Summer trout stream and lake fishing enters its stretch today, closing at midnight Oct. 31 in many waters.
As major hunting seasons come online in October, choices will become more difficult for outdoors enthusiasts.
LAKES AND STREAMS CLOSING
In general, Washington lakes and reservoirs are open year-round unless there's a good reason to have a shorter season.
The two main reasons for a seasonal suspension of hook and line efforts are when waters are on a hatchery trout stocking regimen or if a wild fish population will not sustain year-round catch-and-keep pressure. Unique environmental circumstances and species behavior also can warrant such closures.
Locally, seasonal lakes closing Wednesday, Oct. 31, include Whatcom, Silver, Padden, Toad and Cain as well as the major reservoirs Baker and Ross in central and eastern Whatcom County.
In Skagit County, gamefish angling stops at the end of October in the Puget Sound Energy reservoir Lake Shannon as well as the smaller lakes, Erie, Heart, Sixteen and McMurray.
For streams, legal guidelines are more complicated.
In greater Puget Sound and coastal basins this year, as has always been the case for salmon fishing, streams from Whatcom County to Pacific County now are closed at any time to sport game-fish angling unless they are explicitly opened by regulation. As a general rule, streams must have officially given names to make them eligible to be open, too.
These restrictions are designed to protect listed populations of native salmon, bull trout, steelhead and other trout species in lower- and mid-elevation sections of freshwaters flowing into Washington's inland marine and ocean waters.
Unfortunately, beaver ponds in Western Washington, with scant exceptions, also are closed unless explicitly opened.
You will find listings of streams where gamefish angling is permitted in color-coded sections of the Fish Washington 2012-2013 sport-fishing rules pamphlet.
Streams in basins emptying into the Pacific Ocean are in the green grouping, greater Puget Sound basin streams are in the yellow section, Southwest Washington (lower Columbia River) are in the purple set and Columbia Basin ported creeks and streams are found in the red highlighted gathering.
Trout fishing in explicitly opened streams generally runs from the first Saturday in June to the last day of October. There are exceptions (earlier closings especially on streams in Eastern Washington), so it is wise to look for the exact listing of the stream you wish to fish.
Around Western Washington, for lower mainstem river reaches and some smaller creeks, there is yet another digression. Many stay open through January, February, March or even April for steelhead fishing, which under companion rules means the catching and releasing of wild (non-clipped) winter-run steelhead or the landing and keeping of hatchery-origin (adipose fin-clipped) winter-run steelhead.
TAKE A DIFFERENT TACK
October anglers taking to sunsetting Whatcom County lakes won't have the fast and furious fishing of April's opening day, but that doesn't mean there won't be some pleasant and exciting surprises.
Unlike the spring's inaugural where still-fishing is highly rewarded, at this time of year prospecting (trolling deep and just off the bottom or fly-fishing along stretches of shore) for holdover rainbow and cutthroat trout as well as the fall's maturing crop of kokanee is the better choice.
The frenzied hatchery trout of spring are now more sedentary and perhaps even territorial. They've also learned to feed on a varied organic diet, from invertebrate insects and their larvae to smaller fish and occasionally even amphibians at various life stages.
Because of this focus, throwing or towing just any old flashing lure or pattern past them is not as likely to provoke a strike the way offering a lure that mimics something on their natural aquatic buffet will.
That is not to say that an old fashioned single salmon egg, thumbnail gob of eggs or garden-variety angler worm won't get a bite. They will if offered in a mobile fashion, drifting with the breeze or an occasional oar stroke.
With the breeding season now well past and water cooling, smallmouth and largemouth bass have changed their behaviors as well as, movements on a daily basis according to the dictates of weather.
Lake anglers, insofar as their terminal tackle is concerned, have more latitude than latter-day stream anglers do.
Creek and river fishers should reacquaint themselves with regulations for their intended October flowing waters, not only to see if they are open, but also for tackle restrictions set in selective gear rules.
Among other limitations, bait is banned, barbless single point hook use is required and some special handling of fish is mandated. Read the rules carefully.
SALTWATER HIATUS COMING
The summer saltwater salmon season in Marine Area 7 also pauses at the end of October before sliding into the blackmouth fishery.
However, for this last month of the summer fishery, except for the inner Samish Bay closure, all of its waters including Bellingham Bay and south Rosario Strait are open to the taking of salmon.
Bellingham Bay even has a two salmon a day bonus until Halloween.
Though November is an off month in northern inland waters, salmon fishers may legally shift their efforts to neighboring Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 and hone their salmon-catching proficiency straight through to the winter feeder chinook opportunity.
SOME LAKES STAY OPEN
Winter fishing on trout and warmwater species managed lakes here is not a well-attended function and not only requires substantial investments of fortitude, but a significant change in tactics.
Fishing the shoulder months of winter, November and March, and sometimes even in the darker recesses of December and January, can be rewarding especially if you like elbow room.
But fair-weather-turned-neophyte-foul-weather fishers will have a steep learning curve, experimenting with both lures and offering techniques, to bring very many off-season fish to hand.
Among waters staying open after Oct. 31 here are the breadth of upland forest lakes as well as named lowland lakes including Fazon, Samish, Mosquito, Terrell, Tennant, Wiser and Squalicum.
Remember that in the case of Terrell, Tennant and Fazon, by rule, fishing from floating devices is suspended for the waterfowl hunting season.
In Skagit and Island counties, both trout and warmwater species anglers can enjoy winter angling interludes on lakes Campbell, Pass, Cranberry, Whistle, Big and Grandy as well as the Seattle City Light reservoirs Gorge and Diablo.
HUNTS GET INTO FULL SWING
This weekend early primitive weapons seasons roll over with muzzleloaders getting their preliminary nine-day stanza following September's initial bowhunter offerings.
There is not as much pressure on these practitioners, since archery and blackpowder enthusiasts have a late season option starting near the end of November and ending on various December dates depending on the game management unit.
In early archery hunts, deer and elk options often run concurrently. However, muzzleloaders must differentiate between quarry during their early seasons, except for two overlapping days.
During these hunts typically, though not universally, primitive weapons hunters may bag either sex of deer or elk. However, gender bag rules do vary by GMU.
This year's statewide general deer hunt for modern firearms tag holders is from Saturday, Oct. 13, until Oct. 31 in Western Washington. Westside hunts generally target male black-tailed deer.
Eastern Washington general deer seasons for modern firearms run from Oct. 13 to Oct. 21 or 26, depending on GMU. These hunts focus on white-tailed and mule species.
In many game management units, hunters are bound to shoot only male animals with multiple antler points, allowing the younger or so-called spike bucks to escape harvest so they can enter the breeding population.
Limited late buck deer hunts for rifleers and handgunners are scheduled for November following the dates dedicated for elk hunts.
MORE BIRD SEASONS COMING
Now that September bird hunts including the statewide youth, Western Washington seniors' pheasant, early Canada goose, pigeon and dove hunts are over, the main 2012-13 bird seasons unfold as follows:
Forest (ruffed, sooty and spruce) grouse: Statewide season continues through the end of December.
Western Washington general pheasant: Season opened Saturday, Sept. 29, and closes at the end of November.
Western Washington California and bobwhite quail: General season opened Saturday, Sept. 29, and closes at the end of November.
Eastern Washington California and bobwhite quail with chukar and gray partridge: General seasons open Saturday, Oct. 6 and close in January.
Statewide duck, coot, snipe and goose (light and dark except brant): General seasons open Saturday, Oct. 13, and close near the end of January.
Eastern Washington general pheasant: Season opens Saturday, Oct. 20, and closes in January.
Pacific County and Skagit County brant: Seasons open in January on selected dates with the Skagit option contingent on population counts.
Swans (trumpeter and tundra), ptarmigan (all species) and desert grouse (sharp-tailed and sage): Seasons are closed statewide.
RAZOR CLAM OPENING SET
The first razor clam dig of fall/winter 2012-2013 season has been tentatively set for Oct. 13-18 on four of Washington's coastal beaches.
The schedule is as follows:
- Saturday, Oct. 13: Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks. Slack ebb (plus 0.3 feet) is at 5:41 p.m.
- Sunday, Oct. 14: Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks. Slack ebb (minus 0.5 feet) is at 6:26 p.m.
- Monday, Oct. 15: Long Beach, Twin Harbors. Slack ebb (minus 1.1 feet) is at 7:11 p.m.
- Tuesday, Oct. 16: Twin Harbors only. Slack ebb (minus 1.5 feet) is at 7:57 p.m.
- Wednesday, Oct. 17: Twin Harbors only. Slack ebb (minus 1.6 feet) is at 8:44 p.m.
- Thursday, Oct. 18: Twin Harbors only. Slack ebb (minus 1.4 feet) is at 9:34 p.m.
This set of openings are all evening digs, which means that unearthing the razors is legal on the indicated days only from noon to midnight each day.
With the maximum intertidal exposure coming after dark, diggers should carry some personal lighting equipment for this set of digs.
All diggers age 15 or older must have a short or longer term form of a 2012-13 fishing license, which allows the gathering of razor clams. They are available on WDFW's website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.
Under state law, each digger can take 15 razor clams per day, and must keep the first 15 clams they dig to prevent wastage. Each clammer's take must be kept in a separate container.
This and all subsequent openings are subject to a public health contingency requiring that marine toxin levels (PSP and ASP compounds) be below the 20 parts per million safety threshold in clam tissues.
Tests are done by the Washington Department of Health within a week before every set of digs.
Additional fall openings will be announced after the closing of the public comment period Tuesday, Oct. 9, and will likely involve the four aforementioned management sectors.
Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent, since 1983 has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that now appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at http://pblogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoors.