Despite the winter chill, there are plenty of reasons to get outdoors during the holidays.
Seasonal fisheries are underway throughout the state, waterfowl hunting is in full swing and birders are gearing up for some prime viewing opportunities.
The following marine areas are open every day through Dec. 31 for recreational crabbing: 4 (Neah Bay, east and west of the Tatoosh-Bonilla line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet), except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.
The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches.
Crabbers may also catch six red rock crab of either sex per day with a minimum carapace width of 5 inches.
Crabbing will remain closed for winter 2018 in marine areas 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Vashon Island), 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (South Puget Sound).
Marine Area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) is open to salmon fishing. So is Marine Area 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gamble) with the exception of the Tulalip Terminal Area.
Anglers fishing these areas must release coho and wild chinook.
Lakes around the state have been stocked with catchable-size trout for anglers. Locally, Campbell, Grandy and Clear lakes received stockings in late October. Campbell and Clear each received 1,750, 1-pound fish while Grandy was stocked with 400 1.5-pound fish.
This month is a great time to hunt for waterfowl as wet and windy weather pushes birds inland.
Hunters can find sites to hunt ducks and geese through WDFW’s Waterfowl Quality Hunt Program, including properties in Whatcom, Skagit and north Snohomish counties.
Other waterfowl hunting opportunities (including reservation-only hunts) are available. Hunters should check the private lands access webpage for more information.
The late archery season for black-tailed deer runs through Dec. 15 in game management units (GMUs) 437, 448, 460 and 466, and through Dec. 31 in GMUs 407, 410-417, 419-422 and 454. Hunters using muzzleloaders can find opportunities for deer and elk harvests through Dec. 15. Muzzleloader and archery hunts for elk also continue in the region through Dec. 15.
The early cougar hunting season continues through Dec. 31 with hunters able to use any legal weapon. Some GMUs in North Puget Sound that provide such opportunities include 448, 450, 460 and 466.
The Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center near Rockport is open weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the last weekend in January. It also will be open weekdays Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Guided hikes and informative presentations are featured.
While some bald eagles live in the area year-round, the majority of those found along the upper Skagit River during winter months come from Alaska. Carcasses of spawned chum salmon in the Skagit provide a feast for the birds.
Thousands of snow geese congregate in the Skagit Valley each winter from mid-October through early May. A great place to view snow geese on weekends is at the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit of WDFW’s Skagit Wildlife Area. In addition to snow geese, birders may also spot raptors, eagles and hawks.
Birders throughout the country are making preparations for the 119th Christmas Bird Count, scheduled for Dec. 14 through Jan. 5. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists thousands of volunteers throughout America to count and categorize birds they see for science.
Unlike previous years, however, online registration will not be available. Count compilers will be taking tallies by e-mail.