Fall Of The Wall

The Wall was not the prettiest place to fish in the world, nor the easiest on the fish, and right before it closed for sturgeon, a Springfield angler tumbled off a ledge there into the Willamette and is presumed drowned.

Alcohol may have played a roll in why Ricky Lee Bond, 47, of Springfield lost his balance while fishing there one last time, reports The Oregonian. An image on the paper’s Web site shows where his gear rests. Friend Randyll Scaife desperately tried to catch Bond, then flagged down passing vehicles to call 9-1-1. The body has not yet been recovered from the swift, dark waters.

This past winter, ODFW decided to close that part of the river effective yesterday to protect a newly discovered sturgeon spawning area. They also created a sturgeon sanctuary from Willamette Falls down to the I-205 bridge from May through July.

Sturgeon managers in Oregon as well as Washington are concerned about declining numbers of the big fish. They also increased the size of the Columbia’s sanctuary while reducing the quota in that river by 40 percent this year.

What was unique about The Wall was that it had long collected a melting pot of fishermen from all over Northwest Oregon, anglers who didn’t always speak each other’s tongue and had to sometimes resort to “hand signals and lip-pursing whistles” to communicate with each other in the tightly packed area, reports The Oregonian.

The story notes that one family had been coming there for six decades.

While boaters can chase sturgeon elsewhere, the closure hits anglers limited to bank fishing the hardest.

“Most of these guys can’t afford boats,” Mark Loveland of Oregon City told reporter Dana Tims. “It shuts a lot of people out. I have no idea what they are going to do now.”

Loveland sent me a pic of a 53 3/4-incher he caught at Oregon City earlier this year.

MARK LOVELAND WITH ONE OF THE LAST STURGEON CAUGHT AT THE INFAMOUS WALL ON THE WILLAMETTE. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

ODFW’s Columbia River fisheries manager John North acknowledged to the paper the hardship, saying, “We hate closing down opportunities, especially with limited bank areas … But in the end, we really had no other choice.”

Angler Larry Welty sent me some of his memories from there.

“I am not a specialist in any field and not an expert on any of it. I am, however, someone who has fished on The Wall for years. I don’t know if it is a good way to fish; I do know it is a good place to fish.

“I have fished there with both my children and my wife and have made a number of good friends. You don’t always have the option to fish where you want to fish but you have to fish when and where the fish are.

“There is controversy good and bad on almost all there is with hunting and fishing — just watch the nightly news on the sea lion trapping. Are sea lions really suppose to be slaughtering salmon in Oregon City? But that’s a whole different can of worms!

“I am gonna miss fishing The Wall and my children are gonna miss it. I figure the Save Everything  people will not be satisfied till they have shut down everyplace and that hurts my heart.  It is just a hard fight, and while we are hunting, fishing and spending quality time with our families, these people are thinking new ways to put a stop to all of it. In our current economy (and with) some of these people, this may well be some of their only outlet. Thanks for giving me a moment of your time to air my thoughts.”

True, it does seem that everywhere we turn, people are trying to take away our fishing and hunting privileges.

Seem, anyway.

Before The Wall closed, Rick Swart, an ODFW spokesman in Clackamas, ran over and snapped several images.

(RICK SWART, ODFW)

(RICK SWART, ODFW)

(RICK SWART, ODFW)

(RICK SWART, ODFW)

(RICK SWART, ODFW)

Sometimes the fall of walls are good things. Sometimes they’re not.

As ODFW researchers watch this spring to see how many sturgeon crowd into the spawning area off The Wall, vets of the fishery will be forced into closer quarters with bankees elsewhere.

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