Archive for September, 2010

Hunting Accidents Rare In Wash.

September 30, 2010

Since 1993, when safety courses became mandatory for all Washington hunters born after 1972, hunting accidents appear to have sharply declined, according to statistics from the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

However, that will be no solace today for the wife and 3-year-old daughter of Carlos Pablo Carrillo, 25, who was shot Wednesday while working in a Mason County forest.

Or for the relatives of Benny White, 50, of Kelso who died earlier this month when his liver was punctured by the arrow of his hunter partner walking behind him.

Or the husband of Pamela Almli, 54, gunned down on Sauk Mountain trail in 2008 by a 14-year-old boy who mistook her for a bear.

Or the beargrass gatherer killed in Skamania County in 2008, and evergreen pickers wounded by deer or bear hunters in 2001 and 2000.

“You pull the trigger of a high-powered firearm and you don’t know what’s between you and your target or what the target is, you’re playing Russian roulette with a life,” says WDFW Enforcement Division Deputy Chief Mike Cenci early this afternoon. “You’re being reckless.”

Carrillo was killed while picking salal in heavy timber 100 to 150 feet off an open, ungated road near California Road 9 miles northwest of Shelton.

A press release from the Mason County Sheriff’s Office says two bear hunters were walking along the road and saw what one thought was a bear. One man fired, thought he had missed, and then the pair continued along the road then left the area.

Later they heard news reports and turned themselves in, say police.

“At this point in the investigation detectives are calling the incident a tragic hunting accident,” says the sheriff’s press release.

It also states that Carillo, a Shelton resident, was wearing black clothing.

“Given what we know about the trajectory of the bullet, it was likely he was hunted over picking brush when struck,” Cenci says.

That’s no excuse, and regardless of whether the Mason County prosecutor’s office charges the hunters with anything, they face losing their state hunting privileges.

“State law requires that the department revoke hunting privileges for 10 years if it can be determined if recklessness or negligence was the reason for the fatality,” says Cenci. “If we can’t prove recklessness or negligence, the suspension is for three years.”

He says a bill will be introduced in this next legislative session that will remove the requirement to prove negligence or recklessness before revoking a hunting license.

“So, if you shoot or injure someone while hunting, it’s a 10-year revocation,” he says.

While the incident has Puget Sound’s attention — it has sparked hundreds of comments on KOMOSeattle Times, The Olympian and Hunting Washington — hunting is much safer for sportsmen and the general public than it once was.

Citing department statistics, Cenci says that between 1967 and 1976 there were 56 fatal and 351 nonfatal hunting accidents in Washington.

Between 1997 and 2006, there were eight fatalities and 102 nonfatalities.

In 2009, there were nine accidents, all nonfatal.

“We think that’s largely due to our Hunter Education program,” Cenci says.

Deer and elk hunters have also been required to wear 400 inches of bright orange clothing since 1992.

A bill introduced in 2009’s legislative session would have extended that requirement to other outdoor users at certain times of the year.

Requires all individuals recreating on public lands where hunting is allowed to wear
specific orange clothing during any time that big game hunting is allowed on the
land.

Requires all public lands where multiple recreational uses are allowed to be posted
with trailhead signage notifying users of the orange clothing requirements

It was reintroduced in 2010 but didn’t go anywhere.

To me, it’s ridiculous that hikers, bikers, berry pickers, campers, nature photographers or anyone else using the state’s great outdoors would have to dud themselves up like deer and elk hunters to avoid being shot.

Certainly, they could if it makes them feel safer, but the onus of responsibility boils down to the sportsman.

“You’re handling a deadly weapon. You’ve got to make sure of your target and the backstop. These are taught in Hunter Ed, but you’ve got to practice it every day,” says Cenci.

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Hunters Cooperating In Mason Co. Shooting

September 30, 2010

WDFW will join the investigation into the shooting death of a 24-year-old man yesterday in Mason County.

“We’re investigating the possibility this is a hunting-related incident and will be working with the sheriff’s office,” says Enforcement Division Deputy Chief Mike Cenci this morning. “WDFW is mandated to investigate all hunting incidents.”

News reports say that Carlos Pablo Carrillo was picking salal around 10 a.m. in a wooded area off California Road northwest of Shelton when he was shot in the head and died.

Two unidentified men came forward several hours later and have been cooperating so far with police, says Mason County Chief Deputy Dean Byrd.

“They were hunting for bear. They saw what appeared to be a bear in the woods. It was black. A shot was fired,” he alleges. “They thought they missed. Then they saw the newscasts and turned themselves in at 4 p.m.”

Bear season is open for rifle hunters in that area currently.

Byrd says there have been no arrests. An autopsy of the victim will begin at 9:30 this morning.

News reports say that Carrillo was from Guatemala, was married and had a 3-year-old daughter. Salal is used for flower arrangements.

The case raises memories of another case of mistaken identity that led to a tragic end. Two years ago Pamela Almli was hiking on the Sauk Mountain Trail when she was shot by a 14-year-old who mistook her for a bear.

As an outgrowth of that, WDFW and the Optometric Physicians of Washington recently teamed up to offer hunters free vision tests.

WDFW’s “Hunter’s Code of Conduct” stresses only shooting when “absolutely sure of your target and its background.”

Nonhunters in Washington’s woods and fields are not required to wear hunter orange.

In a four-page discussion (so far) about the incident on Hunting Washington, “Machias” remarked:

Making folks wear orange is NOT the answer.  The population as a whole will look at this and if hunters start demanding that everyone else must adapt because we as a group cannot be trusted to do OUR duty and ID a target positively before we pull the trigger.  Then the population will say OH no we have a better solution, you folks must STAY out of OUR woods.  This is nothing about folks walking around with black or brown clothing on, crawling around in the bush in black.  WE have to positively ID our targets, pure and simple.  These type of accidents are our issue, not the general population’s problem.  You should be able to strap on a set of antlers and walk around the woods and NOT get shot.

UPDATE: SEPT. 30, 2010, 12:19 P.M. KOMO TV posted an updated story. It quotes Byrd as saying, “At this point in the investigation detectives are calling the incident a tragic hunting accident.” It also states:

According to a preliminary investigation, the two men were apparently hunting legally in the area.

The two were walking along the road and saw what one of the hunters thought was a bear, and he fired one shot. The hunter thought he had missed his target, so the pair continued on, then left the area.

Investigators did note that Carrillo was wearing black clothing at the time he was shot.

EDITOR’S NOTE: AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS MIS-STATED THE AGE OF THE BOY IN THE PAMELA ALMLI SHOOTING AND MISSPELLED CARLOS PABLO CARRILLO’S NAME.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

September 29, 2010

From trout in Eastern Washington, coho in the southwest corner, clams on the coast to, well, fishing for coho in Northwest Washington, there’s a little something for all Evergreen State anglers.

Here’s what’s on tap now and through October, courtesy of WDFW’s latest Weekender Report:

NORTH PUGET SOUND
October is usually primetime for anglers fishing for coho salmon in the region, where some fish will be hooked in the marine areas but the best action likely will be in the rivers.

“The coho fishery started slow in Puget Sound, but we could see more fish move into area waters and make for some decent fishing in October,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a fish biologist with WDFW. “If that happens, those fish will continue to make their way into the rivers, providing anglers a great fishing opportunity throughout the month.”

Several rivers are open for salmon, including the Snohomish, Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Snoqualmie and Wallace. Anglers fishing those rivers have a daily limit of two coho only. The Skagit, Cascade, Green (Duwamish) and Nooksack also are open for salmon but regulations vary for each river. For details, check WDFW’s sportfishing regulations pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

THEY'RE RARE THIS YEAR, BUT IAN CHURCHILL OF EVERETT NABBED A PAIR OF COHO AT THE SKY-SNOQUALMIE CONFLUENCE LAST WEEKEND WITH A WIGGLE WART. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

In the marine areas, anglers fishing for ocean coho should try Point No Point, Jefferson Head, Possession Bar and Shipwreck. Fishing regulations for those areas, and other waters of marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), change in October. Beginning Oct. 1, anglers fishing Marine Area 9 will have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release all chinook. Those fishing Marine Area 10 will have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.

Anglers looking to get an early start on the region’s blackmouth season also might want to head to Marine Area 10, said Thiesfeld. Another option for blackmouth anglers is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where anglers can keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit beginning Oct. 1.

Thiesfeld reminds anglers that beginning Oct. 1 only portions of marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) will be open for salmon fishing. Salmon fishing in Marine Area 8-1 will be restricted to the Oak Harbor area, west of a line from Forbes Point to Blowers Bluff. Anglers fishing Oak Harbor will have a daily limit of two coho only.

In Marine Area 8-2, salmon fishing will be limited to the south end of the area, south of a line from Randall Point to the south end of the Everett Naval Station dock. Anglers in that area will have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release chinook.

Later in October, some saltwater anglers will turn their attention to chum salmon, said Thiesfeld, who recommends trolling slow for chum and using a flasher with a green coyote spoon or a green, purple or pink mini hoochie.

Meanwhile, crabbing closes one hour past sunset Sept. 30 in Marine Area 7 – the only area in the region currently open for crab. The region’s other marine areas are already closed for a catch assessment. See WDFW’s sport-crabbing website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/ ) for more information.

Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 10 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2010 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2011 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html . Crabbers who continued to fish in an open area after Sept. 6 should record their catch on their winter catch card.

Anglers should be aware that salmon fisheries at Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish will close Oct. 2 because of low coho returns to the area. For more information, check the emergency rule changes at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ .

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

With salmon moving into the bays and rivers, anglers have several options to consider in planning a fishing trip in the region. Or, they might want to trade in their fishing rods for clam shovels. The first razor-clam dig of the fall season is tentatively scheduled in early October, provided test results show the clams are safe to eat.

If tests are favorable, WDFW will proceed with evening razor clam digs at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. Tentative opening dates and evening low tides in October are:

* Oct. 7, Thurs. – 6:55 p.m. (-1.0 ft.), Twin Harbors
* Oct. 8, Fri. – 7:42 p.m. (-1.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Oct. 9, Sat. – 8:28 p.m. (-1.5 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Oct. 10, Sun. – 9:15 p.m. (-1.3 ft.), Twin Harbors

Clam diggers are reminded that they should take lights or lanterns for the nighttime digs and to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out. No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the five razor-clam beaches. Harvesters are allowed to take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2010-11 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

More razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled Nov. 5-8, Nov. 20-21, Dec. 3-6 and Dec. 31-Jan. 2.

Meanwhile, anglers looking for salmon fishing opportunities might consider heading to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where a non-selective fishery for coho and chinook gets under way Oct. 1 in Marine Area 6 (Port Angeles). The daily limit in Marine Area 6 will be two salmon, except that only one fish may be a chinook. In non-selective fisheries, anglers may retain fish whether or not they have a clipped adipose fin. Anglers are reminded that marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 5 (Sekiu) are only open for salmon fishing through Sept. 30.

But beginning Oct. 1, anglers fishing in marine areas 11 and 13 (Vashon Island to South Puget Sound) will be allowed to retain wild chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit. However, all wild coho caught in Marine Area 13 must be released.

In Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), fishing regulations change Oct. 16, when anglers will have a daily limit of four salmon, but only one of which can be a chinook.

Grays Harbor (Marine Area 2-2) also is an option for salmon anglers. The harbor remains open through Nov. 30 with a daily limit of two salmon, but chinook and chum must be released.

Crabbing in Puget Sound is still open in a few areas. Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) closes Sept. 30, but marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 and 13 (South Puget Sound) remain open for crabbing through Jan. 2, seven days a week.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. See WDFW’s sport-crabbing website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/ ) for more information.

Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Oct. 10 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2010 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2011 Puget Sound crab endorsement. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html . Crabbers who continue to fish in an open area after Sept. 6 should record their catch on their winter catch card.

In freshwater, area rivers that open for salmon Oct. 1 include the Elk, Hoquiam, Humptulips, Johns, Satsop and Wishkah rivers in Grays Harbor County; and Kennedy Creek in Thurston County. Anglers should check the rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ for specific regulations on these rivers.

Regulations are also changing on the Skokomish River in Mason County. Beginning Oct. 1, anglers may keep up to four adult salmon as part of a six-fish daily limit, but must release all chinook . Chum must be released through Oct. 15.

Elsewhere, anglers fishing in the Quillayute system – which includes the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah and Dickey rivers – can keep two adult salmon, plus two additional adult hatchery coho as part of the six-fish daily limit. In Clallam County, the Dungeness River opens to salmon fishing Oct. 16 with a daily limit of four coho only.

Anglers should be aware that salmon fisheries on the lower Quilcene River and at Quilcene/Dabob Bay will close Oct. 2 because of low coho returns to the area. For more information, check the emergency rule changes at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ .

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON
Coho salmon are moving up the Columbia River and into area tributaries, where anglers can still reel in bright chinook on some rivers.  But starting Oct. 1, anglers have another option to consider:  Sturgeon fishing in the mainstem Columbia River from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.

“This is a great fishing opportunity for fall, especially for anglers who don’t have boats,” said Brad James, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Bank anglers have done very well, historically, fishing for sturgeon just below Bonneville Dam.”

Anglers may retain legal-size sturgeon Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only until the area quota is met.  White sturgeon must measure 38 to 54 inches from their nose to the fork in their tail to meet the legal size limit. The catch limit is one sturgeon per day, with a statewide annual limit of five fish.  James said about 2,300 fish are still available for harvest in the mainstem Columbia River under the annual quota for the area.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the fishery starts out strong,” James said.  “Sturgeon have moved out of the estuary and have been chasing juvenile shad that are outmigrating past the dam.”

Meanwhile, the catch of early stock hatchery coho was decent on the lower Columbia in September, with more late-stock fish scheduled to enter the fishery in October and into November, said Joe Hymer, another WDFW fish biologist.  In all, about 98,000 late-run fish are expected this year compared to 188,000 early run fish.

Although the run predicted this year is only about 40 percent the size of last year’s return, Hymer said anglers can still expect at least a month of good fishing. “Last year’s run was above average, but this year’s fishery should still be fairly decent if the forecasts prove out,” he said.

The best fishing for bright late-run coho is on the Cowlitz, Klickitat, Kalama and Washougal rivers, Hymer said. The Lewis River also attracts late-run coho, but chinook  fishing closes there Oct. 1, as does fishing from floating devices around the salmon hatchery and all fishing above the hatchery. The Kalama River remains closed for chinook retention through the end of the year. The Grays River closes for salmon fishing Oct. 15 to conserve chum salmon but the lower river re-opens in mid-November for late stock hatchery coho and hatchery winter-run steelhead.

As in past years, anglers are required to release any wild coho – which have an intact adipose fin – intercepted on the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries from the Hood River Bridge downstream. For catch limits and other rules applicable to salmon fisheries on the big river or its tributaries, see the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Although the focus of the salmon fishery switches to coho in October, chinook should continue biting through the month on a number of rivers. The Klickitat River was a hotspot in late September, as was Drano Lake. Fishing will be closed at Drano Lake throughout October from 6 p.m. Tuesdays to 6 p.m. Wednesdays.

Anglers planning to fish for salmon on the Cowlitz River should be aware they may now retain one wild chinook as part of their two-chinook limit on that river. In addition, the daily chinook limit has been increased to two adult chinook salmon on the Columbia River from the mouth of the Lewis River to Bonneville Dam.

For trout , Sept. 30 is the last day to fish Mineral Lake, but Swift Reservoir remains a good bet for rainbows.  The area around the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery is also a good bet for hatchery sea-run cutthroats in October. Those aggressive fish averaging a foot or more can be caught on a variety of gear including bait, flies, or lures.

EASTERN
October is the last month – and often a very good time – to fish many of the region’s popular trout-stocked lakes and some rivers and streams. Fall insect hatches are providing trout food, so anglers who use flies or lures that mimic that forage can be successful.

Many Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille county waters produce good catches of rainbow trout and other species.  Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, reminds anglers to check the regulations before heading out because some waters, such as Bayley and Rocky lakes, have shifted to catch-and-release.

Some of Spokane County’s best trout lakes closed Sept. 30, but there are still plenty of opportunities. Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist, said Clear, Chapman and Liberty lakes provide trout, bass and other fish through October. Amber Lake remains open through November for catch-and-release fishing.  A number of year-round waters, including Eloika, Long and Newman lakes, have trout, bass, crappie and perch.

Most rivers and streams in the region close Oct. 31, but sections of some major waterways, like the Spokane River, remain open year-round or into next spring, some with specific restrictions listed in the rules pamphlet. In mid- to late October, WDFW fish biologists will be electrofishing at night the urban Spokane River stretch between the Maple Street and Ft. George Wright Drive bridges, catching and tagging wild redband rainbow trout to learn more about the population. Anglers are reminded that tagged trout must be released if caught by anglers.

Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, provides some of the best year-round fishing. Baker reports good trolling action on big rainbows and walleye , mostly from the Daisy area north. Walleye fishers have also been successful casting jigs near the shoreline, using bottom bouncers, and other methods. Several smallmouth bass , running 10 to 12 inches, were recently caught by Roosevelt shore anglers near Ft. Spokane and Hawk Creek.

Snake River steelhead action slowed the last week of September, but fishing should improve when the water cools down, said WDFW Enforcement Sgt. Dan Rahn.  “There are lots of steelhead in the river but they just aren’t biting,” he said. “Steelhead were rolling on the surface just above Little Goose Dam, but they would not bite.”

Rahn reminds steelhead and salmon fishers to use only barbless hooks. Anglers 15 years of age and over are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement when fishing for these species on the Snake River.

NORTH-CENTRAL

Oct. 1 is the start of a special rules hatchery steelhead fishing season on a portion of Okanogan County’s Okanogan River from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville. Bob Jateff, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist, said the fishery, like those on other upper Columbia River tributaries, will reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead and increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds.

Jateff reminds steelheaders heading for the Okanogan of the rules in effect: selective gear, night closure, no bait rules, 20-inch minimum size, and regardless of the fishing area above Wells Dam, a requirement to retain any adipose-fin-clipped hatchery-origin steelhead caught up to the daily limit of four fish.  Anglers are also required to possess a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license.

Jateff reports that steelhead fishing picked up the last week of September in the Methow River as fish continued to move into the river. The fishing area on the Methow, which has been open since Sept. 8, starts at the mouth and goes upstream to the confluence with the Chewuch River at Winthrop.  Selective gear rules, night closure, and no bait allowed are currently in effect for the steelhead fishery on the Methow.

Jateff reminds anglers that summer chinook salmon fishing in the mainstem Columbia River from Wells Dam to the Highway 17 Bridge in Bridgeport will close one hour after sunset on Oct. 15.  He says a few salmon are still being caught above Wells Dam and also upstream in the Bridgeport area.  Selective gear rules and a night closure are in effect for this fishery, but bait is allowed.

WDFW Enforcement Captain Chris Anderson said salmon fishing on the Columbia River from White Bluffs up to Priest Rapids Dam – a stretch that closes Oct. 22 – was good during the last week of September. “Normally there’s a pretty good morning bite that lasts about two hours,” he said. Anderson reminds anglers that the mouth of Hatchery Creek below Priest Rapids Dam is closed to fishing to protect fish that are pooled up at the mouth of the creek leading into the hatchery.

Jateff said fishing rainbow trout lakes in October can be very good as water temperatures cool and trout become more active. Some good bets would be Big Twin near Winthrop, Blue on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, Aeneas near Tonasket, and Chopaka near Loomis.  All of these lakes stay open for fishing through Oct. 31.  Chopaka and Aeneas are fly-fishing only, and Blue and Big Twin are selective gear waters.  There is a one fish daily limit for all of these lakes.

Other Okanogan County trout waters Jateff recommends during the month of October are both Conconully Lake and Reservoir and Wannacut Lake.  All three produce good-size rainbow trout, including some triploids, and they are open through Oct. 31.

Jameson Lake in Douglas County, which closed July 4, re-opens for an Oct. 1-31 season on a hatchery plant of approximately 7,500 half-pound rainbows.

Bass fishing on year-round Potholes Reservoir, Moses Lake and other waters that are open in the Columbia Basin usually improves as fall advances.

SOUTHCENTRAL

Steelhead are still moving into the Hanford Reach in large numbers, although most anglers are expected to continue focusing on fall chinook salmon through mid-October. Up to 77,000 adult fall chinook are expected to return to the Reach this year, more than double last year’s final count. Through Sept. 26, anglers fishing that area had caught a record 3,075 of those fish, along with 404 jacks.

Plenty of bright chinook salmon , some tipping the scales at 40 pounds, remain to be caught through the first half of October, said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Anglers have a great opportunity to catch bright, good-eating fish through the first half of the month,” Hoffarth said.  “But these fish come to the Reach ready to spawn and they start turning dark later in the month.”

The salmon fishery is open through Oct. 22 from the Highway 395 Bridge to Wells, but closes Oct. 15 upriver from the dam. Anglers are advised to check the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ) for daily catch limits and other regulations that apply to specific sections of the Columbia River.

The question for many anglers, Hoffarth said, is when to switch over to hatchery steelhead . The steelhead fishery, which opened a month early due to unusually large returns, runs through March 31 from Highway 395 to the old Hanford wooden powerline towers and through Oct. 22 from the powerline towers upriver to Priest Rapids Dam.

“October is a good time to start targeting hatchery steelhead,” Hoffarth said.  “The water is cooling off and the fish are getting more aggressive.”

Another good prospect for salmon is the Yakima River, where fishing for fall chinook and hatchery coho usually comes alive around the second week of the month. Best bets for catching fish include waters below Prosser Dam and Horn Rapids Dam, Hoffarth said.

“The salmon start moving into the Yakima, then all of a sudden they’re stacked like cordwood,” he said. “I think we’re going to see a dramatic improvement in that fishery in the weeks ahead.”

Rather catch some walleye ? October is also a good time to hook some of these toothy fish below McNary Dam, Hoffarth said. “Fall fishing for walleye is dynamite between Umatilla and Boardman,” he said. “Those fish are putting on the feedbag for winter and are eager to strike big lures, night and day.”

Trout fishing is available in many southcentral region rivers and streams, including the Yakima, Naches, Little Naches, and Bumping rivers in Yakima County. Anglers can also catch trout on the upper reaches of Taneum Creek, Naneum Creek, Manastash Creek, and the forks of the Teanaway in Kittitas County. Most rivers and creeks have special regulations like selective gear rules that prohibit bait. Most also have statewide trout catch limits of two trout with an 8-inch minimum size. Regulations for these and other fisheries are described in the Fishing in Washington regulation pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

September 29, 2010

While Chinook fishing’s going off on the Coos and Coquille systems and is improving on North Coast bays, you can add another fishery to the mix starting this Friday.

October 1 is when the 12-day “bubble” off the mouth of the Chetco River opens, and guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing (206-388-8988) expects good things on the ocean.

“The Chetco is low right now, around 150 cfs, so those salmon are going to be holding off of the mouth in the ocean waiting for rains,” he said earlier this week. “During the typical October bubble season, we catch them from the mouth out to the red can and whistle buoy. That’s where they like to stage waiting for fall rains to begin their spawning run.”

The “bay” was closed last year, but yielded 250 or so salmon in 2008. This year a “larger-than-average” run of fall kings is expected.

“The Chetco has a large percentage of 4-year-old salmon, so we see lots of 30- and 40-pounders and the occasional 50,” Martin says.

“I like to troll plug-cut herring, but I’ll also be dragging some purple or cop-car flashers with purple haze hoochies this fall,” he says. “I stagger the baits, from 35 feet to 115 feet with the downriggers. Usually they are closer to the surface at dawn and then go deep around midmorning.”

Harvey Young and David Castellanos also guide the fishery, he says.

But if you’re looking for other things to do this weekend in Oregon, may these highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report be your guide:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Chinook fishing continues to be very good in both Coos and Winchester Bays.
  • Anglers have been landing chinook and coho on the Coquille River.
  • Trout fishing continues to be very good in several area lakes and reservoirs.
  • Trout fishing also has been good on the Rogue River above Lost Creek Reservoir.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Siletz River: Fall chinook angling is picking up with fish being caught from the mouth up through tidewater. Recent rains moved new fish in. The wild adult coho fishery is starting to produce more consistent catch rates. Steelhead fishing is fair to good in the upper river. Cutthroat trout fishing is fair with sea-runs found from the bay to upper river.
  • Tillamook Bay: Angling for chinook is fair to good. Fish are being caught throughout the bay. Trolling herring on the incoming tide in the lower bay is a good bet during soft tide series. Or try trolling spinners in the upper bay on larger tide swings. Hatchery coho are moving through the bay quickly, especially after recent rains. Best action will be in tidewater areas or the upper bay. Chinook are being caught trolling herring near the bottom in the terminal area just outside the bay. The ocean, including the terminal area, is closed for coho.
  • Yaquina Bay: Chinook fishing has picked up and producing fair to good catch rates. Anglers are getting into fish from the lower bay to upper tide water fishing the incoming tide. Cutthroat trout angling remains good.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Coho are moving into the Willamette River and its tributaries in good numbers and recent rains have improved conditions.
  • The first of two major trout releases will take place this week at Henry Hagg Lake near Forest Grove.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Trout fishing on the Crooked River has been excellent.
  • On the lower Deschutes River, there are good numbers of summer steelhead from the mouth of the Columbia to the locked gate above Maupin.
  • With the cooler fall weather,  fishing has been good in several area lakes including trout fishing on Clear, Big Lava and Paulina; Atlantic salmon on Homser; and kokanee on the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook.
  • Insect hatches on the Fall and Metolius rivers have been prolific, creating good dry fly fishing opportunities.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Anglers have been catching HUGE trout on both Deadhorse and Slide lakes.
  • Rainbow and brown trout fishing have been very good on Miller Lake. Miller is one of the few places in Oregon anglers can target big browns after dark.
  • Brook trout fishing has been excellent in several Cascade mountain lakes.
  • Approximately 500 legal and 100 one-pound rainbows have been stocked in Haines Pond to add some fall fishing opportunities.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • With the onset of cooler temperatures, steelhead fishing has been good on the lower Umatilla River.
  • Trout fishing in many area lakes also has improved as with cooler weather.
  • Crappie and bass fishing has been good in McKay Reservoir.
  • Legal-sized and one-pound rainbow trout have been stocked in Peach and Roulet ponds for some extra fall fishing opportunities.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Walleye fishing is excellent in Troutdale.
  • Fall chinook angling is still good between Warrior Rock and Bonneville Dam, with an average of 9,348 passing through the Bonneville ladder daily.
  • Sturgeon retention opens Friday, Oct. 1 from Wauna Powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.

Hanford Reach, Yakima River Salmon Update

September 29, 2010

(PAUL HOFFARTH, WDFW, VIA JOE HYMER, PSFMC)

Another good week in the Hanford Reach for fall chinook.  Staff sampled 430 boats (1,061 anglers) with 330 chinook. Effort (number of boats) is 25% higher this year compared to last year.  Adult chinook catch is also roughly 20% above last year at this time. The number of jacks in the harvest is down from last year as are the counts of jacks over Bonneville (less than 1/2 of the 2009 jack count to date).  For the fishery this season an estimated 3,075 adult chinook, 404 jack chinook, and 4 coho have been harvested.

Based on passage through Sept 23, I estimate a total return to the Reach of 75,675. This is an expansion based on the 12 year average. Using the most recent two years this estimate drops to 56,506.  Decent return with either estimate. Both return estimates were similar to the Sept 15 estimates. I will update this estimate every 7 days.

The Hanford Reach is open to the retention of steelhead upstream to Priest Rapids Dam this fall (through Oct 22).  An estimated 526 steelhead have been caught through September 26 and 237 of these have been harvested. Fishing for steelhead throughout the Hanford Reach was slow last week for both bank and boat anglers.

Fall chinook harvest in the Yakima River picked up slightly this past week. Effort and catch has been relatively slow to date but both should begin to increase this week.  WDFW staff interviewed 65 anglers with 7 adult chinook and 1 jack this past week.

Skip Page 98 For Now

September 29, 2010

For now, never mind Tim Bush’s story on page 98 of the freshly minted October issue of Northwest Sportsman: WDFW just announced that Lake Washington will close Oct. 2 for coho fishing.

Big meanies.

Lake Sammamish also closes starting Saturday for silvers as well as Chinook … as does the Quilcene and Dabob Bay coho fishery … as does the lower Quilcene River.

And late last week, the Puyallup tribe closed its commercial fishery on the Puyallup River.

The reason — as if Puget Sound coho anglers didn’t know already — low returns of coho that’s making it tough to meet egg-take goals at local hatcheries.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission reported only 30 back to Voights Creek on the Puyallup.

“They should have somewhere between 350-600 coho on this date,” said an email from tribal information officers Emmett O’Connell.

WDFW says the four fisheries may reopen if egg-take goals are reached.

Quilcene and Dabob Bays will reopen Oct. 16 under Marine Area 12 regs.

UPDATE: SEPT. 30, 2010, 3:46 P.M.: Add the Carbon and Puyallup Rivers to the early-closure list.

Reward For Info On Elk Killed In OR’s Yokum Valley

September 29, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

The Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Division troopers from the Klamath Falls Area Command office and Lakeview work site are asking for the public’s help to identify the suspect(s) responsible for an illegal elk kill late August in southern Lake County.  A reward of up to $500 is offered by the Oregon Hunters Association Turn in Poacher (T.I.P) reward program for information leading to an arrest in this case.

According to OSP Senior Trooper Paul Randall, sometime shortly before August 24, 2010 a bull elk was killed, parted out and dumped near the Yokum Valley area in southern Lake County.  The suspect(s) are also believed to be associated with other crimes involving theft and vandalism in the area.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to call the T.I.P. (Turn in Poacher) line at 1-800-452-7888 or Senior Trooper Randall at (541) 891-1522.

The Turn-In-Poachers (T.I.P.) reward is paid for information leading to the arrest/conviction of person(s) for the illegal killing, taking, possession or waste of deer, elk, antelope, bear, cougar, big horn sheep, mountain goat, moose, upland game birds, and waterfowl. T.I.P. rewards can also be given for the illegal netting, snagging, or dynamiting of salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, or large numbers of any fish listed in Oregon Statute as a game fish. In addition, a reward may be issued for information that results in an arrest/conviction of a person who has illegally obtained Oregon hunting/angling license or tags.

SW WA Fishing Report

September 28, 2010

(JOE HYMER, PSFMC)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Grays River – Bank anglers below the weir caught some wild chinook and coho that had to be released.

Cowlitz River – On the lower Cowlitz, anglers are catching a mix of fall chinook and coho while at the trout and salmon hatcheries primarily sea-run cutthroats and fall chinook, respectively.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 2,043 coho adults, 295 jacks, 1,594 fall Chinook adults, 129 jacks, 144 summer-run steelhead, 13 spring Chinook adults, five mini-jacks, 40 sea-run cutthroat trout, one pink salmon, and one sockeye salmon during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
Tacoma Power employees released 661 coho adults, 127 jacks, and 12 spring Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa, 357 coho adults and 64 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, 105 coho adults and 48 jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek and 1,225 fall Chinook adults, 117 jacks, 215 coho adults, 21 jacks, and four cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,000 cubic feet per second on Monday, September 27, 2010 and will remain steady. Water visibility is 10 feet.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching some fall chinook, coho, and steelhead although overall effort and catch is light.  All fall chinook must be released through the end of the year.

Lewis River – Anglers are catching some coho though fishing has slowed around the salmon hatchery.  Some wild fall chinook were reported released.

Beginning October 1, all chinook must be released from the mainstem and North Fork Lewis and fishing from any floating device will be prohibited on the North Fork Lewis River from Johnson Creek upstream to Colvin Creek.  In addition, the area from Colvin Creek upstream to Merwin Dam closes to all angling from October through mid December.

Washougal River – A few fall chinook are being caught but overall effort and catch is light.

Klickitat River – Bank anglers on the lower river are doing well on fall chinook.

Buoy 10 – Effort and coho catch is light.

Effective October 1, the salmon and steelhead daily limit increases to 6 fish of which 2 may be adult hatchery coho or hatchery steelhead or one of each.  Salmon minimum size is 12 inches.  Release all salmon other than hatchery coho.

Lower Columbia from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam – In general, success for fall chinook was the best of the season early last week but has since slowed.

We sampled 166 salmonid bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with 11 adult and 2 jack fall Chinook  and 3 steelhead, an average of a salmonid kept/released per every 10.4 rods based on mainly incomplete trips. In addition, we sampled 474 salmonid boat anglers (218 boats) with 126 adult and 5 jack fall Chinook, 25 adult coho, and 3 steelhead, an average of a salmonid kept/released per every 3.0 rods based on mainly completed trips.

Just over half the adult coho and steelhead caught were kept.

Pretty good salmonid effort last Saturday with just over 600 boats and 250 bank anglers counted during the flight.  Except for a few dozen boats at the mouth of the Cowlitz, the majority were found from the Lewis upstream.  Most of the Oregon bank anglers were found just below Bonneville Dam while bank anglers on the Washington side were more distributed throughout the lower river.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers are catching fall chinook and some coho.  About 65 boats off the mouth of the Klickitat last Saturday morning.

Hanford Reach- During the past week WDFW staff interviewed  430 boats/1,061 anglers with 289 adults and 41 jacks.  The catch slowed down this week in the Ringold and White Bluffs area while the Vernita area stayed steady.

Steelhead effort and catch remains slow with 11 hatchery steelhead kept and 19 wild fish released.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam – We didn’t sample any sturgeon anglers last week during the current catch-and-release fishery.     However, there were a few more sturgeon anglers out prospecting for the upcoming catch-and-keep fishery.

From the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam, white sturgeon may be retained Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only beginning October 1.    Daily limit 1 fish.  Minimum fork length 38 inches and maximum fork length 54 inches.

WALLEYE

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – There were almost a dozen walleye boats in the Camas/Washougal area last Saturday September 25.   Boat anglers sampled there averaged a walleye per boat though all the fish were released (small).

TROUT

Mineral Lake – No report on angling success.  September 30 is the last day to fish for the year.

Price Of WA Saltwater License Could Rise

September 28, 2010

Washington anglers may find themselves paying a few more bucks to fish for Chinook, coho and other species in the ocean.

Freshwater anglers could also see a bump in their license fees.

But similar to hunting license increase proposals WDFW has drummed up, youths and senior fishermen would be shielded, says Jo Wadsworth, deputy assistant director of the Fish Program.

The agency is preparing to deal with a 10 percent cut to its general fund in the next biennium’s budget and continuing revenue shortfalls as the recession drags on.

However, there’s “a long way to go before anything is final,” Wadsworth cautioned during a telephone call early this afternoon.

Ultimately, Legislators will decide whether to raise license fees during next year’s session, but Wadsworth says WDFW’s proposal could raise $10 million to $12 million.

It would help cover a two-year 10 percent surcharge on all licenses that sunsets at the end of June 2011.

But rather than raising fees across the board, WDFW’s strategy is to give some sportsmen a break but ask others to pony up more.

“It’s anywhere from not at all for youth and seniors because we’re trying to promote family fishing and recreation for seniors with limited incomes to proposed 12 to 24 percent increases,” says Wadsworth.

The 12 and 24 percent increases — for freshwater and saltwater licenses, respectively — reflect the rise from presurcharge prices.

Factoring in the surcharge, it’s an increase of 2 and 14 percent — or $.48 and $3.10.

Wadsworth explains that salty dogs would be hit harder because of the intense monitoring and creel sampling at multiple ports that some fisheries, such as salmon and halibut, require.

It’s somewhat similar on the hunting side, where those few sportsmen who chase bandtail pigeons, sea ducks and brant may be asked to pay more to cover the staffing costs to hold those seasons and gather harvest data.

WDFW wants to keep the basic hunting package — deer tag and small game license — the same price, but proposes boosting prices for elk licenses and permit apps for mountain goats, bighorns, moose and certain buck and bull hunts.

The last license increase for Washington sportsmen was a decade ago.

“Over time you can do less and less because your buying power is less and less,” says Wadsworth.

The dictate coming from the governor’s office, she says, is “the users need to pay.”

“We’re not proposing that this fixes everything,” she says. “We’re trying to avoid reducing opportunities.”

Wadsworth notes that even though the recession has taken a toll on disposable income, large numbers of people are still going fishing, though she expects some will not be happy about the proposed hikes.

“We have put into our calculations some resistance,” she says. “But when you think about what you’re buying, you can get a combo license for $48 and you can fish every species for a year, that’s a bargain.”

Increases in commercial fishing fees are also being looked at, Wadsworth adds.

‘A Little Meat-cutting Party’ Ahead For Buzz

September 28, 2010

Somewhere towards the end of a 27-straight-hour drive south from up around the Arctic Circle, Buzz Ramsey gave me a call to talk about his November column for Northwest Sportsman magazine.

The Northwest salmon/steelhead-fishing guru also had news of a couple monster moose he and hunting partner John Weinheimer had shot — bulls with 61- and 55-inch-wide racks, respectively, from northern British Columbia.

He and Weinheimer (who is also a WDFW biologist) were with Mike Danielson of Little Dease Outfitters who has exclusive rights to hunt an area larger than Yellowstone National Park, Ramsey says.

He termed it a “hunt of a lifetime.”

BUZZ RAMSEY AND HIS 61-INCH NORTHERN B.C. BULL MOOSE. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

“I’m headed home for a little meat-cutting party,” said Ramsey as Weinheimer took a turn at the wheel.

Yes, Buzz, yes you do — you can have a couple extra days on that November column.

An Early Start To Winter Steelheading?

September 24, 2010

In this wacky weather year in the Northwest, where winter was spring, spring was late winter, and late summer was midfall, winter steelheading may have started in September on one river system in northern Puget Sound.

An unusual number of bright steelhead have shown up at the Marblemount Hatchery on the upper Skagit’s Cascade River in recent days.

So are they seriously early winter-runs or stray summer-runs from nearby rivers?

“They look more winter-run than summer-run,” says Steve Stout who’s worked at the facility for nearly two decades and began his career there in 1978.

He says that in recent days three entered the trap and he’s heard of another 10 or so have been caught below the hatchery.

The ones he’s seen are “6- to 8-pounders” and look like “typical winter-runs, young, nice-looking fish,” he says, though one was a little lean.

“There’s always one or two caught during our coho fishery, but we really don’t see them come in until Thanksgiving,” says Stout.

Summer-run steelhead aren’t released on the Skagit system, though they are to the south, on the North Fork Stillaguamish and the Skykomish, he says.

Tagging studies have shown the species is more likely to stray than coho or Chinook, also raised at Marblemount (a least 275 to 300 silvers are back to the hatchery, Stout says), but DNA samples would determine their origin.

“My guess is they’re from here,” Stout ventures.

That means they would indeed be winter-run steelhead — in September.

There’s another twist in this mystery: The unusual return of a type of steelhead not seen north of Oregon’s Rogue River.

“We’ve also seen steelhead jacks,” Stout says. “We’ve never seen that before.”

Two have returned, he says.

OK, Steve, so, what the hell is going on on the Skagit?!?

“I have no idea,” Stout says, laughingly blaming ocean conditions, that catch-all category for problems with salmon and steelhead runs.

“I know how to grow them. I know how to plant them, but I don’t know what they do after that,” he says.

In the meanwhile, if you’ve got a jones to wet a line way early for steelhead in Skagit County, you might hit the Cascade, though angling’s anything but hot.

“The nice thing about it is that every once in awhile a guy gets a nice surprise at the end of his line,” Stout says.

OR Bottomfishing Closure Outside 20 Fathoms To Continue

September 24, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Bottom fishing remains open inside the 20-fathom line amid concerns over yelloweye rockfish. Beyond 20 fathoms (as defined in regulation), bottom fishing is closed to minimize catch-and-release mortality of yelloweye rockfish.

Fishery managers brought bottom fishing inside 20 fathoms on July 23 when the yelloweye catches began to approach the federally-mandated cap. Anglers occasionally catch, but cannot keep, yelloweye rockfish while fishing for other species. NOAA Fisheries considers yelloweye, along with canary rockfish, as overfished and counts a certain percentage of those caught and released as mortality.

“Yelloweye rockfish generally live in deeper waters, so bringing the fishery inside 20 fathoms will protect that population while allowing anglers to continue to fish for other bottomfish such as black rockfish and lingcod,” said Gway Kirchner, assistant manager for the Marine Resources Program.

“Yelloweye catch has been up along the entire Oregon Coast and the bottomfish fishery was in danger of being closed,” Kirchner said. “After much discussion at the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting earlier this month, it was clear that we needed to keep the fishery inside 20 fathoms to protect yelloweye in order to continue fishing for other species through the end of the year.”

Normally, fishing for bottomfish would be allowed at all depths after Oct. 1.

Waypoints for the 20-fathom line may be found at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/regulations/sport_fishing.

Coho Limit Upped To 3 On Some Of Willamette System

September 23, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Editor’s note: For more on how to catch ’em, pick up Northwest Sportsman’s September issue. Terry Otto dishes the dirt.

Anglers may keep an additional coho salmon on several Willamette Valley area streams under temporary fishing rules adopted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Effective Sept. 23, the daily bag limit for coho salmon increases to three fish on the Willamette, Clackamas, Sandy, Molalla, Santiam, Yamhill, South Yamhill and Tualatin rivers and Eagle and Gales creeks. Prior to the rule change, the limit was two coho per day.

The increased bag limit was prompted by recent information that indicates strong returns of coho this year. Through mid-September, more than 4,000 adult coho have already passed ODFW’s fish counting station at Willamette Falls. In addition, strong returns have also been observed at ODFW’s Sandy Fish Hatchery and on Eagle Creek, a tributary of the Clackamas River.

“It’s exciting to see another strong return of coho this year,” said Todd Alsbury, fish biologist for ODFW’s North Willamette Watershed, who noted that while the coho run is not expected to be as large as last year’s banner run, it’s still shaping up to be very good.  “We’re always pleased when we are able to offer additional fishing opportunities to our constituents. This is especially true when many families are feeling the pinch of a tough economy.”

On the Willamette River below Willamette Falls and on the Clackamas and Sandy rivers and Eagle Creek coho must be adipose fin-clipped in order to be retained. This requirement is intended to help protect unclipped wild fish that inhabit both of these streams. On the Willamette River and its tributaries above Willamette Falls, both clipped and unclipped coho may be retained.

Anglers are reminded that combined daily limits still apply when catching more than one species of anadromous fish. Accordingly, in those areas that are also open to retention of chinook salmon and steelhead, the combined daily bag limit is two adult fish, with the exception that one additional fish may be kept if it is an adipose fin-clipped coho (or any coho above Willamette Falls) or adipose fin-clipped steelhead. Consult the 2010 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations for more information on regulations, open areas, seasons and bag limits on these species.

Hanford Reach Chinook Update

September 22, 2010

(PAUL HOFFARTH, WDFW BIOLOGIST, VIA JOE HYMER, PSFMC)

Another good week in the Hanford Reach for fall chinook.  Staff sampled 347 boats (813 anglers) with 476 chinook plus 1 coho. Effort is up roughly 1/3 from this time last year and the adult chinook catch is over 60% above last year at this time. The number of jacks in the harvest is down from last year as are the counts of jacks over Bonneville (less than 1/2 of the 2009 jack count to date).  For the fishery an estimated 1,834 adult chinook, 228 jack chinook, and 4 coho have been harvested.

The Hanford Reach is open to the retention of steelhead upstream to Priest Rapids Dam this fall (through Oct 22).  An estimated 409 steelhead have been caught through September 19 and 188 of these have been harvested. Fishing for steelhead in the Ringold Hatchery area has been slow for both bank and boat anglers but fair catches have been reported both upstream and downstream of the Hatchery.

The first reported fall chinook and coho were sampled in the Yakima River this past week. Effort and catch has been relatively slow to date but both should begin to increase this week.  WDFW staff interviewed 50 anglers with 2 chinook and 2 coho this week.

High Hunters Score On Foggy, Rainy Weekend

September 22, 2010

What better time to head off for the September high buck hunt than during one of the wettest Septembers in recent history?

That might not have been Jason Brooks’ original plan, but given the chance to be among the first rifle-toting Washingtonians to take a crack at filling their deer tag, the Tacoma-area writer went with it.

This past weekend he met up with fellow Northwest sportsmen Chad and Kyle Hurst on a high ridge in the Glacier Peak Wilderness in Chelan County — just as the storms that dumped 2-plus inches of rain in the lowlands moved in.

Now, if you’ve ever done any hunting/hiking/driving/camping in the mountains in the rain, you know that clouds sure make it tough to see anything and difficult to move around in. But the crew gave it a go, and it’s a good thing they did too.

Here’s Brooks’ tale and pics:

I got the kids to school and hit the road…till I got to the top of Snoqualmie pass, where the bright orange signs saying “Road Construction Next 5 Miles” became my reading material for the next 45 minutes. After the set back I headed to the trailhead, still hoping to beat the storm coming.

As I crested the ridge, the clouds moved in. I was able to get my tent up and rain fly on before I got too soaked, but that was the last time I was dry until I got back to my truck two days later.

CLOUDS MOVE INTO THE GLACIER PEAK WILDERNESS. (JASON BROOKS)

Chad and Kyle made it just as my tent went up and we began looking for firewood. Nothing to soaked yet, and soon we were in our high hunt “hunting camp” for another year.

FIRE AT HIGH HUNT CAMP. (JASON BROOKS)

The next morning we woke to fog and rain showers. We headed for a far ridge, glassing the slopes along the way.

GLASSING THE MURK. (JASON BROOKS)

After climbing up to the ridge line, we settled in and waited for the windows of opportunity to glass the slopes and open faces for feeding deer or bears. The sun breaks kept coming, teasing us with warmth and hope of an afternoon hunt.

(JASON BROOKS)

Chad couldn’t sit still, trying to pierce the fog with his binoc’s as we knew there was deer in the basin below.

Though it was warm out, we decided to build a fire to dry out and to keep us occupied waiting for the sun to come out, if it ever would.

It’s amazing that wood can become water soaked and how it becomes a game to build the fire.

Finally, after 4 hours sitting on the ridge, the fog lifted and the sun shone just for a few minutes. In that time I located the only deer we would see the entire day. A nice 4 point stood up out of his bed about a mile away. I watched him shake the water off, and then lay back down. In the few seconds that he stood up to stretch he made the mistake of his lifetime.

HIGH MOUNTAIN BASIN. (JASON BROOKS)

It took us an hour and forty minutes to close the distance to the buck. We had to side hill across the top of a small basin, and learned just how slick side hilling on wet heather can be. I fell a few times, and at one point I just decided to slid down the slope instead of fighting my way back to my feet. We closed to about 500 yards of the deer in his bed, never actually getting to see it since our small glimpse, but knowing he was in his summer mode of lying around, looking down on danger, he just had to be there. We were hoping to make it to a small line of timber just before the meadow where the deer was bedded on a small ridgeline. The only thing between us and the timberline was a spring. It was about 20 yards wide, and 100 yards long, with the ground seeping water and rocks covered with peat moss. It made for quiet walking, until I slipped again, this time sliding down the slope for about 40 feet. Once I finally stopped I stood up, completely covered in mud. My rifle’s action was open and stuck. After trying to clean out the mud and moss I finally got it to close. We snuck through the tree line and I again spotted the buck. This time he was up and looking at us, wondering what was causing all that ruckus!

He was 220 yards, and I thought, “chip shot”, as the crosshairs settled on his front shoulder. But at the shot, he looked back, and then started into the clearing in front of us. Chad followed up my miss and put his new .270 to use. Kyle never saw the deer until the shooting started, following his brother Chad, and I on blind faith that there was a buck waiting for us at the end of the stalk. Thanks to Chad it was another successful year.

SUCCESS! (JASON BROOKS)

Then the work began, hoping to get the deer broke down and packed up before the fog rolled back in. We made mental notes on where the saddle was in the ridgeline and new camp was a longs way off.

We made it back to camp just after 9:30 PM, about 6 hours after Chad killed the deer. My GPS said it was 2.98 miles from deer to camp, but the rain and fog made the trip out that much harder.

The next morning we woke to fog, but it was clearing nicely.

DEER HANGING IN CAMP. (JASON BROOKS)

Just as we cleared the ridge above camp, Chad spotted a nice chocolate bear.

BEAR SPOTTED! (JASON BROOKS)

Kyle decided to go after the bear, and if he got it, Chad and I would keep heading out to the trucks, dump our gear and meat and head back in with empty packs. Either it was good luck or bad luck, but Kyle couldn’t locate the bear after closing the distance (either way, luck was on our side, as I was tired!)

On the way out I came to a grove of trees that caught my eye, and was one last reminder why I like the high hunt so much, the scenery.

BROOKS GETS WEEPY ABOUT MOSSY TREES. (JASON BROOKS)

On the way home I stopped off in a clearing and shot my rifle. It was 10 inches high at 100 yards. I guess that fall is to blame, at least that is what I am believing.

Well, I still have my multi-season deer tag with the muzzleloader season starting next week. But I might just wait until the general season opener, as I hear the Coho are starting to show up and after this weekend’s trip of just over a total of 12 miles on the boots, all while soaked in rain, I might just let my feet rest for a while and stretch my arms rowing the drift boat. After all, the rain brings in the fish!

New Wilderness In NE WA?

September 22, 2010

The south end of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is about as far as you can get from the towns of Kettle Falls and Republic in more ways than one, but that’s where Conservation Northwest chose to kick off its Westside campaign to protect large swaths of the Colville National Forest.

Over free pizza and beer at Piecora’s along Madison, members of the Bellingham-based organization briefed an audience of 30 to 35 people on the Columbia Highlands Initiative which would set aside around 215,000 acres in the Kettle Crest and Selkirk Mountains as new wilderness as well as keep local mills in business with a guaranteed supply of saw logs from an area at least twice that size.

It’s not as much wild land as Conservation Northwest hoped for back in 2005 when it published a book on the project that showed vast swatches of the Colville off limits for logging, road building and other development, but it also marks a new way to work with locals on the future of the lands around them.

“It’s wilderness and it’s working ranches,” said CNW executive director Mitch Friedman about the years-long collaborative effort with loggers, conservationists, cattle grazers, recreationists and other members of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition to come up with a plan for how to manage federal lands in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

The vision includes setting aside the Kettle Crest north and south of Sherman Pass, Abercrombie and Hooknose Mountains west of Metaline Falls and padding the existing Salmo-Priest Wilderness where Washington, Idaho and British Columbia come together.

An area twice that size would remain open for active logging and another 400,000 acres would be  managed for restorative timber harvest. The balance of the forest, some 200,000 acres, would fall under recreation and conservation area statuses.

The group calls the region an “extremely important bridge between the Rockies and Cascades” for critters. It’s home to mountain caribou, mule deer, elk, cougars, bear, wolves, moose and more.

(CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

While Washington already has some 4.4 million acres of wilderness — a point that was noted repeatedly in 8 pages of discussion of the proposal at Hunting Washington — 96.4 percent of that total is west of U.S. Highway 97, which splits the state in rough halves.

The initiative has been endorsed by members of regional hunting groups, such as Tony Heckard and Gregg Bafundo of Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Leonard Wolf of the Spokane chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation, Richard Mathieson of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and John Campbell of Pend Oreille Valley Sportsman in Newport, according to a document forwarded from CNW.

They call the initiative an “innovative, new direction that will help sustain Northeast Washington’s economy and quality of life and will ensure that we maintain healthy populations of diverse wildlife and quality hunting and fishing opportunities and access … preserve wilderness quality lands where those in search of the challenge and freedom of a backcountry hunt, hike, or pack trip can leave the roads, vehicles, and ATVs behind to find increasingly rare quiet and solitude, while still providing access to our lands and places for off-road vehicles to ride.”

Indeed, it’s sometimes mistakenly believed that wilderness designation precludes hunting, but that’s not so, as those Washington hunters roaming the Glacier Peak, Alpine Lakes, Pasayten, Henry M. Jackson and Olympic National Forest wilderness areas the last week for deer know.

Still, Friedman will have a tough go convincing some sportsmen who may recall the name from his days at Earth First! when he strapped himself to trees to keep them from being cut down.

Dozens of arrests and years later, he’s now embracing logging — to a degree. A speech he gave in 1996 highlights a changing mindset, and he was also quoted as saying of his tree-sitting days, “I kept getting arrested with the same six hippies. Here we were, getting carried away with how radical we were, to the exclusion of building strategic alliances.”

Standing in front of last night’s audience in a button-down shirt, tanned and with a clean-shaven head, he spoke to the new approach.

“Instead of ‘Leave the old growth alone, you SOBs!’ it’s ‘Let’s fix the second growth, you beautiful people,'” he said.

Friedman acknowledged that there still are some in the region who aren’t in favor of the blueprint — some ranchers as well as ORV enthusiasts — but he asked those who attended to send hand-written letters to U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and House Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in support of the effort.

In our November issue, writer Leroy Ledeboer weighs the proposal from a hunter’s standpoint in a well-balanced 2,000-word piece, and I’ll have more on Friedman’s unexpected orange side.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

September 22, 2010

Looking for a little ‘Nookie, err, some big ‘Nookie?

Head for the Oregon coast where fishing for ocean-fresh fall Chinook ranges from “fair” to “very good” right now, according to ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report.

The best fishing has been on the Coos system and Rogue Bay, where Jot’s Resort reportedly weighed in a 45-pounder in recent days.

“A bunch of silvers moved into the bay last week, and the kings started biting again,” said guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing in Brookings. “We got a 25-pound king on Tuesday, and a few silvers.”

SPENCER MCDONALD SHOWS OFF A ROGUE BAY CHINOOK, CAUGHT THIS WEEK WITH GUIDE ANDY MARTIN. (WILD RIVERS FISHING)

But kings aren’t the only fish gnawing on baits in the Beaver State. Coho are surging up the Willamette while fresh whopper trout were stocked on a mess of North Coast lakes and steelhead are moving into the Umatilla River.

Here are more highlights from the report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • The chinook bite took off at the mouth of the Rogue River this past weekend and fishing should continue to be good in the bay.
  • Chinook fishing has been very good in the Coos Basin.
  • With the onset of cooler temperatures trout fishing should pick up on many area lakes, and additional trout stocking is on tap to provide family fun. Trophy and large trout are being stocked in some lakes around the region.
  • Anglers have landed some wild coho on the Coquille River.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Trophy trout stocking is scheduled for the week of Sept. 20. Cape Meares, Town, Coffenbury, Lost and Sunset lakes are scheduled to receive trout averaging about 2 pounds each. Additional legal to larger size trout were also stocked in Lost Lake and Town Lake. Angling for warmwater species in district lakes is slowing as lakes begin to cool. There can still be some good action, especially for largemouth bass. Concentrate your efforts on the warmer parts of the day.
  • Alsea River: Fall chinook angling is slow to fair but starting to pick up more consistently. Fish are being caught from the mouth through tidewater. Recent rains should help to move more fish into the system. Trolling herring or lures near bottom seem to be producing fish. Cutthroat trout angling is fair to good with sea-run cutthroat trout can be found throughout most of the mainstem.
  • Salmon River: Anglers are catching chinook from the lower bay up to the hatchery. Fishing the incoming tide has produced the best results in the lower river. Cutthroat trout fishing is still a good option with sea-run cutthroat found from the bay through the lower to mid river area.
  • Siletz River: Fall Chinook angling is fair with fish being caught from the mouth up into the lower river. Recent rains should move new fish in and up river. The wild adult coho fishery is underway with low catch rates but starting to pick up. Steelhead fishing is very good in the upper river. Cutthroat trout fishing is fair to good with sea-runs showing up from the bay to mid river.
  • Siuslaw River: Fall Chinook angling is picking up as more fish are moving in. Anglers are catching fish from the lower bay into upper tide water. Trolling herring or lures close to the bottom can be productive. Cutthroat trout angling is still fair to good in most areas with sea-run cutthroat found from the bay into the lower river.
  • Tillamook Bay: Angling for chinook is improving. Fish are being caught throughout the bay. Trolling herring on the incoming tide in the lower bay is a good bet during soft tide series. Or try trolling spinners in the upper bay on larger tide swings. Hatchery coho are moving through the bay quickly, especially after recent rains. Best action will be in tidewater areas or the upper bay. Chinook are being caught in the terminal area just outside the bay. The ocean, including the terminal area, is closed for coho.
  • Yaquina Bay: Chinook fishing is slow to fair but expected to pick up any time. Anglers are catching some fish from the lower bay to upper tide water. Cutthroat trout angling remains fair to good with sea-run cutthroat trout are being caught in the upper tidewater and low river area

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • ODFW will host a youth fishing event at St. Louis Ponds near Woodburn this Saturday, Sept. 25, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Youngsters are invited to participate in this event where ODFW staff and volunteers will be available to provide instruction and fishing equipment.
  • Coho are moving into the Willamette River and its tributaries in good numbers and recent rains have improved conditions.
  • The first of two major trout releases will take place this week at Henry Hagg Lake near Forest Grove.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Summer steelhead fishing on the lower Deschutes River continues to be good.
  • With the cooler fall weather, trout fishing has been good in several area lakes including Lava, Little Lava, East and Paulina.
  • Insect hatches on the Fall and Metolius rivers have been prolific, creating good dry fly fishing opportunities.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing for trout on the Blitzen River has been very good.
  • Deadhorse Lake has been yielding some massive rainbow trout.
  • Rainbow and brown trout fishing have been very good on Miller Lake. Miller Lake is one of the few places in Oregon anglers can target big browns after dark.
  • Brook trout fishing has been excellent in several Cascade mountain lakes.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • With the onset of cooler temperatures, steelhead fishing has been good on the lower Umatilla River.
  • Trout fishing in many area lakes also has improved as with cooler weather.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Walleye fishing continues to be good in Troutdale.
  • Fall chinook angling is still good between Warrior Rock and Bonneville Dam, with an average of 8,433 passing through the Bonneville ladder daily.
  • The steelhead run is peaking in the McNary Dam area with anglers pulling plugs doing well above the dam, and bobber/jig producing well above and below the dam.
  • Walleye fishing below McNary Dam has been outstanding.

MARINE ZONE

  • Most bottom fishers out of Garibaldi, Charleston and Brookings came home with limits or near limits of rock fish. The rest of the coast had was hit and miss with some anglers on the central coast doing poor one day and great the next. Some charter-boat operators blamed changes in water temperature for the fish being off the bite. Lingcod were harder to come by with the best catches being one fish for every two anglers.
  • Anglers are still finding tuna, usually landing between two and five fish per angler. This year ranks as the third best for Oregon tuna anglers. Oregon anglers landed more than 30,000 albacore so far this year leaving only 2009 and 2007 with more sport-caught albacore. Although a few good weeks might push 2010 above 2009’s 40,000, the 2007 record of nearly 60,000 fish is in no danger this year.

Lead Ban On Loon Lakes Back Before FWC

September 21, 2010

Ban lead outright or keep the status quo.

In August, a group of Washington fishermen, biologists and bird conservationists made those two their top choices from a list of four options for how to regulate 13 lakes across the state where loons live and breed.

And now that testimony from WDFW’s Lead Fishing Tackle/Common Loon Advisory Group as well as public citizens will be taken at the Oct. 1-2 Fish & Wildlife Commission meeting in Olympia.

The agency is looking into the issue because of concerns that the state’s small population of loons can mistakenly ingest small lead weights and fishing gear that gets snagged up or lost at lakes. Between 1999 and 2010, 33 percent of 21 loon deaths in Washington were traced to possible or confirmed lead toxicosis, according to a WDFW document.

It’s an issue that’s also being looked into across the northern tier of the United States, including in Michigan where “anglers and bait shop owners are resisting a push to ban lead in fishing tackle, arguing it would harm the state’s $7 billion industry at a time it is already suffering because of the recession,” reported the Associated Press this past weekend.

Already there are bans on small sinker sales in almost all the New England states, as well as prohibitions on their use in New Hampshire and Vermont, AP says.

Then there’s the petition before the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead fishing gear. The Federal agency closed comment period on that last week and is mulling whether to move forward or not; it dismissed a related petition to do away with lead bullets.

Back in the other Washington, a 29-page PDF that contains the loon advisory group’s concerns can be found on the Fish & Wildlife Commission’s Web site.

For loon advocates, a total ban gives “the highest degree of protection to loon breeding population,” “maximizes the probability that mortality from lead fishing gear will not continue as a critical factor in loon productivity,” “enhances the general social initiative to reduce lead in the environment” and would be easy to enforce.

For fishermen — the group included Marc Marcantonio, the well-known Western Washington bass angler, Mark Masterson of Yakima Bait and Gary Stiles of Northwest Bass — preserving the status quo is “consistent with data presented that indicates loon productivity is above replacement (but certainly not robust) on the 13 lakes in question,” “least disruptive for enforcement,” “does not increase the complexity of regulations,” and “does not impose an additional financial and regulatory burden on the fishing public.”

Banning lead came up in 2009 as WDFW looked at new rules for the 2010-12 fishing seasons. That proposal would have banned lead weights of 1/2 ounce or less as well as lead jigs less than 11/2 inches long at the 13 lakes.

LAKES WHERE LEAD RESTRICTIONS ARE BEING CONSIDERED INCLUDE HANCOCK AND CALLIGAN IN KING COUNTY; HOZOMEEN IN WHATCOM COUNTY; LOST, BONAPARTE AND BLUE IN OKANOGAN COUNTY; FERRY, LONG AND SWAN IN FERRY COUNTY; PIERRE IN STEVENS COUNTY; AND YOCUM, SOUTH SKOOKUM AND MEADOW IN PEND OREILLE COUNTY. (WDFW)

Written comments are being taken through Nov. 19. Send them to WDFW Rules Coordinator Lori Preuss at Lori.Preuss@dfw.wa.gov or 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501.

Karma Strikes Alleged Deer Poachers

September 21, 2010

When it was too tough to yard an allegedly poached blacktail doe up a steep hillside to their truck, a pair of Oregon men tried to move their Toyota away from the edge of the road — but instead the rig rolled backwards, down the hill and onto the deer.

Talk about karma.

SCENE OF THE CRIME. (OSP)

The incident began as an investigation into a pickup truck off a steep embankment near Noti, west of Eugene, on Sept. 15, according to the Oregon State Police.

On arrival at the scene, Trooper Marc Boyd went down to truck and discovered a “crushed deer partially sticking out from underneath it.”

It must have seemed odd that a deer just happened to be in the path of the Toyota as it crashed downhill, but it became a little more clear to Boyd when, after a tow truck pulled the truck back to the road, he discovered the doe had been shot.

Further questioning of the truck’s occupants, Zachary Heineman, 21, and Thomas Whittaker, 22, both of nearby Elmira, determined that the pair had been driving around, spotted the doe, stopped and shot at it, OSP alleges.

The deer went downhill from the road so Heineman and Whittaker backed the truck up to the edge, police say.

But unable to pull the deer up the slope, the driver attempted to drive the truck away from the edge of the road when the rig instead “rolled backwards, down the embankment and came to rest on top of the dead deer,” OSP says.

Heineman was cited to appear for Aiding in a Wildlife Violation to wit: Unlawful Take of Doe Deer.  Whittaker was cited to appear for Unlawful Take of Doe Deer to wit: Prohibited Hours, Closed Season.

IN OTHER POACHING NEWS, today IDFG announced that a Genesee, Idaho, “will have a felony record, spend 45 days in jail, lose his hunting privileges, possibly for life, and pay part of a $10,175 civil penalty for his role in poaching a bull moose.”

Mitchell Sisler, 22, of Genesee, was sentenced September 13 on the felony charge of poaching a bull moose off Miller Road near Genesee. Sisler was one of two defendants convicted of the crime. Roy Wallace also of Genesee pleaded guilty earlier this year.

The case began in October 2008 when officers received a tip that someone discovered the head and antlers of the moose hidden under a bridge. The rest of the carcass was discovered a few days later. During the investigation, the officers were able to connect Sisler and Wallace to the moose. Both men pleaded guilty to shooting the moose from the road without a tag and leaving the majority of the meat to waste.

Sisler also was sentenced to five years probation and had his hunting privileges revoked for life. But the court retained jurisdiction over his hunting privileges, which could be reinstated at a later date if warranted. During the revocation, Sisler cannot accompany anyone in the field when hunting.

“There is a heavy price for poaching, and hopefully this sentence will deter others from doing it,” said Idaho Fish and Game District Conservation Officer Barry Cummings of Deary.

Fish and Game encourages anyone who hears about or sees a wildlife crime or suspicious activity to call the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hot-line of 1-800-632-5999 with detailed information. Rewards are available and callers can remain anonymous.

SW WA Fishing Report

September 21, 2010

(COURTESY JOE HYMER, PSFMC)

Salmon/Steelhead

Grays River –  Bank anglers downstream from the weir continue to catch some stray hatchery Select Area Bright fall Chinook.

Cowlitz River – Anglers on the lower Cowlitz are catching a mixture of fall Chinook, coho, steelhead, and sea-run cutthroats.  Near the salmon hatchery the catch is primarily fall Chinook.

Anglers from boundary markers at the mouth to 400 feet below Mayfield Dam Powerhouse may now retain one wild adult Chinook as part of the two adult Chinook daily limit.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 1,583 fall Chinook adults, 109 jacks, 75 summer-run steelhead, 23 spring Chinook adults, three mini-jacks, 590 coho adults, 75 jacks, and eight sea-run cutthroat trout during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released 18 spring Chinook adults, 321 coho adults, 43 jacks, and 18 spring Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa, three spring Chinook mini-jacks and six cutthroat trout at the Barrier Dam Boat Launch, 1,307 fall Chinook adults, 104 jacks, three sea-run cutthroats, 10 coho adults and 2 jacks into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton, and 240 coho adults, 27 jacks, and two spring Chinook adults at Franklin Bridge in Packwood.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,420 cubic feet per second on Monday, September 20, 2010. Water visibility is 10 feet.

Kalama River – Bank anglers were catching some fall Chinook, coho, and steelhead over the weekend.  All Chinook must now be released through the end of the year.

Lewis River – Effort and catch have increased around the salmon hatchery.  Hatchery coho are the primary catch though some hatchery fall Chinook and hatchery steelhead are also being caught.  Flows below Merwin Dam were approximately 2,700 cfs this morning, slightly above the long-term mean for this date.

Beginning October 1, all chinook must be released from the mainstem and North Fork Lewis and fishing from any floating device will be prohibited on the North Fork Lewis River from Johnson Creek upstream to Colvin Creek.  In addition, the area from Colvin Creek upstream to Merwin Dam closes to all angling from October through mid December.

Washougal River – Good for fall Chinook earlier last week.  Approximately 3,000 fish had entered the hatchery later in the week.

Drano Lake – No report on angling success.  In October, fishing is closed 6 pm Tuesdays to 6 pm Wednesdays.

Bonneville Pool – Approximately 50 boats off the mouth of the Klickitat last Saturday September 18.  Anglers are catching some fall Chinook.

Buoy 10 – Continues to be slow for hatchery coho.  Effort remains light.

Effective October 1, the salmon and steelhead daily limit increases to 6 fish of which 2 may be adult hatchery coho or hatchery steelhead or one of each.  Salmon minimum size is 12 inches.  Release all salmon other than hatchery coho.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – In general, success for fall chinook was best for boat anglers in Vancouver and just below Bonneville Dam with ½ fish per boat average while boaters at the mouth of the Cowlitz averaged about an adult coho per boat.

We sampled 119 salmonid bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with 6 adult and 1 jack fall Chinook  and 2 steelhead, an average of a salmonid kept per every 13.2 rods based on mainly incomplete trips. In addition, we sampled 417 salmonid boat anglers (194 boats) with 54 adult and 6 jack fall Chinook, 33 adult coho, and 7 steelhead, an average of a salmonid kept/released per every 4.2 rods based on mainly completed trips.  About half the adult coho caught were kept.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Effective Wednesday September 22, 2010 The Chinook daily bag limit will increase to two (2) adult fish in the Mainstem Columbia River (from the Warrior Rock boundary upstream to Bonneville Dam).

Hanford Reach – WDFW staff interviewed 347 boats/807 anglers  with 322 chinook, 1 coho, and 17 steelhead harvested last week in the Hanford Reach.
White Bluffs and Vernita boat ramps showed the highest catch rates with Ringold also showing good catches as well.

JAMIE CARR OF SPOKANE WAS AMONG THE ANGLERS FINDING CHINOOK ON THE HANFORD REACH RECENTLY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Chinook effort and catch are up from last year. WDFW interviewed 204 boats with 183 chinook and 1 coho harvested during the same week in 2009.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Light effort and catch during the current catch and release only fishery.

From the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam, white sturgeon may be retained Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only beginning October 1.    Daily limit 1 fish.  Minimum fork length 38 inches and maximum fork length 54 inches.

WALLEYE

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Boat anglers in the Camas/Washougal area averaged just over 2/3 walleye kept per rod.

TROUT

Mineral Lake – No report on angling success.  September 30 is the last day to fish for the year.

Bowhunting Pioneer Passes Away

September 20, 2010

Word today that Northwest bowhunting pioneer Glenn St. Charles died yesterday in Seattle. He was 98.

“Such a deal,” were said to be his last words after fighting a short illness.

St. Charles was known as “the watchdog of bowhunting in Washington State and eventually throughout the country,” according to the Bowhunters Hall of Fame, and helped legitimize the method through the Pope & Young club.

Born nearly a century ago, St. Charles first got into bowhunting after peering into Puget Sound in the Fauntleroy area and trying to figure out how to catch the various critters, according to a 2008 interview with Frank Addington Jr. He and some friends fashioned their archery gear out of hazelnut branches, meat-wrapping string, willow staves and headless nails.

“Little did I know at that time that this would be the first of a long life of pleasure with a bow and arrow,” St. Charles told Addington.

After taking his first game in 1934 — a mule deer from the Mad River area of North-central Washington — he went on to hunt caribou, mountain goats, Dall sheep and more.

He opened an archery business in Seattle, designed his own bows and sold Fred Bear bows, and in the late 1950s spearheaded the creation of the Pope & Young Club.

St. Charles also worked on the books Billets To Bows: Sights, Sounds and Smells of Archery and Bows on the Little Delta.

“The author’s eight-decade span behind the bow serves as a bridge between then and now,” says the Bowhunters Hall of Fame in a profile of St. Charles before his death.

P&Y and the Archery Hall of Fame have both posted words on St. Charles passing.

In that interview with Addington, St. Charles gave these last words of advice:

Live life to the fullest, the walk in the woods is a short one, leave things better than you found them, If you are a hunter be proud of being a HUNTER not a KILLER. If you can make even the smallest difference, it is all worth the walk.

First Fish Has Last Word At Everett Coho Derby

September 20, 2010

The very first fish weighed in at this past weekend’s Everett Coho Derby was a 15.68-pounder, and even though 240 other silvers went across the scales on Saturday and Sunday, none could match its size.

That led to a $3,000 payday for angler Randy Warren. He caught the big fish in Area 10.

Second place went to Doug Smith, who brought in a 15.61-pounder from the lower Skykomish River.  It was worth $2,000. A post on Gamefishin indicates it wasn’t brought in until late in the competition because the anglers “didn’t think it was that big and waited until the end of the day.”

Michael Blankenship took third with a 15.28 from the saltwater off Whidbey Island’s eastern side.

Sean McCauley took first in the youth division with a 12.16-pounder from Area 9, the waters off the western and southern sides of Whidbey.

This is the 17th running of the popular derby. It’s put on by the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club and Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club.

Mike Hillman won the raffle for a 15-foot Alumaweld Super Vee provided by Three Rivers Marine while Gary Curtis was drawn for the Northwest Salmon Derby Series’ 20-foot Stabicraft.

The low catch matched 2008’s effort, when only 246 were weighed, though the winner that year went 18.16 pounds.

Last year saw just over 1,100 coho set down on the scales; 2007 saw 1,166.

Here are 2010’s official results as well as sponsors:

DULT DIVISION Name Weight Where Caught
$3000 1st Placeby Everett Bayside Marine Randy Warren 15.68 Area 10
$2000 2nd Placeby Roy Robinson Chevrolet Doug Smith 15.61 Lower Skykomish
$1500 3rd Placeby Silver Horde Michael Blankenship 15.28 Area 8-2
$1000 4th Place by Kershaw Knives Charles Blankenship 15.04 Area 9
$750 5th Place by Dick Nite Spoons Kyle Bride 14.58 Area 9
$600 6th Place by Ted’s Sport Center Bryan Choate 14.37 Sound
$500 7th Place by John’s Sporting Goods Danny Iverson 14.31 Area 9
Raffle Boat Prize by 3 Rivers Marine Mike Hillman
Raffle 9.9 hp Outboard Motor by Performance Marine
YOUTH DIVISION
$100 1st Place by First Heritage Bank Sean McCauley 12.16 Area 9
$75 2nd Place by First Heritage Bank Jarett Waldemer 9.10 Sound
$50 3rd Place by First Heritage Bank Floyd Wm Clark 6.83 Area 9
SPECIAL SPONSOR PRIZES
$250 Largest Coho on Silver Horde Product Randy Warren 15.68 Area 10
2010 DERBY STATISTICS
Number of Adult Tickets Sold 1587
Number of Kids Tickets Given Away 237
Total Number of Fish Weighed In 241
Total Pounds of Fish Weighed In 2146 pounds
Average Weight of Fish 8.91 pounds

Lower Kalama To Close For Kings

September 17, 2010

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

Lower Kalama River closing to chinook retention

Action: Close lower Kalama River to all chinook retention.

Effective Dates: Effective Sept. 20 through Dec. 31, 2010.

Species affected: Chinook salmon.

Location: Kalama River from boundary markers at the mouth to 1000’ below the fishway at upper salmon hatchery.

Reason for action: Hatchery is not expected to meet broodstock needs.

Other information: Area remains open for retention of hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead.

$2.2m To Be Trimmed From WDFW Budget

September 17, 2010

Washington’s natural resource agencies must cut $11 million more from their budgets starting just two weeks from now; WDFW’s share is $2,159,000.

Yesterday, Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered 6.287 percent across-the-board cuts, representing $520 million, for all departments in response to further revenue shortfalls that have struck Washington during the recession.

For WDFW, the cuts come on the back of a $35 million dropoff in General Fund support between the 2007-09 and 2009-11 budgets and loss of 163 jobs.

DNR must cut $2.36 million, DOE $3.32 million.

The reductions are effective October 1 and stretch to next June.

We expect comments from WDFW on how the cuts will effect the agency later today.

Gregoire also told Phil Anderson as well as other department directors to prepare for a near-$4.5 billion shortfall in the 2011-13 budget and asked them for ideas on how to fill the gap by later this month. WDFW has been looking at potentially increasing license costs and other fees to address it.

Lisa Brown, Washington’s Senate majority leader, and Frank Chopp, the speaker of the House, put out a joint statement yesterday saying “the current budget situation clearly demonstrates that state government must be rescaled to fit the new fiscal reality.”

Anderson told a gathering of sportsmen, ranchers and others in Okanogan County earlier this week that the agency was at “a critical turning point” and “predicted” the Legislature will again look at combining WDFW, DNR and DOE.

UPDATE 2:08 P.M.: Joe Stohr, WDFW’s deputy director, called me during a break between all-day meetings.

“We’re talking about it as we speak,” he says — and have been for some time. “We’ve known this was coming for some time.”

He’s “hopeful” that a hiring freeze, slow down in purchasing and savings the agency’s amassed will bridge the gap.

“The bigger challenge is the General Fund,” Stohr says.

There’s a $4.5 billion deficit over the next two-year biennium, and it could translate into another $10 million to $20 million for WDFW.

A Fin? You Win On The Cowlitz

September 17, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: THE ORIGINAL HEADLINE AND LEAD SENTENCE OF THIS STORY (NO FIN, YOU WIN …) WERE INCORRECTLY STATED DUE TO THE EDITOR HAVING ONLY HAD ONE CUP OF COFFEE WHEN HE THOUGHT THEM UP. BAD EDITOR. IT WOULD BE BETTER STATED AS A FIN, YOU WIN …

It’s a-fin, you-win days on the Cowlitz starting this Saturday, Sept. 18.

An “unexpected abundance” of hatchery-produced but unmarked Chinook showing up this season has led WDFW to include them in the bag limit.

NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN SEPTEMBER COVER GIRL HEATHER LUSK WITH A 2009 COWLITZ FALL CHINOOK. (SWANNY'S GUIDED FISHING)

You may now keep one adult Chinook with an intact adipose fin as part of the two-adult king daily limit between the boundary markers at the mouth upstream to 400 feet below the Mayfield Dam Powerhouse.

A rule change announcing the change was sent out late yesterday afternoon.

The coho limit remains four hatchery adults per day.

A total of 1,559 hatchery Chinook adults and jacks have returned to the Cowlitz Salmon hatchery through Wednesday, Sept. 15, as well as 111 unmarked kings. Only 38 hatchery coho had returned yet.

As for how to fish ’em, here’s the nut of our September issue’s article, by Terry Von Ottohausenstein:

You’ll find Bill Swann of Swanny’s Guide Service (360-446-5177) fishing above Castle Rock most of the time.

“Those fish seem to squirt right through the lower river,” he explains. “Then they get above Castle Rock and put on the brakes. There are a lot of deep holes and flats in there.”

That means fishermen can find salmon holding from Castle Rock all the way to the Barrier Dam, so we are talking about a lot of water for fishermen to spread out in. You can expect bright kings up here, because Swanny reports that the dark tule Chinook that enter the Cowlitz rarely move higher than the first 2 miles up from the mouth.

He says a lot of fish will stage at the mouth of the Toutle River and in the flats just above the Toutle, where local anglers troll a lot plugs for them. The late run of coho will be headed up the Toutle and there is a bank fishery where the Toutle dumps into the Cowlitz. Look for the late coho to start showing up there about the first of October, along with a lot of fishermen. The late run will peak in late October, but there will be fresh, bright silvers available into early November.

In between the Barrier Dam and the Toutle there are miles of good holding water that produce salmon every year. This reach is best in September when the early-run silvers are in the river. By October the kings are played out and the late run of coho kicks in. Then it’s time to fish below the Toutle until it blows out, usually in mid-October.

FREE-DRIFTING IS what both guide Lee Barkie (360-304-0771) and Swanny prefer to do for Cowlitz salmon, using the same popular method that is the favorite of local steelheaders. The light lines and leaders make for an exciting fight, especially if you hook a big king. One of Swanny’s clients hooked and landed a 42-pound king last year on light line, and followed that with a 36-pounder.

Free drifting lets you really cover the water, which is the key to catching fall salmon here.

“You can really cover the water and find the biters,” says Barkie.

The guides also back-troll diver-and-bait combos and pull plugs.

Both swear Cowlitz salmon have a taste for eggs cured with Pautzke’s Fire Cure. Barkie usually tips his eggs with a small bit of sand shrimp as well. A small bit of yarn can also help, especially when treated with scent.

Barkie says that anglers should look for shallow flats in the morning hours, which is when he free-drifts.

“I look for softer water about 6 to 10 feet deep,” he says.

As the sun climbs, about 9:30 to 10, the fish will move upriver to the first deep hole they find and hold up for the day. Then he switches to a hover-with-bait approach, which means dropping your bait about 2 feet off the bottom with about 8 ounces of lead and backing very slowly down through the hole.

“The bite can go on and off all day,” he says.

From the mouth up, good ramps include Gearhart Gardens, I-5 bridge, Camelot, Castle Rock, Olequa Creek, Toledo, Mission Bar, Blue Creek and Barrier Dam. For descriptions and directions to each, go to sschapterpsa.com/ramblings/Cowlitz_launches.htm.

MOST GOOD BANK SPOTS are well known and fished hard. Still, there are lots of limits caught from the bank in the Cowlitz.

Early in the season the Barrier Dam or the Blue Creek area can produce well. The mouth of the Toutle will draw a few fish, including early kings, but the hot coho action doesn’t start until October. There are a few areas on the Toutle itself that can be fished as well.

WDFW says that next year all hatchery fall Chinook back to the Cowlitz will have clipped adipose fins.

Man Arrested For Using Dead Woman’s Name To Apply For Hunt Tags

September 16, 2010

A 68-year-old Sandy, Ore., man will be in court next Monday to face two felony charges of identity theft for using a dead woman’s name to illegally apply for deer and elk tags in Northeast Oregon.

The state police’s Fish & Wildlife Division alleges that Leroy Arlow Anderson used the name of a friend’s 92-year-old deceased mother to put in for tags in the Keating and Snake River Units.

According to OSP, the investigation began in November 2008 when Senior Trooper Kreg Coggins discovered that the woman had been drawn for a rifle elk tag in the Snake River Unit, despite dying two years before.

Then the same name was used to apply for deer and elk point savers in 2007, OSP says.

A search warrant was served on Anderson’s home in June 2009. Information and evidence collected over the investigation led to a Clackamas County Circuit Court judge signing two felony warrants to arrest Anderson on two felony counts of Identity Theft, according to OSP.

He is also charged with two misdemeanor counts of False Application for a Hunting License, a press release says.

Anderson is due in Clackamas County Circuit Court at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 20.

Hanford Reach Steelheading Starts Out Good

September 16, 2010

As long as today’s topics involve radioactive game, we might as well post a fresh fishing report for the Hanford Reach:

As forwarded from Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW bio, via Joe Hymer, another bio:

On September 4 the Hanford Reach was opened for the retention of hatchery steelhead. This included all waters of the Columbia River from the Hwy 395 bridge upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. A estimated total of 240 hatchery steelhead were harvested in the first nine days of this fishery. The bank and boat fishery for steelhead at Ringold has been relatively slow so far. Both the upper Reach steelhead and fall chinook fisheries are off to a strong start.  At Ringold only 6 steelhead were reported from 49 bank anglers. Boat anglers did not fair any better with 25 steelhead reported from 93 boats (208 anglers).

Unclipped steelhead accounted for 55% of the catch overall. The unclipped component is comprised of both hatchery and wild steelhead as not all hatchery steelhead are marked (clipped) in the Upper Columbia.  Impacts to Wild versus unclipped hatchery steelhead will be determined based on a review of steelhead sampled at the Priest Rapids Adult fish ladder trap and returns to Ringold Springs Hatchery.

10 Tips For More Efficient Elk Hunting

September 16, 2010

(ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION PRESS RELEASE)

If you’re an elk hunter, or would like to be, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is offering 10 ideas for improving your efficiency this hunting season.

All were condensed from recent and coming features in RMEF’s bi-monthly member magazine, Bugle. A subscription comes with an annual RMEF membership for $35. To join, call 800-CALL ELK or visit http://www.rmef.org.

1. Scout from Space
If you’ve looked into the night sky, you’ve noticed the many satellites now orbiting our planet. They’re great tools for today’s hunter. Google Earth (earth.google.com) uses satellite images and aerial photography to give birds-eye views of elk country. Locate meadows, burns, roads, water, heavy-timber escape areas and more. You can even find places where the forest canopy thins to suggest hidden grazing spots for elk. Newer GPS units accept uploaded coordinates from Google Earth, allowing you to walk directly to and more efficiently ground-truth potential honeyholes.

2. Count Points Quickly
In good habitat, a bull normally has a 5-point rack as a 2-1/2-year-old and a small 6-point rack the following year. Instantly distinguishing five- and six-pointers is not difficult. The fourth point, sometimes called the dagger point, is normally the longest point and most distinctive feature of an elk rack. If the main beam goes straight back from the dagger, you’re almost certainly looking at a five-by-five. If there’s another point rising upward behind the dagger, perhaps forming a horizontal “Y,” then you’re looking at a six-by-six.

3. Practice for Stress
Flinging arrows in the backyard is a far cry from placing a perfect shot on a live elk. In addition to changing shot angles and distances, hunters also must cope with distractions and excitement. Hone your focusing skills by practicing out of your comfort zone. Go to a public range, enter a 3D tournament, practice in the rain, shoot with strangers, hunt small game, anything to break normal concentration and practice rhythms. If you’re with buddies, try talking trash: “Hey, watch and learn while I center-punch this target…” Creating pressure and mental stress, expressly for the purpose of ignoring it, can help you overcome bull fever in the field.

4. Get Dropped Off
Halfway between a fully guided hunt and a do-it-yourself endeavor, a drop camp is a good option for those who can hunt and cook for themselves, but need help setting up a comfortable camp in the backcountry. Many elk outfitters offer pack-in/pack-out drop camp services. Drop camps can come complete with wall tents, cots, table, chairs, stove, cut firewood, camp tools and water. Some outfits even provide food and two-way radios. Cost is typically much less than a fully guided elk hunt. Talk to several outfitters about a drop camp and see if it’s right for you.

5. Try a Treestand
Bowhunting elk the whitetail way can be super effective if you’ve scouted well enough to detect patterns in elk movements. Hang or set your stand near a waterhole, wallow, food source or travel corridor. A hot waterhole will be marked with fresh droppings, tracks and rubs–lots of rubs. Prime forage areas include parks, meadows and hayfields. Travel corridors can be trickier to find. As you search for well-used game trails, also look for terrain features such as cliffs or saddles that will funnel elk into your ambush zone.

6. Claw for Ivories
Some hunters have found that a normal claw hammer works well for removing ivories from elk. Easier than pulling a nail, they say. Open the mouth, position the claw around the base of an ivory and angle the tool so that you’re prying squarely against the roof of the mouth. Gently lift the ivory out of its socket. Repeat on the other side. The prized jewelry-teeth should pop out much easier (and safer) than by the normal method of cutting and working them out with a knife.

7. Figure a Tip
Everyone knows the appropriate tip for a waiter or waitress is 15-20 percent, but there is no standard for a hunting guide. Most elk outfitters step lightly around this topic because suggesting specific amounts can seem presumptuous. But many veteran hunters agree on a few points. If your guide has met realistic expectations, worked hard, kept promises–someone who’s been a fine hunting partner, made your trip enjoyable and did everything possible to put you in a position to fill your tag–a good tip begins at 5-10 percent of the cost of the hunt. For camp cooks and other hands, a good tip begins at $10 to $15 per day. If you happen to kill an elk, consider the guide’s added chores of retrieving, cleaning, hauling, caping, etc., and tip more if you’re comfortable doing so.

8. Save the Hide
A hide is far down the list of elk-kill souvenirs to take home, falling somewhere behind meat, antlers, ivories and even bones for the dog. Yet with proper care, a hide can be turned into a functional memento of a successful hunt. Companies today can turn elk hide into gun cases, vests, jackets, gloves–just about anything made of leather. In the field, treat hide with the same urgency as meat, to prevent spoilage. Don’t worry about scraping away all the fat and flesh, but do worry about cutting too many holes. Freeze or salt the hide until you can get it to a taxidermist, tannery or leather specialist.

9. Know Your Range
Most elk hunters practice with their rifle at a 100-yard range, which is fine for the close-in shots you may encounter in the field. In a recent survey, about 40 percent of hunters reported the furthest elk they’d ever shot at was within 200 yards, an easy stretch for flat-shooting modern rifles. But more hunters, about 60 percent, reported taking shots at elk that were 200 to 400-plus yards away. Shooting exponentially farther than you’ve practiced can be risky. Distance magnifies mistakes and miscalculations. If you can’t practice at 200-400 yards, invest in a rangefinder, bipod, ballistics charts and top quality ammo. Know your effective limits and don’t shoot beyond them.

10. Use Dry Rub
Marinades are commonly used in preparing elk meat but more and more professional chefs, like Bugle magazine’s chef-columnist John McGannon, prefer dry rubs. He says flavored liquids dilute natural flavors while dry rubs caramelize the protein and maximize the culinary potential of wild game, especially if you’re planning to grill, sauté, roast, broil or braise. Apply dry rub 30-60 minutes before cooking. Here’s Chef McGannon’s recommended dry rub recipe for elk meat:

4.25 oz course ground black pepper
3 oz. smoked paprika
6 oz. course granulated garlic
6 oz. course granulated onion
1/4 oz. fine ground white pepper
2 tbsp dried thyme leaves
1.25 oz cane sugar
2.75 oz. ground ancho chili
5.5 oz course sea salt
1/4 oz. dried English mustard

Ack! Glowing Elk In Ore. … And Other Silliness

September 16, 2010

If I was a slightly cannier hunter/editor, I’d use this chair to try and keep fellow sportsmen out of my neck of the fall woods. No deer here, they’ve all been et up by predators, yes sir, try the other corner of the state.

Alas, the numbers actually show that my hot spot could be pretty good for muleys, so being a somewhat diligent journalist, I have to report just how good in our October issue — here’s hoping my hunting partners don’t run me out of camp next month.

This morning, however, word from the Sisters, Ore., area on a novel new way to try and keep sportsmen away from the local big game herds:

Writes Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail-Tribune:

… The fliers, printed on Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife letterhead, warned that radioactive salt licks had been placed in nearby woods for deer and elk so they could be tracked by satellite.

Whether hunters or some huckster from over in Eugene put them up is unclear.

But it certainly lends itself to confirming for tinfoil-hat types that state biologists are “hell-bent on ensuring people don’t kill and eat the animals they manage,” as Freeman writes.

Never mind that a survey of those bios from a few years ago showed that 75 percent of them fished and/or hunted, though the percentage of Federal biologists was lower (for a copy of the study, call up Jon Anderson at WDFW Oly, 360-902-2200).

Or, as the columnist continues, “Ironically, these are the same biologists whom animal-rights activists believe are in the hunters’ back pockets and disgruntled hunting factions insist are too knuckleheaded to count deer in the field properly.”

In the rest of his piece, Freeman touches on fantastic tales of black helicopters, undercover transplants of wolves and under-the-table sales of Chinook at state hatcheries.

Don’t get me wrong: Our state bios bear watching (this summer, ODFW began inviting regular Joes and Janes out for a day with their crew), and hunters and anglers have pretty sharp eyes which can help them as well as enforcement officers out.

But I gotta hand it to whomever came up with the radioactive elk thing. Just might have to post some of those leaflets (sans the official letterhead, which may get someone in trouble with OSP) around my deer woods this fall. I get the feeling there may be a few more hunters out and about.

And if me and the horde don’t notch our tags, I can always take a page from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, where he advances a rumor (one he made up) about a candidate’s new dependence on Ibogain, and blame our foul luck on those bastard bios who poisoned all the game off.

UPDATE 11:14 A.M. LATE WORD FROM THE JUNCTION CITY AREA THAT THIS YEAR ODFW HAS BEEN FEEDING ITS PEN-RAISED PHEASANTS FOR RELEASE ON WESTERN OREGON WILDLIFE AREAS RADIOACTIVE GRAIN TO BETTER TRACK THEIR MOVEMENTS OFF THOSE PUBLIC LANDS, LIKE WE ALL KNOW THAT REALLY HAPPENS — YOU’RE SO BUSTED, TODD LUM, MARK VARGAS AND MARK WOLFER!!

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

September 15, 2010

There are several words that catch the eye of the editor of Northwest Sportsman. For instance, “outstanding.”

Read through ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report like I do and you’ll see a lot of “fairs,” many “goods,” the occasional “very good” and the rare “excellent, so when “outstanding” pops up you do a double take.

The agency used the term to describe walleye fishing on Oregon’s upper Columbia River.

To wit: “Walleye fishing below McNary Dam has been outstanding.”

Official advice from NWS: Grab your walleye wallopers and get yee to Boardman, bub.

But that’s not the only good fishing you’ll find around the Beaver State this weekend. Chinook, coho, “massive” rainbows, steelhead, kokanee, bass, crappie — they’re all biting, brother.

Here are highlights:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Fall chinook fishing has been very good on the Umpqua, Coos, Coquille and middle Rogue rivers.
  • With the onset of cooler temperatures trout fishing should pick up on many area lakes.
  • Anglers have landed some wild coho on the Coquille River.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • North Coast Lakes: Trophy trout stocking is scheduled for the week of Sept. 20. Cape Meares, Town, Coffenbury, Lost and Sunset lakes are scheduled to receive trout averaging about 2 pounds each. Angling for warmwater species in district lakes is slowing as lakes begin to cool. There can still be some good action, especially for largemouth bass. Concentrate your efforts on the warmer parts of the day.
  • Alsea River: Fall chinook angling is starting to pick up.  Pockets of fish are being caught from the lower bay through upper tidewater. Trolling herring or lures near bottom seem to be producing fish. Cutthroat trout angling is fair to good with sea-run cutthroat trout can be found throughout most of the mainstem.
  • Salmon River: Fall Chinook are starting to be caught from the lower bay up to the hatchery. Fishing the incoming tide should produce the best results.
  • Siletz River: Anglers are starting to catch fall chinook from the lower bay well up into tidewater.  The wild adult coho fishery is underway with catch rates very low at this time. Steelhead fishing has picked up a little recently with the cooler wet weather. Best opportunities for summer steelhead are in the upper river. Cutthroat trout fishing is fair to good with sea-runs showing up from the bay to mid river.
  • Siuslaw River: Fall chinook are starting to be caught from the lower bay well up into tide water.  Trolling herring or lures close to the bottom can be productive. Cutthroat trout angling is fair to good in most areas. Sea-run cutthroat trout can be found from the bay into the lower river.
  • Tillamook Bay:  Angling for chinook is improving. A few fish are being caught throughout the bay. Trolling herring on the incoming tide in the lower bay is a good bet during soft tide series. Or try trolling spinners in the upper bay on larger tide swings. Hatchery coho are spreading out through the bay, especially after recent rains. Chinook are being caught in the terminal area just outside the bay. The ocean, including the terminal area, is now closed for coho.
  • Yaquina Bay: Fall chinook fishing is starting to pick up with some fish being caught from the lower bay well up into tide water. Cool temperatures have pushed some fish up river faster than normal. Cutthroat trout angling remains fair to good with sea-run cutthroat trout are being caught in the upper tidewater and low river areas.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Coho are starting to show up in the lower Clackamas River.
  • Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing is now permitted below Willamette Falls.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Summer steelhead fishing on the lower Deschutes River continues to be good.
  • Trout fishing continues to be very good on Antelope Flat Reservoir.
  • Kokanee fishing on many area lakes should be good with the onset of the fall spawning season.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing for trout on the Blitzen River has been very good.
  • Deadhorse Lake has been yielding some massive rainbow trout.
  • Largemouth bass fishing has been very good on Krumbo Reservoir.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Good numbers of steelhead and coho have been arriving at the mouth of the Umatilla River. Fishing will get even better as water levels increase and water temperatures decrease.
  • Trout fishing has been good in Wallowa Lake.

BROWNLEE ZONE

  • Fish for crappie very early morning or late evening. The fish are deeper in the middle of the day and the bite is very light. Use 4 lb. test and an ultra light rod. Use jigs with a crappie nibble (chartruese jigs or red and whites have been good lately). Night fishing with lights is producing good catches. Bass are biting but are fairly small. Some large catfish are being caught using cutbait, worms or stink bait. Trolling for trout is fair. The reservoir is 25feet below full. The Spring Creek and  Holcomb boat ramps are out of the water due to low water levels.  Call Idaho Power Company’s recording at 1-800-422-3143 to get information on access at recreational sites.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Walleye fishing is good in Troutdale.
  • The river is full of fall chinook between Tongue Point and Bonneville Dam, with an average of 11,586 passing through the Bonneville ladder daily.
  • Sturgeon retention is closed from Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam through Thursday September 30.
  • The steelhead run is peaking in the McNary Dam area with anglers pulling plugs doing well above the dam, and bobber/jig producing well above and below the dam.
  • Walleye fishing below McNary Dam has been outstanding.

MARINE ZONE

  • Anglers are still finding tuna, usually landing between two and five fish per angler. This year ranks as the third best for Oregon tuna anglers. Oregon anglers landed more than 30,000 albacore so far this year leaving only 2009 and 2007 with more sport-caught albacore. Although a few good weeks might push 2010 above 2009’s 40,000, the 2007 record of nearly 60,000 fish is in no danger this year.
  • Anglers fishing Cape Falcon to Leadbetter Pt. (Washington) are now allowed to keep up to two chinook salmon in the bag limit. Daily bag limit is now two salmon per day, and all retained coho must have a healed adipose fin clip.
  • Fishing for salmon north of Cape Falcon will continue through the earlier of Sept. 30 or 33,600 marked coho quota (chinook guideline of 12,100).
  • Most bottom fishers out of Charleston and Brookings came home with limits or near limits of rock fish. The rest of the coast had good catches of between three and five fish. Lingcod were harder to come by with the best catches being one fish for every two anglers.
  • Crabbing in Oregon bays improved in August as some larger males start to show up in the catch. During the summer months, recently molted legal-sized male Dungeness crabs can be found. There were some good catches in Coos Bay, and the crabbing in Alsea and Yaquina bays has been good. The best months for bay crabbing in Oregon are August through November. Bay crabbing success usually declines after significant rainfall as salinity levels drop. For the latest bay and estuary crabbing reports go to: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish/crab/reports.asp

A Griz In Washington’s Cascades?

September 15, 2010

First thing this morning a friend forwarded me a string of messages related to a possible grizzly sighting early last month in the rugged mountains of eastern Snohomish County, Wash.

A hiker wandering up the Blanca Lake trail — a real bastard that I nearly killed another friend on once (actually twice, going up and coming down) — snapped at least two shots of a large bear feeding in grass beside a lake with her iPhone.

The email forward included one of the two shots, which showed the animal’s belly and lower body is black, its topside a mix of dark browns. There’s an apparent hump behind the neck; its head is down in the grass.

BEAR PHOTOGRAPHED NEAR BLANCA LAKE, WASHINGTON, IN EARLY AUGUST. (VIA USFS)

The string also had the phone number for a U.S. Forest Service biologist who commented on the images to colleagues.

And, since I’m a sucker for distractions of any sort on deadline week of putting the magazine together — especially those only tangentially related to Northwest hunting or fishing — I immediately let my fingers do the walking.

After speaking with the bio for awhile, I emailed my friend a long, windy response, and that, dear reader, will have to serve as the nut of this blog post:

Goddamnit, Bell, I really DID NOT need this distraction on deadline for the next magazine …

So the guy I talked to, Don Gay, referenced in the email, received two pictures, one of which is attached while he says the other shows the bear’s head up.

He says the photos clarity aren’t really that good, but he sent both off to a slew of grizzly bear biologists.

He did not tell them where the images came from as a kind of control (if you tell them the shots came from Arkansas, are they likely to view them objectively?)

Two-thirds of the bios thought that the pic of the animal with its head down and the hump up could be a grizzly.

But it was 50-50 whether it really was griz in the head’s-up pic; he says in that one, the hump is less pronounced.

He says you need hits on at least two different characteristics to tell if it’s “probable” whether it’s griz or not — so things like ears, hump and face. A hump might just be shoulder blades on a black bear feeding with its head down and maybe front legs cocked at funny angles.

However, if you get a front paw print, yahtzee, it’s morphologically different than anything else [in the bear world] and it can serve as a confirmation that the beast leaving those claw marks on your chest is, indeed, a grizzly.

Back to the two shots: “Basically, it means it’s inconclusive,” Gay says.

[He notes that] there’s a study going on in the northern Cascades to see if there’s any genetic differentiation going on amongst populations of black bears, bobcats and martens between Washington’s major east-west highway passes, and as part of that, researchers have deployed dozens of baits and barbed wire. After the Blanca Lake sighting, one was put in the vicinity of (but not by) the trail to see if any hair samples might turn up. Samples are apparently collected every few weeks, but DNA results won’t be available until next spring.

In Washington’s North Cascades bear recovery area, there hasn’t been a confirmed grizzly since 1996, and it wasn’t that far from where an auditory report came from this summer [on the Pacific Crest Trail near Glacier Peak]. While the reporting party is adamant it was a bear, Gay wasn’t so sure — maybe a cougar, who knows.

(BEARINFO.ORG)

I told the bio I was kind of surprised that, despite gobs of grizzly habitat from Mt. Baker to the east edge of the Pasayten to Snoqualmie Pass, there are no … grizzlies. What the hell’s up with that?

Basically, he says that low numbers beget low and then lower numbers.

The estimate that’s always thrown out there for how many grizzlies might be in the North Cascades is 20, but he corrected me on that.

“It’s between zero and 20 …  It’s real possible there are none on the U.S. side. We do know that in April, there was one on the Canadian side,” he said.

Where there are bears, there are sightings. He points to examples in Yellowstone and the Continental Divide of Montana, where bear numbers were once low, but have since grown. Along with all that growth have been A) more and more and more reports, and B) lots of dead grizzlies.

Back in Washington’s North Cascades, the last confirmed griz mortality in the recovery area occurred now 43 years ago. I wrote about that one in F&H, recall. It was shot by a hunter in the Thunder Creek area and reported on in the Skagit Valley Herald.

“If there is a remaining population, it’s clearly on its way to going extinct,” Gay says.

And that’s unlikely to change unless bears are reintroduced, he says.

With the hubbub about the wolves, I had to ask the next logical question. So …. the Feds planning on dropping any bears into the North Cascades?

“All that’s really happened is that the recovery area’s been established,” he says. There’s been no attempt by USFWS to figure out what to do next.

So there you go.

I think from now on, I’m going to send you off on wild goose chases when you’re busy.

Friends, you gotta love them.

But in retrospect, it was actually a very interesting start to the day, and it will be interesting to find out if any hair turns up in the bait station the researchers set up in the area (it should be noted that Gay says the station was NOT near the trail so as to avoid human-bear conflicts).

For more on the carnivore/transportation study going on in the Cascades, see KING 5’s story from late August.

That piece also mentions a “pretty good” report in 2008 from the Chiwawa River Valley, which is in the recovery area.

Elsewhere in Washington, a grizzly was mistaken for a black bear in Pend Oreille County in 2007 and shot. Two men were convicted and sentenced to five years probation, suspended from hunting for two years, sent back to remedial hunter’s ed, ordered to both pay $3,000 fines and together come up $14,857 payable to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Pics posted on Hunting-Washington earlier this year also purportedly from PoCo show a large bear with grizzly-like features.

And in 2003, a rancher spotted one near Chesaw. Hair samples collected from a fence came back “positive for a grizzly bear,” says Jeff Heinlein, a WDFW wildlife biologist. Chesaw is east of the recovery area. Heinlein says that after the sighting, there were no more reports of the bear.

“As compared to other samples in the lab’s data base, the bear was most closely related to bears from the Selkirks,” adds his boss, Scott Fitkin, district wildlife biologist for Okanogan County.

UPDATE 3:30 P.M., SEPT. 17, 2010: Here’s a link to a New York Times article yesterday on the search for grizzly bears in the North Cascades.

UPDATE 10:27 A.M., SEPT. 29, 2010: A few days ago Don Gay sent me an update from bear researchers who’ve placed two bait and barbed wire traps near Blanca. They collected some giant bear poop and a mess of hair, most of which was black but some was brown.

Trail cam shots captured at least two black bears hanging out, but one of them decided to play with the camera so that the next series of shots are messed up, though show a large eyeball and some brown fur.

LARGE CREATURE. (USFS)

The researchers think they will be able to determine what brand of bears came a’calling through the hair and scat samples, though those results won’t be back from the lab for months.

Columbia River Salmon Update

September 14, 2010

The word(s) today from Joe Hymer, a fisheries biologist in Vancouver:

Through Sept. 12 there have been an estimated 86,700 salmonid angler trips from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam with 12,300 chinook, 5,100 steelhead, and 700 coho kept and 2,900 steelhead and 150 coho released.  The pre-season total kept Chinook catch was expected to be 17,200 fish.

WDFW staff interviewed 184 boats this past week (434 anglers) in the Hanford Reach.  An estimated 585 adults and 58 jacks were harvested for the week. For the season an estimated 708 adult and 68 jacks have been harvested.  Harvest this year is well above last year at this time (439 adults, 132 jacks).  Boats are averaging a little less than a chinook per boat.

The latter report originates with Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fisheries bio in Tri-Cities.

Alsea Man Could Face $15K Fine For Killing 7×6 Elk

September 14, 2010

If convicted of killing a 7×6 trophy bull elk on private property earlier this month, an Oregon man could face a $15,000 civil fine because of a new law that went into effect earlier this year.

According to a state police press release issued today, Adam Schreiber, 28, of the Alsea area, was arrested Sept. 10 for illegally killing that elk as well as a spike on Sept. 1.

ELK RACKS INVOLVED IN THE ADAM SCHREIBER ELK CASE. (OREGON STATE POLICE)

The incident occurred west of the town of Alsea — where bowhunting for elk is currently open — but on private land on the bottom of the Alsea River valley, according to Senior Trooper James Halsey.

The case began with an anonymous tip, the officer added, but he was tight-lipped about further details.

Schreiber was cited to appear in Benton County Circuit Court for:

* Exceeding Bag Limit – Elk

* Hunting on Another’s Cultivated Enclosed Land

* Borrowing a Big Game Tag / Archery – Elk

He was also hit with a citation for unlawfully possessing the rack of a 5×5 elk on a skull.

The civil fine stems from a law that went into effect Jan. 1. Under Oregon Revised Statute 496.705, the Fish & Wildlife Commission can institute suits to recover damages for the illegal takings of large game animals, including “elk with at least six points on one antler.”

Other fines for convictions include:

* $7,500 for mule deer with at least four points on one antler, blacktail with three points on one antler, whitetail with four points on one antler and antelope with one horn 14 inches or greater.

* $25,000 for “mountain sheep” with at one full-curl horn and for mountain goats with one horn 5 inches or longer.

Limits, Size Restrictions Waved At 13 Grant Co. Lakes

September 13, 2010

To hell with the limit!

Starting tomorrow, Sept. 14, licensed Washington anglers can catch and keep as many fish as their heart desires at 13 lakes in Grant County.

And there’s no size restrictions either.

WDFW has temporarily lifted those restrictions as it prepares to rotenone the waters next month to get rid of “undesirable” species and rehab them for sport fishing.

The agency announced the temporary rule change this afternoon.

Affected lakes include:

* Heart, June, North-North Windmill, North Windmill, Windmill, Canal, and Pit Lakes:    No daily limit, no size restriction on all game fish from September 14 through October 3.  Closed to fishing from October 4 until January 31, 2011.

* North and South Teal Lakes:   No daily limit, no size restriction for all game fish from September 14 through October 3.  Closed to fishing from October 4 until April 1, 2011.

* Martha, Upper Caliche, Lower Caliche, and West Caliche Lakes:    No daily limit, no size restriction on all game fish from September 14 through October 10.  Closed to fishing from October 11 until March 1, 2011.

WDFW annually rotenones lakes in Eastern Washington.

SW WA Fishing Report

September 13, 2010

(COURTESY JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Grays River – Anglers continue to catch some fall chinook.

Toutle River – North Fork anglers are catching some fall chinook.  The first 14 coho of the season had returned to the hatchery as of Sept. 8.

Cowlitz River – Anglers are catching a mix of fall chinook, coho, and steelhead.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 1,048 fall Chinook adults, 49 jacks, 71 summer-run steelhead, 53 spring Chinook adults, one jack, 12 mini-jacks, 116 coho adults, 14 jacks, two pink salmon, and 14 sea-run cutthroat trout during four days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released 47 spring Chinook adults, one jack, 86 coho adults and 14 jacks into Lake Scanewa, 10 spring Chinook mini-jacks into Riffe Lake at Mossyrock Park, 888 fall Chinook adults, 44 jacks, three sea-run cutthroat and eight coho into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton, and 11 sea-run cutthroat to the Barrier Dam boat launch.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,490 cubic feet per second on Monday, September 13, 2010. Water visibility is 12 feet.

Kalama River – Bank anglers are catching a mix of fall chinook, coho, and steelhead.

Lewis River – Bank anglers around the salmon hatchery are catching some hatchery fall chinook and coho.

Washougal River – Anglers are catching fall chinook.

Yakima River – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco – WDFW staff interviewed 75 anglers over the first 12 days of the Yakima River sport fishery. Effort picked up this past week but no salmon have been reported to date.

Buoy 10 – Slow for hatchery coho. Effort is light.

Lower Columbia mainstem from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam – In general, success for fall chinook was better earlier in the week.  Effort was fairly high last Saturday Sept. 11 with 1,645 boats and 529 bank anglers counted during the effort flight count.

From Sept. 6-11 we sampled 612 salmonid bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with 79 adult and 3 jack fall Chinook, 1 adult coho, and 19 steelhead, an average of a salmonid kept/released per every 6.0 rods based on mainly incomplete trips. In addition, we sampled 2,080 salmonid boat anglers (916 boats) with 355 adult and 13 jack fall Chinook, 23 adult and 1 jack coho, and 8 steelhead, an average of a salmonid kept/released per every 2.3 rods based on mainly completed trips.

Chinook retention is prohibited from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point Line upstream to a line projected from Warrior Rock Lighthouse on the Oregon shore to Red Buoy #4 to the orange marker atop the dolphin on the lower end of Bachelor Island.  This area remains open for hatchery coho, hatchery steelhead, and hatchery sea-run cutthroats.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Effort and catch is generally light.  Just 20 boats and 15 bank anglers were counted during the Saturday Sept. 11 effort flight count.

WALLEYE

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Boat anglers in the Camas/Washougal area averaged just over two walleye per rod when counting fish released.

An Elk Hunting Weekend With The Brooks Boys

September 13, 2010

About the time my family and I were investigating the Northwest Outdoors/Go Play Outside booth at the Puyallup Fair this past Saturday — big lineup of young’ns to fish at the trout pond — Jason Brooks and his son, Adam, were playing outside some 45 or so air miles southeast of us.

They were hunting for elk, Jason on the bow, Adam on the bugle.

While we were putting on pounds worth of scones, onion burgers, barbecue beef sandwiches, curly fries, ice cream cones and strawberry shortcake at the fair, they were sweating the calories off in search of a big bull.

Here’s their story, from Jason’s hunting journal:

Archery Elk 2010

Adam got home from school right around 3:30 and we were loaded and on the road by 4. It took us a bit to get to the trailhead, as a stop at McDonalds was in order for dinner. Once at the trailhead, we took off up the hill, a short 1 ½ mile pack in to our camp spot, but keep in mind I was packing for two, trying to keep his load light and fun for him. My pack was a mere 45 lbs going in. Not even a ¼ mile up and Adam finds a rock he just “Had to have”…so in my pack it went.

We got to the basin just before last light and the fog moved in. A small campfire to stay warm while I put up the tent and I must say, Adam sure snores loud!

The next morning we took off early and hit the ridge above camp.

ON THE RIDGE, WITH MOUNT RAINIER IN THE BACKGROUND. (JASON BROOKS)

We continue to a saddle where we take a break for lunch.

Adam decides it’s time to bugle a bit more, even though the morning has been quiet.

ADAM ON THE HORN. (JASON BROOKS)

A bull answered to our surprise and we headed to his direction in a basin to the west. We continue calling, but nothing…then a bugle to the basin in the east I we think he has moved out. We continue “working” the bull and after dropping a few hundred feet off of the ridge we see two hunters calling back to us…oh well, public land!

Next we hike out the ridgeline to some benches that the elk like to hide out in during the heat of the day.

We find some good beds with fresh sign.

ELK WERE HERE … AT SOME POINT. (JASON BROOKS)

Then after not jumping any elk, we head back down the slopes to pick up the main trail. It’s so green out you would think it was springtime!

Making it back to camp, we take a little break.

Adam enjoys a cup of hot chocolate with a small warming fire he built himself…a highlight of the trip for him!

THEY SAY FIRE WARMS YOU TWICE — SITTING NEXT TO IT, AND DRINKING THE CHOCOLATE IT HEATED UP FOR YOU. (JASON BROOKS)

I wonder what that kid is thinking… “wish we found those elk…boy this hot cocoa is good…” more like “why did I leave my Nintendo DS at the truck!”

On our way out we come to a group of elk hunters and a mountain goat hunter being packed in. One more lesson for Adam about sharing the trail with horses and mules…they always win, so get out of their way!

MULE TRAIN ON THE TRAIL. (JASON BROOKS)

FINALLY…7 miles and over 2,000 feet of vertical climbing/descending we make it back to the truck.

ADAM CELEBRATES MAKING IT BACK TO THE TRUCK; JASON KNOWS HE’S A LITTLE BIT CLOSER TO HAVING A GREAT HUNTING PARTNER. (JASON BROOKS)

Another great year, even if we didn’t see any elk…but it’s not over yet…I drew the multi-season elk tag…so muzzleloader season is next and then modern and then late archery!…

Next weekend is my High Hunt for deer…fall is finally here!

Jason

WDFW Reports New Wolf Pup

September 13, 2010

WDFW today reports on the capture and radio-collaring of a wolf pup recently in extreme northern Pend Oreille County, and says it may be proof of a third breeding pack in the state.

The 50-pound pup, along with images captured on a remote camera, indicate the presence of a pack, says the agency’s Harriet Allen.

However, it’s unclear if this new pup was born in Washington or British Columbia. Efforts are under way to locate the pup’s parents and WDFW plans to monitor the area next spring to figure out the pack’s denning location.

“If the den is in Washington, the pack can be considered a Washington pack; if the den is in British Columbia, it is a Canadian pack,” Allen said in a press release. “Our Canadian colleagues are aware of wolf activity in that area, and will assist with monitoring on their side of the border.”

It would be the second in Pend Oreille County where the Diamond Pack has had litters this spring and last year. It moves back and forth between Washington and Idaho.

Her agency continues to say that there could be a pack on Washington’s side of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, shared with Oregon, WDFW says; a researcher recently collared a young wolf south of the state line.

But the status of the Lookout Pack, the state’s first documented in 70 years, remains uncertain after the alpha female went missing earlier this year. Its radio-collar could have ceased functioning, but speaking with the wildlife biologist for the area a couple weeks ago, he felt it was likely the wolf was dead.

WDFW is also looking into a trail-cam shot of an apparent wolf near Tonasket, taken earlier this summer.

“We know from reports that individual wolves have been roaming in and out of the state in various locations for years,” Allen said in the press release, “but documenting and maintaining packs as successful breeding pairs is necessary achieve conservation objectives and move toward eventual removal of the gray wolf from state and federal endangered-species lists.”

Meanwhile, WDFW continues to sift through some 60,000 comments on its draft wolf management plan before bringing an update to its 17-member Wolf Working Group.

“The volume of input on that plan was so massive, our staff in Olympia is still looking at it and categorizing it,” says Madonna Luehrs, a spokeswoman in Spokane.

WDFW Looks At License Increases

September 10, 2010

Even as the price of gas doubled and the value of a dollar decreased 22 percent from one end of last decade to the other, for the better part of the 2000s, it’s cost most Washington sportsmen around $22 for an annual freshwater fishing license, $33 for a small game permit and $40 for a deer tag.

True, those prices jumped in the middle of 2009 after the state Legislature added a two-year 10-percent surcharge to license fees to help cover a $30 million shortfall in funding for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

But now, faced with continued budget difficulties into the mid-2010s and an end to that temporary fee next June, the agency is considering asking lawmakers for an increase in base license prices.

While figures that show some large increases for hunters are now out there, it’s unclear how much prices really will rise.

Through various sources at WDFW, I’ve known for awhile the agency has been working on ways to raise more money, but yesterday the Othello Outlook ran a story by Yakima-based outdoor writer Jim Pearson. State big-game manager Dave Ware met with he and other members of Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation in Ellensburg late last month, and Pearson writes that bear tags could jump 85 percent, special hunting permit applications 111 percent.

I phoned Craig Bartlett at WDFW HQ in Oly. He’s a spokesman for the agency, and after a brief chat he went off in search of hard numbers to share with me.

A half hour or so later he called back. He’d just talked to deputy director Joe Stohr.

“‘He could look at what’s on my screen,'” Bartlett says Stohr said before Stohr added, “‘Wait, a bunch of stuff has changed.'”

This hasn’t changed, however: While WDFW’s drift boat has run some of the rocky rapids of the state budget’s Sol Duc River over the past few years — shedding crewmembers and taking on water and significant dings — there’s still some bad-ass boulders ahead through the mid-2010s for director Phil Anderson et al to navigate.

Yesterday afternoon Barlett emailed me a four-page brochure WDFW has put together, “Facing the Future; WDFW looks for new ways to meet its basic mandate.”

It basically runs down how $35 million in state General Fund money was slashed from the agency’s budget during the 2009-11 biennium to help cover a $9 billion shortfall in statewide revenues.

The cuts cost the jobs of 163 staffers, and most of the 1,349 or so who remain at WDFW (along with almost all other state workers) must take 10 unpaid days off this year and next.

They’re working harder these days, trying to get through to fishery and hunt managers and biologists takes longer, on the phone you can hear a slightly crazed cackle in some employees’ voices that wasn’t there a year ago (or maybe that’s because of reporters calling about really stupid stuff), the Weekender report now only rolls out once every month and even once-weekly internal documents have been cut back to every 30 days or so.

Unfortunately, the financial forecast continues to look grim through 2015, with a projected revenue shortfall to state coffers of $3 billion in 2011-13 and a whopping $8.8 billion for 2013-15.

With the fat gone, Governor Gregoire this summer warned all state agencies to find meat to trim.

As much as Evergreen State hunters and anglers know the value of wildlife and habitat — as well as the economic impact, some $6.7 billion a year, it generates — the fact remains that WDFW is lined up like Little Oliver behind heavyweights such as public schools, health and prisons.

According to the agency, those three alone slurp up 88 percent of the General Fund. WDFW’s share from that trough slipped from 32 percent of its overall funding to 23 percent between the 2007-09 and 2009-11 budgets.

At the same time that General Fund dollars shrank, so too has federal grants and matching dollars.

There was, however, a pretty substantial bump in the state Wildlife Account between the bienniums, from $63.6 million to $86.9 million. Our license fees go directly into that fund, and just as Oregon saw a pretty good jump in resident fishing permit sales — the highest license sales of the decade — so too has Washington.

During the April 1, 2009-March 31, 2010 license year, nearly 940,000 fishing permits of all kinds were sold, a 14 percent jump over the year before, and the most going back to at least 2001-2002, according to figures I got several months ago from Bartlett.

That same day he also told me that WDFW’s new way to sell special hunt permit applications this year yielded around $450,000 or so more over 2009.

But the economy giveth and it taketh.

The hit WDFW took in the 2009-11 budget could be matched in 2011-13. Fish & Wildlife documents show the agency may face another $10 million to $20 million drop in its General Funding as well as see an $11 million drop in the Wildlife Account as the 10 percent surcharge expires and a one-time transfer of $5 million is spent.

That from a PowerPoint file Bartlett emailed today.

It’s the one from Stohr’s computer screen yesterday, the “Wait, a bunch of stuff has changed” document.

Still, the presentation — entitled “WDFW Fiscal Sustainability, Revenue and Efficiency Legislative Proposals, September 10 (Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group) Meeting — shows WDFW’s mindframe moving forward and outlines what’s at stake when cutting those two funds so sharply.

With the General Fund, it’s salmon hatchery production and selective fishery monitoring, fish and wildlife officers and habitat protection and restoration.

For the Wildlife Account, still more law enforcement as well as axing support staff for fisheries and hunts which could lead to reduced opportunities.

There’s more at risk, but those are the sexy hot button programs sure to incite howls to senators and reps from those of us who fish for fin-clipped Chinook, rail about rampant poaching and call for more ranches and farms to be bought and protected from development.

So then, how do you come up with the coin to cover the tab?

Well, fellas, that’s where you and I come in.

I couldn’t get specific numbers out of Bartlett, but that PowerPoint file shows the agency wants to “strategically price” our fishing and hunting license increases to, among other things, “recover lost purchasing power” since the last rise.

At the same time it calls for keeping the price of permits for youth and senior sportsmen low.

They’d keep “basic” licenses — deer tags, small game licenses — “affordable” to Joe Sixshooter and attract nonresident sportsmen, but put a premium on quality deer and elk hunts; second tags; goat, sheep and moose permits; and hunts that require extra staffing, such as snow goose, brant, sea duck and Canadas in Southwest Washington.

Elk tags would be “competitively” priced in line with elsewhere in the West, and bear and cougar licenses would be offered separately and hiked to create the feeling they’re “premium” hunts.

A fishing excise tax, something we would pay on gear, was considered, though according to the PowerPoint document, is not being pursued for the next session “due to an anticipated lack of support for new taxes.”

It’s nice to see, though, that WDFW’s not only looking at asking hunters and anglers for more, but also wants to pass the hat to other users. After all, if wildlife watching is a $1.5 billion a year industry, shouldn’t the binoculars-only brigade pay some of the freight for managing to have critters around? The “hundreds of thousands” who use WDFW lands for bird watching, traipsing, skipping, letting their dogs poop and other nonconsumptive uses may pay much more than we do for vehicle access permits.

Commercials could also see increased fees while the agency would start billing to process permits to work near water as well as bring up to date the cost to build cell towers, train dogs and cut trees on WDFW lands — unchanged since early in the second term of the Reagan Administration.

None of it’s a done deal. Many fee increases will require Legislative approval next winter — we’ll see what sort of stomach Dems and Republicans have for that as the recession drags on.

And before sportsmen sign on, WDFW will surely hear a few fiery questions from us, such as:

Will future hunting and fishing opportunities be worth paying more for?

How can we be sure that increases will go directly to opportunities instead of armchair bios in Olympia or unrelated programs?

And where’s the balance point, as Pearson asked Ware, between increased prices, sportsmen declining to buy into it and the department thus losing customers and dollars?

Meanwhile, WDFW is reaching out to stakeholders, like Pearson’s group and lawmakers, and comments from sportsmen can be sent to future@dfw.wa.gov. Over the next few months, the agency will continue to work on its revenue proposal inhouse and with others. Then, on January 10 of next year, the Legislative session begins.

WA Follows OR, Opens Hells Canyon For Chinook

September 10, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Hatchery fall chinook retention allowed in Washington portions of the Snake River

Action: Portions of the Snake River will open for retention of hatchery fall chinook.

Locations:    Snake River, from the Highway 12 Bridge – south bound lane, upstream to the Oregon State border (approximately 8 miles upstream from the mouth of the Grande Ronde River).

Zone A:   Highway 12 Bridge – south bound lane to Lower Granite Dam;

Zone B:   Lower Granite Dam upstream to Oregon state line.

Dates:    Immediately through Oct. 31, 2010.

Species affected:   Chinook salmon.

Reason for action: There are large numbers of upriver bright hatchery fall chinook returning to the Snake River. Significant steelhead fisheries occur in the Snake River and hatchery fall chinook are caught incidentally during steelhead fishing.  Retention of hatchery fall chinook is not expected to increase impacts to Endangered Species Act listed wild fall chinook.  Therefore, a limited retention fishery on adipose clipped hatchery fall chinook is authorized. This regulation is compatible with regulations authorized by Oregon and Idaho management agencies allowing harvest of hatchery fall chinook in the Idaho and Oregon boundary waters of the Snake River.

Other Information: Fishing open seven days per week.

Zone A:   The salmon daily harvest limit is two (2) adipose fin-clipped fall chinook jacks (less than 24 inches in length).

Zone B:   Upstream of Lower Granite Dam, the daily limit is two (2) adipose clipped Chinook, only one (1) of which can be an adult chinook (24 inches or greater). Anglers in Zone B must stop fishing for salmon once an adult hatchery salmon has been retained.

Minimum size for chinook that can be retained in the Snake River is 10 inches.  Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for chinook or steelhead in the Snake River.  Retained adipose fin-clipped fish must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin.  All chinook or steelhead with unclipped adipose fins must be immediately released unharmed.  Anglers cannot remove any chinook or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit.  Anglers should be sure to identify their catch because unmarked returning chinook salmon, coho salmon and unmarked steelhead are in the Snake River during this fishery.  Anglers are reminded to refer to the 2010 / 2011 Fishing in Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet for other regulations, including possession limits, safety closures, etc.  Angler catch rates will be monitored and Snake River fall chinook salmon fisheries may be closed prior to Oct. 31 based upon ongoing run size and harvest evaluations.

Information contact:   John Whalen (509) 892-7861

There’s A Freakin’ Deer In Seattle

September 10, 2010

In the days when yours truly was wooing his future wife at the dive bars and dance halls of Capitol Hill above downtown Seattle, I saw some pretty furry critters (as well as some excessively clean-shaven ones, if you get my drift), but this one is wholly unexpected: A blacktail deer.

A resident living near St. Marks Cathedral, that church you see above I-5 as you approach the southbound Mercer Street Exit, reports that earlier this week she saw a doe in her backyard before it leaped a fence into a greenbelt; another says she saw it further south near Prospect and Boylston.

I kid you not when I say that this deer is within striking distance of leaving her dooties at Westlake Center or out front of the Gucci store — or swinging by the offices of Northwest Sportsman magazine and heckling the staff.

She’s much closer than Phantom, the urban bear, ever got to the heart of the Emerald City two springs ago, or those crazed coyotes over on Magnolia Bluff last winter or the freakin’ puma that haunted Discovery Park last summer.

A deer on Capitol Hill!

In the words of that old Alaska Airlines commercial, what is this world coming to that wild animals are invading the city?

They must know that somehow it’s safe here from sportsmen like you and I.

Whatever the case, WDFW recommends leaving the deer alone to keep it from becoming agitated and running over any panhandlers on Broadway or disturbing happy hour at The Canterbury this afternoon.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to a serious news story: How WDFW may raise fees to hunt our city-lickin’ blacktail’s brothers back home in the boonies.

Snow!

September 9, 2010

I’m scrambling around the SNOTEL site this morning, checking for signs of snow across Washington’s northern Cascades.

One of my reporters says the white stuff fell in the mountains above Lake Chelan overnight, and there’s nothing like that to fire up my inner deer hunter.

Fresh snow means deer season approaches, and it’s a reminder to the big bucks that hang out in the wilds of the North-Central Washington’s wildernesses that fall comes and it’s time to move out of the Pasayten, Lake Chelan-Sawtooth, Glacier Peak and Henry M. Jackson.

Well, that’s what I’d like for those high-country muleys to think anyway.

Biologists will tell you that it actually takes a heap-deep snow to push them out of their haunts. That, and their forage drying up and losing all nutritive value.

So far, though, the SNOTEL stations — set up at places such as Harts Pass at the southern flank of the Pasayten Wilderness, Salmon Meadows above Conconully, Rainy Pass and Swamp Creek on the North Cascades Highway, and Lyman Lake and Pope Ridge above Lake Chelan — don’t show any report of accumulation.

A few do post hourly temperatures into the lower 30s.

Ah-ha! Proof of snow — on another site!

A Web cam at the airport between Twisp and Winthrop in the Methow Valley shows a skiff of snow on the jagged peaks of Sawtooth Ridge, also above Lake Chelan.

A SCREEN SHOT LOOKING WESTERLY FROM THE AIRPORT OUTSIDE WINTHROP; THE IMAGE APPEARS AT METHOWNET.COM

The forecast calls for a chance of snow there and elsewhere in the northernmost Cascades through the weekend, but only at some of the highest elevations and with no real accumulation.

The National Weather Service’s seven-day outlook just touches on the 15th, opening day of the High Hunt for select Cascade wildernesses, and by that time it appears as if it will just be warmer and rainier.

But let’s hope this year’s weird weather includes a good dose of late September/early October snow for next month’s start of the general rifle hunt.

It’s what I wish for every year, not that the Weather Gods ever listen, but sooner or later I’m bound to hit the jackpot.

SW WA Fishing Report

September 8, 2010

(COURTESY JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Grays River – Bank anglers downstream from the weir are catching some stray hatchery Select Area Bright fall Chinook.

Cowlitz River – Boat anglers on the lower Cowlitz are catching some fall Chinook.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 236 fall Chinook adults, 17 jacks, 176 summer-run steelhead, 132 spring Chinook adults, eight jacks, 27 mini-jacks, 13 coho salmon, one jack, one sockeye salmon and nine sea-run cutthroat trout during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released 82 spring Chinook adults and five jacks into the Cispus River, 27 spring Chinook mini-jacks into Riffe Lake at Mossyrock Park, 39 spring Chinook adults, two jacks, and four coho into Lake Scanewa and 234 fall Chinook adults, 17 jacks, and two coho salmon into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,590 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, September 7, 2010. Water visibility is 12 feet.

Kalama River – Generally light effort and catch.

Lewis River – Bank anglers near the salmon hatchery are catching some coho and steelhead.

Cedar Creek (North Fork Lewis tributary) – Closed to all fishing in September and October.

Washougal River – Pretty good effort but light catches of fall Chinook on the lower river.

Lacamas Creek (Washougal River tributary) from footbridge at lower falls downstream – Closed to all fishing beginning in September.

Drano Lake – Effort and catch has decreased though boat anglers are still catching some fall Chinook and steelhead.   Steelhead appear to be headed  up the Columbia based upon the 7,000-8,000 fish counted daily the past few days at The Dalles Dam.

White Salmon River – Bank anglers are catching some steelhead.

Klickitat River – Bank and boat anglers on the lower river are catching fall Chinook.

Buoy 10 – During the first full week of September private and charter boat anglers averaged a coho kept per every 9 rods at the ports of Chinook and Ilwaco.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – During the first five days of September we sampled 465 salmonid bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with 46 adult and 1 jack fall Chinook and 10 steelhead, an average of a salmonid kept/released per every 8.2 rods based on mainly incomplete trips. In addition, we sampled 1,541 salmonid boat anglers (680 boats) with 458 adult and 15 jack fall Chinook, 19 adult coho, and 10 steelhead, an average of a salmonid kept/released per every 3.1 rods based on mainly completed trips.

ABIGAIL WEIMER'S 7TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS INCLUDED CATCHING A NEAR-30-POUND CHINOOK FROM THE COLUMBIA NEAR TROUTDALE, ORE., RECENTLY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

“Only” 1,400 salmonid boats were counted during the Saturday September 4 effort flight count.

Beginning September 12, chinook retention will be prohibited from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point Line upstream to a line projected from Warrior Rock Lighthouse on the Oregon shore to Red Buoy #4 to the orange marker atop the dolphin on the lower end of Bachelor Island.

This area remains open for hatchery coho, hatchery steelhead, and hatchery sea-run cutthroats.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers at the mouth of the tributaries are catching some fall Chinook and steelhead.

Hanford Reach – WDFW staff sampled 48 boats/117 anglers with 20 fall chinook and 5 steelhead during the holiday weekend.
Effective September 4, steelhead may be retained from the 395 Bridge in Pasco upstream to Priest Rapids Dam.  Daily limit 2 hatchery steelhead with a mandatory retention rule in effect.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Light effort; no sturgeon anglers were sampled.    The area from Marker #82 upstream to the sturgeon deadline below Bonneville Dam is now open for catch-and-release.

WALLEYE

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Boat anglers in the Camas/Washougal area averaged nearly a walleye per rod when counting fish released.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

September 8, 2010

Word today that 2010 will go down in the books as at least the third best year for Oregon albacore fishing, and if things really heat up, it could make a run to the No. 2 spot.

With a few weeks of “season” left to go, Beaver State anglers have landed over 30,000 tuna.

That compares to over 40,000 last year and almost 60,000 in 2007.

But albies ain’t the only action around Oregon — there’s also trout, coho, largemouth and crappie to be had.

And while Chinook fishing is just starting to perk up on coastal bays, you can find plenty of fall brights zipping up the Columbia still.

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

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Fall chinook fishing has been very good on the Umpqua, Coos, Coquille and middle Rogue rivers.
  • With the onset of cooler temperatures trout fishing should pick up on many area lakes

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • North Coast lakes: Trophy trout stocking is scheduled for the week of September 20th. Cape Meares, Town, Coffenbury, Lost and Sunset lakes are scheduled to receive trout averaging about 2 pounds each.
  • Alsea River: Fall chinook angling is starting to pick up.  Pockets of fish are being caught from the lower bay through upper tidewater. Trolling herring or lures near bottom seem to be producing fish. Cutthroat trout angling is fair to good with sea-run cutthroat trout can be found throughout most of the mainstem.
  • Siletz River: Anglers are starting to catch fall chinook from the lower bay well up into tidewater.  The wild adult coho fishery is underway with catch rates very low at this time. Steelhead fishing has picked up a little recently with the cooler wet weather. Best opportunities for summer steelhead are in the upper river. Cutthroat trout fishing is fair to good with sea-runs showing up from the bay to mid river.
  • Siuslaw River: Fall chinook are starting to be caught from the lower bay well up into tide water.  Trolling herring or lures close to the bottom can be productive. Cutthroat trout angling is fair to good in most areas. Sea-run cutthroat trout can be found from the bay into the lower river.
  • Tillamook Bay: Angling for chinook is slow, but is expected to improve over the next couple of weeks. A few fish are available, with best fishing opportunity trolling herring on the incoming tide in the lower bay. Hatchery coho are spreading out through the bay, especially after recent rains. Trolling large bladed spinners is most effective in the upper bay. Trolling or casting spinners can be effective in the west channel.
  • Yaquina Bay: Fall chinook fishing is starting to pick up with some fish being caught from the lower bay well up into tide water. Cool temperatures have pushed some fish up river faster than normal. Cutthroat trout angling remains fair to good with sea-run cutthroat trout are being caught in the upper tidewater and low river areas.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Coho are starting to show up in the lower Clackamas River.
  • Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing is now permitted below Willamette Falls.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Summer steelhead fishing on the lower Deschutes River continues to be good.
  • Antelope Flat Reservoir has been serving up some excellent trout fishing.
  • Kokanee fishing on many area lakes should be good with the onset of the fall spawning season.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing for trout on the Blitzen River has been very good.
  • Deadhorse Lake has been yielding some massive rainbow trout.
  • Largemouth bass fishing has been very good on Krumbo Reservoir.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Good numbers of steelhead and coho have been arriving at the mouth of the Umatilla River. Fishing will get even better as water levels increase and water temperatures decrease.
  • Crappie and bass fishing have been good on McKay Reservoir.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Walleye fishing continues to be good in Troutdale and from below McNary Dam to Boardman.
  • The river is full of fall chinook between Tongue Point and Bonneville Dam, with an average of 19,958 passing through the Bonneville ladder daily.
  • Buoy 10 to Tongue Point is closed for fall chinook retention; however, there is still opportunity to catch hatchery coho and steelhead.
  • Sturgeon retention is closed from Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam through Thursday, Sept. 30.

MARINE ZONE

  • This year ranks as the third best for Oregon tuna anglers. Oregon anglers landed more than 30,000 albacore so far this year leaving only 2009 and 2007 with more sport-caught albacore. Although a few good weeks might push 2010 above 2009’s 40,000, the 2007 record of nearly 60,000 fish is in no danger this year.
  • Rockfish and lingcod continued to be off the bite last week on the central coast.
  • Crabbing is improving, but the number of crabbers is also increasing. Most crabbers had average catches between one and three crab. Crabbing in the ocean this time of year can be very productive, but also dangerous because of wind, sea and bar conditions.

 

 

2010 WA Upland Bird Prospects

September 7, 2010

Well, there’s always planted birds.

WDFW’s district-by-district forecasts for upland bird hunting in Eastern Washington paints a fairly grim picture for wingshooters chasing wild birds this fall.

A wet spring and early summer made a tough go of it for pheasants, quail, partridge and other upland birds trying to bring off clutches. Early broods appear to have fared poorly.

If there’s a highlight, it’s that Huns did well in the Blue Mountains while quail hunting is expected to be “fair to good” in the Columbia Basin.

And if you’re dedicated, you may be able to boot roosters out of the rough stuff down along Crab Creek and elsewhere in Grant County.

JACK WITH A COLUMBIA BASIN LONGTAIL. (JEFF WITKOWSKI)

Last year, the bulk of Washington’s pheasants were shot in Whitman and Grant Counties, quail in Yakima and Grant Counties, chukar in Chelan and Asotin Counties and Huns in Grant County.

Traveling upland bird hunters might head for Idaho’s Snake and Salmon River country, where IDFG reports “chukar counts are higher than they’ve been in years” or Eastern Oregon for California quail up 18 percent from last year to around 5-year average, ODFW says.

But back in Washington, here’s the word, straight from the bios:

FAR EASTERN WASHINGTON

Pheasant: Prospects look poor, relative to last year, with wet spring weather leading to poor chick production. District 2 is almost all private land; hunters will need to takes some time “knocking on doors” to get access to the better sites. The best time of the year to do this is during the winter, or during the early summer before the harvest begins. We will also be releasing game farm produced roosters once again this fall at the traditional release sites, which are mapped on the Go Hunt website — http://wdfw.wa.gov/mapping/gohunt/index.html .

Quail: Prospects look poor, relative to last year, with poor spring weather for broods. Access can be a problem, especially with most of the good quail habitat occurring in and around towns.

Gray Partridge: The prospects this year appear to be the up relative to last year with some good brood numbers seen in Whitman and Lincoln counties.

Chukar: There are very few chukar in District 2, they are predominantly found along the breaks of the Snake River. The population appears to be the same as last year. Terrain is steep and rocky with limited public access.

Forest Grouse: Numbers appear to be down in District 2, but it’s still possible to shoot one opportunistically in the forested portions of the District.

Wild Turkeys: Observations and a few reports indicate that the turkey population is doing very well in GMUs 124-133. It appears that the turkey broods survived the wet spring weather well and thus should be in a good position to take advantage of the forage produced by the wet weather.

BLUE MOUNTAINS

Upland Birds: Weather conditions were extremely wet for the 2010 nesting period. Observations of upland birds to date indicate production for pheasants will be lower than normal. Quail production and brood size appears to be average, however, hun production and brood size appears to be high.

Pheasant: Few pheasant broods have been observed in southeast Washington, which indicates production in 2010 may have been severely impacted by excessive rainfall during the spring nesting season.

Quail: Quail production appears to be average, and brood size is averaging 9.8 young/brood. Hunters should find fair hunting for quail in 2010.

Chukar & Gray Partridge: Few chukar broods have been observed to date, but the few sightings so far indicate chukar production and brood size may be up slightly. Hun production and brood size appears to be up considerably with good nesting success and broods averaging 9.8 young/brood.

Forest Grouse: Forest grouse may have suffered from the extremely wet conditions during the nesting season, as no broods have been observed to date.

CENTRAL COLUMBIA BASIN

Pheasant: Expect similar numbers of wild pheasants as observed during the 2009 season. Most birds likely went into winter in good condition due to early “greenup” of cool season grasses during fall 2009. Winter temperatures were not far from the norm and the area lacked long periods of snow crust that can result in low overwinter survival. Spring conditions however were poor to fair. Cool weather and heavy localized rain events during May and June may have resulted in low brood survival. Most hunters who invest considerable effort and cover a lot of ground will cross paths with a few wild birds and can increase their chances for a productive hunt by selecting non-toxic shot and diversifying the bag with waterfowl. Hunters may also choose to seek out pheasant release sites, see the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program for details.

The largest wild populations of pheasants in this district are likely to be found within the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George. Mixed bags of wild and released birds are likely to be had in lower Crab Creek, Gloyd Seeps, and Dry Falls units. For wild birds, dense thickets of Russian olive and cattail associated with Frenchmen and Winchester wasteways and ponds are likely to hold pheasants.

Quail: Quail hunting is expected to be fair to good this year. Most birds likely went into winter in good condition due to early “green-up” of cool season grasses during fall 2009. Winter temperatures were not far from the norm and the area lacked long periods of snow crust that can result in low overwinter survival. Spring conditions however were poor to fair. Cool weather and heavy localized rain events during May and June may have resulted in low brood survival early on but the mid-season and late broods appear to have fared well. Large coveys are difficult to find by mid-season on public lands and successful hunters will attempt to identify multiple coveys to pursue throughout the season. Riparian areas will offer the best hunting and hunters can increase their chances by securing access to private lands where pressure can be considerably lower. If pressure is high, some coveys can be found settling into shrub cover a considerable distance from heavily hunted areas.

Gray Partridge: Gray partridge occur in low densities in the basin but are rarely targeted by hunters, instead taken incidentally while hunting chukar, quail, or pheasant. Most partridge will occur on private farm fields, particularly in the dryland wheat portions of Adams and, to a lesser degree, Grant Counties. Gray partridge are a resilient bird and thus likely fared well through the winter. Winter temperatures were not far from the norm and lacked long periods of snow crust that can result in low survival. Spring conditions however were poor to fair. Cool weather and heavy localized rain events during May and June may have resulted in low brood survival.

Chukar: Most chukar hunting in the Ephrata District occurs in the Coulee Corridor areas from Lake Lenore up to the southern end of Banks Lake. Chukar is a challenging but rewarding game bird to pursue. Most birds likely went into winter in good condition due to early “green-up” of cool season grasses during fall 2009. Winter temperatures were not far from the norm and lacked long periods of snow crust that can result in low overwinter survival. Spring conditions however were poor to fair. Cool weather and heavy localized rain events during May and June may have resulted in low brood survival.

SOUTHERN COLUMBIA BASIN

Pheasant: A warm late winter, dry early spring, and wet late spring makes predictions tough. The mild winter may have contributed to good survival, but the unusual spring precipitation pattern may have contributed to poor nest and brood success. Second nest attempts were likely more successful than first and recent observations of very young broods supports this. Best pheasant habitat in the District is in north Franklin County on and surrounding WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Wildlife Area and the Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch. Both hunting areas have two parking areas with a maximum of 5 vehicles per lot and have Register to Hunt boxes on site. Other habitat areas include the Hanford Reach National Monument’s Ringold Unit, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge along the Columbia, and the Corp of Engineers Big Flat and Lost Island Habitat Management Units along the Snake River.

Quail: California quail are capable of nesting later into the summer than pheasants and therefore may have been able to take advantage of the late spring primary production. Lots of quail broods are being observed around WDFW wildlife areas. Best quail habitat in District is similar to those listing above for pheasant. In addition, anywhere along the rivers where riparian and herbaceous vegetation intersect will provide quail habitat. An ideal setting is where Russian olives or willows are adjacent to black greasewood or sagebrush.

YAKIMA, KITTITAS COUNTIES

Pheasant: The Yakama Nation conducts standardized surveys each summer. Early surveys indicate that production was below average. Expect lower numbers of wild birds than 2009. Most years about 3800 birds are released in District 8. Sunnyside Wildlife Area receives the majority of birds and over the longest timeframe.

Quail: A very cold spring and early summer eliminated most early broods. Late nesters appear to have done pretty well. Expect lower numbers than 2009.

Gray Partridge: Poor hunting the last 5+ years. Estimated harvest in 2009 was only about 320 birds. Populations probably didn’t rebound much if any in 2010.

Chukar: Populations have been low in recent years, probably due to an extended drought. Decent rain fell during 2010, but cold weather reduced early insect production. There may have been a late hatch, but bird numbers will still be low.

Forest Grouse: Harvest has been very low in recent years, especially in Yakima County. A cold spring and early summer probably had a negative impact on production. Expect poor hunting again.

KLICKITAT COUNTY

Quail: Mild winter conditions reduced winter mortality in 2009-2010. Spring nesting conditions were not favorable in the spring and early summer. Fall hunting prospects should be moderate. Most hunting is located on private lands in eastern Klickitat County, which is dominated by hunt clubs with limited access. Prospective hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access upland bird hunting areas.

Gray Partridge: Like quail, mild winter conditions reduced winter mortality in 2009-2010. Most hunting is located on private lands in eastern Klickitat County, which is dominated by hunt clubs with limited access. Prospective hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access upland bird hunting areas.

Chukar: Like quail and partridge, moderate winter conditions reduced winter mortality in 2009- 2010. Local reports indicate poor nesting success and late chucker broods. Most hunting is located on private lands in eastern Klickitat County, which is dominated by hunt clubs with limited access. Prospective hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access upland bird hunting areas.

Forest Grouse: Grouse numbers should have improved over the past two years but population increases will be moderated by cold wet conditions during the breeding season. Prospective hunters should focus on brushy riparian zones or overgrown abandoned logging roads for the best chance at success.

CHELAN, DOUGLAS COUNTIES

Pheasant: Overall, this seasons’ pheasant numbers should be similar to 2009. The cold wet conditions this spring may have impacted production; however, preliminary observations of broods lead us to believe that similar numbers are out there. Chelan County has very limited pheasant hunting opportunities due to the mountainous terrain and limited suitable habitat. Douglas County provides opportunities primarily on private lands. Look for areas with a mix of cover types and that will support birds. CRP fields, when associated with riparian and agricultural areas, and will attract more birds than large expanses of native sagebrush. In District 7, game-farm raised roosters will be released only on the Chelan Butte Wildlife Area this fall. Birds will not be released on the Swakane Wildlife Area in 2010 due to the loss of cover associated with the recent wildlife. For more information about our Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program, visit http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/publications/pub.php?id=00884

Quail: Quail numbers have declined over the past few years in both Chelan and Douglas Counties. While observations of late summer brood numbers may be up in some local areas, overall numbers are down compared to the last five years. Focus hunting efforts on areas with brushy cover near a mix of native agriculture and native habitat. Ask landowners for permission to hunt on private lands with good habitat where hunting pressure is regulated.

Gray Partridge: Gray partridge are much less numerous than quail and chukar, especially in Chelan Co. Populations should be comparable to 2009, which means you will have to work to find birds. Look for areas with a mix of grasslands bordering sagebrush or agriculture.

Chukar: Chukar numbers are low compared to what they once were, but good hunting can still be found in localized areas. Reports from late summer indicate that numbers are somewhat higher than 2009, and birds seem to be more concentrated. It will take some time to figure out the areas birds are using, but once located, you should have access to some good hunting. If you hunt the early part of the season you will have fewer hunts to contend with, however, you will have to do more climbing. Snow moves chukars downward in elevation, and that is when hunter pressure picks up.

Forest Grouse: Ruffed grouse, Dusky (Blue) grouse and Spruce grouse are relatively common in Chelan County. Both ruffed and Dusky grouse occur in Douglas County, however, their numbers are relatively low and their distribution localized. Ruffed grouse use mixed and deciduous forests and are often associated with forest edges and openings or riparian areas. Dusky grouse occupy forest habitats at mid elevations in Chelan County; they are the largest of the three species. Spruce grouse are generally found at higher elevations in conifer forests; typically above 4000 feet. Prospects for hunting forest grouse in Chelan County this fall should be similar to 2009.

OKANOGAN COUNTY

Pheasant: Pheasants are at low densities throughout the district with most wild production occurring on private land. Prospective hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access private land. Prospects may be less than last year due to spring rains affecting chick survival. Game farm produced roosters will once again be released at traditional release sites this fall. These sites are mapped on the Go Hunt website http://wdfw.wa.gov/mapping/gohunt/. Hunters should be reminded that non-toxic shot is required at the Driscoll Island, Hegdahl, and Kline Parcel release sites.

Quail: Informal surveys indicate that quail populations appear to be down this year throughout the district. A mild winter most likely increased adult survival but spring rains appear to have negatively affected early brood productivity. However, later broods appear to be more successful. Quail can be found in brushy habitats at lower elevations throughout the district.

Gray Partridge: Gray Partridge populations appear to be down this year throughout the district. A mild winter most likely increased adult survival but spring rains appear to have negatively affected early brood productivity. However, later broods appear to be more successful. Gray Partridge occur within the shrub steppe habitat throughout the district. However, populations are distributed unevenly.

Chukar: Chukar populations appear to be down this year throughout the district. A mild winter most likely increased adult survival but spring rains appear to have negatively affected early brood productivity. However, later broods appear to be more successful. Chukars are found in the steeper rocky areas throughout the shrub steppe habitats in the district.

Forest Grouse: Blue and Spruce grouse populations continue to remain low within the boundaries of the 175,000 acre Tripod fire which burned in 2006 (GMU 224 and the east side of 218). Outside of the Tripod fire forest grouse prospects should be similar to last year. Spring rains may have negatively affected chick survival in isolated locations.

Salmon Derby Raises $40K To Protect Fishing

September 7, 2010

(NORTHWEST SPORTFISHING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION PRESS RELEASE)

The 11th Annual Buoy 10 Salmon Challenge was held August 27th in Astoria Oregon, and was another smashing success, raising nearly $40,000 to protect sport fishing!

The derby began the evening of the 26th with 91enthusiastic team captains (and most of their crews) checking in for the derby. NSIA staff and volunteers greeted the captains with t-shirts and team bags which included; custom made Buoy 10 Toman Spinners from Yakima Bait, Brad’s Super Cut Plugs, Gamakatsu hooks, Silver Horde Spoons and Pemican Beef Brisket Jerky for the teams to enjoy the following day. The captains were then greeted by weigh master, Don Swartz, to discuss the rules of the derby. The night concluded with a bucket raffle featuring a G Loomis Rod with a Shimano Tekota reel valued at $430.00 and a cocktail party.

The morning of the 27th the docks were lined with fisherman launching their boats and wishing each other luck. The waters near tongue point were amazingly calm in the early morning hours, while elsewhere the waters were rough from windchop and fisherman trying to fi nd the right spot. The bite started outslow for most and as the afternoon approached it was Fish On!

By 3:00pm the teams started to arrive at Camp Rilea to weigh-in. Thirty two teams weighed fish by the cut-off of 4:00 PM. Following weigh-in, the fishermen piled into Warrior Hall and the evening began with a silent auction and dinner. Before the dinner the ceremonies were kicked off, the tournament’s VIP’s, Washington Congressman Norm Dicks and Oregon State Representative Jules Bailey, shared their thoughts with the audience.

Representative Jules Bailey discussed the jobs that the sportfishing industry provides in the Pacific Northwest. Representative Bailey also touted the importance of supporting laws and regulations that will continue to keep sportfishing around for future of generations to come. Congressman Norm Dicks educated the packed hall on all he is doing at the federal level to reform and fund hatcheries, protect funding for habitat restoration and support selective sport fisheries. Having a devoted and life long sport fisherman from Washington State sit as chair of the appropriations committee in the US House of Representatives is an enormous blessing for those of us who share Congressman Dicks’ values to protect and restore our fishery resources!

The first place team was won by Captain John Posey and his crew Carmen Macdonald and Brandon McGavrin with a combined team weight of 76.4lbs. Taking home Lamiglas XCF 803 rods, Shimano Tekota 500LC reels, Lamiglas t-shirts, Lamiglas Hats and Plano Tackle Bags for each team member.

Taking second place team were Captain Steve Leonard and his crew Mike Gubard and Roy Engel who took home G Loomis GL2 SAR1084C/ 9’ Heavy Moderate Action Rods, Okuma Reels, G Loomis Fleece and hats and Plano Tackle boxes.

Rounding into third place was Captain Scott Weedman and his team of Kevin Sellers, and Reinhold Shook winning Plano tackle boxes filled with products from Pautzke, Brads, and Yakima Bait just to name a few.

The evening concluded with team giveaways for each and every team that was present, which included everything from crab traps, to Shimano Rods! Last was the captain’s drawing, where just the captains are entered to thank them for signing up their Team. This year, the lucky captain won a freezer from Hamilton’s Appliance Center in Gladstone, Oregon.

This years Buoy 10 Salmon Challenge was a great success thanks to our record number of sponsors: All Sports, Amato Publcations, ANWS – Tom McCall Chapter, Berkley, BS Fish Tales Inc, Bob Rees Fishing Guide, Clackacraft, D & G Bait, Danielson, Duckworth, Eagle Claw, Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor, Fred Meyer, G Loomis, Hamilton’s Appliances, Kershaw, Lamiglas, Leisure Sales, Lowrance/NAVICO, Marfood, Maurice Sporting Goods, Maxima, Morton & Associates, Mustad, Normark/Rapala, Northwest Sportsman Magazine, Okuma, Oregon Tackle, Pautzke Bait*, Plano, Pro-Cure Bait Scents, Pro-Troll, Pure Fishing, Salmon Trout Steelheader, Shimano, Silver Horde, Smokehouse, Stevens Marine, The Guide’s Forecast, Three River’s Marine, Tim Bailey & Associates, Tom Posey Co., Weldcraft, Willapa Marine, and Yakima Bait Co.

Sept. 8 Opener For North-Central WA Steelheading

September 3, 2010

Word from Olympia this afternoon that steelheading on the mid-Columbia gets under way as early as tomorrow, Sept. 4, with more upstream fisheries opening from the middle of next week to midfall.

Saturday, the Hanford Reach section of the Columbia opens while Sept. 8 it’s go time on the upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Entiat and Methow rivers.

The Okanogan will open Oct. 1, the Similkameen Nov. 1.

Daily limit on the Reach — that part of the big river from the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco to Priest Rapids Dam – is two adipose fin-clipped hatchery steelhead.

On the other five rivers and upper Columbia, anglers have a four fin-clipped-fish bag limit.

Anglers will be required to retain any legal hatchery steelhead they catch until the daily limit is reached. After they have reached their daily limit, anglers must stop fishing for steelhead.

On all rivers, anglers may keep only hatchery steelhead measuring at least 20 inches in length. Steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be immediately released unharmed and must not be removed from the water. Steelhead anglers must have a valid fishing license and possess a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement.

The fisheries come on the backs of “strong” runs of wild and hatchery-produced steelhead returning to the upper Columbia River.  As of Aug. 31, about 16,600 steelhead had been counted above Priest Rapids, nearly double the overall return’s 10-year average of 8,600.

The selective fisheries, which target returning hatchery fish that exceed the number needed for spawning, were approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service. The fisheries will not impede recovery of the region’s wild steelhead, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Steelhead fisheries are carefully managed to assure that natural-origin steelhead returning to the upper Columbia River Basin survive to spawn. WDFW will closely monitor the fisheries and enforce fishing rules to ensure protection of wild steelhead.

Fishing for hatchery steelhead opens Sept. 4 at:

* Hanford Reach – From the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco to Priest Rapids Dam. The section of the river from the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco to the old Hanford town site wooden powerlines is scheduled to remain open through March 31. The section of the river from the old Hanford town site wooden powerlines to Priest Rapids Dam is scheduled to remain open through Oct. 22.

Areas that will be open from Sept. 8 until further notice include:

* Mainstem Columbia River – From Priest Rapids Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except bait is allowed. Floy tagged rainbow trout may be retained.  There is no limit or minimum size on floy tagged rainbow trout.

* Wenatchee River – From the mouth to the Icicle River Road Bridge.  Night closure and selective gear rules apply.

* Entiat River – Upstream from the Alternate Highway 97 Bridge near the mouth of the Entiat River to 800 feet downstream of the Entiat National Fish Hatchery outfall. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.

* Methow River – From the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop.  Fishing from a floating device is prohibited from the second powerline crossing to the first Highway 153 Bridge. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.

Beginning Oct. 1, the Okanogan River, from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville, will open for hatchery steelhead. The Similkameen River, from the mouth to 400 below Enloe Dam, will open Nov. 1 for hatchery steelhead. A night closure and selective gear rules will be in effect on both rivers, which will be open until further notice.

For more information on the hatchery steelhead fisheries, check the fishing rule changes on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Comments Sought On 3 Central OR Coast Reserve Areas

September 3, 2010

UPDATED SEPT. 14, 2010, 3:50 P.M.: ODFW HAS EXTENDED PUBLIC COMMENT UNTIL SEPT. 26, THE AGENCY ANNOUNCED TODAY.

ODFW is urging anglers and others to check out the various proposals for marine reserves and marine protected areas at three sites off the Central Coast, and then send their comments to local community leaders.

Online maps show different ideas for what levels of restrictions could be placed on the waters around Cascade Head north of Lincoln City, Cape Falcon between Wheeler and Cannon Beach and Cape Perpetua, from Yachats south to Heceta Head.

Recreational fishing and crabbing would be allowed in parts of the areas, but not in others; open areas vary by scenario — three for Falcon and Cascade, four for Perpetua.

THE AREA UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR MARINE RESERVES AND MARINE PROTECTED AREAS OFF CAPE PERPETUA. (ODFW)

THE AREA UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR MARINE RESERVES AND MARINE PROTECTED AREAS OFF CASCADE HEAD. (ODFW)

THE AREA UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR MARINE RESERVES AND MARINE PROTECTED AREAS OFF CAPE FALCON. (ODFW)

UPDATED SEPT14, 2010: Reserves for the waters around Otter Rock north of Newport and Redfish Rocks south of Port Orford have been in place since earlier this year; harvest restrictions begin June 30, 2011. Another could be added south of Coos Bay.

According to Cristen Don, marine reserves staff for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the scenarios described on the website are not necessarily the final recommendations the teams will present to ODFW this fall.

“Scientists and managers will analyze these scenarios and report to the community teams how well each one meets the twin goals of maximum ecological benefits and minimal social and economic impacts,” Don said. “This information, along with input from the public, will help each team develop their final site recommendation.”

The teams will be most interested in hearing how the areas are currently being used and enjoyed, how fishing, crabbing and other extractive uses may be affected by a marine reserve designation, and what species and habitats are present at each site.

There’s a downloadable “recreational fishermen questionaire” that anglers can fill out.

ODFW has been evaluating the three potential marine reserve sites at the direction of the 2009 Oregon State Legislature. Local community teams were formed for each site to consider biological, social and economic characteristics, and to submit a marine reserve recommendation to ODFW this fall.

You can send comments to the community teams at www.oregonocean.info/marinereserves or to, 2040 SE Marine Science Drive Newport, OR 97365, Attn: Cristen Don.  Comments will be accepted through Sept. 15.

Free Eye Test For WA Hunters

September 3, 2010

WDFW and the Optometric Physicians of Washington have teamed up to offer a deal where sportsmen can get their eyes checked for free as we head through this fall’s hunting seasons.

The tests are “completely voluntary,” results are kept confidential and aren’t reported back to the agency, and the only hook is that you need to present a current valid Washington hunting license when you come in for an appointment with the 75 eye doctors so far participating in the program across the state.

“To the best of our knowledge, we’re the only state in the U.S. offering visual acuity testing for hunters of all ages,” said Mik Mikitik, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s hunter education coordinator, Thursday afternoon.

It could bolster sportsmen’s image, if enough people take part.

“This has been proposed by hunters to elevate our standing in society,” Mikitik says.

Thursday marked the “soft release” of information about the program; more is expected in a few weeks. (I just happened to stumble across it while looking for WDFW’s fall Hunting Prospects.)

OUR SPORT IS PRETTY SAFE AND GROWING SAFER, statistics collected over recent decades show, but accidents happen.

According to Mikitik, around 46 percent of all incidents that have occurred in the state between 1978 and 2008 were vision related — things like raising a shotgun on a pheasant and swinging it past another hunter and firing. Indeed, stats show that 20-plus percent of accidents happen bird hunting, and a 12-gauge is the most common weapon involved.

And while hunter orange is required for modern firearms hunters chasing deer and elk, 10 percent of accidents happen when sportsmen mistake one another for game.

“The incident up in Concrete may have sparked this,” says Dr. Joseph Bee, an optometrist, hunter ed instructor and competitive shooter in Sedro-Woolley.

On August 2, 2008, hiker Pamela Almli was shot on the Sauk Mountain trail by a 14-year-old who mistook her for a black bear, a tragic mistake that should never have happened.  The boy was sentenced to 30 days in juvenile detention, community service and probation; he apologized at his sentencing.

Bee notes that through a person’s life, their vision is affected by not only their age and hormonal changes, but by cataracts and thyroid conditions. He’s seen family members  go from being able to drive to impaired vision in a year.

“This is having people be responsible for themselves,” he says. “We do not want state control on this, but if you’re going into diabetic shock, that’s going to change your vision.”

THERE’S NOTHING SINISTER ABOUT THE TEST, he and Mikitik say, though they’ve heard at least one individual’s concerns that it amounts to some sort of backdoor attempt to do away with hunting through new visual acuity requirements.

“We want to try and allay any unfounded fears that this will lead to anything else,” says Mikitik. “This is a first and last step. We think it’s good for hunters and for society.”

“I have a background in firearms safety and vision. Put the two together and that’s how this evolved,” Bee says, jokingly adding, “I’m a member of PETA — people who eat tender animals.”

If a hunter doesn’t want to take the test, that’s their own prerogative, Mikitik says.

“We will not keep any statistics,” adds Bee. “We are not going to forward information to the state that half of the hunters are blind. Everyone’s doing this under a voluntary basis.”

What hunters do with their test results afterwards is up to them too, but clearly, if found lacking, the idea is for them to do something about it.

Bee and Mikitik have been working on the idea off and on for the past 20 years, they say. This past February OPW members heard about it and then in mid-July, the organization’s board approved going forward.

“It’s just been wonderful working with Mik,” says Bee; Mikitik, who retires at the end of this month after 30 years with the agency, credits the optometrist as the driving force.

To get set up for a test, go to eyes.org, OPW’s Web site, click on Hunter Vision Screening and put either “98” or “99” in the zip code field. Up will come a list of 61 doctors who will perform the test in Western and Central Washington, 14 who will do so in Eastern and Southeastern Washington.

The test measures both eyes.

“All they’re going to do is determine if you fall below or meet or exceed driver’s license standards,” says Mikitik.

Outside of printing bills for postcards that will be dropped off at hunting and fishing license vendors and posters, the program’s remarkably cheap.

“I’ll guess we’ll end up spending $5,000, $6,000,” Mikitik says, terming that a “great investment” for the program’s statewide scope. He’d budgeted $10,000.

Bee hopes that more of the 650 OPW members in the state will sign up to provide the service. Results from this year and next will determine if the program continues.

“I just hope Washington hunters are supportive and take advantage of it,” adds Mikitik. “Good vision and good hunting go hand in hand.”

Tony Floor Sort Of Excited About Fall Coho

September 2, 2010

You’d never guess Tony Floor is excited about coho fishing opportunities around the Northwest this month by the tone of his monthly newsletter, Tony’s Tackle Box — not in a million billion years.

To wit:

… The cutoff date for Ilwaco this year is September 30. For Westport, it’s September 19 and on the north coast, at La Push and Neah Bay, it’s September 18. Do you realize what that means? It means incredible coho salmon fishing, coastwide. It means, in a year like this, coho salmon as big as semi-trucks.

Fishing near the mouth of the Columbia, and in the river per se a week ago, I saw a coho salmon driving a 20-foot Trophy boat! And, it was missing an adipose fin, the result of the fin clipping process at a WDFW salmon hatchery. Somebody get a large hook into that coho!

Sekiu is lights out in mid-September. Good luck finding a room as the town will be plugged with anglers who understand prime time. Sleeping in a tree is always an option.

Finally, I can’t overlook north Puget Sound in mid-September. The Edmonds Coho Salmon Derby (Sept. 11) and the Everett Coho Derby (Sept. 18-19) are great, well attended salmon derbies offering tons of prizes … A coho 20 pounds or better will likely provide the winning angler with a wheel barrel load of cash at both events.

It’s coho salmon fishing time in the Pacific Northwest, hey-now, hey-now. Giddy-up and I’m saddled up to find that big coho behind the wheel of the Trophy boat I saw last week. See you on the water.

There’s more from Floor, who is the fishing affairs director for the Northwest Marine Trade Association, on his blog.

The Joy Of A 3-pound Salmon

September 1, 2010

Kids have a funny way of helping us adults remember that it ain’t always about bagging the biggest buck, landing the largest Chinook or bonking the King Kong of coho.

Much smaller accomplishments can trump those any day.

I was reminded of that recently when I received an email from Terry Wiest, of Puget Sound Anglers. He was forwarding a story and photo from Mike Etzkorn, another PSA member.

Mike was fishing with his son and brother in southern Puget Sound last weekend and, as can happen when salmon fishing, it had been a pretty slow five hours on the saltchuck off Des Moines.

His boy grew restless.

“Rocky, my son, was messing around with some line and I showed him how to tie a proper improved fisherman’s knot,” Mike writes. “After about ten tries he had finally tied a knot to a barrel swivel.”

Next, the 7-year-old wanted to put a hook on the line, so Mike told Rocky to first pick out a squid from the tackle box then tie on a hook to the leader’s other end.

Rocky went for a hoochie that Mike says he’d never ever use — a clear squid with a single blue stripe down it.

“Dad, I want to fish with this,” Rocky said.

And so they reeled up the boy’s line, took off what was surely a salmon-slaying lure and tied on one that Mike says is flat “ugly.”

Would it work? Would Rocky catch a whopper Chinook? A monster coho?

No — he caught something much better not only for himself but for his pa.

“Five minutes later he reeled in (a) 3-pound silver and proclaimed this to be ‘the best day of (my) life,’” Mike writes. “I realized that 3-pound fish was also the most appreciated fish we would catch in that boat this year.”

There’s nothing like success to get anglers to switch up. Mike reports that his bro, Tony, soon slapped on the same squid and put another silver in the cooler.

Our hat’s off to you, Rocky, for turning a so-so day into a great one for yourself and your dad.

ROCKY'S 3-POUNDER, CAUGHT ON A SETUP THE 7-YEAR-OLD TIED UP BY HIMSELF, USING A HOOCHIE HIS FATHER WOULD NEVER USE. (MIKE ETZKORN)