Archive for January, 2010

‘They Just Chain-sawed Those Suckers Right Off’

January 31, 2010

Scott Sandsberry details four elk poaching incidents west of Naches in an article in the Yakima Herald-Republic.

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4 Of 5 WA Beaches To Open For Razor Clamming

January 28, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Tests clear razor clam digs
at 4 of 5 ocean beaches

OLYMPIA – Twin Harbors beach will open for razor clam digging tomorrow (Jan. 28), followed by openings at three other beaches later this week after a new round of marine toxin tests showed the clams there are safe to eat.

Long Beach, however, will remain closed to digging due to high levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) detected in the clams.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) delayed making a final decision on digs at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks after high PSP levels were found at Long Beach.

The Olympic National Park also approved a dig scheduled at Kalaloch Beach, based on the results of a new round of marine toxin tests.

“We’re pleased that we can move forward with digs at these four beaches,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.  “The latest tests showed that the clams there remain safe to eat.”

The four beaches will open for digging at noon on the following days:

  • Twin Harbors – Thursday (Jan. 28) through Sunday (Jan. 31)
  • Copalis and Mocrocks – Friday (Jan. 29) through Sunday (Jan. 31)
  • Kalaloch Beach – Saturday (Jan. 30) through Sunday (Jan. 31)

Ayres said toxin levels in clams dug last week at Long Beach violate health standards established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ruling out an opening at that beach.  PSP is a marine toxin produced by a certain type of algae (Alexandrium dinoflaellates) that can cause paralysis and even death if consumed in sufficient quantities.

At the other beaches, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s limit must be kept in a separate container. All diggers must have an applicable 2009-10 fishing license to dig razor clams on any beach. A license is required for anyone age 15 or older.

Anglers can buy a combination license or an annual shellfish/seaweed license. Also available are razor-clam only licenses in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . A list of state license vendors is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lic/vendors/vendors.htm .

Beaches scheduled to open for razor-clam digging this week are:

  • Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor.
  • Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes the Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas.
  • Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips.
  • Kalaloch Beach, which extends from the South Beach Campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park.

Renaissance Marine Buys Northwest Jet Boats Brand

January 27, 2010

(RENAISSANCE MARINE GROUP PRESS RELEASE)

Dan Larson, President and CEO of Renaissance Marine Group, and Larry Whitten, founder and President of Northwest Jet Boats, Inc. of Pasco, Washington, announced that Renaissance Marine Group (“RMG”) has purchased certain manufacturing assets, inventory and rights to build and market the Northwest Jet Boat brand of welded aluminum sport and fishing boats.

Renaissance Marine Group, Inc., founded in 2000, is the parent company and manufacturer of Duckworth, Weldcraft, and Columbia Boat brands of heavy gauge welded aluminum boats from 17’ to 30’ that are sold through a network of over thirty independent marine dealers primarily in the Western U.S. and Canada.  With the acquisition of Northwest Jet Boats, RMG will consolidate production in its Clarkston, Washington factory, expand its dealer network to include the Northwest Jet Boat dealers in the U.S. and Canada, and offer the widest selection of heavy gauge welded aluminum boats in the industry.

Northwest Jet Boats, Inc. was founded in 1987 by Larry Whitten and has built and sold over 1,900 units, ranging from 18’ to 26’ inboard jets and outboard configurations.  The models are sold through a network of independent marine dealers in the Western U.S. and Canada, all of whom are expected to continue offering these fine boats as the manufacturing shifts to RMG and its larger factory capabilities.

Larry Whitten will continue as owner of the well-established Northwest Marine & Sport dealership in Pasco that is currently the largest and most prominent dealer in Northwest Jet Boat models.  His dealership will continue as a Northwest Jet Boat dealer and together with the selling entity will fulfill warranty matters on existing Northwest Jet Boats while also becoming a major warranty and service repair center for RMG’s full line of brands.  In addition, Northwest Marine & Sport is becoming a dealer for RMG’s Weldcraft brand of boats ranging from 17’ to 30’.

Larry Whitten will serve as a special Consultant to RMG for the next three years to oversee the transition in production to the Clarkston facility and to be involved in ongoing product development and marketing.

“We’re looking beyond the current marine industry downturns and planning ahead to better serve the needs of the aluminum boat buyer and dealers,” said Larson.  “The addition of Northwest Jet Boats improves our production capabilities, our buying power, and our dealer network.  We anticipate adding to our Clarkston workforce and maintaining our U.S. based production at lower costs.  Our goal is to produce superior performing boats with top quality brands and dealer support in a variety of price ranges.  This acquisition is another step forward for RMG and our team of employees, dealers and boat owners.”

For Larry Whitten, this transaction allows him to focus his effort on the successful expansion of retail opportunities at Northwest Marine & Sport by securing an ongoing relationship for developing and selling Northwest Jet boats and Weldcraft boats.

Gathering Our People

January 27, 2010

I was talking with one of my writers yesterday afternoon and he was a little ehh about the upcoming show season. Been there, seen that can’t-miss lure, tasted this secret elk jerky recipe, still can’t afford a sled.

I’ve felt the same way in the past, always wondering, “Why am I going again? Well, at least I’ll come home with a sack of scones.”

Then last January I began to see it differently.

As part of pimping our then-new magazine, we gathered a table, a pile of back-issue boxes and a couple manila envelopes and set up at Puyallup, then Portland, then Roseburg, then Spokane.

I was to work a couple days at Puyallup but wasn’t sure how it would go. Ever since we’d started the mag up in Oct. 2008, there had been questions — and some anger — about what happened with F&H News (where some of us worked till it unexpectedly closed in July of that year), where the subscription money had gone, yada, yada, yada.

I have to admit that I’m extremely shy and not at all a public persona. And with my low muttering and ugly mug, there’s a reason I’m a magazine editor and not an outdoor radio or TV show host.

So there was definite trepidation going on with yours truly. It’s far easier to be a member of the crowd shuffling past than the person in the booth.

But once anglers and hunters began coming by, I warmed up — and then I wanted to stay all day long.

This was great! Hundreds of old F&H readers stopped by, wondering what had happened. Outside of a few, there was compassion and then interest in our magazine.

I met people I’d only emailed with over the years, I met people from Gamefishin, old faces, new faces.

John Kruse stopped by, so did Jason Brooks and his boys. Glen and Cami Bayer (she of the February 2010 cover) swung by and introduced themselves.

I wandered the fairgrounds, chatting with other folks I knew.

It’s taken about a year, but in the end I understand that sportsmen’s shows aren’t just about the latest doodads, widgets and whizbangs, the coolest lodges, resorts and guides.

It’s something like the social event of the year for Our People, a gathering together of The Tribe. At no other time of the year do so many of us come together.

Not in the combat zones below Northwest steelhead hatcheries.

Not in the Interstate springer hole, or the Merry-Go-Round at Drano, or out at the CR Buoy.

Not on ifish, piscatorials, steelheader, hunting-washington, nwfishingaddicts, etc.

Not at public meetings on fishery or wildlife issues.

Not at youth hunts, senior hunts or disabled hunts.

Not at DU, RMEF or NWTF banquets.

We may not agree on hatchery practices, on wildlife management — on anything — but we go and rub shoulders in those crowded aisles, and I think I know why. Even if all we do is pick up slick brochures for Alaskan lodges, for Montana outfitters, for the latest and greatest steel sheds, for these few days of the year, we’re together.

We’ll see you at the shows, folks.

2010 SPORTSMEN’S SHOW SCHEDULE

JANUARY
Jan. 27-31: Washington Sportsmen’s Show, Western Washington Fairgrounds, Puyallup. otshows.com
Jan. 29-31: Great Rockies Sport Show, Gallatin Co. Fairgrounds, Bozeman, Mont. greatrockiesshow.com
Jan. 29-Feb. 6: Seattle Boat Show, Qwest Field Event Center/South Lake Union, Seattle. seattleboatshow.com

FEBRUARY
Feb. 5-7: Eugene Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, Lane County Fairgrounds, Eugene, Ore. exposureshows.com
Feb. 5-7: Great Rockies Sport Show, Montana ExpoPark, Great Falls, Mont. greatrockiesshow.com
Feb. 10-14, Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show, Expo Center, Portland. otshows.com
Feb. 19-21: Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Douglas County Fairgrounds, Roseburg, Ore. exposureshows.com
Feb. 19-21: Central Washington Sportsmen Show, SunDome, Yakima. shuylerproductions.com
Feb. 26-28: Jackson County Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Jackson County Expo, Medford, Ore. exposureshows.com

MARCH
March 4-7: Idaho Sportsmen’s Show, Expo Idaho, Boise. idahosportsmanshow.com
March 5-7: BC Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, and BC Hunting Show, TRADEX, Abbotsford, B.C. squarefeetevents.ca
March 5-7: Great Western Sportfishing Show, Convention Center, Spokane. shuylerproductions.com
March 11-14, Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show, Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, Redmond. otshows.com
March 12-14: Great Rockies Sport Show, Flathead County Fairgrounds, Kalispell, Mont. greatrockiesshow.com
March 12-13: Northwest Fly Tyer and Fly Fishing Expo, Linn County Expo Center, Albany, Ore. nwflytyerexpo.com
March 18-21: Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, Interstate Fairgrounds, Spokane. wildlifecouncil.org/bighornsubsite/default.htm

APRIL
April 8-11: Great Alaska Sportsman Show, Sullivan & Ben Boeke Arenas, Anchorage. greatalaskasportsmanshow.com

SW WA Fishing Report

January 26, 2010

(JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – 39 bank anglers kept 2 steelhead while 3 boat anglers had no catch.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 102 winter-run steelhead, nine coho adults, three jacks and one cutthroat trout during four days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. During the week Tacoma Power employees released three coho adults, one jack and three winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and eleven winter-run steelhead, four coho adults and one jack into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam. 

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 10,100 cubic feet per second on Monday, January 25. Water visibility is nine feet.

Salmon Creek (Clark Co.) – High effort but no catch was observed.

The Dalles Pool – Light effort though some steelhead are being caught.

John Day Pool – Bank anglers are catching some steelhead.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia mainstem from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – 2 boats/4 anglers in the Cowlitz/Kalama area and 2 boats/4 anglers in the Vancouver area had no catch as did 3 bank anglers in Longview and 15 just below Bonneville Dam.

Bonneville Pool – Over half the boat anglers sampled had kept a legal size fish.  Bank anglers were also catching some legals.

The Dalles and John Day pools – Light effort and no legal catch was observed.

WALLEYE AND BASS

Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day pools – Generally little to no effort.  Boat anglers are catching some walleye in The Dalles Pool.  No effort was observed for bass in the three pools.

TROUT

Silver Lake near Castle Rock – Low effort and no catch was observed.

Kress Lake near Kalama – Average effort and catch.

Klineline Pond – 29 bank anglers kept 8 brood stock rainbows and 3 catchable size rainbows.  Water level is high – most catch in the swimming area.  Planted with 210 brood stock rainbows averaging 4 pounds each Jan. 20.

Horseshoe (in Woodland), Battleground, and Vancouver lakes – No effort.  Battleground Lake was planted with 3,029 catchable size rainbows Jan. 19.

Kidney Lake near North Bonneville – Planted with 1,000 rainbows just under ½ pound each Jan. 19.

SMELT

Lower Columbia mainstem – 2,000 pounds were landed from the commercial fishery last week.

Washington tributaries – Unconfirmed reports of recent birds/seal activity in the Deep, Grays, and Cowlitz River.  The Cowlitz remains closed to sport dipping until Feb. 6; all other tributaries will remain closed.

The Dishonor Roll

January 26, 2010

IT’S A NATIONAL PARK, NOT A HUNTING AREA, JACKASS

Robert Hurst might have gotten away with poaching a bull elk in Olympic National Park – if the animal hadn’t been so big.

He and several others had to make multiple trips up the Wynoochee Valley over five days to retrieve the trophy 6×7 bugled in in the Litchy Creek drainage at the reserve’s remote southern edge and shot by Hurst with a bow. It was on his Sept. 23, 2007 trip that the group ran into Officer Brian Alexander.

HE'S "NOT SMILING ANY MORE," SAYS A LAW ENFORCEMENT SOURCE ABOUT ROBERT HURST, SENTENCED YESTERDAY FOR ILLEGALLY KILLING THIS WHOPPER BULL ELK INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK. (U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE)

The state Fish & Wildlife game protector was curious about the big elk head and some meat in the back of the pickup, but the suspect became “furtive,” according to Mike Cenci, deputy chief of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Enforcement Division.

“He got a convoluted story,” says Cenci.

Which got Alexander to wondering about where, exactly, Hurst, a 38-year-old Woodland, Wash., resident, had actually shot the bull.

“They ruled out a number of areas and focused on where they thought the animal might have been killed,” says Cenci.

Afterwards, Mishka, one of the agency’s Karolian bear dogs, was brought into the Wynoochee’s logged-over headwaters and was able to find the kill site – a mile inside the park near Discovery Peak. Forensic evidence linked it with the bull in the truck.

On Jan. 25, Hurst plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, was fined $2,500, placed on three years probation and had his hunting privileges suspended during that time. He was also ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

“This animal was a prize possession of each and every citizen who enjoys the park, and that possession has been taken away,” said Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura at Hurst’s sentencing.

The maximum sentence for the crime is one year in prison, but what Hurst got will lead to a lengthier monitoring period.

“Federal sentencing is driven by the guidelines: These are determined by ‘points’ based on things such as the number of victims, loss amount, the defendant’s criminal history, etc.,” explained district court spokeswoman Emily Langlie in an email. “In this case the guidelines range for Hurst was zero to six months in prison.  Had Mr. Hurst been sent to prison, the supervised release time would have been only one year — a relatively short period of time to restrict his hunting and monitor his behavior.  The probationary sentence means his activities will be monitored and restricted by federal probation for three years.  The prosecutor believes the longer probationary period is a better safeguard for the public than a month or two of incarceration with only a year of monitoring.”

‘JUST A LITTLE BIT OF GREED’
A man who shot a pair of trophy bulls in Washington’s Blue Mountains – the first illegally filled the tag of his wife back home on the Westside – is out more than $10,000 and can’t hunt for two years.

Christopher Mayeda, 38, of Kelso pled guilty to “unlawful hunting of big game 2nd degree; unlawful transportation of fish or wildlife 1st degree; unlawful purchase or use of a license 2nd degree; and providing false information regarding fish and wildlife,” according to Columbia County District Court, and on Dec. 16 was fined $1,000, and must pay court costs, including a civil judgment for a big-game violation, totaling $6,295.

WDFW GRABS CHRISTOPHER MAYEDA'S FIRST 2008 BULL BY THE HORNS, THE ONE HE PUT HIS WIFE'S TAG ON. (WDFW)

He also paid $3,000 to get his seized pickup truck back, the Daily News of Longview reported.

Mayeda and wife, Tracey, 40, were lucky enough to draw into two of the four muzzleloader tags given out for the Dayton Unit in 2008, and soon after the hunt started, he bagged a 6×6. He slapped Tracey’s tag on it and called her to come get the bull, then went out hunting the next day and killed a 6×7, which he tagged with his own permit, according to the paper’s accounts.

“There’s just a little bit of greed getting involved there,” WDFW warden Bill Lantiegne told the paper in mid-October.

While charges were dropped against Tracey, two others involved in the incident, Jason M. Ford, 39, of Castle Rock, and Steven A. Hamm, 33, of Kelso also pled guilty and were fined, the paper reported.

TWO-STICK RULE, ERR, NOT QUITE OUT YET

Oregon began allowing anglers use of a second rod starting earlier this year, but some folks got on the stick a little too early.

According to the Oregon State Police’s Fish & Wildlife Division, two people were observed plunking with two rods –
and two sticks – along Multnomah Channel in midfall.

Attached lines told officers that those weren’t just sticks in the mud.

Sticklers for the law, OSP cited both for angling by a prohibited method.

Not that they didn’t deserve the – last bad pun, we promise – stick: They were also dinged for fishing without licenses.

GRIZZLY SENTENCE

There are two noticeable signs tacked up in the forested hinterlands where Washington, Idaho and British Columbia come together.

They warn hunters that A) endangered mountain caribou are in the area, as are B) endangered grizzlies.

But thinking the beast in front of them was a black bear, Brandon Rodeback, 26, and Kurtis Cox, 30, of Moses Lake shot it, then learned it was a griz and buried parts of it on a Grant County, Wash., farm.

Last month they were sentenced to five years probation, suspended from hunting for two years, sent back to remedial hunter’s ed, ordered to both pay $3,000 fines and together come up $14,857 payable to the Washington Department
of Fish and Wildlife.

It was the first known grizzly poached in the state in at least two decades, and a key animal for recovering the species. A state official noted it had produced numerous litters while staying out of trouble over 14 years of tracking.

FOLLOW-UP FILE

Our December Dishonor Roll spotlighted four southern Willamette Valley men connected to the case of the out-of-season killing of four bull elk. They and two others recently pled guilty in Lane County Circuit Court to a litany of game violations and racked up a whopping $23,000 in fines and restitutions, 12 years of suspended hunting privileges, 55 days in jail, 114 months of probation and 420 hours of community service.

Actually, the guy who police say shot the 3-, 5- and 6-points and 6×7, John K. Atwater, 50, had his hunting privileges suspended for life. He was also ordered to surrender his rifle.

POACHER JOHN K. ATWATER'S HANDIWORK, FOUR DEAD BULL ELK. (OSP)

The incident happened late the morning of Oct. 20 on private property south of Cottage Grove. Local landowners reported Atwater and four others retrieving the animals from their fields.

Others involved in the case were Atwater’s son Justin Atwater, 26, who was sentenced to 15 days in jail; David Pruitt, 78; Homer Rhodes, 75; Christopher Stevens, 35; and Bryan Shepard.

CHEAPSKATE CALIFORNIANS FINED, APOLOGIZE

They saved around $4,000 on Oregon elk tags by posing as Astoria residents for nearly a decade, but in the end, the scam caught up to Californians Steve Calhoun and Oscar Lizotte.

They not only have to pay $7,500 in fines, but took out a display ad in the Daily Astorianas an apology, writes Bill Monroe of The Oregonian.

A tip and butcher’s records showing processed meat was being shipped to the Golden State helped the case.

“We saved money and cheated the system,” Calhoun and Lizotte’s ad said, Monroe reports. “We … should have known better.”

Yes, you should have.

JACKASS OF THE MONTH
“Trooper Clement responded to a possible duck hunter shooting seagulls at E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area” near Eugene, reports the Oregon State Police’s Fish and Wildlife Division.

Lemme guess, the guy was shooting lead at the gulls too.

“The hunter was using lead shot in a non-toxic shot-only area,” OSP confirms.

And, wild hunch, didn’t bother with a plug?

“Clement cited the subject for Hunting Prohibited Method, Lead Shot and warned for not having a plug in the shotgun.”

Jackass.

February Issue Brews Up Keepers

January 26, 2010

My heart was set on lots of wild winter steelhead coverage in our big February issue, but with many runs not faring so well, we ease the pressure and go after keepers of other species instead.

NEW RULE: ALL FUTURE COVERS OF NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN MAGAZINE WILL CONTAIN A MINIMUM OF TWO LOVELY LADIES HOLDING FISH AND/OR GAME. (MAIN IMAGE: GLEN & CAMI BAYER; INSET: BOB ROBERTS, COLUMBIA BASIN GUIDE SERVICE)

Indeed, with woes hitting his favorite species hard, Bill Herzog found good action on immature Chinook, or blackmouth, in the Straits of Juan de Fuca last year. In this issue, he tells Tim Bush about the “new funk” for that fishery, which reopens at mid-month.

ZEE NEW FUNK. (TIM BUSH)

The myriad passes and banks in the nearby San Juans also come into prime shape, and author Wayne Heinz has collected 101 years of blackmouth wisdom from six salty dogs — five charter skippers and the venerable Tom Nelson of SalmonUniversity — for his map feature on the sunniest salmon fishery in Western Washington.

CAP'N JAY FIELD WITH A DEC. 2009 SAN J'S BLACKMOUTH. (TONY "THE TRUTH" FLOOR)

Speaking of maps, Larry Ellis highlights South Oregon Coast rockfish, lings and Dungeness – crabbing’s so good he’s been throwing back legals!

Hey, Larry, ship those extras my way, buddy!

Then there’s Tillamook and Hood River steelhead; on the former, fishing can actually be at its best in late winter.

Way up in North-central Washington, it used to be that this time of year at Lake Roosevelt was all about walleye, but the trout action’s been the “best in a decade” and the kokanee fishing’s pretty good too. As we ease deeper into winter, those fish ease deeper downreservoir, and we track ’em down for you.

TIM PEONE'S BOAT HAS BEEN SLAYING LAKE ROOSEVELT KOKANEE AND RAINBOWS THIS WINTER, INCLUDING THIS BATCH OF THREE 2.5-POUND- PLUS SOCKEYES AND NICE TROUT, CAUGHT JAN. 24. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

“Uncle Wes” Malmberg has some advice for bait trollers — hint, yer dragging yer junk TOO HIGH! — and Bryce Molenkamp details how to catch Potholes Reservoir walleye from a kayak.

Speaking of walleye, new pen Dennis Dauble, a Tri-Cities author, columnist and retired federal biologist, hits up his good friends for where to find Ms. Piggy in the Hanford Reach and lower Snake River this time of year.

Speaking of Ms. Piggy — no offense, of course, we don’t need any karate chops to the throat — Larry Ellis and I detail five potential state record fish in Oregon and Washington that have been A) breaded and eaten several hours later instead of weighed and certified, B) barbecued and eaten by the neighbors instead of weighed and certified, C) filleted, smoked and eaten instead of .. well, you get it, and D) misweighed and released.

D’oh!

One guy who we’re pretty sure will be able to land AND hold onto any fish he catches is Bassmaster Classic-bound Don Hogue, “the first Washingtonian to compete in the ‘Super Bowl of Bass Fishing’ since 2006, and one of only a handful of Pacific Northwest representatives in the 39-year history of the event,” writes Joel Shangle of Northwest Wild Country in his profile of the Pasco High School teacher and member of one of the region’s older bassin’ families.

THE NORTHWEST'S NEXT BASSMASTER CLASSIC WINNER? (DON HOGUE)

On the hunting front, in part 2 of our series on spring bear hunts, it took Brett Carlile a long time to bag his bruin last year near Monroe, Wash., but in doing so he learned some valuable lessons. Ralph Bartholdt previews the upcoming black bear hunt in North Idaho and columnist Wil Askew writes about the Willamette 615 tag, a deer hunt that runs clear into February.

And in the wake of the Skagit fiasco, would you believe that just to the east of Seattle another hunt to remove excess wapiti has been going on since late last summer?

In a valley that’s even more populated.

Next to a state highway and an interstate.

In the vicinity of an outlet mall, a massive housing development and the state’s second most-visited tourist attraction.

Oh, the reason you haven’t heard about it in the news? Like almost all of the rest of 2009-10’s general-season and damage-control hunts, there’s hardly anything to report – at least anything bad. As of Jan. 12, with at least 16 elk culled, things have gone off without a hitch.

Find out how and why in my piece titled “Overshadowed.”

Jason Brooks details Washington and Oregon’s Master Hunter programs and I further the disgracing of poachers with the Dishonor Roll.

All that and much, much more, out now in our 144-page-big February issue!

Solo Found, Investigation Into Swan Killing Continues

January 26, 2010

It’s not often I get calls updating me on off-limits waterfowl, but among the messages this morning was word that Solo the trumpeter swan had returned to Turnbull NWR, easing the minds of some folks in Spokane who feared the long-lived bird had been killed in late December near Colville.

And Rich Landers’ front-page article in today’s Spokesman-Review on Solo’s return notes that he not only brought back his mate but three of the four cygnets they raised last year to the refuge southwest of Spokane.

It was the first mate and brood for Solo, believed to be anywhere from 33 to 46 years old, since the early 1990s.

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staffers do not know where Solo winters, but each year he returns to the refuge within a day or two after one of the ponds near the headquarters thaws just enough for a 30-pound trumpeter with an 8-foot wingspan to land and take off,” Landers writes.

The reward for information on the shooting of another trumpeter on the Colville River is up to $2,000 and the investigation continues, he reports.

Hunting Results Due Soon!

January 25, 2010

Washington and now Oregon hunters must report how their fall seasons — successful or not — went by the end of this month.

Both states offer incentive tags to those who do report — you’ll see the story of Tom Day’s whopper December 2009 muley in our February issue — but only Washington penalizes sportsmen who don’t.

Washington hunters can report by phone (877-945-3492) or online  (http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov). Have your WILD ID number and game units you hunted handy. You must report for each 2009 black bear, deer, elk, or turkey tag purchased. If you don’t report, you have to pay a $10 fee before buying your 2010 hunting licenses.

The penalty, now in its fifth year, has “greatly” improved compliance and harvest-reporting accuracy.

“Hunter reports are an important source of information for managing the resource and developing future hunting seasons,” Dave Ware, WDFW game manager said in a press release. “We encourage hunters to file their reports in time to qualify for the special-permit drawing.”

According to ODFW, 28 percent of 2009’s tags have been reported, up from less than 20 percent for the 2008 seasons.

Penalties could begin in 2011, but for now, those who report by the end of this month are put in for a deer, elk or pronghorn tag.

To report, call (866) 947-6339 or online at ODFW’s Hunting Resources.

As with Washington, have your Hunter/Angler ID, know the wildlife units you hunted and total number of days you were afield in them.

For 2009 big game hunts with seasons ending between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2010, the deadline to report is April 15, 2010, ODFW says.

One Razor Beach Dig Cancelled, Other Decisions Pending

January 22, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Rising marine toxin levels have prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to cancel a razor clam dig scheduled at Long Beach and delay final decisions about digs at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches until next week.

Olympic National Park will also wait until next week to decide on a dig at Kalaloch Beach, pending the results of further biotoxin testing.

Previous plans for a dig starting late next week were put on hold after routine testing found elevated levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in clams collected on coastal beaches, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

PSP is a marine toxin produced by a certain type of algae that can cause paralysis and even death if consumed in sufficient quantities.

Ayres said toxin levels in clams dug this week at Long Beach violate health standards established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ruling out an opening at that beach.  Early next week, WDFW will conduct additional tests on clams collected at the other beaches, where PSP levels also appear to be on the rise.

“It’s always disappointing to cancel a razor clam dig, and we hate to make people wait for answers on the other beaches,” Ayres said.  “But public safety comes first, which is why we test razor clams before every public dig.”

Ayres said final decisions on a revised razor-clam opening will be announced by Thursday, Jan. 28.  Unless it is canceled, the dig at Twin Harbors will be delayed, since it was originally scheduled to open Jan. 27, Ayres said.

Updates on the razor clam dig scheduled for next week will be posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/razorclm/season.htm .

Frank Cox, marine biotoxin coordinator for the Washington Department of Health, said he suspects PSP is moving northward from the Oregon coast, where beaches have been closed to razor clam digging since December.

“There are a lot of uncertainties about how this will affect Washington beaches, which is why we recommend erring on the side of caution,” he said.

Cox noted that the PSP toxin cannot be removed by cooking or freezing.  Although no human fatalities from PSP have been reported in Washington since 1942, people still get sick every few years – usually after eating toxic shellfish collected from closed beaches, Cox said.

No coastal beaches have been closed to razor-clam digging because of elevated PSP levels since 1993, Ayres said.  A different marine toxin, domoic acid, prompted a season-long closure in 2002-03.

Predators In The News

January 22, 2010

A pair of aggressive coyotes just north of downtown Seattle, “constant” cougar sightings on the northeast side of the Olympic Peninsula, a spike in wolf-killed livestock in Montana, a big cat at the back door.

We’re surrounded!

Well, it’s debatable about who is surrounding whom, but a weird convergence has brought a whole lot of predator stories to the news wires today.

In Magnolia — that area of Seattle between the waterfront and Ballard, and also the place where Phantom the black bear and a cougar roamed last summer — state Fish & Wildlife enforcement officers and federal agents are out to kill or trap a pair of coyotes that appear to have lost their fear of humans. They managed to euthenize one, a 40-pound male, this morning.

Over in Jefferson County, at least three cougars have been shot recently and even more sightings reported, according to the Peninsula Daily News. Cats are blamed for killing sheep, alpacas a llama and other wildlife there. A Fish & Wildlife officer describes the area around Lake Leland as “cougar central.”

The Associated Press reports a “sharp spike” in the number of wolf depredations on livestock in 2009, “fueled largely by a single attack in which 120 sheep were killed near Dillon.”

And we received an email and photo this morning that that shows a dead, bloodied cougar purportedly on someone’s porch in the Coulee City-Wilbur area of Washington. We’re checking on that one.

The cougar problem on the Olympic Peninsula may be related to young animals trying to find their own place in the world while over on Magnolia Bluff, the coyotes have been seen for two months but recently have become more aggressive.

“Many neighborhoods have urban coyotes, and a number of people have lost pets to coyotes, but what makes this situation different is that these coyotes have lost their natural fear of humans and are dangerously approaching people,” WDFW Capt. Bill Hebner said in a press release.

‘Entrusted’ With State’s Sole Flat Abalone License, But ‘Greed’ Prevails

January 21, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE FISH & WILDLIFE DIVISION PRESS RELEASE)

An investigation by the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division Special Investigations Unit (SIU) led to the conviction and sentencing of two Gold Beach-area  men related to activities surrounding the unlawful taking of Flat Abalone along the southern Oregon coast.  One of the men convicted, KEVIN LEE HIERSCHE, age 51, was the only person in Oregon to be issued a permit by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) to harvest wild Flat Abalone.  He was also the only person legally allowed to commercially harvest wild abalone along North America’s west coast.

FLAT ABALONE. (OSP)

“Mr. Hiersche was entrusted with a tremendous privilege, but greed and temptation led him to violate that trust in the worst possible way,” said OSP SIU Sergeant David Anderson.  The OSP SIU is primarily responsible for conducting in-depth and complex investigations of individuals or groups in violation of the fish and wildlife laws and regulations, with specific emphasis on those violators that are flagrant or illegally commercializing our state’s fish and wildlife resources.

In March 2009, OSP investigators served a search warrant at HIERSCHE’s residence and seized evidence including personal log and invoice books.  Thirty pounds of frozen, vacuum sealed Flat Abalone was also seized that HIERSCHE and DANIEL WILLIAM WRIGHT, age 40, illegally harvested in 2009 without a valid permit.  WRIGHT assisted as a 奏ender’ while HIERSCHE dove from his boat named the “Jerry Lee”.

HIERSCHE admitted to investigators he reported false harvest poundage, and a review of seized personal log books revealed he exceeded annual allowable harvest amounts in 7 of the 8 years he had a permit.

HARVESTED FLAT ABALONE. (OSP)

In August 2009, a Curry County Grand Jury indicted HIERSCHE on 44 misdemeanor and felony counts and WRIGHT on five felony counts.

This month, both men entered guilty pleas and received the following sentences in Curry County Circuit Court:

HIERSCHE
* One count of Unlawful Taking of Flat Abalone Closed Season (class C felony)
* Two counts of Unlawful Taking of Flat Abalone Closed Season (class A misdemeanor)
* One count of No Wholesalers License (class A misdemeanor)
* One count of Falsifying Business Records (class A misdemeanor)

He was sentenced to:
* 40 days in jail
* 36 months probation
* 120 hours community service
* $21,000 in fines
* Pay $18,538 in restitution to ODFW
* Ordered to have no contact with WRIGHT

WRIGHT
* One count of Unlawful Taking of Flat Abalone Closed Season (class C felony)

He was sentenced to:
* 10 days in jail
* 18 months probation
* $2,500 fine
* Pay $5,000 restitution to ODFW
* Pay $800 attorney fees
* Ordered to have no contact with HIERSCHE

So Typical

January 21, 2010

What happens when you run a mess of ice fishing stories?

Those cold days in late fall and early winter turn positively springlike when your January issue comes out.

How warm has it been? At 6:30 p.m. last night, my in-vehicle thermometer read 57. And when I got to the front door, I noticed new leaves budding out on the rose bush beside it. A bunch of tulips or lilies are poking out of the soil in the front and backyards too.

Today comes word that this January is on pace to be the warmest on record in Seattle. Though the month is only two-thirds over, the average temperature so far has been 47.5 degrees, almost a full degree above the previous record, 7 above average, and 8 1/2 above last January’s, according to Lynda V. Mapes’ article in today’s Times.

Why has it been so warm? She writes:

The reason is simple: There is just no cold air anywhere in our region. It started early in the month with a grinding southwester that shoved all the cold air out of the Puget Sound area and even blew away Eastern Washington’s usual bowl full of cold air.

Then an easterly airflow pattern set in and is continuing to bring warm air our way. And it’s all going on in the larger context of an El Niño, which always means warmer, drier weather as the jet stream splits and sends our storms south.

I don’t know that it’s sent all of “our storms south” — Seasonal Affective Disorder is setting in with all these rainy, cloudy days — but the weather sure has made a mockery of ice fishing articles.

“Ain’t Dakota, But We Got Ice Too,” reads the headline of one of our stories this month.

Get your Sharpie out and mojo that to “Ain’t Dakota, And We Got Rotten Ice,” please.

“Ice on smaller trout waters is probably pretty rotten,” Chris Donley, WDFW fisheries biologist for far Eastern Washington, said in yesterday’s Weekender.

Added fellow biologist Marc Divens: “Usually this is a good time to fish Eloika or Newman lakes for their bass, perch, crappie and other fish. But I wouldn’t recommend anyone venture out on the ice on those lakes, at least not until we return to more normal temperatures with freezing days and nights.”

“With the recent warmer weather, I would not venture out onto the ice at Roses (Lake),” guide Anton Jones in Chelan, Wash., warned earlier this week.

Roses was only one of three top choices for ice aficionados in North-central Washington we wrote up in January. Typically safe waters in more elevated parts of the region are also suspect.

Argh. Ever tell you how much I hate ice fishing?

Well, I guess I don’t hate ice fishing, per se, just trying to cover the sport anywhere south of Yellowknife.

Back at F&H News, when I was the Mid-Atlantic edition editor, my writers and I felt pretty safe running a late-December/early January ice fishing issue, and of course the ice came off in New York and Pennsylvania.

So we quickly put together a follow-up open-water fishing issue, and of course the ice came back with a vengeance.

Ice, may you burn in hell.

If there’s a bright side, at least it won’t be so bitter up on Lake Roosevelt, where the trout fishing’s pretty good, or in Northwest Oregon, where the steelheading’s shining this winter.

And my writer Leroy Ledeboer points out, “Hey, they had several good weeks of ice fishing – more above Spokane and in the Okanogan – which in this state is about all anyone ever expects.”

But the only ice I want to see for awhile is while drowning my sorrows in a frosty mug of suds.

WSJ Reports On Nehalem Steelies, OR’s Runs

January 21, 2010

The Wall Street Journal has an unusual article in today’s business section: big runs of salmon and steelhead in Oregon.

The story leads and ends with a pair of out-of-work anglers on the Nehalem River, which could see as many as 3,000 steelhead back to the hatchery by the time this winter’s run wraps up.

That run, of course, follows up on the huge run of lower Columbia hatchery coho and upper Columbia hatchery steelhead last fall, and leads into this year’s forecasted record run of spring Chinook to the big crick.

“I got 85 pounds of filleted fish: salmon and steelhead mixed,” angler Adam Rice, an unemployed carpenter, tells reporter Joel Millman on the banks of the Nehalem.

Adds his fishing partner Lloyd Graves, on furlough from his painting gig, “No one likes to be unemployed … but this couldn’t happen at a better time.”

Last month, nearly 80,000 pounds of canned salmon were distrubuted around the state (which is suffering from a 12 percent unemployment rate) by the Oregon Food Bank, Millman reports.

The article includes an interesting graph showing the uptick in steelhead, coho and Chinook runs in recent years, and discusses why returns are believed to have jumped.

OSP Steps Up Umpqua Patrols Due To Poaching

January 20, 2010

Low returns of hatchery steelhead this winter are leading some “frustrated” anglers to illegally keep wild fish on a Southwest Oregon river, according to a story from the Roseburg News-Review today.

Eight citations were recently written on the Umpqua River, and now the Oregon State Police’s Sgt. Dean Perske warns that some “anglers” in boats or others hidden in the brush are actually undercover officers keeping an eye on things, reports Craig Reed.

Paraphrasing Perske, he writes, “In some cases anglers have just kept wild fish and in other cases anglers have clipped the adipose fin of a wild fish to make it look like a hatchery fish. (Perske) said, however, that it’s easy to tell if a fin has been recently clipped.”

Some anglers are also reportedly using second rods, although that too is illegal. It’s only allowed on lakes, ponds and most reservoirs.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

January 20, 2010

What’s there to do if you’re a fisherman in Washington right now?

As rivers continue to drop back into shape with more settled weather, steelhead should be around on the Westside while out at sea, err, Puget Sound, there’s blackmouth to chase.

In Eastern Washington, ice fishing’s become iffy, but there’s great trout fishing at Lake Roosevelt and whitefish are an option.

Trout are also game in Western Washington, and if you’re willing to bet some time on a long shot, you, sir, could be Mr. First Springer Of 2010.

Here’s what’s going on around the state, according to WDFW’s Weekender:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

This time of year anglers have a decision to make: cast for steelhead in the local rivers or get out onto Puget Sound and fish for salmon.

“Weather conditions usually help anglers make that choice,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “If the rivers are in shape, steelheading is a good bet. But if the rivers are blown out, blackmouth fishing in the marine areas is probably the best option.”

Thiesfeld said he has heard reports of a few nice blackmouth – resident chinook – hooked in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where fishing has picked up recently. Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Elsewhere, Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) recently reopened to salmon fishing. However, the fishery got off to a slow start, said Thiesfeld. “Overall, fishing was spotty on the opener,” he said. “It certainly did not start off the way it ended in November, when fishing was pretty good.”

Anglers fishing Marine Area 9 – as well as marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 10 is only open through Jan. 31.

In the freshwater, fishing for steelhead continues to be slow. Thiesfeld said anglers should be aware that the lower portion of the Green River closed to fishing Jan. 16, while the upper stretch is scheduled to close Feb. 1. The Skagit and Sauk rivers also will close to fishing Feb. 16. With low steelhead returns expected back to those rivers, the emergency closures are necessary to protect wild steelhead.

Meanwhile, both the North Fork Stillaguamish and the Cascade rivers recently re-opened for fishing. Details on those emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Heavy rain and high water have put a damper on steelhead fishing in the new year, but anglers have some other options to consider while waiting for the rivers to drop back into shape.

Razor clams , for example.  Five ocean beaches are scheduled to open for razor-clam digging later this month if marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat.  Under the current plan, Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open Jan. 27-31, Copalis and Mockrocks will open Jan. 29-31 and Kalaloch beach Jan. 30-31.

Digging at all five beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight. Under WDFW rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition.

“With the rough weather we had during the last opener, digging dropped off significantly as people played it safe,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.  “On the plus side, there are likely enough clams remaining in the quota to offer more digs later.”

Blackmouth fishing on Puget Sound is another option.  Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) recently opened to resident chinook fishing, and two additional areas – 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal) – are scheduled to open Feb. 1.  Marine Area 10 is also open for blackmouth through Jan. 31.

Anglers are required to release wild salmon in all four areas.  Regulations are described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).

“Blackmouth fishing in Puget Sound has generally been slow, but that can turn around fairly quickly,” said Steve Thiefeld, a WDFW fish biologist.  “You can’t catch them unless you go out there and find them.”

But high-water conditions have made it tough – even dangerous – for anglers to find steelhead during the first two weeks of the new year.  After some good fishing in December, most anglers are taking cover until the rain subsides and the rivers drop back into shape.

Scott Barbour, a WDFW fish biologist, said the Chehalis River has been awash in high water and debris.  “Right now it’s a safety issue,” he said.  “Fishing aside, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone take a boat out there with all those logs and tree limbs floating down the river.”

Fishing conditions have also been tough on the north coast rivers, said Randy Cooper, another WDFW fish biologist.  “The rivers have started dropping, but that could change with another heavy rain.”

On the bright side, Cooper said the high water has brought some good-sized wild steelhead into the rivers.  “We’re approaching the time when the focus shifts from hatchery steelhead to wild fish, and what I’m seeing bodes well for the weeks ahead,” he said.

Wild steelhead-retention rules are now in effect on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on those rivers.  On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar.

“It’s a waiting game,” said Ron Warren, WDFW regional fish manager for south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula.  “Lots of hatchery steelhead are moving into the rivers, but they’re tough to catch under these conditions.”

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Late-run winter steelhead are moving into area tributaries, thousands of trout have recently been planted in area lakes, sturgeon are beginning to stir, and openings have been scheduled for both smelt and razor clams.  Fishing opportunities abound in the days ahead, but prospects for success vary, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

“Weather is always a factor at this time of year, but there are also other things to consider in deciding what and where to fish,” Hymer said.  Here’s his assessment of fisheries coming up in the next few weeks:

* Winter steelhead:   The early run is winding down, but late-run winter steelhead are beginning to move toward the hatcheries on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers where they were raised. The fishery for late-run fish tends to peak in late February and early March, although some late-run steelhead are already beginning to show up in the catch.  As with the early run, high water can always push those rivers out of shape for fishing.

* Smelt:   Projecting another poor return, WDFW is limiting the Cowlitz River sport fishery for smelt to four days this winter. That river will be open for smelt dipping Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a 10-pound daily limit.  “This fishery is primarily intended to provide information on the size of this year’s run,” said Hymer, noting that NOAA Fisheries is currently considering listing West Coast smelt under the federal Endangered Species Act.  Sport fishing for smelt on the mainstem Columbia River opened seven days per week, 24-hours day, starting Jan. 1, although anglers catch very few fish there.

* White sturgeon:   Catch rates of legal-size sturgeon have picked up considerably in the Bonneville Pool in recent days, likely triggered by warming water temperatures.  Sturgeon fishing in the lower river remains slow, but that could change if smelt return to the Cowlitz River in greater numbers than expected, Hymer said.  Sturgeon regulations for all areas of the lower Columbia River listed in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet will remain in effect through February.  New seasons will be set by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon at a public meeting scheduled Feb. 18 in Oregon City, Ore.

* Razor clams:   Five ocean beaches are tentatively scheduled to open for razor-clam digging in late January.  If marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat, Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open Jan. 27-31, Copalis and Mockrocks will open Jan. 29-31 and Kalaloch beach Jan. 30-31.  “Once WDFW gives final approval for the dig, the main concern is the surf,” Hymer said.  “People can dig a limit of razor clams in foul weather, but a big surf can make digging difficult and potentially dangerous.”  He strongly recommends that diggers check surf conditions before hitting the beach.

* Trout:   While nothing is certain, anglers have a pretty good chance of catching trout – some averaging eight pounds – in lakes planted by WDFW during the winter months.  During the second full week of January, hatchery crews planted 3,000 catchable-size fish in Kress Lake near Kalama, 1,500 in Battleground Lake and 1,500 in Klineline Pond.  Several hundreds broodstock rainbows, ranging from four to eight pounds apiece, were also planted in Lake Sacajawea in Longview,  Spearfish Lake near Dallesport, and Rowland Lake near Lyle.

As of mid-January, Hymer said he had not received any reports of spring chinook landed in the lower Columbia River, so they didn’t make his list of fishing options.  “But the season is currently open, and we expect to start hearing catch reports soon,” he said.

Until mid-February, when fishery managers will meet to set the new season, anglers may retain hatchery-reared spring chinook under the rules printed in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet. “At this time of year, we consider spring chinook ‘bonus fish’ in the winter steelhead fishery,” Hymer said.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

Fishing for rainbow trout and kokanee continues to be excellent at Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir on the Columbia River off Grand Coulee Dam. “During the winter, the rainbows usually move down into the lower reservoir,” said WDFW District Fish Biologist Chris Donley.  “They’re following the movement of zooplankton downstream, so the Keller and Spring Canyon areas become the target, rather than Seven Bays and above.”

Donley said kokanee or “silver trout” can be found near the surface of Lake Roosevelt in late January and into February. “Roosevelt is really the place to be for trout fishing now with these warm conditions,” Donley said. “That’s because ice on smaller trout waters is probably pretty rotten.”

Marc Divens, WDFW warmwater fish biologist, said that without freezing nighttime temperatures, and daytime temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, many year-round open fishing waters that appear iced-over are probably unsafe to fish.

“Usually this is a good time to fish Eloika or Newman lakes for their bass, perch, crappie , and other fish,” Divens said. “But I wouldn’t recommend anyone venture out on the ice on those lakes, at least not until we return to more normal temperatures with freezing days and nights.” For more on ice-fishing safety, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/factshts/ice_fishing.htm .

Snake River steelhead action has slowed, but tenacious anglers who find the fish pooled up near the mouths of tributaries may be successful.

NORTHCENTRAL WASHINGTON

Bob Jateff, WDFW district fish biologist, said upper Columbia River steelheading is best in the tributaries above Wells Dam. Anglers who are drifting the slower moving, deeper runs, where the fish tend to hold at this time of year, are probably doing best. Steelheaders must retain all adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead, up to the limit of four per day. They must also immediately release all steelhead with an intact adipose fin without removing the fish entirely from the water.

The Methow River is open to whitefish from Gold Creek upstream to the falls above Brush Creek and the Chewuch River from the mouth to the Pasayten wilderness boundary.  The Similkameen River is open from the mouth to the Canadian border.  Jateff said those fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).

The safety of ice fishing throughout the region is questionable with recent warm weather and rain, and anglers are advised to be very cautious.  Rainbow trout are available at Rat Lake near Brewster, Sidley/Molson Lake near Oroville, Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Davis Lake near Winthrop. Yellow perch are available at Patterson Lake near Winthrop.  For more on ice-fishing safety, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/factshts/ice_fishing.htm .

Winchester Wasteway (the portion within the Winchester Game Reserve) and Stratford/Brook Lake in Grant County opens Feb. 1 for fishing under standard statewide rules.

SOUTHCENTRAL WASHINGTON

WDFW District Fish Biologist Paul Hoffarth said steelhead fishing in the Ringold area on the Columbia River near Tri-Cities should be slightly above normal  through the rest of the season, which runs into mid-April.

“I think the pattern we saw in December will hold,” Hoffarth said.  “December’s catch and harvest was higher than any of the past six years. Boat anglers averaged 5.8 hours per fish in December and bank anglers averaged roughly 10 hours of angling per steelhead.”

Whitefish action on the Yakima River and other local streams continues to be good. “Some of the best whitefish areas besides the mainstem Yakima are the Naches, Tieton, Cle Elum, and Bumping rivers,” said WDFW District Fish Biologist Eric Anderson in Yakima.

Check the fishing rules pamphlet for specific river stretch descriptions.  Whitefish gear is restricted to one single-point hook with a maximum hook size of 3/16-inch from point to shank, hook size 14. Fish are usually caught with a small fly tipped with a maggot.  Up to 15 whitefish can be retained daily.   Most fish are 10 to 15 inches.  Concentrate fishing efforts in deep pools below riffles, Anderson said.

FDR, ASAP

January 20, 2010

In last month’s issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine, we wrote up Lake Roosevelt for a good reason. The headline said it all, in fact: “From ‘Really Good’ To ‘Even Better.'”

Trout fishing on the monstrously long Northeast Washington reservoir was not only good last fall and improving as winter came on, but has been on a roll in recent years as well.

Explained Moses Lake-based scribe Leroy Ledeboer in our December issue:

So why has this gigantic reservoir gone from a very good to an excellent winter trout fishery over the years?

In a few words: more pen-reared trout.

These fall-winter and early spring trout pens are operated by a coalition of agencies – the Spokane and Colville Confederated Tribes and state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife – and a host of sportsman volunteers coordinated by the Lake Roosevelt Development Association handles daily feedings.

Forty-five netpens are strung in the 90 miles of lake from Kettle Falls to Keller Ferry, and in 2007 these turned out a whopping 750,000 yearling rainbows, large enough fish so that a high percentage escape walleye and smallmouth predation.

“We’ve been able to really up the trout numbers because we found that the kokanee weren’t surviving any better out of the pens than they were from direct release,” says Tim Peone, biologist at the Spokane Tribal Fish Hatchery in Ford, “so we went to straight rainbows in the pens, which do have much better survival rates.”

Peone, of course, has a vested interest in promoting the fishery.

As does his frying pan. Peone’s been feeding it pretty well in recent weeks. This morning he fired in this fishing report:

Fishing’s hot on Roosevelt now. Caught limits of trout ave 2 #’s on Friday (1/15) at Ft Spokane and lost a beauty kok at net.

JANUARY 15'S HAUL. (TIM PEONE)

Also caught limits of trout plus 3 nice kokes yesterday (1/19) at Spring Canyon all on surface flies and plugs.  Trout on right are all 3 plus #’s, kokes on left are 3, 3.5 & 4#.

JANUARY 19TH'S CATCH. (TIM PEONE)

While Gordie Steinmetz is a well-known regional walleye angler, he’s been working the rainbows, doing well with Berkley Frenzy No. 5s and 7s, doing well at Seven Bays, he told Ledeboer.

And Spokane angler Kelly Colliton, who was also working the lake in the middle of last week, told me that though one day was bad (“only two fish — they were nice though”), a couple days later, the bite turned on for 2- to 3-pound rainbows.

“They were hanging around 20 feet and liked the Rippin Minnows and purple Apex,” he reported

SKIP AND CHRIS LARSON WITH A ROOSEVELT RAINBOW. (KELLY COLLITON)

With fishing like that, I asked Leroy to give Northwest Sportsman readers a feel for how the rest of winter will play at the big lake. He reports:

For February and March, the best fishing could be much lower in this reservoir, out of Keller Ferry, in that broad mouth of the Sanpoil, Swawilla Basin or in Spring Canyon as trout move downlake with the freshwater shrimp and baitfish.

“Spring Canyon bank plunkers were doing OK on rainbows even in January,” notes Aulin Smith of Electric City, “but historically it’s not until February we trollers really get into them.

“My partners and I usually launch at Spring Canyon, troll a variety of K-flies and Muddlers, all baited with maggots, as well as Apex spoons. The trout are generally near the top, so even with our downriggers, we’re only going down 10 to 12 feet.

“But we also long- line straight mono, doing a lot of weaving, and we’ll run some planer boards. You have to experiment to be really successful,” he says.

No Pressure, None At All

January 19, 2010

Work life seeped into dream life last night: I was going to shoot a whitetail doe, but had to wait for her to walk out of the woods into a subdivision.

The map in my hands showed the hunt area boundary began right on the center hump of a cul de sac servicing the houses and extended from their back fencelines to the main road out front.

Deer country was off limits, but the shrubberies, backyards and patios were inside the kill zone.

Welcome to Bizarro World. Only it isn’t these days as animals and people shack up in each other’s worlds.

Behind me in my dream was a mess of state Fish & Wildlife folks — enforcement officers, a biologist, some flacks, heck, maybe even the Director — and a TV camera too.

No pressure, none at all.

I shifted my rifle from one hand to the other. I guess I was a Master Hunter or something and had been called in to take care of this particularly troublesome doe. I peered around a tree from time to time to track her progress towards the houses while we all fidgeted.

The only one not fidgeting was the doe, which was moving very slowly — but not towards the kill zone. This might all be much ado about nothing today, I thought.

True, I had other, more conventional deer-hunting dreams last night — chasing bucks in the hills and mountains — but this one really sticks out.

I’m pretty sure I dreamed it because of a pair of articles Jason Brooks and I put together for our February issue of Northwest Sportsman, which we sent off to press yesterday.

In the wake of late December’s Skagit Valley elk fiasco, we learned of another elk damage-control hunt being held in an even more challenging place.

How much more challenging?

Try just east of Goodytwoshoesville.

In a valley that’s even more populated.

Next to a state highway and an interstate.

In the vicinity of an outlet mall, a massive housing development, a golf course and extremely popular tourist attractions and hiking trails.

No pressure, none at all.

But since last summer, at least 16 cow elk have been culled from the growing herd by Master Hunters.

Oh, the reason you haven’t heard about it in the news? Like almost all of the rest of 2009-10’s general-season and damage-control hunts, there’s hardly anything to report – at least anything bad.

MASTER HUNTERS ARE A relatively new tool for Washington game managers to use for dealing with problem deer and elk, though Oregon’s has been in place since the early 1990s.

The programs help “promote the image of hunters, improve ethical practices and develop relationships between hunters and private landowners,” Brooks writes.

And as elk, whitetail, turkey and goose numbers continue to soar, the need for tightly controlled hunts will continue as farmlands in winter range continue to redevelop, national forests grow back in and available habitats shrink.

““We can’t just go out and catch every animal that gets crosswise and haul them out
to the forest,” says WDFW’s Dave Ware pointing to disease, parasite and animal crowding issues. “Yes, it’s out of sight, out of mind, but you’re not doing the animal any favor. Catching isn’t the answer everyone thinks it is. There’s not always a place for other animals.”

Nor can they just be stuffed in zoos.

With Washington’s enrollment period open through mid-February, Brooks and I looked into both states’ programs.

We learned they’re anything but shortcuts to big-bull and -buck tags.

“Most of our hunts are doe and cows tags,” ODFW Education Services manager Chris Willard in Salem told me.

Added Master Hunter liason, Sgt. Eric Anderson in Olympia: “While there still are opportunities for Master Hunters to get premium tags, they’re very much diminished” from the levels of WDFW’s old Advanced Hunter Education program.

For Anderson, Master Hunters are “the gold standard of hunters trying to protect our heritage.”

“Over half of the Advanced Hunters were purged from the system for violations of state fish and wildlife laws … We have a zero tolerance policy with the new Master Hunter program,” he told me.

It was always a little embarrassing to find Advanced Hunter grads written up in WDFW Enforcement’s quarterly newsletters (“AHE Hunter and Friends Party and Poach,” reads a headline from the winter 2007-08 edition).

Both states require prospective Master Hunters to clear background checks, as well as complete wildlife volunteer work and pass written and shooting proficiency tests. And in Washington, enrollees must go through Crime Observation and Reporting Training and pledge to abide by the Master Hunter Code of Ethics.

Willard says Oregon is going to try and emulate more of Washington’s program.

In the wake of the Skagit fiasco, which was an open general bow season, Capt. Bill Hebner told me that the solution may lay in Master Hunters.

Which really worries some. Writes Brooks:

Does this mean that we are going to see a trend to more Master Hunts when it comes to damage control and hunts close to the public’s eye? What does this mean for the majority of hunters?

Not everyone can put in the time, money and effort to complete the MH program, and even under the current requirements, not everyone could qualify. Are these programs providing an uneven and unfair advantage to an “elitist” group?

These are just a few questions and concerns that are brought up online and cause heated discussion.

Brooks talked to Gene Brame, who actually accounted for one of those 16 elk taken by Master Hunters that I mentioned above, on qualifying.

“I think it can be done,” said the retired Tacoma man.

Added recent Master Hunter grad Eric Bell of Granite Falls of the written test: “You definitely had to know the information, almost memorizing sections of the material.”

Despite Oregon’s program being on the books for almost two decades, there really aren’t that many Master Hunters. According to Willard, of the 5,300-plus Oregonians who’ve applied, only 1,234 have cleared all tests. And only 123 applied for Master Hunter-only tags last year.

In Washington, at the end of December 2009, there were 1,892 in the program with 395 pending aps, said Anderson; he figured three-quarters of those would clear.

To apply to be a Master Hunter in Washington, call (360) 902-8412 or email tracy.loveless@dfw.wa.gov. In Oregon, call (503) 947-6028 or email hunter.education@state.or.us.

See You Again Soon, Sauk?

January 18, 2010

That the Sauk would close early was not unexpected.

A month before last Friday afternoon’s official notice, Washington managers hinted the popular winter-spring catch-and-release fishery on the remote North Cascades river for big, brawny wild steelhead was iffy.

And a month before that, somewhere around Thanksgiving, I got word that the preseason forecast was not good.

It’s a bummer, but in a weird way, part of me is actually relieved.

Good, I’ll have a full compliment of hall passes for Columbia springer flame runs.

And I won’t have to drive that godawfully long piece of asphalt between I-5 and the Sauk. Beautiful as it is, 31.9 miles of highway has no right to be so long.

Won’t have to wade sketchy crossings or take the fishmobile down that one grown-in logging road to get to where I hooked something large.

Can save my spoons and jigs for another river.

BRAVE AS THAT SOUNDS, this feels like the start of what happened to my other fave, the Skykomish.

Its trophy steelhead fishery was put on hold in 2001  (the Sauk’s season was cut short too that year), and there’s never been enough fish back since to give us a go. Finally, the Sky’s season was written out of the regs, and who knows if anything will ever reopen.

In its place, I went to the Sauk.

As I write this, I can smell cottonwoods breaking into leaf on warm downriver breezes, hear the drumming of grouse in the flats – and feel the thump of whirring blades as a helicopter surveying spawning beds flew over me last spring.

I asked the river’s biologist about it and he was worried about how few redds there were.

A bad sign for future runs.

It was one of the last, best hopes in a regional basin where steelhead are listed as a threatened species.

“I fished a few of my favorite runs on the Sauk today,” wrote Skykomish Sunrise yesterday on Piscatorial Pursuits. “The water looked nice, and it was good to be out on the river again. However, I couldn’t help but to feel as if I was making one last visit to a relative that is about to die.”

There are several photos of the river in that thread that are good for remembering the good times.

THAT’S MY OWN ADMITTEDLY SHORT VIEW. A guy with the long view is Bill Herzog.

Last winter, the woes of winter-runs were the subject of several blogs – elegies, really – by the veteran Northwest steelheader.

Since 1973, we have lost OVER F-O-R-T-Y winter steelhead fisheries due to closure or lack of returning fish. I’m not going to list them all here … but here are some examples from my journal notes.

Back in March of ’83, here’s where I was steelhead fishing: The Big Quilcene River, Duckabush River, Skokomish River, Dosewallips River, a whole lot of trips to the Dungeness, Nisqually and Carbon Rivers, the upper Quinault River and a wonderful new catch and release fishery on the Skykomish.

My fishing partners and I landed over 200 steelhead from those rivers that month.

Go ahead, try to fish any of those places today. The steelhead for all rights and purposes are gone from most of those rivers, a few have runs falling off the table and only the Quinault from that list is still open in March.

Want to fish in April now? Join everyone at the last buffet still open, the Quillayute system’s Bogachiel, Sol Duc and Calawah. After that system is hammered to death by every poor angler still willing to put up with overcrowded streams … well, how about bass fishing?

Hell no. I’ll golf before I’ll fish for bass.

BUT THE MAN MUST FISH, and last winter Herzog did find good action on immature Chinook, or blackmouth, in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

In our February issue, which we’re sending to press shortly, he tells Tim Bush about the “new funk” for that fishery, which reopens in mid-February.

The myriad passes and banks in the nearby San Juans also come into prime shape, and author Wayne Heinz has collected 101 years of blackmouth wisdom for his map feature.

Speaking of maps, Larry Ellis highlights South Oregon Coast rockfish, lings and Dungeness – crabbing’s so good he’s been throwing back legals.

Then there’s Tillamook steelhead, and Lake Roosevelt walleye AND rainbows. Used to be it was all about the bugeyes this time of year on the upper Columbia reservoir, but trout action’s been the “best in a decade,” say some, so we track the fish downlake for you.

Just a sampling of the winter keepers we serve up around the Northwest in our February issue, which should be out to subscribers and newsstands soon.

Even if my heart was set on fish to release.

Unexplained Moose Deaths In NE OR

January 18, 2010

Worry about the health of another rare Northwest big-game animal today.

Following reports on Yakima Canyon bighorn sheep, which are battling pneumonia, comes news that two of the estimated 40 to 60 moose in Northeast Oregon unexpectedly died last year.

There is no definitive cause, but biologists noticed other moose in the area with “cropped” ears, which are symptomatic of a parasite that may be causing moose deaths in Wyoming, reports The Oregonian.

Biologists hope to trap some animals this month and test them.

Willamette Sturgeon Quota Eyed

January 18, 2010

Bill Monroe reports on Willamette River sturgeon, and how Portland anglers could see a 35 to 50 percent drop in the quota which would please Washington fishery managers — even though the big Western Oregon river doesn’t touch the Evergreen State.

The deal is, it’s believed that sturgeon from the Columbia between the states are moving into the Willamette, “especially in the winter and spring. Warmer water, lack of smelt and protection from sea lions at Bonneville are possible reasons, said Steve Williams, assistant fish division chief for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife,” Monroe writes.

Decisions on this year’s fisheries, on the Columbia and Willamette, are coming up before both states’ Fish & Wildlife Commissions in February.

Reductions are being proposed due to low number of legal and sublegal-sized sturgeon. It’s unclear why, but increasing sea lion predation could be to blame. The Columbia Basin Bulletin also reported that if there’s any good news, it’s that the spawner numbers are stable.

Monroe also adds that a spawning sanctuary may be added to the mile or so of the Willamette below the falls from late spring into summer.

Cracking Clackaheads

January 18, 2010

Here’s Andy Schneider’s fishing report from, well, just down the road from his house near Portland:

If you’re a winter steelhead fisherman and want to get out on the water and row a boat, you have been pretty much out of luck here in Northwest corner of Oregon.

But lucky for me I have the Clackamas River pretty much right in my backyard and drive by it everyday. Lately the Clackamas has been predicted to “blow out” with even the smallest amount of precipitation predicted. But looking at the river every day gave me the advantage to know that the predictions were wrong and it was fishing – and fishing good!

Last Sunday I invited Pat to fish with me on the Clackamas River for a little side drifting. Since Pat’s tackle and bait was at his house on the coast, he used my tackle and bait for the day. We were lucky enough to find some chrome-bright winter steelhead amongst the crowds of fisherman on the river that day.

The Clackamas was really the only river fishing that day, with all the coastal rivers high and muddy and the Sandy being blasted with a cold east wind out of the gorge. So it was no surprise to find a lot of boats on the Clackamas. We ran high and found lots of boat; we ran low on the river and still found lots of boats. So we finally decided just to fish and it didn’t take long before we started finding some, fish that is.

We side-drifted some fresh steelhead eggs cured up in standard Pautzke Fire Cure and it proved to be the ticket on Sunday. When we came to a stretch of water being fished by other boats, we would simply side-drift the exact opposite side of the river.

But it didn’t take long before this caught on when we started landing fish. But we kept searching and kept fishing and kept catching.

Pat was kind enough to give me his eggs from his fish and a jar of Borx O’ Fire. I went home and cured up the eggs and used them this Saturday and Sunday. Saturday Pat and mutual friend Tom VanderPlaat joined me and we found lots of open water and a couple of willing fish – one on eggs and one on a back-trolled plug.

PAT ABEL WITH A CLACKAMAS STEELHEAD. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Sunday John Bond joined me on the Clackamas again. We decided to get up at the crack of 8 a.m. and hit the river at 10. We only had a chance to fish for three hours, but we landed two more Winter Steelhead in those short hours. One fish fell victim again to side-drifted Pautzke eggs while the other jumped on a cop car K11X.

It looks like the coastal rivers will start to fish by week’s end, but you may still find me here on the Clack.

Restrcted Smelt Fishery Announced

January 16, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

With another poor run of smelt expected back to the Columbia River and its tributaries, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is limiting the Cowlitz River sport fishery to only four days this winter.

“This fishery is primarily intended to provide information on the size of this year’s smelt run and to avoid significant impacts on the population,” said Brad James, a WDFW fish biologist.

Harvest numbers in February provide fishery managers a valuable indicator of the size of the annual smelt return to the Cowlitz River, said James.

Recreational smelt dipping on the Cowlitz River will be limited to Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a 10-pound daily limit.

The small commercial fishery in the river will also be curtailed, running three hours per day Sundays and Wednesdays from Feb. 3 through Feb. 28.

Fishery managers have delayed smelt fishing on the Cowlitz River since Jan. 1 to determine how much fishing – if any – to allow.  Although smelt returns are expected to increase slightly from last year, the entire population from northern California to northern British Columbia has been depressed since 2005.

Pacific smelt are a food source for larger predators, such as salmon, marine mammals and seabirds. NOAA Fisheries has proposed listing the species as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and is expected to announce its decision this year.

It’s Official, Sauk, Skagit Trophy Fishery To Close

January 16, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE)

Wah … but at least I’ll save gas money, I suppose.

Action: Close the Skagit and Sauk Rivers to all fishing.

Species affected: All game fish species

Location and effective closure dates:

Skagit River from the mouth upstream to Highway 536 (Memorial Hwy. Bridge) at Mount Vernon will be closed Feb.16, 2010 through April 30, 2010.

Skagit River from the Highway 536 (Memorial Hwy. Bridge) at Mount Vernon upstream to the Gorge Powerhouse will be closed Feb.16, 2010 through May 31, 2010.

Sauk River from the mouth upstream to the Whitechuck River will be closed Feb. 16, 2010 through June 4, 2010.

Reasons for action: The closure will reduce incidental hooking mortality on wild steelhead. The 2009/2010 forecasted return of wild winter steelhead to the Skagit Basin is expected to be below the escapement floor of 6,000.

Other information: The rivers will reopen to fishing as listed in the 2010/2012 Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules.

Information Contact: Region 4 (425) 775-1311.

The Rush To Save Yakima Bighorns

January 14, 2010

We first learned about the pneumonia outbreak among the bighorn sheep herd in Washington’s Yakima Canyon through local reporter Scott Sandsberry’s story last month, and now the race to save the herd — and prevent the illness from spreading to other groups — has made regional radio.

Anna King follows the path of three dead sheep from the canyon to a necropsy lab halfway across the state in a report on KUOW.

How do you know a bighorn has pneumonia? The same way with humans: they cough. Wildlife biologists chase the animals for a short stretch with a helicopter over rugged and cliffy terrain, and then stop and listen for coughing.

The outbreak is very similar to what happened in Asotin County in the mid-1990s when that herd was nearly wiped out. The worry here is that when spring comes, the Yakima Canyon’s bighorns will move and potentially mix with some of the 800 or so other wild sheep that inhabit Yakima and Kittitas counties.

Notes King: “That means the disease could spread rapidly across the region. When (necropsy) results come back on these three bighorns, wildlife officials will decide whether to act, or let the disease play out.”

Massive Bull Trout Protections

January 14, 2010

A re-examination of bull trout needs in the Northwest led the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service yesterday to propose a much larger area for critical habitat than what the agency had suggested in 2005.

It would increase the amount of stream miles in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Nevada by 18,851 miles and the amount of lakes and reservoirs by 390,208 acres, according to a press release.

(USFWS)

Under the previous administration, 3,828 miles of rivers and 143,218 acres of lakes were proposed for protection.

No change is proposed in the 985 miles of marine shoreline in Washington that
were designated as critical habitat in 2005, the press release says.

The agency says that bull trout once existed in 60 percent of the Columbia Basin, but that’s been reduced to 30 percent. They say the species has very specific needs even more demanding than salmon.

“Bull trout require the coldest water temperature; they require the cleanest stream substrates for spawning and rearing; they need complex habitats, including streams with riffles and deep pools, undercut banks and lots of large logs; as well as a connection between river, lake and ocean habitats to headwater streams for annual spawning and feeding migrations,” the agency writes.

As for the effect the habitat designation would have, Matthew Preusch of The Oregonian writes:

If the proposal goes through, federal agencies that manage forests for recreation and logging; grasslands for grazing, or hydropower dams for electricity would have to take a closer look at whether their actions degrade waterways in huge portions of the West where the trout resides.

“It’s kind of like putting a big yellow caution flag along these streams and lakes that are habitat for bull trout,” Jack Williams, senior scientist for the group Trout Unlimited.

Public comment is open through March 15.

Eight meetings will also be held around the region starting in early February. They include stops:

• February 2, 2010, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Bend, Oregon: Hollingshead Barn, 1235 NE Jones Road

• February 3, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Chiloquin, Oregon: Chiloquin Community Center, 140 S.1st Street

• February 4, 2010, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: LaGrande, Oregon: Blue Mountain Conference Center, 404 12th Street

• February 11, 2010, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Post Falls, Idaho: Red Lion Templins Inn, 414 East 1st Avenue

• February 16, 2010, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Missoula, Montana: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Headquarters, 3201 Spurgin Road

• February 17, 2010, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Elko, Nevada: Elko Convention Center, Gold Room, 700 Moren Way

• February 23, 2010, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Wenatchee, Washington: Wenatchee-Okanogon National Forest Headquarters, 215 Melody Lane

• February 25, 2010, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Boise, Idaho: Boise Centre on the Grove, 850 W. Front Street.

Tribe Admits Error, Prosecutor Drops Case

January 14, 2010

The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has admitted that two of their officers were in error when they approached nontribal elk hunters near Brinnon, Wash., last October with guns drawn and then handcuffed and detained the men. And with that, the local county prosecutor earlier this week announced she will not charge the officers.

That according to the Sequim Gazette.

“After conducting our own internal investigation, along with reviewing the reports provided by the Jefferson County Sheriff and State Fish and Wildlife, we have determined that, although our officers acted in good faith, they acted outside the scope of their authority,” Tribal Chairman Jeromy Sullivan wrote in the statement, the newspaper reports.

On Oct. 3, Adam Boling shot a bull elk legally while hunting on private ground he had permission to hunt. Reports of a poaching sparked the tribal officers to respond, even though the S’Klallam Reservation is on the other side of Hood Canal and well north.

The tribe had previously stated “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.

The claim of “usual and accustomed” was disputed by WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci.

A spokeswoman for the Port Gamble S’Klallams had told NWS that the law showing how those officers had jurisdiction to respond would be revealed after the tribe saw final copies of the state and county’s investigations.

According to the Daily News, the tribe now says, “This incident has made it apparent that we need to review the current guidelines set forth by Natural Resources Enforcement.”

The tribal Fish & Wildlife captain, Gus Goller, was dismissed, according to the Leader’s story. And the Daily News reports that prosecutor Julie Dalzell is “out to get him never hired in law enforcement again.”

The other officer was a reservist and following Goller’s orders, reportedly.

Dalzell had “agonized” over the case, the Daily News reports, quoting her as saying, “I can never give the victims back that day. I can’t make them whole. All I can do is try to protect the public in the future.”

A photo slideshow on the 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.

Boling filed a complaint with the county alleging illegal detention.

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

January 13, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION PRESS RELEASE)

Six people involved in the unlawful taking of four bull elk near Cottage Grove in October 2009 pled guilty to numerous wildlife violations in Lane County Circuit Court. The sentence for the person responsible for shooting the elk includes jail time and a lifetime suspension of his hunting privileges.

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division troopers began an investigation into the unlawful shooting of four bull elk on October 20, 2009 in the Melrose wildlife management unit south of Cottage Grove.  During the late morning hours the four bull elk described as a 3 point, 5 point, 6 point, and a 6×7 point, were shot on private property south of London Road.  Immediately following the incident, OSP Senior Troopers Martin Maher and Marshall Maher had contact with area landowners who reported hunters trespassed on private lands to retrieve the poached bull elks which were part of a year-round herd.

The investigation identified JOHN K. ATWATER, age 50, from Cottage Grove, as the person responsible for shooting the four bull elk.  The elk season was not open for the unit in which the elk were killed. After shooting the elk, ATWATER was assisted by his son and four others in retrieving the elk by trespassing onto several different pieces of private property. Some of the elk were removed after they drove their vehicles onto the property where the elk were killed.

JOHN K. ATWATER'S HANDIWORK, FOUR DEAD BULL ELK TO WHICH HE PLED GUILTY TO SHOOTING OUTSIDE SEASON AND WHILE TRESPASSING, ACCORDING TO THE OREGON STATE POLICE. (OSP)

During court appearances in late December and early January, the six men pled guilty to several charges related to the investigation.  The other men were identified as DUSTIN ATWATER, HOMER RHODES, DAVID PRUITT, BRYAN SHEPARD, and CHRISTOPHER STEVENS.  All are from the Cottage Grove and Creswell areas.

JOHN ATWATER pled guilty to:
* Four (4) counts of Unlawful Take of Bull Elk
* Two (2) counts of Hunting on the Enclosed Lands of Another
* Two (2) counts of Borrowing a Big Game Tag
He was sentenced to:
* Forty (40) days in the Lane County Jail
* 24 months probation
* Ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution to ODFW
* $6,674 fine
* Ordered to forfeit his rifle
* Lifetime suspension of hunting privileges

DUSTIN ATWATER, age 26, pled guilty to:
* Aiding in Game Violation
* Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree
He was sentenced to:
* Fifteen (15) days in the Lane County Jail
* 18 months probation
* Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
* $892 fine
* 48 month hunting license suspension

DAVID PRUITT, age 78, pled guilty to:
* Aiding in Game Violation
* Loaning Big Game Tag
* Hunting while in violation of Criminal Trespass
He was sentenced to:
* 24 months probation
* Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
* $2,304 fine
* Complete 100 hours of community service
* 36 month hunting license suspension

HOMER RHODES, age 74, pled guilty to:
* Two (2) counts of Aiding in Game Violation
* Loaning Big Game Tag
He was sentenced to:
* 24 months probation
* Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
* Complete 60 hours of community service

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS, age 35, pled guilty to:
* Aiding in Game Violation
He was sentenced to:
* 24 months probation
* Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
* $1,202 fine
* Complete 160 hours of community service
* 36 month hunting license suspension

BRYAN SHEPARD, age not available, pled guilty to:
* Aiding in Game Violation
He was sentenced to:
* 24 months probation
* Complete 100 hours of community service
* 24 month hunting license suspension

At the time of the incident the unlawfully killed four bull elk were salvaged by the troopers and the meat was taken to the Eugene Mission.

Green Closing Early For Steelhead

January 13, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE)

Close the lower portion of the Green (Duwamish) River in King County to all fishing beginning Jan. 16 and the upper portion of the river beginning Feb. 1.

Species affected: All game fish species.

Location and effective closure dates:

  • The lower Green River from the 1st Ave. South Bridge in Seattle upstream to the South 277th Bridge in Auburn will be closed from Jan. 16, 2010, through June 4, 2010.
  • The upper Green River from the 277th Bridge in Auburn upstream to the Tacoma Headworks Dam will be closed from Feb. 1, 2010, through June 4, 2010.

Reason for action: To reduce incidental mortality of wild steelhead. The 2009-2010 forecast of wild steelhead returning to the Green River is only 458 fish, well below the spawning goal of 2,000 steelhead. This action will reduce the incidental hooking mortalities of wild steelhead.

River Cleanup Planned On Nooksack This Saturday

January 13, 2010

Following up on volunteer cleanups put on by Sportsmen for the Preservation of our Rivers and Streams in south and central Puget Sound, a fishing guide is organizing one on the Nooksack this Saturday, Jan. 16.

Nick Petosa tells Doug Huddle of the Bellingham Herald, “It’s a positive thing to do as a fisherman. Litter takes away from the aesthetics of the fishing experience.”

If you’re interested, the plan is to meet at the Nugents Corner access site near the intersection of Highways 542 east of Bellingham and 9 northwest of Deming at 11 a.m. for assignments.

Huddle reports that Petosa hopes for bank and boat-borne volunteers.

He also says that Yeager’s Sporting Goods is offering those who help a bonus, an “in-store gift certificate that is equal to the refuse disposal (tipping) fee plus 50 percent of it. If your dump fee was $20, the Yeager’s gift certificate value would be $30. To be eligible, you must both register at 11 a.m. and return to the gathering point to go to the county’s collection station.”

For more, call Petosa at (360) 854-0259.

Meanwhile, Rosendo Guerrero of Sportsmen for the Preservation of our Rivers and Streams announced that he’s teaming up with Trout Unlimited’s Tacoma chapter for 2010. He’ll have a booth at the sportsmen’s show in Puyallup Jan. 27-31.

Guerrero and Sportsmen led cleanups on the Puyallup and Skykomish rivers and won kudos from Gov. Gregoire for their work.

Coyote Derby This Weekend In SE OR

January 12, 2010

A Southeast Oregon coyote hunting derby this weekend is gaining attention in the press.

The Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting both have stories on the Jan. 16-17 event that will honor a fallen Beaver State buckaroo and coyote hunter.

Opponents say the hunt, held in Klamath, Malheur, Lake and Harney counties with a $50 entry per hunter or $100 per two-man team, will only end up increasing the population of predators, which are hated by ranchers for killing their newborn calves and lambs.

Top prize for the team that brings in the most dead coyotes is a varmint rifle, according to a post by Jamie and Angel Roscoe who announced the derby.

NSIA Welcomes New Board Members

January 12, 2010

NORTHWEST SPORTFISHING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION PRESS RELEASE)

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA) is proud to welcome Janet Lebson, Woodland, WA, Mike Perusse, Lake Tapps, WA, and Derick Cole, Reno, NV, who were elected at the annual board of directors meeting to serve three years terms.

Janet Lebson, owner of Quest Compelling Communications, strengthens the NSIA board with nearly 20 years-worth of communications experience working for government, trade associations, businesses, and non-profit organizations in the field of conservation and outdoor recreation.  For the past 3 years, Lebson has been a columnist and news/feature writer for Fishing Tackle Retailer, the sportfishing industry’s national trade magazine, and recently became its senior writer for conservation.  She enjoys reading, watching football, playing piano, and fishing, and she and her husband spend most of their free time playing with their 2-year-old son.

Derick Cole, VP of Western Sales for Maurice Sporting Goods, lived in Alaska for 23 years, working in sporting goods retail, at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, and commercial fishing. Derick started his Maurice Sporting Goods career in 1995 as an Alaska Territory manager. He and his wife Meghan moved to Reno, NV in 1998 where he continued to go to school and work full time, earning a graduate degree in Organizational Management.  His passions include fly-fishing, waterfowl hunting and spending time with his two young children, teaching them about the great outdoors.

After spending three years in the United States Navy, Mike Perusse, NW Sales Representative for the Don Coffey Company, started a career as a sport fishing guided in Alaska, Washington and Oregon. Mike has been a sales rep in the Pacific Northwest since 1995, working with Shimano, G.Loomis and Power-Pro.  Mike has a Masters in Fly-Casting Instruction and regularly teaches fly-casting.  As a Co-host for Wild Country radio Show on KJR 950, Mike has a chance to interview the top performers in the industry and stay abreast of current issues.  His favorite off the clock activities are spending time with wife Carey and son Porter, and chasing King Salmon in Alaska.

NSIA President Dan Parnel is enthusiastic about the breadth of skills and talent the 2010 Board possesses.  Said Parnel, “I’m gratified to be at the helm of an Association that continues to attract youth, talent and science to our team.  The new energy these individuals bring will compliment the experience of the existing board.  Together we will continue to protect fishery resources, grow the sport fishing industry and the cultural, economic and environmental benefits of sport fishing in the northwest.”

SW WA Fishing Report

January 11, 2010

(JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION; KALAMA RIVER INFORMATION FROM CHRIS WAGEMAN, WDFW)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – No report on angling success is currently available.  Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 702 coho adults, 18 jacks and 157 winter-run steelhead during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. During the week Tacoma Power employees released 55 coho adults, two jacks and eight winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 462 coho adults, 13 jacks and nine winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa, behind Cowlitz Falls Dam.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 12,000 cubic feet per second on Monday, January 11.

The Kalama River winter runs had been about 50% of the last 8 year average. To date, I have handled about 600 hatchery and 70 wild winter fish. The majority of these hatchery fish have been recycled to the lower river for additional recreational opportunities.

Fishing was good during the early part of December and has been off and on since then, mostly due to high turbid flow.

Best catch rates are currently at the deadline in the canyon, however if the river drops this week expect boat success to rise.

There was a lot of boat traffic this past weekend with minimal success.

The canyon produced a few fish and angler effort was high.

The early hatchery fish are still showing in good numbers, with nearly 300 fish worked last week and only about 60 worked today.

The winter brood hatchery fish are starting to show and I expect a stellar return these next few months.

Kress Lake will start to receive surplus hatchery steelhead from the Kalama starting next week.

Lewis River – No report on angling success.  Flows below Merwin Dam were 6,500 cfs today, about half of last week’s high.

The Dalles Pool – Light effort and catch observed last week.

John Day Pool – Bank anglers are catching some steelhead.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam – 2 boats/4 anglers in the Longview area had released 5 sublegals.  2 boats/4 anglers in the Vancouver area had no catch as did 4 bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam.

Bonneville Pool – No catch was observed.

The Dalles Pool – Bank and boat anglers were catching some legals.

John Day Pool – Light effort and no catch was observed.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles and John Day pools – Light effort and no catch was observed.

TROUT

Recent plants of rainbows include:

Horseshoe Lake in Woodland – 3,027 catchables and 20 brood stock averaging 8 pounds each Jan. 5;

Battleground Lake – 3,001 catchables Jan 6;

Kidney Lake near North Bonneville – 45 brood stock averaging 4 pounds each and 23 averaging 8 pounds each Jan. 4;

Icehouse Lake near Bridge of the Gods – 31 brood stock averaging 4 pounds each and 16 averaging 8 pounds each Jan. 4;

Little Ash Lake in Stevenson – 31 brood stock averaging 4 pounds each and 16 averaging 8 pounds each Jan. 4;

Tunnel Lake (just east of Drano Lake) – 30 brood stock averaging 4 pounds each and 16 averaging 8 pounds each Jan. 4;

Northwestern Reservoir (on the White Salmon River) – 30 brood stock averaging 4 pounds each and 16 averaging 8 pounds each Jan. 4

SMELT

Washington lower Columbia tributaries – A decision is expected to be made this week whether any fisheries will take place this year.

Reward Offered In Killing, Waste Of 4 OR Deer

January 11, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division is asking for the public’s help to identify the suspect(s) responsible for the illegal kill and waste of four deer about ten miles east of Paulina in central Oregon.  A reward of up to $500 is offered by the Oregon Hunter’s Association (OHA) for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case.

(OREGON STATE POLICE)

According to OSP Senior Trooper Amos Madison, on January 9, 2010 a rancher in the Rager area about ten miles east of Paulina contacted OSP to report he found two deer that had been shot.  The reporting rancher said the deer were not there the previous afternoon.  Initial response and investigation led to the discovery of a total of four deer were illegally killed and left to waste.  All were does and at least two were pregnant.

Madison believes the deer were shot from Pruitt Road, most likely in the late afternoon / early evening of January 8th with the use of a spotlight.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Senior Trooper Madison at (541) 419-1654.

The reward is offered by the OHA Prineville and State chapters.

Beefing Up The Sturgeon Sanctuary

January 11, 2010

Sturgeon managers on the Washington side last weekend pitched increasing the size of the spawning sanctuary below Bonneville Dam anywhere from 3.5 to 12 miles, and possibly adding to the fishing closures for the species, according to an article last weekend by Allen Thomas of The Columbian.

Currently, the 5 1/2 miles from the dam down to mile marker 85 are closed for three months in late spring and early summer, but managers want to add to it to help the struggling population, besieged in recent years by sea lions. Counts reveal a decline in the numbers of legal and sublegal-sized sturgeon.

A 12-mile closure would affect fishing all the way down to Rooster Rock, on the Oregon side, Thomas reports.

He adds that managers also suggested making the warmer-water months of August and perhaps September off limits to fishing for the great-fighting oversize fish, already not allowed in May, June and July.

Thomas writes:

The closure is to eliminate the handle of large sturgeon in the area to spawn. There are concerns about the sturgeon spawning population, particularly in light of ever-increasing predation by sea lions … Extending the sanctuary west covers water where the big fish go to recuperate after the stress of spawning.”

The suggestions were made to the state Fish & Wildlife Commission at a meeting in Olympia. Managers are working on a new set of harvest guidelines for the Columbia.

But a “green sheet” presented to the commission notes other actions might be needed to account for increased sturgeon mortality. Discussions at public meetings and with advisory boards have included:

1. Extend the duration of the current sanctuary into April and/or August

2. Extend the lower boundary of the sanctuary downstream

3. Prohibit the use of shad for bait to reduce the effectiveness of the catch and release
fishery targeting spawning size fish

4. Establish a spawning sanctuary in the Willamette River

More Mountain Goats

January 11, 2010

A couple months ago, I wrote a piece entitled “5 Mobile Mountaineers,” detailing the antics of Oregon’s foot-loose mountain goat population.

Some from the Elkhorn Mountains near Baker City have turned up in some very unusual places — an onion field, the Deschutes River, Washington’s Mt. Adams.

Bill Monroe takes up the thread with more news on the Beaver State’s galloping goats in a piece last weekend.

Bass Confirmed As Dual World Record

January 8, 2010

(INTERNATIONAL GAME FISH ASSOCIATION PRESS RELEASE)

After nearly six months of waiting, Japan’s Manabu Kurita is taking his place along side Georgia, USA angler George Perry in the International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA) World Record Games Fishes book as dual holders of the All-Tackle record for largemouth bass each weighing 22 lb 4 oz and caught 77 years apart.

MANUBA KURITA AND HIS 22-POUND, 4-OUNCE CERTIFIED WORLD-RECORD-TYING LARGEMOUTH BASS, CAUGHT LAST JULY IN JAPAN. (INTERNATIONAL GAME FISH ASSOCIATION)

Today the IGFA approved Kurita’s application for the fish caught from Japan’s largest lake on July 2, 2009.  The 70-year old non-profit fisheries conservation, education and record-keeping body, received Kurita’s application and documentation on Sept. 19, 2009. The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), was caught from Lake Biwa which is an ancient reservoir northeast of Kyoto.

Kurita, 32, of Aichi, Japan, was fishing Biwa that July day using a Deps Sidewinder rod and a Shimano Antares DC7LV reel loaded with 25 lb Toray line when he pitched his bait, a live bluegill, next to a bridge piling. It was Kurita’s first cast to the piling where he had seen a big bass swimming. He only twitched the bait a couple of times before he got bit. After a short, three minute fight he had the fish in the boat.

Kurita was quoted as saying “I knew it was big, but I didn’t know it was that big.”

But big it was.  Using certified scales, his fish weighed in at 10.12 kg or 22 lb 4 oz.  When measured, the fish had a fork length of 27.2 inches and a girth of 26.7 inches. The IGFA only has line classes up to 20 lb for largemouth bass, so Kurita had no chance at a line class record as well.

IGFA rules for fish caught outside the U.S. allows anglers 90 days to submit their applications from the date of their catch. The documentation was received through the IGFA’s sister association the Japan Game Fish Association (JGFA). IGFA conservation director Jason Schratwieser said Kurita’s application was meticulously documented with the necessary photos and video.

Kurita’s fish ties the current record held for over 77 years by Perry who caught his bass on Georgia’s Montgomery Lake, June 2, 1932, near Jacksonville, Georgia. That 22 lb 4 oz behemoth won Field and Stream Magazine’s big fish contest and 46 years later, when the IGFA took over freshwater records from Field and Stream, it became the All-Tackle record now one of over 1,100 fresh and saltwater species the IGFA monitors.

IGFA All-Tackle records are now free for viewing by the public at igfa.org.  Kurita’s name is now on the IGFA Web site with that of Perry’s and will appear in the 2011 edition of the World Record Games Fishes book…. unless that record is broken this year.

The IGFA announced the decision at its headquarters with a live video feed carried on Bassmaster.com, one of the most popular fishing Web sites in the world and the official site of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS).

In North America the largemouth bass, and especially the All-Tackle record, is considered by millions of anglers as the “holy grail” of freshwater fish because of its popularity and the longevity of Perry’s record.  That fish undoubtedly helped to spawn a billion dollar industry that today makes up a significant part of the sport of recreational fishing.

Schratwieser said, “The moment Kurita weighed his fish, word spread like wildfire. We knew this would be significant so we immediately contacted the JGFA for more information. Established in 1979, and JGFA compiles and translates all record applications of fish caught in Japan before forwarding to the IGFA.

“It works out well because they not only translate applications but can also contact the angler if more documentation is needed.”

It turned into a lengthy process

“Since the IGFA requires three months from the time of capture before a record can be approved, the official word would have to wait until October 2,” said Schratwieser.

“However, almost right away rumors began to circulate that Kurita may have caught his fish in a ‘no-fishing zone’. In response, the IGFA immediately corresponded with the JGFA to speak with the angler about this issue and to gather information regarding the legality of fishing where Kurita caught his bass.  Official word came back that the location of the catch was not a no-fishing zone, but was an area where anchoring or stopping was prohibited.  This spurred more correspondence with the JGFA and the angler, including affidavits asking the angler if he stopped his boat at anytime.  Again, the testimony and affidavits that came back indicated that the Kurita did not violate any laws and that his catch was indeed legitimate.”

It didn’t end there.

A considerable amount of time and correspondence was to continue between the IGFA, JGFA and Kurita, a primary reason it took so long to come to a decision.

During this time, the IGFA was also besieged with letters and emails from the bass fishing community, said Schratwieser.

“Many were incredulous that the All-Tackle record could be tied from a fish in Japan.  Others beseeched the IGFA to approve the record and give Kurita the credit he deserves.  Still others wanted to know why the entire process was taking so long.  It soon became clear to the IGFA staff that this would be a contentious issue no matter if the record were approved or rejected.

“The IGFA was also sensitive to this particular record because in past years there have been several attempts to sue us over largemouth bass record claims.  Although none of these claims have been successful, they have resulted in considerable legal fees for the IGFA,” he said.

In the end, the IGFA staff concluded it would be both in the best interest of the IGFA and that of Kurita if he submitted to a polygraph analysis. The IGFA reserves the right to employ polygraph analyses to any record application, and this is explicitly stated in the affidavit section of the world record application form.

Again, more correspondence was issued to the JGFA to request that Kurita take a polygraph test.

He immediately agreed.

On December 15, Kurita was examined by a professional polygraph analyst in Japan.  The many questions he was given included if he was truthful about the information reported on the application form and if his boat ever came to a complete stop while fighting his fish.

The results from the polygraph concluded that Manabu Kurita answered the questions honestly and that the catch was legitimate.

George Perry’s 77 year old record was officially tied.

Due diligence pays off

“Six months may seem like a lot of time to determine if a fish ties a record,” said Schratwieser. “Hopefully, people now understand the amount of due diligence the IGFA conducted on this record.  Although we treat all records with equal rigor, the All-Tackle largemouth bass record is nothing less than iconic and the bass angling community deserved nothing less.”

Schratwieser added, “The IGFA wishes to applaud Kurita on his outstanding catch and would also like to commend him on his patience and candor during the entire review process.  We would also like to thank the JGFA for their diligence and tireless assistance in corresponding with Kurita and fisheries officials.”

Biology and bass across the globe; where will the next record come from?

Largemouth bass have also been introduced in many countries but in Japan fisheries officials consider it an invasive species. In addition, because bass are not native and are stocked in Japan, many speculated that the big bass was a sterile triploid.  However when biologists in Japan examined the ova of the big female, Schratwieser said they concluded that the fish was not triploid.

For over 77 years the record stood as bass fanatics theorized when and where the record would be broken. Over the years there have been rumors and unsubstantiated reports of bass that could have tied or eclipsed Perry’s record, but nothing ever passed IGFA criteria.  Some anglers did come close, however.

Schratwieser said the closest came in 1991, when Robert Crupi caught a 22 lb bass in Lake Dixon, California USA, that still reigns as the 16 lb line class record and the third heaviest approved bass record in IGFA history.

“Most people thought that the next All-Tackle record would come from California.  Until Kurita’s tie the seven heaviest bass records behind Perry’s came from California lakes.  Although not native to California, it appears transplanted bass have adapted quite well to the deep, clear lakes and reservoirs and the abundant trout forage found in some of them.

“Little did people know that introduced bass grew big in places besides California, and that there are true monsters swimming on the other side of the world in Japan.”

More on the IGFA and the World Record Game Fishes book

The IGFA has been recognized as the official keeper of world saltwater fishing records since its founding in 1939.  Annually it publishes a comprehensive list of current records of fresh and saltwater fish across the globe in its highly acclaimed World Record Game Fishes book which is divided into all-tackle, line classes, fly, and junior record categories.

The current 2010 edition of the book was released early this week and is only available from the IGFA with a $40 annual membership. The membership also includes on-line access to the most current updated world records on the IGFA web site, six issues of the International Angler bi-monthly news magazine, unlimited admission to the IGFA’s interactive Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, Fla., plus much more.

To join, or to renew your IGFA membership, go on-line to igfa.org or call the IGFA headquarters at 954-927-2628.

The IGFA is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping.  IGFA members are located in over 125 countries and territories. The IGFA welcomes visitors daily to its expansive and interactive Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum.

Shooting Two Bulls Costs Kelso Man $10K

January 8, 2010

A man who shot a pair of trophy bulls in Washington’s Blue Mountains – the first illegally filled the tag of his wife back home on the Westside – is out more than $10,000 and can’t hunt for two years.

Christopher Mayeda, 38, of Kelso pled guilty to “unlawful hunting of big game 2nd degree; unlawful transportation of fish or wildlife 1st degree; unlawful purchase or use of a license 2nd degree; and providing false information regarding fish and wildlife,” according to Columbia County District Court, and on Dec. 16 was fined $1,000, and must pay court costs, including a civil judgment for a big game violation, totaling $6,295.

He also paid $3,000 to get his seized pickup truck back, reports the Daily News of Longview.

Mayeda and wife, Tracey, 40, were lucky enough to draw into two of the four muzzleloader tags given out for the Dayton Unit in 2008, and soon after the hunt started, he bagged a 6×6. He slapped Tracey’s tag on it and called her to come get the bull, then went out hunting the next day and killed a 6×7, which he tagged with his own permit, according to the paper’s accounts.

“There’s just a little bit of greed getting involved there,” WDFW warden Bill Lantiegne told the paper in mid-October.

Photos we’ve obtained from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife show the two big bulls.

(WDFW)

(WDFW)

While charges were dropped against Tracey, two others involved in the incident, Jason M. Ford, 39, of Castle Rock, and Steven A. Hamm, 33, of Kelso also pled guilty and were fined, the Daily News reported.

Cascade Set To Reopen

January 8, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE)

Action: The lower section of the Cascade River that was previously closed will re-open to fishing for game fish.

Effective dates: Jan. 10, 2010.

Species affected: All gamefish.

Location: Cascade River from the mouth upstream to Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge.

Reasons for action: Hatchery winter steelhead broodstock collection has been achieved.

Other information: Please see the Sport Fishing Rules 2009/2010 Pamphlet Edition, FISHING IN WASHINGTON, for a complete listing of fishing seasons and regulations.

‘A Pile Of Steelhead’ Show In NW OR

January 7, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The same conditions that led to a banner run of hatchery coho salmon last year appear to have had a similar effect beneficial to winter steelhead.

Several Northwest Region fish hatcheries operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are reporting strong returns of winter steelhead. The good early winter steelhead returns come on the heels of a strong coho run last fall. Biologists believe that good flows for outbound smolts in 2008, followed by favorable ocean conditions contributed to better than average survival rates for both runs of fish.

“We have a pile of steelhead showing up in some of these rivers,” said Robert Bradley, assistant fish biologist for ODFW’s North Coast Watershed District.

SCOTT DICKEY FOUND THIS STEELIE IN THE SALMON RIVER, AROUND MILE POST 9, ON DEC. 28, REPORTS FRIEND JASON HARRIS. "HE WAS THROWING A NO. 3 BLUE FOX IN A TROUT PATTERN AND HAD IT LANDED PRETTY QUICKLY." (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

On the coast, early hatchery winter steelhead have provided good fishing opportunities in several streams. When angling conditions have been favorable, catches of early returning hatchery winter steelhead have generally been good. Large numbers of fish are still available in the river, as evidenced by increasing numbers of fish being collected at hatchery traps. The North Fork Nehalem in particular has seen periods of very good fishing since mid-December. Well over 1,000 returning adult hatchery winter steelhead have been trapped at Nehalem Hatchery so far this season.

The Necanicum River, Big Creek, Gnat Creek, Klaskanine River and Three Rivers (in the Nestucca River basin) are other streams offering good early season hatchery winter steelhead opportunities. Due to their smaller size, these streams tend to be in fishable condition more often, as they clear more quickly than larger streams.

“There will be lots of bright, chrome fish in these streams for the next two or three weeks,” said Bradley. “In another month, most of the early returning hatchery winter steelhead will be gone, so we really encourage people to get out and take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts.”

Farther inland, the Sandy and Clackamas rivers and Eagle Creek are seeing large returns, and ODFW’s fish counting station at Willamette Falls is seeing some of its largest steelhead crossings in recent years, according to Todd Alsbury, district fish biologist for ODFW’s North Willamette Watershed.

KEEVIN COLLIER OF PORTLAND IS AMONG THE ANGLERS GETTING IN ON A GOOD WINTER RUN AROUND NORTHWEST OREGON. HE CAUGHT THIS NICE STEELIE IN THE CLACK. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The six coastal streams are relatively small, and most of the fishing in their waters is done from bank. All six streams are reasonably accessible by vehicle or by foot, although anglers need to be mindful of private property. Persons who possess disabled angler permits may fish from an ADA accessible fishing platform located immediately below the Nehalem Fish Hatchery. The lower Sandy and Clackamas are popular for both boat and bank fishing. Eagle Creek is a bank fishing-only stream.

The bag limit is two adipose fin-clipped steelhead a day.

Recorded information about current river conditions can be accessed by calling the Nehalem hatchery at 503-368-5670 or the Big Creek hatchery at 503-458-6529. Weekly reports are also available on ODFW’s Web site at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/RR/northwest.

2010 OR Rockfish Limit To Remain 7

January 7, 2010

Despite a 2009 black rockfish catch that came in 120 metric tons under the state quota, Oregon’s will keep the daily limit of seven bottomfish for 2010, reports Mark Freeman in the Medford Mail Tribune.

The quota of 440 metric tons will also remain the same this year as state managers continue to try and protect slower growing species such as yelloweye and canary rockfish, he writes.

Overcatches of those two could spark season closures on other rockfish.

“We could have gone to 10 or 12 fish (a day) and still stay under the quota,” Bandon charter captain Wayne Butler tells Freeman, “But the yelloweye were the drivers that kept us from doing that.”

The reporter as well as an ODFW press release point out that the daily limit was misprinted as six in the 2010 regulations pamphlet.

Writes ODFW:

The marine fish bag includes rockfish and other species such as greenling and cabezon. The higher bag limit went into effect May 1, 2009 based on a favorable stock assessment for black rockfish, the dominant species in the nearshore groundfish fishery. There are separate daily limits for lingcod (two) and flatfish other than Pacific halibut (25). Yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish may not be retained.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the seven fish limit into permanent regulations in April 2009. The error in the 2010 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations booklet occurs on page 100 where is states the daily bag limit for marine fish (rockfish, greenling, Pacific cod, cabezon, skates and other species not listed on pages 100-101) is six fish in aggregate; it should be seven fish in aggregate.

WDFW Investigates Swan Shooting

January 7, 2010

The story of a swan illegally shot early last week is breaking hearts in Spokane today.

Local resident James Nelson of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council fears the trumpeter, which was found wounded on the Colville River Dec. 28 and then euthanized by a state Fish & Wildlife enforcement officer, may be “Solo,” a male trumpeter that until last year was single for nearly two decades, or his mate that he sired a hatch with last summer at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Whether it is indeed the long-lived swan — estimated to be up to 46 years old — local birdwatchers are offering a reward, an amount that’s climbed to $1,600, according to Rich Landers’ piece in the Spokesman-Review today.

Word of the shooting came out in yesterday’s Weekender. It’s being investigated by enforcement officer Dan Anderson.

Agency spokeswoman Madonna Luers says that it appears to not be hunting related, rather “another random act of senselessness,” Landers reports.

He writes that a grayish vehicle was seen in the area after the sounds of gunshots were heard.

Nelson, single for around 30 years, says that Landers’ articles on Solo have touched his heart.

The reporter wrote up the tale of the bird last June in a story headlined “Elderly swan a dad again after 22 years.”

So tickled were the folks at Turnbull, they fired off a press release, “Solo is a Dad.”

They’ve also put together a fact sheet on him and other trumpeters at the refuge southwest of Spokane.

Not Ready for His Swan Song

Improbable survival tales aren’t unique to humans. A venerable trumpeter swan nicknamed Solo has become a legend at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, where he is the lone survivor of a once-resident flock. Biologists believe the long-lived bird may be one of the original cygnets introduced to Turnbull Refuge in the 1960s.

The idea then was to protect the species by spreading it through more of its historic range. Conservationists brought in groups of swans from Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana until Turnbull’s spring population peaked at almost 30 birds in 1976. That year, the refuge stopped supplemental feeding and pond aeration in hopes that the swans would find a more hospitable winter habitat and then return in the spring. It didn’t work. The birds scattered; some were shot, some eaten by predators, some flew into power lines, some succumbed to drought.

By 1980, there was only one active breeding pair – including Solo. Then Solo’s mate was killed − probably by a coyote − in 1988. In 1992, a new female joined Solo. The pair built a nest platform but laid no eggs. The female disappeared in 1994 and no regular family group has formed since then.

Biologists estimate Solo’s age at between 43 and 46 − ancient in swan years; few swans live past 30. Solo’s collar fell off four years ago, but refuge staff knows him by his behavior. “He shows up here soon after thaw before any other swans are on the refuge,” says refuge biologist Mike Rule, “and then he’s here throughout the summer, long after all other swans have left. He’s tied to this one wetland, where he had nested with his mate and where she was killed, and he defends it against all comers. He doesn’t really bother with ducks, but boy, he just won’t tolerate Canada geese.”

Solo resides year-round at Turnbull Refuge, leaving briefly only when the water freezes.

His return to the NWR last March was picked up everywhere from Tri-Cities to Lewiston to Medford.

Anyone with information on the shooting is being asked to contact WDFW’s poaching hotline, (877) 933-9847.

Those interested in contributing to the reward fund can contact Spokane birder Warren Current at (509) 675-4145.

Nisqually To Close Early For Salmon

January 7, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE)

Action: Close Nisqually River to recreational fishing.

Effective dates: Jan. 9, 2010, until further notice.

Species affected: Salmon.

Location: Nisqually River from the mouth to military tank crossing bridge (located one mile upstream of mouth of Muck Creek).

Reasons for action: Based on spawner surveys and harvest information, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is concerned that the winter chum return to the Nisqually River is not as abundant as forecast and has the potential to fall short of the escapement goal. Given this information and the need to achieve shared conservation goals, both WDFW and the Nisqually Tribe are closing their respective fisheries for chum salmon.

Other information: Because the river is already closed to fishing for species other than salmon, this regulation effectively closes the river to all fishing. Anglers should refer to the Sport Fishing Rules 2009/2010 Pamphlet Edition, FISHING IN WASHINGTON for other ongoing fishing opportunities.

Washington (And Witkowski) Waterfowl Report

January 6, 2010

The waterfowl hunting’s not the greatest across the Evergreen State, but Jack’s sure getting a workout.

That would be Jack, the chocolate Lab.

Course, any fowl hound owned by a pretty sharp duck and goose hunter by the name of Jeff Witkowski in Chelan is going to get work in winter and fall.

Of late, the duo has been out banging around the west side of the Columbia Basin finding some mallards and Canadas.

But when Jeff sent me some nice shots of Jack this week, he may have done it moreso because his faithful friend is getting up there.

“I know any bird pics I send you now won’t be useful to you till next season, but this is Jack’s 12th year, he is really slowing down, he wants to get on the cover just one more time before he is done,” Jeff wrote me on Monday. “Sunday, only 2 mallards deked all day, got ’em both (I’m not griping, drake was banded) and only one flock of geese deked. Got 4 with 3 shots. All lessers but I will take ’em. I have been doing 4 for 3 shots 4 to 5 times every season lately on geese, have been really lucky. Yesterday was my b-day, Jack and I jump shot this really nice limit, greenheads and a drake pin. Cool b-day present. Well, time to go flail again. Take care.”

JACK WITH A BANDED MALLARD. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

THE OLD DOG'S LIMIT. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

After yesterday’s successful hunt, Jeff wrote again. “Nifty double on mallards today and the hen was banded! 2 bands in 3 days? God digs me!”

TWO BANDS IN THREE DAYS FOR JEFF AND JACK. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

GRIZZLED VETS FROM THE 2009-10 WATERFOWL CAMPAIGN. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

Elsewhere in Eastern Washington, with waterfowl hunting continuing through January, WDFW’s waterfowl specialist Mikal Moore in Ephrata notes “unsettled weather” in the Columbia Basin has caused unpredictable waterfowl movements, according to today’s Weekender report from the agency.

“Large flights of mallards and northern pintails can be seen coming off the irrigation wasteways, Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake near dusk to feed on corn stubble fields,” Moore said. “Goose hunters report having to work hard to get their birds, though overall goose numbers seem to be increasing in the area, particularly western Canada geese, or ‘honkers’.  The geese prefer feeding in disked corn, alfalfa, and winter wheat fields, but tend to avoid fields with tall stubble or poor visibility.”

WDFW district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Moses Lake reports recent rain showers have removed much of the snow cover in the lower elevations south of Ephrata in the Columbia Basin.

“Considerable pooling of water has occurred in the agricultural lands due to frozen ground,” Finger said.  “Most non-moving water is still frozen solid and will likely remain so for the remainder of the waterfowl season.  Geese are abundant between Moses Lake and Othello and mallards seem to be scattered throughout the Basin in relatively low numbers.”

Moore notes that the annual mid-winter waterfowl aerial survey is scheduled this month and results will be posted as soon as available on WDFW’s northcentral region webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/reg/eventopp/events2.htm.

Across the Cascades, WDFW reports:

Snow geese are plentiful in the (North Sound), and hunting for the birds has recently improved, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager. Kraege encourages eligible hunters to hunt for snow geese at the quality hunt units on Fir Island and in Stanwood. “Not a lot of hunters who have signed up for the quality hunts are currently using those areas, which should provide great hunting opportunities for snow geese throughout January,” he said.

Hunters 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 the quality hunt units and the quality hunt program visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/snow_goose .

WDFW will soon make an announcement on whether the tentatively scheduled brant hunt in Skagit County will open. Aerial surveys of brant populations have been delayed by weather, but should take place in the next several days, said Kraege. At least 6,000 brant must be counted in Skagit County before hunting is allowed. Hunters should keep checking WDFW’s website for an announcement on the season, which is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 16, 17, 20, 23, 24, 27, 30 and 31.

Meanwhile, the brant hunting season in Pacific County is just around the corner. That hunt is scheduled for Jan. 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 24.

POSTSCRIPT:  After I posted this piece Wednesday afternoon, I fired the URL over to Jeff. Guess what he and Jack were up to yesterday? Yup.

A GROWLER FOR LAB JACK. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

This morning he’s out scouting for the next hunt, “maybe jump shoot a little. Same routine, day after day- scout, hunt, sleep- scout, hunt, sleep… Will it ever end? HAHA.”

“By the way,” Jeff asks, “just who ya calling ‘grizzled?'”

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

January 6, 2010

There are blackmouth to be caught, rainbows, perch and crappie to be iced and, if the rivers would settle, steelhead to be caught around Washington.

Possibly the best bet, though, is at Lake Roosevelt

“Anglers report that trout fishing … is the best it’s been in 10 years,” WDFW reports in the agency’s first biweekly Weekender of 2010.

Adds my reporter Leroy Ledeboer in Moses Lake this afternoon, “Just talked to Gordie Steinmetz.  He used two rods, Berkley Frenzies in size 5 and 7, and caught 18 in a couple hours.  That’s hot trout fishing.”

Here’s more by region:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

Anglers have been reeling in some blackmouth in the marine areas and there have been a few scattered reports of steelhead caught in the rivers but, overall, fishing in the region continues to be slow.

“It’s been quiet out there,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fisheries biologist. “Effort continues to be light, and those who are getting out have had to work to find fish.”

One bright spot has been the San Juan Islands, where fishing has been fair for blackmouth, Thiesfeld said.

“Like elsewhere, there are not a lot of anglers fishing there, but those who have put in some time over the last week are finding fish.”

Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) – as well as marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) re-opens for salmon fishing beginning Jan. 16. Anglers fishing that area will also have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

In the rivers, there have been reports of anglers hooking some bright steelhead. However, returns of hatchery steelhead to a few rivers have been low, prompting the department to close portions of some rivers, including the North Fork Stillaguamish, the North Fork Nooksack and the Cascade. The early closures are necessary to ensure hatcheries in the three rivers can meet their egg-take goals for winter steelhead.

Details on those emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm . Anglers are advised to check that website for news about the Cascade River, which could re-open soon, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

January is typically the best month for catching hatchery steelhead, but heavy rain rendered most area rivers unfishable during the first days of the new year.  After several weeks of good fishing, most anglers decided to take cover until the rain subsided and the rivers dropped back into shape.

“It’s a waiting game right now,” said Ron Warren, regional fish manager for south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula.  “Lots of hatchery steelhead are moving into the rivers, but they’re tough to catch under these conditions.”

BRUCE LAMBERT OF GRAHAM SHOWS OFF A HUMPTULIPS STEELHEAD CAUGHT DEC. 30. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Anglers waiting for the rivers to drop might consider fishing for blackmouth salmon in one of a number of areas open in Puget Sound.  Some nice fish were recently checked at the Pleasant Harbor boat ramp on Hood Canal, and Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) opens for salmon fishing Jan. 16.

Another razor clam opening is also tentatively scheduled later this month.  If marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat, diggers will get a chance to hit the beach starting Jan. 27. Assuming the tests go well, Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open for digging Jan. 27-31, Copalis and Mockrocks will be open Jan. 29-31 and Kalaloch beach Jan. 30-31.

Digging at all five beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight.  Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said final word on the dig will be announced once test results show whether the clams are safe to eat. If the dig is approved, he strongly advises clam diggers to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out.

Weather and stream conditions have been a major preoccupation for steelheaders for more than a month.  In early January, the drop-off in participation was especially apparent on the Bogachiel River, where WDFW interviewed only four anglers with two fish from Jan. 1-3.  By comparison, 163 anglers were checked with120 hatchery steelhead – and 15 fish released – from Christmas Day through Dec. 27.

“High water has also put a damper on steelhead fishing in rivers around Grays Harbor, but that will change once we get some clear weather,” Warren said.

Wild steelhead-retention rules are now in effect on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on those rivers.  On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar.

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Rivers are running high throughout the lower Columbia Basin, but anglers are still hooking up with inbound hatchery winter steelhead between rainstorms.  Meanwhile, sturgeon fishing is now open in all areas of the mainstem Columbia below the Highway 395 Bridge, and catchable-size rainbow are still available in a number of lakes throughout the region.

As in December, timing is key for anglers hoping to catch hatchery steelhead in the first weeks of the new year, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

“Since mid-December, we’ve seen a progression of frigid-water, low-water and now high-water conditions,” Hymer said.  “Catch rates have been up and down, but fishing has generally been pretty decent for anglers who hit it between major weather events.”

Some of the best fishing has been on the North Fork Lewis River around the salmon hatchery, Hymer said.  During creel checks in the week leading up to New Year’s, 136 bank anglers checked on the North Fork had caught 23 steelhead and released nine others – most using jigs and bobbers around the salmon hatchery.  Twenty-six boat anglers checked during the same period took home six more winter steelhead.

LARRY MADELLA'S PAIR OF STEELHEAD BIT ON NEW YEAR'S EVE, ON THE NORTH FORK LEWIS RIVER. SON JACOB ALSO CAUGHT ONE, HIS FIRST. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

On the Cowlitz River, boat anglers fishing between the trout and salmon hatcheries accounted for the largest share of the catch.  Seventy-eight boat anglers reported 24 “keepers” while 44 bank anglers accounted for four more during creel checks ending Dec. 31.

The Kalama, Grays, Elochoman and Washougal rivers – plus Salmon Creek in Clark County – should also be good bets in the days ahead, Hymer said.

“The early run usually peaks around New Year’s, but there are still plenty of fish in those rivers,” he said.  “The late winter run is also starting to arrive, which can provide decent steelhead fishing in the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers through March.”

As in past years, all wild steelhead must be released.  Anglers may retain only hatchery-reared fish with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar.  That also applies to spring chinook salmon , which could start entering the Columbia River in small numbers any day, Hymer said.  Marked springers are available for harvest on a daily basis in the Columbia and its tributaries from the I-5 Bridge downstream until 2010 seasons are set in mid-February, he said.

As outlined in the rule pamphlet, sturgeon fishing is now open in all areas of the mainstem Columbia below the Highway 395 Bridge.  Anglers may retain sturgeon daily except in the area from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam, where retention fishing is limited to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only.  Fishing opportunities for sturgeon from March-December 2010 on the mainstem Columbia River will be decided by Washington and Oregon at a joint state hearing Feb. 18.

While temperatures are still a bit cold for red-hot sturgeon action, Hymer noted that anglers surveyed in The Dalles Pool caught three legal-size fish during the first three days of 2010.

Just as soon fish for trout ?  During the final days of 2009, WDFW planted nearly 15,000 catchable-size rainbows in seven area waters to give anglers some options during the cold of winter.  Battleground Lake got 2,500 Dec. 21; Klineline Pond 2,500 Dec. 21; Icehouse Lake (near Bridge of the Gods) 1,022 Dec. 29; Spearfish Lake (near Dallesport) 2,002 Dec. 24; Rowland Lake (near Lyle) 4,057 Dec. 24; and Maryhill Pond (in Klickitat County) 501 Dec. 29.  In addition, Fort Borst Park Pond, open only to juveniles under 15 years old, got 3,029 on Dec. 28.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

The hottest fishing in the region is for net-pen-reared rainbow trout on Lake Roosevelt – the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam on the Lincoln, Ferry and Stevens county lines. John Whalen, WDFW regional fish program manager, said daily limits of five rainbows, running 14 to 20 inches, are readily being caught from Hunters downstream. Anglers who regularly fish the big reservoir say it’s the best it has been in the past 10 years.

MARGIE CASH SHOWS OFF A NICE ROOSEVELT WINTER RAINBOW FROM A PREVIOUS SEASON. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Bill Baker, WDFW district fish biologist, said fishing for rainbow trout remains good at Hatch and Williams lakes in Stevens County. The two lakes are the only winter-only season (Dec. 1 – March 31) waters that have fish to catch. Spokane County’s Fourth of July and Hog Canyon lakes were treated last fall and will not be re-stocked with trout until spring.

Sprague Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line, continues to provide good catches of rainbow trout through the ice, although recent warmer weather and rain has left the safety of that ice questionable. WDFW Regional Enforcement Capt. Mike Whorton said that Sprague is under the same catch rules as Lake Roosevelt – five trout daily with no more than two over 20 inches – and the size of most fish there sometimes tempts anglers into violations. Whorton also notes that anglers who leave equipment or debris on the ice – from buckets to old armchairs – can be fined for littering.

Chris Donley, WDFW district fish biologist, reports Whitman County’s Rock Lake is producing catches of rainbow and most notably brown trout .  Spokane County’s Eloika and Silver lakes are yielding lots of yellow perch through the ice, but anglers need to be cautious about “rotten ice” during recent thawing and re-freezing.

Snake River steelheading remains productive for anglers who find the fish pooled up near the mouths of tributaries. WDFW Fish Biologist Joe Bumgarner reports the latest creel check data shows the best catch rates below Hellar Bar near the mouth of the Grand Ronde River, and in the lower Grand Ronde itself where anglers average a little over six hours of fishing per catch. In the mainstem Snake, from Ice Harbor to Lower Monumental dams, steelheaders average almost 12 hours per fish caught. From Lower Monumental to Little Goose dams, the average is just under 17 hours per catch, and from Little Goose to Lower Granite dams, the average is 17.5 hours.

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

WDFW regional fish program manager Jeff Korth reports a variety of fishing opportunities throughout the region, but with recent warming trends he cautions anglers about deteriorating ice conditions, both on lakes and along river shorelines.

“Ice fishing for rainbow trout at the Windmill/Canal lakes in the Potholes Reservoir area in Grant County has been good,” Korth said.  “Ice fishing for yellow perch has been decent at Moses Lake and at Fish Lake in Chelan County.  And ice fishing for whitefish at Banks Lake near Coulee City is reportedly good. But with thawing and re-freezing, anglers need to be sure the ice is safe before venturing on or near it.”

WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports good rainbow trout fishing through the ice at Rat Lake near Brewster, Sidley/Molson Lake near Oroville, Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Davis Lake near Winthrop. Patterson Lake near Winthrop is producing yellow perch in the 7-8-inch range, with some larger fish to 10 inches.

Jateff also reports that upper Columbia River steelhead fishing picked up slightly in the tributaries above Wells Dam while air temperatures were above freezing.

“Fishing will taper off as the temperatures fall and ice forms in the rivers, so anglers planning a trip should call ahead first to check weather conditions,” he said.  “Anglers do best when drifting the slower-moving, deeper runs as the fish tend to hold in these areas during the winter months.”

Jateff reminds steelheaders that a mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead is in effect during the fishery.

The Methow River is open to whitefish from Gold Creek upstream to the falls above Brush Creek and the Chewuch River from the mouth to the Pasayten Wilderness boundary.  The Similkameen River is open from the mouth to the Canadian border.  Anglers fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).

SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

Anglers are taking limits of whitefish on the Yakima River and other local streams, according to WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson. “Some of the best whitefish areas besides the mainstem Yakima are the Naches, Tieton, Cle Elum and Bumping rivers,” Anderson said.  “Check the fishing rules pamphlet for specific river stretch descriptions.”

Whitefish gear is restricted to one single-point hook with a maximum hook size of 3/16-inch from point to shank, hook size 14. Fish are usually caught with a small fly tipped with a maggot.  Up to 15 whitefish can be retained daily.   Most fish are 10 to 15 inches.  Anderson recommends that anglers concentrate fishing efforts in deep pools below riffles.

Steelhead fishing in the Ringold area of the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities is still producing for bank anglers and boaters alike, reports WDFW Ringold/Meseberg Fish Hatchery specialist Mike Erickson. “At least for the few willing to brave the weather,” he added.

Clam Dig Planned For Late January

January 6, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

fter a stormy New Year’s opener, razor clam diggers will get another chance to hit the beach for a five-day opening scheduled to begin Jan. 27 if marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) also announced tentative plans for a razor-clam dig in late February, pending the results of another round of marine toxin tests.

For the dig planned this month, Long Beach and Twin Harbors are tentatively scheduled to open on evening tides Jan. 27-31, with digs also planned at Copalis and Mocrocks beaches Jan. 29-31.  In addition, the National Park Service has scheduled a two-day dig Jan. 30-31 at Olympic National Park’s Kalaloch beach to coincide with those at the other beaches.

Digging at all five beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said final word on the dig will be announced once test results show whether the clams are safe to eat. If the dig is approved, he advises clam diggers to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out.

“With the rough weather we had during the last opener, digging dropped off significantly as people played it safe,” Ayres said. “On the plus side, there are likely enough clams remaining in the quota to offer more digs later.”

Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin also urged diggers to take safety precautions during night digs, especially at Kalaloch.

“Kalaloch is considerably more remote than the other clamming beaches, and visitors should be prepared for primitive conditions,” she said. “With no streetlights or lighted buildings in the area, flashlights or lanterns are a necessity.”

Under WDFW rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s limit must be kept in a separate container. All diggers must have an applicable 2009-10 fishing license to dig razor clams on any beach. A license is required for anyone age 15 or older.

Anglers can buy a combination license or an annual shellfish/seaweed license. Also available are razor-clam only licenses in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . A list of state license vendors is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lic/vendors/vendors.htm .

Tentative digging days and tides for this month’s opening are:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 27, (4:24 p.m., -0.5 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Thursday, Jan. 28, (5:13 p.m., -1.1 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors
  • Friday, Jan. 29, (5:58 p.m., -1.5 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Saturday, Jan. 30, (6:41 p.m., -1.5 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Sunday, Jan. 31, (7:23 p.m., -1.2 ft.) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch

In addition, WDFW has tentatively scheduled a late-February dig on the following dates and locations:

  • Friday, Feb. 26, (4:49 p.m., -0.7) Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • Saturday, Feb. 27, (5:34 p.m., -0.9) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
  • Sunday, Feb. 28, (6:16 p.m., -0.8) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrock, Kalaloch

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.
  • Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes the Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas.
  • Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips.
  • Kalaloch Beach, which extends from the South Beach Campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park.

Instead Of All No-go, Some Go-slow?

January 6, 2010

Instead of 13 miles of no-go zone, how about 2 miles around Lime Kiln Point to protect feeding killer whales and an 11-mile “go-slow” zone that would still allow anglers a chance to hook Chinook?

That’s part of what WDFW is asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to reconsider along the west side of San Juan Island in a 7-page letter submitted by agency director Phil Anderson in mid-December.

The Feds last year proposed a five-month-long 1/2-mile-wide no-go buffer along most of the shoreline as part of a broader set of vessel restrictions in Puget Sound to protect ESA-listed orcas, “the subject of intense curiosity from kayakers to tourists crowding the decks of commercial whale-watching vessels.”

THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE'S PROPOSED NO-GO ZONE ALONG THE WEST SIDE OF SAN JUAN ISLAND. (NMFS)

NMFS argues that orcas are adversely affected by boat noises.

But closing off the island’s west side from May through September raised hackles among anglers and others.

“It’s one of our best Chinook spots, and to lose that part of our fishery is disappointing, and a little alarming,” charter captain Jay Field told local outdoor radio show host Joel Shangle in a column for ESPN last fall.

Anglers fear it is only the beginning, and that it may lead to more quality fishing areas in the San Juans and Puget Sound being shut down.

Following three public meetings last fall, NMFS invited written comments then extended the deadline into 2010.

WDFW submitted their comments to NMFS acting regional supervisor Barry Thorn on Dec. 15. A copy was provided to Northwest Sportsman today.

The agency’s main idea is a more limited no-go zone, just the 2 miles from Bellevue Point south past Lime Kiln Point.

The rest of San Juan Island’s southwest shore, says WDFW, should instead be a slow-go buffer closed to all boats except recreational fishing boats, nontreaty and treaty commercial fishing boats, kayaks and private landowner vessels. Those boats would be limited to 7 mph and couldn’t raise wakes.

An additional 1/2-mile go-slow buffer would also be added off the no-go zone.

WDFW'S SMALLER NO-GO ZONE PROPOSAL, AND GO-SLOW BUFFERS. (WDFW)

Some of the ideas are echoed in a guest editorial by Val Veirs and Jenny Atkinson of The Whale Museum, printed in Dec. 24 issue of the San Juan Journal, and were brought up in public meetings.

WDFW also suggests “the development of an education and certification program to certify all fishing vessels, kayaks and private landowner vessels that are eligible to enter the Go-Slow Zone.”

But the agency has other concerns too. Moving sport and nontreaty commercial harvest of Chinook from that area could lead to higher catches of ESA-listed Puget Sound kings elsewhere in the islands where Fraser River-bound salmon are less prevalent. And barring nontreaty netters might just make the area more attractive to exempted Indian fishermen.

“The benefit of reduced stress on whales from reduced non-treaty commercial fishing vessel traffic could be offset by an increase in treaty fishing vessel traffic,” WDFW’s letter says.

The state also contends the socioeconomic analysis in NMFS’s environmental assessment was “deficient.” If commercial boats fishing on BC-bound sockeye and pink runs there are barred, they may miss out on their share of lucrative runs and that “could affect the economic viability of the fishery in Puget Sound.”

And the Fed’s theory of little local economic impact due to reduced recreational angling draws disagreement too.

Today, CCA also released a position statement. It’s posted on Bloody Decks and here.

Comment is open through Jan. 15.

’10 NW OR Trout Scheds Out!

January 6, 2010

One-point-two million fish dinners are on their way to lakes, reservoirs and ponds around Northwest Oregon.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife today released their trout stocking schedule for the North Coast Watershed, and the North and South Willamette watershed districts.

Fresh fish have already arrived this week at one water, 350 1-pounders at Junction City Pond.

“These are beautiful fish and will make a lot of people happy if they’re lucky enough to reel one in,” said Hal Boldt, fish liberation coordinator for ODFW’s Northwest Region.

And next week, 1,850 8- to 12-inchers will hit Walter Wirth Lake near Salem (Exit 253 off I-5, west to Turner Road SE, south on it then left to park), 350 8- to 10-inchers will be released into Huddleston Pond in Willamina.

All totalled, 96 waters will be planted around the region this year. The fish range from 8-inchers on up to 10-pounders

“The trout stocking program enriches the lives of tens of thousands of Oregonians,” adds Boldt.

DUSTIN SHARPE OF SALEM SHOWS OFF A 12-POUND BROODSTOCK RAINBOW CAUGHT EARLY IN 2009 AT WALTER WIRTH LAKE. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The fish are produced at ODFW’s Alsea, Nehalem, Scio, Eugene, Oakridge and Maupin trout hatcheries. The cost of the program is covered primarily through the sale of Oregon fishing licenses.

‘Justice Has Been Done’: Hunt Critic

January 6, 2010

An Island County, Wash., judge upheld a decision that basically bans public waterfowl hunting on a Whidbey Island lagoon, a local newspaper is reporting this week.

In October, county commissioners voted to bar shooting at Deer Lagoon, on the island’s southwest side where hunts have taken place for years, but the move was appealed in November by the Washington Waterfowl Association.

The case was heard in Island County Superior Court on Dec. 31. In dismissing the appeal, Judge Alan Hancock explained, “There is a safety risk to one degree or another,” and he noted the appeal came over a week after a filing deadline, according to Justin Burnett of the Whidbey Examiner.

WWA lawyer John Arrabito says the county has basically created a private shooting preserve for people who own property bordering the now publicly owned 374-acre marsh, according to the reporter.

Arrabito also contended that the ban was arbitrarily based on public testimony, not on “hard evidence such as injury reports or ballistic testing that would have determined the distance the pellets in shotgun shells can travel and still be lethal,” Burnett writes.

A local hunting critic was “thrilled” with the judge’s decision and claimed that he and his wife felt “like justice has finally been done.”

Whatever that means.

Taking The Guv Fishing

January 5, 2010

We’ve written in this space about Oregon’s fisherman in chief, Ted Kulongoski, but how about other Northwest governors? Any others out there who can work a rod, past or present?

We get an answer, sort of, from Tony Floor. He puts out a monthly newsletter as part of his job as fishing affairs director for the Northwest Marine Trade Association. In January”s column, out yesterday, he writes about fishing former Washington governors Gardner, Spellman and, reaching back to more civil days, Evans.

So how did the guvs do on the briny blue? TF writes:

I watched former Governor John Spellman, back in the early 80’s, when playing a feisty blackmouth salmon at Sekiu, become so busy with changing hands with the fishing rod which is necessary when smoking a pipe, that the rod flew out of his hand, skipped about 6 times across the water and go away. That means, the big (one got) away. Oops!

I was fishing with former Governor Booth Gardner also at Sekiu when he inquired about a boat, trolling next to us, with a metal short pole, attached to the top of the gunnel, with wire line going into the water attached to a large lead ball. “What’s that?” I learned that there are no downriggers or downriggers balls in the Governor’s Office. What a shame.

But the prince of governors to take fishing has to be former Governor Dan Evans. What a nice, nice man, who has great instincts in playing a tough, large king salmon. On one trip, after playing the fish for considerable time, due largely to his light-handed techniques, the fish came unpinned at the boat. Dan simply said, “Gosh darn it. He got away.” I thought to myself….gosh darn it, what does that mean? I was thinking more about cardiac, inability to close the deal and profanity. Not out of the mouth of Governor Dan Evans. Forever, a class act, a gentlemen and a thinker.

Floor also speaks highly of Washington’s U.S. Congressman For Life, Norm Dicks, who actually is a strong advocate for salmon, recreational fishing and mass marking. So how is it fishing with Dicks?

Fishing with Norm is like riding on the space shuttle, from lift off to 100,000 feet. The floating in space part comes at the end of the trip. In order to ride with Norm, I take 10 swigs of Geritol, 14 chocolate bars and hibernate for a week prior to the trip. Following the trip, I hang upside down in the closet for 24 hours inducing a coma reaction for two weeks. He is high energy and the man loves his salmon fishing. Passionate? Try a positive application of fanatical. Every fish is “I got ‘em boys! It’s the big one!!! Get your gear out of the water!!!” Somebody, help me now.