New month, new outdoor opportunities

March 4, 2018 GMT

Several fisheries are set to open in the weeks ahead, and the year’s first general hunting season will soon follow.

With a new season of outdoor adventures about to begin, Washingtonians may want to consider purchasing 2018-19 recreational fishing and hunting licenses before current licenses expire at midnight March 31.

In the meantime, outdoor opportunities are on the increase.

In the saltwater, marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gamble) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) are open to salmon fishing.

Anglers have a daily limit of one salmon, and must release wild chinook and coho.

Anglers can also consider targeting cutthroat trout and resident coho in Puget Sound.

Catch-and-release fishing for sea-run cutthroat picks up this month. Shoreline anglers often have success with chum fry patterns and small spinners during tidal changes near rivers and on beaches.

As spring approaches, lowland waters will begin to warm, providing good fishing for bass (smallmouth and largemouth), panfish (yellow perch, pumpkinseed, rock bass, bluegill) and catfish (channel and brown bullhead).

Locally, Samish and Cavanaugh lakes should be prime fishing spots for spring kokanee.

And with spring on the horizon, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program wants boaters to be prepared for the upcoming season by taking a safety education course.

In Washington, boaters who operate vessels with 15-horsepower engines or greater must be certified and carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course.

Boaters have three options to get certified: an instructor-led course, an online self-study, or a home study and equivalency exam for those with boating experience.

Back on land, deer and elk hunters have until March 31 to enter a drawing for a 2018 multiple-season permit, which can greatly increase opportunities for success in the field.

In mid-April, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife will award 8,500 multiple-season deer permits and 1,000 multiple-season elk permits.

Those whose names are drawn will be eligible to purchase a special tag allowing them to participate in archery, muzzleloader and modern firearm general hunting seasons for deer or elk in 2018.

The deadline to purchase the multiple-season tag is July 31.

If you purchase an application but are not selected in the April drawing, you may be eligible to buy any unsold multiseason tags on a first-come, first-served basis.

Birdwatchers have an opportunity to take part in the Wings Over Water birding festival March 16-18 in Blaine, Semiahmoo and Birch Bay. The festival will feature wildlife viewing field trips, speakers and family-friendly activities.

The annual gray whale migration is underway and whale watchers could have several opportunities in March to spot the large marine mammals.

The whales are making their annual journey north from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, where they spend the summer feeding before heading south again.

While most continue on to Alaska, some gray whales linger in the waters of the Pacific Northwest during the spring and summer months, dipping into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and other areas of Puget Sound.