gov/nisqually

While many enjoy the refuge for its bird species, visitors can enjoy mammal sightings as well.  Recent reports included black-tailed deer, river otters, raccoons, long-tailed weasels, shrews, bats, rabbits and squirrels.

 Southwest Washington

Fishing:  The ocean salmon fishery got off to a fast start earlier this month, seizing the spotlight from fisheries for hatchery steelhead and other freshwater fish in the Columbia River Basin.  Starting July 1, anglers fishing out of Ilwaco were limiting on coho, and those further north also did well.  (See the South Sound/Olympic Peninsula report for more information on the ocean fishery.)

But with water temperatures rising into the upper 60s at Bonneville Dam, fishing for hatchery steelhead on the Columbia River and its tributaries was generally slow during the first week of July.

"Anglers have been working pretty hard for their fish," said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  "With a couple of scorchers in the forecast, it could get worse before it gets better."

During the week ending July 8, boat anglers average about one summer-run steelhead for every six rods in creel checks conducted below Bonneville Dam.  Bank anglers averaged one fish for every 12.6 rods.  Steelhead fishing also was slow in tributaries to the lower Columbia and in the Bonneville Pool, Hymer said. 

But Hymer does expect fishing to pick up in the weeks ahead as more upper river fish move into the fishery.  Nearly 1,200 summer steelhead were counted July 8 at Bonneville Dam, the highest number this year.  Hymer also noted that cumulative totals are keeping pace with the count last year, when a total of 330,000 upriver fish returned to the Columbia River. 

"Fishing for hatchery steelhead should improve throughout July and well into August," Hymer said.  "We're still on track for a good fishery."

"Bank anglers can do pretty well plunking in the mainstem Columbia," Hymer said.  "Unlike salmon, steelhead can often be found in less than 10 feet of water.  They'll often hold at the edge of a drop-off, but they usually don't go very deep.  Boat anglers have some advantages in terms of maneuverability, but steelhead are still basically a shallow-water fishery."

As in past years, only steelhead with a clipped adipose or ventral fin and a healed scar at the location of the clipped fin may be retained.  All adult salmon intercepted on the Columbia River downriver from Priest Rapids Dam must be released.  Anglers fishing the Columbia River and its tributaries are advised to check the Fish Hotline (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regions/reg5/hotline.htm or the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm) for additional regulations.

Hymer said most steelhead counted at Bonneville are "one-salt" fish, weighing four to six pounds.  By contrast, steelhead returning to tributaries of the lower Columbia River generally run upwards of eight pounds and have generally two or three summers in the ocean.  For reasons that are still unknown, returns of those fish to the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis river hatchery are down by two-thirds from last year, Hymer said.

But with warm weather in the forecast, Hymer suggests that anglers look for steelhead in the cooler waters at the mouth of the Cowlitz, Lewis and White Salmon rivers - as well as Drano Lake - where fish go to beat the heat.

Meanwhile, sturgeon anglers fishing the lower Columbia River from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Marker 85 have been catching some legal-size fish around Longview.  That area is open to sturgeon retention Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through July 31.  All other areas of the Columbia River downstream of the Wauna powerlines are closed to retention of sturgeon until next year. 

Anglers hoping to tie into a good-size trout might want to stop by Mayfield Lake sometime soon.  More than 12,000 half-pound rainbows were released from the Friends of the Cowlitz net pens into the impoundment June 30.  WDFW also planted 2,000 catchable-size rainbows in the lake July 2.  Mineral Lake got 3,000 rainbows the next day.

Wolf Dammers, another WDFW fish biologist, also recommends a number of other area waters including Riffe Lake, Skate Creek near Packwood, the Tilton River, and Lake Scanewa.  "Ocean fishing can be a lot of fun, but anglers can actually catch landlocked coho at Riffe Lake," Dammers said.  "Those looking to catch some trout have lots of options right now."

Wildlife viewing:  With temperatures rising and nesting season coming to an end for some species, area birders say they are working harder for their sightings.  "It seems that it is becoming harder to find birds," reported a visitor to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in a recent posting on the Tweeters birding website (http://www.scn.org/earth/tweeters/).

Warmer weather aside, the fact that an increasing number of species are through nesting has also made them less conspicuous, said Derek Stinson, a WDFW fish and wildlife biologist.  "Once they finish nesting, or feel more comfortable in their territory, birds are less likely to advertise their presence," Stinson said.

The Ridgefield birder did spot two remaining families of yellow-headed blackbirds nesting on Long and Quigley lakes, a male Bullock's oriole singing in a tree and five Swainson's thrush near the railroad tracks near the bridge to the reserve.  Meanwhile, another birder documented a number of purple martins nesting off Big Hanaford Road near the Centralia Steam Plant in Lewis County.  Purple martins are cavity nesters, and many were seen in snags pocked with woodpecker holes.

The availability of those cavities has been a major factor in the fortunes of purple martins, the largest swallow in North America.  Once common in Washington, the purple martin is now listed by WDFW as a candidate species of concern.  Their decline over the past 50 to 60 years has been attributed to the proliferation of European starling and house sparrows, which compete with purple martins for nesting space.  According to state biologists, there are now approximately 400 nesting pairs in the Puget Sound area and 200 more in the lower Columbia River Basin.  Most now nest in wooden boxes placed by the Purple Martin Society, WDFW and birders throughout western Washington.

 Eastern Washington

Fishing: Summertime heat is driving anglers to higher elevations and fish deeper. The north end of the region includes many small, deep lakes at higher elevation with somewhat cooler air temperatures that make for more comfortable fishing. "But you still need to fish very early in the day or late in the evening," said Curt Vail, WDFW district fish biologist in Colville. "The water is still warm and fish hide in deep, shaded water during the heat of the day. They're more actively feeding at night and into the early hours of morning when they can see better. So some of the best fishing is at night or just before dawn, when the skies are clear."

Davis Lake in Ferry County and Yocum Lake in Pend Oreille County are usually good cutthroat trout fisheries this time of year.  Summit Lake in Stevens County has nice rainbow trout and Elbow Lake just to the west has eastern brook trout. Elbow Lake, at just 48 acres, is best suited for float tube or shore fishing. At about 4,300 feet elevation, Big Meadow Lake west of Ione in Pend Oreille County is usually a good bet for reeling in 12-inch and better rainbows. The Little Pend Oreille chain of lakes, from Frater and Leo lakes in Pend Oreille County to Heritage, Thomas, Gillette and Sherry lakes in Stevens County, offer rainbows in the 10-inch range and tiger trout up to 14 inches. 

Catch-and-release fishing for rainbows over a pound is usually good in the evenings and early mornings at Starvation Lake near the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge southeast of Colville. In addition to being catch-and-release only, Starvation has selective gear regulations, which includes no motorized boats.

Many of the northeast district's fishing lakes within the Colville National Forest have U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and other facilities. For more information see http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/colville/forest/maps/.

The Pend Oreille River produces catches of large northern pike. The river is also a good bet for largemouth bass, especially from Ione to Box Canyon Dam, and smallmouth bass in the Metaline Falls area.

Although not at high elevation, Waitts Lake in southern Stevens County continues to be a good evening spot to catch rainbows and brown trout, plus some largemouth bass and yellow perch. Loon Lake, also in southern Stevens County, is producing limits of kokanee mostly in the evening.

Anglers are catching crappie and big channel catfish at Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line. Crappie have also been caught at Coffeepot Lake, northeast of Odessa in Lincoln County, along with rainbows and perch. Virtually all fishing in the central district of the region is only productive early mornings and late evenings, said Chris Donley, WDFW district fish biologist. "The usual good trout spots in Spokane County - Amber, Badger, Williams, West Medical - are all still producing catches, but only mornings and evenings in this heat."

Anglers can get a little extra out of their fishing license on July 16 at "Fish and Wildlife Night" at the Spokane Indians Baseball Club game against the Yakima Bears. All fishing or hunting license holders get a discount on game seats that night and fish and wildlife-related information and giveaways between innings. See http://www.spokaneindiansbaseball.com/ for more information.

Wildlife viewing: The combination of last month's precipitation and this month's heat have led to an abundance of bugs, and that means insect-eating birds, such as flycatchers, are also abundant. Flycatchers are medium-sized birds with large heads and flat bills that typically dart from a fixed perch to catch insects. Many are drab-colored with pale eye-rings and wing bars, like the willow, Hammond's and dusky flycatchers. Others are more striking, like the Say's phoebe, western kingbird, and western wood-pewee. All but the kingbirds, which forage more in the open, are not always readily seen. Swallows are usually always more visible, and are even more so now as fledglings join adult birds to learn the aerial acrobatics used to scoop up insects. Watch near waterways for groups of tree, violet-green, bank, cliff, northern rough-winged, or barn swallows. During evening hours watch for common nighthawks feeding on the wing, along with the most common insectivorous mammal, little brown bats.  

Hot, dry conditions can bring wild animals in search of food and water closer to people. Deer find irrigated vegetation tastier than dry fare, and cougars will sometimes follow the deer. Black bears also could be on the prowl for easy pickings if wild berry patches are spent. Be alert to the possible presence of these potentially dangerous wild animals. Enjoy them from a distance by giving them a wide berth. Avoid attracting them by keeping campsites tidy, storing food in wildlife-proof containers away from tents. More information about living with cougars can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/cougar/cougar.htm. Information about living with bears can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/blkbear/blkbear.htm.

Wildlife viewers are reminded to be especially careful with anything that could inadvertently start a wildfire, such as warm motor vehicles parked on dry grass, campfires or stoves, and smoking materials.

 Northcentral Washington

Fishing:  Art Viola, WDFW district fish biologist in Wenatchee, said the Columbia River summer chinook salmon fishing season that opened July 1 has been slow.  "The run this year is about two-thirds what it has been in the past three years," he said.  "It appears that the fish are very late in reaching the upper Columbia. On the opener not one fish was caught at Brewster. Now anglers have been catching a moderate number of fish below Wells Dam and in the Wenatchee area and fishing should pick up when more of the run moves into the area."

Bob Jateff, Okanogan district fish biologist, said that summer chinook fishing in the Brewster/Bridgeport area of the Columbia has started to pick up a bit in recent days.  "Average size of the adults has been 15 to 18 pounds, and a good number of jack salmon are being caught as well," he said. "As the fish counts continue to increase at Wells Dam, fishing should improve considerably."

Jateff also said the Methow River continues to run a little high, but anglers can still expect to catch both rainbow and cutthroat trout from 14 to 16 inches.  "Drift boats are a good way to fish the Methow now, but wading fishermen can get some good action on the two open tributaries - the Twisp and the Chewuch," he said. Jateff reminds anglers that selective gear rules and catch-and-release are in effect, and some areas in the Methow drainage are closed to all fishing. "Check the regulations first," he said.

Anglers are still catching trout at the Okanogan district lakes - both Conconullys, Spectacle, Wannacut, Alta, and Pearrygin.  Early morning and evening are the best times to fish once the warmer weather starts to increase water temperatures at the lowland lakes.

Bluegill and crappie fishing continues to be good at Leader Lake and yellow perch are being caught at Patterson Lake.

Wildlife viewing:  Scott Fitkin, WDFW district wildlife biologist in Winthrop, said bird watching is still excellent now in the Okanogan, particularly along some of the riparian corridors and upper forests.  "The Big Valley Unit of the Methow Wildlife Area and other portions of the upper Methow Valley along the community trail are very active with birds now," he said.  "The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area is also a good bet.  Deciduous forest birds such as the redstart, veery, Swainsons thrush, red eyed-vireo, and yellow warbler are very vocal just before sunrise."  A pair of barred owls have also been spotted repeatedly at the south end of the Big Valley Trail, Fitkin said. "Reliable reports of a northern hawk owl also have been coming in from Driveway Butte in the upper Methow Valley," he said. "This is a very rare occurrence in Washington this time of year, as this is normally a boreal forest breeder."

Fitkin also noted mule deer fawns are more mobile and visible throughout the district now. "Glassing irrigated pastures from roadside at dawn or dusk is the best bet for seeing them," he said. "Black bears can also be seen at upper elevations in avalanche chutes and open meadows, or on lower elevation slopes where service berries are ripening.  Again, early and late in the day are best times for spotting active animals."

WDFW Sinlahekin Wildlife Area Manager Dale Swedberg said two new hiking trails are being marked and constructed on the area. "One goes from Conner Lake to Forde Lake, a distance of about one mile, and the other goes from Forde Lake to the west side of Blue Lake and beyond for nearly seven miles," he said. "Both should be completed later this year and will provide great opportunities for wildlife viewing."

For more information on the Sinlahekin, including checklists of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies, visit


Hot, dry conditions can bring wild animals in search of food and water closer to people. Deer find irrigated vegetation tastier than dry fare, and cougars will sometimes follow the deer. Black bears also could be on the prowl for easy pickings if wild berry patches are spent. Be alert to the possible presence of these potentially dangerous wild animals. Enjoy them from a distance by giving them a wide berth. Avoid attracting them by keeping campsites tidy, storing food in wildlife-proof containers away from tents. More information about living with cougars can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/cougar/cougar.htm. Information about living with bears can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/blkbear/blkbear.htm.

Wildlife viewers are reminded to be especially careful with anything that could inadvertently start a wildfire, such as warm motor vehicles parked on dry grass, campfires or stoves, and smoking materials.

 Southcentral Washington

Fishing:  Jim Cummins, WDFW fish biologist, said access is good now to alpine fishing lakes in the South Cascades. Rainbow and cutthroat trout from last year's


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