Director’s Bulletin | May/June 2024


It’s hard to beat living and recreating in Washington — especially in the summer. With the warming temperatures and longer days, it’s time to get outside and play.

Hiking boots? Check. Binoculars? Check. Verifying recreational regulations before setting out to enjoy public lands or waterways to ensure you’re safe and compliant? Let’s talk.

Let’s start with public lands. Be sure to check the correct website for where you’re headed and understand any local regulations. You should also check restrictions on things like campfires and target shooting to help reduce the risk of wildfires. Fireworks are always prohibited on WDFW-managed lands. Additional regulations can be found at our wildfire information page, and be sure to review any signs posted at your destination.

Think about dogs, too, and consider the impact your furry friend can have on local ecosystems. Dogs are required to be on leash on all WDFW-managed lands through July 31; you can read more at our blog.

Make sure to pick up a Discover Pass when recreating at Washington State Department of Natural Resources lands, State Parks, or WDFW-managed wildlife and water access areas (or display your Vehicle Access Pass at WDFW sites). The revenue from the Discover Pass supports the operations and maintenance of public lands. You may need a different parking pass when visiting federal lands. For information on state and federal pass requirements, visit our Life Outdoors webpage. Finally, leave no trace and pack out what you bring in by taking all garbage with you when you leave. This keeps our public lands in better shape for everyone.

Turning to the water, Washington has a diverse set of waterways from rivers, lakes, bays, inlets, and coastal areas that make it the go-to place to recreate and enjoy the great outdoors.

A reminder to those on the water that planning ahead and packing necessary safety items can help in case of emergency situations. The WDFW Police stay busy on the water conducting vessel safety inspections and participating in dozens of search and rescue responses throughout Washington. State Parks has a great summary of Washington’s life jacket laws. It is worth perusing and ensuring that you and your passengers are in compliance before pushing off from shore.

For those boaters playing in the marine waters of Puget Sound, keep an eye out for marine wildlife and in particular, give killer whales plenty of space. Southern Resident killer whales are an incredible sight to behold on the water — but should only be enjoyed from a distance.

Studies show that these endangered whales are sensitive to vessel disturbance caused by noise and proximity. Laws are in place to protect these animals, and require that boaters stay 400 yards in front of or behind and 300 yards to the side of the Southern Residents. This distance will expand to 1,000 yards in 2025, but early adoption of this distance is strongly encouraged.

Currently, boaters must also adhere to a 7-knot speed limit within a half-nautical mile of these animals, and must disengage their engines if a Southern Resident appears within 300 yards of their vessel. Visit to learn more about how to share the waters of the Salish Sea with wildlife.

For all scenarios, plan for the weather. Bringing plenty of water and sunscreen and avoiding being out in the hottest part of the day is good for humans. You’ll likely see more wildlife in the early morning or twilight hours, too.

Whether enjoying birding on a WDFW-managed wildlife area or contemplating life while staring at a bobber at sunset, we hope you take advantage of all that Washington has to offer this summer. Let’s enjoy it safely and responsibly.


Kelly Susewind, Director

Pod of transient killer whales in the San Juan Islands.

Topics in this message include:

Plan your summer fishing trip: 2024–25 regulations now available; new blog keeps anglers informed

The Washington summer recreational salmon fishing season is already open in several areas of Puget Sound, the coast, and Columbia River. Anglers can expect similar fishing seasons to last season, along with good opportunities in Puget Sound for an expected coho salmon forecast of more than 722,000 in late summer and fall. You can find the full 2024–25 Sport Fishing Rules online or pick up a physical copy at local outdoor retailers and tackle shops.

In addition, WDFW now has a wealth of information to keep the public better informed of salmon fishery-related topics and issues. The Salmon Daily Current blog will keep the public up to date on summer and fall salmon fisheries along with any in-season management changes. This campaign started with the Salmon Daily Digest blog during the 2024–25 North of Falcon salmon season-setting process in late winter and spring.

You can also learn about several factors in 2024 that necessitate careful conservation and management of the vulnerable Snohomish wild Chinook stock. For the two-part salmon season planner blogs, visit WDFW’s Medium page. You can refer to our WDFW North of Falcon FAQs and Glossary Information for helpful key terms and suggested resources. Read more about understanding Puget Sound fisheries management on our WDFW blog. Learn how WDFW works to set conservation-minded salmon seasons every year in our video “Sound Management: Conserving Pacific Northwest salmon through Cooperation” on YouTube.

Help protect Southern Resident killer whales during Orca Action Month

June is Orca Action Month, which is a great time to turn our attention to the endangered Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) population, which faces three key threats: lack of food, noise and disturbance from vessels, and toxic contaminants in the environment. WDFW is working to address all three of these threats, alongside many partners throughout Puget Sound.

This year’s Orca Action Month is focused on those toxic contaminants, which come from sources such as stormwater runoff, industry, agriculture, and polluted wastewater. Learn more about where toxics come from, how they accumulate in the environment, and how to reduce our personal toxic footprint around Puget Sound at our blog.

WDFW is also working to reduce the impacts of vessel traffic on SRKWs during the busy Puget Sound boating season. Beginning in 2025, boaters in Puget Sound will have to stay at least 1,000 yards from SRKWs, giving them the space they need to forage and rest. Expect much more on that effort over the coming months.

WDFW works year-round to conserve the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population, but it takes all of us doing our part to help recover these imperiled animals.

Counting ticks

Starting in winter 2024, WDFW staff started a multi-year project to capture and collar female moose in northeast Washington’s Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry, and Spokane counties. The project will provide information about the area’s moose, including survival, movement, pregnancy rates, and the potential impacts of winter ticks.

Winter ticks feed off their host over multiple stages of life (larvae to nymphs to adults) from fall through winter. With a serious tick infestation — thousands of ticks, all taking blood meals — an individual moose experiences significant blood loss and has to increase time spent grooming, leading to serious energy deficits, loss of fur, and in some cases, death. Excessive grooming also means less time eating and watching out for danger, including predators and vehicles.

Future years of this project will include additional captures and continued data collection in northeast Washington, and the knowledge gained will be used by wildlife managers to best manage this species in the face of significant threats like climate change and disease. Refer to our blog post for more information.

Hands-on learning: Beebe Springs hosts East Wenatchee students

In early May, WDFW staff planned and coordinated an outdoor classroom experience on the Beebe Springs Wildlife Area Unit for almost 300 third-grade students and more than 50 chaperones from East Wenatchee. Funded through the No Child Left Inside grant program, this experience was the first of three pilot outdoor classrooms that will serve students who have limited opportunities for outdoor experiences.

Although WDFW staff served as program coordinators, the pilot program is designed to be a culturally and ecologically diverse experience. Students rotated through stations led by community experts from the Cascadia Conservation District, Cascade Fisheries, The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington State Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and WDFW Lands Division staff.

Before visiting Beebe Springs, students spend the school year exploring connections between salmon and biodiversity in their science classes using the WDFW State of Salmon lesson bundle. This preparation laid the groundwork for their visit to Beebe Springs, where classroom knowledge met real-world application and students had the opportunity to learn from natural resource leaders of their community.

This program is just one of the ways our staff are helping the agency achieve public engagement and responsible environmental stewardship objectives in both WDFW’s 25-year Strategic Plan as well as our 10-Year Recreation Strategy and we look forward to continuing to invest in the next generation of fish and wildlife enthusiasts. In the coastal region, we have also been hosting a hatchery/school partnership that expands salmon lessons beyond the classroom.

Seeking feedback on habitats and landscapes in south central Washington

Washington public lands are experiencing rapid changes, including changes caused by population growth, development, climate change, and infrastructure, such as roads, wind turbines, and solar farms. These changes impact fish, wildlife, habitat, landscapes, and people who live, work, and recreate in these places.

Current Washington state adults (18 years and older) living in Benton, Franklin, Kittitas, and Yakima Counties are invited to participate in a short survey about their local habitats and landscapes.

This short, web-based bilingual survey (English and Spanish) will be open until Oct. 1, 2024. Refer to the survey for more information.

Fire restrictions in effect for Eastern Washington

If you’re visiting WDFW-managed lands in Eastern Washington this summer, there are a number of restrictions in effect to help reduce the risk of wildfire and support the safety and health of local communities. Starting July 1, the following activities are restricted on WDFW-managed lands in Eastern Washington:

  • Fires or campfires, including those in fire rings. Personal camp stoves and lanterns fueled by propane, liquid petroleum, or liquid petroleum gas are allowed.
  • Discharging firearms for target shooting or other purposes, aside from lawful hunting, unless otherwise posted. Target shooting is permitted daily from sunrise to 10 a.m. through Aug. 15 only at two Department shooting ranges:

— Methow Shooting Range, Methow Wildlife Area Unit
— Asotin Creek Shooting Range, Asotin Creek Wildlife Area Unit

From Aug. 16 through Sept 15, restrictions prohibit discharging firearms for target shooting on all WDFW-managed lands (including the previously mentioned target-shooting ranges) in Eastern Washington, unless otherwise posted.

  • Smoking, except in an enclosed vehicle. Do not throw lit cigarettes out your window.
  • Welding and operating chainsaws, including the use of an acetylene torch or other open flame.
  • Operating a motor vehicle away from developed roads. Parking is permitted within designated parking areas, including developed campgrounds and trailheads; and in areas without vegetation that are within 10 feet of roadways.

These restrictions are in effect until further notice; updates will be posted at WDFW’s wildfire information webpage.

Monitoring for invasive mussels ramping up; lesson plan on European green crabs

If invasive freshwater mussels take hold in Washington, officials estimate it would cost more than $100 million each year to keep our power and water infrastructure running, in addition to causing extensive ecological damage such as impeding salmon recovery and fish passage. $3.62 million in new funding from the State Legislature and federal partners that begins July 1 will allow WDFW to increase monitoring for harmful quagga and zebra mussels. Learn more in our blog post.

Quagga and zebra mussels are considered the most economically damaging aquatic organisms to invade the United States, and they showed up in Idaho last year. We also have information available on how to Clean, Drain, and Dry watercraft to avoid spreading invasive mussels.

On the aquatic invasive species front in western Washington, we published a new Wild Washington environmental education lesson plan for middle school students titled “Green Crab Alert: Invasion in Washington’s waters”. This “mini unit” is certified by the Office of Superintendent of Public Education and supplements the state’s OpenSci Education unit 7.5 Ecosystem Dynamics: “How does changing an ecosystem affect what lives there?”. Additional updates on trapping and management of invasive green crabs are available on our webpage.

Trout Derby continues

The annual WDFW Trout Derby continues through Oct. 31. Thousands of tagged trout are stocked in more than 100 lakes. Over 80 participating businesses are offering hundreds of donated prizes valued at more than $42,000. Refer to our website for more information.

King County man sentenced for big game poaching and trespass

Earlier this month, a King County judge sentenced 29-year-old Jason Smith to 80 hours of community service and fined him $8,000 for extensive illegal poaching activities. His illegal activities resulted in the deaths of four elk, four black bears, and five black-tailed deer in Western Washington.

The investigation began in 2021, when WDFW Police linked social media posts to the illegal killing of multiple elk. Over a year and a half, officers gathered evidence and the investigation culminated in a search warrant, where officers seized various wildlife parts, including meat, with additional parts retrieved from a taxidermist.

Smith’s methods included illegal baiting and trespassing onto private property. Smith frequently boasted about his exploits on social media, suggesting he should be featured on extreme outdoor TV shows. However, many of the animals he poached were baited into his yard or taken from his neighbor’s property.

“Smith attempted to portray himself as a type of outdoor celebrity on social media — when in reality, there was nothing ethical about his actions,” said WDFW Captain Dan Chadwick. “I commend our officers’ hard work and ingenuity in completing this case. They are committed to ensuring safe and ethical opportunities while conserving our big game natural resources.”

Recreational fishing license required for freshwater smelt, crawfish, and carp

A new law requiring Washington fishers to possess a recreational fishing or shellfishing license to fish for freshwater smelt, crawfish, and carp went into effect June 6, 2024.

Washington fishing or shellfishing licenses will be required to fish for freshwater smelt and crawfish. A fishing license is also required to fish for carp, except for Moses Lake and Vancouver Lake, where carp fishing is exempt from this requirement. Temporary licenses are valid.

Implementing a license requirement serves multiple purposes: it aids in regulation and monitoring of ESA-listed eulachon, also known as Columbia River smelt; increases compliance with rules regarding the retention of native and non-native crawfish; and helps enforce regulations against illegal fishing for ESA-listed salmon and steelhead in overlapping fisheries involving carp.

In an effort to increase awareness and compliance with this new regulation, WDFW rolled out a strategic communications plan in early June, which included a news release, website updates, community outreach, and various marketing efforts.

Additional information about the need for this license requirement as it relates to each species can be accessed on the smelt, crawfish, and carp webpages or in the 2024–2025 annual fishing pamphlet.

How we celebrated Pride this June

At WDFW, we’re committed to fostering outdoor spaces where all Washingtonians find belonging in fish and wildlife conservation. Historically, LGTBQ+ people have faced bullying, violence, abuse, mistreatment, and discrimination.

We continue to foster a welcoming space for all in Washington’s outdoors and ensure that our work at WDFW is inclusive for all the folks on our team. In alignment with this work, we participated with a booth at the following Pride events this June.

  • Pride Celebration at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park on June 22
  • Capital City Pride in Olympia on June 29

These events are just one part of a renewed WDFW effort to ramp up our visibility and availability in Washington communities, particularly at events where we can talk first-hand with people about fish and wildlife conservation and the important work we do.

Refer to our blog post for more information.



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.