Enjoy autumn’s bounty in the outdoors

The Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is hosting the BirdFest & Bluegrass Festival on Oct. 1 in Ridgefield. File photo
The Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is hosting the BirdFest & Bluegrass Festival on Oct. 1 in Ridgefield. File photo

The Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is hosting the BirdFest & Bluegrass Festival on Oct. 1 in Ridgefield

Before daylight wanes any further, it’s time to head outdoors for wild edible foraging and wildlife viewing; hunting or fishing; and possibly digging for razor clams on coastal beaches.

Fall is an exciting time around Washington to embrace the vibrant change of scenery, go on a nature hike or walk, and forage for wild edible foods.

Mushrooms are highly sought after in autumn especially as the first major rainfalls occur in October and early November and before the first frost sets in. When gathering mushrooms, the top priority is being able to identify what you’re picking before you dish it up to eat. Safety comes first, and nobody enjoys getting sick or even worse winding up in the emergency room.

Several popular fall mushrooms to gather around Washington are the fragrant Japanese pine (matsutake), golden chanterelles, king bolete, lobster, and oyster mushrooms. You can find helpful tips on mushroom gathering and identification by reading the WDFW Medium blog.

The Puget Sound Mycological Society has fall classes and workshops at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture. The Society’s Annual Wild Mushroom Show is Oct. 22-23 at Shoreline Community College. The event features more than 200 mushrooms on display, speakers, information on field trips and classes and you can even bring in mushrooms to be identified by experts.

There are other organizations offering seminars, field trips and classes on mushroom gathering. The Whidbey Wild Mushroom Tours are held Oct. 8 through Dec. 10; the Northwest Mushroomers Association in Bellingham hosts classes and events; and the Alderleaf Wilderness College has a wild mushroom identification course beginning Oct. 8 in Monroe.

Edible ferns, plants, roots, nettles, nuts, and flowers are available to gather year-round, and look for chickweeds and dandelion greens sprouting up this month.

Before venturing out to gather edibles you’ll want to clearly understand what is and isn’t poisonous or edible; cooking procedures; etiquette and guidelines like proper identification and research; correct licenses, limits, and rules (if applicable); techniques or tools used (especially when it comes to mushrooms); and being respectful of harvesting locations.

While out for a stroll in the forest or in the field be sure to take advantage of autumn wildlife viewing for a variety of deer, elk, migratory and resident birds, and other critters.

Find the best places for bird watching by exploring routes along the Great Washington State Birding Trail. The Audubon Council of Washington Event is Oct. 1-2 at Dungeness River Nature Center in Sequim and features guest speakers, panel discussions, and field trips. The Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is hosting the BirdFest & Bluegrass Festival on Oct. 1 in Ridgefield.

Other fun fall activities are the Issaquah Salmon Days in downtown Issaquah on Oct. 1-2; the Chelan Ridge HawkWatch Event on Oct. 1-27; the Farm to Table: Island Harvest Farm Dinner on Oct. 8 hosted by Island Harvest Farm and Rainbow Eats on Camano Island; the Kitsap Salmon Viewing Sites and Tours on Nov. 5 at various creeks and hatcheries across Kitsap County; and the Camano Island Chili and Chowder Cookoff on Nov. 12.

Fishing in the Columbia River and tributaries

The Lower Columbia River has reopened in previously closed waters downstream of Bonneville Dam and returns most areas to rules listed in 2022/23 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, beginning Oct. 1. Fall salmon fishing is also open in some sections of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam. Look for fall Chinook in the Hanford Reach area. The Cowlitz and Washougal rivers are now open for hatchery coho retention only. There are some exceptions to pamphlet seasons and be sure to consult the emergency rules webpage for updates or changes to fishing seasons.

Tentative coastal razor clam digs planned for October

Tentative coastal razor clam dates are Oct. 8-14 and Oct. 24-30 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis.

Expect an announcement by WDFW shellfish managers — usually a week prior to each series of digs — once marine toxin results from the Washington Department of Health (DOH) show razor clams are safe to eat. Digging is allowed during evening (p.m.) low tides only.

Marine toxin levels at Mocrocks beaches remain above the DOH’s health guideline level. The DOH requires two test samples taken 10 days apart, must fall under the health guideline level before a beach can reopen for razor clam digging.

The first digs of the fall/winter season occurred Sept. 28-30, and success was good on the opening night at Twin Harbors and Copalis and to a lesser extent at Long Beach.

Summer assessments conducted by WDFW show a strong razor clam population except at Kalaloch, which is closed for 2022-2023 season. The 2021-2022 season generated a record turnout of diggers and high number of razor clams harvested.

Additional tentative dates are planned in November and December.

Not all beaches are open for every dig, so diggers are encouraged to make sure their intended destination is open before heading out. The most successful digging occurs between one and two hours before the listed time of low tide.

For more information on daily limits, licensing, and other regulations, go to the WDFW’s razor clam webpage. The updated 2022-23 Razor Clam Management Plan is available on the WDFW’s website. Public comments on the plan will be accepted no later than Oct. 15 and may be emailed to razorclams@dfw.wa.gov.

Winter Dungeness crab fishing resumes Oct. 1

Several Puget Sound marine areas will reopen daily for winter recreational crab fishing from Saturday, Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.

They include east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (Marine Area 4), Sekiu-Pillar Point (Area 5), eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Area 6), San Juan Islands (Area 7), eastern side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2), northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (Area 9), and Hood Canal north of a line projected true east from Ayock Point (Ara 12).

Central and southcentral Puget Sound (Areas 10 and 11) will not immediately reopen due to uncertainties related to the amount of state share estimated to be taken in the summer recreational fishery. Managers will re-evaluate the harvest estimates from Marine Areas 10 and 11 after the Catch Record Card (CRC) reporting period closes and all data is entered to determine if enough quota remains to allow a winter fishery.

Hood Canal (Area 12) south of a line projected true east from Ayock Point, and southern Puget Sound (Area 13) will remain closed for the winter season due to the ongoing conservation closure of all crab harvest.

The daily limit in all Marine Areas will be five for Dungeness crabs, six for Red Rock crabs, and six for Tanner crabs. All Dungeness crabs retained during this time must be recorded on a winter catch record card. For more information, go to the WDFW crab webpage.

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