Archive for October, 2009

Tacoma Power, WDFW Unveil Cowlitz Hatchery Production Tweaks

October 30, 2009

Win, lose, draw.

There’s a little bit of everything for Cowlitz River anglers in the proposed changes to hatchery salmonid production unveiled by Tacoma Power and WDFW last night in Centralia.

Spring Chinook smolt releases could rise by over 330,000 and summer steelhead by 150,000 under the various alternatives.

Fall king releases could also rise from 5 million to 5.3 million — or drop to 3.2 million. And late winter steelhead releases may drop by some 70,000 or bump up 37,000 from 363,000.

Sea-run cutthroat trout levels may remain at 157,000 a year — or be cut almost in half. But coho production would drop from 1.8 million to 1.1 mil, and early winter steelhead releases could be done for all together.

The proposals are part of an update to Tacoma Power’s fisheries and hatchery management plan for the big Southwest Washington river. Under an agreement on operating the Mayfield and Riffe dams, smolt production is to be cut 20,000 pounds to 650,000 a year, which is reportedly 35 percent lower than it’s been in peak years.

Mark LaRiviere, Tacoma Power’s senior fisheries biologist, says the goal is to recover natural-origin fish populations, while WDFW regional fisheries manager Pat Frazier says that conforming with ESA requirements for listed species in the basin is driving the state’s actions.

The next step, according to LaRiviere, is for the Fisheries Technical Committee — made up of state, federal and tribal agencies, sport and guide groups and others — to give a final recommendation on release levels.

That will be put into an update of Tacoma Power’s existing plan and forwarded to FERC, the federal department that oversees dam licensing.

FERC will also hold public meetings on the updated plan, and could approve, reject or amend it, LaRiviere says.

If the plan speeds through the process, there’s a possibility broodstock collections could be affected as early as next fall, he says, but perhaps not until fall 2011.

Anglers wouldn’t see differences in fish numbers for several years after that.

“The actual affect on adult runs would be three or four years out,” says LaRiviere.

While LaRiviere was happy with discussions with the 45 or so people who turned out last night, Eric Schwartz of the Centralia Chronicle reports that anglers fear what will happen to the Cowlitz’s solid runs of hatchery salmon, steelhead and trout.

“The way they’re going and what they’re saying, they’re heading to eliminate (hatchery) production altogether,” Don Glaser of Barrier Dam Campground just below Mayfield Dam told Schwartz in an earlier article.

For updates — LaRiviere says there’s likely to be another public meeting on the Cowlitz in early 2010 — watch cowlitzfish.net.

Aberdeen: Wolves Unwelcome

October 30, 2009

According to The Daily World, wolves aren’t wanted in the greater Grays Harbor area.

WDFW officials heard that message in Aberdeen last night during another of the dozen public-comment meetings they’re holding around the state on the draft wolf management plan.

However, two audience members offered their opinions that wolves would aid salmon recovery, and that nonlethal control methods should be considered as more packs come to Washington, according to the paper.

There will probably be more support for wolf recovery at the next opportunity for public comment too. It’s slated for Monday night at REI, 222 Yale Ave. N., from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Other upcoming meetings include:

Mount Vernon, Wednesday, Nov. 4, Cottontree Inn Convention Center, 2300 Market St.

Sequim, Thursday, Nov. 5, Guy Cole Convention Center at Carrie Blake Park, 212 Blake Ave.

Omak, Monday, Nov. 9, Okanogan County Fairgrounds Agriplex, Highway 97 South.

Wenatchee, Tuesday, Nov. 10, Chelan County PUD Auditorium, 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.

Mid-Columbia Sturgeon Meeting

October 30, 2009

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

A public meeting will be held Nov. 12 to discuss proposed fishing rule changes for sturgeon populations in the McNary Reservoir (Lake Wallula) and the John Day Reservoir (Lake Umatilla).

Specifically, the meeting will include discussions of:

  • New sturgeon rule changes proposed for McNary Reservoir that include reducing the number of months that sturgeon can be harvested, and establishing new sanctuary zones below Ice Harbor and Priest Rapids dams.
  • Options for lengthening the sturgeon sport fishing season in the John Day Reservoir.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12 in the conference room near the visitor center at McNary Dam.

Fishery managers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will present information on the McNary Reservoir rule changes.  New conservation measures have been proposed to prevent overfishing that sturgeon population and to protect its broodstock.

In the John Day Reservoir, fishing pressure has shifted earlier in the season, resulting in shorter seasons.   Fishery managers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and WDFW will present information on season options designed to provide a longer fishing season under the available harvest guideline.

During the meetings, the public will have an opportunity to discuss the proposals with WDFW and ODFW staff, and to submit written comments.

Columbia Sturgeon, Springer Meetings Set

October 29, 2009

(OREGON, WASHINGTON DEPARTMENTS OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASES)

Fishery managers will seek public comments on issues affecting future fisheries for Columbia River white sturgeon and spring chinook salmon at meetings scheduled next month in Vancouver, Wash., and Astoria, Ore.

The two meetings, sponsored by the fish and wildlife departments in both states, are designed to share information on developments that will affect management of those fisheries starting next year.

The meetings are scheduled at the following times and locations:

* Vancouver:  6-9 p.m. Nov. 5, Water Resource Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way, sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
* Astoria:  6-9 p.m. Nov. 10, The Loft at the Red Building, 20 Basin St., Suite F, sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

WDFW and ODFW scheduled the public meetings as part of their joint efforts to develop plans for white sturgeon and spring chinook fisheries.  Final decisions, including catch guidelines for sport and commercial fisheries, are expected early next year.

“One of the key reasons for having these meetings is so the staff working on these issues can hear from the public,” said Steve Williams, ODFW administrator for the Columbia River and Marine Resources Program.

Fishery managers for both states say new catch guidelines for sturgeon will likely reflect recent declines in the lower Columbia River sturgeon population.  For spring chinook fisheries, new catch guidelines must account for a recent agreement to allow enough fish to pass upriver to meet treaty obligations established by the U.S. v. Oregon court decision.

“We have met with our Columbia River advisory groups about these issues, and we’d like to get additional input from the public,” said Cindy LeFleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator.

Clams To Be Dug Nov. 4-7

October 29, 2009

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Clam diggers got the go-ahead to proceed with the second razor-clam dig of the fall season starting Wednesday, Nov. 4, on evening tides at two ocean beaches.

Twin Harbors will open for four late-evening digs Nov. 4-7, while Long Beach will open on Nov. 4, 6 and 7 only. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the digs after a series of marine toxin tests confirmed the clams were safe to eat.

Digging at the beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight. Additional digging opportunities are planned at five ocean beaches in mid-November.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said the department was able to offer the early November digs at Long Beach and Twin Harbors due to the abundant razor clam populations on those beaches.

“With more clams available for harvest south of Grays Harbor, we can offer these digging opportunities in addition to the ones that will include all beaches coming up later this month,” Ayres said.

The best time to start digging is an hour or two before low tide, said Ayres, who also recommends that clam diggers take lights or lanterns and check weather and surf conditions before heading out.

Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

A license is required for anyone age 15 or older. Any 2009 annual shellfish/seaweed license or combination fishing license is still valid. Another option is a razor-clam only license available in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the various options are available on the WDFW website at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov.

Opening dates and evening low tides are:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 4 (7:33 p.m. -1.3 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Thursday, Nov. 5 (8:18 p.m. -1.2 ft.) Twin Harbors
  • Friday, Nov. 6 (9:07 p.m. -0.9 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Saturday, Nov. 7 (9:59 p.m. -0.5 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors

In addition, WDFW has tentatively scheduled three other digs through Jan. 3.

Dates scheduled in mid-November are:

  • Saturday, Nov. 14 (4:34 p.m. -0.3 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Sunday, Nov. 15 (5:21 p.m. -0.7 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Monday, Nov. 16 (6:05 p.m. -0.9 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Tuesday, Nov. 17 (6:47 p.m. -0.8 ft.) Twin Harbors

Dates scheduled Dec. 2 through Jan. 3 are:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 2 (6:32 p.m. -1.2 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Thursday, Dec. 3 (7:18 p.m. -1.4 ft.) Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Friday, Dec. 4 (8:04 p.m. -1.3 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Saturday, Dec. 5 (8:51 p.m. -0.9 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Thursday, Dec. 31 (6:16 p.m. -1.1 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Friday, Jan. 1 (7:01 p.m. -1.8 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Saturday, Jan. 2 (7:45 p.m. -1.6 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Sunday, Jan. 3 (8:29 p.m. -1.2 ft.) Twin Harbors

Beaches scheduled to open are:

  • Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.
  • Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor.

Gov. Cites Anglers’ Cleanup Efforts

October 29, 2009

The Federal Way, Wash., angler who has led a drive to clean up Puget Sound rivers this fall as well as the volunteers he’s recruited recently received kudos from Olympia.

In a letter dated October 23, 2009, Governor Christine Gregoire wrote to Rosendo Guerrero:

Dear Rosendo,

I was delighted to learn that you and your team will be participating in the Skykomish River Cleanup this weekend, with future events scheduled at the Skagit and Cowlitz rivers.

As anglers, you see the challenges facing our watercourses firsthand. Washington is home to magnificent natural resources, but we must work together to ensure that they stay that way. I appreciate your initiative and applaud each of you for volunteering ycur time to help preserve the health of our rivers and streams.

The stewardship of our natural resources is vital, not only for the health of the environment, but also for the enjoyment of future generations. With your cleanup at the Puyallup River yielding over 1.5 tons of trash and debris, your exceptional efforts are truly making a difference. I hope your good work will motivate and inspire others to step up and embrace their role as agents of change and good stewards ofour natural resources.

Thank you for again your incredible spirit of action, and please accept my best wishes for a successful volunteer effort.

Sincerely,

Christine Gregoire

letter

Guerrero heads up Sportsmen for the Preservation of Our Rivers and Streams, organized in late summer after bumper salmon runs drew large crowds of anglers to local rivers. Some, unfortunately, left their tackle, drink and food packaging and other junk behind, giving all sport fishermen a black eye in media reports.

“I’m just an angler who enjoys and respects nature and will not let these idiots destroy the beauty of our natural rivers and streams,” Guerrero wrote me.

The Oct. 3 event on the Puyallup, which drew 80 volunteers, cleaned up refuse fishermen left behind, as well as old tires, chairs, furniture, clothing and other stuff one wouldn’t normally find in a tackle box or fishing vest.

With the Skykomish River high and muddy last weekend, 30 volunteers picked up around 600 pounds of garbage at two boat launches and along a street anglers park off of.

Trash included numerous empty plastic water and soda bottles, beer cans and bottles, cigarette packages, wrappers and other items.

fall days 019

RIVER WALGAMOTT SCANS THE DITCH NEAR THE SKYKOMISH RIVER'S REFORMATORY HOLE FOR TRASH DURING LAST WEEKEND'S CLEANUP. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Guerrero’s final cleanup of the year is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 7 on the lower Skagit River. Headquarters is Riverfront Park, 1001 River Road, in Sedro-Woolley.

To join, email Guerrero at rosendo64@yahoo.com.

POSTSCRIPT: Guerrero and Sportsman for the Preservation of our Rivers and Streams received a thank you letter from the mayor of Monroe, Donetta Walser, after the clean-up on the Skykomish.

“This project was a wonderful visual enhancement and quality of life development to our fragile river ecosystem … Volunteer projects like this build a sense of pride that is critical for the health and well being of our community,” she writes.

October 29, 2009

Oct. 31: Eastern Washington rifle elk hunt opens; last day of Western Washington blacktail hunt.

Nov. 1: Blackmouth (immature king) season opens in Puget Sound
Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9.

Nov. 6: Last day of Oregon Cascade, Coast centerfire buck seasons.

Nov. 7: Oregon Rocky Mountain elk second season opens; start of
Northeast Washington late whitetail rifle hunt and Westside elk modern
firearm season. Colton, Wash., Knights of Columbia steelhead derby.

Nov. 14: Oregon Coast bull four-day first season opener.

Nov. 15: Last day of bear hunting in Washington.

Nov. 19: Start of late Washington rifle blacktail hunt in many units.

Nov. 20: Late turkey hunt opens in select Northeast Washington
game units.

Nov. 21: Oregon Coast bull seven-day second season opener.

Nov. 25: Late bow deer, elk opener across most of Washington.

Nov. 30: Last day of Eastern Oregon bear hunting.

Dec. 5: SteelheadUniversity.com steelheading seminar with Buzz
Ramsey, Bob Kratzer, Mike Perusse, Todd Girtz, Terry Wiest. Tix: $88.
Info: (206) 387-9293. Three Rivers Marine & Marine winter steelhead clinic with Dave Vedder and Bill Herzog. Info: (425) 415-1575

28 Oregon Lakes Stocked Recently

October 29, 2009

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

While trout fishing will be closing in most rivers and streams in Oregon on Oct. 31, trout fishing in many lakes and reservoirs throughout the state will be heating up thanks to a supplemental fall stocking program  by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Rainbow trout
The additional larger and trophy-sized trout ODFW has recently stocked in several lakes and reservoirs should offer anglers good fishing through the fall.
Photo by Jessica Sall – ODFW

The agency has been able to supplement its regular stocking program with several thousand larger and trophy-sized trout thanks to a special appropriation from the Oregon legislature. The legislation provided $400,000 for ODFW to purchase additional trout from private hatcheries in order to enhance fishing opportunities throughout the state.

“These fish stocked in October should provide the trout angler with some great fishing well into winter,” said Rhine Messmer, ODFW recreational fishing program manager. “Fall is a time of year when fish are feeding heavily in order to bulk up for the lean winter months, so fishing should be excellent as long as water temperatures don’t get too cool and the weather cooperates.”

This supplemental stocking will resume next spring and will continue through 2011.

The lakes and reservoirs that have been stocked this fall are (by zone):

SW Zone – stocked the week of Oct. 19

  • Hyatt Lake
  • Lake Selmac
  • Expo Pond
  • Reinhart Pond
  • Applegate Reservoir
  • Agate Lake
  • Garrison Lake
  • Butterfield Lake
  • Upper and Lower Empire Lakes

NE Zone – stocked the week of Oct. 12

  • Willow Creek Reservoir
  • Holliday Park
  • Bull Prairie

Willamette Zone

  • Walling Pond
  • Walter Wirth Pond
  • Waverly lake
  • Junction City Pond
  • Dorena Lake
  • Canby Pond
  • St. Louis Ponds
  • Hagg Lake
  • Sheridan Pond
  • Huddleston Pond

Central Zone – stocked the week of Oct. 26

  • Three Creeks Lake
  • North Twin Lake
  • Ochoco Reservoir
  • Haystack Reservoir
  • Shevlen Pond

Methow Buck Take, Age Up

October 28, 2009

Maybe it was the late start to season and late second weekend, or maybe there’s a storm a’coming to the Methow Valley, but hunters experienced “greatly improved success rates” during the nine-day rifle hunt for muleys that wrapped up Sunday.

“Check station data from both weekends of the season indicated nearly identical hunter pressure compared to last year,” WDFW biologist Scott Fitkin said in today’s Weekender. “But the success rate improved by 88 percent over what we observed last year, despite the issuance of fewer antlerless permits.”

“Later season dates and cooler, wetter weather likely improved the success rate. The average age of harvested bucks was the highest in years, and the body condition of harvested animals appeared to be consistently excellent,” he says.

Washington Deer, Fowl Hunting Report, Elk Prospects

October 28, 2009

Enough about how me and my partners did at deer camp, here’s how other Washington hunters have been faring — and the outlook for the late-October rifle elk opener on both sides of the hills, courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:

NORTH PUGET SOUND
Wet and windy weather has made for good waterfowl hunting early in the season, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. “Hunters did well during the first couple weeks of the season because the weather distributed the birds throughout the area,” he said. “There’s more blustery weather in the forecast, and that should continue to improve hunting prospects on both sides of the Cascades.”

More and more snow geese and dabbling ducks continue to arrive in the area, Kraege said. “It’s still early in the migration, but the numbers of birds should continue to increase as we head into November,” he said.

Goose hunts are open through Oct. 29 in the region, and then start again Nov. 7. However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) will run from Oct. 17 through Jan. 31 without a break. The duck hunting season also is open through Jan. 31.

Kraege reminds hunters who want to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area that they must have written authorization to hunt for snow geese in Goose Management Area 1 and written authorization to hunt the quality hunt units. Hunters also must possess a Washington small game hunting license and a state migratory bird validation, as well as a federal migratory bird stamp.

For more information on how to participate in the quality hunt program, which is a cooperative project with several local landowners and residents, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/snow_goose .

Upland bird hunters have until the end of November to bag pheasant. Pheasant hunters should note that the department will release pheasants this fall at the Skagit Wildlife Area’s Samish Unit rather than the Headquarters Unit, where a substantial portion of land is no longer suitable for pheasant hunting. WDFW is temporarily moving its pheasant release program to the Samish Unit because an estuary restoration project has returned portions of recreational land on the Headquarters Unit to intertidal habitat for fish and wildlife. Pheasants will be released several days a week on the Samish Unit through Nov. 7.

The early modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA
“The Williams Creek area south of Raymond is our best elk area,” said Greg Schirato, WDFW regional wildlife manager. “Another good area to look for elk is the North River unit south of Aberdeen.”

The late-buck, black-tailed deer hunting season starts with a modern firearm hunt that runs Nov. 19-22 in western Washington. Following that four-day hunt, archers and muzzleloaders will take to the field Nov. 25 for the late deer and elk season, (Nov. 26 for late-muzzleloader deer season).

The statewide season for ducks, coots and snipe resumed Oct. 24 while goose-hunting reopens Nov. 7 in Management Area 3. Goose management area 2B (Pacific County), under way since Oct. 17, is open Saturdays and Wednesdays only.

Hunters may also pursue pheasant, quail and bobwhite through Nov. 30. An extended pheasant-hunting season runs Dec. 1-15 at Skookumchuck, Fort Lewis, Kosmos, Scatter Creek, Belfair, Whidbey Island (except Bayview) and Lincoln Creek release sites. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON
David Anderson, WDFW wildlife biologist, noted that elk hunters in southwest Washington generally have one of the highest success rates in the state.
“Conditions are looking pretty good this year,” Anderson said. “We didn’t have a severe winter and the recent snowfall is helping to move elk down from the higher elevations.”

EASTERN WASHINGTON
Joey McCanna, WDFW upland game bird specialist, said field checks of pheasant hunters over the season opening weekend in Whitman County – from Penawawa Canyon on the Snake River boundary on the south end to the Revere Wildlife Area on the northwest end – indicate that a total of 63 hunters had bagged 43 young-of-the-year pheasants and 13 adult pheasants, for an average of just under one bird per hunter. “In areas with good cover, hunters were getting several shots at birds,” McCanna said.

The best areas to hunt pheasants are usually along river and stream drainages, from Rock and Union Flat Creek and the Palouse River to the Snake, Touchet, Walla Walla, and Tucannon rivers. Agricultural areas with good habitat conditions – brushy hillsides and draws – are prime, but of course hunters need to seek permission to access private land. Acreage enrolled in WDFW’s “Feel Free to Hunt” and “Register to Hunt” programs can be a good bet, and hunters need to scout out those program signs in the field. McCanna notes that more than 22,000 acres in the south end of the region were recently posted “Feel Free to Hunt.”

Game-farm-raised rooster pheasants have also been released on the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County, the Fishtrap Lake site on the Lincoln-Spokane county line, and several other release sites in the south end of the region. Details are posted on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/ewapheas.htm .

The modern firearm elk season runs Oct. 31 through Nov. 8 in several units throughout the region. The southeast district is traditionally the best, with the greatest numbers in the Blue Mountains, but only spike bulls can be harvested.

“Calf survival has improved in recent years, but is still 15 percent below optimum levels, which does have a negative impact on the number of spike bulls available for harvest,” WDFW Biologist Pat Fowler said. “The Wenaha sub-herd (GMU-169) still remains below historic population levels, which hurts overall hunting opportunity in the Blue Mountains. But hunters can expect prospects to be similar to previous years.”

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman said elk hunters should come prepared because there is snow in the upper elevations of the Blue Mountains.

Central district units 124-142 are open for any elk, bull or cow, but private land access must be secured for most hunting. WDFW district wildlife biologists Howard Ferguson and Mike Atamian recently helicopter-surveyed elk in and around Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in the Cheney (130) unit and counted a total of 260 elk – 35 bulls, 146 cows, and 79 calves. That total was down compared to previous years of the same aerial survey, but they also saw a herd of about 100 elk just outside the survey area. Including those animals would bring the count above the yearly average of 316. The biologists are currently attempting a ground count and composition of the herd.

Ferguson reminds hunters the refuge is not open to elk hunting this year, but might be by next fall. For now, private property access permission must be obtained.

WDFW biologist Dana Base says elk are fewer and farther between in the northeast district, but the population does not appear to have been as heavily impacted by the last two winters as white-tailed deer. “Finding elk is the biggest challenge here,” he said. “There’s so much closed canopy forest where they can effectively hide and ‘sit out’ the season.”

Base said that the modern firearm hunting season for white-tailed deer continues through Oct. 30 in units 101-124. Checks of deer hunters just north of Deer Park off Hwy. 395 indicate an average number of hunters and good harvest rates, compared to past years. On Oct. 25, 138 hunters were checked with 15 deer for an 11 percent success rate. Last year on the same weekend, 136 hunters had seven deer for a 5 percent success rate. Late white-tailed deer hunts in units 105-124 will run Nov. 7-19.

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON
WDFW waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore reports that the waterfowl hunting season opener in the Columbia Basin had mixed success.

“Before the cold weather moves in and ducks start to focus on field feeding, hunters should concentrate on shallow water ponds with abundant seeds,” he said.

Good bets include Gloyd Seeps Wildlife Area off Road 16 and Stratford Road, the Winchester and Frenchman Regulated Access Areas, small potholes associated with the North Potholes Wildlife Area, the Columbia Basin National Wildlife Refuge’s Marsh Unit 1, and Baile Memorial Youth Ranch and Windmill Ranch Regulated Access Areas near the town of Mesa, Moore said.

Moore said goose hunters will find thousands of small Canada geese staging in the Stratford Area, feeding on nearby wheat fields. “The birds are taking off to feed at first light and returning to Stratford Reserve around 10:30 a.m.” she said. “Mixed in with the Canada geese are a few hundred lesser snow geese and the occasional tundra swan.”

WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger predicts goose hunting will ramp up in November when early season migrant Canada geese (Lesser and Taverners) begin to scatter from their initial staging area at Stratford Lake to alfalfa or grain fields within feeding distance from Moses Lake and the Columbia River.

Finger reminds waterfowlers of lands enrolled in the Corn Stubble Retention Program for public hunting. Fields are typically identified and enrolled during November and locations vary by year. Call or visit the Ephrata regional office for details.

Deer hunting ended Oct. 25 in the region. WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin reports greatly improved success rates measured at the traditional Chewuch deer hunter check stations in the Methow Valley.

“Check station data from both weekends of the season indicated nearly identical hunter pressure compared to last year,” Fitkin said. “But the success rate improved by 88 percent over what we observed last year, despite the issuance of fewer antlerless permits. Later season dates and cooler, wetter weather likely improved the success rate. The average age of harvested bucks was the highest in years, and the body condition of harvested animals appeared to be consistently excellent.”

No reports in yet on how pheasant hunters are faring since the season opened Oct. 24. Hunters who want to take advantage of game-farm-raised rooster releases should see http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/ewapheas.htm for site details

SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON
Mikal Moore, WDFW waterfowl specialist, reports the Yakima Basin is providing excellent duck hunting since the season opener Oct. 17.

Jeff Bernatowicz, WDFW district wildlife biologist, reminds pheasant hunters, whose season opened Oct. 24, that the Millerguard release site for game-farm-raised rooster release has moved to the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area. “Target shooting became a safety problem at Millerguard,” he explained. The new Whiskey Dick pheasant release site is located near Whiskey Dick Mountain, with best access from the Interstate 90 exit 115. Go north 1.2 miles through Kittitas until Patrick Ave., turn right on Patrick for 0.2 mile, left on No. 81 Road, one mile to Vantage Hwy., right on for 6.6 miles to an unmarked gravel road entrance.

The modern firearm elk season opens Oct. 31 and Bernatowicz reminds hunters that game management units (GMU) 328 (Naneum), 329 (Quilomene), 334 (Ellensburg), and 335 (Teanaway) have been changed to a “true spike bull” regulation.

A true spike bull is one with both antlers without branching originating more than four inches above where the antlers attack to the skull.

“The change was made because most of the yearling bulls were being harvested during the general elk season,” he said. “The low recruitment has left the Colockum herd well below bull escapement objectives.”

Bernatowicz also notes an error in the hunting rules pamphlet – GMU 330 (West Bar) is not open to general season elk hunting.

As for prospects, Bernatowicz expects bull harvest to be down. “Our elk calf ratio data collected in February and March was consistently low across the range,” he said. “In the Colockum herd, with a total of 4,000 elk, we have 20 calves per 100 cows and just five bulls per 100 cows. In the Yakima herd, with a total of 9,200 elk, we have 30 calves per 100 cows and 17 bulls per 100 cows. Since calves surveyed in March are spike bulls in the fall, chances of taking one this season are down.”

Michael Livingston, WDFW biologist, says elk hunting in the southeast district is limited to lands surrounding the west and south boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument (GMU 372).

“Hunts are geared toward addressing crop damage on surrounding wheat farms, vineyards and orchards,” he said. “Access is extremely limited to either a couple pieces of state land north of Prosser and Benton City and private land through special permit drawings.” Livingston said the best way to secure access is to apply for a special permit through the Landowner Hunt Program. If selected, permit holders are guaranteed a one-day guided hunt.

Most permits are limited to antlerless opportunity for youth hunters, but a few if any elk permits are issued each year. Surveys in January 2009 yielded a total herd estimate of 639 elk with 49 bulls and 15 calves per 100 cows. The high bull ratio is typical for this herd since they can seek refuge on the federal Hanford lands during hunting season. The calf count was below average and was likely a result of the stress the cows experienced from a wildfire that burned in August 2007.

Barthlow’s Coho Spinner-Prawn Rig

October 28, 2009

UPDATED WITH FRESH FISHING REPORT BELOW: A fishing report earlier this week stated that anglers were dragging spinner-prawn rigs around the Klickitat mouth for coho.

I went, “Wait — for coho?!?”

Forgive me, in my neck of the woods, coho bait is eggs.

I had to get to the bottom of this, so I phoned guide Bob Barthlow (509-952-9694).

“Everything eats shrimp in the ocean,” he points out.

The Yakima Bait and Worden’s Lures pro-staffer says he’s been using this homemade spring Chinook/steelhead rig for silvers more and more the last four or five years, primarily at the mouth of the Wind River, Drano Lake and on the Chehalis River.

The elements include:

* 5- to 6-foot 20-pound Gamma fluorocarbon leader

* Quick-change clevis

* Size 4, 41/2 or 5 Bob Toman blade

* Six or seven 3- to 6mm beads

* 3/0 hook

PRE PS2

BOB BARTHLOW'S PRAWN-SPINNER RIG. (RIVERS NORTHWEST GUIDE SERVICE)

The key, Barthlow says, is to troll it slow – no more than 1 mph – and deep.

“The more we use it, the better it works,” Barthlow says. “Everywhere I’ve tried this it works”

He typically starts the day trolling plugs, but with five rodholders, he’ll also put out a prawn and see what the fish prefer.

10-21-09f

COHO CAUGHT ON PRAWN-SPINNER RIGS LAST WEEK. (RIVERS NORTHWEST GUIDE SERVICE)

It’s worked for fall brights as well, he says.

FRESH FISHING REPORT, THURSDAY, 8:30 A.M: “Bank and boat anglers inside the Klickitat as well as boat anglers outside the mouth averaged nearly two adult coho per rod yesterday!” reports Joe Hymer at PSFMC.

He says that’s based on creel checks.

WDFW: S’Klallam Officers ‘Went Beyond Scope Of Their Authority’

October 28, 2009

The way Mike Cenci sees it, Port Gamble S’Klallam fish and wildlife officers were free to request the IDs of hunters who’d just taken a bull elk along Hood Canal in early October, but the two lacked the authority to arrest the men and their approach with guns drawn was wrong.

Cenci, the deputy chief of WDFW’s Enforcement division, and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office have completed their investigation into the Oct. 3 incident. Though they weren’t allowed to talk with the two officers, they presented their findings to the tribe yesterday, and have referred the matter to the county’s prosecuting attorney to determine whether to file charges.

“I certainly believe they went beyond the scope of what their authority was,” says Cenci.

One of the men who was detained, Adam Boling, has filed a complaint of illegal detention with the county. His friend Don Phipps was legally hunting elk with a muzzleloader on private land they had permission to be on.

With the sensitive nature of the case, Cenci presumes that the prosecuting attorney will seek legal advice from the state attorney general.

The tribe has said that “the officers were within their jurisdiction and operating on the tribe’s ‘usual and accustomed hunting grounds,’” according to articles in the Peninsula Daily News and Port Townsend Leader.

“Natural Resources Enforcement officers are mandated to respond when a possible violation is reported within the tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing and hunting grounds, and are expertly trained to handle these situations,” reads a statement from the tribe released midmonth.

However, Cenci says that that phrase “usual and accustomed” is misused.

“Those words are associated with tribal fishing rights — not hunting,” he says.

And when contacting nontribal members in off-reservation lands, Cenci says that the officers only had the authority to request the hunters’ IDs, not the right to arrest them.

“If an individual requests (an ID) and is told no, the tribal officer is done,” Cenci says.

He’s also sensitive to the approach the officers took. While he points out that natural-resource law enforcement is fraught with danger — it’s often done in remote sites miles from backup, some contacts involve armed felons or people wanted on warrants, and a growing number of poaching cases involve what he calls “hard-core criminal element” — he says that state fish and wildlife officers would have acted differently.

A photo slideshow on the Port Townsend Leader’s Web site shows men loading Phipps’ elk into Boling’s Toyota pickup and then being approached by the tribal officers with at least one gun drawn. The hunters are handcuffed and more police eventually arrive on the scene.

“The approach was inconsistent with how state fish and wildlife officers would approach, but it’s tricky. My gut feeling is they were operating within good faith of what they thought their authority was,” Cenci says.

The Port Townsend Leader’s article today indicates the tribe’s own investigation isn’t complete, but would be available when it is done.

Here are links to articles on the incident:

Port Townsend Leader, Oct. 7

Peninsula Daily News, Oct. 7

Peninsula Daily News, Oct. 11

Peninsula Daily News, Oct. 13

Port Townsend Leader, Oct. 21

Peninsula Daily News, Oct. 25

Peninsula Daily News, Oct. 27

NOTE: THIS VERSION CORRECTS TERMINOLOGY USED FOR THE TWO PORT GAMBLE S’KLALLAM OFFICERS. ACCORDING TO SPOKESWOMAN GINGER VAUGHN, THEY ARE FISH AND WILDLIFE OFFICERS, NOT TRIBAL POLICE OFFICERS.

SHE ALSO SAYS THE TRIBE’S INVESTIGATION WILL LIKELY BE AVAILABLE EARLY NEXT WEEK.

Meeting Thursday Night On Cowlitz Hatcheries

October 28, 2009

According to an article in the Centralia Chronicle, WDFW and Tacoma Power will outline their plans on reducing hatchery production in the Cowlitz River at a meeting this Thursday.

How much of a drop that entails isn’t stated in the story, but it reportedly will be revealed during the 6-8 p.m. get-together planned for Room 103 of Washington Hall, Centralia College, 600 Centralia College Blvd.

“The work we’re doing is a tangible outcome of our commitment to natural stock production with plans for continued hatchery production,” Mark LaRivierre of Tacoma Power tells reporter Eric Schwartz.

 

October 28, 2009

Head’s up, the November issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine is out.

NS-11-09-cover

(SWANNY'S GUIDED FISHING, 206-755-1204)

It’s loaded up with winter steelheading articles — Oregon and Washington Coast, Puget Sound, Portland and Southwest Washington previews, the plethora of Inland Northwest summer-run opportunities — plus news on where WDFW hatchery practices are taking us. Can you say, “Goodbye Pilchuck steelheading, hello, more crowded terminal zones?”

But if you’re looking for a whole new way to approach steelheading, our new kayak guy, Mark Veary of Hillsboro, Ore., details how it’s done from Tupperware.

And from we get the scoop on bobber drifting, the love child of Float Fishing and Drift Fishing, from guide Jim Sehl of Alsea River fame.

I’ve got a piece on Cougar-country card crushers — how five Eastern Washington steelheaders filled their punchcards during the 2007-08 season, and who they are (believe it or not, of the 17 anglers who turned in full cards that year, 12 were from the Eastside). And I’ve also got the stats on how many steelheaders recorded everything from 29 fish to goose eggs that same season.

With Veteran’s Day around the corner, Cami Bayer details how Project Healing Waters  has helped Sgt. Brian Kerrigan, hit by IEDs twice in two weeks, recuperate from his wounds through fly tying and fishing.

“Uncle Wes” Malmberg reveals WDFW’s proposal to jigger South Sound trout limits — and put in much bigger rainbows afterwards.

Class is in session as Prof. Tony Floor teaches North Sound Blackmouth 101, fly guy Chester Allen tells why the Yakima sparkles with rainbows on drizzly fall days, Buzz Ramsey tells how his approach to steelheading has expanded over the years, and Dave Workman switches to semi-auto for waterfowl.

And there’s a bunch more stuff in the 136-page issue, which you can find at convenience stores, Outdoor Emporium, Sportco, Auburn Sports & Marine, Three Rivers Marine, Walmarts and select Fred Meyers!

Or, just flip to page 123, sign up for the dagger deal, save yourself 50 percent off the newsstand price and get a free folding fillet knife!

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

October 28, 2009

Here are some of the highlights from ODFW’s latest Recreation Report:

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Anglers are reminded that trout seasons end Oct. 31 in many locations. Please check the regulations carefully before venturing out to trout fishing waters to make sure your area is open.
  • Large numbers of coho continue to move into the Sandy River, where a 3-fish coho bag limit remains in effect.
  • A large number of coho has moved into Eagle Creek following the recent rains.
  • Several valley lakes, ponds and reservoirs have recently been stocked with legal-sized or larger trout. Check the reports below to find some great nearby fishing.

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing is picking up on the middle section of the Rogue River with some boats reporting up to eight fish caught in a day.
  • Wild coho fishing has been excellent on the Coquille River with the best fishing between Bandon and Rocky Point boat ramp.
  • Recent creels on the Elk River have shown ½ chinook caught per angler – and fishing is expected to get better.
  • Trout anglers can enjoy excellent fall fishing in several lakes and reservoirs in the Rogue District.  Lost Creek Reservoir, Lake Selmac, Expo Pond, Reinhart Park Pond, Applegate Reservoir, Agate Lake, and Fish Lake have recently been stocked with large and trophy-sized trout. Fishing should be good throughout the fall

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Tillamook Bay: A few chinook are being caught, with fish available throughout the bay and tidewater areas. Casting or trolling spinners in the west channel or upper bay or tidewater areas has produced the best for hatchery coho. Rains have moved hatchery coho up the Trask. A few chinook are being caught on spinners in the upper bay or by trolling herring in the lower bay or nearshore ocean. A few better bites were reported recently, but angling overall remains only fair. Angling for sturgeon has been slow, but sturgeon are present in the bay and upper tidewater of the Tillamook River. Fishing the upper bay and river tidewaters will help anglers avoid crab and other bait stealers. Crabbing in the lower bay has been good.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Holliday Park Pond, Bull Prairie Reservoir and Willow Creek Reservoir have been stocked with good-sized trout and should provide some fine fall angling.
  • With the recent rains, steelhead are moving into the John Day River and fishing is good up to the Cottonwood Bridge.
  • Steelhead fishing has been improving on the lower Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers.

MARINE ZONE

  • Bottom fishing is good when ocean conditions permit.
  • Recreational and commercial clam harvesting is open on the entire Oregon Coast, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border. This includes clam harvesting on beaches and inside bays.
  • The entire Oregon Coast is now closed to mussel harvesting, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border.
  • Crabbers in Coos Bay brought in an average of 10 crabs. Other ports report catches between four and five.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Several area lakes close to fishing after Saturday, Oct. 31. Be sure check the regulations or reports below before heading out.
  • With the advent of cooler temperatures, trout fishing on David Lake should pick up. (While largemouth bass fishing may slow down.)
  • Several area lakes close to fishing after Saturday, Oct. 31. Be sure check the regulations or reports below before heading out.
  • With the advent of cooler temperatures, trout fishing on David Lake should pick up. (While largemouth bass fishing may slow down.)

Medford Black Bear Shot After 80-mile Return

October 28, 2009

A troublesome black bear, captured near an elementary school in Medford, Ore., and transported nearly 80 air miles east-northeast of town, returned to town within 10 days but was shot by a hunter last weekend, ODFW reports.

102709-Bear-release-harvest-site

MAP SHOWING BEAR CAPTURE LOCATION, RELEASE AND HARVEST SITE. (ODFW)

Biologists planned to release the bear near Hyatt Lake but took it further east to the Interstate Unit near the Fremont National Forest to avoid hunters during the Cascade elk season and to move it a significant distance from the school. It was marked with an ear tag before being released.

“Our guidelines allow biologists to use their discretion in dealing with bears like this one found inside the Medford city limits,” said Russ Stauff, Acting Regional Manager. “Although it’s unusual for us to relocate bears, we felt this yearling bear had inadvertently wandered into town and was not displaying aggressive behavior so we chose to relocate it.”

“However, the bear obviously wanted to get back to town and food sources that are easier to find. It appeared to be headed back toward town when it was taken by a hunter less than two miles outside city limits near Hillcrest Road,” Stauff said.

ODFW euthanizes bears accustomed to humans or human foods because they will typically return to that site if relocated or become a problem in another area. Bears displaying aggressive behavior or exhibiting little or no fear of people also are euthanized for human safety reasons. Bears, such as the one found at Lone Pine Elementary that are relocated, are euthanized if they return to the area.

People can discourage bears from their property by eliminating food sources such as garbage and pet food and fencing off fruit trees. For more information on living with black bears, check the agency’s Web site at www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/

October 28, 2009

Cougar Country Card Crushers: 7 Deadly Eastern Washington Steelheaders

TRI-CITIES—Can’t say this Wazzu grad has ever been prouder than the day earlier this fall when I got an Excel file from a source at WDFW which showed that 12 of the 17 steelheaders who turned in full punchcards – 30 fish – after the 2007-08 campaign lived on the crimson-and-gray side of the Cascade Curtain.

The Mutts of Montlake may be winning football games again, but by god, we’re kickin’ ass when it comes to fishin’!

coug

A COUG BATTLES AN EASTERN WASHINGTON STEELHEAD. (ANDY WAZZUGAMOTT)

Of course, not everyone on the Eastside is automatically a Coug (Steve Emtman, you miserable traitor), but that disparity was intriguing. How could it be, especially considering the bulk of the state’s steelheaders (and population) live on the wetter side of the mountains?

Are the boys in Richland, Walla Walla, Spokane, Wenatchee and Clarkston just better anglers than Huskysiders?

Do the fish bite more in the land of sage, pines and fine wines?

Contrary to conventional wisdom, is Eastern Washington actually the Evergreen State’s steelheading paradise?!?

As much as I’d like to answer those three questions affirmatively, to preserve the magazine’s last shreds of journalistic integrity, I have to admit that it’s actually very difficult to make Johnagold-to-Crab Apple comparisons.

Realistically, it probably all comes down to health of the runs. To crack lots of noggins, you must first have lots of noggins to crack. Case in point, 2009’s massive run up the Columbia and Snake.

Awaiting all those fish are the following seven punchard-filling fish filleters, guys who were surprisingly eager to share their knowledge. Here’s who they are and how they crush ’em:

THREE-PEATING Go ahead, pass drift boater Eric Stein.

He doesn’t mind, really.

stein

ERIC STEIN OF YAKIMA WITH A GRANDE RONDE RIVER STEELHEAD. (ERIC STEIN)

The Yakima building inspector will pull aside rather than get into the morning’s race down to the next hole with the hordes of other steelheaders on the Klickitat and Grande Ronde these days.

“You’ve got to figure out ways to find the fish with that many guys on the river. I’ve found that with steelhead fishing, you don’t race. You end up skipping water if you do. I’d rather fish behind boats than race and not catch any fish.”

It also allows Stein, 43, to better put into effect the third of his three personal rules for punching a card.

“You’ve got to cover the water multiple ways,” he says. “I believe fish are in different modes. I don’t spend a lot of time, but if I know there are fish in the hole, I’ll try two methods, if not three.”

On the Klick, which he typically floats 30 times from June through November, it means throwing size 4 Blue Fox spinners, drifting Corkies and eggs or shrimp, and running jigs with or without eggs, shrimp or plain prawns under a bobber.

He uses the latter two methods on the Ronde, which he runs 10 to 15 times a winter.

Stein focuses completely on knowing every single rock, deflection point and holding spot in each hole.

“Small pockets will hold these fish – and a lot of guys ignore them,” he says.

That touches on his second rule – “You’ve got to cover a lot of water.”

And Stein’s first? “You’ve got to go fishing.”

LYONS HEARTED The 41-mile drive across the dirt and scabrock of the western Palouse between Ritzville and the Snake might put some to sleep, but self-described “old fart” Lowell Becker has his eyes wide open once he’s on the river.

“You pick up something every time you go down,” says the 74-year-old retired military man. “No one thing works day in and day out.”

That said, he’s fond of his homemade 1/4-ounce jigs – which feature black, purple and a “touch” of red deer hair, as well as Crystal dubbing – baited with shrimp for the steelhead that pull into Lyons Ferry, where there’s a hatchery.

“There are no big secrets. Just keep at it,” says Becker.

Nonetheless, he did give me a few more details. For starters, he likes his bait only 4 feet under his float, which is actually just a cheap (“Twelve for $7”) chartreuse or orange plastic casting bubble like you would use to wing a fly way out on an alpine trout lake. And he uses wax to keep his line floating on the surface of the Snake to better set the hook.

Becker also targets a specific water temperature range: “I like to hit it when it hits 48 to 50 degrees,” he says.

That means he’s fishing in late fall, but he’s not afraid to put in long days. “We fish from o’dark thirty to 3 or 4 p.m.”

BIPPES’ TIPS Walter Bippes remembers the days you drift-fished the lower Snake, before the four dams were stretched across the mighty river.

Then came a period when the retired pipefitter and former city of Walla Walla employee plunked for steelhead.

But these days, the 73-year-old College Place resident can be found floating bobbers and bait along the Columbia, Snake, Tucannon and Touchet rivers.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Bippes.

Part of the fun, no doubt, is also making his own lures. He crafts 3⁄8-ounce jigs on light-wire hooks, which he baits with dyed shrimp.

Then, at the river, he’s constantly tinkering with the bobber stop.

“I’m moving that jig up and down every other cast. I’m moving it until I find the right depth they’re at. A lot of guys don’t do that. I was at Little Goose two weeks ago,” Bippes said in late September, “and caught nine, the other guys nothing. Finally one asked how deep I was fishing, and I said 18 feet.”

The others’ baits weren’t even half that far down.

Watching fish counts, Bippes follows the steelhead up from the Columbia into the Snake. And he freely admits to high-grading – downwards.

“The best-eating ones are the little A-runs, 8, 9, 10 pounds. The B-runs are too fat,” he says.

PURCELL’S TRENCH You’ve heard of Baileys and coffee, but how about a “Baileys’ Sandwich”?

Both would serve you well if, say, you’re bank fishing the north end of that defile known as Hells Canyon in late fall and winter – the former to stay warm, the latter to catch steelhead.

Steve Purcell of Clarkston learned about this drift-fishing cocktail from longtime Asotin County steelheaders Morris “Buck” Bailey, Stan Bailey, Curt Yount and Roy Bartlett, who he says have been angling together since “before the Korean War.”

Purcell’s steelheading career began much more recently. Back in the late 1990s, he worked with Buck’s son, Mike, who kept telling him about all the fish they caught.

“They claim that if two fish came up the river, Mike would catch one and Buck would catch the other,” Purcell laughs.

He grew curious and before long was Buck’s apprentice.

“I’ve been steelheading 12 years on this method, and I’ve caught close to 500 from Asotin to the mouth of the Ronde,” he says.

So what is this cyanide-deadly concoction they use?

“It’s a piece of ’crawler and shrimp, and they argue about which goes on first, but I was trained by Buck, so the worm comes first,” says Purcell, a 50-something graveyard shift employee of Clearwater Paper in Lewiston.

Some of “the amigos” run multiple Corkies to keep their bait off bottom, though Purcell uses a single anywhere from the smallest to the largest drift bobber made.

After that, it’s a matter of paying attention to that age-old adage about drift fishing.

“I suppose that’s the biggest secret,” says Purcell. “You really have to hit the bottom. Cast out at 1 or 2 o’clock and be on the bottom at noon. If you’re not touching, you won’t catch any fish. Touch too early and you’ll snag up.”

While the amigos have no qualms about clamboring off Snake River Road to a dozen spots in an outing, Purcell works five or six. He serves up Baileys’ sandwiches from mid-November through early February.

THE ALABAMA SLAMMER When I talked to Charles Parker, I had a Forrest Gump moment. The Alabama native, who lives in Hood River, Ore., fishes a lot of shrimp.

I mean a lot of shrimp.

“I go through probably 20 or 30 pounds a year,” says the 68-year-old retired U.S. Forest Service employee.

He special orders it from an Anacortes, Wash., skipper who cooks the 11/2-inch-long shellfish on the boat but doesn’t freeze them. Parker mojos the shrimp with Pro-Cure, mostly Redd Hot Double Stuff, for three or four days, adding a dash of salt to toughen them up even more.

Then he’s ready to fish the lower White Salmon and Klickitat rivers, and below John Day Dam with the rest of his rig: a slip bobber and size 2 or 4 red octopus hook.

“You catch a lot more with bait than you do with plugs,” he claims.

Parker moved to the Northwest in the 1960s and found a whole different world of fishing.

“When I first came out here, all I fished was bass and walleye,” he says.

Still does, primarily in spring, but with most of his friends heading out for salmon and steelhead, it was only natural he’d try it as well. His 18-foot Lund, or his fishing partners’ boats, can be seen on the water as often as six or seven days a week.

A FISHING-FRIENDLY JOB At 35, James Kesler was the youngest of the Eastside steelheaders with full cards that we contacted. And while his six years of actually targeting the species is just a fraction of how long some of these other guys have been angling, the Kennewick resident has plenty of time to do so thanks to his job driving a lumber truck.

“From mid-October to mid-February we’re real slow, so I have a lot of time to go fishing,” he says.

kessler

JAMES KESLER WITH A STEELHEAD. (JAMES KESSLER)

You’ll primarily find Kesler within 45 minutes of home along the Columbia, Snake at Charbonneau Park or the Walla Walla rivers.

And like Bippes, he’s a fan of float fishing.

“There’s not of lot of guess work to a bobber and shrimp,” he says.

But he will vary his presentation based on surface conditions.

“When it’s windy, I’ll fish with a jig, and I’ll use just a 1/0 hook on a calm day,” Kesler says.

One friend ties him jigs with some pretty mean “flash and trash” and another – guide Scott Atwood – sets him up on the bait front.

“I don’t know what he puts in it, but, man, that’s some fish-catching stuff. I’ve known him since high school and he still won’t tell me,” he says.

Maybe it’s the bait or maybe – as with Bippes, Purcell, Stein and Parker – it’s just time on the water that led to that full 2007-08 card, Kessler’s first season after a 10-year “life experiences” layoff from steelheading.

Then again with Kesler, it might be The Touch. He says his very first cast ever for the species, made on the Touchet River 16 years ago, produced his first fish.

“All I can say is, don’t get discouraged if you’re not catching fish. I started this season on June 16, have spent 150 hours on the river and have two fish,” he said in late September. “Once I get that first fish, it’s all over. That’s all I ever think about. If you find yourself waking up at night and setting the hook, you know you have problems.”

CROWDS, WHO CARES? It was interesting. When I called Eric Stein and Charles Parker for this piece, I assumed that they probably both fished at nearby steelhead-rich Drano Lake a lot, but neither did because of the crowds there.

“I can’t stand that place,” Stein swore.

But then I called another Yakima County angler and found out that he pretty much only fishes the cold-water refuge above Bonneville Dam.

“Where there’s good fishing, there’s a crowd, and that’s the way it is anymore,” shrugs the 69-year-old angler who didn’t wish to be identified.

When I spoke with the retired service tech for a major national retailer, he had literally just walked in the door from Drano. He fishes it up to five days a week from mid-July into October, and readily acknowledges that time on the water and a fishy location lend themselves to a whole lot of fresh, smoked and canned steelhead for his family and friends.

But he also credits the bait: shrimp, which he gets at Grumpy’s in the city of Yakima.

“In my opinion, they’ve got the best bait in the area.”

He dyes the holy hell out of it with not just one, not just two, but three different sauces, Bait Brite, Beau-Mac and another Pro-Cure product, to darken and harden them.

“It gets spendy the way I do it.”

A very generous dollop of sea salt also goes into the brine.

He runs a typical Drano setup for double-anchored boats off “the point”: bobber and enough line to fish the shrimp,on a size 2 hook, just off the bottom.

It wasn’t always this way. Ten or 15 years ago, he and others only trolled plugs or fished with eggs on bottom.

And then the float-and-shrimp revolution hit.

“That’s when we started catching fish,” he says.

Up until a few years ago, he’d fill his Washington punchcard at Drano through late summer then top off the smoker with another card’s worth of fish from the John Day in Oregon – all the while finding time to hit the Klick for silvers and hunt deer and elk.

“It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it,” he notes.

Indeed, someone’s gotta catch all those fin-clipped fish, and my boys in Cougar country appear to be up to the task. –Andy Walgamott

Baker City, Ore., Girl Bags A Whopper Billy

October 28, 2009

It’s still a green score, but the 11 3/16- and 11-inch horns of Matea Huggins’ Elkhorn Mountains mountain goat put the Baker 7th grader third in the Oregon record books.

Oh, and it was her first year hunting, she was drawn for just one of the four tags for the area and she’d never fired the gun she used before, according to Jayson Jacoby’s article in the Baker City Herald

Area 10, Most Of 9 Reopening, 12 Closing For Crabs

October 28, 2009

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Two marine areas in Puget Sound will reopen to recreational crab fishing Nov. 1, based on summer catch assessments by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) that show more crab are available for harvest.

Starting Nov. 1 at sunrise, Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), and most of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2010. The portion of Marine Area 9 south of a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point will remain closed for the season.

Crab fishing also will remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu) and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since summer.

Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal), currently open Wednesdays through Saturdays, will close for the season at 6 p.m. Oct. 31.

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 6 (Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1, 8-2 (east of Whidbey Island) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual recreational quota, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish policy lead.

“We want to give crabbers as much opportunity to fish as possible, but with great weather this summer, we had a lot of people out crabbing and catch rates were high,” Childers said.

Of the more than 236,000 people that were issued Puget Sound crab licenses, 104,634 complied with the Sept. 21 reporting deadline. That includes 70,172 who filed their summer catch reports online.

“The data we receive is important for managing the Puget Sound crab fishery, which is why people are required to submit catch reports,” Childers said.

To increase compliance, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2008 approved a $10 fine for failure to file a catch report. Crabbers failing to submit their winter reports, due by Jan.15, will receive the fine when they apply for a 2010 Puget Sound crab endorsement.

State fishing rules require that all sport crabbers submit catch reports whether or not they went fishing or were successful in catching crab. Childers suggested that people who have winter catch cards, but do not intend to go crabbing, send in their catch cards now.

Catch record cards may be mailed to WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system will be available Jan. 3-15 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6ź inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. For more information about recreational crabbing in Puget Sound, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/

Boise River To Be Stocked With Steelhead

October 27, 2009

(IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME NEWS RELEASE)

Forget the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner this year; fresh, smoked steelhead might be on the menu after the big fish are released into the Boise River over the next few weeks.

If steelhead return to Oxbow Hatchery on the Snake River as forecast, Fish and Game anticipates stocking 300 or more of the big fish in the Boise River from Glenwood Bridge to Barber Park the afternoon of Thursday October 29.

Should the run remain strong, additional fish may be released in subsequent weeks.

“We’re hopeful that this year’s hatchery steelhead run will easily allow Oxbow Hatchery personnel to fill their broodstock needs,” said Sam Sharr, Fish and Game anadromous fish coordinator. “Any additional hatchery fish collected at the fish trap will be divided among Idaho Fish and Game, the Nez Perce Indian Tribe and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

Besides a fishing license, anglers hoping to tangle with one of the 4- to 10-pound hatchery steelhead need a $12.75 steelhead permit, good for 40 fish.

Though required in other steelhead waters, barbless hooks are not required for Boise River steelhead angling.

All steelhead stocked in the Boise River will lack an adipose fin – the small fin normally found immediately behind the dorsal fin. Boise River anglers catching a rainbow trout longer than 20 inches that lacks an adipose fin should consider the fish a steelhead. Any steelhead caught by an angler not holding a steelhead permit must immediately be returned to the water.

Steelhead limits on the Boise River are three fish per day, nine in possession, and 40 for the fall season.

The fish are A-run hatchery steelhead, returning to the Idaho Power Co.-owned Oxbow Hatchery fish trap below Hells Canyon Dam on the Snake River. Many of the returning steelhead will become part of the ongoing steelhead hatchery program at Oxbow Hatchery as part of Idaho Power’s mitigation.

“We are happy to collaborate with Idaho Fish and Game this year to bring steelhead to Treasure Valley anglers,” said Paul Abbott, Idaho Power biologist. “The best thing about this program is that it eliminates the need for folks to travel to the Snake or Salmon rivers to catch steelhead. Boise anglers will have the opportunity to test their skills right in their own backyard.”

For information about the Boise River steelhead release, contact the Fish and Game in Nampa at 208-465-8465 or check the Website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov. ;

Clam Diggers Don’t Dig NOAA’s Newport Plans

October 27, 2009

While Newport, Ore., celebrated the coming of new federal docks this past summer, some coastal clammers don’t dig it so much.

“Oregon clam diggers are going to loose (sic) access to a large portion of the tidal flats associated with the development of the NOAA port facility in Yaquina Bay,” reads a statement from the Clam Diggers Association of Oregon posted on the Coos Bay World’s Web site.

NOAA plans on homeporting their Pacific operations fleet near the Hatfield Marine Science Center in South Beach. Ground was ceremonially broken in  late August.

A link leads to a letter that CDAO president William Lackner fired off to ODFW officials. It states, in part:

1. The diversity of the essential habitat of Yaquina Bay is critical to the marine organisms that are dependant on the ecological productivity in Yaquina Bay for their survival. The list of dependant species is long and not only includes a diverse community of invertebrates but a variety of fish species, the most notable of which are juvenile Chinook salmon, black rockfish, English sole, wolf eels and various perch species. The loss of essential habitat is unacceptable.

2. Any interruption to the biological diversity of Yaquina Bay is unacceptable, especially to and including the negative impact or loss of the eel grass beds associated with the selected site.

3. The loss of recreational opportunity, i.e. crabbing, clam digging and fishing is unacceptable.

4. It is our understanding that there is NO recreational component planned for or will be allowed within the development of the NOAA port facility. Again unacceptable. Combining the NOAA exclusion zone with the areas currently restricted by the state and local agencies severely limits public access to a high percentage of the most desirable areas of the bay and the reason why visitors to the coast choose to visit other bays over Yaquina Bay.

NOAA'S NEW DOCKS ARE PLANNED BEYOND THE JETTIES THAT MARK THE ENTRANCE TO THE MARINA. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

NOAA'S DOCKS ARE PLANNED FOR THE AREA AROUND THE CORNER FROM THE JETTIES THAT MARK THE MARINA ENTRANCE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A map on ODFW’s Web site shows clamming areas in Yaquina Bay.

New Use For Turkey Fryer: Skull Boiler

October 27, 2009
NOTE TO SELF: DECLINE THANKSGIVING TURKEY DINNER INVITATION FROM THE BELLS. (ERIC BELL)

NOTE TO SELF: SKIP BELL FAMILY THANKSGIVING TURKEY DINNER INVITATION. (ERIC BELL)

‘Mr. Metal Plays With Foofy Little Jigs’

October 27, 2009

You know spoonman Bill Herzog as Mr. Metal Till The End.

Well, after a trip to North-central Washington’s Methow River last week, he’s switched up to ‘foofy little jigs‘ for steelhead — but he’s fishing some non-metalhead water too.

Plywood Passage: A $200 Fish Ladder

October 26, 2009

Two hundred bucks worth of plywood, some metal strips and hard work have turned part of a stream alongside I-5 in Medford, Ore., into an “urban steelhead nursery,” according to an article by Mike Freeman of the Mail Tribune.

He reports that ODFW biologist Jay Doino’s “handmade fish ladder” has opened up a mile of habitat.

“Ooh, he almost made it,” Freeman reports Doino says as they watch a smolt attempt the device. “That’s encouraging that he made it into the second pool even at these flows.”

 

SW WA Fishing Report, With Prawns/Spinner Combos For Coho!

October 26, 2009

There’s an interesting note in today’s Southwest Washington fishing report from Joe Hymer at PSMFC: “Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers averaged just over an adult coho kept per rod.  Prawn/spinner rigs accounted for a lot of the catch. Most of the effort is off the mouth of the Klickitat where 70-80 boats were counted each morning this past weekend.”

Wait a minute, I thought, did I read that right — prawn/spinner combos for coho?!?

Can’t be, can it?

I immediately emailed Rob Phillips, the Northwest Sportsman scribe in Yakima as well as all-around Eastside fish/hunt guy. Ever hear of this new rig, Rob?

He responded back shortly: “Yes, I fished it twice last week, and while all the fish (9 in two days) we caught were on plugs — specifically FatFish ½ ounce — I did see several fish caught on prawn spinners off of dropper weights.  Even saw a couple of boats using Fish Flash flashers ahead of the rigs, similar to spring salmon set-up. I think they were doing better at times because they were fishing right off the bottom, while us plug trollers were only getting down 15 feet or so.”

“This is the first year that I have seen much of the bait fishing going on,” Phillips says. “And like any other fisheries, there were times when the bait rigs seemed to work and times when the plugs worked.”

Hymer says the setup has been in use at the mouth of the Klick the past few years.

Here’s the rest of his report:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Anglers continue to catch coho as well as some chinook, steelhead, and sea run cutthroats.  Through October 21, nearly 35,000 hatchery adult coho had returned to the salmon hatchery, the highest count to date through at least 1990.

Flows below Mayfield Dam are 4,900 cfs today.  However, flows are expected to increase to nearly 6,000 cfs by tomorrow.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching some coho and steelhead plus a few dark chinook that were released.

Lewis River – Bank anglers near the salmon hatchery averaged just under ½ adult coho per rod when including fish released.  Over two-thirds of the fish were kept.  Some fall chinook (which have to be released) and steelhead were also caught.  Bank angling effort has been heavy around the salmon hatchery.

Klickitat River – Bank and boat anglers averaged a fish per rod.  Majority of the catch were adult coho.   Effort has been heavy on the lower river.

Flows at Pitt are currently 700 cfs which is the long-term mean for this date.  Flows are expected to double by early next week.

Yakima River – Recap by Paul Hoffarth, WDFW biologist in Yakima – The Yakima River salmon fishery closed on Oct 22. An estimated 457 adult fall chinook, 71 fall chinook jacks, 79 adult coho, and 4 coho jacks were harvested in the Yakima River this fall.  Also, 54 adult fall chinook, 3 chinook jacks, 5 hatchery steelhead, and 25 wild steelhead were caught and released. Very little effort or harvest was observed in the river downstream of Horn Rapids Dam.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Most of the effort and catch was in the Camas/Washougal area where boat anglers almost ½ fish per boat when including fish released.  Almost all the catch were coho.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers averaged just over an adult coho kept per rod.  Prawn/spinner rigs accounted for a lot of the catch. Most of the effort is off the mouth of the Klickitat where 70-80 boats were counted each morning this past weekend.

Hanford Reach – Recap from Paul Hoffarth, WDFW biologist in Yakima –     An estimated 6,555 adult fall chinook, 2,080 fall chinook jacks, 10 coho, and 114 hatchery steelhead were harvested by salmon anglers in Catch Area 535 between August 16 and October 22. An additional 159 adult chinook,  127 jacks, 10 hatchery steelhead, and 135 wild steelhead were caught and released.

An estimated 7,089 boat trips were completed for salmon in the Hanford Reach in 2009.  WDFW staff interviewed anglers from 1,376 boats, 19.4% of the effort.

The October 15 return estimate for the Hanford Reach (not including hatchery returns) was 34,103 adult chinook. After harvest, the expected escapement is 27,548, roughly 1,000 chinook below the escapement goal for the Reach of 28,800.  Retention of salmon was closed after October 14 after the in-season return estimate was downgraded from 38,000 to 34,000 on October 10.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam – About one in ten bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam had a keeper last week.  Effort remains fairly high with a nearly a couple hundred anglers there during open retention days.  Effort and catch was light on the lower river.

Report courtesy Joe Hymer, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission

Sweet Redemption In A 5×5

October 26, 2009

The following is a one-sided telephone conversation, what you would have heard me saying early yesterday afternoon when my old friend Eric Bell called to tell me about the muley he shot the day before just uphill of where I got mine on opening weekend.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“Yeah.”

“A 5×5?!?”

“Jesus!”

“How wide was he?”

“Holy ––, 25 inches!”

“Five and a half years old! Whoa.”

“Mother of god.”

“Gangster style?”

“He’d been shot in a previous season too?”

“Yi yi yi.”

“Well, congrats, that’s a heckuva nice buck, man.”

“Yeah, send me pics, definitely.”

Click.

“Jesus, babe, Bell shot a ––– monster up at camp, claims it’s the size of a small horse! I knew I should’ve gone the second weekend instead of the first!”

With that, I headed to the store to buy a cheap pan to bleach my buck’s now, umm, incredibly teeny tiny rack.

ERIC BELL OF GRANITE FALLS, WASH., AND HIS WESTERN OKANOGAN COUNTY 5X5, SHOT ON THE SECOND AND FINAL WEEKEND OF MULE DEER SEASON. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

ERIC BELL OF GRANITE FALLS, WASH., AND HIS WESTERN OKANOGAN COUNTY 5X5, SHOT ON THE SECOND AND FINAL WEEKEND OF MULE DEER SEASON. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

IT’S ACTUALLY SWEET REDEMPTION for Bell. The particular spot he was hunting has some sour personal history. It was in October 2004, I believe, that he ambled over to me with pursed lips as I drove into our hunting camp in the upper Methow Valley for the second weekend. He showed me a cartridge.

With a dimple on the primer.

And the lead on the business end still jacketed tight.

Should’ve been a 4×4 hanging in camp, but his bullet had misfired.

Bell should also have jacked it out of his .30-06, because instead of bounding off, the buck had hung around. Nothing happened the second time he pulled the trigger on that shell either.

He’s had similar poor luck for years. I credit him for driving a herd of does plus a 3×4 around the mountain to me in the early 2000s. He flushed a Newport, Wash., whitetail to another friend.

Bell has also had – and I couldn’t make this up if I tried – a buck sneak up to within 10 feet of HIM. Granted, it was like a 1×2 and not legal where we were (not far from his missed 4×4 or 5×5), but still …

And it is, of course, the same Bell I wrote about in Northwest Sportsman last winter, the guy whose emails to me were becoming more and more unbalanced as first A) he struck out in the general season B) and then in the permit season as C) all the while deer rubs showed up at the end of his driveway then progressed almost right into his garage.

Indeed, since the misfire on the muley, the Granite Falls hunter has seemingly become obsessed with getting a blacktail.

He spent the first three or four days of this season hunting well-scouted state land near his house, and while he says  one clearcut he was in sounded alive with animal noises, he didn’t see a thing in it.

Which doesn’t surprise me, especially if it was the same cut that he and I glassed late in last year’s hunt. I’d gotten tired of watching it so I crashed through it while Bell stayed behind to hose down whatever scampered out the sides. There was plenty of deer sign in the patch, but when I got back to him an hour later he reported that he hadn’t seen anything come out, though he’d caught glimpses of me – at least once or thrice.

And how, again, were we supposed to see any deer that, at best, are only two-thirds as tall as me?

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I wrote about a kid from Grays Harbor County who came out to our Eastern Washington deer camp. He hated it. The countryside was too open, the deer could see too far off. He left early and has never come back. I used the incident, however, to illustrate that far more blacktails were killed in a certain coastal area – despite all the brush – than units in more or less open western Okanogan County.

Well, you know what? After this season’s success and despite the Lookout Pack of wolves, you can keep your blacktails and your damned statistics. I’ll be back in the Okanogan next year – on the second weekend, when the big boys come through (Dad had a 4×4 coming at him in the fog last Friday before it wheeled away).

And I suspect Bell will be in camp too, hunting on Eric’s Bench which is just above Andy’s Saddle. Here’s hoping he’s got another dud cartridge in the chamber when that 5×5’s brother comes over the ridge!

BELL CARTS HIS BUCK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

BELL CARTS HIS BUCK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

NOAA’s San Juan Orcas Comment Period Extended

October 26, 2009

NOAA-Fisheries has extended the comment period for orca protections in the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound into the new year.

Public comments had been due Oct. 27, but the federal agency has pushed the due date back to Jan. 15.

“We recognize that by extending the public comment period, we won’t have enough time to issue a final rule before the 2010 summer boating season,” a statement on NOAA’s Web site reads. “We continue to believe that it’s important to address the adverse effects of vessel traffic on killer whales in the near future. In light of the requests we’ve received for an extension of the comment period, however, we believe additional public outreach will enhance both NOAA Fisheries’ understanding of public concerns and the public’s understanding of the basis for our proposal. This will also allow time for cooperative efforts to refine the proposal. We’ll work toward adoption of a final rule before the 2011 summer boating season.”

NOAA wants to make a 1/2-mile strip along the west side of San Juan Island a no-go zone for most boats from May 1 through September, as well as bar most vessels from approaching within more than 200 yards or block the paths of the ESA-listed marine mammals in Puget Sound. The agency argues that orcas are affected by boat noises.

“From my viewpoint, closing an area along the shoreline of San Juan Island is not a reasonable solution,” Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association wrote in his October newsletter and excerpted in a blog post on our site. “A reasonable solution is to participate and encourage the improvement of water quality in Puget Sound. A healthy Puget Sound is good for Orca, salmon, and the people who live in the great Pacific Northwest.”

Why Wolf Meetings During Rifle Hunts?

October 26, 2009

When WDFW announced the schedule for public meetings on their draft wolf management plan, there was a bit of howling from hunters.

The dozen get-togethers were slated for the meat of deer and elk rifle seasons, the most popular and well-attended hunts in Washington.

Things kicked off Oct. 20, the Tuesday after the blacktail, muley and whitetail opener, in Clarkston, and proceeded to Richland on Wednesday and Yakima on Thursday.

Today, there will be a meeting in Colville, followed by Spokane, Vancouver and Aberdeen on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.

As elk hunters hole up on Halloween in the highlands of Kittitas and Yakima Counties as well as the Blue Mountains for the weeklong wapiti season, WDFW will hold meetings in Seattle, Mount Vernon and Sequim that following week.

And after late Northeast whitetail rifle and Westside modern firearm elk hunts open in November’s second week, state staffers will gather in Omak and Wenatchee.

So what the heck’s the deal with the timing? Is WDFW trying to keep hunters from commenting on the wolf plan, keep our voices from being heard by scheduling meetings when we’re up in the mountains?

“Yeah, we’ve heard that at a few of the meetings we’ve had already,” says the agency’s Madonna Luers. “But it’s nothing by design. It’s just the way it happened. In fact, we originally had some of these locations scheduled earlier in October.”

She points to an early September meeting with a citizen advisory panel, the Wolf Working Group, to go over scientific peer review comments on the draft plan.

“There were a whole lot more comment than expected,” Luers says. “And so there wasn’t enough time to get a final draft plan out for public review before October 5. And we wanted to give people at least two weeks before the first public meeting to look at that plan. We had to actually reschedule some meetings for later in the month.”

State staffers and the wolf group have been working since early 2007 on a plan for dealing with the return of the species to Washington.

“It’s too bad, but we’re actually getting good crowds at the meetings, including hunters because they’re not out every day,” Luers says.

That was in evidence at the Yakima meeting, according to an article by Scott Sandsberry in the Herald-Republic.

The timing has also affected the state’s enforcement officers, who’ve been working the field as well as attending the meetings to get a handle on how to handle livestock depredations, she says.

“Very frankly, hunters are one interest group,” Luers says. “We’ve had a lot of landowners at these meetings. And lots of conservation groups that are interested in wolves from a whole different perspective.”

While rifle hunters represent the largest segment of Washington’s big-game-hunting population, there are also thousands of archers and muzzleloaders whose deer and elk seasons occur on either side of the 12 meetings.

“It’s hitting the heart of some seasons, but missing others,” says Luers. “You can’t please everyone, but we’re doing the best we can.”

I’ll be at the Seattle meeting Nov. 2 — early too. I hope to see many fellow hunters there.

Meanwhile, tonight’s meeting will be held at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds Ag-Trade Center, 317 West Astor Ave., in Colville. It begins at 6:30 p.m.

And if you can’t make it to the meetings, you can either fax, mail or electronically submit your comments through January 8.

FAX: (360) 902-2946

Mail: WDFW SEPA Desk, 600 Capitol Way N. Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

Online: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildlife/management/gray_wolf/mgmt_plan.html

Oregon Hunter Working On Hound Hunt Bill

October 26, 2009

Jess Messner in Redmond, Ore., is quietly gathering signatures to get a hound-hunting initiative on the ballot in 2012, according to an Oregonian article headlined “It’s time to put the dog back in the (cougar) hunt.”

Bill Monroe writes that Oregon’s mountain lion numbers have nearly doubled, from 3,100 to over 5,800, since 1994 when hound hunting was banned in the Beaver State by voter initiative.

“We hunters have successfully managed and funded our wildlife for years,” Messner tells Monroe. “We all see there is a problem that must be fixed in order to save our big-game populations. I looked around and saw that there was no one doing anything about it.”

There are also safety concerns.

Removal of cougars in certain Eastern Oregon units appears to have helped elk herd numbers, according to the article, and ODFW wants to drop the predator species’ numbers down to around 3,000.

Cuts To Columbia Sturgeon Coming?

October 24, 2009

With state managers “nervous” about declining populations of white sturgeon in the Columbia River, there’s talk of some pretty meaty cuts to sport and commercial fisheries in the future.

Catches of legal and sublegal fish are falling and it’s unclear why, though sea lion numbers are increasing and smelt numbers have dropped substantially, writes Allen Thomas of The Columbian in an article picked up in the Longview Daily News.

“The bottom end is falling out,’’ Washington “sturgeon general” Brad James tells Thomas. “We aren’t getting fish moving up from the smaller sizes.’’

Oregon and Washington managers are working on a new long-term sturgeon compact.

On another front, among the many rule proposals up for discussion on the Washington side is banning the use of shad for oversize sturgeon.

The Deer That Came A’knockin’

October 24, 2009

It wasn’t a neighbor, vacuum salesman or Jehovah’s Witness who knocked on Linda Stephenson’s door one morning not too long ago. Rather, a young buck — buck deer — looking for food. And, as the story in the Bend Bulletin continues, a buck with a taste for chips.

141,645 Pikeminnows Hauled In

October 23, 2009

Participation was up but catch was down during this year’s pikeminnow reward fishery on the Columbia and Lower Snake rivers.

A total of 141,645 of the native fish were brought into 18 check stations by 29,100 anglers between May 3 and Oct. 11, according to data at pikeminnow.org.

Last year, 158,191 were bonked by 26,097 fishermen, though season was basically a week longer.

But an article in today’s Columbia Basin Bulletin suggests this year’s fishery is still a success.

“…We believe it’s due to the program doing what it was designed to do: reduce the number of pikeminnow in the river,” Russell Porter at the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission told CBB.

Cash rewards of $1,000 per tagged fish may have bumped participation in mid-August, according to the article.

This year’s top “ports” were Boyer Park on the Snake (27,438), The Dalles Boat Basin (16,525) and Greenbelt in Clarkston (11,748).

Last year, $1,125,193 was paid out. The top two anglers, CBB reports, turned in $57,772 and $42,137 worth of pikeminnows and tagged fish.

The program, which began on a trial basis in 1991, aims to reduce the average size of pikeminnows to reduce the species’ overall consumption of salmon and steelhead smolts; it’s estimated that predation has been cut by 37 percent, according to pikeminnow.org.

Beaver Lake Stocked With 1000 2+pounders

October 23, 2009

WDFW planted Beaver Lake with “eye candy,” 1,008 2-plus-pound rainbows, on Tuesday this week, the earliest the Sammamish Plateau water has been stocked since fall releases began in 2003.

And another stocking is planned in a week or two, according to John Kugan, foreman at the Issaquah Hatchery.

“Nineteen hundred 2-year-olds, probably the second week of November,” he says.

Beaver features a state access and launch on its southeast side, a city park on its southwest shore.

Fish dough baits or worms from shore, or off bottom in the middle of the lake.

Kugan terms the stockers “eye-candy fish” because they’re at the hatchery’s viewing window through the summer. They’re originally hatched at the state’s Goldendale facility then brought over for fattening up.

Asked why not spread the wealth to waters besides Beaver, Kugan says that the rainbows are only allowed to be planted in the Lake Washington watershed due to concerns about IHN, a fish virus.

Hunters Speak Out At Yakima Wolf Meeting

October 23, 2009

A public meeting last night in Yakima on Washington’s draft wolf management plan drew lots of comments from hunters, according to an article by Scott Sandsberry in today’s Yakima Herald-Republic.

Attendees in Yakima gave state officials a piece of their mind on everything from fear about wolf impacts to the state’s deer and elk as well as struggling mountain caribou herd; to questions about how many packs represent recovery (officially, it’s 15) in a small habitat-poor state like Washington; to downright warnings about individuals taking matters into their own hands, a la shoot, shovel and shut up.

It was the third of a dozen meetings being held around the state to get feedback from the public on the plan. It has been in the works since 2007 as wolf numbers expanded in the Northern Rockies.

Currently, there are two confirmed packs — breeding groups — of wolves in Washington, though there have been reports of individuals or several together for years, as page 113-115 of the state’s draft management plan reports. In recent days, there has been a report of wolves in the Blue Mountains near the Oregon border as well.

Nine more public comment meetings are scheduled in the next two weeks:

Mon., Oct. 26 Colville N.E.WA Fairgrounds Ag-Trade Center 317 West Astor Ave.

Tue., Oct. 27  Spokane Spokane Valley Center Place 2426 N. Discovery Place

Wed., Oct. 28 Vancouver Water Resources Education Center 4600 SE Columbia Way

Thu., Oct. 29 Aberdeen Rotary Log Pavillion east of Aberdeen off Hwy. 12

Mon., Nov. 2 Seattle REI store 222 Yale Ave. N.

Wed., Nov.4 Mount Vernon Cottontree Inn Convention Center 2300 Market St.

Thu., Nov. 5 Sequim  Guy Cole Convention Center Carrie Blake Park, 212 Blake Ave.

Mon., Nov. 9 Omak  Okanogan County Fairgrounds Agriplex Hwy. 97 South

Tue., Nov. 10  Wenatchee Chelan County PUD Auditorium 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.

Psst, Wanna See A Man In A Pink Tux Holding A Carp?

October 23, 2009

Those snap-happy folks at Mar Don Resort on Washington’s Potholes Reservoir got a chuckle out of me this morning.

On page 2 of their photo-strewn “Fresh News Report” is a shot of Dick Hemore in yet another suit and tophat holding yet another fish.

A couple years ago, Hemore was photographed decked out in a white tuxedo and holding a pretty nice walleye caught just below Moses Lake. He’d just come from flagging some sort of demolition derby.

Then, at Mar Don’s annual dock tournament this past September, Mr. Hemore, showed up in a pink tophat and pink tuxedo. Fresh from waving the flag at car races in nearby Lind, he managed to land a 11.47-pound carp, taking second in that division.

THE BEST-DRESSED CARP ANGLER OF ALL TIME, DICK HEMORE. (MAR DON RESORT)

THE BEST-DRESSED CARP ANGLER OF ALL TIME, DICK HEMORE. (MAR DON RESORT)

While Hemore’s a local, the tournament drew anglers from as far as northern Idaho and the Oregon coast.

Species winners included Caley Larson of Old Town, Idaho (13.51-pound carp); Amos Trent of Kent, Wash. (1.22-pound bluegill); Aaron Knowlton of Seattle (1.03-pound crappie); Tony Tolmich of Seattle (7.24-pound walleye); Shawn McCarrell of Moses Lake (4.38-pound largemouth); Tom Logan of Garibaldi, Ore. (4.28-pound smallmouth);  Danny Goss of Old Town (1.5-pound rainbow and .57-pound perch).

To Deer Camp And Back In A Saturn, Part III

October 22, 2009

I’ve always had this bizarre fantasy of going hunting in something like a late-1960s Lincoln Continental batmobile with fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror and suicide doors in back.

Pile six deer hunters in there and plow as high up into the mountains as the beast can be lashed, Pearl Jam or mariachi music blaring out the windows. Tag a mess of bucks and throw them all in the spacious trunk. Roll back into town.

Yeah, buddy.

My fantasies tend to resolve themselves in refracted ways, however.

I did indeed find myself hauling a muley home from deer camp last weekend — in the trunk of my mother in law’s four-door Saturn coupe, Obama sticker on the bumper, a Wagner opera in the casette deck.

Not exactly your typical deer-hunting rig, but when it comes to getting over to Winthrop, Wash., and back for opening weekend, I’ll take whatever I can get my hands on.

Most years that’s meant driving my own trucks, or riding along with Dad in his, but this fall, with Amy due in about a month with our second, taking our vehicle to deer camp wasn’t an option. So I’d taken the Saturn.

My mother in law had warned me she didn’t want any dead animals in her car, and I didn’t think that outcome likely anyway. The reports from the biologist were that the number of harvestable bucks in the upper Methow Valley was depressed due to poor fawn recruitment. There hadn’t really been any major snowstorms to drive deer out of the Pasayten so far this fall, plus there’s all them wolves running around the area.

So of course I was tagged out by 9 a.m. on the opener, and by 10 was scratching my head about how I was going to stuff a stiffening carcass in the Saturn’s trunk.

Have the legs stick out one side of the trunk, head and antlers on the other with the hatch covering up the ribs?

No doubt some anti-hunter would take a picture of that and the license plate as we putted back to civilization, post it on the Web and thoroughly ruin my mother in law’s reputation amongst the lefties/animal lovers down in Oregon where she lives.

For awhile it looked like I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Saturday afternoon it rained and rained. And as much as I’ve learned to love the rain when muley hunting in Eastern Washington, I HATE camping in it. Same goes for Dad. He was ready to pack up his trailer and drive home on Sunday if the drizzle continued and dense fog stuck around. We could just throw the deer in his rig.

But by 7 p.m., the clouds had passed and we could see stars. Dad was staying.

We hunted Sunday morning, saw 19, but didn’t add any more bucks to our game pole. And with me needing to be back in Seattle to send files to press on Monday morning, we decided what to do: Line the Saturn’s trunk with a tarp, cut the deer — now wrapped in game bags — in half, and toss the head in last.

Worked like a charm. Even got a pic of it, complete with the End This War sticker my mother in law thought might convince the deer we were pacifists.

THE AUDACITY OF A DEER HUNTER, STUFFING A MULEY IN HIS MOTHER IN LAW'S SATURN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

THE AUDACITY OF A DEER HUNTER, STUFFING A MULEY IN HIS MOTHER IN LAW'S SATURN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Down at the Chewuch game check station, it didn’t seem like WDFW’s Scott Fitkin was expecting me to jump out of the coupe when I pulled up around noon, but he laughed as I popped the trunk, pulled aside the tarp and produced the buck’s head for him to take samples from.

While Fitkin’s among the most hated of game biologists among the state’s anti-wolf brigade right now, he became my new favorite when he told his helper to write the 2 1/2-year-old buck up as a 4×2, rather than a mere 3×2, thanks to an eyeguard on the left side.

After I mentioned the car was my mother in law’s, he went off to dig his camera out of his state rig.

We chatted a little more then I got rolling for the Westside. If I blazed over the North Cascades Highway and didn’t get stuck behind any Sunday drivers on the Mountain Loop Highway, I could be home and have the deer unloaded into the garage before Amy and my mother in law returned from a baby shower.

But I started worrying about smells. It wasn’t that warm and the deer had only been shot 27 hours before, but still … So I pulled over up near Klipchuck Campground and stripped a bunch of twigs off a pungent greenleaf manzanita plant and scattered them around the trunk.

At home, my plans to quickly unload the beast were thwarted when I realized I hadn’t brought my house keys. And since my neighbors are known animal lovers — both of their vehicles have those We Love Our Pets license plates — and I didn’t know how our landlords would react to news of a dead creature being hauled into their house, I decided against laying the chunks of carcass on the driveway.

Which meant the deer was still in the back of the Saturn when my mother in law, Amy and son arrived home soon afterwards.

Where was the deer, they immediately wanted to know. Ummmm … just move along, go inside, don’t look out the window for a little bit, OK?

A bit of blood had soaked through the game bags and tarp onto some sort of backerboard she was carrying around in the trunk, so I discretely set those aside in the garage and hoped she wouldn’t miss them. Then, a night later, after the manzanita had had time to soak in, I removed the leaves.

And that, is how the editor of Northwest Sportsman drove a very unlikely rig to deer camp and back.

Hunter Report Penalties Coming To OR?

October 22, 2009

While mandatory hunter reporting is new to Oregon, having only begun in spring 2008 for the 2007 big game and turkey seasons, a 17-percent compliance rate has ODFW apparently reaching for the stick.

Penalties could range from restricting hunters from getting a new tag until the previous year’s reporting is complete or fines. However no penalties would take effect until 2011 or late,” reports the Molalla Pioneer today.

“Mandatory reporting is needed so agency biologists can get accurate information on big-game hunting success rates and total numbers of animals killed. This and other data are used in computer formulas to estimate herd populations, sex ratios and to determine the number of tags offered in specific hunts,” reports Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail-Tribune in an early October article.

You can report online at ODFW’s Hunter Reporting page or by calling (866) 947-6339 and follow the prompts.

On the plus side, the Pioneer reports the agency will award three tags (antelope, deer, elk) for folks who report their activities. Deadline is Jan. 31, 2010.

The agency asks that you have your hunter ID number, know the number of the wildlife management unit you hunted the most in, as well as the total number of days hunted this season as well as in your most-hunted unit when you call or log in.

Lots Of Wild Silvers In The Umpqua

October 22, 2009

Good coho runs on the Oregon coast have at least one guide wishing more waters were open this year for wild fish.

Eugene-based guide Todd Linklater tells Mike Stahlberg of the Register-Guard (in an article picked up by KGW TV) that 90 percent of this year’s “bonus, bonus” run of silvers up the Umpqua River is wild.

“There are more coho in the Umpqua than I’ve ever seen,” Linklater tells Stahlberg. “It wouldn’t hurt to let people keep one wild fish.”

While you can catch-and-release for native silvers on coastal rivers where steelhead or Chinook are open, the article states, retention fisheries are only currently allowed on the lower Coquille River and Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes.

The Yaquina, Nestucca and Coos were opened for wild-fish harvest as well under a federal permit, but their quotas were quickly filled in September. As of Oct. 11, the Coke’s quota was 44.5 percent filled, with around 833 more available for harvest. ODFW reports “best fishing between Bandon and Rocky Point boat ramp.”

The bad news is that this year’s strong runs may not repeat next year due to a poor adult class three years ago, according to an expert quoted by Stahlberg, but the future beyond that looks good.

Methow Deer Take Up, Despite Fog

October 21, 2009

I can personally attest to the fog and rain that descended upon the Winthrop area over opening weekend of deer season, but despite the inclement weather, the local biologist reports that “twice” as many deer were hauled past the game check station as in 2008, three dozen.

“I think the wet weather and the later start to the season this year helped hunters a bit,” biologist Scott Fitkin told the Methow Valley News. “The deer that were taken were really healthy, fat, big-bodied bucks.”

The article interviews several hunters, including Cullen Smith of North Bend. He and friends took three bucks on the opener.

Other hunters report not seeing any bucks.

It was definitely difficult to see any deer through the opener’s clouds, fog then rain, but by Sunday, conditions had cleared up. By the time he left late on Monday morning, my own pops had seen 35 deer. He’ll likely be heading back for the second and last weekend of season, along with several others from our deer camp.

Oregon Hunting Report

October 21, 2009

Rutty blacktails await Beaver State hunters when deer season reopens this weekend, but if you haven’t filled your elk tag, there’s news for you too.

Here’s more from ODFW’s most recent Recreation Report:

NORTHWEST ZONE

General DEER rifle season is open (Cascade area reopens Oct. 24). The north coast is home to modest populations of black-tailed deer, but the ratios of bucks to does are relatively high, especially in the Wilson Unit. Look for deer early in the morning and late in the evening in clearcuts or other openings. During the middle of the day, stalk-hunting timbered areas or making drives through cover areas is more productive. As October progresses, bucks will be more vulnerable due to the rut. In general, areas on the eastern slope of the coast range tend to have higher deer numbers than those in the far western side near the coast. When hunting on private industrial forest lands, please be mindful of the company’s access policies.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

Western Oregon General Rifle DEER season is open, though the Cascade area closes from Oct. 17-23 for elk season. Hunters are encouraged to bring the heads from any harvested deer or elk into the ODFW offices in Clackamas or Sauvie Island so that samples can be taken for ongoing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) monitoring. Call ahead (Clackamas 971-673-6000 and Sauvie Island 503-621-3488) to ensure someone will be around to collect the sample or to make an appointment for another day.

DEER hunting in the Cascades will reopen on Oct. 24 and reports indicate that some of the mature bucks are already showing signs of the rut. Hunters can increase their chance for success by using deer scents to attract and hold bucks in more open habitat where they will be easier to locate. Hunters heading to the National Forest should also look for patches of available forage. Forage may be found in burned areas, recent thinnings, or old clearcuts. Many of the old clear cuts are brushing in and becoming difficult to hunt but hunters may have luck finding deer in the large timber next to the old cuts.

Coastal black-tailed deer hunters are reporting average success despite the favorable hunting conditions.  Hunters will find higher densities of deer occurring on private timberland properties where clearcuts have increased forage availability. Deer hunters checked in the field report they are finding more deer by getting away from roads open to vehicle traffic and still hunting and glassing clearcuts along roads open only to non-motorized travel.  There are several travel management  areas (TMA), North Coast TMA and Upper Tualatin-Trask TMA,  located in the coast range that provide hunters an opportunity to leave their vehicle behind and hunt on foot.  Remember to obtain permission before hunting on private property.

Hunters in the Indigo Unit need to be aware that the USFS has implemented a large public access closure due to the Tumblebug Wildfire. Hunters in the Indigo Unit should check with the Willamette National Forest for closure details and update. Closure information can also be found at http://www.inciweb.org/incident/1894/.

Cascade Bull ELK hunters are finding low numbers of elk in the Mt. Hood National Forest and hunting is expected to be similar to last year with only fair success.  As is previous years, bull elk will be widely scattered and difficult to locate and hunters will need to find fresh tracks and other sign to ensure that herds are in the area.  Hunters heading for the industrial timberlands or agricultural lands in the northern half of the Santiam Unit should see increasing elk numbers and success rates should improve.  Weather conditions have been and continue to be excellent for elk hunting.

DOUGLAS COUNTY

General Cascade DEER rifle season in Indigo, Dixon and Evans Creek units re-opens Oct. 24 in the Cascade units. The recent wet weather will help hunters locate bucks for the last couple weeks of the season. Also, harvest success should continue to improve as the season progresses with bucks starting to come into rut. Many of the controlled doe seasons are open from Oct. 24– Nov. 6 in Douglas County.

Local wildlife biologists checked some nice ELK opening weekend in the Diamond Lake and Lemolo Lake areas. The duff/forest floor was relatively quiet because the last several rain storms quieted the woods but warmer weather fronts with a southwest flow created little precipitation with high snow levels. Hunting pressure was down slightly compared to last several years. Cascade elk rifle season continues through Oct. 23.

COOS COUNTY

RIFLE DEER season is open and the Coast season continues through Nov. 6. Deer will become most active during rain and shortly afterwards, as weather fronts pass. Walking roads closed to motor vehicles and glassing clear cuts will be most effective.  Some hunters find that rattling deer antlers can be an effective way to attract bucks lat in the centerfire rifle buck season as the rut approaches. Wearing florescent orange clothing is recommended while rattling deer to make the hunter more visible to other hunters. Florescent colors are not colors deer see well so wearing them will not scare approaching deer.

JACKSON, JOSEPHINE, CURRY COUNTIES

DEER rifle season will reopen Oct 24 for the Cascade units (Rogue, Evans, and Dixon). Coast season will remain open (Applegate) through Nov 6. With the wet conditions of opening weekend a big portion of deer have migrated down although more will trickle for the next three or so weeks. When deer season reopens lower elevation will be the best areas to find deer.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

October 21, 2009

Big numbers of coho, large redbands, trophy-sized stocker trout — that’s just a snippet of what awaits anglers on Oregon rivers and lakes right now.

Here are highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Large numbers of coho have moved into the Sandy River following last weekend’s big rain event
  • Large numbers of coho continue to move into the upper Willamette River and its tributaries, where a 3-fish bag limit is in effect.
  • Retention sturgeon fishing is now open on the Willamette River and continues through the rest of the year.
  • Several valley lakes, ponds and reservoirs have recently been stocked with legal-sized or larger trout. Check the reports below to find some great nearby fishing.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Large redband trout have moved out of the Williamson River into the Sprague River. Fishing for them should improve as water temperatures begin to cool and fish begin to feed actively
  • Fishing on Long and Sevenmile creeks should be excellent for brook trout as they school to spawn.
  • Trout fishing has been improving with declining temperatures and there should be good fishing on several area lakes and reservoirs including Cottonwood Meadows, Duncan, Sherlock and Thompson Valley reservoirs.

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • The lower Rogue is still kicking out chinook, coho, and steelhead. Anglers fishing the lower Rogue are picking up fish on anything from spinners, flies or eggs. Fishing will remain good until the next rain event and flows come up.
  • Wild coho are still available on the Coquille River with the best fishing between Bandon and Rocky Point boat ramp.
  • Chinook have moved into the lower Elk River and anglers have been picking up quite a few.
  • Trout anglers can enjoy excellent fall fishing in several lakes and reservoirs in the Rogue District. Hyatt Lake, Lost Creek Reservoir and Fish Lake have been stocked with large and trophy-sized trout recently. This week Lake Selmac, Expo Pond, Reinhart Park Pond, Applegate Reservoir, and Agate Lake will be stocked this week. Fishing should be good throughout the fall.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Antelope Flat Reservoir and Walton Lake closed Oct. 18 for chemical treatment to remove illegally introduced bullhead catfish.
  • Laurance Lake should offer good fishing for legal and trophy-sized trout.
  • The Deschutes River is crawling with anglers for good reason – steelhead fishing has been very good. Even trout anglers are getting their share with big caddis hatches bringing trout to the surface.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Trout fishing has been fair to good in the Wallowa, lower Grande Ronde, Imnaha and Umatilla rivers; steelhead fishing is improving.
  • Holliday Park Pond, Bull Prairie Reservoir  and Willow Creek Reservoir have been stocked with good-sized trout and should provide some fine fall angling.
  • With the recent rains, steelhead are moving into the John Day River and fishing is good up to the Cottonwood Bridge

SNAKE RIVER ZONE

  • Snake below Hells CAnyon Dam: Fishing for adipose fin-clipped steelhead has opened and the fishing is very good. Beginning Oct. 18, the bag limit for steelhead increased to five adipose fin-clipped steelhead per day, with no more than three 32 inches in total length or greater.

MARINE ZONE

  • Bottom fish anglers on average continue to land three rockfish coast wide. Lingcod landings are down from last week with one ling landed for every two anglers.
  • With the reopening of bottom fishing to all depth, some charter boats are offering combination lingcod and Humboldt squid trips. The squid are medium to large (up to six feet).
  • Cabezon retention by sport boat anglers is not allowed effective Sept. 12 through Dec. 31 because the ocean boat harvest cap of 15.8 metric tons has been reached. Cabezon have a high survival rate when released carefully. Shore anglers, including shore-based divers, may continue to keep cabezon.
  • As of Oct. 15 the recreational and commercial harvest of razor clams is now open along the entire Oregon coast.
  • Recreational mussel harvesting is now open from Bastendorf Beach near Charleston to the California border. All mussel harvesting north of Bastendorf beach remains closed
  • Recreational and commercial clam harvesting is open inside all bays along the entire Oregon Coast, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border.
  • Crabbers in Coos Bay brought in an average of 10 crabs. Other ports report catches between four and five.

The Fickle Pickle Tickle On The Hump

October 21, 2009

Yesterday, I got a pic of a jawdropper muley from the Cascades, today’s slack-mouther comes courtesy of Andy Shanks and his 38.76-pound Humptulips River Chinook.

ANDY SHANKS' NEAR-40-POUND HUMPTULIPS CHINOOK. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

ANDY SHANKS' NEAR-40-POUND HUMPTULIPS CHINOOK. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The Mercer Island, Wash., angler reports it bit on a fickle pickle K15 with a sardine wrapper.

Coho and chum were also biting, but Shanks and fishing partner had to grade through several boots to get three nicer silvers.

“The plugs were deadly all day long,” he says.

Most hatchery Hump kings are adclipped, though not all are. Daily limit is one Chinook on the Hump, despite what the fishing regulations say.

Clearwater Produces Some Nice B-runs

October 20, 2009

Hundreds of thousands of A-run steelhead flooding the Snake system at this moment? So what, there are B-runs to be caught!

Kelly Colliton and his crew came down from Spokane for the first weekend that Idaho’s Clearwater River was open for retention and did pretty well.

“I had a great few days and caught some nice B-runs. About 30 to be exact!!!” Colliton emailed me yesterday, vowing to send photos.

Well, today he delivered on the pic promise:

A NICE B-RUN FOR KELLY COLLITON'S BROTHER-IN-LAW JERRY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

A NICE CLEARWATER STEELHEAD FOR KELLY COLLITON'S BROTHER-IN-LAW JERRY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

RILEY COLLITON WITH A CLEARWATER STEELHEAD. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

RILEY COLLITON WITH A CLEARWATER STEELHEAD. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

KELLY COLLITON WITH CLEARWATER STEELHEAD. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

KELLY COLLITON WITH CLEARWATER STEELHEAD. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

“I like to side drift mostly,” Colliton reports. “That is the most fun and you really have to learn how to feel the bite. They will really grab it sometimes, but most of the time it is pretty subtle and you really have to differentiate that take from the bottom.”

“I drift egg sacks with a little yarn below a barrel swivel with a sliding swivel and lead above that.  I did get a couple fish on bobbers and a jig, but spent 90 percent of my time drifting,” he says.

Barred From The (West) Bar

October 20, 2009

Washington’s hunting regulations list the West Bar game unit (330) as open for true spikes during the late-October/early November modern firearms elk season, but late word from the state that that is in error.

A press release from WDFW out this afternoon says the small unit along the Columbia in eastern Kittitas County is only open for early archery and special permit hunting, not rifle season.

“Over 20 years ago when it was included during the general season, too much hunting pressure on West Bar caused elk to cross the Columbia River and enter the agricultural and residential areas of Grant County, leading to some unethical and unsafe hunting activities,” says Ted Clausing, WDFW’s regional wildlife program manager in Yakima.

The agency says they are posting signs at access points to warn hunters.

Toutle Anglers, Beware

October 20, 2009

Anglers on Gamefishin.com as well as The Daily News of Longview both report numerous tires slashed and one vehicle broken into at the mouth of the Toutle River in Southwest Washington on Sunday night.

Columbia Coho Bag Limit Increased

October 20, 2009

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The daily bag limit for adult hatchery coho will increase to three fish in the mainstem Columbia River from Tongue Point upstream to the Hwy. 395 bridge at Pasco, Wash., effective Thursday, Oct. 22.  The rule change was approved Monday by the states of Oregon and Washington at a joint state hearing in response to large returns of coho salmon. The adult coho limit in the area between Buoy 10 and Tongue Point increased to three fish effective Sept. 1.

Under the new rules, anglers will be permitted to retain one additional adult fin-clipped coho in their current daily adult bag limit which varies by area.

The revised daily adult bag limits (effective Oct. 22) are:

Tongue Point upstream to Warrior Rock:
Two adipose fin-clipped steelhead or adipose fin-clipped coho in combination, plus one additional adipose fin-clipped coho.  Closed to the retention of chinook salmon.

Warrior Rock upstream to Bonneville Dam:
Two adipose fin-clipped steelhead, adipose fin-clipped adult coho, or adult chinook (but only one may be a chinook) in combination, plus one additional adipose fin-clipped coho.

Bonneville Dam upstream to the Hwy. 395 bridge at Pasco, Wash.:
Two adipose fin-clipped steelhead, coho, or chinook in combination, plus one additional coho.  All non adipose fin-clipped coho must be released downstream of the Hood River bridge.

The coho season on the Columbia is expected to continue through the rest of the year.

Detailed area-by-area regulations, updated regulations, and in-season modifications can be found at on the ODFW Web site.

TDCABIA Saturn, Part II

October 20, 2009

A word about how I found myself driving to deer camp and back in a Saturn sporting an Obama sticker on the bumper and a German opera in the cassette deck.

This past weekend, my mom held a baby shower for Amy, my wife. Her mother had driven up from Newport for the event, and that meant we had a second car available. And because I had to be back at work Monday morning to send the November issue of Northwest Sportsman to press – and Dad was staying in camp till late Monday morning – it was either zip into Okanogan County in an unlikely hunting rig or rent an Explorer from Budget.

Due to budget constraints, I chose the former – and got a lot of grief over that bumper sticker.

That wasn’t my main worry, though. It was getting the car into camp over a kelly hump in the road. No problem in the high-clearance pickups I’ve driven or ridden to deer camp for years, but for a Saturn … well, take it slow – and try not to scrape going over that rock!

I’d kidded my mother-in-law we’d be taking her car all the way up the nasty road to the top of the mountain, where there’s a big clearcut with lots of feed. That’s where I like to hunt in the afternoons. We’ve been hunting this area of the Methow Valley for around 10 years, and I think I’ve finally got the hang of what the deer are up to. I know where they’ll cross over the divide in the morning and evening, approximately when that will happen, where they’ll come up out of the creek, the trail they’ll take across the bowl, the spot to sit on top of the hill near sunset, the buck nests.

And while I’ve figured a lot out about the critters, what’s perplexing of late is the weather. Since October 2003’s monsoon, fall has seemingly turned a lot moister in the Okanogan. Used to be you could count on tinder-dry arrowleaf balsamroot and downed pine and fir branches giving away deer movements, but these days, not so much. Somewhere I saw a prediction that in the years ahead, most of Washington would be drier – except for Okanogan County, which would get wetter. And as we sat around the campfire on the eve of this year’s opener, rain began falling, so we retreated to the trailer for the evening.

The pitter-patter of rain and drops of it from the trees above reminded me of that night in 2003 when both sides of the state were absolutely soaked, but in the back of my mind was what happened that next morning. Despite the weather, I threw on a rain jacket and headed out to a crossing point on the mountain and waited. A buck had come through at what passed for shooting light, but I guessed wrong and he spooked. That and a couple other incidents taught me not to stay in camp when the weather’s bad. Indeed, as a coed at Wazzu once told our 400-level English class, if Washingtonians didn’t do things outside just because it was raining, we’d never do anything at all.

Which is why, this past Saturday morning, I left camp well before shooting light to find a spot on the ridge, a saddle I’ve watched dozens of deer cross over, some as close as 10 yards.

Shooting light came and went without any blasts, but around 7, a few shots rang out, though muffled. Fog lay across the valley, hills and mountains above Winthrop, and as morning wore on it only got thicker. Where I’d set up has 300 degrees of fair visibility in the best of conditions, but as clouds surged in, I could see only 40 yards at times.

That and the wetness of the ground led to the morning’s first surprise: A doe suddenly appeared out of the fog 30 yards away to my right. She crossed over the ridge within 20 yards and continued downhill. Lesson learned: Eyes more than ears will be the key today.

A wind came up and for a moment it seemed like it might blow the murk away, but then it came on thick. Dad came up the trail and we chatted briefly before he went back down to another vantage spot. To only see one deer on the opener here is really unusual, and I thought about climbing higher up, but with this fog, one spot was as good as another, I figured, so I stayed put.

Glad I did. Around 8:50 I spotted a deer coming towards me. It was a buck. I put the scope on him, but it was only a 2-point muley, not legal here.

However, another deer was behind him, and since I’ve never seen a buck leading does in this area, the odds I thought were good it was a second buck.

It was. And he had what looked like was a third point on the left side.

My heart started pumping hard as I tracked the two through the trees about 35 yards away. But was that really a third point on that second one, I found myself wondering?

The bucks switched positions, the 2-point now behind. Then they stopped and looked at me. In the trees, I couldn’t tell which was which; their small headgear was camouflaged too well.

Something was wrong, they could tell, and started moving off, one in front of the other. My chance of a shot was fading, I realized, so I put the scope up again, saw three points clearly silhouetted in the fog on the second buck, and fired the .308.

The buck piled up in 40 yards, a hole in his ticker.

And here I’d thought the only buck I’d harvest over the weekend would be hatchery steelhead in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers.

But it brought up an interesting question: With Dad staying till later on Monday, how was I going to get the deer to the butcher?

In the Saturn?

My mother-in-law had made it known I couldn’t put it inside her car, and though that didn’t preclude putting it up on the hood, like that gal who carried a Montana elk on the roof of her Dodge Colt, she got wise and barred that option too.

To be continued …

Kulongoski On NPR

October 20, 2009

In case you missed the story yesterday afternoon on NPR, reporter Melissa Block floated the South Fork Santiam River with Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski recently. And while they also talked about his desire to create more green jobs in the Beaver State, it was a chance for the governor to practice what he really loves: fly fishing.

Block reports:

We float past Chinook salmon spawning in the gravel close to shore, their tails flapping out of the water. Ospreys wheel overhead. For Kulongoski, time on the river teaches patience — among other things.

“Sometimes, you have to get out like this to really understand why you do what you do,” he says. “This is what Oregon’s all about. This is who we are as people — on the natural resource side of our lives. … I must admit, I may not be as religious but I’m very spiritual — and I believe if there is a God, this is where he lives. He’s on the river, he’s in the mountains — this is what it’s all about.”

They were hoping to catch steelhead, but in the end, Kulongoski only landed a jack Chinook, which he released.

There’s an amusing tidbit at the end of the article too, about the governor steelheading in front of a crowd on the McKenzie.  He loses two, and hears it from the peanut gallery.

The peanut gallery commenting on NPR’s story point out the gov might want to do something about the state’s high unemployment rate rather than going fishing or talking about future green jobs.

Frank Words

October 20, 2009

The story is about why the state of Washington may be dragging its heels on working with the tribes to come up with a plan to replace or repair salmon-blocking culverts, but in Craig Welch’s Seattle Times article today, Billy Frank Jr. has some strong comments about well comanagement of the fish is working out:

“We’re going backward, backward, backward,” Frank said. “Their budgets are falling. Their half of the management of our 50-50 split hasn’t worked. The tribes are doing lots of things on the watershed. We’ve got to get the co-managers to do more of the same.”

Winter-runs Are Heeeeere: SW WA Fishin’ Report

October 19, 2009

Joe Hymer knows how to get my attention. In his Southwest Washington fishing roundup, fired off his Vancouver desk oh, about 10 minutes ago, is the following bolded, supersized mention for the Cowlitz River: “four early winter-run adults.”

Yee-hah! Our favorite season is officially here!! And it comes just as we put the final touches on the November issue’s 31-page Northwest steelhead preview.

Here’s the rest of the fishing news from around Southwest Washington, according to Hymer:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Anglers are reminded that under statewide freshwater rules, October 31 is the last day to fish for game fish in most rivers, streams, and beaver ponds.

Mainstem Grays from mouth to South Fork and West fork from mouth to hatchery intake/footbridge – Salmon and steelhead season extended through October 25. Salmon daily limit is 6 fish of which no more than 2 adult chinook may be retained.  Release chum, wild coho, and wild chinook.  All chinook must be adipose and/or ventral fin clipped to be retained.

In addition, up to 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Wild steelhead and all other game fish must be released.   

Lower portions of Abernathy, Coal, Mill (Cowlitz Co.), Germany creeks and the Coweeman River -  Re-open to fishing for hatchery steelhead and other game fish beginning November 1.

Cowlitz River – Boat and bank anglers continue to catch coho on the lower Cowlitz.   Bank anglers at the barrier dam are also catching some coho and Chinook (most of which were released).

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 9,890 coho adults, 701 jacks, 1,268 fall chinook adults, 215 jacks, 39 summer-run steelhead adults, four early winter-run steelhead adults, 159 sea-run cutthroat trout, one chum and one pink salmon adult during seven days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the week Tacoma Power employees released 813 fall Chinook adults, 154 jacks, 72 coho adults and two jacks into Mayfield Lake at the Ike Kinswa State Park boat launch, 297 coho adults and 10 jacks, 258 fall chinook adults and 41 jacks into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton, 1,565 coho adults and 133 jacks into Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam, and 687 coho adults and 40 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, Washington.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,470 cubic feet per second on Monday, October 19, and water visibility is 12 feet.

Kalama River – Has improved for coho.  Anglers are also catching some steelhead.

Lewis River – Bright, late stock coho have appeared in the catch at the salmon hatchery.  Some steelhead and fall Chinook (which have to be released) were also caught.  About 800 hatchery late stock coho were counted in the traps last week.

Fisherman and pleasure boaters planning to be on the Columbia or lower Lewis Rivers should be aware that a safety zone will be established prior to blasting operations scheduled to occur each day beginning November 1.  For more info, see http://crci-project.info/index.html.

Wind River – Generally light effort although boat anglers caught some coho which were released.  October 31 is the last scheduled day of the salmon season.

Drano Lake – Light effort though boat anglers are catching some fish.

Klickitat River – Heavy bank angling effort and increased coho catch on the lower river.  Nearly 50 vehicles were counted yesterday (Sunday Oct. 18) morning on the lower couple miles of the river.  Bank anglers averaged an adult coho kept per rod.  Some fall Chinook were also observed in the catch.

Under permanent rules to protect naturally spawning fall chinook, all chinook must be released from 400’ above #5 fishway upstream beginning November 1.  Fisher Hill Bridge downstream will remain open for chinook retention.

Yakima River – WDFW staff interviewed 220 anglers fishing for salmon. Effort was similar to the week prior. An estimated 189 adult fall chinook, 22 jack chinook, and 72 adult coho caught during the week. The total harvest is currently estimated at 403 adult chinook, 58 jack chinook, 82 adult coho, and 4 coho jacks. Wild steelhead caught and released for the fishery is estimated at 16 fish.  Salmon fishery is scheduled to remain open through October 22.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Most of the effort and coho catch was found in the Camas/Washougal area.  Fifty boats were counted at Lady Island during the Saturday October 17 flight.     Some coho and steelhead were also caught in the lower river though effort was light.

Under permanent rules to protect naturally spawning fall chinook and chum, fishing for salmon is closed from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam beginning November 1.

Bonneville Pool – At the mouth of the Klickitat, boat anglers averaged nearly an adult coho kept per rod.  Just over sixty boats were counted there yesterday.  Some coho are also being caught at the mouth of the White Salmon River though most were unmarked fish and had to be released.

Hanford Reach – The fall chinook sport fishery was closed to the retention of any salmon on October 14. Anglers were allowed to continue to fish for hatchery steelhead and catch and release only for salmon through October 22.  The number of boats fishing for salmon dropped dramatically after October 14.  An estimated 276 fall chinook were harvested during the final three days of retention (193 adults & 83 jacks). Only 48 adult and 39 jack chinook were caught and released after October 14.  To date, 6,532 adult fall chinook and 1,997 jacks have been harvested.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauana powerlines to Bonneville Dam – About one in ten bank anglers on the Washington side just below Bonneville Dam had kept a legal size sturgeon when sampled last Thursday.  Effort remains fairly high in the gorge with 265 WA and 294 OR bank anglers counted during the Saturday October 17 flight.   Effort was light on the rest of the lower river.

TROUT

Swift Reservoir – Game fish and salmon season has been extended through November.  Reports of good fishing for rainbows averaging 12-13” with  some up to 20”.


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