Youth/seniors bird hunts lead 2013 season

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 22, 2013 

Today is day two of a special weekend bird hunting opening for licensed youth under age 16, and a variety of birds are fair game. An opening reserved for senior pheasant hunters starts Monday, Sept. 23.

All hunters in this weekend's youth exclusive must be accompanied by an adult age 18 or older who is not hunting.

There is much Northwest Washington bird hunting ground, especially for ducks and geese, for this weekend's opening, but action, especially for released pheasants, probably will focus on these state fish and wildlife areas in Whatcom and Skagit counties:

? Lake Terrell Unit (Whatcom Wildlife Area), best for pheasants and waterfowl. It's west of Ferndale.

? Alcoa Intalco Unit (Whatcom), best for pheasants and some waterfowl, also west of Ferndale.

? Nooksack Unit (Whatcom), for waterfowling only, west-northwest of Bellingham.

? Samish Unit (Skagit Wildlife Area), for pheasants predominantly, west of Edison.

? Headquarters Unit (Skagit), best for waterfowl only, west of Conway.

? Smith Farm/Leque Island Unit (Skagit), for waterfowl only, west of Stanwood.

Ring-neck pheasants for the Saturday and Sunday youth upland hunts were released only on the Lake Terrell, Alcoa-Intalco and Samish Units.

Besides pheasants, for the youth hunt, forest grouse, doves (native mourning and Eurasian collared) and band-tailed pigeons (with special written authorization) are fair game, plus waterfowl (coot, ducks and geese). Quail and partridge species are huntable by young guns in Eastern Washington only, and common snipe everywhere are off limits.


Senior bird-hunters get a dedicated five-day opportunity for pheasants beginning Monday, Sept. 23, in advance of the fast-paced main Western Washington season that starts Saturday, Sept. 30.

The senior opportunity is open to Western Washington Pheasant Permit-carrying hunters age 65 and older.

Pheasants are the only game animal for which a basic hunting license is not required, but in lieu of it hunters must buy and carry a westside permit. For all other bird hunting a Washington small game license is required.

This hunt is for ringnecks only, and the same designated release sites stocked for the youth will be fortified with ample numbers of china-birds for this hunt.


All hunters should familiarize themselves with the latest regulations by downloading or picking up a copy of the 2013-14 big game and migratory bird pamphlets.

Especially keep in mind that legal daily hunting hours differ for pheasants (8 a.m.- 4 p.m.) and waterfowl (near sunrise to after sunset).

Also, when shooting game birds in virtually all state fish and wildlife department owned or managed lands, only non-toxic shot charged shells (usually with steelshot) can be used. Since the late 1980s, non-toxic shot charged ammo only can be used to hunt waterfowl anywhere.


There's now a new fully accessible waterfowling hid on the Lake Terrell Unit of Whatcom Wildlife Area, courtesy of Whatcom Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association, reports Whatcom Wildlife Area Manager Richard Kessler.

It is available exclusively for disabled hunters with state permits when arrangements are made ahead of time. To reserve it, call Kessler ahead of time at 360-384-4723.

For more details about it and other fully accessible waterfowl hunting blinds in state system, log onto

Club members say they're willing, with advance notice, to help disabled duck hunters who want to use the new hid this fall, Kessler said.

If WWA assistance is needed, let Kessler know when you reserve the hid and he will put you in contact with the waterfowlers group.

Overall, some 20 blinds are designated for waterfowl hunting on the Lake Terrell Unit and some could use a little refurbishment for the upcoming fall season. Kessler urges anyone willing to help to contact him and he will tell you where and what is needed.

This work can be done during the day anywhere between Monday and the opening of duck and goose season Saturday, Oct. 12.

Kessler says there are always small work details he can use volunteer help with on the more than 4,960 acres of fish and wildlife habitat under his care in Whatcom Wildlife Area.

He also reminds archers that with the arrival of the bird hunting season, the outdoor archery course of targets and its adjacent sight-in range on the Alcoa-Intalco Unit are now closed until next spring.

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

Post below on Website with a 'refer' in the published story.


The fully accessible hunting blind at Lake Terrell is the latest addition to the list of accessible hunting and fishing related facilities, joining a number of other Americans with Disabilities Act certified outdoor accommodations here.

Some others on the growing list:

? The state fish and wildlife fishing pier at Lake Terrell, open year-round and fully accessible.

? The boat loading facility at Lake Samish's state fish and wildlife public access off East Lake Samish Drive, to aid getting into watercraft.

? The lakeshore revetment on the northwest side of Lake Padden, a City of Bellingham parks facility, open for trout fishing through the end of October.

? The pier railing at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven, a Port of Bellingham facility, open for limited crab fishing on the west side from October to December.

? The Boyd Creek Interpretive Trail, a U.S. Forest Service access on Deadhorse Creek Road east of Glacier, open for fish viewing.

? The Boulevard Park South Bay trail pier, a City of Bellingham parks facility, open for fishing and crabbing.

? The Drayton Harbor fishing revetment and pier, a Port of Bellingham facility at Blaine, quite good for crabbing and open from October to December.


Recent rains should be cooling and refilling foothills and high country lakes and streams sufficiently to reinvigorate their trout, making catch and release a less perilous experience for the finny critters.

High temperature and low oxygen conditions can stress hook-stung fish, making their recovery after release problematic, so fall fishing is much preferable to summer efforts.

The early fall window always brings an upswing in forest and alpine lake trout activity before waters get too cold and the snow flies; therefore packing a fishing rod on a hunting trip now makes sense.

Northwest Washington offers a significant number of out-of-the-way waters from which to choose.

The trout in most of them should be considered vulnerable and in need of conservation by everyone who fishes them.

The secrets to finding these fish and winning angling strategies - not to mention their very existence - are closely guarded, especially by fishers who have already paid the price of admission to these gems.

There are, however, a few waters whose trout paradoxically are both quite numerous and finicky this time of year, so it's not a violation of fishing etiquette to reveal their whereabouts.

Several are accessible directly by vehicle, several have short hikes suitable for family fishing hikes and all will tolerate harvest of some trout.

That list includes:

-- Twin Lakes (upper and lower natural lakes) up Swamp Creek in the North Fork Nooksack River Valley is known for its stunted eastern brook trout. They can be tasty, though finger-food sized. The mountain road is exciting for the last mile and a half but will give you a tale of adventure you'll tell the rest of your life.

-- Bagley Lakes (both the lower reservoir and upper natural lake) at Heather Meadows Recreation Area, also known for their crystal clear waters and small eastern brook. Park and walk down from behind the ski area building (lower lake) or the upper warming hut (upper lake).

-- Blue Lake up the Loomis-Nooksack Road (FSRs 12 & 1230) on the west side of the Baker River Valley has eastern brook trout and maybe a brown trout or two. There's an easy half mile hike to this lake. A Northwest Forest Pass (Forest service) is needed here.

-- Canyon Lake east of Welcome on a tributary of the local Middle Fork, has abundant cutthroat trout that have eaten their way out of house and home and can withstand some cropping. It's still quite a road hike into these waters until the road is repaired. A Discover Pass for parking may be needed here.

-- Slide Lake east of Rockport in the Illabot Creek drainage has a robust colony of high-lake dwelling cutthroat trout that often oblige anglers of all ages. It's a long haul by forest road to the trail, but a relatively easy walk into Slide. A Northwest Forest Pass (Forest service) is needed here.

-- Cedar, Pine, Fragance and Lost lakes on state parks and recreation and fish and wildlife lands in the Chuckanuts all receive annual infusions of coastal cutthroat trout to sustain fisheries there. All now require the considerable legwork to get into and can withstand the extraction of a trout or two with some left over for the next angler. Remember to get a Discover Pass to support the state parks operation if you head up to Fragrance and Lost.

A host of other remote foothills and high mountain lakes here harbor trout worth pursuing, and for good and proper reasons, their names and exact locations should remain unspoken to protect their finny denizens from over-exploitation.

But if you do manage to come across and zero in on any of these lakes, you're very likely to be treated to a wonderful outdoors experience well worth the effort.

Typically smaller fly patterns and tiny fishing spinners and spoons work best and enable the gullible trout to be released with a minimum of fuss and harm to them.

Do leave the shore line cleaner than you found it, avoid disturbing delicate sensitive environs and take from its fish numbers only what you need. If that's not even a legal daily limit, so much the better.

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

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