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Spring turkey general opener set for April 15

by John Kruse, Washington Outdoors Report
| April 9, 2021 1:00 AM

Spring turkey hunting, a reopening state park observatory and fishing for non-salmon species in the Columbia River are hot news this week.

Turkey hunting

The general opener for the spring turkey season is April 15. Traditionally, the best region to hunt is in Northeast Washington, but Southeast Washington around the Blue Mountains and Klickitat County in south-central Washington also offer good options.

Some of the best turkey hunting in our state is found on private land, but if you haven’t secured permission to hunt a gobbler on private property, you’ll want to give public land hunting a try.

As far as wildlife areas go, there are several good bets for turkey hunters. In Northeastern Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reports the “LeClerc Creek and Rustlers Gulch Wildlife areas usually have a good number of gobblers, as well as the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, where winter closure gates on the Bisbee Mountain and Trout Lake roads on the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area re-opened April 1st.”

Heading to Southeast Washington, the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area in the corner of the state, as well as the Asotin State and W.T. Wooten Wildlife Areas bordering the Blue Mountains, are worth hunting, as is the Soda Springs Unit of the Klickitat Wildlife Area west of Goldendale.

Whatever public land you choose to hunt, try to get there a day or two prior to the opener to pattern the birds and be in your spot to intercept them as they come down off their roosts in the morning.

Goldendale Observatory

Washington State Parks is set to reopen the Goldendale Observatory, perhaps the agency’s most unique park, on April 24. Don’t drop in on a whim, though. COVID-19 restrictions mean reduced opportunities until we move out of Phase 3.

For now, there are tours of the newly upgraded facility and the chance to view the sun through the observatory’s solar telescopes 2-4 p.m. each weekend.

For one of these visits, you will have to register online: https://parks.state.wa.us/512/Goldendale-Observatory.

Mid-Columbia fishing

The hottest fishing in the Pacific Northwest right now may well be in the John Day Pool of the Columbia River between Rufus and Umatilla, where the walleye and bass bite is on. WDFW creel checkers recently interviewed anglers in 68 boats who had caught 246 walleye, and some 25% of them were released.

Anglers in 13 boats fishing with 25 rods did even better going after bass. They caught 166 bass (that’s more than 6.5 bass a rod), with some 90% of those fish, primarily smallmouth bass, turned back into the water.

It’s definitely a good time to go fishing in this part of the Columbia, but watch the wind; it does tend to kick up in the afternoons and makes boat fishing very tough.