Archive for March, 2010

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

March 31, 2010

Trout in Spokane and Basin lakes, Chinook in the Southwest corner, crappie and walleye in Banks, lings and steelies on the Coast and trips at Rufus.

Just a sampling of some of the fish biting now around Washington.

Here’s more from WDFW’s Weekender:

NORTH SOUND

Thousands of anglers are gearing up for the lowland lakes trout opener in late April but many remain focused on the marine areas of Puget Sound, where blackmouth salmon fisheries are still under way.

“Overall, fishing for blackmouth continues to be very slow in northern Puget Sound,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “But a number of anglers that made it out on the water for the recent Anacortes Salmon Derby had a bit of success and landed some large fish.”

A total of 132 fish were weighed during the Anacortes Salmon Derby , which took place March 27-28. Ralph Thomas of Tacoma took home the $15,000 grand prize with his 27.48-pound fish. John Belarde of Woodinville hooked a 25.72-pound salmon that was good enough for second place and $5,000, and Seth Baumgarten of Kirkland was awarded $2,500 for his third-place fish, which weighed in at 24.38 pounds.

“Those are some outstanding blackmouth,” Thiesfeld said. “Anglers definitely have to put in some time on the water, but it can be worth it for an opportunity to haul in a 20-plus pound blackmouth.”

Anglers fishing in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) – as well 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Those three marine areas are open through April 30.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) is open only through April 15. Anglers fishing Marine Area 9 also have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Halibut anglers should be aware that the fishing opener for the big flatfish in most marine areas of Puget Sound has been delayed this year. The later starting date is necessary because of the combination of a reduced quota and excessive catch last year in the Sound.

To ensure that the halibut fishery in Puget Sound stays within the quota, the fishing season in marine areas 6-10 will run from May 1 through May 30. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will retain its traditional opening date just before the Memorial Day weekend but will close earlier than it has in the past. Marine Area 5 will be open from May 28 through July 19.

The Puget Sound halibut fisheries will be open three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) will be closed this year to protect rockfish, which may be caught incidentally by anglers fishing for halibut. As in previous years, Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.  For more information on 2010 halibut fisheries, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut .

Freshwater anglers looking to cast for trout will soon have numerous lakes to choose from. The lowland lakes trout season gets under way April 24, when many lakes – stocked with thousands of legal-sized trout – will open for fishing. Information on stocking schedules for rainbow, cutthroat and triploid trout is available on WDFW’s website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants ).

Current regulations for all freshwater and saltwater fisheries are avaiable in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

April will see the traditional opening of the statewide lowland lakes trout fishing season, the expansion of lingcod fishing on the north coast and at least one proposed razor-clam dig on ocean beaches, pending the outcome of tests for toxins. The tentative dates for clamming are April 16, 17 and 18.

Anglers also continued to catch steelhead in relatively large numbers. Last weekend, 37 anglers fishing the Bogachiel/Quillayute River caught 54 steelhead; all but two were wild. Fishing was also good on the Lower Hoh River, where 65 anglers caught 39 steelhead fish over the last weekend in March. The good fortune didn’t extend to the Upper Hoh, where 38 anglers fished for more than 220 hours, reeling in only six wild steelhead, all of which were released. The retention fishery closes at the end of the day April 15 on the Hoh River, but will remain open through April 30 on the Quillayute River system.

As was the case last year, the weather on Washington’s coast so far hasn’t been very conducive to ocean fishing for lingcod. Anglers have brought in a few 20 to 22 pounders in marine areas 1-3, but the weather has afforded few opportunities to fish, said Erica Crust, WDFW’s ocean port sampler in Westport.

Crust said that a few privately owned boats that did venture out caught their limits of lingcod and rockfish right off the jetty. Charters have had more success. According to Crust, the majority have come in with their limit of rockfish and an average of one lingcod per person.

Typically, many anglers wait until Marine Area 4 opens on April 16 to head out. “Neah Bay is historically a good fishery for lings,” said Crust. “If the weather cooperates, we should see some excellent fishing there again this year.”

Crust reminds anglers that recreational fishing for bottomfish or lingcod is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms in Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) from March 14 through June 15.  However, anglers may retain sablefish and Pacific cod in these waters from May 1 through June 15. Retention of canary and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited in all areas.

The minimum size for lingcod in marine areas 1-3 is 22 inches, while the minimum size in Marine Area 4 is 24 inches. All areas are open seven days a week. Additional information about the lingcod fishery and other bottomfish is available on the WDFW Fishing Hotline (360) 902-2500 or online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

Anglers still looking for blackmouth are running out of time. Marine Areas 5 and 6 will close April 10, although Marine Areas 11, 12 and 13 will remain open through April 30. On the Peninsula, blackmouth anglers are catching a few chinook, but the action has fallen off in recent weeks. At the Pt. Defiance dock in Tacoma only five chinook were checked in the week ending March 28.

Rather dig razor clams ? WDFW is tentatively planning at least one opening in April, provided marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat. All are scheduled on morning tides and digging ends at noon. Tentative dates and tides:

* Friday, April 16 (8:32 a.m., -0.7 ft.) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Saturday, April 17 (9:12 a.m., -0.7 ft) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only
* Sunday, April 18 (9:56 a.m., -0.6 ft) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only

Meanwhile, hatchery crews are stocking lakes throughout the region with tens of thousands of rainbow trout to prepare for the April 24 lake-fishing opener. More information and schedules are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants .

Halibut anglers should be aware that the fishing opener for the big flatfish in most marine areas of Puget Sound has been delayed this year. The later starting date is necessary because of the combination of a reduced quota and excessive catch last year in the Sound.

To ensure that the halibut fishery in Puget Sound stays within the quota, the fishing season in marine areas 6-10 will run from May 1 through May 30. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will retain its traditional opening date just before the Memorial Day weekend but will close earlier than it has in the past. Marine Area 5 will be open from May 28 through July 19.  For more information on 2010 halibut fisheries, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut .

SOUTHWEST

The spring chinook fishery on the lower Columbia River has sprung into action.  After a slow start, the recreational catch for March shot up to 7,693 fish caught or released – the third highest count for that month since the creel-check program was started in 1968.  More than 2,000 boats and 750 bank anglers were counted during an aerial survey on a recent Saturday, a clear sign that this year’s spring chinook fishery had finally shifted into high gear.

“The run is really starting to ramp up now,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  “Anglers have been catching some nice fish throughout the lower river.  If you’ve been planning to go, now is a good time to do it.”

According to the pre-season forecast, 559,900 spring chinook salmon – 470,000 of which are upriver bound – will return to the Columbia River and its tributaries this year, the largest run since at least 1938.

Hymer noted, however, that anglers planning to join the spring chinook fishery in the days ahead should be aware of changes in fishing rules and in river conditions.

* Fishing seasons:   April 3 is the last day to catch spring chinook from the I-5 Bridge upriver to Bonneville Dam – at least until fishery managers complete an in-season assessment of the run in early May. However, the spring chinook fishery will remain open from Buoy 10 to the I-5 Bridge seven days a week through April 18.

* River conditions:   Heavy rain during the last week in March has increased turbidity in some tributaries to the Columbia River. “That makes fishing conditions – especially at the mouths of the tributaries – a little tougher,” Hymer said.  “In general, I’d suggest fishing in shallower water away from river mouths, and trolling with a flasher/dodger to increase visibility.”

Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam may retain one adult spring chinook salmon a day, while those fishing above the dam can keep two per day. As in previous years, only hatchery-reared fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained.  All wild spring chinook, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed.

In a creel survey conducted during the last full week of March, 3,272 boat anglers in 1,396 boats reported catching 658 adult hatchery chinook and six hatchery steelhead.  The 395 bank anglers surveyed that week had 35 adult chinook and two steelhead.  Approximately 71 percent of the fish sampled were identified as upriver stocks.

Anglers fishing tributaries to the lower Columbia are also catching increasing numbers of spring chinook, along with some late winter-run and early-arriving summer steelhead .  The Cowlitz and Kalama rivers are providing some action for both species, although fishing on the Lewis River remains slow, Hymer said.

Few spring chinook were caught above Bonneville Dam through March, but that will certainly change as more fish start moving past the dam, Hymer said.  The fishery is open seven days per week from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam, with a daily limit of two hatchery chinook, two hatchery steelhead, or one of each.  Bank fishing only is permitted from Bonneville Dam to Tower Island powerlines, located about six miles below The Dalles Dam.

Starting April 3, the Klickitat River opens for spring chinook fishing four days per week – Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays – from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream.  The daily limit there, and on the lower Wind River and Drano Lake, is two hatchery chinook, hatchery steelhead, or one of each.

Anglers can check fish counts at the dam on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/fishdata/home.asp .

Fishing for sturgeon has been slow in the lower Columbia River and in The Dalles Pool, the only area between Bonneville and McNary dams open to sturgeon retention.  Boat anglers have, however, been catching some walleye in The Dalles Pool.

Shell-aficionados should be aware that WDFW is tentatively planning a morning razor-clam dig at Long Beach and other ocean beaches in mid-April.  If marine toxin tests show the clams area safe to eat, the dig will take place on the following days and beaches:

* Friday, April 16, (8:32 a.m., -0.7) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Saturday, April 17, (9:12 a.m., -0.7) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only
* Sunday, April 18, (9:56 a.m., -0.6) Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch only

EASTERN

Early spring fishing continues to be good at lakes that are open in the region. The seven Tucannon River impoundments in southeast’s Columbia County – Beaver, Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring, and Watson lakes – are well-stocked with rainbow trout from WDFW’s Tucannon and Lyons Ferry fish hatcheries.

Amber, Downs, Liberty and Medical lakes in Spokane County are all producing rainbow catches. The access dock was just restored at Liberty Lake, near the town of the same name in the far eastern part of the county. Docks were also just re-installed at year-round Newman Lake, also on the east end of the county, and Eloika Lake, north of Chattaroy in the north end of the county.

Fishing has been good for both rainbow and brown trout at Rock Lake in Whitman County. Anglers are reeling in some nice-size rainbows at Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line. And rainbows and kokanee are the catch of the day at Lake Roosevelt.

April 15 is the deadline to register kids five to 14 years of age for the May 1 Kids’ Fish-In event at Clear Lake in southwest Spokane County. The cost is $5 each, which includes a T-shirt, rod and reel, and help to catch up to three rainbow trout. The 45-minute fishing sessions take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairchild Air Force Base access site on Clear Lake. The event is sponsored by WDFW, Go Play Outside Alliance of Washington (GoPAW), Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Spokane Fly Fishers, Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club, Spokane Walleye Club, Fairchild AFB Outdoor Recreation program, White Elephant, Zebco and Eagle Claw.  Registration forms are available at WDFW’s Spokane Valley office at 2315 N. Discovery Place, 509-892-1001; or online at http://www.gopaw.org/kids_fish-in_program .

Steelhead retention on the Snake River and most tributaries ends March 31. Grande Ronde River steelheading continues through April 15.

The single, biggest lake fishing opener is coming up April 24, mostly on waters that were stocked last year with hatchery trout fry that have been growing to catchable-size over the winter. But WDFW fish hatchery crews are also busy stocking lakes with catchables and surplus broodstock in some lakes to boost fishing opportunities on the opener. Watch for this year’s stocking plan to be posted soon on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html .

NORTH-CENTRAL

The “April Fools” opener on more than 30 waters in the Columbia Basin should provides some fair to good fishing on rainbow trout and other species.

WDFW district fish biologist Chad Jackson says most of the waters opening April 1 are either within or adjacent to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge south of Potholes Reservoir, and over half are planted with spring and/or fall rainbow trout fry.

“Although many of these lakes are in need of rehabilitation to rid them of competing fish species, nice sized trout can be found,” Jackson said.

The Upper and Lower Hampton lakes historically produce quality fishing on the opener for 12-14-inch yearling trout.  Jackson says that while trout size is still fairly good at the Hamptons, total trout abundance is not nearly as good. Last spring Upper was planted with 26,500 trout fry and Lower with 5,000 trout fry.  Lower Hampton Lake also received a trout fry plant of 4,500 in the fall.

“Both of the Hampton lakes were rehabilitated roughly six years ago,” Jackson said, “but sunfish and other warmwater species appear to have established themselves once again.  These species impact trout fry survival by competing for the same food resources.  To confound things, cormorants (fish-eating birds) have been known to prey upon trout in some years.”

Jackson said anglers looking to maximize catch rates should fish Lower Hampton Lake, where they’ll find two different size classes of trout available for harvest — 8-10 inches and 11-13 inches.  Anglers looking to harvest larger fish should hike into Upper Hampton Lake and, if possible, fish it from a small boat or float tube.  Yearling trout in Upper Hampton Lake range in size from 12 to 14 inches.

“Hampton anglers may also want to try Hen Lake,” Jackson said, referring to the small lake connected to Lower Hampton Lake.  Hen Lake receives 750 rainbow trout fry in the spring, and if fry survival is good, they should be around 12 inches in length.”

Jackson said those who traditionally fish North and South Teal Lakes on the April 1 opener should not expect the excellent fishing found there in the past. Both lakes are in need of rehabilitation, but both lakes were also stocked with approximately 5,000 trout fry in the spring. Anglers should expect to catch a few nice12-14-inch yearlings and 16-inch and greater carryovers.

The Pillar-Widgeon lake chain, also opening April 1, includes (running north to south) Pillar, Gadwall, Snipe, Shoveler, Cattail, Poacher, Lemna, Hourglass, Sago, and Widgeon lakes.  Jackson said all are stocked with rainbow trout fry during the spring.  Total trout fry stocked in each lake is as follows:  Pillar – 2,500, Gadwall – 750, Snipe -600, Shoveler – 750, Cattail – 1,500, Poacher -150, Lemna – 450, Hourglass – 300, Sago – 300, and Widgeon – 1,650.  Access to this chain of small lakes is located just southeast of Soda Lake.

“Anglers looking to fish the Pillar-Widgeon lakes should visit either the entire chain or at least three or four of the lakes during their outing,” Jackson said. “If you’re persistent, expect to catch some very nice sized yearling and carryover trout. Shore fishing is available at most of these lakes, but I advise packing a float tube because it will increase your chances for success. Usually the best lakes in the chain tend to be Widgeon, Sago, and Pillar, but don’t ignore the other lakes.”

Jackson says some of the Columbia Refuge area lakes also offer excellent fishing for warmwater species, particularly Hutchinson and Shiner lakes. Since their rehabilitations in 1997, these two lakes have developed into quality fisheries for largemouth bass and bluegill .  Anglers should note that only non-motorized boats are allowed on these two lakes.

Other warmwater fishing options are the Coyote, Bobcat, and Hayes creek ponds located just south of Morgan and Halfmoon lakes.  Jackson says these ponds are relatively small and shallow, so they warm up quickly, and offer good fishing for largemouth bass.  Another option might be Deadman Lake located just off McManamon Road next to Halfmoon Lake.

Anglers who plan on fishing the refuge area lakes, especially the hike-in ones, should remember that with the unseasonably warm weather has rattlesnakes out earlier and in greater numbers than normal.

Also opening on April 1 is Dry Falls Lake, located just northeast of Park Lake within the Sun Lakes State Park southwest of Coulee City. The 99-acre lake is under selective gear rules and a one-trout daily bag limit.

“Opening day success at Dry Falls in previous years was a little slow because of cold weather,” Jackson said. “But this year abnormally warmer air temperatures are heating up the lake much quicker and it may fish better on this year’s opener. I expect anglers to take 13-14-inch yearling rainbows and carryovers up to 24 inches, just like the last two years.”

Brown and tiger trout are also planted into Dry Falls Lake. Jackson reported that a total of 9,900 rainbow, 1,000 tiger, and 1,000 brown trout fry were stocked into Dry Falls Lake in 2009.

WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp said Spectacle Lake opens for fishing April 1, and anglers can expect rainbow trout in the 10-13-inch range, with carryover fish to 15 inches.  There is a five fish daily catch limit and bait is allowed at Spectacle.  Jateff reminds anglers that when fishing with bait, the first five fish count as part of the daily limit, whether kept or released.

Jateff also reminds anglers that some Okanogan County lakes switch to catch-and-release trout fishing on April 1 — Rat near Brewster, Big and Little Green near Omak, and Davis and Campbell near Winthrop.  Selective gear rules are in effect for all of these lakes and the use of boats with internal combustion engines is prohibited.  Anglers must also use a knotless net to land fish.

WDFW fish biologist Matt Polacek reports the latest creel survey at Banks Lake shows decent catch rates on yellow perch and fair size on walleye . Anglers last surveyed at this Columbia River reservoir southwest of Grand Coulee averaged 3.28 perch that averaged 7.75 inches per hour of fishing. Walleye anglers caught fish that averaged almost 18 inches at a rate of about one walleye for every three hours of fishing. Anglers surveyed also averaged 1.2 black crappie of about 11 inches each per hour of fishing, and about one rainbow trout of about 16 inches for every two hours of fishing.

WDFW fish hatchery specialist Mike Erickson reports recently fishing Rufus Woods Reservoir and doing “very well” near the rainbow trout net pens and other areas in the waterway on the Douglas-Okanogan county line. “This is an outstanding fishery,” Erickson said. “With a group of six people in two boats, we had to work for the fish but came out with limits two days in a row.”

SOUTH-CENTRAL

WDFW district fish biologist Paul Hoffarth of Pasco reminds anglers that steelhead fishing closes March 31 in many areas of eastern Washington. However, a one-mile section of shoreline in the Columbia River adjacent to WDFW’s Ringold Hatchery will remain open through April 15.

“This fishery is open to bank angling only,” said Hoffarth, noting that the daily catch limit is two hatchery-marked  steelhead.

Rainbow trout were recently planted in Dalton Lake, Quarry Pond, Columbia Park Pond (a juvenile-only water), and Marmes Pond in the Tri-Cities area. In addition, Dalton Lake and Powerline Lake will be planted with triploid trout by mid-April.

Hoffarth said fishing for walleye, smallmouth bass, and channel catfish has been slow in recent days, but should pick up in the Columbia River, Walla Walla River, and Yakima River in the next couple of weeks.

April 19 is the deadline to register for the Tri-Cities Kids Fishing Event scheduled for May 1. For more information and registration forms, contact Kennewick Recreation at 509-585-4293 or online at http://www.ci.kennewick.wa.us/Recreational_Services/home.asp .

WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson of Yakima reports that all Yakima and Kittitas county year-round ponds are seeing heavy fishing action from earlier hatchery trout stocking.  The I-82 ponds #1, 2, and 3 each recently received nearly 2,500 rainbows weighing nearly a half-pound apiece. See all of the continuing hatchery stocking of local fisheries at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/ .

As warmer spring conditions advance and more and different fish are biting, it’s a good time to take advantage of the new two-pole fishing opportunity.  Most fisheries in the southcentral region are open to the use of a second pole with the purchase of the two-pole endorsement – $24.50 with all surcharges and license dealer fees, $6.50 for seniors. For a list of excluded fisheries and all the details, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/twopole .

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

March 31, 2010

Giant-ass kokanee are the only fish biting in Oregon these days. There are springers, steelhead, trout, bottomfish and more to be caught.

Here are highlights from around the state, courtesy of the weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Winter steelhead fishing has been good on the North Umpqua. Through mid-February, over 4,346 winter steelhead had crossed Winchester Dam – one of the highest counts in the last 10 year. Remember only fin-clipped steelhead can be harvested.
  • Trout fishing has been good on Applegate Reservoir and Garrison Lake.
  • Spring chinook fishing continues to be pretty good on the lower Rogue River even with the low water conditions. Anchovies have been the hot bait.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • The winter steelhead fishery is nearly over for the season. Many coastal rivers are closed to steelhead angling effective April 1st. Anglers are encouraged to check the regulations for specific river openings.
  • Spring chinook angling opens April 1 in Tillamook Bay, Wilson River, Trask River and Nestucca River. Fishing does not generally pick up until May. The ocean remains closed to salmon angling.
  • Cape Meares, Smith, Tahoe, Lytle, South, Town, and Hebo lakes, and Lorens Pond and Nedonna Pond are scheduled to be stocked with legal size rainbow trout the week of April 5th. North coast lakes on the stocking schedule have all been stocked at least once this spring. Fishing should be fair to good.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Spring chinook are now being taken on the Willamette River and in the Multnomah Channel. Catch success has been variable but will improve soon.
  • Winter steelhead fishing is good in the Clackamas and Sandy rivers and Eagle Creek. Steelhead are spread throughout both systems and some good catches have been reported.
  • Sturgeon fishing is fair on the lower Willamette River.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Haystack Reservoir offers some good spring fishing for 12 to 18-inch rainbow and brown trout.
  • Flows and water temperatures have been good on the Hood River and, as a result, winter steelhead fishing has been good.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • McKay Reservoir opened to fishing on March 1 and should provide some good spring fishing for rainbow trout, yellow perch and brown bullhead.
  • McNary, Hatrock and Tatone ponds have been stocked and are good destinations for young anglers who are out of school for Spring Break.
  • Anglers have been catching both stocked trout and kokanee on Wallowa Lake.
  • The great steelhead fishing continues in the Grande Ronde and Imnaha basins.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Spring chinook are available in increasing numbers on the lower Columbia for boat and bank anglers.
  • A few legal size sturgeon are being caught by boat and bank anglers in the gorge.

MARINE ZONE

  • Bottom fishing is good when ocean conditions permit. Calmer oceans usually mean better fishing success. Lingcod are in shallower waters to spawn. Divers may find success spearing along rocky jetties for ling cod and black rockfish.
  • Herring are spawning in many coastal bays now. Fishing for herring can be great fun with kids using light tackle. Watch for birds diving into the herring schools and try to get in on the action. The aggregate daily catch limit for herring, sardines, anchovies and smelt is 25 pounds.

Another Record Koke At Wallowa

March 31, 2010

Two days before Wan Teece of Enterprise, Ore., caught what might be a U.S. record kokanee — a whopping 8.23-pounder, and it’s only March! — I was on the phone with Bill Knox, the state fisheries biologist for Wallowa Lake, talking about the previous state record.

Gene Thiel’s 7-pound 8-ounce, 25-incher, landed Feb. 10 while jigging from a canoe in what are described as “icy conditions,” trumped Jerry Logosz’s July 2009 7-pound, 1-ouncer.

WAN TEECE AND HER NEW OREGON STATE-RECORD KOKANEE. (JACK TEECE, ALPINE EXPOSURES)

“There could be some more large ones caught this year,” Knox allowed. “I just don’t expect a lot of them.”

He pointed out that with salmon — which kokanee, or landlocked sockeye, are, of course — some spawn and die when they’re 4 years old, some when they’re 5 years old and a few when they’re 6 years old.

The longer they’re at sea, err, in Wallowa Lake, the bigger they get.

The fish in the big, deep Northeast Oregon water have benefited from the introduction of mysis shrimp, Knox adds, but that was back in the 1960s.

A more current factor may have been a weak year-class a few seasons back. Knox says that led to lower catch rates last year.

“But it translated to pounds per hour that wouldn’t have been all that different,” he says.

One guy who can tell you all about that is guide Mark Moncrief of Tri-state Outfitters. When I fished with him late last summer, he’d caught 152 20-plus-inch kokanee — twice as many as his previous record.

He’s still at it too. I emailed him after getting word of Thiel’s catch.

“Yes, there was one caught by a guy up here a few days ago that was 7.52 pounds and only 23 inches long,” Moncrief wrote. “Looked like a football. We have caught 34 kokes 20 inches or better already, but it is real spotty on the fishing so far. My son and  I did have one rare day where we boated 32 kokes in four hours of fishing and kept our 10-fish limit. The smallest one was 21 inches, the biggest one was 26 inches and 6 1/2 pounds.”

MID-FEBRUARY KOKANEE FROM WALLOWA LAKE. MID-FEBRUARY! (MARK MONCRIEF, TRI-STATE OUTFITTERS)

One thing that Moncrief told me is that he’s found minnows in the tummies of kokes he’s caught.

Who knows how many more of these monster kokes are in the lake, but with Teece’s fish, the state record has been broken six times at Wallowa since 1999.

She was out March 24 with her husband, Jack, trolling near the middle of the lake with a Jack Lloyd blade set-up dragging a Double-Whammy lure with 2 ounces of lead to keep it down deep.

WAN TEECE. (JACK TEECE, ALPINE EXPOSURES)

The fish was 26.25 inches long with a girth of 16 inches. Knox believes it may be a U.S. record for landlocked sockeye; the world record is a 9-pound, 6-ounce koke caught in B.C.’s Lake Okanagan.

With the catch, Knox expects even more interest in this popular fishery in coming months. Anglers annually spend 20,000-30,000 hours fishing for kokanee here, his agency reports.

In the meantime, last summer’s sonar surveys showed a good year-class coming on line for future seasons.

“There were a lot more fish than the summer before. We saw a big increase in young-of-the-year fish, but it will be a few years before they enter the fishery,” Knox says.

We’ll have more on Wallowa, its kokanee fishery and its mysteries in our May issue.

SW WA Fishing Report

March 30, 2010

The Columbia’s not the only Southwest Washington river giving up springers these days. So too are the Cowlitz and Kalama.

Steelhead are also biting in the area, as are a few sturgeon and walleye.

Here’s the report from Joe Hymer, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission:

SALMON AND STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Anglers are continuing to catch steelhead and some spring chinook.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 613 winter-run steelhead and 23 spring Chinook adults during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.  During the week Tacoma Power employees released 16 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 82 winter-run steelhead and 21 spring Chinook adult into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam. 

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,670 cubic feet per second on Tuesday March 30. Flows are nearly identical to the long-term mean for this date.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching a mixture of steelhead and spring chinook.

Lewis River – Light effort and no catch observed.  Flows below Merwin are currently 10,800 cfs, double the long-term mean for this date.

Wind River and Drano Lake – Light effort with only a couple boats at the Wind last Sunday morning; none at Drano.

Klickitat River from mouth to the Fisher Hill Bridge (located about 3 miles upstream from the mouth)- From April 3 through May 31, open Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays only for hatchery chinook and hatchery steelhead. Anglers will be able to retain two hatchery chinook, hatchery steelhead, or one of each as part of their daily limit

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Last week, anglers made 25,438 trips on the lower Columbia and caught 4,874 adult spring Chinook (4,220 kept and 654 released), which brings the total effort to 68,290 angler trips and Chinook catch of 6,682 fish kept and 1,011 released.  The effort and catch totals for March are the among the highest in the history of the creel program (began in 1968).  Only non-selective catch in 1990 (9,000) and the 8,800 fish handled in the selective fishery in 2003 were higher.

Based on Visual Stock Identification sampling, upriver spring Chinook comprised about 70% of the kept catch last week.  Things should slow down some this week with the turbid water, especially in the lower river.

Effort was up from the previous weekend with 2,062 boats and counted during last Saturday’s March 27 flight.  In addition there were 754 bank anglers.

From the I-5 Bridge to Bonneville Dam, April 3 is the last scheduled day to fish for hatchery spring chinook, hatchery steelhead, and shad.  Shad is expected to re-open May 16; salmonids on June 16.  Buoy 10 to the I-5 Bridge is scheduled to be open for hatchery spring chinook, hatchery steelhead, and shad 7 days/week through April 18.

The Dalles Pool – The few bank anglers sampled had no catch.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Remains slow for legal size fish.  Effort remains fairly light with 47 boats and 70 bank anglers counted during Saturday’s flight.

The Dalles Pool – Slow for legal size fish.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles Pool – The few boat anglers sampled did well on walleye.

Nearly 4,800 Springers Caught In Last Week

March 30, 2010

New figures from Oregon and Washington fishery managers show that sport anglers landed 4,874 spring Chinook on the Columbia over the past week, keeping 4,220 of them.

“This last week was pretty good,” confirms guide Jim Stahl of J&J Guide Service (425-344-8716).

He’s been fishing the Kalama area and says that fellow guide Mark Coleman of All Rivers Guide Service (425-736-8920), fishing upstream of him, has also been doing well.

The new catch figures are a significant jump over the previous week when managers said around 2,000 had been kept or released. Only fin-clipped hatchery Chinook may be retained on the mainstem below Bonneville Dam, daily limit one adult.

A NICE PAIR OF SPRING KINGS CAUGHT ON THE BIG RIVER LAST WEDNESDAY ON HERRING. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The overall springer catch since Feb. 1 now stands at 6,682 with 1,011 released.

The river is closed today below I-205 as commercial netters dip their gear for their first fishery of the year. Modeling yesterday suggested a catch of between 6,000 and 10,000 springers.

For boat anglers, the best stretch has been The Interstate area, where the catch really jumped last week. Overall, 1,928 have been kept there since season began, and nearly 1,500 last week alone.

Second best area is the Estuary below Cathlamet where 1,085 have been kept so far, including 625 last week.

TOM SNAZA OF SPOKANE LANDED THIS SPRINGER OUT OF CATHLAMET YESTERDAY, MARCH 29. HE WAS FISHING A CUTPLUG AND FISH FLASH WITH HIS DAD, JOHN, OF NAPAVINE. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Third best is below the Interstate, between the mouths of the Willamette and Lewis; 944 have met their maker there, 331 last week.

Herring seems to be this year’s bait du jour.

“All I’ve been doing is trolling downhill,” says Stahl. “I can’t stand sitting. I’ve only sat for two hours in two weeks.”

From the bank, only 450 springers have been retained so far this season. Oregon side beaches continue to lead with 267 fish, of which 136 were landed between Warrior Rock and Sandy Island.

Just over 216 have been landed in the bank-only area between I-205 and Bonneville Dam this year, three-quarters of which were retained.

Saturday’s the last day to fish the water from I-5 up to Bonneville until an inseason run estimate is performed; one isn’t expected until early May.

The river below I-5 and above the dam, however, will remain open.

The percentage of Chinook bound for tribs above the dam rose from 45 percent the previous week to 70 percent last week.

All totaled, anglers have made 68,920 trips for springers this year, including over 60,000 in March alone. Effort and catch for the month are among the highest on record.

The count at the dam reached 300 as of Sunday, still lagging well behind the 10-year average, but in line with how springers have come back since 2005 when they began to run later for unknown reasons.

Unfortunately, fishing is expected to slow this week in the lower Columbia because of high, turbid water from recent rainstorms.

Don’t Get Caught Without New Columbia License!

March 30, 2010

See you in line to buy a new Washington fishing license. April 1 — no foolin’ — is the start of the Evergreen State’s license year.

And if you plan on fishing the Columbia River and its many salmon and steelhead tributaries this season, you’ll want to bring along an extra $8.75 to buy a new endorsement meant to “maintain and improve fishing opportunities throughout the basin.”

It affects waters everywhere from Rosburg to Oroville to Boggan’s Oasis, including popular rivers such as the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Klickitat, Yakima, Methow, Okanogan, Snake and Grande Ronde.

However, not all stretches of the rivers fall under the new requirement — just those areas where you can legally fish for salmon and steelhead.

A map produced by WDFW shows the affected waters.

SALMON AND STEELHEAD STREAMS REQUIRING THE NEW COLUMBIA RIVER ENDORSEMENT APPEAR IN DARK BLUE. (WDFW)

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON RIVERS WHERE THE NEW COLUMBIA RIVER ENDORSEMENT IS REQUIRED TO FISH FOR SALMON AND STEELHEAD. (WDFW)

The fee, known as the Columbia River Recreational Salmon and Steelhead Pilot Program, came out of the state legislature last year to help offset WDFW’s $30 million budget shortfall.

A fiscal note on the bill that authorized the fee estimates that 109,140 endorsements would be purchased in 2010, yielding at least $900,405 for the agency. However, that assumed the program would begin Jan. 1.

Revenues and endorsements are projected to rise in following years to just over $1 million by 2015.

According to a press release from the agency, funds will be used to evaluate selective fisheries in the basin and “management activities, including fisheries enforcement, data collection and monitoring.”

The endorsement is required for all anglers 15 years and older. The fee expires June 30, 2016.

Oregon’s license year began on New Year’s Day.

Elsewhere in Washington, you will, of course, need either freshwater ($24 for anglers 16-69), saltwater ($22.20) or combo ($46.20) licenses to fish starting Thursday morning. That last option also includes a shellfishing permit.

Those figures are higher than what was printed in the regulations pamphlet because the state legislature also authorized a temporary 10 percent surcharge on licenses through June 20, 2011.

A chart on WDFW’s Web site outlines all the license options.

UPDATE MAY 31, 2010: RIFFE LAKE HAS BEEN DROPPED FROM THE LIST OF WATERS WHERE THE NEW COLUMBIA RIVER ENDORSEMENT IS REQUIRED, WDFW ANNOUNCED THIS AFTERNOON. WE WILL POST A LINK TO THE RULE CHANGE AS SOON AS THE AGENCY PUTS IT UP.

Idaho Releases Wolf Hunt Stats

March 30, 2010

Idaho’s first modern wolf hunt ends tomorrow, but state officials released figures from the seven-month season that showed the hunt appears to have been well-managed and, like Montana’s, came in under the quota.

As of yesterday, 185 wolf tags had been notched, 84 percent of the overall statewide limit. Harvest quotas were met in seven of the Gem State’s 12 wolf zones.

Montana’s season closed after two months when 72 of 75 tags were filled.

Both states’ hunts followed last spring’s Federal delisting of the species after 15 straight years of increasing wolf numbers and seven straight years where minimum recovery goals had been met. Lawsuits and Wyoming’s inadequate management plan held up moving wolves out of threatened status.

In Idaho, harvested wolves ranged in size from 54 to 127 pounds, with males averaging 100 pounds, and females averaging 79 pounds. Fifty-eight percent were male; 15 percent were less than a year old.

(Montana’s largest wolf was 117 pounds; the average adult weighed 97 pounds. Fifty-seven percent were males.)

Of the nearly 26,500 tags sold in Idaho, nearly 25,750 were bought by residents while over 675 went to nonresidents. State citizens shot 86 percent of all wolves taken.

IDFG reports that October, which corresponds to general big-game rifle hunts, saw the most shot while January saw the fewest.

“The season has succeeded in halting the growth of Idaho’s wolf population,” Fish and Game Director Cal Groen said in a press release. “It showed that Fish and Game is capable of monitoring and managing a well-regulated wolf hunt.”

IDFG also said that the hunt “showed that fears of wholesale slaughter of wolves were unfounded,” and say that “hunters exhibited good compliance with the rules and with check-in and call-in requirements.”

In recent weeks, Groen has called for “more aggressive wolf management” in the Lolo Zone where elk numbers have declined dramatically in recent years. He cites wolves as a current factor, but notes that habitat, winterkill and bear and cougar predation has played a large roll in the decline from 16,000 animals in the 1980s to 2,178 at last count. Only 13 of 27 wolf tags were filled for the relatively brushy region.

Another 138 wolves were killed in livestock depredation control actions and from other causes.

At year-end, Idaho’s wolf population stood at a minimum of 843 wolves in 94 packs, and 49 packs are considered breeding pairs. The average pack size was 7.8 wolves. A total of 142 wolves are radio-collared.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports an overall population of “1,706 wolves in 242 packs and 115 breeding pairs” in all of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and parts of Eastern Washington and Oregon at the end of last year.

Columbia To Be Netted Tuesday

March 29, 2010

Oregon and Washington salmon managers today OKed 12 hours of netting on the Columbia River tomorrow for spring Chinook. It’s the first season of year for commercial fishermen.

A “fact sheet” out today estimates that netters will catch somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 of the salmon from the mouth up to the I-205 bridge between Portland and Vancouver.

Tuesdays have been reserved for commercial fishing below I-5, but results from tests in previous weeks has been so poor that no netting has been done.

Yesterday’s test captured the most salmon of the season, 66, as well as the highest percentage of upriver-bound Chinook, some 65 percent, up from 44 percent the previous week.

From Feb. 1 through March 21, sport anglers had retained 2,500 springers on the mainstem Columbia below Bonneville Dam and released another 350, managers say. We’ll probably get new sport catch numbers in a day or so.

The overall sport quota was set at 17,200 hatchery spring Chinook before any run update is done.

So far the run is behind average — 251 fish, 11 percent of the 10-year average — but is tracking ahead of how salmon have been coming in since 2005 when runs began to come in later.

Managers estimated this year’s run would be 470,000 based off of an average of six different forecasting models. If it comes in, it would be a record.

If.

R.I.P. Marlin North Haven, Conn.

March 26, 2010

Word from the other end of the U.S. today has it that the North Haven, Conn., plant of venerable Marlin Firearms is closing.

“As far as we thought we thought we were doing good, and then it was like boom,” said a worker interviewed by local TV media outside the facility after a company meeting this afternoon.

The announcement affects over 250 employees, and begins in May with final plant closure in June 2011.

Marlin was bought by Remington which was in turn bought by Freedom Group, which owns a mess of gun and ammo brands.

The Associated Press reports that a Freedom Group spokesman provided the following explanation for the move:

“Although long term prospects of the business look positive, economic factors beyond Freedom Group’s control related to increasing costs and pricing pressures within the firearms industry are impacting the entire Freedom Group of companies.”

Reports from Field & Stream and Outdoor Life blogs indicate that while the plant is closing, the manufacture of Marlin rifles will continue at a new location.

Guide, Anglers On Scene Of Boat Explosion

March 26, 2010

Spring Chinook anglers raced to the scene of a boat fire and explosion on the Interstate stretch of the Columbia River this morning.

“We were trolling along and heard this big loud boom,” says Capt. Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Then a bunch of debris flew up into the air like 25 feet.”

The incident occurred just before 9:30 a.m. near the west end of Portland International Airport, off Salty’s Restaurant near the Gleason boat ramp.

The boat is described as a “30-to-40 ft. Wellcraft cruiser” by The Oregonian. The paper reports that two men and a woman were taking the boat east to Hermiston from Donaldson’s Marina. They had just fueled up for the trip on the recently purchased craft when the explosion occurred.

“It was right where everybody was fishing,” says Martin of the explosion. He estimates he was within a quarter mile of the scene.

The burning boat quickly sank, he says.

“A bunch of boats pulled up and went racing over,” says Martin. “A bunch of sleds were over there immediately.”

He says they were on the scene four or five minutes before rescue personnel.

The Oregonian reports that the manager of a boat fuel station pulled one of the individuals from the river while bystanders pulled the two others.

This is a tough segue, but Martin reports three springers hooked off his boat this morning, with two in the box. The fish are biting small cut-plug herring, he says.

He’s fishing with Buzz Ramsey and Terry Otto.

“Every now and then we’re seeing one” caught, says Martin, but fishing appears to be slow overall.

Extra Trout Added For Spring Break

March 24, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife released extra trout in two Willamette Valley lakes this week to increase fishing opportunities for area youths during their spring break holiday.

“With great weather this is an excellent opportunity to get out and take your family fishing,” said Karen Hans, assistant district fish biologist for ODFW’s South Willamette Watershed.

The department released a total of 1,600 fish ranging in size from eight inches to more than one pound into Waverly and Timber lakes.

Waverly Lake is a five-acre lake located north of Albany along Hwy. 99E. Timber Linn Lake is an 11-acre lake located in Albany City Park.

“These are excellent family fishing areas with plenty of bank space, park facilities, disabled access and parking,” said Hans.

The trout stocking program is one of ODFW’s most popular activities. Each year the agency releases more than 1.2 million trout at 96 sites around the Northwest Region.

The program is financed through the sale of fishing licenses.

A Flawed Gem

March 24, 2010

FARMER, Wash.–Gems come in many colors, and for the lake once known as “the gem” of Washington trout fishing, the spectrum has included shades of pink, maroon, chocolate and turquoise, often changing complexion in just days as “algae” blooms mature.

JAMESON LAKE, APRIL 30, 2005, OPENING DAY OF TROUT SEASON. (TIM BEHNE, FOSTER CREEK CONSERVATION DISTRICT)

After ice-off this winter, Jameson Lake turned dark green, reflecting the clouds scudding over Douglas County that day. Only test results due after we went to press will tell if green’s good – the other colors are potential problems – but if you’re a trout angler or own one of the lakeside resorts, there are at least two good signs for the late-April opener.

“Oxygen levels in the main part of the lake are near 100 percent (3 feet down), so currently conditions are good for the fish,” said Tim Behne of the Foster Creek Conservation District after sampling on March 9, adding that he saw trout jumping at the north end too.

“It looks good,” added Ginger Merritt at Jack’s Resort (509-683-1095) on the lake’s south end. “A month and a half ago we would not have been having this conversation.”

Final decision on stocking won’t come till sometime later in April.

UNLESS YOU’RE A local rancher or Missoula Flood nut, there’s not much to draw passersby off of Highway 2 and up Moses Coulee.

Fishermen, however, have long left the two-lane here and taken the winding country road through sagebrush flats and under towering coulee walls up to the lake.

“They used to expect 3,000 to 5,000 people on the south end on opening weekend,” says Merritt whose family had a long association with the resort before she bought it in 2001 (“I’ve been coming here since before I was born,” she jokes).

In past seasons and decades, the lake was “old reliable,” the safest spring bet for stocked trout in the northern Columbia Basin. Where cold fronts or spinyray infestations could put the clamp on a popular nearby chain, fishing always perked right along on Jameson’s 331 acres, fueled by rainbows up to 20 inches with fall fingerlings filled out to 12 inches.

Pull up to its eastern shore at midmorning on the opener and you could always find the same scene: happy campers – many from hundreds of miles away ­– happy kids, happy oldsters, everyone enjoying the friendly family atmosphere.

AH, YES, THE GOOD old days. They can make you forget that Jameson has suffered from periodic water quality issues back to the 1960s.

But in recent years the algae problem – really a cyanobacteria problem – has mushroomed. The lake has swung from meso/eutrophic (OK for trout) to hypereutrophic (very, very bad for them) in just a few months.

Behne, who has been monitoring Jameson for six years, watched in spring 2005 as the lake “went from a gooey pink color” to dark chocolate brown in June to speckled with dead fish in July. The decaying material had sucked all the oxygen out of the water.

JUNE 18, 2005. (TIM BEHNE, FOSTER CREEK CONSERVATION DISTRICT)

But he also watched last year when the lake was “only slightly pink” then turned a milk-chocolate brown but trout survived. (There were reports of dead sculpins and rainbows coming out of ice-off, however.)

OCTOBER 17, 2009. (TIM BEHNE, FOSTER CREEK CONSERVATION DISTRICT)

While Kathy Hamel of the Department of Ecology is analyzing algal toxins in fish tissues statewide and says the agency has some concerns for human and animal health, she says Jameson’s blooms haven’t produced toxins exceeding safe levels.

THE ORGANISMS that produce the kaleidoscope of colors are fueled by phosphorous, mainly in the lake’s sediment, though cattle operations continue to contribute.

Basically, when the lake turns over in spring and fall, windy days mix the phosphorous throughout the water, feeding the bacteria. Different species make different hues.

At the peak of 2005’s event, levels rose to over 200 parts per billion from 17 ppb the year before.

“It killed us,” says Merritt. “People drove in that spring, saw the maroon bloom and left. But fishing was great.”

The problem is that Jameson often isn’t high enough to drain down the coulee, so after the bloom dissolves, the phosphorous settles back to the bottom, ready for the next blow.

“It didn’t do this when we bought the property,” says Merritt. “It’s gotten progressively worse and worse.”

The lake’s too big and deep to dredge, but if efforts to turn cyanobacteria into gas ever become worthwhile, you could start to harvest it away, says Behne.

For now, that’s as likely as another idea: letting one hundred years of nonorganic sediment cap the phosphorous. Binding it with alum was looked at, but would cost $2 million every seven to 10 years.

A consultant’s 2007 report instead recommends pumping liquid oxygen into the lake. That would decrease the phosphorous and increase trout habitat, says Peter Burgoon of Water Quality Engineering in Wenatchee.

Cost for pumps, hoses, tanks, operating, etc.? Roughly $1.9 mill over 24 years.

The next step, says Burgoon, would be an economic evaluation. But right now, nobody’s doing anything besides monitoring the lake and its blooms.

THE RESORTS AND anglers are awaiting word from Bob Jateff, the state fisheries biologist. In mid-April he plans on running water quality tests and perhaps installing a “live box” with fish. State managers don’t want to risk stocking trout where they won’t survive for anglers to catch; results will tell Jateff whether the lake’s suitable.

MARCH 9, 2010. (TIM BEHNE, FOSTER CREEK CONSERVATION DISTRICT)

It was a nail-biter last spring too. Just four days before opening day the state announced that 34,000 catchables had gone in, bolstering fingerlings released in 2008.

That led to good spring and fall fishing, Merritt says.

In March she was pretty sure Jameson will get the “premium” plant, 8- to 12-inch catchables and some triploids.

Let’s hope so – and hope too that enough people care to step up and help jump-start the recovery of what was once one of the state’s best stocker trout lakes. –Leroy Ledeboer contributed reporting to this article

Here Comes Trout Season — And Our April Issue Delivers Limits!

March 24, 2010

There wasn’t much distinctive about the old pond. It was only a few acres and just as rectangular as our farm. There were berms and culverts at either end, trees had fallen in on two sides, and it was maybe 7 feet deep tops.

But the pond held trout, beautiful things, fat too.

It’s not clear where they came from, but most of my earliest memories of fishing are from here:

Getting Dad and uncles to haul our behemoth of a canoe out the back gate, up the grown-in dirt road, past the bramble bushes, around the corner and to the pond;

Quarreling cousins packed into the canoe; casting competitions with cousins; a cousin’s bobber up in a tree;

Lining a wicker creel with grass and slipping rainbows through the hole on top;

The first crawdad I ever saw;

Casting a bobber and ’crawler one evening wherever an uncle saw a trout dimple the pond’s dark surface;

Fishing in the rain and wondering whether in any single moment all the drops on the surface formed the shape of a battleship;

Galloping through mud puddles when the action was slow.

LOOKING BACK, I realize how lucky I was to spend half my preteen life with that pond so close by.

And I sometimes wonder if I would have ended up in this field – writing and editing hook-and-bullet stuff – if my folks had not decided to move out there when I was just five.

With two boys of my own now I feel a tug to get the hell out of the big city and set up somewhere similar.

If the boss would let me telecommute, I know where I’d move: Mason County.

Writer “Uncle Wes” Malmberg’s been killing me with stories and pics of very nice rainbows from the numerous lakes down there, four of which, he reports in out April issue, are “under-rated,” “underappreciated” and “overlooked.”

Or would it be Bend, with quick access to the trout-, char- and kokanee-rich waters of Oregon’s Cascades, which Larry Ellis details in this issue?

Then again, there’s the Okanogan and its myriad of trout lakes primed for the opener, as Leroy Ledeboer advises.

Argh, that’s the great thing about the Northwest. We’ve got more lakes than anywhere else west of Minnesota, and most will be jumping with trout this month, to the delight of youngsters and their canoe-packing dads everywhere.

OUR APRIL ISSUE ALSO SERVES UP whiskerfish! We check in on the spring bites on the John Day and Palouse Rivers, as well as Brownlee Reservoir and Henry Hagg Lake. And if you’re a catfish newbie, Larry Ellis has a fantastic setup in our Rig Of The Month!

As springer fishing picks up steam on the Lower Columbia, we get in front of the run with stops at Wind River, Drano Lake, Deschutes River, Tri-Cities and The Wall at Little Goose Dam.

Since it is spring, we also head out on the Turkey Trail, with stops in Medford, Eugene, Colville, Okanogan, Dayton, Lyle and The Dalles! In a nutshell, gobbler prospects look good around the region, even the hard-hit northeast corner of Washington.

And spring isn’t spring without spring bear hunts. We finish up our four-month-long series with a look at Southwest Oregon!!

We also delve into the mystery of Jameson Lake’s “algae” blooms, how Oregon highway engineers are preventing roadkill near Bend, the state of North Puget Sound steelheading circa 2010, two pages worth of game poachers, scofflaws, boneheads and jackasses, Portland’s Kings For The Kids springer tournament and why Gov. Gregoire may owe you some dough.

And we celebrate that Northwest holiday known as opening day of trout season with a peak back to 1962!

All that and more in the April issue of Northwest Sportsman, on shelves and mailboxes later this week!

Guide: Improving Ling, Rockfish Bite On South Coast

March 24, 2010

(ANDY MARTIN, WILD RIVERS FISHING, PRESS RELEASE)

Lingcod and rockfish action is picking up out of the Port of Brookings. The ocean has been fairly calm, although afternoon winds have shortened the window for getting out.

We’ve been getting limits of nice black rockfish and are starting to find some nice-size lingcod and cabazon. Today’s biggest ling was 38 inches.

(WILD RIVERS FISHING)

Some of the black rockfish we’ve caught in recent days have pushed 5 pounds.

We are getting most of the lings on live baits – either kelp greenling or small blue rockfish, but also have taken a few on large plastic twin tails.

Except lingcod fishing to remain good through May as the spawn continues. Oregon’s lingcod limit is two fish a day over 22 inches, as well as seven rockfish per day.

What’s Fishin’ In NW OR

March 24, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE WEEKLY RECREATION REPORT)

NORTH COAST LAKES

Coffenbury, Cullaby, Lost, Sunset, Vernonia, Cape Meares, Smith, Tahoe, Spring, Lytle, South, Town, and Hebo lakes, and Lorens Pond and Nedonna Pond were stocked with legal size rainbow trout last week.

Surplus hatchery steelhead have been released in Cape Meares Lake, Town Lake, Coffenbury Lake, Lost Lake, Lorens Pond, and Vernonia Pond earlier this winter.

MID COAST LAKES

Trout stocking is now in full swing for the season. Most water bodies will be stocked this week. Be sure to check the online stocking report for specific weeks and lakes to be stocked. Many lakes have or will be will stocked with trophy-sized trout.

ALSEA RIVER: winter steelhead

Winter steelhead angling is slow. Most hatchery fish are in the upper sections of the basin. Wild fish can offer fair catch rates this time of year.

KILCHIS RIVER: steelhead

Winter steelhead angling is fair. Recent rains raised the river and brought some fresh fish upstream. The river is dropping and clearing quickly. Use lighter gear and fish the deeper slots for the best results.

NEHALEM RIVER: steelhead

Winter steelhead angling in the main stem Nehalem should be good when conditions allow. The river is high after recent rains. Fishing should hold up through April.

NESTUCCA RIVER AND THREE RIVERS: steelhead

Steelhead angling has been fair to good as the river drops after recent rains. Fish are spread out in the river system. Look for a mixture of hatchery and wild fish. Drifting lures or bait near the bottom has been productive. Spinners are generally a good bet in the upper river also. As the river drops and clears, bobber and jigs will become more effective.

SALMON RIVER: winter steelhead

Native winter steelhead typically return through March. Fair to good numbers of wild winter steelhead should be in the river this time of year.

SILETZ RIVER: winter steelhead

Steelhead angling is slow to fair. Hatchery fish can be found throughout the mainstem but the majority are in the upper river. Wild fish typically make up the bulk of the catch rate this time of year.

SIUSLAW RIVER: winter steelhead

Steelhead angling is slowing. Most fish are now in spawning condition. Fish can be found throughout the basin with fair numbers of hatchery fish around the Whittaker Creek area. Good numbers of native steelhead can also be found throughout much of the basin.

TILLAMOOK BAY: sturgeon

Angling for sturgeon has been slow. Concentrate on the channel edges on the outgoing tides or the first part of the incoming, with sand shrimp the preferred bait. Move around often to find fish if you are not getting bites.

TRASK RIVER: steelhead

Steelhead angling is fair to good. Fish are spread out through the river after recent rains. A few hatchery fish are being caught, but expect mostly wild fish in the catch.

WILSON RIVER: steelhead

Steelhead angling is fair to good. Fishing conditions were marginal after recent rains, but the river is dropping. Boaters on the lower river have done well side drifting. Drift fishing or bobber and jigs have produced for bank anglers.

YAQUINA RIVER: winter steelhead

Steelhead angling is slow in Big Elk Creek. Fair to good catch and release native steelhead fishing should continue through the month.

Did You Win A Free Oregon License?

March 23, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Thirty hunters won either a free 2011 Sports Pac or a Non-Resident Hunting License because they applied for a 2010 fall big game controlled hunt by March 15, 2010.

Twenty more 2011 Sports Pacs or Non-Resident Hunting Licenses will be given away to hunters that apply for (and are issued) a controlled hunt application by April 15, 2010.

ODFW and the vendor that manages its license sales system are giving away a total of 100 free 2011 Sports Pacs (for Oregon residents, a $164.75 value) or Non Resident Hunting Licenses (for non-residents, a $140.50 value) to encourage hunters to apply early for their 2010 fall big game hunts. (A Sports Pac includes a Combination Angling/Hunting/Shellfish License, a Combined Angling Harvest Tag, a Validation for Upland Bird and Waterfowl hunting, plus a General or Controlled Buck Deer, General or Controlled Elk, General Cougar, General or Controlled Bear and Spring Turkey Tag.)

The next drawing will take place April 19 and winners will be notified by mail. Hunters unsuccessful in the first two drawings (for hunters that applied by Jan. 15 and March 15) will be entered into this final drawing. Only one entry per hunter is allowed, meaning hunters that apply for several controlled hunts are still only entered once.

Hunters can apply for controlled hunts online, at a license sales agent, at ODFW offices that sell licenses, or by mail or fax order using the application found here or on page 15 of the 2010 Oregon Big Game Regulations.

Mail order/fax applicants should allow 7-10 days for their applications to be processed and issued. Remember, to be eligible for the drawing, the controlled hunt application must be issued, not just received, by the drawing deadline (April 15). Controlled hunt applications can be processed and issued immediately online and at license sales agents or ODFW offices.

The deadline to apply for a controlled hunt is May 15 each year. Most applications are received during the last few days. In 2009, only 68,849 of 426,921 total applications received were processed by April 15, 2009. The high volume of sales activity in the last few days prior to the deadline has led to long lines and slowed or crashed the license sales system at times, causing ODFW to extend the deadline in both 2008 and 2009.

The vendor that manages the license sales system is purchasing the Sports Pacs and Non-Resident Hunting Licenses for the winners. ODFW and the vendor will conduct similar drawings in 2011 and 2012, as part of a three-year pilot program to determine if the incentives are helping with early application. As of March 19 this year, ODFW has issued 47,328 fall big game controlled hunt applications compared to 37,761 on the same date last year.

Some of Oregon’s big game hunts are limited entry, including almost all rifle hunting of deer and elk east of the Cascades and pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and Rocky Mountain goat hunts. These hunts require a controlled hunt application.

Names and hometowns of winners follow:

  • Darren J Page, Albany
  • Aaron Eason, Albany
  • Gerald F Grover, Baker City
  • Robert G Fouse, Bend
  • Travis J Lulay, Bozeman, Mont.
  • Carol A Creager, Coos Bay
  • David R Oswald, Dallas
  • Scott Erickson, Eagle Point
  • Scott T Tedrow, Estacada
  • Shirley J Jones, Eugene
  • James E Balcom, Eugene
  • Carolyn A Dobes, Keizer
  • Sandra L Boro, Keizer
  • Douglas W Williams, Keno
  • Dustin E Shippee, Lincoln City
  • Beverly J Swartout, Meacham
  • Ronald L Kilby, Medford
  • Jason R John, Medford
  • Brian Harris, Monmouth
  • Tommy Davis, Napa, Calif.
  • Leslie Hunter, North Bend
  • Van H Saechao, Portland
  • Mark E Loebner, Portland
  • Dennis D Crawford, Roseburg
  • Thomas J White, Salem
  • Lynn G Johnson, Sheridan
  • Scott S Iverson, Sublimity
  • Robert W Myers, Tigard
  • Susan J Keesee, Tualatin

Springer Catch Jumps 2,000 In A Week

March 23, 2010

Best springer fishing on the Columbia so far?

“It’s either down low or around here,” says Joe Hymer of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in Vancouver.

THE COLUMBIA PRODUCED THIS SPRINGER FOR BUZZ RAMSEY LATE LAST WEEK. HE WAS FISHING ON ANCHOR WITH A FLUORESCENT RED MAG LIP OFF A 60-INCH LEADER AND 36-INCH DROP LINE. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Tallies for boat anglers he put out this afternoon show that the Interstate (go figure) and the big river’s estuary are neck and neck for highest catch from Feb. 1 through March 21.

A total of 503 springers have been landed from Cathlamet down to Astoria (460 kept) while 502 have been caught between roughly I-205 and the mouth of the Willamette below I-5 (463 retained).

The past two years, the Interstate has been smokin’ hot while fishing in the lower river hasn’t been what it once was, especially during 2008’s season.

Hymer points to improved Willamette and Cowlitz returns this year for the revived bite in the estuary.

And upstream, the Interstate is again holding its fish.

“The upriver fish are spending some time up here like a few years ago — they’re not going over the dam,” Hymer says.

Only 122 springers have gone over Bonneville through Sunday, just a tenth of the 10-year average, and well below expectations but in line with how runs have proceeded the past five springs.

All that means the Interstate troll might be a spot to check once that section reopens on Thursday.

The third best section for boaters on the mainstem is from the Willamette down to just above the mouth of the Lewis River with 350 fish landed (another 94 released).

From the bank, the Oregon side is leading with 153 Chinook retained, with half of those coming from between the mouth of the Lewis and Sandy Island above Kalama.

On the Washington beach, 32 have been kept, and the best fishing is from Vancouver down to the Lewis.

A total of 2,819 springers have been caught this season — basically 2,000 in the last week alone — with 2,462 going on the barbecue.

However, the action is still not steady.

“What we haven’t seen yet is a fish per boat or better, but it should continue to improve,” says Hymer.

While the angler effort is following preseason expectations (through Sunday, nearly 43,000 trips), the catch is slightly different than modeled, with Chinook from the Willamette, Cowlitz, Kalama and other lower tribs making up 55 percent of the catch, Hymer says.

The other 45 percent is upriver fish; an average of six forecasts pegs the run at 470,000 this year, which would be a record.

Below is an excerpt from our March issue on how to fish the estuary, by Terry Otto:

The first place you can intercept springers is in this reach, from Tongue Point just east of Astoria upstream to Tenasillahe Island, below Cathlamet.

With the big tidal exchanges, most anglers like to anchor and fish plugs during the ebb tide when the fish will be running shallow, from 6 to 25 feet of water. Springers will follow the line of least resistance, moving up behind wing dams and along current seams below the islands. There is a string of islands along the Oregon side – Russian up to Tenasillahe – that are good ambush spots for anchoring. Near the Washington side, Rice Island and the Jim Crow Sands are also good anchor spots.

On the incoming tide, trolling plug-cut herring or plugs along the bottom in 12 to 25 feet of water can work well.

One of the most popular places is the Clifton Channel, on the Oregon side of Tenasillahe. The channel is fairly even-bottomed and big enough to accommodate a lot of boats. Virtually the entire channel is fishable, but most concentrate near the top end of the island.

The fish will also collect behind the wing dam just above the top of the island; some troll the length of it on the downstream side.

There are also good spots on the south side of Puget Island.

Good Oregon launches include the Westport and Aldrich Point ramps. On the Washington side, Cathlamet Marina is a good ramp with lots of parking.

(Oh, and don’t look now, but this year’s jack counts are already 1,000 percent above the 10-year average — 5 vs. .5 🙂

SW WA, Columbia Fishing Report

March 23, 2010

COLUMBIA RIVER

(TANNA TAKATA, ODFW)

Salmonid angler effort increased significantly in the lower Columbia River this past weekend with 1,634 boats and 528 bank anglers counted on Saturday’s (3/20) flight.  Catch rates for spring chinook have improved and should continue to be good for the next few weeks.

Gorge Bank: Weekend checking showed no catch for five bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Bank: Weekend checking showed three adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adults, one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook jack, and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus one unclipped spring chinook and two unclipped steelhead released for 257 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boat: Weekend checking showed 83 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and three adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus seven unclipped spring chinook and one unclipped steelhead released for 367 boats (945 anglers).

Estuary Bank (Jones Beach to Clatsop Spit): Weekend checking showed one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and four adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus one unclipped steelhead released for 90 bank anglers.

Estuary Boat (Puget Isand to Tongue Point): Weekend checking showed 30 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus six unclipped spring chinook and two unclipped steelhead released for 70 boats (172 anglers).

Bonneville Pool: No report.

The Dalles Pool: Weekly checking showed no catch for 10 bank anglers; and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus five unclipped steelhead released for two boats (four anglers).

John Day Pool (Columbia River above John Day Dam and John Day Arm): No report.

STURGEON:

Sturgeon effort remains light on the lower Columbia River.  Boat and bank anglers in the gorge are catching a few legal size fish.

Gorge Bank: Weekend checking showed three legal white sturgeon kept, and 41 sublegal sturgeon released for 38 bank anglers.

Gorge Boats: No report. Effort is increasing.

Troutdale Boats: Weekly checking showed four legal white sturgeon kept, plus two oversize and 34 sublegal sturgeon released for five boats (nine anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank: weekend checking showed no catch for five bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boats: Weekend checking showed one legal white sturgeon kept and 29 sublegal sturgeon released for six boats (20 anglers).

Estuary Bank: Weekend checking showed no catch for three anglers.

Estuary Boats: No report.

Bonneville Pool Boat and Bank: Closed for retention. No report.

The Dalles Pool Boat and Bank: Weekly checking showed one sublegal sturgeon released for 29 bank anglers; and one legal white sturgeon kept, plus two oversize, and 49 sublegal sturgeon released for 10 boats (22 anglers).

John Day Pool Boat and Bank: Closed for retention. No report.

WALLEYE:

Troutdale Boats: No report.

Bonneville Pool Boats: No report.

The Dalles Pool Boats: Weekly checking showed two walleye kept for three bank anglers; and six walleye kept, plus three walleye released for nine boats (15 anglers).

John Day Pool Boats: No report.

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

(JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Anglers are catching steelhead along with some spring chinook and sea run cutthroats.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 339 winter-run steelhead and 11 spring Chinook adults during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.  During the week Tacoma Power employees released 16 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 45 winter-run steelhead and ten spring Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,090 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 22. Flows will likely be reduced to 4,000 cubic feet per second by the end of the week. Water visibility is ten feet.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching steelhead.

Lewis River – Light effort and no catch was observed.

Wind River – Bonneville Pool level is very low making it difficult to launch boats. It’s expected to remain this low at least through April 3rd as the US COE is performing maintenance.

Drano Lake – Light effort and no catch was observed.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Last week we sampled 2,909 boat anglers (1,268 boats) with 315 adult chinook and 10 steelhead.  In addition, we sampled 471 bank anglers with 5 adult chinook and  3 steelhead.  Overall, 85% of the adult Chinook and 92% of the steelhead caught were kept.  Of the 260 adult chinook sampled, 59% were upriver stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).

Effort was up substantially from the previous weekend with 1,634 boats and 824 bank anglers counted during last Saturday’s March 20 flight.  At the same time last year, just over 1,400 boats and nearly 500 bank anglers were counted from Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers are catching some steelhead.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Slow for legal size fish.  Effort remains fairly light with 55 boats and 37 bank anglers counted during Saturday’s flight.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers are catching some legals.  Fishing is slow from the bank.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles Pool – Including fish released, bank and boat anglers averaged just over 0.6 walleye per rod.  Some bass were also being caught by boat anglers.

TROUT

Klineline Pond – Bank anglers averaged 2.8 rainbows per rod during creel checks last week.  Planted with 1,500 half-pound plus rainbows March 15.

Lake Sacajawea in Longview – Planted with 4,300 catchable size rainbows March 15.

Leroy Burns Pond in Wahkiakum County – Planted with 3,022 catchable size rainbows March 16.

Razor Clam Dig A Go

March 22, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The results of marine toxin tests are in, confirming that clams are safe to eat, and clearing the way for the spring’s first razor-clam digs on ocean beaches later this month.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today set March 26 – April 1 openings at various ocean beaches. Prospective diggers should note that the opening starts on evening tides, then switches to morning tides for the final four days, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

“The digs span the seasonal change, when the lowest tides shift from evening to morning hours,” Ayres said.  “As in past months, razor-clam digging will be allowed after noon for the first three days of the opening, but will then switch to morning hours starting Monday, March 29.”

Days, tides and beach openings for this dig are:

* Friday, March 26, (4:29 p.m., +0.1) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Kalaloch
* Saturday, March 27, (5:19 p.m., -0.1) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Sunday, March 28, (6:04 p.m., 0.0) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
* Monday, March 29, (6:35 A.M., -0.1) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Tuesday, March 30, (7:22 A.M., -0.7) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Wednesday, March 31, (8:07 A.M., -1.0) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Thursday, April 1, (8:52 A.M., -1.0) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only

The National Park Service scheduled the dig at Kalaloch Beach, which is located within the Olympic National Park, to coincide with those at other coastal beaches.

The Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival ( http://www.oceanshores.org/clams.html ) is also scheduled to correspond with the March 27 dig on Copalis Beach.

Another dig is tentatively scheduled on morning tides in mid-April at Long Beach, pending final marine toxin tests.

Any 2009-10 annual shellfish/seaweed license or combination license is valid through March 31. However, a new license will be required for anyone age 15 or older to participate in the April 1 dig. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov .

Ayres said WDFW expects to announce additional razor-clam digs in late April or early May on most beaches, noting that several natural events have left more clams than usual available for harvest in spring.  Those events include stormy weather in December, a marine toxin closure in January and last week’s tsunami advisory on the coast.

“Razor-clam diggers had a bumpy ride earlier this year, and we’re doing everything we can to add some additional digging opportunities,” Ayres said.

Beaches open include:

* 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 mouth of Grays Harbor.
* Copalis Beach , which extends from the Grays Harbor North Jetty to the Copalis River, and includes beaches near Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut and Ocean City.
* 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 , from the South Beach campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park. Visitors to the park are advised to consult area bulletin boards for park safety and other information.

Upriver Springer Catch Improves

March 22, 2010

The Bonneville Dam count is still just roughly one-tenth of the 10-year average, but the percentage of upriver-bound spring Chinook in the Columbia improved markedly during test-netting yesterday.

Of 58 captured, 25 were headed for tribs above Bonneville while 22 were returning to lower Columbia rivers such as the Willamette, Cowlitz and Lewis, according to a fact sheet issued by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife this afternoon.

The origin of the remaining 11 couldn’t be determined through visual stock identification techniques.

Tests the previous two Sundays had only captured one upriver Chinook, and only eight Chinook overall.

The fact sheet also says:

Mainstem sport catch through March 14 includes 700 hatchery Chinook (100 released) from 21,500 angler trips.  Stock composition (based on VSI) is 32% upper river stock.  Winter steelhead handle includes 150 fish kept and 40 released.  Chinook catch and effort is generally in line with pre season modeling.

In the sport catch, stock composition overall is slightly different from preseason expectations with the lower river component comprising a greater proportion of the catch than expected.  Stock composition has gradually been increasing towards upriver as the season progresses.

Springer Bite Improving

March 19, 2010

I received a message from Jason Bauer’s iPhone sent at precisely 9:12 a.m. today. He had the boat back on the trailer and was pulling away from the Marine Park launch in Vancouver to go get some breakfast.

Bauer, who’s more of a bugeye guy (he runs Northwestwalleye.com) has been pestering me for a week or so to email him this spring Chinook rig and that river’s report in preparation for a recon trip. He promised he’d send news.

And today’s news is good: A photo he sent showed a pair of hatchery kings in the fish box.

SPRINGERS IN THE BOX! (JASON BAUER)

Details, man, details, I immediately demanded.

“We started out the first drift right in front of the red can just where the condos start on the Washington side about one mile up from the I-5 bridge,” Bauer emailed. “Fifteen minutes into the troll, green-dyed green-label herring, 8-foot leader in 32 feet of water.

“First fish chewed twice before it got a 3/0 Gammie drilled to its upper lip.

“After trolling under the I-5 bridge, we watched a takedown that didn’t stick, but that ‘Nook came back for seconds.

“We were at the ramp at 8 loading up.

“Fish checker said he had already counted five fish before ours,” Bauer wrote. “It’s game on!!!”

JASON BAUER & DINNER. (JASON BAUER)

I’m not quite sure about “game on,” BUT according to Joe Hymer, the oft-quoted fisheries biologist/watcher at WDFW’s Vancouver office, fish are beginning to be caught up and down the lower river.

“Checks are showing a steady improvement,” he tells me this morning.

Best days are seeing a half a fish per boat on average.

Earlier this week he reported a total of 800 Chinook landed since Feb. 1, with 698 of those being kept, and of those, 68 percent were from lower Columbia tribs.

But the action is still “bouncing around,” says Hymer.

Chris Spencer, a friend of mine, and his father were fishing further downstream yesterday, and were literally bouncing around on a 3-foot chop.

“I counted 40 boat trailers in the Kalama Marina.  Average two fisherman per boat so conservatively guessing around 80 people fishing out of Kalama today.  As of 1:30pm the fish counter reported one fish caught,” he emailed.

No, that one fish didn’t hitch a ride back to the marina with Clan Spencer.

Twenty four hours later and just downstream from Kalama, Buzz Ramsey called HQ to say that he’d just landed one on a red Mag Lip with a sardine wrap. He and three pals, and some nine other boats, are hog-lined up off Prescott Beach; he’s seen one other fish caught and another lost.

Upstream, dam counts at Bonneville are still well below what one would expect for so large of a run. After having the first double-digit day of the year on Wednesday (a whopping 11 fish), the count dipped back to six yesterday. Only 63 fish have gone over the dam so far this year.

“Everybody still has their eyes on the count,” says Hymer.

Two commercial test nettings have yielded a total of eight springers, results so poor that the past two weeks’ fisheries have been canceled.

Hymer indicates there may be some more commercial test netting this weekend, at night.

Only 13 Days For Sound Halibut Anglers

March 19, 2010

Peter Leutz was none too happy when saw this year’s halibut season proposals.

Eager to dip Halibut Hound, his Sea Swirl, into Puget Sound’s Area 9 this spring, he was furious to learn last month that there might be just 12 days of fishing – less than half last year’s total and only one-third of 2008’s.

Leutz, a Seattle cop, describes halibut fishing as his “passion,” “hobby” and part of his “soul.”

“It feels like it’s being ripped away from me,” Leutz told me.

I phoned up a state fishery manager to find out what was up. She explained that the proposed three-day-a-week fishery (’09’s was four, ’08’s five) was due to the Fed’s overall 15 percent lower quota for halibut, as well as anglers crashing quotas by 57,000 pounds last year and 30,000 the previous season.

Leutz wasn’t buying it.

“It’s disgusting,” he said. “My boat’s been sitting since September. I’ve made $8,000 in payments. And now only 12 days of fishing – minus weather …”

Turns out we’ll actually get … 13 days in the Sound.

WDFW announced this morning that fishing in Marine Areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open three days a week (Thurs., Fri. and Sat.) May 1-30, except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 28 through June 19 on the same schedule.

The 2010 combined catch quota for these areas is 50,542 pounds.

Elsewhere, the seasons are as follows:

Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 1, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 18. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 6 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept. 27, whichever occurs first. The 2010 catch quota is 13,436 pounds.

* South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 2, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays.  During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 23).  Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached.  The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2010 catch quota is 35,887 pounds.

* North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 13, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 22. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen June 3 and 5. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 17. The 2010 catch quota is 101,179 pounds.

Marine areas 11 and 13 will be closed to protect rockfish, which may be caught incidentally by anglers fishing for halibut.  Three rockfish species in Puget Sound are currently under consideration for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.

As in previous years, Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

Portions of marine areas 2, 3 and 4 also will be closed to fishing for halibut and bottomfish to reduce the chance that anglers will unintentionally catch yelloweye rockfish. Retention of canary and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited in all coastal marine areas.

All Washington waters open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, and a possession limit of two fish in any form.

Poachers Suck

March 19, 2010

On the heels of yesterday’s take-down of an allegedly massive oyster-poaching ring on Hood Canal, WDFW Enforcement also sent out its quarterly report.

As always, the document is part comical and part maddening. While some alleged poachers are likely first timers who made a mistake and tried to cover it up, there are other incredibly brazen people who, it appears, flat-out don’t give a rip about wildlife.

For instance, the four men in Grays Harbor County who fired 50 shots into a herd of 40 elk. Or the guy with 28 wildlife citations on his criminal record. Or the criminals who, go figure, also criminally take game.

While just a sampling of all the cases WDFW officers investigate, it still paints a grim picture of the illegal plundering of public resources in Washington by criminals, poachers and others.

Here are highlights, as well as lowlights:

DON’T FEED THE WILDLIFE

Migratory waterfowl cannot be hunted over bait primarily because birds lose any sense of survival, and
are easy targets, taking any sporting element out of the hunt. Officer Snyder and Captain Anderson walked into a gated hunt club on the opening day of dove season where a number of hunters were observed shooting at birds.

While Officer Snyder contacted hunters he located two piles of freshly cracked corn on the ground in the sagebrush. A search of the property revealed a total of four piles of fresh bait. Officers also found three of the ten club members were hunting without licenses. Officers interviewed several members and were able to identify two people who were responsible for placing the bait. Citations were issued.

WHATCOM COUNTY DEPUTIES HELP CATCH POACHER

Two Lummi tribal members were apprehended by Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputies for hunting on Trillium property in Whatcom County. They were charged with hunting deer with the aid of an artificial light, hunting without licenses, hunting during the closed season, hunting with illegal firearms, and trespass.

WDFW Officers provided some technical and follow-up investigative assistance. Both defendants pled guilty in district court to four of the five criminal counts and paid $1,500 each. The closed season charge was dismissed on grounds of possible double jeopardy.

CONVICT CAUGHT WITH POACHED DEER

Officer Erickson received a call from a local landowner regarding a poached deer. He learned that someone in a blue Chevy pickup had shot a 4×5 white-tailed buck in a field and left the deer and fled the scene. Sure enough, the Officer located the deer. He then contacted the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office, which had a deputy patrolling near the scene of the crime. Ten minutes after Erickson arrived, a vehicle was noticed driving by the field, when it stopped briefly and then sped away. Erickson believed that someone might have been dropped off to retrieve the deer.

Another 10 minutes passed by and the car showed up again – probably with the intent of picking someone up. Officer Erickson witnessed a male subject dragging the deer from the field toward the vehicle.

Officer Erickson took chase and ordered the subject to stop and show him his hands. The bad guy ignored him, quickly loaded the deer in the back of the vehicle and took off. Erickson was able to get a vehicle description and license plate number and radioed for assistance. Three minutes later a responding deputy took the subject into custody at gunpoint.

Officer Erickson arrived on scene within a few minutes and began investigating the incident. The subject was uncooperative, arrested, and his vehicle was impounded.

A criminal background check revealed that he had been previously convicted of two counts of Burglary, 2nd Degree; Assault, 2nd Degree; and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, 1st Degree.

In other words, he is a proven bad dude. He was booked into Pend Oreille County jail on numerous charges.

CHAINSAW TURNS BULL ELK TO A SPIKE

Sergeant Sprecher investigated a report of suspicious circumstances surrounding a spike elk shot on opening day of the elk season. Sergeant Sprecher did not receive the report until the second day of the season after the reporting party observed a subject cutting up an elk with a chainsaw nearly a mile off the road.

Sergeant Sprecher and the witness hiked into the location of the elk. All that remained at the scene was what initially looked like a spike elk head, a bloody chainsaw, an ax, a saw and a backpack of other hunting items.

There was nobody in the immediate area. The spike antlers had a tag attached. Sergeant Sprecher noticed saw marks near the top of one of the spikes. It was clear an antler point had been cut or “shot” off to turn the animal into a legal kill to conform with antler restrictions.

He then located a portion of the point that had been broke off and a spent 7MM casing. He observed a subject walking down the ridge wearing hunter orange and carrying a pack board. Sergeant Sprecher contacted the subject who admitted to shooting the elk and cutting it up with a chainsaw.

JUDGE COMES DOWN HARD ON DEER STABBER

It initially appeared to some as a Halloween prank, but after tenacious Fish and Wildlife Officers completed their investigation, four Bellingham men answered to charges of deer poaching.

The case began with the discovery of a pool of blood and a bloody knife on school grounds by students and their teacher. The instrument left behind turned out to be the weapon of choice in the illegal taking of four semi-tame Ocean Shores deer, all chased down with a pick-up truck and knifed to death in the truck’s headlights.

The main suspect in the case, James Breslin, had struck a deal with the prosecutor’s office in November to spend 15 days in jail. Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Godfrey did not accept the plea and sentenced Breslin to a year in jail. The other three suspects were sentenced to community service. Fines were not less than $2,000.00 for each suspect.

MEN TAKE 50 SHOTS INTO HERD OF 40 ELK

In Grays Harbor County, officers investigated a case involving three guys in their late teens and early 20s who spotlighted and shot approximately 50 times into a herd of about 40 elk.

Five elk fell dead within seventy-five yards of each other and it is unknown if more elk were wounded or died later.

With TV news and other media exposure, Officers Klump and James were successful in obtaining leads that broke the case. All of the animals had been decapitated and the meat left to go to waste.

The prosecutor is reviewing the case for possible filing of charges. Officers forwarded fifteen charges on the three subjects, to include hunting elk closed season, unlawful firearm used to kill big game, spotlighting big game, waste of big game in the 1st degree, and criminal trespass. One subject has a prior conviction.

All three face $20,000 each in civil fines because of the five dead elk, and the civil penalty is doubled if spotlighting or a prior conviction is involved. Sergeant Nixon reports that a number of other like-cases are still under investigation in Grays Harbor County, an area hit particularly hard with this brand of poaching.

THE INFAMOUS PEDRO RIVERA, POACHER PAR EXCELLENCE

Sergeant Chandler grabbed the brass ring when he arrested the infamous Pedro Rivera … again.

It only took 25 minutes of watching the Spokane Street Bridge until Pedro was spotted. Only two minutes of watching Pedro specifically was required before he cast, jerked and successfully snagged a fish. After gutting the fish right there on the bridge and stuffing it in a garbage sack, he disappeared. Sergeant Chandler drove around and was waiting for Pedro to appear again when he saw him duck behind some bushes.

A short search on foot led Sergeant Chandler to a path next to a fence, and when he rounded the corner, there stood Pedro next to two homeless person’s tents with his catch record card in hand.

At first he denied having caught any fish despite having blood and slime all over him, but then fessed up with the threat of failure to submit catch for inspection. He then retrieved the fish from the homeless person’s tent. The snag marks were evident even though the fish had been cleaned. Then he told Sergeant Chandler that he was looking for a pen to record his catch … 20 minutes later … too late.

A check of his criminal record showed that of the 34 cases on his record, 28 of them are Fish and Wildlife cases.

THIS IS HOW YOU GET F!@$!@#$ BUSTED BY YOUTUBE

Officer Stevens contacted Detachment Five Clark County officers to follow up on a video he located on a fishing website.

The video showed an individual with a foul hooked fish (most likely intentionally snagged.) After removing the hook the subject then grabbed it through the gill plates, walked around with it, “headbutted” the fish, walked up to the camera and said,

“This is how we F*#%@ing fish!”

After his quote, the subject threw the fish back into the water. Officer Stevens looked up the “videographer’s” information in the WILD system (using his YouTube name) and gave the information to Officer Van Vladricken.

Officers Hart and Van Vladricken interviewed the subject who stated he had no idea who the individual in the video was and that he had just met him that day.

He only knew the individual’s first name and that it was his birthday on the day of taping. After further investigation Officer Van Vladricken had a few possible suspects, but needed to match their DOL photo to the individual in the video. However, the videographer came through later that day with a last name, which matched one of Officer Van Vladricken’s suspects.

The subject is a convicted felon with a no-bail warrant. Officers Hart, Hughes and Van Vladricken contacted the subject at his residence, cited him for the fishing violation, and then booked him into the Clark County Jail.

‘BE CAREFUL OF HIS WRIST – HE JUST GOT OUT OF JAIL YESTERDAY’

Officer Cook investigated a hydraulics violation in which the property owner was building an 80-foot concrete and rock wall without an HPA on the Pilchuck River near the City of Snohomish diversion dam.

He was told to “cease and desist” the criminal activity but verbally avowed that he would do whatever he wanted to. Officer Cook received two additional reports of his continued building activities. Because of his hostile and violent reputation, Sergeant Lambert and Officer Oosterwyk agreed to go along for another contact.

Sergeant Lambert recognized him as a snagger he’d arrested two years ago. The subject continued to be belligerent and non-cooperative, so he was taken into custody.

While being handcuffed, his mother said to be careful of his wrist, he had just been released from jail yesterday and got injured in a fight while there.

While being placed in Officer Cook’s patrol vehicle, he told her, “I’ve got people who will come after you personally!”

He laughed all the way to jail, proudly proclaiming that he would be out in two hours because they had no beds, and this was just a gross misdemeanor, after all. He wasn’t laughing anymore after being booked for intimidating a public servant, a class b felony.

CUE INDIANA JONES

Officer Day caught up to a treasure hunter who has been reported numerous times for riding dirt bikes in closed areas of the Quincy Lakes Wildlife Area.

The heavily armed archeologist was carrying just about everything but a bull whip, and claimed to be seeking some 400 pounds of lost miner’s gold.

The story goes that a miner buried the gold while he was fleeing an Indian ambush in the early 1800s. The miner was never able to return for the gold.

The treasure hunter, who is on L&I disability, was carrying sluice-boxes, metal-detectors, pick axes, and shovels, but claimed to not be doing any digging.

Numerous charges including unlawful entry on a motorized vehicle will be referred to the prosecutor.

‘Massive’ Oyster Poaching Case

March 18, 2010

The Seattle Times is reporting that two men were arrested this morning for “massive poaching” of oysters and clams from Hood Canal.

According to the story, Donald Owens, 43, “along with others, illegally gathered hundreds of thousands of shellfish from tidelands off state parks and private lands.”

“Conservatively, we’re talking about at least 300,000 oysters and 1,000 pounds of hardshell clams,” WDFW wildlife detective Paul Buerger told reporter Craig Welch. “It could be a lot more.”

Twenty state, county and federal law enforcement officials helped serve a warrant and interview suspects and witnesses early this morning. Three hundred pounds of hard-shell clams and 100 pounds of oysters were seized, according to WDFW.

Deputy chief Mike Cenci says the bust amounts to “over a half a million dollars of product,” and is the largest oyster poaching case he’s seen in Washington.

Owens harvested shellfish for G&R Quality Seafood, whose owner, Rodney Clark, 45, was arrested after officers searching his home/business on the warrant found guns, which, as a felon, he’s not allowed to have, the Times reports.

“Indications are that he had knowledge of unlawful activities,” Cenci alleges.

A press release issued by his agency late this afternoon says “WDFW detectives believe the seafood company employed harvesters to steal” the oysters and clams.

It’s unclear how long the alleged poaching has been going on, but Cenci says the case began with tips from citizens and the Department of Health. That led to “lots” of surveillance during the 13-month investigation.

He says it’s probable that shellfish were removed from DNR, State Parks and WDFW-managed beaches as well as some private tideflats in Quilcene and Dabob bays and north Hood Canal.

The Times reports that the Quilcene based company “resells its catch at Western Washington farmer’s markets from Lake Forest Park to Issaquah and to wholesalers as far away as Brooklyn, New York.”

Cenci says that it appears that none of the shellfish came from unsanitary beaches, but in the legal shellfish trade, a certificate of health is attached to clams and oysters as they travel through the market ensuring that if someone gets sick from eating the meat, the source can be traced.

“If you’re falsifying tags — i.e. stealing from one beach and saying it came from another — you convolute and compromise the safety net,” he says.

The seized shellfish did not bear required certification from the state Department of Health and will be destroyed as required by state law.

As it stands the case will bury his detectives in forensic accounting, i.e. trying to determine what was harvested where, that beach’s capability to produce shellfish and what was marketed.

“That’s going to require intense work,” Cenci says, and will stretch the agency’s “paper thin” enforcement staff even thinner.

Officers also seized two barges, a 16-foot fiberglass vessel, five firearms and a van

Information gathered during the investigation will be turned over to the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office.

UPDATE MARCH 19, 2010: THE PENINSULA DAILY NEWS, KPLU RADIO AND KING 5 TV DID STORIES ON THIS CASE. THE TIMES ALSO RAN A FULLER VERSION OF THEIR INITIAL STORY, DETAILING MORE ABOUT THE CASE BEGAN AND HOW INVESTIGATORS SPENT LONG, COLD NIGHTS IN THE BUSHES WATCHING THE ALLEGED POACHERS WITH NIGHT VISION INSTRUMENTS. THE TIMES ALSO REPORTS THE SUSPECTS ARE EXPECTED TO BE ARRAIGNED TODAY.

ODFW Studying Sturgeon Spawning Area Below Falls

March 18, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Researchers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently began surveying the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls to learn more about a previously unknown white sturgeon spawning area.

According to Tucker Jones, ODFW white sturgeon project leader, researchers were surprised to discover white sturgeon spawning in the Willamette River last spring. Until then, the only known spawning grounds for the lower Columbia River white sturgeon population, which includes sturgeon in the lower Willamette River, was immediately downstream of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

“White sturgeon are important recreationally, commercially, culturally and ecologically,” said Jones. “Identifying another sturgeon spawning area is a big deal.”

Researchers have received a $44,187 grant from the ODFW Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program to help get a clearer picture of the extent and timing of sturgeon spawning in the Willamette.

To determine the level of white sturgeon spawning activity downstream of Willamette Falls, researchers will try to collect eggs using substrate mats that will catch the eggs as they settle on the river bottom. Sturgeon are broadcast spawners, laying their eggs throughout the water column. The eggs then sink and adhere to the river bottom to incubate.

Tucker planned to conduct the survey from April to the end of June, when seasonal water temperatures are usually optimal for sturgeon spawning. However, unseasonably warm weather this spring has prompted an earlier start to the research.

In time, researchers hope to map the exact size and location the spawning area in the Willamette River, and document when spawning takes place and what environmental conditions, such as water temperature, influence spawning activity.

The white sturgeon is an ancient species of fish native to the Pacific Coast of North America from Alaska south to Baja California. They can live in the ocean, estuaries or freshwater rivers, but only spawn in the Columbia, Sacramento, and Fraser river systems. Growing up to 20 feet long, they are the largest freshwater fish in North America.

The lower Columbia River sturgeon population provides an important and popular recreation fishery and almost 180,000 lower Columbia River white sturgeon were harvested by anglers between 2003 and 2008.

The discovery of a sturgeon spawning ground in the Willamette River recently prompted the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to adopt new sport fishing regulations to help protect spawning fish. These include: a) establishing a seasonal sturgeon spawning sanctuary on the Willamette River between Willamette Falls and the I-205 bridge from May through July, and b)  closing the bank fishing area in Oregon City known colloquially as “The Wall.”

The ODFW Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program, which provided funding for the research, was created by the Oregon Legislature in 1989 and is funded by a surcharge on sport and commercial fishing licenses and commercial poundage fees. The program’s seven-member citizen board reviews fish restoration and enhancement project proposals and makes funding recommendations to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

For more information on the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program, or to view information regarding current R&E Program applications, visit www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/RE or contact program coordinator Laura Tesler at (503) 947-6259.

Wolf Shot On Palouse Just East Of WA Border

March 18, 2010

A farmer shot and killed a young wolf on the Palouse just east of the Washington-Idaho border near the small town of Farmington.

The incident occurred in early March, according to regional conservation officer Mark Hill of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game.

The man, believed to be a Washington farmer, was checking out his property about 2 miles from the state line at the time. Hill says the man says he threw a stick at the wolf, but it was reluctant to move.

Hill says that the man claimed his dogs were eager to tangle with the animal so he shot the wolf to protect them.

The officer describes the wolf as a 60-pound female; its carcass was being shipped to Boise.

Hill says the man was issued a warning because he didn’t report the kill within 72 hours as required by Idaho law. However, he was probably not aware of the requirement either, he adds.

It’s not unusual to have wolves on the edge of Idaho’s Palouse, Hill says, but the proximity to the Washington border makes it noteworthy.

The two states do share a pack of wolves, the Diamond group, which denned in extreme Northeast Washington last spring and spent approximately 90 percent of its time in the Evergreen State, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2009 report.

Washington has one other confirmed pack of wolves and probably shares a pack with Oregon in the Blue Mountains.

The USFS is investigating reports of wolves above Lake Chelan. A spokeswoman in Spokane told Northwest Sportsman earlier this week that the Department of Fish & Wildlife continues to get reports of tracks, howling, scat and glimpses of animals in Eastern Washington, and says she wouldn’t be surprised to see new packs this summer in North-central, Northeast and Southeast Washington.

The state is working on a management plan to recover the species.

Bios Worry About Shed Antler Hunters

March 17, 2010

Read through today’s Weekender Report and one thing is clear: Washington wildlife biologists are not keen about hunters.

But not your everyday hunters, rather the ones who track down shed deer, elk and moose antlers on winter range.

Right now, the animals those racks were only recently attached to are running very low on reserves and, say biologists, need their energy to forage rather than run away from people.

The bios are warning shed hunters to be cognizant of their potential impact on winter-weary animals.

“We know this is a popular time for some folks to get out collecting shed elk antlers,” says Bruce Berry at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area west of Yakima, “but the elk come first.”

His area has large winter closures, but oftentimes people don’t give two hoots. So last spring, hidden cameras were set up and recorded numerous trespassers on closed areas.

“I’ve got photos of violators — hikers, ATVers, Jeepers, going by our hidden cameras,” former Oak Creek manager John McGowan told Yakima Herald-Republic reporter Scott Sandsberry last May, in an article picked up by the Tri-Cities Herald.

Sandsberry writes about how WDFW got ahold of the cameras:

The $11,000 network of night-vision, motion-detecting cameras was provided this spring by Eyes in the Woods, an Olympia-based watchdog organization supporting the state wildlife department in catching or dissuading poachers and other law-breakers on wildlife land. And it wasn’t long after the cameras were installed that they began producing dividends.

“Less than 24 hours later, here’s somebody walking right by the camera, shed strapped to his back,” McGowan said.

“We are getting pounded by elk-antler hunters in the Blue Mountains,” says another bio, Paul Wik, in the Weekender.  “Too many are trespassing, traveling in winter closures, traveling behind locked gates, bumping animals accidently, and some even chasing animals trying to get antlers to fall off.  Individuals may not think this is a big deal, but overall it adds up to harassment of wildlife at the worst possible time of year.”

Wik notes there is currently a closure to motorized traffic in the Lick Creek Game Management Unit (GMU 175) in Garfield and Asotin counties, and closures to all human entry in the Cummings Creek area of WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area. These winter closures continue through April.

At Oak Creek, Berry reminds visitors that area and road closures – including Forest Service Road 1400 (Oak Creek Road), the Bethel Ridge Road which goes through the Oak Creek headquarters, and the Bethel Ridge/ Meloy Canyon Road — remain in effect until 6 a.m. on May 1 to limit disturbance to animals during the critical time of late winter and early spring.

Vehicle gates are closed to all entry on other wildlife areas in the region, too. The Mellotte Road into the Wenas Wildlife Area, the Robinson Canyon and Joe Watt Canyon roads into the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, and roads on the Whiskey Dick and a portion of the Quilomene wildlife areas in Kittitas County are closed until May 1 to protect elk.

Up in the Methow, Okanogan district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin of Winthrop reports large groups of mule deer are visible in the Methow Valley now.

“The deer are congregating on spring range at lower elevations to take advantage of early green-up,” Fitkin says. “Our Methow and Sinlahekin Wildlife Areas are good viewing spots.”

A panorama shot posted recently on Hunting-Washington shows at least 150 deer grazing and laying down on a well-browsed hillside; Fitkin, who reviewed the image for Northwest Sportsman, suspects it was taken at the Golden Doe unit south of Twisp.

Deer watchers who might also be interested in collecting shed deer antlers are urged to avoid pushing hungry deer off early green-up areas or otherwise disturbing them.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

March 17, 2010

(ASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE)

The popular spring chinook season is picking up on the Columbia River, steelhead fishing is going full tilt on the Olympic Peninsula and a pair of razor-clam digs are tentatively scheduled late this month and next.

Rather fish for trout?  More than 30 lakes in the Columbia Basin will open for trout fishing April 1, followed by the statewide lowland lake opener April 24.

Here’s more from WDFW’s Weekender:
NORTH PUGET SOUND

With the region’s rivers closed to steelhead fishing, anglers’ attention has turned to salmon in the marine areas of Puget Sound. Anglers fishing Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is closed to salmon fishing.

Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW biologist, said effort has been light in the region and fishing continues to be slow. “There have been a few blackmouth caught, but overall it’s been a real grind for anglers fishing the waters of northern Puget Sound,” he said.

Thiesfeld said the Strait of Juan de Fuca is the better bet for anglers looking to hook a blackmouth – resident chinook. Anglers fishing marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) have a daily limit of one chinook.

Meanwhile, a couple of lakes in King County that are open year-round have been planted with catchable-size rainbow trout . Angle and Green lakes each received 10,000 rainbow trout recently. Check out WDFW’s weekly stocking report for catchable trout on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/index.htm .

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

The fishery for wild steelhead is peaking on the northern Olympia Peninsula, and blackmouth fishing is still going strong on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Rough seas have slowed the start of the lingcod fishery, but ocean beaches are tentatively scheduled to open March 26 for a weeklong razor clam fishery.

And just in time for spring break, WDFW is stocking several lakes in Mason and Grays Harbor counties with trout – some weighing up to five pounds apiece.

“Fishing opportunities are really picking up throughout the region,” said Ron Warren, regional WDFW fish manager.  “By the end of the month, there should be something for just about everybody who likes to fish or collect shellfish.”

As local schools count down to spring break, WDFW is planting 5,000 catchable-size rainbow trout in Duck Lake, Lake Sylvia and Vance Creek (Elma) Pond #1 in Grays Harbor County.  Lake Nahwatzel, in Mason County, will receive more than 3,000 catchable-size trout and several hundred coastal cutthroat.

Larger trout, averaging three to five pounds each, also will be planted in the four lakes in time for the spring-break fishery. Vance Creek (Elma) Pond #1, south of Elma, will be open from March 29 to April 4 for juvenile fishers, seniors over 70 and WDFW-licensed anglers with disabilities. The other three lakes are open year-round.

“This is a great opportunity for folks to enjoy early-season fishing during local schools’ spring vacations,” said Richard Ereth, a WDFW fish biologist in Montesano.

Ereth noted that a new daily bag limit is in effect this year on Duck Lake and Vance Creek (Elma) Pond #1. The new limit is five fish, including up to two fish over 15 inches.  When bait is used, anglers must stop fishing after the first five fish are landed, regardless of whether the fish are kept or released.

Meanwhile, steelhead anglers continue to catch – and often release – high numbers of wild fish on rivers around the northern Olympic Peninsula.  On the Sol Duc, 63 anglers reported catching 100 wild steelhead (91 released) and eight hatchery fish during a creel check conducted March 12-14.  Elsewhere, success rates ranged from about a fish to two fish for every two rods.

Anglers fishing for blackmouth salmon in the Strait of Juan de Fuca have also continued to rack up good catch rates.  While fishing has generally been slow elsewhere in Puget Sound, 10 anglers checked five fish in Seiku and 27 anglers checked 13 fish at Ediz Hook during a creel survey March 14.

But those hoping to catch lingcod off the south coast haven’t been quite so fortunate.  Heavy seas kept most boats at the dock for several days after marine areas 1-3 opened for lingcod fishing, said Wendy Beeghley, another WDFW fish biologist.  “Based on the latest reports, they may not be able to get out for another week,” she said.

The minimum size for lingcod in marine areas 1-3 south of Cape Alava is 22 inches, with a daily limit of two fish per angler. In Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores), recreational fishing for rockfish or lingcod is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms. Marine Area 4, north of Cape Alava, remains closed to lingcod fishing until April 16.  Additional information about the lingcod fishery is available on the WDFW Fishing Hotline (360) 902-2500 or online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm/ .

Those eager for the final word about a razor-clam dig at ocean beaches tentatively scheduled March 26-April 1 don’t have to wait much longer.  Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said the results should be available by Friday, March 19 from marine toxin tests required to make sure the clams are safe to eat.

Prospective diggers should be aware that the proposed dig is scheduled to start on evening tides, then switch to morning tides for the final four days, Ayres said.  “The digs planned this month span the seasonal change, when the lowest tides shift from evening to morning hours,” he said. “So digging will be allowed after noon for the first three days of the opening, but will then switch to morning hours starting Monday, March 29.”

Tentative days, tides and beach openings for this month’s dig are:

* Friday, March 26, (4:29 p.m., +0.1) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Kalaloch
* Saturday, March 27, (5:19 p.m., -0.1) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch
* Sunday, March 28, (6:04 p.m., 0.0) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
* Monday, March 29, (6:35 A.M., -0.1) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Tuesday, March 30, (7:22 A.M., -0.7) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Wednesday, March 31, (8:07 A.M., -1.0) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Thursday, April 1, (8:52 A.M., -1.0) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Spring chinook salmon fishing is starting to pick up on the lower Columbia River, although anglers are still working hard to catch fish.  During a creel survey conducted during the second week of March, checkers counted 86 adult chinook and three steelhead among the 1,103 boat anglers contacted.  Just one chinook and two steelhead were counted among the 196 bank anglers contacted.

“Spring chinook have been striking in fits and starts, but catch rates should start ramping up any day,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  “Regardless of how big this run turns out to be, fishing will almost certainly improve in the days ahead.”

Hymer said boat anglers, fishing between Cathlamet and Vancouver, have taken most of the springers hooked so far this year.  Lower river stocks – including some lunkers up to 30 pounds – have accounted for about half the catch, although upriver fish have been increasing in number in recent days.  As of mid-March, the fishery was drawing approximately 600-800 boats to the lower Columbia River on weekend days.  Those numbers are also expected to increase along with more fish and hopefully spring-like weather.

“If you put in some time, there’s a good chance you’ll take home a spring chinook,” Hymer said.  “Boat anglers have better odds, because the river’s so low right now.”

According to the pre-season forecast, 559,900 spring chinook salmon – 470,000 of which are upriver bound – will return to the Columbia River and its tributaries this year, the largest run since at least 1938.  Under regulations established by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon, fishing is now open at the following places and times:

* Buoy 10 upstream to the I-5 Bridge: Seven days per week through April 18, except closed Tuesdays in March.
* I-5 Bridge upstream to I-205 Bridge: Three days per week – Thursdays through Saturdays – from March 18 through April 3.
* I-205 Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam (Bank fishing only): Three days per week – Thursdays through Saturdays – from March 18 through April 3.
* Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam: Seven days per week from March 16 through May 31. Bank fishing only from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Tower Island power lines, six miles downstream from The Dalles Dam.

Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam may retain one adult spring chinook salmon per day, while those fishing above the dam can keep two per day. As in previous years, only hatchery-reared fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained.  All wild spring chinook, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed.

Spring chinook fishing opened March 16 on the lower Wind River and at Drano Lake, although Hymer noted that the action won’t pick up there until more fish pass Bonneville Dam.  Anglers can check fish counts at the dam on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/fishdata/home.asp .  Anglers should be aware of several changes in fishing rules on tributaries to the Bonneville Pool:

* Drano Lake: The anti-snag rule was removed March 16.  Starting April 16, fishing around the outlet of Drano Lake will be limited to bank fishing west of a line projected from the eastern-most pillar of the Highway 14 Bridge to a posted marker on the north shore.
* Wind River: The anti-snag rule has been removed from the mouth upstream to the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge.
* Klickitat River:  Starting April 3, anglers fishing from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream will be able to retain two hatchery chinook, hatchery steelhead or one of each as part of their daily limit.  Fishing will be open four days per week – Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Below Bonneville, spring chinook are starting to make an appearance in several tributaries, although late-run hatchery winter steelhead continue to make up the bulk of the catch on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers.  At the Cowlitz Hatchery, 24 adult spring chinook and 225 winter-run steelhead were recovered during the second week of March.  A creel survey that week on the Cowlitz turned up 17 hatchery steelhead and one adult chinook among 44 boat anglers.  Eighty-eight bank anglers had caught 14 hatchery steelhead and released two others.

The odds of catching hatchery steelhead were even better that week on the Kalama River, where 12 boat anglers had caught five fish and released three others.  “Fishing for late-run hatchery steelhead is peaking right now, providing a great fishing opportunity as more spring chinook move into the rivers,” said Hymer, noting that anglers have also been catching some steelhead in The Dalles Pool.

Anglers should be aware, however, that March 15 was the last day to fish for steelhead on Abernathy, Cedar (Clark Co.), Germany, Mill (Cowlitz Co.), Rock (Skamania Co.), Salmon (Clark Co.) creeks and on the Coweeman, Elochoman, Grays, East Fork Lewis and Washougal rivers.

Meanwhile, sturgeon fishing has been slow, although boat anglers have been catching some legal-size fish in the Kalama area as well as in The Dalles Pool, where walleye fishing is starting to heat up along with the weather.  Boat anglers fishing there have been averaging a walleye per rod, along with some bass .

Trout anglers should know that WDFW recently stocked Battleground Lake with 3,000 rainbow trout averaging half-a-pound apiece.  Nine recycled winter steelhead were also planted in Kress Lake on March 10.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

The Grand Ronde River, a tributary of the Snake River in the southeast corner of the region, is providing good steelhead trout action. Steelheading has been reportedly excellent near the mouth of the Grand Ronde and near the mouth of Cottonwood Creek, which flows into the Grand Ronde northeast of Troy, Oregon.

The seven impoundments off the Tucannon River on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, which opened March 1, continue to produce catches of hatchery rainbow trout . Beaver, Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes have been stocked with “catchable-size” (about one-third pound) and “jumbo” (about one-and-a-half pound) trout from the Tucannon and Lyons Ferry fish hatcheries.

WDFW fish biologist Chris Donley of Spokane says some of the March 1-opening waters in the central district are also seeing good action on rainbow trout.  Notable are Amber, Downs, Liberty and Medical lakes in Spokane County. Liberty and Downs recently received more catchable-size hatchery rainbows (see the WDFW Trout Plants at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/   for details).

Downs Lake, on the Spokane-Lincoln county line east of Sprague, is also already providing catches of largemouth bass .  Liberty and Medical lakes are also producing catches of brown trout .

Year-round fisheries at Sprague Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line, and Rock Lake in Whitman County, remain good, Donley said. Sprague is all rainbows and Rock has both rainbows and browns.

Donley also noted Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, is good for rainbows and kokanee , “if you can find the fish.”

The region’s winter-season fisheries in Stevens County – Williams and Hatch lakes near Colville – offer completely open water fishing for stocked rainbows for the rest of the month. Both close March 31.

Anglers can also pick up lots of information at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s 50th annual Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show , March 18 – 21, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. An indoor kids’ fishing pond, where youngsters can learn to cast and actually catch trout to take home and eat, is one of the highlights of this event.  A non-profit organization, the Council donates proceeds from the show to fish and wildlife projects. For more information about the show, see http://www.wildlifecouncil.com/ .

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

Over 30 waters in the Columbia Basin lakes open to fishing April 1 and WDFW district fish biologist Chad Jackson says prospects are fair to good.

“With one exception, all these waters are located either within or adjacent to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge south of Potholes Reservoir,” Jackson said.  “Over half are planted with spring and/or fall rainbow trout fry. Although most are in need of rehabilitation to rid them of competing fish species, nice sized trout can be found in many, including Upper and Lower Hampton lakes, North and South Teal lakes, and the Pillar-Widgeon chain of lakes.”

Jackson notes that anglers who plan on fishing the refuge area lakes, especially the hike-in ones, should remember that – with the unseasonably warm weather the Columbia Basin has been experiencing the past month – rattlesnakes may be out earlier and in greater numbers than normal.

Dry Falls Lake, which also opens April 1, is located just northeast of Park Lake within the Sun Lakes State Park southwest of Coulee City. The 99-acre lake is under selective gear rules and a one-trout daily bag limit.

“Opening day success at Dry Falls in previous years was a little slow because of cold weather,” Jackson said. “But this year abnormally warmer air temperatures are heating up the lake much quicker and it may very well fish better on this year’s opener. I expect anglers to take 13-14-inch yearling rainbows and carryovers up to 24 inches, just like the last two years.

Brown and tiger trout are also planted into Dry Falls Lake. Jackson reported that a total of 9,900 rainbow, 1,000 tiger, and 1,000 brown trout fry were stocked into Dry Falls Lake in 2009.

“Some of the Columbia Refuge area lakes also offer excellent fishing for warmwater species,” Jackson said.  “Probably the best opportunity is at Hutchinson and Shiner lakes. Since their rehabilitations in 1997, these two lakes have developed into quality fisheries for largemouth bass and bluegill .  Anglers should note that only non-motorized boats are allowed on these two lakes.”

Other warmwater fishing options are the Coyote, Bobcat, and Hayes creek ponds located just south of Morgan and Halfmoon lakes.  Jackson says these ponds are relatively small and shallow, so they warm up quickly, and offer good fishing for largemouth bass.  Another option might be Deadman Lake located just off McManamon Road next to Halfmoon Lake.

Further north in the region, steelhead fishing in the upper Columbia River above Wells Dam is scheduled to close one hour after sunset on March 31.

“Steelheading can be very good during the month of March as fish become more active due to warming water temperatures,” said WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp.  “Remember, there is mandatory retention of hatchery adipose-fin-clipped fish up to the maximum daily limit of four steelhead.  And since March 15, there are two section closures on the Okanogan River – one is from the first power line crossing near Coulee Dam Credit Union Building in Omak upstream to the mouth of Omak Creek, and the second one is from the Tonasket Bridge on 4th Street downstream to the Tonasket Lagoons Park boat launch.  Selective gear rules are in effect for the Okanogan, Similkameen and Methow rivers.”

Several Okanogan County lakes open to fishing April 1.  Jateff says Spectacle Lake, southwest of Tonasket, should produce catches of yearling rainbow trout up to 12 inches, with carryover fish to 15 inches.  Washburn Island Pond, a diked oxbow of the Columbia River near Fort Okanogan State Park, mostly produces largemouth bass with some bluegill available.

Other waters opening on April 1 for catch-and-release fishing are Davis and Campbell lakes near Winthrop, Rat Lake near Brewster and Big and Little Green lakes near Omak.  Predominant species for these lakes are rainbow trout.

“Anglers planning to fish the Winthrop area lakes — Davis and Campbell — should check first as the ice may not be completely melted by the opener,” Jateff said.

SOUTHCENTRAL

WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson of Yakima says fishing is still good in the region’s year-round-open lakes.

“We just stocked more hatchery rainbow trout in I-82 Ponds 1, 2 and 3 near Yakima,” he said. “About 2,500 one-third-pounders went into each of those waters this week. More will go into other waters in the region by the end of this month or early next month.”

See the WDFW website for weekly catchable-size trout stocking details at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/ .

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

March 17, 2010

“Fantastic steelhead fishing on the Wallowa, Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers continues,” reports ODFW, but don’t overlook spring break trout stocking in Willamette Valley ponds.

Here are more highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Winter steelhead fishing has been good on the North Umpqua. Through the end of January over 2,500 winter steelhead had crossed Winchester Dam – one of the highest counts in the last 10 year. Remember only fin-clipped steelhead can be harvested.
  • Many area lakes and reservoirs are being stocked this week in anticipation of Spring Break.
  • March is an excellent month to fish for steelhead in the Elk and Sixes rivers.
  • Anglers have caught some early-season spring chinook in the lower Rogue River and the chinook season will continue to build into April.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Nestucca River: Steelhead angling should be fair to good as the river drops after recent rains. Fish are spread out in the river system. Look for a mixture of hatchery and wild fish. Drifting lures or bait near the bottom has been productive. Spinners are generally a good bet in the upper river also.
  • Trask River: Steelhead angling is fair to good. Fish are spread out through the river, including the forks. A few hatchery fish are being caught, but expect more wild fish in the catch as the season goes on. River levels rose last weekend, so fresh fish should be moving in.
  • Wilson River: Steelhead angling is fair to good. Fishing conditions were marginal after recent rains, but the river is dropping. Boaters on the lower river have done well side drifting. Drift fishing or bobber and jigs have produced for bank anglers. Good numbers of fresh fish should be entering the system.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Spring chinook are now being taken on the Willamette River and in the Multnomah Channel. Catch success has been variable but will improve soon.
  • Winter steelhead fishing is good in the Clackamas and Sandy rivers and Eagle Creek. Steelhead are spread throughout both systems and some good catches have been reported.
  • Sturgeon fishing is fair on the lower Willamette River.
  • Trout stocking gets into full swing this week at sites throughout the Willamette Valley.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Haystack Reservoir offers some good spring fishing for 12 to 18-inch rainbow and brown trout.
  • Flows and water temperatures have been good on the Hood River and, as a result, winter steelhead fishing has been good.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • McKay Reservoir opened to fishing on March 1 and should provide some good spring fishing for rainbow trout, yellow perch and brown bullhead.
  • McNary, Hatrock and Tatone ponds will be stocked with rainbow trout this week.
  • Anglers have been catching both stocked trout and kokanee on Wallowa Lake.
  • The great steelhead fishing continues in the Grande Ronde and Imnaha basins.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Spring chinook should be available in increasing numbers on the lower Columbia for boat and bank anglers.
  • Legal-sized sturgeon are being caught by bank anglers in the gorge.

MARINE ZONE

  • Bottom fishing is good when ocean conditions permit. Calmer oceans usually mean better fishing success. Lingcod are in shallower waters to spawn. Divers may find success spearing along rocky jetties for ling cod and black rockfish.
  • Herring are spawning in many coastal bays now. Fishing for herring can be great fun with kids using light tackle. Watch for birds diving into the herring schools and try to get in on the action. The aggregate daily catch limit for herring, sardines, anchovies and smelt is 25 pounds.

800 Columbia Springers Caught So Far

March 17, 2010

A report this morning says that since Feb. 1, at least 800 spring Chinook have been landed on the Columbia, but despite this year’s monster upriver forecast, most of those have been bound for lower-river tribs.

That from Joe Hymer of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, in his weekly sport fishing roundup.

Of the 800, nearly 700 were kept, and of those, “68% of the Chinook kept were lower river stock based on visual stock identification,” Hymer reports.

While frankly yours truly is worried — All Hail Another Effed Up Forecast — this year’s upriver run is tracking similar to how every run since 2005 has come in: late.

Through March 15, 46 Chinook have gone over Bonneville, tied for most through that date since that year (2008 also saw 46).

Before 2005, runs appear to have come in earlier — 4,355 through March 15 in 2003, for instance.

But with such a large forecast — 470,000, the average of six predictions — you’d just expect to see a few more fish on the early side of the bell curve.

Meanwhile, anglers are picking up springers in the Multnomah Channel, and if you’re not quite up to staying at home, here’s the rest of Hymer’s report:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Anglers are catching late winter run steelhead and a few spring chinook.  Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 225 winter-run steelhead and 24 spring Chinook adults during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the week Tacoma Power employees released seven winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 41 winter-run steelhead and 21 spring Chinook adult into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,050 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 15. Water visibility is ten feet.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching some late winter run steelhead.

Lewis River – Light effort and catches.

Wind River from mouth to 400 feet below Shipherd Falls and Drano Lake opened to fishing for hatchery salmon and hatchery steelhead today (March 16).  With only 46 adult chinook over Bonneville Dam to date, expect slow fishing until more fish cross the dam.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Last week we sampled 1,103 boat anglers (493 boats) with 86 adult chinook and 3 steelhead.  In addition, we sampled 196 bank anglers with 1 adult chinook and 2 steelhead.  Overall, 98% of the adult Chinook and 60% of the steelhead caught were kept.  Of the 80 adult chinook sampled, 56% were lower river stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).

Effort was down a little from the previous weekend with just over 600 boats and nearly 300 bank anglers counted during last Saturday’s March 13 flight.

From Feb. 1-March 14, 2010, there have been an estimated 21,500 angler trips with 800 chinook handled from the lower Columbia mainstem sport fishery below Bonneville Dam.  698 (88%) of the chinook caught were kept.  68% of the chinook kept were lower river stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).

From Buoy 10 to the I-5 Bridge, fishing for hatchery Chinook, hatchery steelhead, and shad is closed on Tuesdays through March 30. From the I-5 Bridge to Bonneville Dam, fishing for hatchery salmon, hatchery steelhead, and shad is open only Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through April 3.  Bank fishing only from the I-205 Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam.

The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching some steelhead.

Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam opened to fishing for hatchery chinook, hatchery steelhead, and shad today (March 16). Daily salmonid limit is 6 fish (hatchery chinook or hatchery steelhead), of which no more than 2 may be hatchery adult chinook or hatchery steelhead or one of each. Bank fishing only from Bonneville Dam to the Tower Island powerlines approximately 6 miles below The Dalles Dam.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Boat anglers in the Kalama area were catching some legals; slow elsewhere.

Effort remains light with 33 boats and 47 bank anglers counted during Saturday’s flight.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers are catching some legals; slow from the bank.  Sturgeon may be retained daily until The Dalles Pool guideline is met. The daily limit is 1 fish, minimum size 43” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers averaged nearly a walleye per rod when including fish released.  A few bass are also being caught by boat anglers.  Light effort and no catch observed from the bank.

Columbia River Fishing Report

March 16, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE)

Salmonid angler effort decreased slightly in the lower Columbia River this past weekend with 603 boats and 183 Oregon bank anglers counted on Saturday’s (3/13) flight.  Catch rates for spring chinook are improving, and should get much better in the coming weeks.

Gorge Bank & Boat:

Weekend checking showed no catch for 11 bank anglers.

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed three adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept and two unclipped spring chinook released for 29 boats (62 anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank:

Weekend checking showed no catch for 61 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boat:

Weekend checking showed nine adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus three unclipped spring chinook released for 100 boats (241 anglers).

Estuary Bank:

Weekend checking showed no catch for three bank anglers.

Estuary Boat:

Weekend checking showed 20 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept for 41 boats (93 anglers).

Bonneville Pool:

No report.

The Dalles Pool:

Weekly checking showed one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus four unclipped steelhead released for 20 bank anglers.

John Day Pool (Columbia River above John Day Dam and John Day Arm):

No report.

STURGEON:

Gorge Bank:

Weekend checking showed eight legal white sturgeon kept, plus one legal, one oversize, and 21 sublegal sturgeon released for 33 bank anglers.

Gorge Boats:

No report. Effort has been very light.

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed no catch for four boats (13 anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank:

Weekend checking showed no catch for 12 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boats:

Weekend checking showed no catch for three boats (nine anglers).

Estuary Boats:

No report.

Bonneville Pool Boat and Bank:

Closed for retention. No report.

The Dalles Pool Boat and Bank:

Weekly checking showed one sublegal sturgeon released for 27 bank anglers; and four legal white sturgeon kept, plus three oversize, and 122 sublegal sturgeon released for 10 boats (29 anglers).

John Day Pool Boat and Bank:

Closed for retention. No report.

WALLEYE:

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed no catch for one boat (one angler).

Bonneville Pool Boats:

No report.

The Dalles Pool Boats:

Weekly checking showed no catch for five bank anglers; and 14 walleye kept, plus three walleye released for 10 boats (21 anglers).

John Day Pool Boats:

No report.

Spokane Sportsmen Form Backcountry Advocacy Group

March 16, 2010

Rich Landers details a pair of Spokane sportsmen who’ve formed the Washington chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a group that establishes — in the Spokesman-Review reporter’s words — “a sportsman’s voice for protecting roadless areas and the traditions they uphold.”

Joe Mirasole and Jeff Holmes say they’re nonpartisan, don’t care what religious views you hold, don’t discriminate between fly guys and bait soakers and have no position on the wolves.

“Those are all distractions from the fundamentals of protecting roadless areas for wildlife and for our kids,” Mirasole tells Landers.

Imagine that in this overly politicized era.

ODFW Closed This Friday

March 16, 2010

It’s a workday, but ODFW will be closed for business this Friday.

It’s the third of ten furlough days for agency employees as well as those working for numerous other departments as Oregon deals with reduced revenues.

According to The Oregonian, the state saves two million bucks a day when its 26,000-plus workers stay home.

Not everyone’s staying home. The State Patrol will still be out, “prisons remain staffed; courts will operate as usual. And, yes, state liquor stores will keep their regular hours,” reporter Michelle Cole writes.

Spring Kings? Nah, It’s Steelie Time In The NW!

March 15, 2010

Amazing how a bite — maybe even a fish landed — jazzes newbies.

Last Friday, Northwest Sportsman writer Jason Brooks floated an Olympic Peninsula river for the fabled sea-going steelheaded rainbow trout of the Pacific Northwest.

Today he’s still day-dreaming about the sun-bright nate he caught, his first-ever.

THE NORTHWEST'S NEWEST STEELHEADING CONVERT, JASON BROOKS. (JASON BROOKS)

“‘Oh, was that a bite or am I hung up on a stump again? Nope, Fish ON!'” he writes in an email to Headquarters this morning. “I love that daydream. I can’t stop looking at the photos from Friday’s trip.”

We’re betting that David Brennamen and Mckenzie Moorhead are probably also sharing the same daydream too.

They hit the Nestucca River over the weekend with Northwest Sportsman reader Jason Harris and did pretty good, landing their first-ever metalheads too.

"GUIDE" JASON BROOKS AND HIS NESTUCCA RIVER STEELHEAD FROM LAST WEEKEND. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

“Tons of hook ups and losses, a few natives and a few premature releases due to tackle failure — larger fish in faster water, one broken swivel, and big native on 12-pound line,” reports Harris. “Glad I got to be a part of a great experience with them.”

DAVID BRENNAMEN'S FIRST EVER STEELHEAD. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

They were drift-fishing sand shrimp tails with a midsized Michael Jackson Corky.

“The action all afternoon was the best I ever seen it in the past couple years. We had around 50-55 degrees and overcast, and the water was a perfect steelhead green with a hint or grey,” Harris writes.

MCKENZIE MOORHEAD BROKE HIS STEELHEAD CHERRY TOO ON THE NESTUCCA. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Then there’s the video on Facebook of a young gal landing a nice steelhead at what appears to be Dworshak Dam on the North Fork Clearwater.

“It was goooooooooooood,” she says after pa successfully nets her fish.

NEWBIES AREN’T THE ONLY ONES finding good steelheading around the Northwest right now.

In recent days I’ve received some shots of beautiful winter-runs taken out of the Cowlitz River by Northwest Sportsman sources.

SEEN THE LATEST SALMON STEELHEAD JOURNAL? HERE'S ONE OF THE SHANKS BOYS -- ALEX -- BACK HOME FROM BC WITH A NICE COWLITZ STEELHEAD. (ISLAND GUIDE SERVICE)

“The Cowlitz has been smokin hot,” reports guide Andy Shanks of Island Guide Service, who sent in the above shot of son Alex this past weekend.

“We hooked seven and landed four in just a few hours,” he reports.

That goes along with a report last week from Northwest Sportsman contributor Terry Wiest of Steelheaduniversity.com

STEELHEAD UNIVERSITY DESCENDS ON THE COWLITZ. (TERRY WIEST)

“Had a great day,” Wiest reported after a March 6 trip. “We went nine for 11.  Largest a 17-pound hatchery fish. We doubled up getting the 17 and 15 at the same time!”

The day before, and at the opposite end of the state, Jeff Main of Spokane was having a “fair day” on the Grande Ronde.

ANOTHER GRANDE RONDE STEELIE FOR OUR MAIN MAN IN SPOKANE. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

“Hooked seven, landed five — two decent ones,  7.14 and 9.5 pounds,” Main reported.

I was emailing with a Washington fisheries biologist who I know for a fact fishes the Grande Ronde, so I asked him how it had been, to which he declined knowing anything about said river —  “Never heard of it” — and redirected the conversation back to springers.

Springers, schrimgers, say I, with action like this.

This year’s steelhead return back to the Wallowa River, a trib of the Ronde, is expected to be 33 percent larger than last year. While the Union County Observer reports the run is late, it also shows an image of an angler hauling three fish off last week!

Back out on the Oregon Coast, Hollie Matz’ Boyfriend Kyle  Rathbun of Albany had a pretty good day earlier this month on the Alsea, landing two 8-pound hatchery steelhead.

KYLE RATHBUN WITH A PAIR OF OREGON COAST HATCHERY STEELIES. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Then there’s the fishing in North-central Washington, on the Brewster Pool.

“The upper Columbia steelhead bite has been spectacular when it’s on,” reports Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad’s Guide Service.

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON ANGLERS ARE NAILING STEELHEAD ON THE BREWSTER POOL. (DARRELL & DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

Jones says not all days are good, but when the bite’s on, quarter-ounce Rock Dancer jigs with bait work well.

Just above the Brew Pool, on the Methow River, Chad Hurst continues to regulate. Ever since picking up the steelhead stick for the first time last September, he’s been having lots of fun. Last weekend he went three for three.

And well downriver from there, the kids at Northwest Fishing Addicts have been having some fun in the late season, posting several videos of recent battles on YouTube.

(MARCH 16 UPDATE: “Andy – Just got off the phone with Jerrod Gibbons – They’re still banging late season steelhead in the Okanogan. His drift boat trip last Sat. tallied six hatchery keepers, 2 wild and lost 2. The water is shallow and clear, so small gear works best, small jigs like 1/8 oz mini Rock Dancers, under bobbers are working best. The steelhead are stacked up, so when he hit a productive hole and got one hook-up, he usually got at least one more. –Leroy”)

TELL YOU WHAT — with the missus and kids fleeing the country soon I had planned on using every available minute springer fishing.

But now I’m not so sure of that.

The Nestucca calls.

The Ronde calls.

The Oly Pen calls.

The Methow calls.

Estacada Elk Shooter Sought

March 15, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division troopers are asking for the public’s help to identify the suspect(s) responsible for illegally shooting and leaving an elk wounded east of Estacada over the weekend.

According to OSP Sergeant Chris Allori, on March 13, 2010 at approximately 5:45 p.m. OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers Ken Moore and Matthew Fromme responded to a report of an injured elk along Squaw Mountain Road about two miles north of Highway 224.    When they arrived at the scene they found the shot elk alive, lying on the ground and unable to get up.

The troopers had to kill the elk at the scene.  They transported the elk to Shy Ann Meats in Oregon City for processing and subsequent donation to the Portland Rescue Mission.  The donated elk meat is estimated at over 300 pounds.

No suspect(s) have been identified.  Anyone with information is asked to call the Turn In Poacher (TIP) line at (800) 452-7888 or Senior Trooper Ken Moore at (503) 731-3020 ext. 423.

The Oregon Hunter’s Association is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case.

UPDATE MARCH 18, 2010: THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE U.S. AND THE HUMANE SOCIETY WILDLIFE LAND TRUST HAVE ADDED $2,500 TO THE REWARD OFFER.

Springer Report

March 15, 2010

We’re not quite out of the single-digit days, but the editor is breathing a little easier this morning: Spring Chinook are trickling over the dam in increasing numbers — nine yesterday!

Even so, we understand that some officials in Springerville are starting to say there would be a few more fish by now. Test netting yesterday on the Columbia primarily below Longview only turned up six springers, so there will be no commercial fishery this week.

The mainstem is where Northwest Sportsman writer Andy Schneider started out fishing last weekend, but he found better action in the Multnomah Channel. Here’s his report:

I was fortunate enough to get out and chase springers the last three days straight.  But with casual plans scheduled every evening I needed to stay close to home, but that didn’t hinder my pursuit.

I started off fishing the Columbia at Davis Bar and Caterpillar Island on Friday in windy and gusty conditions.  The first thing I noticed on the Columbia (besides the white caps) was the water temperature had dropped from last week to 44 degrees.  Because of the colder water I heard multiple anglers complaining about fish dropping their baits only after a couple of tugs.  As I motored back, empty-handed, to the boat ramp in the Multnomah Channel Friday, I saw that the water temperature was just shy of 50 degrees … so I made plans to hit the warmer water Saturday morning.

I must not have been alone on my thinking, because everyone was on the water Saturday.  With coastal and local steelhead water conditions being good, I couldn’t figure out why there was so much pressure?  But there seemed to be enough action to keep anglers in a cheerful mood as we passed each other in the Multnomah Channel.

When I lost my first fish at the boat, I was feeling a little sick to my stomach.  It took a little over four more hours to get the next bite, but this fish was a little bigger and I felt fortunate enough just to get two bites on my rod on the same day in early March.

ANDYCOHO, ERRR, ANDYKING WITH A SPRINGER. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

I couldn’t have been more happy to land my first springer of the 2010 season and felt a conflict growing deep inside: I’ve caught the first springer of the season — now I can relax.

And:  I’ve caught the first springer of the season — now I have to catch more and more and …

I settled my inner conflict by siding with my ‘springer fever’ half and went again Sunday.

The amount of boats on the channel decreased dramatically and so had the water clarity, but of the two bites we had, one made it into the boat … again on my rod.  I guess I should feel a little guilty about landing two fish in two days, but something that tastes as good as springer can’t be bad, can it?

(ANDY SCHNEIDER)

As for tactics, whole herring produced four of our six bites, 20-inch lead dropper with a 6-ounce lead dragging the bottom more often than not.

A green Big Al’s Fish Flash 6 feet above the bait got the most attention.

I only trolled water deeper than 14 feet a couple of times and of course fishing warmer water was the ticket for my first and second springers of 2010.

Now back to my springer sandwich …

North-Central WA Fishing Report

March 15, 2010

(ANTON JONES, DARRELL & DAD’S GUIDE SERVICE)

What’s hottest is the trench bite for Mackinaw on Lake Chelan.  Also hot is the troll bite on Roses Lake for planter Rainbows and Tiger Trout.  And finally, the Upper Columbia Steelhead bite has been spectacular when it’s on.

On Lake Chelan, we have been doing best in the lower basin from Rocky Point down to Pat and Mike’s.  The most productive lure has been the venerable Worden Lures U20 luminous chartreuse flatfish on the downriggers.  We also like flatfish off the outrigger rods, but it has been the little F7 in purple glow that has scored on the biggest fish of the day.  Speeds of 1.3 to 1.6 mph will generate the most bites.  The best of this bite has been from about 8:30AM to Noon.  It is a classic “bankers bite”.

Roses Lake boat anglers have been having some of the best surface trolling that you are ever going to see for Rainbow and Tiger Trout.  They will eagerly bite a trolled or cast 1/8 ounce Worden’s Lures Roostertail.  A Mack’s Lures baited wedding ring will produce fish too, sans attractor.  Also, green and black wooly buggers and muddlers in sizes from 8 to 1/0 with an action disk by wiggle fin in front are effective.  Fish for these guys with 4 pound test line on light tackle.  Put a ¼ ounce sinker in front of them just to get your presentation below the surface.  You too, will call these rainbows, mini-marlin.

GUIDE AL BROOKS WITH A ROSES LAKE LIMIT. (DARRELL & DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

The Upper Columbia Steelhead fishing continues to be good on Lake Pateros using baited quarter ounce Rock Dancer jigs from Mack’s Lures.  Frankly, some days are better than others.  See this week’s pictures for a shot of 10 of the 22 steelhead brought to the boat on one of the days during this reporting period.  The season will close March 31st.

UPPER COLUMBIA STEELHEAD. (DARRELL & DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

Your fishing tip of the week is to test those knots before putting them in the water.  It is disappointing to lose a fish to a bad knot.

Your kid’s tip of the week is to fit those lifejackets so they are comfortable.  That will alleviate a lot of fussing and their tendency to remove them.

The safety tip of the week is a simple but often overlooked one.  Remember to pull some line so you have slack before fooling around with your hooks or lures.  Hanging on to them with tension on the line can create an excellent hookset, in a body part.  I’ve seen it happen to loads of fingers and one very memorable nose…

OR Halibut Seasons, Sturgeon Protections Approved

March 15, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Halibut fishing opens in May

The Commission approved a suite of halibut fishing seasons off the Oregon coast recommended by ODFW’s marine staff based in Newport. The largest and most popular halibut fishery is a 200-mile all-depths section of the coast between Cape Falcon near Manzanita and Humbug Mountain south of Port Orford. For this area, the Commission approved a nine-day spring halibut season and a 14-day fall season. The spring season will take place May 13-15, May 20-22 and June 3-5, with extra back-up dates of June 17-19, July 1-3, July 15-17, and July 29-31 available as long as the total catch does not exceed 105,948 pounds. The fall recreational halibut fishing season will take place every other Friday and Saturday from Aug. 6 to Oct. 30 or until the sub-area all-depth catch limit of 141,265 pounds of halibut is harvested. The near-shore season, for ocean waters inside the 40 fathom line, will be open seven days a week from May 1 until Oct. 31 or until the harvest quota of 12,284 pounds is achieved.

North of Cape Falcon, off the coast near Astoria and north to Leadbetter Point in Washington state, sport halibut fishing will be open three days a week, Thursday – Saturday, through July 18 or until 9,405 pounds of halibut is harvested. The summer season in this area will open three days a week, Friday-Sunday, from Aug. 6 through Sept. 27 or the total harvest reaches 13,436 pounds. On the Oregon coast south of Humbug Mountain, halibut fishing will be open seven days a week, through Oct. 31.

The statewide daily bag limit on halibut is one fish, with an annual limit of six fish.

The 2010 harvest limits are 15 percent lower than last year and were set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

New measures aim to protect sturgeon

The Commission dealt with several measures designed to protect the state’s sturgeon populations, which have been showing some signs of distress.

Commissioners adopted a statewide ban on green sturgeon, established a new white sturgeon sanctuary in the Willamette River, and extended an existing white sturgeon sanctuary in the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam.

The new Willamette River sturgeon sanctuary extends from the Willamette Falls about two miles downstream to the I-205 Bridge. The revised Columbia River sturgeon sanctuary begins at Bonneville Dam and continues downstream to the upstream end of Skamania Island at River Marker #82. Sturgeon fishing will be prohibited in both sanctuaries May 1 – Aug. 31, during sturgeon spawning season. Fishing for other species such as salmon, steelhead and shad will still be allowed inside the sanctuaries during the sturgeon fishing closure.

The Commission also closed a bank fishing site below Willamette Falls known as the “Oregon City Wall” out of concern that 40-foot cliffs in the area pose a risk to the safe release of sturgeon caught from the bank in this area. The closure takes effect April 1. The closure area is approximately 300 feet downstream of the Oregon City/West Linn Bridge (Hwy.43) extending upstream approximately 1,700 feet. Boat fishing in this area will still be allowed.

3 Charged In Deer Poaching

March 12, 2010

The deer were gathered on their wintering grounds not far from Wenatchee in late January when two local men and one from the Westside allegedly started shooting, killing three does and a yearling.

After a local resident heard gunfire, he drove up Fairview Canyon to investigate, then called a WDFW enforcement officer. And as Officer Grant and three county deputies sped to the scene, they allegedly found the men leaving the area with three deer in the back of a 2000 Toyota Tundra.

Earlier this week, the suspects — Kenneth McGraw of Leavenworth, Wash.; Michael Pennington of Kent, Wash.; and Joe Ells of East Wenatchee, Wash. — were charged in Chelan County District Court with 14 gross misdemeanors.

McGraw was charged with five counts of unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree.

Pennington and Ells were both charged with four counts of unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree.

First-degree counts are basically reserved for repeat offenders, and are felonies.

One of the deer was left behind, and Pennington was charged with wastage.

Two of the animals were salvaged and donated to charity, wrote Leroy Ledeboer when he first reported on this incident for Northwest Sportsman.

WDFW Sgt. Doug Ward told him the shooters had been out on an unsuccessful coyote hunt.

“Those three does most likely were all carrying fetuses, but we couldn’t prove this because the coyotes and ravens had already been at the gut piles before we were on the scene,” Ward told Ledeboer.

In addition to Pennington’s truck, four rifles were seized.

“When people ask if they can lose ownership of their rigs when they do something like this, the answer is yes,” Ward told Ledeboer.

Arraignment for the three defendants has been scheduled for March 29 at 9:30 a.m.

One Wenatchee Valley resident told Ledeboer, “I hope they throw the book at them.”

UPDATE MARCH 18, 2010: THE WENATCHEE WORLD REPORTS ON THE CASE TODAY, NOTING THAT PENNINGTON IS TRYING TO BECOME A WDFW-CERTIFIED MASTER HUNTER.

Ocean Salmon Fishing Options Out

March 11, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Anglers fishing along the Washington coast will see an increase in catch quotas for chinook salmon this summer, although harvest guidelines for coho will be lower than seasons adopted last year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

Three ocean salmon-fishing options approved today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) anticipate a strong return of chinook along the Washington coast bound for the Columbia River this summer. But the three options also point to a decrease from last year in Columbia River coho returns.

“These options are designed to meet our conservation objectives for wild chinook and coho salmon,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “Using these options as a framework, we will work with stakeholders on the coast and Washington’s inside waters to develop a final fishing package that provides fishing opportunities on healthy salmon runs while meeting our conservation goals for weak salmon populations.”

The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, last year adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 20,500 chinook and 176,400 coho salmon. This year’s recreational ocean options are:

* Option 1 – 55,000 chinook and 92,400 coho;
* Option 2 – 47,500 chinook and 75,600 coho; and
* Option 3 – 40,000 chinook and 58,800 coho.

Nearly 653,000 fall chinook are forecasted to return to the Columbia River this season, about 234,000 more chinook than the number returning last year. The increased numbers represent strong returns to Spring Creek and other Columbia River hatcheries, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

“The expected abundance of hatchery chinook salmon should allow fishery managers to structure seasons that enhance fishing opportunities for chinook in the ocean and the Columbia River this year,” Anderson said.

Under Option 1, the PFMC proposed a recreational salmon fishing season this summer that would get under way June 12 in all ocean areas with mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook. The selective fishery would run from June 12-30 or until 19,000 hatchery chinook are retained.

Selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon. If implemented, the mark-selective fishery would be the first in Washington’s ocean waters for hatchery chinook.

For nearly a decade, the mass marking of hatchery-produced coho salmon has allowed anglers to fish selectively for coho in Washington’s ocean waters. Mass marking of lower Columbia River hatchery chinook – known as “tules” – has been under way since the mid-2000s and the PFMC is considering using this management tool in ocean fisheries for chinook, Anderson said.

Under Option 2, recreational salmon fishing would begin June 19 in all ocean areas for both hatchery and wild chinook salmon. That fishery would run through June 30 or until 7,000 chinook are retained. Option 2 does not include a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean this year.

Starting in early July, retention of chinook, as well as hatchery coho, would be allowed under both options 1 and 2.

Under Option 3, recreational chinook and hatchery coho salmon fisheries would begin June 27 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) and June 29 in marine areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay). Like Option 2, this option does not include a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean this year.

While the chinook forecast is up, the Columbia River coho return is expected to be down this year. Nearly 390,000 Columbia River coho are projected to make their way along Washington’s coast this summer, compared to one million coho in 2009 – the largest return in nearly decade.

“This year’s Columbia River coho run, which is well below last year’s return, will challenge fishery managers to develop meaningful fishing opportunities while still meeting our conservation goals for coho,” Anderson said.

As in the past, all three ocean options are based on mark-selective fisheries for hatchery coho salmon.

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2010 salmon fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those fisheries.

The co-managers will complete the final 2010 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the PFMC process during its April meeting.

Meanwhile, public meetings are scheduled in March and early April to discuss regional fisheries issues. A public hearing on the three options for ocean salmon fisheries is scheduled for March 29 in Westport.

Fishery managers will consider input from the regional discussions during the “North of Falcon” process, which involves planning for fishing seasons in Washington’s waters. Two public North of Falcon meetings are scheduled for March 16 in Olympia and April 6 in Lynnwood. Both meetings will begin at 9 a.m.

More information about the salmon-season setting process, as well as a schedule of public meetings and salmon run-size forecasts, can be found on WDFW’s North of Falcon website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/ ).

Spokane Has New Hunter Ed Home

March 11, 2010

There’s a good story in today’s Spokesman-Review about a new “Outpost” for hunter education classes in Spokane, courtesy of a co-owner of White Elephant.

Reports Sandra Babcock:

The “area” that Pat Conley made available is a warehouse behind the White Elephant Store on Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley, which he and his family own. With the help of many hands and generous grants from the Friends of the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, the warehouse was gutted, cleaned and remodeled. High-definition television monitors for video presentations and furniture were purchased in preparation for the formal dedication of the Outpost last week. The first class begins Friday.

The article also has some good stuff about Teddy Roosevelt, seen as one of the father’s of the American conservation movement and a real key supporter for wildlife and wildlands, as well as the Pitman-Robertson Act. (I wrote about some of that stuff in a book review a couple months ago.)

And there’s this interesting tidbit from Conley on who’s taking hunter ed these days: “It’s probably 50-50 now of boys and girls. It used to be all boys and that was the norm but now it’s a lot of girls.”

Hunter Ed Classes, Field Days In OR Coming Up

March 11, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

A number of hunter education classes and field days are available in March and early April, so young hunters have the chance to get certified before spring turkey season opens in mid-April.

Hunter education is mandatory for all hunters under the age of 18 and recommended for any new hunter. The course covers topics like firearms safety, hunter ethics, wildlife identification, hunt preparation and techniques and outdoor survival.

Students now have three options to complete hunter education: an online course, an independent study workbook course, or in-person attendance at a traditional class taught through ODFW’s statewide network of 600 volunteer instructors. A list of traditional classes can be found here. A $10 fee is due at the beginning of the course.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/outdoor_skills/hunter/courses/index.asp

Independent study and online course students are still required to attend and complete a field day course, which typically last six to eight hours. Students receive hands-on instruction on safe firearms handling techniques, including crossing obstacles and hunting with others, situational ethics, and live fire exercises. Finally, students take a final certification exam to receive their official hunter safety card. Field day class listings can be found here. A $10 fee is due at the field day.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/outdoor_skills/hunter/courses/independent_study.asp

The online course is offered through Kalkomey Enterprises and costs an additional $15, paid to Kalkomey. The course takes approximately 10 hours to complete and includes a Field Day Qualifier Exam. Use of the online course and all practice tests is free until a student signs up to take the exam. Students who pass the online exam with an 80 percent grade or better receive a certificate which qualifies them to attend the required field day. To register for the online course, visit the following Web site:

http://www.hunter-ed.com/or/index.htm

To register for the independent study option, contact Myrna Britton (Myrna.B.Britton@state.or.us; tel. 503-947-6028) for a Hunter Education workbook, which must be fully completed when brought to the first field day class. A $10 fee is required for registration and class materials.

ODFW certifies about 6,000 new hunters each year through the hunter education program. Completion of the class is mandatory for any person under the age of 18 to hunt in Oregon, unless they are hunting on land owned by their parents or legal guardian or participating in the Mentored Youth Hunter Program.

For more information about Hunter Education visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/outdoor_skills/hunter/index.asp

Spring turkey season is open statewide April 15-May 31. Hunters under the age of 17 may also hunt April 10-11. See the 2009-2010 Oregon Game Bird Regulations for more information.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/upland_bird/docs/ODFWbird09_10final.pdf

Obama To Ban Fishing?! Not So Fast

March 10, 2010

It seems that President Obama has weightier things on his plate these days than banning angling, but a post on ESPN.com earlier this week sparked concern around the fishing world that his administration, through its Ocean Policy Task Force, just might be up to that.

Or … it may not.

All depends on who you want to listen to.

It started with the latest coverage of the OPTF from ESPN columnist Robert Montgomery:

The Obama administration has ended public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing some of the nation’s oceans, coastal areas, Great Lakes, and even inland waters.

This announcement comes at the time when the situation supposedly still is “fluid” and the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force still hasn’t issued its final report on zoning uses of these waters.
Afterwards, the charges were echoed by a cascade of blogs (collated by Media Matters) similar to this one by Jim Hoft of gatewaypundit:
More Hope and Change…
Obama’s latest assault on your rights– He wants to ban sport fishing.
Barack Obama has a message for America’s 60,000,000 anglers– We don’t need you.
There was some straight-news coverage from the Christian Science Monitor‘s Patrik Jonsson:
The Obama administration has proposed using United Nations-guided principles to expand a type of zoning to coastal and even some inland waters. That’s raising concerns among fishermen that their favorite fishing holes may soon be off-limits for bait-casting.

In the battle of incremental change that epitomizes the American conservation movement, many weekend anglers fear that the Obama administration’s promise to “fundamentally change” water management in the US will erode what they call the public’s “right to fish,” in turn creating economic losses for the $82 billion recreational fishing industry and a further deterioration of the American outdoorsman’s legacy.

And today, ESPN.com editor Steve Bowman has tagged a note onto Montgomery’s piece:

… While our series overall has examined several sides of this topic, this particular column was not properly balanced and failed to represent contrary points of view. We have reached out to people on every side of the issue and reported their points of view — if they chose to respond — throughout the series, but failed to do so in this specific column.

Bowman also says that the post — the 14th in a series that began last October — was an opinion piece and should have been labeled as such.

We do feel it is our duty to cover issues surrounding outdoor sports to the best of our abilities, and given the nature of this task force and the potential impact on all fisherman, this was an appropriate topic to address for our audience.

Indeed, this is definitely something to keep your eyes on if you’re a recreational fisherman. As the Science Monitor reports:

The final report of the (Ocean Policy) task force is expected in late March. Congress will decide its fate, unless Obama issues an executive order establishing MSP as the law of the water.

UPDATES: Even as Glenn Beck joined in the bashing, FOX News reporter Joshua Rhett Miller has a pretty good straight-news article with comments from a Federal official.

And North Carolina-based outdoors writer Jeffrey Weeks has some interesting incites from his years spent covering the wars between commercial and recreational fishing and environmental groups in three successive posts.

If you’ve made it this far and need a laugh on the whole matter, here’s a chuckle from Wednesday night’s Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, as reported by several sources:

Some Web sites are saying the Obama administration may ban fishing in rivers and lakes. The new fishing rules haven’t been announced yet, so I’m not sure what’s really going on. On Fox News, they’re saying, “Obama wages jihad on fishing.” On NPR, they’re saying, “Obama protects aquatic unicorns.”

Steve Foley, Longtime WDFW Bio, Passes

March 10, 2010

Steve Foley, an “irreplaceable” Seattle-area salmon and steelhead biologist, passed away last Sunday afternoon, the victim of an apparent heart attack while working out at a gym.

He leaves behind wife Linda and daughter Lindsey.

STEVE FOLEY (WDFW)

“Steve was the heart and soul of the regional office and was an irreplaceable member of our regional team,” wrote Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Region 4 director Bob Everitt in an email announcing the loss to staff which was posted on Piscatorialpursuits.

Fellow biologist, former colleague and friend Curt Kraemer told Mark Yuasa of the Seattle Times this about Foley:

“He was all that was good about fish management. We did a lot of the same things, and our life together was a long blur of great times. Foley lived life at a passion and no one lived life more fully than he did.”

(UPDATE: Mark has a fuller piece in today’s paper.)

We learned about Foley’s passing Tuesday morning from another former coworker who was still in shock.

“It’s very shocking and a big loss,” added another, Jim Uehara, a fisheries manager in Olympia.

Foley, nearly 60, had been with the department 30 years, all in Region 4, and was a biologist for the King County area.

He was sometimes a tough guy to get ahold of, but his knowledge and friendly nature always made it worth your while to track him down on the phone or in person.

“He had a ton of responsibilities,” said Uehara, noting that with Foley’s passing “a lot of institutional knowledge” was also lost.

On Wild About Washington he can be seen talking about the importance of stream surveys to come up with future salmon returns.

It was on his beat that Green River pink salmon runs took off. I can recall talking to him in the mid-2000s about that stock. He said he’d always seen a few dozen here and there as a younger man, but by last year, the run forecast had grown to 900,000.

As with many WDFW employees, Foley was also an angler. Writes Blackjaw on Piscatorialpursuits:

My family and Steve’s spent alot of weekends fishing together on the Toutle (pre- eruption), Sol Duc, Bogie, Green, etc. Steve was quite abit older than me and I can’t count the number of times I came around the bend of a river to find him grinning and fighting a fish. He and his dad were two of the best steelhead fishermen I’ve ever known and I hope a little bit of their ability rubbed of on me.

Another post there says that coworkers will remember him tomorrow at 2 p.m., at the Nile Golf & Country Club in Mountlake Terrace.

“While the venue may seem strange since Steve was certainly no golfer, it was the only one large enough to accommodate an expected large crowd on such short notice,” writes OncyT.

Come On, Springers …

March 8, 2010

High effort, low catch — and what is being reeled in is mostly downriver Chinook.

This year’s forecasted record springer return to upper Columbia tribs is indeed starting out slowly, like every season since 2005.

Not only have only eight springers gone through Bonneville Dam through March 7 — the ten-year average through yesterday is 130 — but just two were caught in a very limited commercial test fishery yesterday evening below Portland.

Compare that to net catches of over 1,200 by this time in 2001.

Then there’s the sport tally. Last week, over 1,300 boat and bank anglers were asked whudjucatch, and only 31 could say a springer.

“I’ve always believed that you have better odds catching a springer in February than you do the first and second weeks of March,” says Andy Schneider, a Northwest Sportsman contributor, who bases that statement on past year’s tags. “But, I have never seen this amount of angling pressure so early….ever, it’s busy out there and it’s only March!”

Most of last week’s fish were likely headed for the Willamette, Cowlitz or other bottom-end trib, according to visual identification techniques.

As for dam counts, by this time in 2004, we’d seen 51 springers over Bonneville, 91 in 2001, 147 in 2002 and a whopping 956 in 2003. That last year was seeing triple-digit days by this time.

I asked a source in Vancouver if panic was setting in amongst the fishery managers. He said not yet.

“I thought there would be more fish by now,” says John North, an ODFW biologist quoted today in The Oregonian in a story that also says tomorrow’s commercial fishery on the lower river was canceled.

But fish we must. Here’s more from Joe Hymer’s weekly roundup of fishing around Southwest Washington:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – 18 boat anglers kept 8 steelhead and released one.  19 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 132 winter-run steelhead, one spring Chinook adult and one cutthroat trout during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.  During the week Tacoma Power employees released 14 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 28 winter-run steelhead and one spring Chinook adult into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,050 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 8. Water visibility is ten feet.

Lewis River – On the North Fork, 13 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead.  2 boat anglers had no catch.  Flows below Merwin Dam were 2,735 cfs today, less than one-half of the long term mean of 6,130 cfs for this date.

Wind River from mouth (boundary line/markers) to 400 feet below Shipherd Falls and Drano Lake open to fishing for hatchery chinook and hatchery steelhead beginning next Tuesday March 16.  However, only 8 chinook crossed Bonneville Dam from January 1 through March 5.   Expect fishing to be slow until more fish pass the dam.

The anti-snag rule has been rescinded during the spring season on the Wind River from the Burlington-Northern Railroad Bridge downstream and at Drano Lake.

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – Last week we sampled 1,013 boat anglers (471 boats) with 31 chinook and 3 steelhead.  In addition, we sampled 324 bank anglers with 0 chinook and 3 steelhead.  Overall, 87% of the Chinook and 83% of the steelhead caught were kept.  Of the 26 chinook sampled, 81% were lower river stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).

Effort was high with nearly 800 boats and 500 bank anglers counted during last Saturday’s March 6 flight.

From Buoy 10 to the I-5 Bridge, fishing for hatchery Chinook, hatchery steelhead, and shad is closed on Tuesdays through March 30.  From the I-5 Bridge to Bonneville Dam, fishing for hatchery salmon, hatchery steelhead, and shad is closed for one day, Tuesday March 9.  From March 15-April 3, the section from the I-5 Bridge to Bonneville Dam will be open only Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

The Dalles Pool – Including steelhead released, boat anglers averaged just over a fish per rod while one in three bank anglers had caught a fish.  However, over two-thirds of the steelhead caught were wild and had to be released.

Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam opens to fishing for hatchery chinook, hatchery steelhead, and shad beginning March 16.  Daily salmonid limit will be 6 fish (hatchery chinook or hatchery steelhead), of which no more than 2 may be hatchery adult chinook or hatchery steelhead or one of each.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Boat anglers in the gorge and near the mouth of the Cowlitz were catching some legals; slow elsewhere.

Effort remains fairly light with 72 boats and 56 bank anglers counted during last Saturday’s flight.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers are catching some legals; slow fishing from the bank.  Through February, an estimated 121 fish (40.3%) of the guideline had been taken.

Sturgeon may be retained daily until The Dalles Pool  guideline is met. The daily limit is 1 fish, minimum size 43” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles Pool – Boat and bank anglers averaged just over a walleye per rod when including fish released.  No effort was observed for bass.

TROUT

Kress Lake near Kalama – Planted with 12 surplus hatchery winter steelhead averaging ten pounds each March 1.

Battleground Lake – Planted with 3,000 rainbows averaging over one-half pound each March 8.

Klineline Pond – 59 bank anglers kept 79 rainbows.  All the fish were caught on bait by anglers fishing in the swimming area.  Planted with 1,500 rainbows averaging over one-half pounds each March 1.

Lacamas Lake near Camas – Planted with 4,200 rainbows averaging over one-half pound each March 1

Chance To Comment On Hunt Changes This Weekend

March 8, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will accept public comments on proposed changes to this year’s hunting regulations and special-hunt permit drawings during a meeting here March 12-13.

The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also will consider initial comments on proposed new rules designed to address property damage and other public concerns related to wildlife.

The public meeting in Olympia will start at 8:30 p.m. both days in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E.  An agenda for the meeting, along with WDFW’s proposals on these issues, is available on the commission’s website.  (See http://bit.ly/a9Uqdg ).

The new hunting rules proposed for the upcoming season reflect changes in state game populations since the current three-year hunting plan was adopted last year, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager.  The proposed hunting rules include a combination of new conservation measures and hunting opportunities for species such as deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bear, cougar and small game.

In addition, WDFW is proposing changes in the way random drawings are conducted for special-hunt permits, which provide additional hunting options beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Public hearings on special-hunt permits and hunting rules proposed by WDFW are scheduled March 13, the second day of the commission’s meeting in Olympia.  The commission is expected to take action on both proposals at a meeting set April 9-10 in Leavenworth.

Also at the meeting March 12-13 in Olympia, the commission will:

  • Accept public comments on a new initiative proposed by WDFW to address property damage and reduce other conflicts between wildlife and humans.
  • Consider extending the current fishery allocation policy for Columbia River summer chinook salmon by one year.
  • Receive a briefing on 2010 salmon forecasts, conservation needs and fishing opportunities.
  • Consider approval of land transactions proposed by WDFW in Pierce, Kitsap and Okanogan counties.

House Passes Budget

March 7, 2010

The Washington House on Friday night passed a supplemental operating budget that reduces $2.3 million from the Department of Fish & Wildlife.

It must now reconcile its budget with the Senate’s. The upper house of the legislature had initially wanted to merge WDFW into DNR, but decided against it.

Among the highlights from the House’s budget:

1. Reduce Outreach and Education – Funding for outreach and education programs is reduced by 6 percent in FY 2011.

2. Reduce Executive Management – The Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will reduce one executive management position and consolidate administrative and policy functions.

3. Reduce Wildlife Area Mgmt Planning – Funding for wildlife area management planning is reduced 3 percent in FY 2011,
delaying approximately 20 plans and updates and input from citizen advisory groups.

4. Charge Fees for Some HPAs * – Pursuant to House Bill 3037 (hydraulic project permitting) General Fund-State funding for administering Hydraulic Permit Approvals is eliminated as of January 1, 2011. The program will fully recover its costs through a new fee by January 2011. (General Fund-State, Hydraulic Permit Fee Account-State)

5. Fund Hatcheries Using Partnerships – State law allows the Department to enter into partnerships with local groups to support fish hatcheries. Funding is reduced for the McKernan and Mayr Brothers fish hatcheries in anticipation of the Department forming partnerships to assist in supporting the operation and maintenance of these hatcheries.

6. Reduce Fisheries Mgmt Authority – Reductions are made to the expenditure authority for five accounts for projected revenue during the 2009-11 biennium. No planned work will be reduced. (Special Wildlife Account-Federal, Sea Cucumber Dive Fishery Account-Nonappropriated, Puget Sound Crab Pot Buoy Tag Account-Nonappropriated, Washington Coastal Crab Pot Buoy Tag Account-Nonappropriated, Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Account-State) H

7. Eliminate Reg Fisheries Enh Board # – Pursuant to Substitute House Bill 2617 (boards and commissions) funding is eliminated for the Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group Advisory Board. (Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group Account-Nonappropriated)

8. Restore Aviation Funding – Funding is restored for the maintenance and operation of the Department’s Partenavia aircraft. The Partenavia will continue to be used for survey missions and fish planting, and will assist the Department of Natural Resources with fire suppression coordination.

9. Maintain Core Admin Functions – The Department’s indirect rate for administration and overhead from federal grants has been reduced, resulting in a net loss of approximately $3.8 million for the 2009-11 biennium. Funding is provided to partially restore the loss from the lower indirect rate. (State Wildlife Account-State)

10. Op Costs for New Wildlife Lands – In FY 2009 the Department completed land acquisition transactions for 9,067 acres. These acres were acquired with legislatively approved and allocated capital funds through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. Operating funding to maintain these new land acquisitions is provided, enabling the Department to manage new wildlife areas, natural lands, and water access sites, and to provide access, clean toilets, and weed control.

11. Wildfire on WDFW Lands – Funding is provided to WDFW to pay for Department of Natural Resources fire suppression activity costs incurred during FY 2010.

12. Fund Support Prgrms Proportionately – Funding is provided in FY 2011 to pay for administrative support services. Additionally, $250,000 per fiscal year will support the automated Washington Interactive Licensing Database system. (State Wildlife Account-State)

13. Incr Hunter Access on Private Land – Funding is provided for the Department to bring 200,000 additional acres of private land under contract for recreational access. The program is funded through special hunting permit application fees. (State Wildlife Account-State)

14. Outdoor Recreation Information – Funding is provided for Substitute House Bill 2569 (outdoor recreation information). The bill authorizes the WDFW to collect information relating to outdoor recreational access on a page of its website that is only accessible to license holders. The cost of a Vehicle Use Permit issued by the WDFW is increased in steps from $10 to $30. Individuals who purchase a wildlife-themed or personalized license plate are permitted to park at land access sites managed by the WDFW without having to display a Vehicle Use Permit.

15. Spirit Lake Fishery – A raffle-based limited trout fishery in Spirit Lake at the base of Mount St. Helens is authorized by Substitute House Bill 1838 (Spirit Lake trout fishery).

16. Voight Creek Hatchery – Funding is provided to enhance fish production at Voight Creek Hatchery.

Triploid Stocking Up For 2010

March 5, 2010

(WASHINGTON FISH & WILDLIFE COMMISSION PRESS RELEASE)

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today approved a plan that will send 58,118 large rainbow trout – 16,708 over last year’s total – to 104 lowland lakes statewide.

The commission voted to modify the stocking plan developed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff to more closely balance stocking percentages between eastern and western Washington.

Under the approved plan, 55 percent of the fish will go to western Washington lakes, and 45 percent will go to eastern Washington waters. The adopted plan will partly offset lost fish production resulting from the closure of Bellingham Hatchery.

Triploids – trout bred so that they cannot reproduce – average 1½ pounds apiece. WDFW purchases the popular triploids from a private grower under a program authorized by the Legislature in 1999.

Triploid trout, along with “catchable” size trout produced by WDFW hatcheries, provide fish for lake fisheries statewide.

The 2010 triploid trout stocking plan will be posted on the WDFW website later this month.

‘A Really, Really Big Decision’

March 5, 2010

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service today put greater sage grouse on the list of “candidate” species for ESA protection, stopping short of a threatened status across their Western range, which includes Washington and Oregon.

“The listing is warranted but precluded at this time,” said Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a midday teleconference.

While he says that grouse numbers have stabilized in recent years, “the long-term prognosis is not good.”

Bird numbers have declined 90 percent over the last century as their habitat has been reduced by half to some 160 million acres, Salazar says.

“If trends since the mid-1960s persist, many local populations may disappear within the next 30 to 100 years, with remaining fragmented populations more vulnerable to extinction in the long-term, a press release from USFWS reads.

Federal officials explained that while sage grouse do qualify for a listing under ESA, there are higher priority species ahead of them in higher danger of extinction.

Their goals remain twofold: protect the birds from ending up on the ESA list and potential extinction while continuing to develop and use public lands for energy development and grazing.

Management will remain with the states, but sage grouse status will be looked at annually, they say. They cited proactive management by the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, among others.

The birds’ decline is blamed on fire, energy development and farming, basically a combination of human and environmental impacts, officials say.

The BLM announced additional protections across the species’ range.

Sage grouse have lost 92 percent of their habitat in Washington and face a myriad of old and new challenges.

Seattle Times reporter Craig Welch writes:

More than any native species since the spotted owl, the sage grouse sparks direct conflict with the West’s industries, from livestock grazing and oil and gas development to the construction of wind turbines and power lines.

Only this bird is disappearing from 11 Western states, and is already gone from several more, a victim of human encroachment on its turf.

“It is a really, really big decision,” said Chris Warren, a biologist in Spokane with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

While there is limited hunting of sage grouse in Oregon, their numbers in Washington (640) are below what WDFW considers to be a viable population. They’re primarily limited to the Yakima Training Center and Douglas County, but 64 have been released in central Lincoln County the past two years. Douglas County is where the below photos were taken.

SHEEHAN ROAD, IN WESTERN DOUGLAS COUNTY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

FARMLAND AND DARK CLOUDS FRAME THE BLM'S MOSES BENCH AND ITS SAGE UPLANDS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW’s final sage grouse recovery plan (2004) notes threats to the birds, as well as how setting aside future habitat has affected development:

Major threats to the Washington populations include fires and continued conversion of shrub-steppe to cropland or development; additional factors affecting sage-grouse include the impacts of military training and past and ongoing grazing practices.

The Douglas-Grant County population is dependent on voluntary enrollment of private lands in CRP, a program that may not always be funded by Congress.

Maintenance of the YTC population requires frequent rehabilitation of damage to vegetation caused by military training.

Wind energy developments may pose a threat to recovery if sage-grouse avoid nesting and brood rearing within 1 mile of wind turbines, as has been predicted for prairie-chickens. One wind energy project that was recently denied a permit by Benton County, might have effectively eliminated 43 mi2 of recovery area from use by breeding sage-grouse; a second proposal may affect suitability of habitat in an important corridor between the 2 existing populations.

Remaining habitat has been degraded by fragmentation, historic overgrazing, fires, and the invasion by cheatgrass, medusahead, and other exotic weeds.

Disease is a potential new threat to the population. In August 2003, West Nile Virus killed sage-grouse in Wyoming, Montana, and Alberta. The implications of the added source of mortality for more robust populations are not yet known, but the disease may pose a serious threat to Washington’s small populations.

They’re listed already as a state threatened species.

Oregon’s sage grouse plan indicates the Beaver State contains 20 percent of the species’ overall population and habitat, most of which is in the High Desert.

More On WDFW’s Budget Battles

March 5, 2010

I wrote my state Senator a letter last week voicing my opposition to a WDFW-DNR merger, which I’ve been writing about now for a month.

Surprise, surprise, Senator Darlene Fairley (D-Shoreline) wrote me back!

To wit:

Andy:

The idea of merging the Department of Fish and Wildlife with the Department of Natural Resources faced some strong opposition this session.

You’ll be glad to know that the idea has been dropped from the Senate Operating Budget as of this last weekend.  The way it’s written now, the two agencies will remain separate.

Darlene

WDFW isn’t out of the woods yet. The Senate’s budget — which must be reconciled with the House and Gov. Gregoire’s — still features $9.7 million in general fund reductions.

The agency saw a 27 percent reduction in those funds out of last year’s budget battles.

Gregoire and the House’s budgets would cut $3.3 to $5.9 million, according to talking points circulated by WDFW.

Buried in all that blather is an idea in the House Ways & Means Committee’s budget on how WDFW could raise some money: sell $25 raffle tickets to fish Spirit Lake at Mt. St. Helens.

Currently the lake is closed to all angling and all access. Only scientists go there.

“I’m trying like crazy to make that happen. It would be a wonderful opportunity for the public,” says local state biologist John Weinheimer in Vancouver.

When Mt. St. Helens erupted May 18, 1980, a massive landslide sluiced the lake, its contents and ol’ Harry Truman over a ridge and down the Toutle Valley. In the aftermath, thousands of trees clogged the lake.

Thirteen years later, rainbow trout returned, somehow.

“The fish really took off in 2000,” says Weinheimer.

The idea for a fishery has been kicked around since 2004, according to Charles Raines, who heads up the Sierra Club’s Cascade Chapter.

He has been watching Spirit Lake recover from that violent day almost 30 years ago, but he’s opposed to exploiting it.

In a February letter to Senator Ken Jacobsen, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, he writes that fishing and trails for anglers to get to launch points would “disrupt the lake’s natural recovery process,” and maybe “bring non-native and invasive plant and animal species into the area.”

And he points out there are other waters open for angling around the volcano.

Roger del Moral, a UW biology professor, and John Bishop, a WSU associate professor, have studied the lake for some time and were quoted last year in The Oregonian against a fishery. Del Moral indicated in an email yesterday he remains opposed; in 2009, he told the paper that it would “end the only natural experiment of its kind.”

In essence, 30,000 acres of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument have been set aside for science, as Raines points out, kind of a U.S. version of the lands surrounding Chernobyl.

But Weinheimer points out that conditions at the lake aren’t entirely natural. For starters, a 1.5-mile-long diversionary tunnel was dug at its outlet, and downstream there’s a sediment retention structure without a fish ladder.

Before the eruption, coho, steelhead and sea-run cutts used to swim up into Spirit’s headwaters, says Weinheimer.

“Wolf Dammers [another WDFW biologist] used to get his ass chewed by Harry Truman when he was doing his coho spawner surveys,” Weinheimer says. “He’d give him a piece of his mind about state workers.”

For his part, he feels that science and fishing can co-exist.

As proposed under Substitute House Bill 1838, which has been folded into the House’s Supplemental Operating Budget, WDFW would have to work with certain conditions, including:

a requirement that fishers obtain a license;

identification of a limited number of days for the fishery;

a determination whether the fishery is strictly catch and release;

identification of allowable gear types;

reporting requirements designed to monitor the rainbow trout population;

and restrictions on transportation items allowed in Spirit Lake, and allowable floatation devices designed to reduce the risk of introducing new aquatic species to the lake.

Weinheimer was actually surprised the fishery idea was still alive, but happy.

“I’m of the opinion something can be worked out,” he says.