Brace for winter and enjoy steelhead, razor clams, views of wintering wildlife

For Washingtonians, the start of the new year is prime time to hunt for ducks and geese, fish for hatchery-reared steelhead and enjoy the annual spectacle of bald eagles, snow geese, elk, big-horn sheep and other wintering wildlife.

For Washingtonians, the start of the new year is prime time to hunt for ducks and geese, fish for hatchery-reared steelhead and enjoy the annual spectacle of bald eagles, snow geese, elk, big-horn sheep and other wintering wildlife.

Winter storms are good news – up to a point – for waterfowl hunters, who welcome the surge of ducks and geese that comes with wet, blustery weather. Success rates for waterfowl hunters typically pick up when storms roll in.

“So far this season, waterfowl hunters have done well thanks to a series of storms that have blown through,” said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “That should continue into January, when more wet and windy weather is expected.”

But winter weather is an important consideration in other outdoor activities as well. Ice fishing is a dicey proposition in most parts of the state and heavy rains can render a river “unfishable” – even dangerous – virtually overnight.

“Preparation is essential for any outdoor activity, especially in winter,” said Mike Cenci, deputy chief of enforcement for WDFW. “Check the weather conditions, river conditions and road conditions – and let people know where you’re going before you head out.”

Good advice for those planning to dig razor clams on ocean beaches over the New Year’s weekend. The dig gets under way Dec. 31 and runs through Jan. 7 at select ocean beaches. More information on those digs is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html.

January is also a great time to fish for hatchery-reared steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula, squid in Puget Sound and whitefish in the Yakima, Naches and Cle Elum rivers.

Meanwhile, WDFW is reminding big-game hunters and Puget Sound sport crabbers that deadlines for reporting their harvest in 2014 are drawing near. Hunters have until midnight Jan. 31 to report their success in hunting deer, elk, black bear, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey during the past year. Those who file their reports by Jan. 10 will be entered into a drawing for one of five deer permits or four elk permits. Sport crabbers have through Feb. 1 to report their catch during the winter season.

For more information about the full array of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available over the next month, see the Weekender Regional Reports posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide current information about recreational opportunities around the state.

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