Director’s Bulletin | March/April 2024

Habitat loss. Climate change. Invasive species. As the director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), I certainly don’t see a shortage of threats that impact fish and wildlife resources and our ability to conserve them.

A cross-cutting issue that will affect our ability to be successful across these fronts (and more!) is whether we, as a state fish and wildlife agency, will be relevant to the people we serve.

If people don’t care about fish and wildlife conservation, then why fund and authorize an agency to lead these efforts? If there isn’t public support for species recovery, habitat protection, enforcement of fish and wildlife laws, wildlife area maintenance, or the furtherance of sustainable, science-based, and regulated hunting and fishing opportunities, the laws that direct these efforts could be altered, and the appropriations to do the work will dry up.

That is why, in this biennium, in addition to hiring experts to address the direct threats to fish and wildlife listed above, I have also significantly invested in resources to communicate and engage with the public about the importance of fish and wildlife, how these resources benefit our quality of life, and what we can all do to contribute to conservation.

Conservation typically doesn’t occur at a broad, landscape scale; it occurs at the local level — at specific points on a map. I have established communication specialists in each region. They will be conduits to the media and local communities about fish and wildlife challenges in their area. I have also hired subject matter expert communication specialists to convey fish and wildlife science and WDFW management decisions to the public we serve.

We know communication is a two-way street, so we’re ready to listen. We’re striving to be more visible and available at outreach events. We plan to not only increase our capacity at our traditional forums, but also be present and available in new community spaces to talk about fish and wildlife conservation and the work that we do. In this past year, we have attended 135 of outreach events, connecting with more than 32,000 residents — a staggering level of engagement that only has more room to grow. For most of our public meetings, we’ve adopted a hybrid approach to make it easier for residents statewide to engage in our planning efforts and Commission proceedings.

We are also investing in outreach and education. I have a small but mighty team that highlights wildlife viewing, how to do so responsibly, and how to develop and foster wildlife habitat in your home space and community areas. In addition, I have staff developing fish and wildlife curriculum that supports Washington state academic learning standards for students in grades K-12. We are working with regional educational partners to incorporate lessons about salmon habitat needs and threats, invasive species, and other relevant topics in schools across the state.

I’m looking at ways to enlist social science as part of our management toolbox to develop informed, durable decisions that account for the diverse values of the communities we serve. I have hired a natural resource economist to help us analyze the costs and benefits, including both financial and non-market values, of the choices and management options before us. I’ve hired an environmental justice coordinator to ensure that we’re considering how our actions impact underserved communities and how we can best engage all Washingtonians. We are expending resources to not only translate our final documents into the languages our communities speak, but also translating draft documents to be more inclusive in our decision-making processes.

Our hunter education, marketing, and recruitment/retention/reactivation (R3) teams are busy introducing people to hunting and fishing through classes, seminars, and monthly how-to content featured on In 2023, our dedicated hunter education coordinators worked with our 1050 volunteer instructors to certify almost 11,000 hunter education graduates in safe, ethical, and legal hunting practices. This past year, they also staffed 19 family fishing events that introduced fishing to over 5,000 youth.

We’re passionate about what we do, and we recognize we are not going to be successful without your engagement. Thus, I want to close with a request — come visit with us. Take a look at our event calendar and join us at a Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, engage in the discussion at a Department townhall or listening session, or stop by our booth at a community event. I invite you to review and participate in our planning efforts and comment periods. If you have a question, call our knowledgeable customer service staff, see us at a regional office, or visit with an officer in the field. Learn about our volunteering opportunities. We welcome you in this important work.


Kelly Susewind, Director

Spring in the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area.

Topics in this message include:

North of Falcon update

The 2024–2025 North of Falcon salmon season setting process concluded on April 11. Our top priority during this nearly three-month process is to be thoughtful, thorough, and transparent in our work to make the best decisions using the best available science with the close cooperation of tribal co-managers, other state and federal fishery managers, constituents, stakeholders, and the public at large. We understand anglers plan their summer and fall salmon fishing trips months ahead. WDFW works hard throughout the year to develop sustainable seasons that maximize fishing opportunities and strives to meet conservation goals to aid the recovery of salmon and steelhead, including constraints under the Endangered Species Act. To increase public interaction, WDFW hosted its first-ever Puget Sound salmon town hall meeting on Jan. 30 along with the Salmon Daily Digest blog to provide key information throughout the process. We have also recently shared details on rivers where popular fisheries will be closed or limited, including in the Snohomish Basin. You can find more information on our North of Falcon webpage.

Bird watching etiquette

A sage grouse displays it’s plummage and dances to attract a mate.

With spring here, many of us are eager to get out and see the birds that are either migrating through the area or engaged in their annual mating rituals. If you plan to go birding, please be considerate of others and avoid some activities that can disturb birds and frustrate humans who live near their habitat. Here are some tips for practicing good bird watching etiquette this spring.

Upgraded version of Fish Washington mobile app

The Department launched an upgraded version of the Fish Washington mobile application (app) now available to download on both Apple iOS and Android devices.

Following a testing process in winter 2024, the new version is designed to run more smoothly while using less data and device memory. Developers completely rewrote the app’s code, which now features a single code base for both iOS and Android platforms. This means a smaller app size, less frequent updates, and fewer bugs.

Other improvements include location-enabled United States Geological Service (USGS) river gauges, more consistent emergency regulation delivery, and map upgrades. The new version will show the full water body name and description on emergency regulation cards. With a data connection, the app also includes National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) tidal predictions for marine waters and portions of the Columbia River, as well as river gauges from multiple data providers. Learn more in our news release.

Know what to do during spring wildlife encounters

Photo by Rheajean Walker.

Wildlife behavior can change in the spring, and it’s important to know what to do if you encounter wildlife on your property, in your neighborhood, or while spending time on public lands.

Each spring, black bears emerge from winter dens and begin their search for high-calorie meals. It isn’t uncommon to see a bear in developed areas where they are drawn to attractants like garbage cans, pet food, or birdseed. Washingtonians can protect themselves, protect their property, and protect wildlife by preventing bears from becoming habituated to non-natural food sources. Please visit our blog to learn how you can do your part to keep bears wild.

This time of year, you might also see young wildlife as spring ushers in nature’s new beginnings. What happens, though, when you find wildlife offspring alone, with no adult to be found? What do you do? Should you intervene? More often than not, the answer is “no.” Just because wildlife babies are alone does not mean they need help! Learn more about wildlife offspring you may encounter, and when you should (or shouldn’t!) intervene, on our blog.

Columbia River salmon management videos

Anglers at sunrise on the Upper Columbia River near Hanford Reach.

Managing Columbia River fisheries is a complex, science-based process. In March, WDFW published two new videos that spotlight the details of managing these fisheries. The videos explain how the Department balances the river’s fish stocks and ecosystems while providing sustainable fishing opportunities.

The first video covers the Columbia River’s social, economic, and ecological importance to the Pacific Northwest. The second video explains how WDFW managers and scientists go through the annual management cycle for non-treaty commercial and recreational fisheries, and how balancing the needs of commercial fishers, recreational anglers, and Columbia River treaty tribes adds complexity to the management process. Learn more by watching the videos or reading our Medium blog.

Reduce toxic contaminants to help preserve Puget Sound wildlife

Toxic contaminants build up on roadways and wash down storm drains to be carried to Puget Sound.

Toxic pollutants are a threat to wildlife, and when polluted surface runoff or wastewater outflows enter waterways the health of salmon and other aquatic species is at risk. Toxics that concentrate in fatty tissues of predators are especially harmful to endangered Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW). Persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs are among the biggest threats the SRKW face, affecting their immune system and ability to reproduce. WDFW’s Toxics Biological Observation System (TBiOS) team monitors toxic contaminants in Puget Sound to help inform agencies and regulators work to reduce, remove, and remediate toxic impacts. Learn more about the types of toxic pollutants and their impacts on the WDFW blog.

New long-term shrubsteppe strategy

WDFW, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and the Washington State Conservation Commission recently rolled out a new 30-year strategy to guide conservation of Washington’s imperiled shrubsteppe landscape. With up to 80% of Washington’s shrubsteppe habitat degraded or lost due to fire, invasive species, land-use conversion, and other threats, this new strategy is critical to provide common guidance to protect habitat and wildlife while supporting working lands and communities across the shrubsteppe landscape in Washington. Development of the new strategy was accompanied by an extensive mapping effort that sheds light on the current status of shrubsteppe across Eastern Washington. To learn more, visit the Washington Shrubsteppe Restoration and Resiliency Initiative (WSRRI) webpage.

Wildlife diversity grant funding

WDFW is accepting grant applications for up to $200,000 in funding for projects designed to benefit some of Washington’s most imperiled wildlife. The Wildlife Diversity Grant Program aims to support recovery actions for a suite of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) that are state-listed or candidates for listing. Grant funding can also be awarded for projects aimed at collecting data and information on species abundance, distribution, and habitat associations with priority for those whose habitats are under significant threat of incompatible development, land use, or resource management. Funding for the Wildlife Diversity Grant program comes from a significant investment by the state legislature to restore and protect biodiversity in Washington, and the Department expects this funding to be available in future biennia to continue this grant program.

Grant applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 5. We will not accept any late applications out of a commitment to fairness to all other applicants and screening deadlines. WDFW will review and evaluate submitted grant proposals this spring and notify applicants of a decision regarding their proposal by May 30.

Spring shellfishing opportunities abound, from clams and oysters to shrimp and coastal crab

Spring is arguably the best time of year to gather fresh Washington shellfish; from the coast to Hood Canal and Puget Sound. Daytime low tides make gathering a fun, often family affair, and typically cold, clean water means healthy, delicious shellfish. Learn about recently announced 2024 shrimp fishing dates in Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Hood Canal. Or visit our news release for information on 2024 clam, mussel, and oyster gathering seasons and beaches.

Tips for shellfish gathering and more information are also available on our webpage. And don’t forget to check the Washington Shellfish Safety Map before gathering bivalve shellfish! WDFW and Washington Department of Health test shellfish beaches regularly for biotoxins and water quality. In other shellfish news, razor clamming continues on the coast, with excellent digging reported in April. WDFW’s Shellfish unit also recently updated our recreational crab fishing webpages, including new pages with tips and rules for crabbing in the Puget Sound and Coastal management areas.

Trout Derby

Each year, the lowland lakes opener and trout derby are popular with people of all ages and backgrounds. Both events kicked off on April 27 with thousands of anglers throughout the state participating in a great day of spring fishing. WDFW stocks millions of trout in lakes throughout the year, and opening day marks the first-time people can fish many of those lakes for the catchable trout planted every winter and spring.

This year, the annual statewide trout derby boasts more than 800 donated prizes worth more than $42,000, which anglers can claim by catching tagged trout in lakes across Washington. More than 100 lakes are stocked with prize fish in 2024. The hard work of fish and hatchery staff along with the generosity of our vendors continues to make this annual event a success. Learn more about the opening day and the trout derby in our news release and derby webpage.

Removing invasive pike after illegal introductions on San Juan Island and in Lake Washington

WDFW Fish Program and Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) unit crews removed nearly 30 invasive northern pike in March and April after illegal introductions on San Juan Island and in Lake Washington. Highly aggressive predators, in Washington northern pike (Esox Lucius) are a harmful non-native fish classified as a prohibited aquatic invasive species. If anglers catch pike in new areas, WDFW asks that they kill the pike immediately and do not release it, take a photo, and report it by calling 1–888-WDFW-AIS, email at Under Washington regulations, prohibited invasive species may be killed and retained if the person is certain about species identification and assumes responsibility for correct identification and adherence to state rules and fishing regulations. The State Legislature provided $700,000 in funding earlier this year for predatory fish suppression and monitoring in Lake Washington. In coordination with the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, WDFW will continue netting targeted areas of the large lake to remove pike, walleye, and other non-native fish that feed on young salmon. Learn more in our news release.

Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, celebrated internationally on April 22, WDFW participated in several events statewide. At Scatter Creek Wildlife Area, staff and volunteers removed invasive vegetation such as Scotch Broom to improve habitat for the hoary elfin butterfly and other species. Lakeside in Lacey, Yakima, and Kennewick, young anglers learned how to fish safely and responsibly at kids fishing events. Participants learned about the impact plastics have on our environment and wildlife along with ways to reduce plastic usage and properly recycle plastics at Fort Flagler State Park together with WDFW and Washington State Parks. Our Earth Day blog post shares more ways to support a healthy environment for communities and wildlife year-round.

Spring turkey season

Photo by Sally McKerney.

The spring turkey season is a great opportunity to introduce new participants to hunting. Calling male turkeys in the spring allows hunters to interact with wildlife in a very thrilling way. The April 1–7 youth-only season is over for the year, but the long general season runs April 15 — May 31. Refer to The Basics of Turkey Hunting and our Turkey Takeover blog series for helpful information for new turkey hunters. WDFW, along with partner organizations such as First Hunt Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation offers mentored hunts to new turkey hunters and other valuable information. WDFW’s First Turkey Program offers first turkey certificates to first time harvesters, who can also register their turkey with the National Wild Turkey Federation to receive an official First Turkey pin. Check out the spring turkey seasons and regulations. Hunter education or a hunter education deferral is required for new hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972.

Special hunts: Get the most out of your seasons

Special hunting permit applications are available annually for deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, moose, and wild turkey, offering fantastic, quality hunting opportunities around the state. There are nearly 900 special hunts to choose from across dozens of categories and five big game species plus wild turkey. Applications available until May 15, 2024.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.