Rob Phillips: Spring hunting, fishing seasons in full swing | Outdoors and leisure

This is the time of year when there is plenty to do in the outside world of the Pacific Northwest. Turkey hunting season is well underway and there are all sorts of options and opportunities to catch a fish or two.

First, fishing. Almost all lakes in our area and all of Washington State are now open for trout fishing. The lakes around the Yakima and Kittitas valleys were stocked with trout in late April, and more trout will be planted in the lakes in the future.

If you want to know when and where the trout will be stocked, just check the Region 3 section of the Department of Fish and Wildlife website. It is very useful with a lot of information.

As the waters of the Columbia River and reservoirs around eastern Washington begin to warm, walleye and bass fishing will resume. Reports from guides who have worked on the Columbia near Umatilla and below John Day Dam show that they have very productive days for walleye.

The same goes for walleye fishing in the Upper Columbia, in the waters just below Grand Coulee Dam and in Lake Roosevelt. Banks Lake should also start to warm up for walleye and bass.

Kokanee fishing in Roosevelt can best be described as spasmodic. The fish are of good size but seem few. And trout fishing has also been intermittent.

Anglers looking for a good bite of kokanee should head to Lake Chelan. The fishing there has been very good and this year landlocked salmon are up to 15 inches in length. Additionally, anglers occasionally catch Chinook salmon.

Speaking of chinook salmon, the spring salmon run on the Columbia has been gaining momentum over the past week, giving anglers a decent chance of catching some bright, beautiful chinook. The hotspots for fishing were on the Willamette near Portland, at the Wind River near Stevenson and at Lake Drano.

With runs reaching four figures for several days in a row, you can bet there will be plenty of anglers in these spots trying to catch a big spring chinook.

As you read this, I’m on a salmon fishing marathon, fishing seven days out of the last eight. The fishing was pretty consistent and we got some nice big springers in the boat.

Besides the sockeye salmon that return to the Columbia in mid-summer, spring chinook are the best salmon of the year, prized for their beautiful bright orange flesh.

The winter blast we had a few weeks ago and the cool temperatures made the early days of the spring turkey hunting season difficult. Some hunters found up to two feet of snow in their favorite hunting spots in the high elevations of Klickitat County and north around Colville.

Still, if you believe Facebook (and you have to, right? It’s Facebook) by the photos posted, many hunters have had good success, with some fulfilling their two spring turkey tags.

Birds generally follow the snow line up the mountain, looking for fresh shoots of plants, insects and other things to eat during the thaw.

Early season toms are not as educated, but hunting later in the season can be just as good, if not better, as most hens sit on nests, and toms can be sensitive to calls when they are looking for hens that haven’t been bred.

Another advantage of hunting later in the season is that there are fewer hunters in the woods. Some have completed their beacons, while others have moved on to other activities.

The turkey season lasts until the end of this month.

Fall hunting seasons are still at least five months away, but now is the time to start planning those hunts. The WDFW has opened applications for special big game hunting permits. All permits are issued by special lottery.

The new hunting regulations are now available online on the WDFW website and will be available in print within the next two weeks. Applications for special permits are available now, either online or through local dealerships. Applications for special permits must be submitted before May 19. The results will be available in early June.

There is a cost to apply. Special hunting license applications cost $7.10 each, and very special hunting applications for “quality” hunts cost $13.70 per application.

Earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved special permit numbers offered by regional biologists. A quick look at the numbers shows that there will be more special permits for female elk in our area, but for other species there will be fewer permits.

Get your special hunting apps, then forget about them for a month and try filling out a turkey tag or two, or catch some of the nice fish available right now. It’s a good time to be outdoors.

Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who wrote the Northwest Sportsman column for over 30 years. He can be reached at