Archive for October, 2010

The Halloween Buck

October 29, 2010

Somehow — it’s still unclear how — I’ve been roped into helping a friend of my wife’s move on Halloween, the last day of rifle deer season here in Western Washington.

True, blacktails are not my favorite deer to hunt, but I’ll take anything right now.

I’m as desperate to get out there as a friend of mine is to just see the buggers. He’s been out this week on clearcuts in Snohomish County and has seen, if I recall, precisely one deer (a doe) in the jungle. He’s also heard a twig snap.

That’s about it, though.

But he’s got a plan. To clear the cuts out for hunting, he’s in the market for some Agent Orange.

“It would have to be fast acting, like an hour tops,” he says. “I could contact somebody at Harvey Airfield and have them do a fly by very early tomorrow morning, and then you and I could sneak in there, with facemasks/respirators/hazmat suits on, and make our stalk.”

As good as an idea as that sounds right now, I don’t think Uncle Ted saved any from Vietnam, bub.

Plus, I got that moving to do.

I’m not the only guy in the world, of course, whose wife has other ideas than letting us clear out for hunting season.

Pat Thomas’s plans to take final day of deer hunting off last October were thwarted by the Missus. He ended up in his daughter’s class dressed up as … well, you’ll see when you read his tale, The Halloween Buck:

As an average suburban dad, free time is scarce. Between 40-plus hours a week on the job, two kids and trying to keep the wife happy, there isn’t much time left over. So when deer season comes around each fall, something has to give.

Sure I hunt the weekends like everyone else, but now that my kids are getting older, the leisurely all-day excursions in the hills behind my town are becoming fewer and farther between. It’s often running up for two hours in the morning, coming home to take the daughter to a birthday party, then darting back up to glass a clear-cut just before sundown – hardly a dependable method.

Considering that less than 20 percent of rifle hunters successfully bag a buck in my area each year, it seems that many other hunters are feeling the same life pressures I am.

Perhaps we all need to get our priorities in order.

Last Halloween, I finally did.

It was perfect. There was nothing going on at work on Friday and my boss was going to be out of the office. A prime opportunity to use a bit of the vacation time I store up throughout the year for this sort of situation. This Friday happened to be Halloween, the last day of the early deer season.

I was giddy as I drove home Thursday night. No computers, staff meetings or PowerPoint charts. Just logging roads, clearcuts and a childlike hope of putting my crosshairs on the vitals of a mature blacktail buck.

When I got home I just couldn’t contain my excitement and mentioned to my wife I was taking tomorrow off to go hunting.

She, however, didn’t share the same level of enthusiasm. In fact, she informed me that my oldest daughter had a school Halloween party in the morning, and that since I would be home, I would be attending.

It’s amazing to me how many things seem to pop up when you decide to take a day off.

I was doomed. My daughter wanted me to go and I can’t resist a 6-year-old’s “Please, Daaaaaaaaad!”

So much for the perfect plan.

To make matters worse I had to wear a costume to her school.

Instead of bagging the whole thing, I decided I would go to the party in the morning and then head to the woods after it was over. Since I had no costume, I wore my camo and orange and dressed as a deer hunter – a perfectly acceptable costume in the town of Enumclaw.

HALLOWEEN MORNING, as the sun was creeping over the horizon, I found myself stationed at a craft table in a miniature chair that was literally 20 inches off the floor. Knees towering over the tiny table in front of me, I helped kindergarteners stuff popcorn into plastic gloves for an hour and a half.

I think they were supposed to be skeleton hands or something, but they just looked like white, lumpy blobs. I was trying, but I’m not exactly a craft whiz.

As I assisted the hoards of costume clad munchkins at my station, the clock kept ticking and ticking. I could almost hear it in my head…driving me toward insanity like the corpse beneath the floorboards in the “tell tale Heart”. Just as the clock hit ten thirty and I was about to run screaming out the door. My wife tapped me on the shoulder. With an appreciative smile and a nod, she released me to the woods. I was in the truck 30 seconds later.

I reached the gate to the Hancock forest management area by 10:50 and I took the mainline up to a clear-cut where I had spotted several deer throughout the course of the early season, but I had not seen any mature bucks.

I pulled my red F150 off the dirt road about 200 yards short of the landing overlooking the clear-cut and quietly exited the truck. I loaded my rifle and walked slowly toward the landing. I was relieved to be in the woods, but I should have been there four hours earlier.

A light drizzle fell and quieted my footsteps as I walked to a stump atop a slash pile of dead logs and limbs. I sat down, put my .30-06 across my lap and started glassing.

I worked from the open swath under the power lines to the far right, down the reprod and into the timber. I then swung out into the 2-year-old clear-cut below and left to the knob of the next hill. Picking apart the browns, grays and greens of the landscape through the rain I searched for any sign of life.

Nothing.

The rain continued to drip off the wide brim of my bucket hat. I kept my eyes to the glass for 15 minutes.

Nothing.

The excitement of being back in the woods had started to numb and I started to ponder my next move. How long should I sit? It was damn near midday. Still hunting the tree line might be more productive. Damn I got a late start. I shouldn’t have said anything to my wife, then

I’d have been up there at first light.

I put the green binoculars up again and looked through the glass; I swung a slow path and searched.

Nothing.

I set them down and looked left.

Antlers.

One hundred and twenty yards below, a 3×3 blacktail buck paced slowly up a trail headed directly at me. My heart jumped. I thumbed the grooved lever safety to off.

“Click.”

The deer stopped, eyes fixed on my position and nose in the air.

I slowly leaned out over my left knee, resting my elbow on my thigh and raising the scope up. I gently popped the scope cap and buried the stock in my shoulder.

I directed the crosshairs to the tuft of white hair on his chest, exhaled, and let go the 125-grain nozzler bullet.

Recoil.

Buck down.

The deer had beautiful chestnut antlers and high forked points, the best Halloween present I could ask for. I pulled the trigger at 11:20 and I was home by noon.

 

ALL TREAT FOR PATRICK THOMAS WHEN HE BAGGED THIS HALLOWEEN BUCK. (PATRICK THOMAS)

WDFW Green Lights Early-Nov. Clam Dig

October 29, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Clam diggers have a green light to proceed with the season’s second razor-clam dig, starting at noon Friday, Nov. 5 on five ocean beaches.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the dig after marine toxin tests confirmed the clams on those beaches are safe to eat.

Digging will be allowed at Twin Harbors beach for four days, Nov. 5-8. Four other beaches – Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch and Long Beach – will be open for two days of digging, Nov. 5-6.

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

No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the five razor-clam beaches.

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.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said diggers heading to Copalis and Mocrocks should be aware of a traffic revision on eastbound U.S. Highway 101 in Hoquiam due to emergency work on the Simpson Avenue Bridge.

“This is the only route to those beaches, so people should allow extra travel time to make sure they arrive on time,” Ayres said. He advises diggers to check the Washington Department of Transportation website for updated information at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/us101/simpsonbridgepierrepair/ .

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

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

Opening dates and evening low tides for the upcoming dig are:

* Nov. 5, Fri. – 6:41 p.m., (-1.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Nov. 6, Sat. – 7:26 p.m., (-1.6 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Nov. 7, Sun. – 7:11 p.m., (-1.5 ft.), Twin Harbors (daylight savings time ends)
* Nov. 8, Mon. – 7:55 p.m., (-1.2 ft.), Twin Harbors

Areas opening for digging those days are defined as follows:

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

WDFW has tentatively scheduled another razor-clam dig at Long Beach and Twin Harbors later in November, pending the results of another round of marine toxin tests.
Tentative opening dates and evening low tides for that dig are:

* Nov. 20, Sat. – 5:39 p.m., (-0.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* Nov. 21, Sun. – 6:17 p.m., (-0.7 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors

Wolf Plan Comments Out

October 29, 2010

The comments range from the short and terse — “Well written”; “CRAP !!!!” — to pages-long analysis by skeptical tribal biologists and wolf advocates, to a Defenders of Wildlife petition that reads, in part, “It is heartbreaking that the Emerald State has been deprived of wolves …”

The Emerald State?

Ahem, it’s the Evergreen State, thank you.

That’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in the 60,000-plus comments on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s draft wolf management plan posted online yesterday afternoon.

A final plan for the Fish & Wildlife Commission is still a year away, a revised timeline shows, but that may be affected by a bill lawmakers from rural districts of the state are putting together for the next legislative session. See the November issue of Northwest Sportsman for more on that front.

Meanwhile, since the anniversary of Elvis’s birthday last January, WDFW staffers have been wading through all the letters, postcards, petitions and audio testimony they recieved following a three-month-long comment period. They’ve sorted it all out into six broad categories:

Letters — 524 from government, conservation organizations, livestock interests, hunting groups, legislators, others and individuals.

Online comments, 3,383 on everything from the plan’s executive summary to the chances of a wolf-based tourism industry growing in Washington

Public testimony, 254 taken during last fall’s twelve meetings held around the state

Six petitions

Six different form letters

And five different form postcards.

Added together, it’s proof of how charged an issue wolf recovery is, and how passionate are advocates and opponents alike.

“It reaffirms, with no real surprise, the feelings on the issue,” confirms Rocky Beach, WDFW’s wildlife diversity manager in Olympia.

The Defenders of Wildlife petition had the most signers, some 57,764, most of which were from outside Washington state — and indeed, over 11 percent of the names on the list appear to have come from as far across the world as Alice Springs, Bangkok, Cape Town, Denmark and elsewhere outside the U.S.

Those who contributed their mark agreed:

I strongly support efforts to fully restore wolves to Washington State.

It is heartbreaking that the Emerald State has been deprived of wolves since the extensive wolf extermination campaigns of the late 1800s eliminated these magnificent animals from Washington, and I was very happy to learn that two packs have made their way back to eastern Washington.

Historically, wolves have not only played an important role in balancing ecosystems in Washington. They also figure prominently in Washington’s rich cultural heritage, particularly in the creation stories of the Quileute Native American tribe of coastal Washington …

Fast forward a few millenia and a letter WDFW received from a neighboring coastal tribe shows that the Makah Tribal Council has serious problems with the plan, especially translocating wolves to the Olympic Peninsula where local deer herds are struggling with hair-louse issues and elk reproduction is well below other regions.

Deer and elk populations are vitally important to the Makah Tribe for subsistence and ceremonial uses. Although the Tribe recognizes that the wolf holds cultural importance to Makahs, at this time … the ungulate populations Makah hunters rely on for subsistence are of significantly higher priority. Introduction of another predator into an already diverse predator community would be detrimental to these ungulate populations.

Adds the chair of the Muckleshoot Tribe’s Wildlife Committee:

“If wolves are added to the mix without flexible management options the results could have substantial negative impacts to all tribal members.”

The Muckleshoot refuse to reduce their harvest, and call on state hunters to instead lower theirs.

The draft plan’s current preferred option calls for a minimum of 15 breeding pairs in three regions of the state for three years in a row as the recovery goal before lifting state protections.

Translocation — moving wolves around inside the state — is under consideration.

One apparently hand-drawn petition signed by 39 people states, “We the people wish and intensely desire that wolves be translocated to the Olympic National Park. Also we would love to see the number of breeding pairs increased from fifteen to fify (sic).”

The superintendent of that park is among government officials who sent letters. Karen Gustin as well as the chiefs at North Cascades and Mt. Rainier National Parks say that adding a fourth recovery area on the Olympic Peninsula “will allow the state to reach its recovery objectives and meet NPS objectives of restoring extirpated species and restoring ecosystem function in NPS units.”

The Kittitas County Field & Stream club and head of the Washington State Trappers Association don’t like any of WDFW’s options on the table.

Letters from hunters show we worry about the affect wolves will have on big-game herds:

There is no reason why we should intoduce more wolves or increase their population. As a hunter there isn’t enough game right now for me to fill my tags. You will be absoulty nuts if you increase the wolf population. Take a look at Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. I use to hunt there and now I don’t because of wolves. There is no game …

Stan Bauer,  Graham

I ask that you allow hunting wolves to be part of any final draft plan. To not do so will severly effect WDFW revenue as hunters will not purchese tags or hunt in areas that are depleted of game with no way to address the problem. I am willing to accept wolf reintroduction but I ask that it be done with the intelligence that hunting wolves will be needed to balance the ecosystem.

Jayson Hills,  East Wenatchee WA

I am a hunter. My favorite hunts are the ones deep into the wilderness areas of our state. The return of the wolf to these remote areas is not only unavoidable but critical to true, healthy wilderness. How can you have a wilderness void of the last great predator? Of course I’m concerned about how my elk and deer will fare and I’m sure there will be areas where we will see a decline in their numbers as the wolves increase but with proper game management we can compensate for this. Eventually the proper balance will be reached. I feel that the wolf should be allowed to return and grow to healthy numbers then managed like we manage all our game animals. While I would never kill a wolf if we can grow their numbers properly we can then manage them. I can only hope that some day on a hunt deep into the Pasaytan wilderness I hear the song of a fellow predator. Only then will the wild return to wilderness. Good luck.

Gregg Bafundo,  Normandy Park WA

Some commenters mistakenly believe WDFW is actively planning on or currently reintroducing wolves into the state.

Others callously throw sportsmen under the wolf bus — never mind our contribution to the recovery of all kinds of critters the past 100 years.

A missive from Diane Weinstein says “Hunting of ungulates should also be restricted in wolf recovery areas to prevent the ‘Shoot, shovel, and shut up’ group from killing wolves.”

Yeah, thaaaaaaaaaaaat seems like it will lead to warm, fuzzy feelings between sportsmen, wolves and wolf advocates.

Scott Fisher, a Department of Natural Resources biologist once quoted in our magazine on wolves, has a better idea. His letter states:

“It is paramount to maintain as many management options as possible to ensure that people most likely to be impacted by wolves, especially those in rural landscapes who tend to be more anti-wolf in their opinions, feel like they have some control over their particular situation and are not at the mercy of forces or conditions elsewhere in the state.”

He suggests that rather than a statewide recovery goal, have one for the part of Washington where wolves are included in the Northern Rockies population and are recolonizing on their own.

Fisher adds that because Eastern Washington will likely meet recovery goals first, wolves from the region would be translocated west. However, he suggests that we don’t know for sure what sort of wolves actually occurred in the Cascades and Western Washington before they were wiped out. He calls on WDFW to perform an exhaustive review of museum specimens.

“It is important to maintain genetic diveresity and unique populations and translocating Rocky Mountain wolves into the Cascades may be as biologically inappropriate as it would be to translocate Mexican wolves into the Cascades.”

Form-letter and postcard campaigns generally call for upping the number of wolves required for recovery.

Others who submitted their comments include Northeast Washington county commissioners, state and regional conservation organizations as well as The Mountaineers and the Mount Olive Grange.

WDFW’s Rocky Beach says that in general, the written comments echo those that the agency has heard during 20 public meetings on wolves.

“Nothing really caught us by surprise,” adds Gary Wiles, another WDFW staffer who went through many of the documents.

Beach says that the next step is categorizing the comments by theme. Eight hundred separate ideas have been identified, he says, and those will be put into a spreadsheet and given answers.

By posting all the raw comments, Beach says the agency is trying to keep people in the loop.

“We’ve tried to show as much transparency as possible because of the interest in the issue,” he says.

Next month, the agency will also meet with its 17-member Wolf Working Group with an update on the plan and comments received. Then next spring, WDFW will come back to the group with more comments and possible tweaks to the plan, then bring a managment plan to the Fish & Wildlife Commission next August.

November Hunting Forecast For Washington

October 28, 2010

With October — the best month ever invented — fading quickly, it’s time to look towards November’s hunting opportunities around Washington.

Next month offers everything from bucks and bulls to gobblers and ringnecks to quackers and honkers.

But some hunts will be better than others.

WDFW’s Weekender breaks it down for us:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

November is prime time for waterfowl hunting in the region, where more and more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. After a couple weeks of good hunting, there’s typically a lull in the action in late October, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.

“But hunting usually improves in mid-November, when the number of migrants arriving to the area picks up along with the wet and windy weather,” he said.

Goose hunts are open through Oct. 28 in the region, and then start again Nov. 6. However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) will run from Oct. 16 through Jan. 30 without a break. The duck hunting season also is open through Jan. 30.

Hunters who would like to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area should visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/snow_goose/ for information on the rules and requirements.

Upland bird hunters have through Nov. 30 to hunt pheasants, California quail and bobwhite , while the forest grouse season runs through Dec. 31.

Bear and cougar hunts are also open in the region. However, the bear hunting season closes Nov. 15.

PENINSULA & SOUTH SOUND

November is prime time for hunting in the region, offering a variety of hunting opportunities from waterfowl to big game. Warm, dry conditions made for some tough hunting conditions in October, but that is expected to change in a month known for falling temperatures and rising precipitation.

“November is a busy month for hunters,” said Jerry Nelson, WDFW deer and elk specialist. “Popular hunting seasons are open for one species or another throughout the month, and we can usually count on weather conditions that support hunters’ success in the field.”

The modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31. Then comes the modern firearm season for elk , which is open Nov. 6-16, and the late modern firearm season for deer that runs Nov. 18-21.

CALLIE WILLIAMSON'S 2009 BULL. (DAVID WILLIAMSON)

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 24, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open the following day, Nov. 25.

SOUTHWEST

Elk hunters using modern firearms will take the field in western Washington from Nov. 6-16 for one of the most popular hunting seasons of the year. Archers and muzzleloaders will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during the late season that gets under way Nov. 24 in selected game management units (GMUs).

Sandra Jonker, WDFW regional wildlife manager, said southwest Washington consistently offers some of the best elk hunting in the state, and this year shouldn’t be any different.

“The mild winter appears to have improved hunting prospects for this year,” she said.

Jonker reminds hunters of new rules now in effect that prohibit taking antlerless elk during any general modern firearms seasons or muzzleloader seasons in GMUs 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River), or 578 (West Klickitat). A three-point antler restriction will also be in effect during general hunting seasons in these areas.

Antlerless elk hunting in all three GMUs is now offered through the special-permit process for both modern firearm and muzzleloader hunts. Tag numbers have been allocated at levels designed to maintain harvest and hunting opportunity at a level similar to that of the past five years in these GMUs, Jonker said.

For more information on elk hunting and other big-game seasons, see the Big Game Hunting pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ .

Another popular hunt, the “late buck” season for black-tailed deer , runs Nov. 18-21 in select game management units (GMU) throughout western Washington. Although the late-buck season is only four days long, it usually accounts for about a third of all the deer taken each year by hunters in the region.

“One reason why hunters are so successful during the late season is that the bucks are more active,” Jonker said. “By then, the temperatures have dropped and the rut is coming to an end.”

As with elk, a late season for deer will open to archers starting Nov. 24 and to muzzleloaders starting Nov. 25, in some GMUs.

This is the fourth year of the St. Helens Land Access Program, a cooperative effort between Weyerhaeuser, WDFW, and many volunteer organizations to facilitate providing additional weekday motorized access for hunters during special elk permit seasons on the Weyerhaeuser St. Helen Tree Farm. Those interested in helping to provide this access, can sign up at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/sainthelens/ .

The hunting season for black bear ends Nov. 15, and the general hunting season for cougar ends Nov. 30 in Klickitat County.

Meanwhile, hunting seasons for geese will remain open in Management Areas 3 and 5 (including Lewis, Skamania and Klickitat counties) through Jan. 30, 2011. Wildlife managers expect hunting to improve in both areas as cold temperatures drive more birds into the region from the north.

Starting Nov. 13, Management Area 2A (Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and part of Clark County) will open to hunters who have successfully completed a goose-identification test administered by WDFW. Hunting in most sections of Area 2A is limited to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only. An exception is the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where goose hunting is restricted to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Hunting for pheasants ? While there is some wild production of pheasants, pen-raised birds at formal release sites in Klickitat County and Clark County provide the best hunting prospects. For information about those sites, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/pheasant/western/ on the WDFW website.

FAR EASTERN WASHINGTON

The modern firearm general elk hunting season and some special permit elk hunts run Oct. 30 through Nov. 7 in select game management units. The southeast’s Blue Mountains herds are providing the best opportunities again this season. Late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting in select game management units gets under way in late November. Check the regulations pamphlet for legal elk definitions and all other rules.

Pheasant hunting has been under way since Oct. 23. WDFW Enforcement Sergeant Dan Rahn reports success has been marginal, with heavy rain in at least the central district of the region over opening weekend.

“Hunters have been braving the storms and report seeing average number of birds,” Rahn said.

Most regional biologists reported few pheasant broods this year. Joey McCanna, a WDFW upland game specialist, initiated survey routes to count birds this year, but the numbers so far are not relative to anything comparable from past years. Pheasants per square mile ranged from less than one in the Colton and Pomeroy areas to over two in the Walla Walla area. Brood sizes ranged from near five in the Lancaster and Union Flat Creek areas to near seven in the Colfax and Hay areas. McCanna thinks this year’s season could be similar to 2009, when hunter participation was down three percent but harvest was up three percent. Last year in Whitman County alone, for example, some 3,073 hunters spent 18,827 days to harvest 11,795 pheasants.

Game-farm-raised pheasants will be released throughout the three-month-long season at several release sites to boost opportunities, although the total number of birds will be down from past years. See the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/pheasant/eastern/ ) for detailed information about those sites.

Sergeant Rahn reminds pheasant hunters to wear the required hunter orange and be aware of others hunting in the same area. He also reminds all hunters who witness poaching or other illegal conduct afield to call the Washington State Patrol at 227-6560 or call 911 to relay messages most quickly to WDFW officers.

Late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting runs Nov. 6-19 in game management units 105-124, where any buck is legal. Late archery and muzzleloader deer general hunting and modern firearm special permit deer hunting in select units throughout the region is in late November.

Earlier deer hunting participation and results can provide a glimpse of the prospects for these seasons, although rut behavior and weather conditions can change opportunities dramatically. In southeast units checked, WDFW district wildlife biologist Pat Fowler reported deer hunting pressure was spotty, with low pressure in the mountains and wilderness area, moderate pressure in the foothills, and low to moderate pressure in the lowland farming area.

Success in the mountains appears to be low, moderate in the foothills, and low in the farmland area. WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area was full of deer hunting camps and the adjacent Last Resort was busy checking deer into the cooler. In northeast units surveyed through traditional roadside check stations, WDFW district wildlife biologist Dana Base reported a relatively average rate of participation and success – about 380 hunters contacted with about 12 percent of them successfully harvesting deer.

The northeast district’s wild turkey late fall general season is just in time for bagging a bird for the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday dinner table. From Nov. 20 through Dec. 15, turkey hunters can take either sex birds in northeast game management units 105-124, where the big birds are relatively plentiful. Hunters who already bagged a bird or two (depending on the sex), can still take one more turkey in this late season. See all the regulation details on page 67 of the Big Game pamphlet.

Holiday tablefare opportunities are also available for goose hunters in this region. There are three extra days this month for goose hunting in Spokane, Lincoln and Walla Walla counties where the season is restricted to weekends and Wednesdays. Thursday, Nov. 11, and Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25-26, are open for goose hunting.

Waterfowl hunting in general should improve as more wintery weather develops throughout the region. WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area manager Juli Anderson reports recent rain has been a good start toward filling the area’s many small potholes that have been dry this year. If rain continues and deep freezing holds off, ducks and geese should be drawn in and could provide limited hunting opportunities.

Fall black bear hunting season in select game management units throughout the region closes Nov. 15. Special permit moose hunting in select game management units in the northeast district closes Nov. 30.

NORTH-CENTRAL

WDFW Waterfowl Specialist Mikal Moore of Moses Lake reports the waterfowl hunting season in the north Columbia Basin opened with better than expected participation and success. Depending on weather, prospects for the rest of the season look good, he said.

“The most successful hunters were those hunting isolated potholes in the North Potholes area and the Frenchman Wasteway between Dodson Road and Road C Southeast,” Moore said. “Both areas averaged four birds per hunter, though mallards dominated the bag on the Frenchman, and American green-winged teal were most common on North Potholes.”

Moore said water delivery to the Winchester Regulated Access Area (RAA) has been slowed by an enormous beaver lodge, which prevented the area from flooding in time for the opener.

“It’s receiving water now and should be a good hunting spot until freeze-up, thanks to all the mallards using the Frenchman Reserve,” she said.

Moore also noted small Canada geese are arriving in the Stratford area in large numbers. They will spend a few weeks feeding on harvested wheat fields in the area before distributing through the Basin. Contracts for access to harvested corn stubble fields in the Columbia Basin are in the works, but they won’t be finalized until after the field corn harvest, approximately in mid-November. Moore said a map of walk-in hunting fields enrolled in the Corn Stubble Retention Program will be posted on WDFW’s Northcentral Region webpage, once the contracts are complete.

Hunting for the Thanksgiving holiday? Goose hunters will have three extra days in November in areas where the season is usually restricted to weekends and Wednesdays. Those extra days are Thursday, Nov. 11; Thursday, Nov. 25; and Friday, Nov. 26.

A special-permit wild turkey hunt also arrives just in time to bag a bird for the Thanksgiving – or Christmas – holiday dinner table. For the 50 permitees drawn earlier this year, the season runs Nov. 15 through Dec. 15 in game management units 218-231 and 242.

Meanwhile, special-permit and late archery deer hunting gets under way in select game management units later in November. Depending on the weather, prospects look good, considering the condition of deer already checked during earlier seasons, said Scott Fitkin, a WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist.

Fitkin said the deer check station in the Methow conducted on the final weekend of the general modern firearm season, showed excellent body condition of harvested animals and several older age class bucks.

“The percentage of 2 ½ year-old deer in the sample increased over last year as predicted, given the improved fawn recruitment two winters ago,” Fitkin said. “Greater availability of young bucks, combined with good buck carryover from 2009, may boost success rates this year. However, hunter numbers and success as tallied at the check station could not be accurately compared to last year, due to the change in check station location.”

Fitkin also noted snow has come to the high country, with more unsettled weather in the forecast. Those conditions should also improve prospects for permit and archery hunters in November.

SOUTH-CENTRAL

November is prime time for hunting in central Washington, offering a variety of hunting opportunities from waterfowl to big game. Warm, dry conditions made for some tough hunting conditions in October, but that is expected to change as temperatures continue to drop and the rain and snow begins to fall in earnest.

A prime example is the modern firearm hunting season for elk , which opens Oct. 30. Southcentral Washington consistently offers some of the best elk hunting in the state, and this year shouldn’t be any different, said Ted Clausing, WDFW regional wildlife manager.

“We’re seeing a lot of elk, and the numbers look good,” Clausing said. “The Yakima and Colockum herds both appear to have benefited from the mild winter.”

Hunting areas for elk abound in Yakima and Kittitas counties (District 8), where most public lands and private timber lands are open to hunters. That is not the case in Franklin and Benton counties (District 4), where hunting opportunities are largely limited to private property surrounding the western and southern boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument (Game Management Unit 372).

For archers, a number of game management units (GMUs) open for deer and elk hunting Nov. 24 and run through Dec. 8. For more information, see WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/ and at license vendors around the state.

As noted in the pamphlet, the hunting season for black bear ends Nov. 15. The general season for cougar using any weapon runs through Dec. 31 in the Kittitas-Yakima Zone and through March 2011 in the Columbia Basin Zone.

Meanwhile, hunting seasons continue throughout the region for geese, ducks, coots, snipe, California quail, chukar, forest grouse, pheasant, partridge, cottontail and horseshoe rabbit .

Local waterfowl production is down this year, but hunting should pick up once cold temperatures up north drive more birds into the area. In Franklin County, small ponds and lakes on WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Wildlife Area and the Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch are good places to hunt ducks and geese. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also provide hunting areas along the Snake and Columbia Rivers for bank and boat hunters.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

October 28, 2010

While I bombed back and forth to deer camp — blowing up and down the Methow River in a mad race to get a muley and get back to work to approve magazine pages for press — John Brace was doing something eminently smarter.

He was stopping along the North-central Washington river and fishing it — catching steelies too.

JOHN BRACE WITH A METHOW STEELIE FROM LAST WEEK. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Indeed, as craptacular of a steelheader as I am, with this year’s big run (18,000-plus), I think my best bet for a Methow buck was actually on the river, not in the hills.

And while deer hunting is more or less wrapped up along the river, the Met remains open through November and beyond for hatchery steelhead retention. While the majority of guys I saw appeared to be fly fishermen, others, like Brace, use a mix of jigs, spoons and spinners to catch the sea-run rainbows on the selective-gear river.

But if that part of Washington is a weeeeeee bit far to travel — especially with the North Cascades Pass becoming dicier as winter sets in in the heights — there are plenty of other opportunities to be had around the Evergreen State.

Here’s what WDFW’s freshly minted Weekender suggests:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

Anglers will continue to find some coho in the region’s rivers and streams, but by mid-November chum salmon will take center stage. On Puget Sound, more areas are scheduled to open for chinook fishing, as well as late-season crab opportunities.

At 8 a.m. on Nov. 15, marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 12 (Hood Canal) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2011.

Crab fishing will also remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since June 18.

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual quota, said Rich Childers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish policy coordinator.

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. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/ .

While on the Sound, why not fish for blackmouth ? Beginning Nov. 1, opportunities for blackmouth will increase, as marine areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 open for chinook. Anglers fishing those marine areas, as well as Marine Area 10, have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Anglers are reminded that Marine Area 7 closes to salmon retention Nov. 1.

Saltwater anglers fishing for chum salmon may want to try waters around Point No Point (north end of the Kitsap Peninsula) and Possession Bar (southern portion of Whidbey Island). Those two areas of Marine Area 9 are often hotspots for chum salmon in early November.

Meanwhile, several rivers are open for salmon fishing, including the Snohomish, Skykomish, Stillaguamish, Snoqualmie and Wallace. Anglers fishing those rivers have a daily limit of two coho. 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/ .

For trout anglers, Beaver Lake near Issaquah could be the best place to cast for rainbows in November. About 2,300 hatchery rainbows – averaging 2 to 3 pounds each – are scheduled to be released into the lake Nov. 8. Beaver Lake, which is one of several westside lowland lakes open to fishing year-round, is best fished by small boat, although anglers also can be successful fishing from shore.

SOUTH SOUND AND PENINSULA

Anglers fishing for salmon often turn their attention to chum in November, when the run usually peaks around the middle of the month. But shellfish really take center stage as more areas of Puget Sound re-open for sport crabbing in November and two razor clam digs are tentatively scheduled on coastal beaches.

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

* Nov. 5, Fri. – 6:41 p.m., (-1.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Nov. 6, Sat. – 7:26 p.m., (-1.6 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Nov. 7, Sun. – 7:11 p.m., (-1.5 ft.), Twin Harbors
* Nov. 8, Mon. – 7:55 p.m., (-1.2 ft.), Twin Harbors

Later in the November, razor clammers will have another opportunity at Long Beach and Twin Harbors. Tentative opening dates and evening low tides for that dig are:

* Nov. 20, Sat. – 5:39 p.m., (-0.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors
* Nov. 21, Sun. – 6:17 p.m., (-0.7 ft.), Long Beach, 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 Dec. 3-6 and Dec. 31-Jan. 2.

Rather catch crab ? At 8 a.m. on Nov. 15, marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 12 (Hood Canal) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2011.

Crab fishing will also remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since June 18.

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual quota, said Rich Childers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish policy coordinator.

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. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/ .

Recreationists on the Sound can also pursue blackmouth – resident chinook. Beginning Nov. 1, anglers fishing marine areas 5 (Sekiu), 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound) can keep one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. However, salmon fishing in Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) is only open through Oct. 31.

Elsewhere, anglers fishing Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) have a daily limit of four salmon, but only one of those fish can be a chinook.

November is when the action heats up in the region for chum salmon . Popular fishing spots include the Hoodsport Hatchery area of Hood Canal and the mouth of Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet. Other areas where anglers can find chum salmon include the Dosewallips and Duckabush rivers in Jefferson County and Minter Creek in Pierce/Kitsap Counties. Those three rivers open for salmon fishing Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, salmon fisheries remain open through Nov. 30 on the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah, Dickey, Clearwater and Hoh rivers. Also open for salmon fishing through November, are the Elk, Hoquiam and Johns rivers and Joe Creek in Grays Harbor County; and the Bear and Niawiakum rivers in Pacific County. In Mason County, the Skokomish River is open for salmon fishing through Dec. 15.

Winter steelhead fisheries get under way in November on several rivers, including the Bogachiel, Calawah, Sol Duc, Quillayute and Hoh. Beginning Nov. 1, anglers fishing those rivers have a daily limit of three hatchery steelhead. “Traditionally, the winter steelhead fishery doesn’t really get going until later in November,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager. “Anglers can certainly find some steelhead early in the month, but around Thanksgiving is when fishing usually starts to improve.”

Grays Harbor-area rivers, such as the Satsop, Wynoochee and Humptulips, also are good bets for anglers once steelhead start to arrive, said Leland.

Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all fisheries on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

SOUTHWEST

Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the popular winter steelhead fishery, although some anglers started working their favorite rivers well ahead of time. A number of area rivers have been open to fishing for hatchery steelhead for months, and catch totals have been rising since mid-October.

That tally will likely increase even faster now that the first big storm of the season has soaked the region with heavy rains, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Steelhead move upriver on pulses of water, and the storm really helped to prime the pump,” Hymer said. “Now that the ground is good and wet, we can expect to see more and more fish move upstream every time the sky opens up and the rivers start to swell.”

Major destinations for hatchery-reared steelhead moving up the Columbia River are the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis (east and north forks), Washougal, Elochoman and Grays rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County, he said. Other waters opening for steelhead fishing Nov. 1 are Abernathy, Coal and Germany creeks, the Coweeman River and Cedar Creek in Clark County and Mill Creek in Cowlitz County.

Only hatchery-reared steelhead, which have a clipped adipose fin, may be retained in regional waters.  All wild, unmarked fish must be released unharmed.

But until Thanksgiving – or whenever steelhead begin to arrive en masse – late-run coho salmon may be the best target for anglers who want to catch fish. While the coho run has peaked, those fish should generate some action on the mainstem Columbia and many of its tributaries right through November, Hymer said.

“These are fairly large fish, some weighing up to 20 pounds apiece,” he said. “The trick is getting them to bite. The best time is when they are moving upriver, drawn by high water. Otherwise, it can be hard to get their attention.”

State regulations allow anglers to catch and keep up to six adult coho salmon per day on the Elochoman, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Kalama, Lewis and Washougal rivers, as well as the lower portion of the Grays River.  Several rivers also remain open for chinook salmon , although some close Oct. 31.

Effective that day, the No. 5 fishway on the Klickitat River closes upstream to chinook fishing, the Wind River closes to all salmon fishing, and the stretch of the Columbia River from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam closes to all fishing for both salmon and steelhead. For additional information on fishing seasons, see the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/  ).

Other fishing options in the days before – and possibly after – Thanksgiving include:

* Sturgeon:   Anglers reeled in nearly 1,500 legal-size sturgeon from the lower Columbia River above the Wauna powerlines during the first three weeks of October.  As of Oct. 17, there were 841 fish available for harvest for the remainder of the year. The fishery is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until the quota is met. Before heading out, anglers are advised to check the WDFW website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ) to make sure the fishery is still open for retention of white sturgeon.
* Cowlitz cutthroats:   October is prime time to catch sea-run cutthroat trout on the Cowlitz River, but the fish usually keep biting through November, Hymer said. The best fishing is from Blue Creek near the trout hatchery on downriver, he said. “Sea-run cutthroat are aggressive, hard-fighting fish,” he said. “They’ll take flies, bait, lures – practically anything you throw at them.” Anglers may retain up to five hatchery-reared cutthroats per day as part of the daily trout limit on the lower Cowlitz River, where the fish generally range from 12 to 20 inches.
* Swift Reservoir:    Anglers fishing the reservoir have continued to reel in some nice rainbows averaging 12-13 inches. The fishery is open through Nov. 30.

In addition, WDFW has announced a razor-clam dig tentatively set to begin Nov. 5 at Long Beach and four other coastal beaches. The results of marine-toxin tests, which will determine whether the dig will proceed, are expected by Nov. 1.

See the South Sound/Olympic Peninsula regional report above for tentative beach openings. Check the WDFW website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/  ) or the toll-free Shellfish Hotline (866-880-5431) for final word on the scheduled dig.

FAR EASTERN

Snake River steelheading was slow in October, but could pick up in the weeks ahead, said Joe Bumgarner, a WDFW fish biologist. Anglers have been averaging 30 to 50 hours per steelhead – a far cry from last year when steelheaders were catching fish in a fraction of that time.

Even the mouth of the Grand Ronde River, which traditionally provides some of the best fishing, has been slow. Catch rates for the fall chinook fishery, which tends to be incidental to steelhead fishing, have also been slow on the Snake River system.

Warmer temperatures through late October may be part of the problem, Bumgarner said.

“The good news is that there are lots of steelhead here and the weather is changing,” he said. “At last count there were more than 190,000 steelhead over Lower Granite Dam, with 800 to 1,200 a day still coming up. With the rain and colder temperatures we’re just starting to get now, November could be the month of steelheading here.”

Although many of the region’s top trout-fishing lakes are closed by November, there are a couple of exceptions and several year-round-open waters worth trying. Southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lake remains open through the end of November for catch-and-release, selective gear fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout . Waitts Lake in Stevens County is open through February and provides rainbow and brown trout, largemouth bass , and yellow perch .

Big net-pen-reared rainbow trout and some kokanee are available in Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, which is open year-round. Large rainbows continue to provide action at Sprague Lake, the big year-round waterway that sprawls across the Lincoln-Adams county line just south of Interstate 90.

Fly fishers have reported that rainbow trout are biting at year-round-open Z-Lake off Telford Road on the WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area in Lincoln County.

Rock Lake in Whitman County, open year-round, is still producing catches of rainbow and brown trout , along with some largemouth bass .

Trout, bass, crappie, perch , and other species are available at Spokane County’s year-round-open Eloika, Newman and Silver lakes.

NORTH-CENTRAL

The steelhead fishery on the upper Columbia River and its tributaries slowed a bit in late October, but anglers will have another river to try in the weeks ahead.  Starting Nov. 1, the Similkameen River will open to fishing for hatchery-reared steelhead from the mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam. Selective gear and night closure rules are in effect for the Similkameen River.

Above Wells Dam, anglers have been averaging one steelhead for every ten hours of fishing on the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries, reports WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp. “Remember there’s mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead and a four-fish daily limit,” he said. “All fish with adipose fins intact must be released and cannot be completely removed from the water prior to release.”

Jateff also reported that a few lowland lakes are still open for catch-and-release trout fishing through the month of November – Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Rat Lake near Brewster. Selective gear rules are in effect for all three lakes.

Anglers interested in catching yellow perch could try Patterson Lake near Winthrop, said Jateff, noting that the fish average seven to eight inches. “There’s no daily limit and no minimum size,” he said. “We encouraged anglers to retain all perch caught regardless of size.”

Several year-round waters in the region can provide decent fishing opportunity during the month of November. Banks Lake has a little bit of everything – smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, yellow perch, walleye, kokanee , even lake whitefish . Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir have most of the same, plus net-pen-reared rainbow trout .

SOUTH-CENTRAL

Fresh from a record catch of fall chinook , anglers fishing the Hanford Reach in late October were having a tough time hooking up with hatchery steelhead . That doesn’t bode well for fishing opportunities in November, when steelhead are the main attraction for anglers in that section of the Columbia River, said Paul Hoffarth, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Steelhead fishing has been unusually slow at a time when it should be ramping up,” Hoffarth said.  “We’ve been seeing 20 anglers come in with one fish among them.”

While the forecast is below the 10-year average, it does not fully account for low number of hatchery steelhead in angler’s creels in the Reach, Hoffarth said. Both creel surveys and counts at the Ringold Fish Hatchery indicate a dearth of one-salt fish returning from the ocean for the first time.

Although counts of two-salt fish are generally on track, one-salt fish generally make up about three-quarters of the catch, Hoffarth said. “I hope I’m wrong, but it looks like we could be in for another tough month of steelhead fishing in this area.”

Starting Nov. 1, the daily catch limit is two hatchery steelhead, which can be identified by their clipped adipose fins. All unmarked steelhead must be released unharmed.

The slow start for steelhead in the Hanford Reach stands in stark contrast to the record catch of fall chinook from McNary Dam to Priest Rapids Dam this year. Through Oct. 22, when that fishery closed, anglers caught an estimated 10,000 adult chinook, along with 1,360 jacks and four coho, Hoffarth said. He estimates that approximately 90,000 fall chinook returned to the Reach this year.

Anglers fishing the Yakima River also caught an estimated 230 adult chinook, 25 jacks and 23 coho before that fishery closed Oct. 22.

Fisheries remain open for both salmon and hatchery steelhead in most areas of the Columbia River downstream from McNary Dam. For daily limits and other regulations, see WDFW’s Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ ).

Hoffarth said walleye fishing should also be productive through the end of November, before the cold sets in. He recommends trolling upstream at night.

Klick Mouth Clicks For AndyCoho And Crew

October 28, 2010

Readers of Northwest Sportsman’s October issue saw Andy Schneider’s big map feature on coho fishing at the mouth of the Klickitat River, and that’s where the Portland-area salmon/steelhead angler found himself this past weekend.

Here’s his tale of brawlin’ B-runs and sassy silvers:

The Columbia River Gorge definitely felt and looked like fall this last Sunday — bright yellow, orange and red leaves dancing on the gusts of wind that sprouted out of the West and rain showers so heavy that the mid-day sun would darken like night was falling.

If the hills and weather didn’t clue us in that THIS IS FALL, the fish sure did. The late returning “B-run” Klickitat coho would seem to coordinate an attack on fisherman’s gear and it looked like everyone was hooking fish at once.

But just as soon as the attack would begin, it would slow, then stop and we would all troll with the anticipation of the next attack.

These slow periods were good though. It gave us a chance to snap some photos, eat some good snacks and just catch up with each other.

Sunday I had friends Nancy, Dory and Brenda on board with my wife and son Missy and Ayden.  Who would have thought that they would all be crazy enough to go fishing with me, even with a forecast calling for “extreme weather”?  Ahh, the joys of having brave friends and hardy family!

On the first pass of the morning, Nancy’s rod went down as she trolled a prawn spinner just past the entrance of the Klickitat and a nice 12-pound coho was brought to net.

The next pass one of the plug rods surged towards the water and didn’t let up and Brenda jumped to the rod and starting battling the chrome-bright coho without hesitation (unclipped coho can be retained above the Hood River Bridge).

 

BRENDA'S SILVER. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

And to keep things interestin, this B-run steelhead grabbed a FatFish and gave Dory a fight that took us through the swarm of boats and almost to the middle of the Columbia.  The deep water of the Columbia seemed to give the steelhead more energy and it made run after run, before finally being identified as a hatchery fish and being swung into the boat with a whoop of applause from our boat and other fisherman.  This battle-scared steelhead buck weighed in at 18.2 pounds!

THE BIG BRAWLIN’ B-RUN DORY CAUGHT. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Missy and Ayden both had a chance to battle some coho that fell victim for FatFish and Wiggle Warts.

 

MISSY SCHNEIDER'S COHO. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

AYDEN SCHNEIDER'S COHO. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Though Ripley was wet, she insisted on braving the elements, surveying other anglers and seeing if any other boats had dogs aboard to warrant a bark.

 

SALMON/STEELHEAD HOUND RIPLEY SCHNEIDER SURVEYS THE SCENE OFF THE KLICK. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

While everyone’s focus will be on the Tillamook tributaries after the latest freshet, I think I may still be driving east for a couple more weeks and enjoy some easy fishing, good scenery, hard fighting fish and great company.

The Columbia River Gorge definitely felt and looked like fall this last Sunday; with bright yellow, orange and red leaves dancing on the gusts of wind that sprouted out of the West and rain showers so heavy that the mid-day sun would darken like night was falling.   If the hills and weather didn’t clue us in that THIS IS FALL; the fish sure did.  The late returning ‘B’ Run Klickitat Coho would seem to coordinate an attack on fisherman’s gear and it looked like everyone was hooking fish at once, but just as soon as the attack would begin, it would slow, then stop and we would all troll with the anticipation of the next attack.  These slow periods were good though, it gave us a chance to snap some photo’s, eat some good snacks and just catch up with each other.
Sunday I had friends; Nancy, Dory and Brenda on board with my Wife and Son (Missy and Ayden).  Who would thought that they would all be crazy enough to go fishing with me, even with a forecast calling for; ‘extreme weather’?.  Ahh, the joys of having brave friends and hardy family!
On the 1st pass of the morning, Nancy’s rod went down as she trolled a Prawn Spinner just past the entrance of the Klickitat and a nice 12-pound Coho was brought to net.
The next pass one of the plug rods surged towards the water and didn’t let up and Brenda jumped to the rod and starting battling the chrome bright Coho without hesitation (unclipped Coho can be retained above the Hood River Bridge).

Chetco To Open For Kings 6 Days Early

October 27, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

With higher water flows in the Chetco River, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reopens chinook and steelhead fishing beginning Saturday, Oct. 30.

Coastal chinook regulations adopted in June by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission included a low flow closure on the Chetco River effective through Nov. 5.  However, the closure will be lifted Oct. 30 thanks to late October rains and increased river flows.

River flows exceeded 7,000 cfs on Oct. 24 and are expected to remain above 2,500 cfs through Oct. 29. More rain is forecasted, and fall chinook have moved upstream from tidewater.

“The concern with over-harvesting chinook that were holding in the upper tidewater area is gone now that the fish can spread out into spawning areas throughout the mainstem and tributaries,” said Todd Confer, Gold Beach District Fish Biologist.

Following is angling information:

  • Mainstem Chetco River re-opens for chinook and steelhead beginning Oct. 30, with a bag limit of two salmon or steelhead daily and 20 /season.
  • The Chetco Estuary downstream of river mile 2.2 also remains open for chinook and steelhead.
  • As a reminder, the Winchuck remains closed to angling through Nov. 5.

Detailed coastal fall chinook fishery information is on the ODFW web site.

Withdrawal

October 27, 2010

It took the editor about a day before deer hunting withdrawal set in.

“I want to hunt blacktails,” I moaned to Amy as we lay in bed last night.

Well, I’m not really sure if I do.

Did I tell you the one about me wandering through reprod near Granite Falls, seeing all sorts of deer sign, and getting back to my buddy who’d been watching the clearcut ahead of me and him only seeing me a time or two?

If he couldn’t see me in all that low jungle of maples, Doug firs and ferns, how again were we supposed to see any deer?!?!?

But still, it’s deer hunting, which otherwise is 352 long — very, very looooooooooooooooong — days, 14 hours and 40 minutes away until mid-October’s general rifle opener.

My wife isn’t offering much comfort, but a minute later I whined, “I want to hunt whitetails.”

They’re much further away from home, and real bastards to hunt in the thick Northeast Washington lowlands, but an interesting challenge.

A 5×5 I got near Newport in 2006 made me feel like some sort of antler-rattlin’ all-star when a quick click-clack turned him my way for a short-range shot.

“I want to hunt muleys,” I then lamented to Amy.

They’re my favorites, and visions of my buddy’s dad’s über-wide-racked buck danced in my head — still alive and waiting for me at Andy’s Saddle.

(ERIC BELL)

But mule deer season’s done pretty much everywhere save for Klickitat County, and there’s no way I’m getting there before the last day, Friday.

So that means whitetails or, yes, blacktails. The rut hunt for the former opens Nov. 6-19, and latter are open through All Hallows Even, then again in mid-November in select units.

“What if I go for only a half day for blacktail this Saturday?” I broached to Amy. “I could be back by 2.”

“Christine needs your help moving that day,” she said of one of her friends in Seattle.

“What?! She doesn’t need help — she’s only moving a block away from her old house!” I said.

“No.”

Amy has had her fill of handling two little boys for 16 days, 16 hours and 3 minutes straight without a weekend break.

Can’t say I blame her. I need a break from those little dervishes after 15 minutes!

Not that I’m giving up trying to go hunting.

When she told me this afternoon that her mom was coming tomorrow for a weekend stay with us, I blurted out, “That means ..!”

“No, it doesn’t,” she quickly cut me off.

Harumph.

Maybe tonight I’ll put on my orange and go play with my buck grunt and rattle some antlers in the shed.

4 Areas In Sound To Reopen For Crabbing

October 27, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Four marine areas of Puget Sound will reopen to recreational crab fishing Nov. 15, based on summer catch assessments by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) that show more crab are available for harvest.

SCREW TURKEY, EAT CRAB FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER. (TIM BUSH)

At 8 a.m. on Nov. 15, marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 12 (Hood Canal) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2011.

Crab fishing will also remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since June 18.

Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island), where the summer catch reached the annual quota, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish policy coordinator.

All crab caught in the Puget Sound recreational fishery after Sept. 1 should be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Jan. 2. Those catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2011. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html .

“It’s important that people submit their reports, even if they didn’t catch any crab,” Childers said. “A report showing no crab caught is just as important in calculating the catch as one that shows lots of crab caught.”

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6ž inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/ .

Lunkers Heading To Beaver Soon

October 27, 2010

Wanna catch big trout next month? Beaver Lake on the Sammamish Plateau won’t be the only place to do so. WDFW also plans on stocking Paschall Pond in Chelan County and Black Lake in Thurston County in November, the agency’s trout stocking plan shows.

But the 2,300 2- to 3-pound rainbows going into Beaver will definitely make it a top draw for Central Pugetropolis anglers.

WDFW’s plan is to dump them in Nov. 8, but close its access site from sunset Nov. 7 to sunrise Nov. 9.

Beaver will remain open to fishing during that time, however, and can be fished from boat or bank (there’s a city park on the lake’s west end).

It’s the sixth year in a row that WDFW has stocked the lake in November. The trout come from an educational display at the nearby Issaquah Hatchery.

Internal combustion boat engines are prohibited on Beaver. And while the daily bag limit is five fish, only two of those can exceed 15 inches in length. Bait anglers must keep the first five trout they catch.

WDFW also plans on stocking Battle Ground and Klineline Ponds in Clark County in December.

King County’s Beaver Lake to receive
2,300 large hatchery rainbow trout

OLYMPIA – Anglers will soon have an opportunity to catch lunker trout in Beaver Lake near Issaquah, thanks to the release of about 2,300 hatchery rainbows averaging about 2 to 3 pounds each.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is scheduled to release the fish Nov. 8. To facilitate fish planting, WDFW will close the Beaver Lake access site at sunset on Nov. 7 and reopen the site at sunrise on Nov. 9. Beaver Lake, however, will remain open to fishing while the access site is closed.

The trout were part of an educational display at WDFW’s Issaquah Hatchery.

Beaver Lake is best fished by small boat, although anglers also can be successful fishing from shore, said Aaron Bosworth, fishery biologist for WDFW.

The lake’s access site is most easily reached by way of East Beaver Lake Drive Southeast, off Southeast 24th Street in the city of Sammamish. Parking for vehicles and boat trailers is limited, and a valid WDFW vehicle use permit must be easily visible in or on vehicles parked at the access site. See http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vup/ for more information about vehicle use permits.

Beaver Lake is one of several westside lowland lakes open to fishing year-round. Internal combustion boat engines are prohibited on the lake. All anglers 15 years of age and older are required to have a valid fishing license. The daily bag limit is five fish, only two of which can exceed 15 inches in length. Bait anglers must keep the first five trout they catch.

Anglers are advised to check the sport fishing rules pamphlet, which is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/

ODFW Biologist Dies In Wreck

October 26, 2010

UPDATE, 12:28 P.M., JUNE 1, 2011: The Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission may name state land in the Yachats River valley the Tami Wagner Wildlife Area.

UPDATE 12:36 P.M., OCT. 28, 2010: The Oregonian has a piece on Wagner’s life.

UPDATE 4:15 P.M., NOV. 1, 2010: The Newport News Times has an obit.

UPDATE 10:07 A.M., NOV. 15, 2010: Wagner’s hometown newspaper in Norwalk, Ct., has some information about her youth.

Oregon state wildlife biologist Tamara “Tami” Wagner of Lincoln City was identified this morning as the deceased victim of a three-vehicle accident yesterday afternoon outside Toledo.

She was 52.

TAMI WAGNER, PHOTOGRAPHED DURING A BLACK OYSTERCATCHER SURVEY IN MAY 2009. (ODFW)

“She was really a great woman and a valued employee. She’ll be missed,” says colleague Brandon Ford at ODFW’s Newport office where she worked.

Wagner had been with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for 21 years. She was the assistant district wildlife biologist for part of the central Oregon Coast and mountains. She worked on urban elk issues, opening private lands for hunting, shorebird counts as well as testified at last year’s trial of a woman ultimately convicted of harassing wildlife by feeding bears.

ODFW spokesman Rick Hargrave said Wagner was “critical” in educating coastal communities about the dangers of feeding bears as well as getting some real “teeth” behind city ordinances prohibiting it.

“She gave so much of herself to the work and always tried to find a positive solution to any problem. Really, the loss is immeasurable,” said Rick Klumph, ODFW Watershed Manager.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Highways 20 and 229. According to the Oregon State Police, at around 3:37 p.m. Monday a 2004 Chevrolet passenger car driven by an 82-year-old California woman was stopped facing north on 229 at the intersection with 20. The Chevrolet began to cross Highway 20 directly in the path of an eastbound 2006 Freightliner truck pulling an empty pole trailer.

The car hit the passenger side of the semi-truck and its trailer flipped onto its side, colliding with an ODFW pickup and trailer driven by Wagner.

The Freightliner trailer and Wagner’s vehicle came to a stop blocking the westbound lane of Highway 20 while the California woman and her vehicle and the Freightliner truck both ended up on the south shoulder of the highway.

Wagner was pronounced dead at the scene.

The California woman was transported to a Newport hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the Freightliner was not injured.

“It seems like we have our share of tragedies here — we’ve got a fairly large group in the Newport area — and they’re on the road a lot. You think the dangerous part of the job is working with wildlife, but in fact it’s probably getting to and from the places you work with wildlife,” says Ford.

In early September, a pair of Idaho state biologists — Larry Barrett and Dana Schiff — as well as their pilot died when their helicopter crashed. WDFW biologist Rocky Spencer also died on the job in a helicopter accident in 2007. And in 2009, an on-duty Washington game warden was involved in a late-night accident that killed a Bellingham girl when the car she was riding in failed to stop at a stop sign.

Ford describes Wagner as smaller in stature, but up for big jobs.

“She was not shy about handling elk 10 times her size,” he says, and recalls joining her and several others capturing Roosevelts near Lincoln City and releasing them near Yachats.

TAMI WAGNER AND OREGON STATE WILDLIFE VET COLIN GILLIN DURING A JANUARY 2007 ELK RELOCATION PROJECT NEAR LINCOLN CITY. (ODFW)

Born June 3, 1958, Wagner graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a Bachelor of Science in wildlife biology. She had been at ODFW’s Newport office since 1996, and in her position since 2002.

“Tami was a valued friend and an outstanding professional who will be deeply missed by all of us,” says an email from ODFW director Roy Elicker and deputy directors Curt Melcher and Debbie Colbert to department staffers.

Wagner leaves behind a husband, daughter and son.

Cougar Stalking Elk Hunter Pic Debunked

October 26, 2010

Remember that picture of the glowing-eyeballed cougar behind the elk hunter posing with his trophy bull?

The sportsman supposedly took the photo on a self-timer, didn’t know till later the big cat was right behind him …

Popped up earlier this month …

Posted all over the place …

We linked our Facebook page to it on Comedy Central …

OK, this shot, if you haven’t seen it.

LOOK OUT!!! FAKE PHOTOGRAPH!!!

I don’t know how to break this to you, but the image was photoshopped — the cougar was added behind the posing hunter.

Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic has the details in an article yesterday.

However, we can report with a completely straight face that the following photo was not photoshopped whatsoever …

COUGAR SNEAKING UP ON FAMED RYDER CUP GOLF FAN.

SW WA Fishing Report (10-26-10)

October 26, 2010

(COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Still some fall chinook being caught around the barrier dam while coho are being caught more throughout the river.  Lower river became turbid over the weekend.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 7,729 coho adults, 734 jacks, 1,945 fall Chinook adults, 208 jacks, 33 summer-run steelhead, three chum salmon, and 50 sea-run cutthroat trout during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released 872 coho adults, 182 jacks, 875 fall Chinook adults and 104 jacks into Lake Scanewa, 1,172 coho adults, 96 jacks, 158 fall Chinook adults and 18 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, 464 fall Chinook adults, 58 jacks, 82 coho adults and 39 jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, and 583 coho adults, 107 jacks, twelve fall Chinook adults, two jacks, and two cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 6,690 cubic feet per second on Monday October 25 and will likely increase beginning today (Tuesday) this week.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching a mix of Chinook (which have to be released), coho, and steelhead.

Lewis River – Anglers on the North Fork Lewis are catching coho.  Flows at Merwin Dam are 6,100 cfs today, significantly higher than long term mean of 3,400 cfs for this date.

Wind River – Boat anglers are catching some fall chinook and coho.  Sunday is the last day to fish for salmon.

Drano Lake – Light effort.

White Salmon River- Boat anglers are catching some coho though most are wild and had to be released.

Klickitat River – Bank and boat anglers are catching some coho.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 8 salmonid bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with no catch and 38 boat anglers (21 boats) with 1 adult chinook and 6 adult coho kept and 1 adult fall Chinook released.  The coho were caught in the Camas/Washougal area.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers off the mouth of the Klickitat are catching mostly coho along with a few chinook and steelhead.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – We sampled 331 sturgeon bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Wauna powerlines with 30 legals kept and 1 released.  All the legals were kept just below the dam.  In addition, we sampled 52 sturgeon boat anglers (26 boats) with 7 legals kept.  The legals were kept from Kalama upstream.

WALLEYE

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – The half dozen boat anglers we sampled in the Camas/Washougal area did not have any catch.

Okanogan Deer Hunt Report

October 26, 2010

Before deer season opened in Okanogan County, state wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin told me he expected this fall’s hunt to be the best in half a decade.

Data from the check station he operates shows it was indeed a slight improvement over last year’s hunt which, all said and done, was the best for riflemen by harvest stat for the county west of the Okanogan River since 2005.

A total of 77 bucks came through the station over this season’s two weekends, two more than last year, but it’s hard to compare the years because Fitkin moved the game check from the East Chewuch Road north of Winthrop to the red barn along Highway 20 just west of town.

The new location may have kept hunters from stopping too, especially considering Sunday’s colder, snowier weather over the high North Cascades Highway. My father and I took his trailer over lower Stevens Pass far to the south rather than the more direct route back to the west side over 5,500-foot Washington Pass and 4,800-foot Rainy Pass.

“There were definitely less hunters,” Fitkin says. “The guys who came in tended to have deer or wanted to talk to us.”

That said, he says that given anecdotal evidence and the figures, season was “what we predicted,” slightly up from 2009.

Though Fitkin says “nothing out of the ordinary” came through the station, he did mention that he checked a 101/2-year-old buck.

“Its first molar was below the gum line,” Fitkin says. “It was pretty amazing.”

(How rarely do hunters shoot Methuselah’s grandpa? It’s not exactly comparable, but Kevin Robinette, WDFW’s wildlife manager for far Eastern Washington, says that data from 1,500 whitetail buck and doe teeth pulled over the years at the Deer Park station show .13 percent have made it 10-plus years — basically two deer. That doesn’t include every deer shot in Northeast Washington — hunters aren’t required to stop at the station — but he adds that yearlings make up 47 percent of the sample.)

Fitkin also saw at least three bucks — two on a camera — taken from the Tripod burn area which he described as “monster animals. The body size was just enormous.”

The 2006 wildfire burned 175,000 acres along the hydrological divide between the Chewuch and Okanogan Rivers from Loup Loup Pass north to within a half mile of the Canadian border.

“I’ve been up in the Tripod and it’s starting to get to the point where it’s growing a significant portion of deer forage. I think it’s worth poking around in that area,” he told me for our October issue.

A portion of the Methow herd is migratory, but the biologist says that season timing is early enough that it’s rare for hunters to intercept valley-bound deer.

“From the 25th on, we expect deer to get moving towards the winter range,” he says.

What triggers the migration is unclear, he says, but probably is related to a number of factors, including deteriorating weather, quality of the remaining forage in the summer range and daylight.

Fitkin says during December aerial surveys in previous years, there’s been little snow but lots of deer down on the winter range anyway.

On the wolf front, “It’s been pretty quiet,” he adds.

Telemetry information from the Lookout Pack’s alpha male’s radio collar indicates it’s occupying its traditional range, the west side of the upper Methow Valley. It’s still unclear what happened to the alpha female, missing since last May. Fitkin says he did hear a couple wolf reports from deer hunters.

While it’s finally beginning to snow in Okanogan County, if this winter is like last — weak and warm (the forecast, though, is for La Nina, usually colder and snowier) — and 2009’s mule deer fawn crop can come through OK, that will mean good hunting again in 2011.

“Next year should be OK,” predicts Fitkin.

Weekend No. 2 Check Station Numbers

October 25, 2010

UPDATED 1:42 P.M., OCT. 27, 2010: According to Kevin Robinette, wildlife manager for Region 1 in Spokane, just over 300 hunters brought a total of 42 deer through the Deer Park station on Highway 395 over the second weekend of the rifle deer hunt.

On Saturday, 153 hunters came through with 17 whitetail deer (six of which were bucks) and on Sunday, 153 more hauled 22 whitetails (including nine bucks) and three mule deer (all bucks).

The Deer Park station is only open on the Sunday of opening weekend; that day, 226 hunters brought 15 whitetail and six mule deer through. All of those were bucks, but antlerless whitetail were available for some hunters on the second weekend.

Greg Schirato, Region 6 wildlife manager, says that 1,557 hunters came through the Vail Tree Farm station over the second weekend, 815 on Saturday, 742 on Sunday.

“That’s well above the past few years, and one of the highest points in the last four years,” he says.

They killed 29 spikes, nine 2-points, seven 3-points and three 4-points, Schirato says.

Over opening weekend, 53 deer were checked for 1,536 hunters exiting Weyerhaeuser’s Vail tree plantation.

Meanwhile, over in Winthrop, a total of 77 deer were checked over both weekends, but with 31 counted the first weekend, that means 46 came through over the second weekend. Rich Finger, a WDFW biologist in Ephrata says that that included some older age-class animals, including a 4.5-year-old buck that was 30.5 inches wide.

 

Backstraps For Dinner (Just Not For Me)

October 25, 2010

Well, apparently my lack of any blog posts after the second and final weekend of Washington muley season has left some of you in suspense about the results from Deer Camp Walgamott.

And when I say “some,” I mean you, Jason Brooks.

I guess all those lead-up blogs on my hunting beard, buying new boots, the ton of hunting clothes I laundered twice, the cold I caught and the bee sting I got over the first weekend, and my incessant posting about the stupid weather — not to mention my big story in the October issue of the magazine (yes, we do do a magazine, this isn’t just the clavvering of some nitwit who got himself a blog) — were supposed to lead up to me shooting a freakin’ blue whale of a buck this past weekend.

Yeah, well, sometimes things just don’t work out.

The short version of this post is that there really aren’t any deer in the Okanogan.

Wolves et them all. Heard ’em cracking the bones myself.

Oh, sure, the newest guy at our hunting camp — the guy carrying on street-decibel conversations in the woods, hopping around with his camera taking timer shots of himself and his son, wearing absolutely zero camo, and busily taking doodads in and out of velcro carrying cases — shot a 30 1/2-inch-wide mule deer, his FIRST FREAKIN’ DEER EVER.

The other 10 of us saw exactly squat.

RICHARD BELL'S FIRST BUCK. (ERIC BELL)

And, yes, George Schildt of Illinois also bagged his FIRST FREAKIN’ DEER EVER, a 3×3 near Omak, thanks to guiding from his son Devin.

DEVIN & GEORGE SCHILDT AND GEORGE'S FIRST DEER. LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE'S GOT A HUNTING BEARD GOING ON! (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

And, OK, Ron Mootar too got his FIRST FREAKIN’ DEER EVER on his FIRST FREAKIN’ HUNT EVER, over in the Sinlahekin.

RON MOOTAR'S FIRST EVER HUNT WAS A SUCCESSFUL ONE. (GREG JAMES)

So, I guess there WERE some deer in the Okanogan, but apparently only if you have never killed anything in the genus Odocoileus before.

Stinking deer anyway. I blew all of my hall passes — and THEN some — to hunt a migratory herd that apparently didn’t decide to do the whole migration thing.

At least during the rifle season.

Of course today there’s like 7 inches of snow predicted for elevations above 4,500 feet.

May your little toes get frostbitten on the way down the mountain, you slackers!

Yeah, I’m a little bitter.

And I’ve already come up with some new rules for 2011: We don’t pull out of camp on the last day of the nine-day season. That’s like leaving more than a half of a day of hunting on the table — like a white flag from the hunters, a free pass for the deer. We leave on the Monday from here on out.

Crappy thing is after hunting this area since approximately the Pleistocene, on Saturday of the second weekend I discovered where the deer hang out. Whole new spot I’d never been to before. Lots of tracks, trails, with an overgrown road down below for carting them out. Would have spent all day there Sunday if we hadn’t had to pack up by 10 a.m.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

So now — grounded at home until approximately 2015 — I’m left with a hunting beard that’s soon to be a Halloween prop: Amy’s dressing me up as a hippie, man.

Fortunately, not everyone in the Northwest is as bummed out as this dude. Here are some more hunters who will be feasting on backstraps this winter:

JOSH FITZHUGH, BLUE MOUNTAINS BUCK. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

BRODY BURROW, REPUBLIC, WASH., WHITETAIL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

MAURY KINCANNON, PALOUSE WHITETAIL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

DAVID ERICKSON, SNAKE RIVER BREAKS MULEY. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

NAOMI SMITH, GRIZZLY UNIT MULEY. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

JERRY HAN, PRINEVILLE MULEY. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

JEREMY ALLEN, OCHOCO UNIT BULL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

bu

CHAD HURST, DOUGLAS COUNTY MULE DEER DOE. (JASON BROOKS)

KADEEN PEER, BLUE MOUNTAINS BUCK. (KELLY COLLITON)

CHAYSE BROOKS (LEFT), DOUGLAS COUNTY MULEY. (JASON BROOKS)

Did you get yourself a deer? Wanna rub the editor’s face in it? Email him a shot (awalgamott@media-inc.com) and he’ll add it to the honor roll here.

Sauvie Island Waterfowl 101

October 21, 2010

So you say you’ve never hunted ducks at Sauvie Island but have always wanted to. You, sir or madam, are in luck.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has come out with a brand-new guide for beginners interested in hunting the agency’s über-popular and super-birdy wildlife area just 20 miles from the Rose Garden.

HAPPY SAUVIE ISLAND WATERFOWLERS. (COURTESY ERIKA McCORMICK, VIA RICK ALLEN, REEL TACKLE SHOP)

The Web page features everything from the basic license and permits you’ll need to open days for each unit to the wildlife area’s history.

The now-11,543-acre wildlife area, which began to be parceled together in 1940 and covers nearly half of the island, features roaming, bench- and makeshift blind, pass-shooting and boat hunting opportunities for mallards, wigeon, teal, pintail, shovelers, gadwall and other ducks. Goose hunting, however, is very regulated.

HUNT RESULTS. (ODFW)

The guide includes great PDF maps of Sauvie’s three units — Eastside, Westside and North — with directions for accessing each. There are also instructions for how to apply to hunt the Eastside Unit and how the poker-chip drawing works for the Westside Unit. The North Unit is open to all.

(ODFW)

Tables detail how many blinds and roaming hunters can be accommodated in each areas’ subunits.

There are also some hot-spot tips — “While Holman Point is generally not a steady producer it can be red hot on stormy days when the birds are constantly moving and poor visibility keeps them low” — as well as general waterfowling suggestions.

PINTAILS AT SAUVIE, FEB. 2010. (ODFW)

All in all a pretty good resource, we’d say.

Deer Opener Roundup

October 21, 2010

It’s foggy here in bay city this morning, but weather pushing in could make for improved hunting conditions in Eastern Washington for the second and final weekend of mule deer season, Westside deer chasers whose hunt extends through Halloween and Oregon blacktail hunters whose Cascade hunt reopens this Saturday.

I’m chomping at the bit to get back to the Okanogan — though Amy is NOT VERY HAPPY about that — after I received a cell phone shot of my friend’s dad’s 5×5, shot early yesterday morning.

RICHARD BELL'S FIRST BUCK. (ERIC BELL)

But in the meanwhile, here are takes from outdoor reporters on how season has gone so far around Washington, starting with the Methow Valley News:

Scott Fitkin, regional biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Game said harvest reports and hunter inquiries indicate that the season appears to have gotten off to a start comparable to or a little better than last year. The numbers of bucks recorded at the check station and hunter information booth in the Winthrop Barn parking lot shows buck numbers running slightly ahead of last year while the number of hunters may have decreased marginally from last season.

The new location of the check station could account for that difference,” Fitkin said, “because we have relocated the station from the East Chewuch to the Barn this year.”

Fitkin added that access to all units is better this year than he can recall for some time because there is no snow at any elevation to interfere with access routes.

Another benchmark for hunter success has been the number of hides dropped by Katie Russell’s carcass skinning and hide processing shed located just north of the Twisp city limits and on the west side of Highway 20. Monday morning, as she was removing the hide from a buck that was shot by a Vancouver, Wash., hunter, Russell said she has received about 24 deer hides so far this season.

“Last year I received 30 for the season so chances are there will be more this year,” Russell said.

Another checkpoint for deer hunters is the Antlers Saloon and Cafe in Twisp, where for years now hunters have stopped by to have a photo taken of their bucks. As of Tuesday morning, 23 photos were stapled to the trophy wall. Out-of-town hunters accounted for 17 of the three-points-or-better bucks  …

The Seattle Times:

“Success was really dependent on location, and overall it was a pretty average weekend due to the nice climate,” said Jerry Nelson, with the state Fish and Wildlife game management division.

“We often see a slow start on first weekend of the west side blacktail hunt, and then we make up a lot of ground heading into the late buck season,” Nelson said. “Moving toward the east the Okanogan area looked pretty good (in the Methow and Winthrop areas).”

The Vail Tree Farm check station saw 821 hunters Oct. 16 with 18 spiked bucks, 15 branched bucks and one doe; and 715 hunters Oct. 17 with 11 spiked bucks, six branched bucks and two does.

Hunter turnout was strong in the Klickitat Wildlife area, but Nelson said success was slow. On Oct. 16, 143 Klickitat hunters in the Grayback area had seven deer.

In northeastern Washington at the Deer Park check station, 229 hunters on Oct. 17 had 15 white-tailed bucks and six mule deer bucks for a success rate of 9.3 percent.

In southeast Washington, the deer-hunting opener appeared to be fair last weekend with high hunter pressure in the Jasper Mountain area, and light pressure in the Prescott region.

In the Chelan and Douglas County areas, Nelson reports spotty success.

The Everett Herald:

Ware said the Chelan area was spotty and relatively slow. Some 80 hunters were checked over Saturday and Sunday with only 2 animals. “That’s a migratory situation,” Ware said, “and it always shows better later in the year.”

A new check station in Winthrop seemed to work out well for Okanogan County hunters, Ware said, and weekend results were pretty good. Hunting pressure was about the same as last year, and state personnel checked 31 deer and 1 bear. Ware said fawn recruitment in Okanogan mule deer herds has been improving, and so has the number of 3- and 4-point animals. Herds are “Healthy and growing,” he said.

In other hunting-related news, the Omak Chronicle has a troubling story about hunters held at gunpoint by a landowner:

Patrick M. Shivnen, 51, Tenino, was arrested late Sunday by Okanogan County sheriff’s deputies, Sheriff Frank Rogers said. He was booked into the county on suspicion of first-degree assault, first-degree robbery, harassment-threats to kill, unlawful imprisonment and theft of a firearm.

Around 3 p.m., two hunters – a 39-year-old Tacoma man and a 50-year-old Lake Stevens man – shot a grouse on Prior Loop Road, Rogers said. The two were not identified by name.

They told deputies they were confronted by Shivnen, who owns a cabin in the area and told the men they were trespassing.

“The two hunters stated that Shivnen repeatedly told them that he was going to kill them,” Rogers said.

EDITOR’S NOTE 10-21-10, 12:40 p.m.: Tabbing malfunctioned on an earlier version of this post.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon 10-20-10

October 20, 2010

Ripped straight from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report, here’s what’s fishing around Oregon:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Empire and Saunders lakes have been stocked with trout this month and should offer some good fall fishing.
  • Hyatt Lake and Howard Prairie Reservoir are offering fine fall fishing for trout.
  • Trout fishing on Diamond Lake has been outstanding. But you’d better hurry, the lake closes to fishing Nov. 1.
  • Summer steelhead fishing is picking up on the middle Rogue River.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Alsea River:Angling is fair to good for fall chinook up to the deadline at Five Rivers. Look for the next couple rain events to increase catch rates above tidewater. Trolling herring or lures in the lower river and bay or bobber and bait in upper tide water can produce fish. Fishing an incoming tide tends to be the most productive. The Cutthroat trout season is nearly over for the year. Angling is fair to good throughout most of the mainstem.
  • Kilchis River: A few fall chinook moved upstream with recent rains, but fishing is slow. Fish the lower river or upper tidewater for best results. Cutthroat trout fishing remains fair throughout the river.
  • Necanicum River: Angling for chinook salmon is fair in tidewater. Try bobber and eggs/shrimp, or cast large spinners in the deeper holes.  Some fish are available in upstream areas after recent rains, but fishing is likely to be slow in the clear water. Angling for cutthroat trout is fair throughout the system.
  • Nehalem River: Chinook angling is fair. Trolling herring or spinners in the has been the most productive. Most hatchery coho have moved up the north fork. Angling has been slow to fair in the low water. Small baits or spinners should produce some fish. The Nehalem upstream of the Mohler Bridge is closed to chinook angling for the remainder of the year. Angling in tidewater and upstream areas for sea-run and resident cutthroat trout is fair to good. Small spinners, plugs, or flies are good bets.
  • Nestucca River & Three Rivers: Angling for chinook is slow to fair. Fish are still available in tidewater, but some also moved upstream with recent rains. Concentrate on the deeper holes where fish hold. Bobber and bait, or casting spinners should produce some fish. Check regulations carefully as there are several closure areas and a new bag limit in effect this year. Summer steelhead and a few fall chinook are being caught in Three Rivers, although angling is slow. More rain is needed to get fish moving again. Angling for summer steelhead improved after the last storm. Better flows and cooler water have the fish more active. Spinners or bobber and jig will produce fish. Many fish are in the upper river above Blaine. Cutthroat trout fishing is fair.
  • Salmon River: Anglings for fall chinook is fair in tidewater up into the lower river. Look for catch rates to improve with the next good rain event. Fishing the incoming tide typically produces the best results. The cutthroat trout season is almost over for the year. Fishing is fair to good throughout the river.
  • Siletz River: Fall chinook angling is slow to fair with fish found throughout the open area. Forecasted rains should help improve catch rates over the next week. The wild adult coho fishery is slow to fair with fish found throughout the open area. Steelhead and cutthroat trout fishing is slow to fair in the upper river.
  • Tillamook Bay: Angling for chinook has been fair. Fish are being caught throughout the bay. Trolling herring on the incoming tide in the lower bay is a good bet. Or try trolling spinners or plugs in the upper bay. An occasional hatchery coho is still being caught, mainly in the upper bay, but most fish have moved upstream. Many of the wild coho have been quite large this year causing some anglers to confuse them for chinook.  Make sure to positively identify your fish as to species.  When the ocean cooperates, 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.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Wild redband trout have been biting on the Wood and Williamson rivers.
  • Trout fishing on Pilcher Reservoir has been very good – but hurry. The reservoir closes to fishing on Nov. 1.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Trout fishing in many area lakes also has improved as with cooler weather.
  • Hunters should pack a fish rod in with the hunting gear and take advantage of good fall trout fishing in Jubilee Lake, Pendland Lake and the Umatilla/Walla Walla forest ponds.
  • Steelhead fishing has been fair on many area rivers and should improve with some rain and increased flows.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Walleye fishing is excellent in the gorge and Troutdale Catch rates for fall chinook remain high for boat anglers in the gorge.
  • Sturgeon retention is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday during Oct. 1 – Dec. 31 from Wauna Powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.
  • Steelhead anglers are catching a few fish in the Columbia River above the John Day Dam.
  • Bass and walleye anglers should take advantage of the great fall weather and get in a few more fishing trips prior to winter. Bass and walleye are on the bite in the John Day and McNary pools, top water angling for smallmouth can be good all day this time of year!
  • Fall chinook, coho and steelhead numbers are peaking in the Columbia River at the mouth of the Umatilla River. Anglers are casting spinners and plugs for salmon and using bobbers and jigs/bait for steelhead.

MARINE ZONE

  • Sunny weather enticed many anglers to the coast, but big waves kept most off the ocean last week. Those who did brave the big waves were rewarded with limits or near limits of black and blue rockfish. Lingcod were hard to come by, however.

 

 

One Down, Four More Tags To Fill

October 20, 2010

Good news from deer camp this morning: Eric called to say he was pushing a buck down the mountain — in his deer cart.

His father, Richard, got the muley this morning not too far from where Eric and I got our deer last October.

In Eric’s brief voice mail, he describes his dad’s deer as a 5×5. It’s Richard’s first in four or five years of hunting. Previously he’s gone around Granite Falls and above the Little Wenatchee River.

“First buck he’s ever seen,” says Eric this afternoon.

“It’s a really good-sized deer,” adds Dad.

That leaves Dad, John, Eric and my tags still unnotched halfway through the nine-day season.

“We’re seeing more deer now,” Eric reports.

“It’s really encouraging to see this one,” Dad adds, his nose slightly stuffed with “the crud” I have.

I’ve got a call in to USFS and WDFW wildlife biologists for the area, but I’m tempted to say that Richard’s buck took heed of the National Weather Service’s “special weather statement“:

“THE FIRST SIGNIFICANT SNOWFALL OF THE SEASON IS POSSIBLE IN THE MOUNTAINS LATE THIS WEEKEND OR EARLY NEXT WEEK…”

Yabba dabba.

Now to get there before it hits.

But it’s not just Washington hunters who should be excited about this weekend’s deer hunting prospects. Oregon buck reopens in the Cascades just as storms will drop daily highs from the mid-70s today to the mid-40s by Sunday.

And just as the National Weather Service issued an advisory for North-central and Northeast Washington, it has also issued one for Western Oregon. Warn Federal forecasters:

“PEOPLE PLANNING OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES…ESPECIALLY IN THE MOUNTAINS AND ALONG THE COAST SHOULD BE READY FOR DETERIORATING WEATHER CONDITIONS…HEAVY RAIN…STRONG GUSTY WINDS…COOLER WEATHER AND SNOW AT THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS. THESE CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO LAST INTO NEXT WEEK.”

Northwest Sportsman contributor Troy Rodakowski has a phrase for those sort of conditions: “Baro bucks.”

“With the barometer dropping, the deer will be moving,” the Junction City, Ore., hunter emailed me this morning. “Now is when it starts to get exciting!”

Indeed.

Waiting On Weekend No. 2

October 19, 2010

The new boots are breaking in, my cold is breaking up and my hunting beard has — so far — stood up to nervous fingers that want to pick holes in it. Now, to get back to deer camp for the second and final weekend of Eastern Washington’s modern firearm hunt for muleys …

Our little campground was completely skunkered over opening weekend – a big fat Oh-fer-eleven — and since Saturday, deer sightings have plummeted precipitously in that part of Okanogan County.

If I heard Eric’s voice mail correctly last night, he saw one all day Monday, his father nothing.

My dad and his friend John didn’t even bother with the afternoon/evening hunt yesterday — went to town for showers instead.

The weather forecast also calls for showers — snow higher up, rain lower — this weekend and that could make this worthless prattling of an office-bound hunter in the throes of deer season even more pointless.

Frankly, it sucks to camp in the rain, especially cold rains, and I worry that after a week in the hills, the first kerplop on the trailer roof Friday will have Dad packing up ricky-tick.

Not sure if Eric will stick around either. He tried to wait out 2003’s Great Deluge and only succeeded in having his tent swamped and cookstove drowned.

Never mind that yours truly has found bucks to be more active in nasty weather over the years around deer camp.

But outside of nefarious sorts parachuting packs of hungry wolves into the backcountry over the next few days, nothing else is going to drive this migratory herd down to the winter range except for, well, winterlike weather.

Of course, not all of the Okanogan herd summers up in the arctic, there are local deer to be had. Northwest Sportsman‘s Dave Workman writes that he and NWS salesman Brian Lull saw 100-plus down in the Methow Valley Friday evening.

And a friend of Lull’s reports that one of his buds, Ron Mottar of Mercer Island, bagged his first buck ever on his first hunt. It occurred in the Sinlahekin Valley.

RON MOTTAR'S SINLAHEKIN MULEY. (GREG JAMES)

So there are deer around, and if the buggers in the hills listen to Steve Pool at all, they’ll know it’s time to get moving before the weekend’s weather frosts over the foliage.

Amy is not completely sold on me heading back to deer camp, however. She made some sharp remarks this morning about having to take care of the boys for another weekend by herself. Just now this afternoon, she reminded me she isn’t happy. Not sure how she’s going to react when I start rewashing my hunting clothes this evening (anybody out there have a spare couch, just in case?).

Then there’s getting to deer camp. We only have the one vehicle, and while I take a bus to work, there ain’t really a transit route between here and The Woods. Last weekend I borrowed the work truck, but when I asked again yesterday, the boss was slightly cooler on that front .

I’m absolutely sure that none of the editors at those hot-shot, super-slick-n-glossy hunting mags have these sorts of trials and tribulations, but, sigh, it is what it is.

Effort, Buck Harvest Up At Deer Park Check

October 19, 2010

Hunter numbers and buck harvest were up at WDFW’s Deer Park check station northwest of Spokane, according to regional wildlife manager Kevin Robinette.

He says that 226 hunters were checked with 15 whitetails and six mule deer on Sunday, the only day the station is open over opening weekend.

Last year, 187 sportsmen came through with 14 whitetails and five muleys.

Twelve whitetail does were also brought through in 2009’s first Sunday of the rifle hunt, but no permits are available this season.

“First peak, things look good,” says Robinette.

He expects hunting conditions to improve for the second weekend.

“It’s supposed to rain this weekend, so that will change things a bit,” Robinette says.

WDFW also checked 1,536 hunters with 53 blacktails at the Vail station in southern Puget Sound and 31 deer at the Winthrop station.

Diamond Shining Late In Trout Season

October 18, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

It’s the last two weeks for trout angling at Diamond Lake and the fish are biting hard. ODFW encourages anglers to get out and enjoy fishing before the lake closes Nov. 1.

“The fishing has been outstanding,” said Laura Jackson, Umpqua District Fish Biologist. “Green and purple PowerBait is working really well. Lots of the Eagle Lake rainbows, which are very nice fish, are being caught.”

The Diamond Lake Marina reports both bank anglers and fly fishermen are very successful right now. Anglers are catching fish in the nine to 22-inch range with the average fish caught at 14 inches. “The fish put on a lot of weight over the summer, so now’s the time to get out there and catch them,” Jackson said.

According to Jackson, ODFW creel surveys show the catch is averaging 3.4 fish per angler. “So far this season, more than 103,000 trout have been harvested. That is nearly double the annual harvest in the years following the 2006 rotenone treatment,” she said.

Diamond Lake Campground and boat ramp are closed for construction, but Thielsen View and Broken Arrow are open until Oct. 31. All other boat ramps are open through Oct. 31.

53 Deer Counted At Vail Station

October 18, 2010

Blacktail deer harvest and effort was down at the Vail check station over the opening weekend of rifle season, according to regional wildlife manager Greg Schirato.

He says that 53 deer were checked on the Weyerhaueser tree farm in south Puget Sound, 15 percent fewer than on 2009’s opener.

A total of 821 hunters came through on Saturday, 715 on Sunday, Schirato says.

That’s also down 25 percent compared to last year, he says.

Success was better for goose hunters, he says. Fifty were checked at other stations, including “lots of limits,” says Schirato.

A number of cacklers and white-fronted geese made interior hunts better than coastal ones, he adds.

Sportsmen also brought a cougar, a bear, a bobcat and 10 grouse through the Vail station.

 

 

SW WA Fishing Report (10-18-10)

October 18, 2010

(REPORT COURTESY JOE HYMER, PSFMC)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Lower portions of Abernathy, Cedar (Clark Co.), Coal, Germany, Mill (Cowlitz Co.) creeks and the Coweeman River – Open to fishing for hatchery steelhead beginning November 1.

All or portions of Hamilton, Olequa, Rock (Skamania Co.), and Skamokawa creeks – Sunday October 31 is the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead.

Cowlitz River – Coho are being caught throughout the river while steelhead and sea run cutthroats are being caught primarily around the trout hatchery.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching coho throughout the river.  Some of the fish ware wild and have to be released.

Lewis River – Coho are being caught in the mainstem and the North Fork.  A few dark hatchery fish are being released as are wild fish that have to be released.

Wind River – No report on angling success.  Sunday October 31 is the last day salmon may be kept.

Klickitat River – No report on angling success.  Sunday October 31 is the last day Chinook may be kept from #5 Fishway (located just upstream from the Fisher Hill Bridge) upstream.

Yakima River – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist, Pasco:  Fall chinook harvest and effort in the Yakima River declined this past week.  WDFW staff interviewed 110 anglers with 12 salmon.  An estimated 52 adult chinook and 12 jacks were caught this past week. For the season, 231 adult Chinook, 25 jacks, and 23 coho have been harvested.

The salmon fishery in the Yakima River will remain open through Friday Oct 22.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Effort is waning with less than 100 salmonid boats and bank anglers counted during last Saturday’s Oct. 16  effort flight count.

We sampled 11 salmonid bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with no catch and 42 boat anglers (21 boats) with 3 adult coho kept and 2 released.  The coho were caught in the Camas/Washougal area.

Sunday October 31 is the last day to fish for salmon and steelhead from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam.

Bonneville Pool – The catch has switched over from primarily Chinook to coho for boat anglers at the mouths of the Bonneville Pool tributaries.

Hanford Reach – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist, Pasco:  Harvest of fall Chinook in the Hanford Reach remains high though effort dropped off a bit.  Staff sampled 220 boats (529 anglers) with 430 chinook, an average of almost 2 chinook per boat.  For the fishery this season an estimated 9,964 adult chinook, 1,362 jack chinook, and 4 coho have been harvested.

Based on adult fish passage through October 15, the adult fall Chinook return to the Reach is expected to exceed 90,000 fish.

The Hanford Reach is open to the retention of steelhead upstream to Priest Rapids Dam this fall (through Oct 22).  An estimated 730 steelhead have been caught through October 17 and 332 of these have been harvested. Fishing for steelhead throughout the Hanford Reach continues to be slow for both bank and boat anglers.

The salmon fishery in the Columbia River above the Hwy 395 bridge will remain open through Friday Oct 22. The steelhead fishery below the wooden power line towers will remain open.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – Effort is still strong with just over 200 sturgeon boats and 600 bank anglers counted during last Saturday’s Oct. 16  effort flight count.

We sampled 502 sturgeon bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Wauna powerlines with 39 legals kept and 2 released.  All the legals sampled were from just below the dam.

In addition, we sampled 73 sturgeon boat anglers (32 boats) with 3 legals kept.  The legals were kept from Camas/Washougal upstream; none were found in the sample from the Longview area.

WALLEYE

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Excellent in the Camas/Washougal area where boat anglers averaged over 4 fish kept per rod.

 

 

 

 

Better Weather For 2nd Weekend Of Deer?

October 18, 2010

I went to deer camp and all I got was this lousy cold and a bee sting.

A bee sting, in freakin’ mid-October.

Actually, I think it was a yellow jacket, but aren’t those stinking things supposed to be all denned up for the winter?!

In more than a decade of hunting this part of Okanogan County, I can’t recall seeing them this time of year.

I don’t recall seeing so few deer either.

Not that there weren’t any muleys on the mountain. I saw eight on the opener, eight more on Sunday. All does and little ones.

Deer with antlers? Have yet to see any of those.

A little frustrating, especially seeing as how last December’s buck-to-doe count of 20:100 was the highest it’s been since 2002.

And the winter was mild, meaning most if not all should have survived.

And then spring and summer were moist, creating good feed conditions.

Leading into the season, Scott Fitkin, the local wildlife biologist, told me he expected the hunt would be the best in the last five years.

Harumph: Best in five years meet uncooperative weather.

Sure, there was ice on Highway 20 that nearly jack-knifed my dad and his trailer Friday morning, and there was a skiff of snow from that same storm still clinging to north faces along the North Cascades as I drove home yesterday afternoon.

But that’s not the kind of conditions that will push deer out of their high-country haunts.

The somewhat good news is that later this week there’s a chance it could rain and/or snow in the mountains of western Okanogan County as well as the west slope of the North Cascades.

Elsewhere in Washington’s deer woods, the forecast calls for a chance of rain in the Okanogan Highlands, Kettle Crest and Selkirks, Blue Mountains, and Central and South Cascades.

Some folks around the state won’t have to bother hunting the second weekend of the rifle season. 400out’s wife got her first buck in 17 years of trying, Hirshey and her boyfriend bagged a pair of whoppers, gtrplr took a 4×4 near Ritzville, Buckwheat and his pa both notched their tags and Northwest Sportsman’s Jason Brooks helped his nephew Chayse and his friend Chad Hurst kill their deer.

DAVID ERICKSON AND ORRIN COX SHOW OFF DAVID'S 3X3, SHOT OVER THE WEEKEND ALONG THE SNAKE RIVER BREAKS. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

JASON BROOKS' NEPHEW CHAYSE SHOWS OFF HIS SECOND BUCK, THIS NICE DOUGLAS COUNTY 3X3. (JASON BROOKS)

Back in the Okanogan, early stats from WDFW’s check station indicates a total of 31 deer counted on Saturday and Sunday — twice as many on the latter day as the former, according to a source at the Forest Service.

That’s down from the 36 counted over opening weekend last October, though at a different location so it’s hard to say how comparable the numbers are.

The Methow District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and WDFW decided to team up and operate a joint check station/hunter info booth at the red barn, just west of the town of Winthrop.

They’ll be back at the station next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to the Methow Valley News.

I’ll be back those same days. By then I hope this head cold is gone. It left me a drooling, dripping mess on the mountain — no fun.

Oregon Game Scofflaws At It Again

October 14, 2010

If it’s mid-October, it’s time for the Oregon State Police’s monthly rundown of game scofflaws, boneheads and jackasses.

Here are some real sterling examples from the agency’s August newsletter:

IT’LL RECOVER, THAT GAFF WOUND’S NOTHING FOR A CHINOOK

Sr. Tpr. Halsey (Albany) investigated a report of a subject who had foul-hooked a Chinook salmon, gaffed the salmon in the side, retained it for several minutes, and then threw it back into the South Santiam River below Foster Dam. The reporting person attempted to revive the salmon but was not able to.

The suspect admitted these allegations were true. Consequently, Halsey cited the male subject for Wasting Game Fish— Chinook Salmon.

THE PITCHFORK POACHER GANG

Astoria troopers monitored Big Creek over several days at various times. On one patrol, between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m., Tpr. O’Connor and Rct. Warwick contacted several anglers carrying large nets, a pitchfork, and rods rigged up with gear commonly used for snagging fish.

They issued seven criminal citations for Angling Prohibited Hours for Salmon and Angling Prohibited Method—Weight within 18 Inches of Hook.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE DAILY STEELHEAD LIMIT ISN’T EIGHT?

Sr. Tpr. Pearson and Sr. Tpr. Gunderson (The Dalles) received an early morning complaint of a gillnet in the Deschutes sanctuary. While en route, they received a call of a subject who began fishing at 1:30 a.m. under the Deschutes River Bridge and retained hatchery steelhead.

An angler who showed up to save a rock until legal fishing time told the subject to cease and desist. Another person called OSP.

Upon contact, the subject was still fishing (with his nine-year-old son) and possessed eight steelhead.

Based on the fish’s condition, the troopers determined the subject kept four steelhead between 1:30 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. Some fish were back-dated on his and his son’s tag for the day before.

The troopers cited the subject criminally for Taking Steelhead Prohibited Hours and Borrowing a Harvest Tag and seized six steelhead and his gear.

12 MILES OUT, THE RULE STILL APPLY

Tpr. Schwartz (St. Helens), Rct. Herman, and Rct. Warwick (Astoria) conducted a boat patrol on the Pacific Ocean. As they approached a boat with two anglers 12 miles offshore, they noticed an angler trying to hide something.

Herman boarded the boat. While he was talking with the angler, Warwick noticed a salmon hidden under a tarp. Herman’s consent search located a nonadipose fin-clipped coho under the tarp and a second hidden in a rear compartment. The angler was also using two rods, barbed hooks on all lines, and treble hooks on one line.

The troopers cited the angler criminally for Unlawful Taking of Nonadipose Fin-Clipped Coho Salmon (x 2), Angling Prohibited Method—Barbed Hooks for Salmon (x 2), Aiding in a Wildlife Violation—Barbed Hooks for Salmon, and Angling Prohibited Method—Treble Hooks for Salmon and seized both coho.

THAT BAN ON BEAR BAITING IS FOR OTHER HUNTERS, NOT US

Tpr. Baimbridge (Roseburg) set up to observe subjects baiting bear. When the subjects arrived, Baimbridge videoed the baiting. After the subjects baited the barrel, they climbed up into their tree stands. Baimbridge hiked a mile down to their stands, but the subjects saw him coming and took off.

The subjects had driven in behind a locked gate that they had installed a personal lock on. Three deputies who Baimbridge had set up at the gate met the subjects when they tried to flee the area.

Baimbridge cited the subjects for Hunting Bear with the Aid of Bait and other crimes. He seized their rifles, game cameras, bait barrel, and other evidence. One subject admitted to using bait to take a trophy 400-pound plus bear.

REPEAT CUSTOMER

Sr. Tpr. Turnbo and Tpr. Olsen (Salem) responded to a complaint in the Gates area regarding an alleged bear bait station on private property. The troopers located scent wicks hanging from trees, a jelly-like substance poured on stumps and small trees,and dried blood on the ground.

They followed tire tracks found down an ATV trail and into to a sub-development. Turnbo recognized a residence where he seized a poached deer previously. The troopers approached this residence and noted blood in the driveway and in the back of a vehicle. After conducting interviews at the residence, the troopers determined two subjects baited bear with doughnuts and a bottle of bear bait, one subject shot a 400+-pound black bear without a tag, and the subject’s hunting partner tagged it.

The troopers cited the shooter for Taking Bear with Bait, Taking Bear without a 2010 Bear Tag, Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree, and Borrowing a 2010 Bear Tag and his partner for Hunting Bear with Bait, Aiding in a Wildlife Crime, Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree, and Loaning a 2010 Bear Tag. They also seized the bear and two rifles.

TATTLE-TALE TIRE TRACKS

Tpr. Stone (Roseburg) investigated a possible poaching incident near Drain where a shot was heard on a Sunday evening, and a neighbor located a gut pile on Tuesday. On Thursday, Stone obtained consent from the landowner, who lives across the country, to investigate the incident. Stone located fresh deer legs, a hide, and ribcage at the same location where the gut pile was located.

Tire impressions from the carcass led to and turned up a driveway with only one house on it.

With Sr. Tpr. Bowersox (Patrol) assisting, Stone contacted the suspect’s residence. The troopers observed a truck with similar tire tread and design parked near the shop and fresh deer hair, blood smears, and fatty tissue in plain view inside the bed.

When the suspect eventually returned home, Stone interviewed the suspect and obtained a confession. The troopers seized a 30.06 rifle with a spent shell casing in the chamber along with packaged and unprocessed deer meat. The suspect’s wife hid the large three-point buck head in the shop’s attic, but it was located and seized.

Troopers cited the suspect for Taking Deer Closed Season and the wife for Aiding in a Game Violation.

WHAT, IS THE JUDGE RELATED TO THIS GUY OR SOMETHING?

Sr. Tpr. Cushman and Sgt. Meyer (Central Point) both caught a man salmon fishing on the Rogue River with a leader over six feet long, the maximum length on the Rogue River.

Cushman caught him with a 12-foot leader and cited him.

Meyer caught him using a 9 1/2-foot leader a week or two later and cited him again.

The man claimed it was a “stupid law,” and he was trying to get a petition to change it.

The man was convicted on Cushman’s citation and the judge reduced the fine to $90.

The man was again convicted on Meyer’s citation. The judge reluctantly required the whole base fine amount of $120, and he declined to suspend the man’s angling license.

WHAT’S AN EXTRA ZERO AMONG FRIENDS?

Tpr. Boyd (Springfield) contacted a large van on USFS Quartz Creek Road. He recognized the subjects from a bear grass case he made last year in the area. Boyd asked the driver how much bear grass he had. The driver did not specifically answer but presented a USFS permit that covered 1,000 pounds of bear grass and was not filled out prior to transport.

A consent search revealed about 10,000 pounds of bear grass.

Boyd escorted the van to the USFS McKenzie Ranger District station where the bear grass was seized and stored for disposal by USFS.

Boyd cited all four subjects for Unlawful Cut and Transport of Special Forest Products—Bear Grass, a Class B misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to $2,500 and six months in jail.

‘Uncle Wes’ Talks Trout At Seminar

October 14, 2010

Nine hundred and two miles, nine lakes and 133 fish later “Uncle Wes” Malmberg and his brother Brett called it a day, taking this past Monday off.

In a marathon week of trout fishing, they hit waters everywhere from just behind the dunes on the Pacific to just behind the dunes on Whidbey Island to just under the Doug firs at the southern end of Hood Canal.

At least one of those lakes earned the nickname “‘Crapberry” for the thick, green algae that stained the rims of their trailer and poor fishing had by the duo. The rain gear of their faithful fish hound Hercules also got soaked in Mason County.

But it was in good ol’ Mason County that they found the best fishing, including 48- and 40-fish days at Island and Lost Lakes, respectively, Wes says.

Neither lake is too far from the Sage Bookstore in Shelton, where Wes will give a talk on “blue collar fly fishing” the evening of Tuesday, October 19.

It will entail year-round trout fishing, what works best for Malmberg (whose mug or his brother’s appears almost monthly with fat trout or a hefty stringer of rainbows) and more.

The bookstore has limited seating, so it is suggested you call ahead. The talk runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

There will be giveaways, including items from Verle’s, Bayshore Grocery, Northwest Sportsman and the bookstore.

Sage is located at 116 W Railroad Ave No. 102. Their phone number is (360) 426-6011.

RMEF To MT: Quit Talking Settlement With Wolf Litigators

October 14, 2010

Right before a Federal judge’s ruling put gray wolves back under ESA protections in the Northern Rockies, there were whispers that the states and lupus activists were scheduled to sit down for settlement talks.

Those apparently went by the wayside when Donald Molloy passed judgment in August, but word today that the state of Montana and 13 groups involved in the never-ending listing-delisting litigation saga are having discussions.

That according to a press release this afternoon from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which blasts the talks.

The organization and other wildlife advocates sent Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Joe Maurier a letter “urging state officials to stick with science in determining adequate populations of gray wolves, rather than negotiating with environmental and animal rights groups to allow surplus populations.”

FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim confirmed the talks.

“They’re moving slow. So far we haven’t come up with anything substantive,” Aasheim said.

He said it was just one facet of the agency’s efforts to bring wolf management back to the state of Montana.

RMEF president David Allen, Mule Deer Foundation president and CEO Miles Moretti, and Big Game Forever/Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife President Ryan Benson say the “negotiations potentially threaten to weaken the state’s authority to manage populations of game and non-game species, presenting a dangerous precedent for other states seeking to manage wolf populations through their respective state agencies.”

They also say that Montana has failed to include other stakeholders — hunters, ranchers and others — in the settlement talks

“By excluding other interested parties from the discussions, the state is setting up a take-it-or-leave-it appeasement, after the fact, upon its sporting and agricultural industries,” said the press release.

RMEF claims that Montana’s concessions to wolf litigants include “an outright departure from the science and the original public feedback used to develop the state’s existing wolf management plan. In addition to relisting the wolf, the state is being pressed by plaintiff groups to settle for higher surplus wolf populations in Montana. Numbers over and above science-based wolf management plans will continue to threaten elk and moose populations as well as livestock which is unacceptable and unsustainable in many regions of Montana.”

“Any proposal in closed-door settlement talks to increase the population goals in the plan will depart from both the science and public debate that went into the plan. This is one of the reasons we feel such negotiations are unwise,” the letter states. “We strongly reiterate that the past behavior of some of these groups since the inception of the wolf-recovery program calls for great caution in attempts at any negotiation with these groups — especially if such a deal is hatched to satisfy plaintiffs who shrewdly used a technicality to strike down a Federal decision.”

They warn that the wolf litigants “have a very bad track record of saying one thing and doing another.”

Instead, they support a “Congressional solution,” and point to a pair of bills in the U.S. House and Senate, both of which would amend the Endangered Species Act to prohibit wolves from being considered for protections.

Aasheim says FWP is also talking with the state’s Congressional delegation, as well as the state of Wyoming, which has been intransigent on the wolf issue.

He said the agency has also looked into conservation hunts and is appealing Judge Molloy’s ruling to the 9th Circuit Court.

“We’re pursuing every possible angle,” Aasheim says.

He says there will be no future for wolf hunting in Montana without talks.

Anything that comes out of it would be “fully vetted,” go through public comment and would have to be approved by the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission, he says.

“It’s just such a hot-button issue that folks are getting suspicious and we understand,” Aasheim says.

But the state’s goal is to again manage wolves, as it does every other species, he says.

Improved Hunter Access To Private Lands Coming In WA, OR

October 14, 2010

Expanded access to private lands is coming for Washington and Oregon hunters thanks to grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In Washington, WDFW plans to use the money to support projects that provide incentives to:

* Private landowners who allow waterfowl hunting, big game hunting and wildlife viewing in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties.

* Private forest landowners who allow hunting in Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.

* Private landowners who allow hunting for pheasant and other wildlife found in fields in Whitman, Garfield, Columbia, and Walla Walla counties.

* Farmers who leave corn stubble untilled through the winter for waterfowl food and allow hunting in Grant and Franklin counties.

WDFW called the grant “a major boost” for efforts to open up gates previously locked to hunters.

Oregon received $786,795 grant and hopes to open an additional 200,000 acres, including upland bird hunting access in Morrow, Gilliam, Umatilla, Sherman, and Wasco counties and goose hunting access in the Willamette Valley.

The state has nearly 4.5 million acres of private lands already open to public hunting access through the Access & Habitat Program.

The money comes from USDA’s new Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, created by the 2008 federal Farm Bill to expand public access to private agricultural and forest lands.

WDFW Wildlife program manager Dave Ware said his agency is already working toward that goal, and expects to open more than 200,000 acres of additional private land to hunting by the start of next year’s hunting season.

To support that effort, WDFW has raised $400,000 to expand hunter access through additional fees paid by hunters who apply for new permit-only hunts.

“Our staff is working with farmers, ranchers and owners of private timberlands on multi-year agreements right now,” Ware said. “With the new federal grant, we’ll be able to do a lot more.”

Ware said WDFW has bolstered its Private Lands Access program to reverse the steady decline of land open to hunting due to population growth, suburban sprawl and crowding on public lands. The department currently has access agreements with over 600 landowners, providing access to just over one million acres of private land around the state.

Besides opening their lands to hunters, landowners may qualify for compensation by planting crops and vegetation that attract game or agreeing to allow duck blinds on their property.

Rural communities that provide services to hunters who visit their area also benefit from the program, Ware said. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters spend approximately $313 million in Washington each year, mostly in rural areas.

In addition, WDFW plans to update its GoHunt online mapping program, and develop an automated system that will allow hunters to reserve hunting days on private lands enrolled in some of the department’s access programs.

For more information on the Private Lands Access program, see WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/hunting_access/private_lands/ .

For more information on Oregon’s Open Fields program or A&H call Matt Keenan at 503-947-6087 or visit the website at www.dfw.state.or.us/AH/

Managers Reopen Lower Columbia For Chinook

October 14, 2010

With ESA-listed salmon now out of the Lower Columbia, fishery managers today announced that the river below the Lewis River is reopening as of tomorrow, Oct. 15, for Chinook.

“The fish we were trying to protect — lower river Chinook — have moved into the tribs and are spawning now,” says WDFW’s Cindy LeFleur in Vancouver.

JACQUELINE S. OF PORTLAND SHOWS OFF A COLUMBIA FALL BRIGHT, CAUGHT IN MID-SEPTEMBER. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Just don’t expect late-August and early-September style action this late in the run.

“It isn’t going to be too much” of a sport catch, she cautions . “We’re on the tail end of the run.”

Still, this week has seen counts of 1,216, 974, 721 and 717 upriver brights over Bonneville Dam, thanks perhaps to an unusual late bump in the run.

Joe Hymer, another fisheries biologist based in Vancouver as well as local angler suggests:

“Towards Bonneville boat anglers do well back-trolling sardine-wrapped Kwikfish. Probably still a chance to catch a fish downriver anchored with a wobbler but a better chance of catching coho and an outside chance of catching a Chinook trolling spinners especially at the mouth of the Cowlitz.”

It’s unclear why there was a second peak.

“I was wondering if they were Snake fish, Hanford fish, but the PIT tags are from everywhere,” says LeFleur.

PIT tags are tiny beacons implanted in salmon and steelhead snouts with individual codes for each fish. They are read by arrays at the dams on the Columbia.

Data from this past decade shows there can be big late days at Bonneville, but nothing like the trio of quintuple-fish days in late September.

Sense And Scent-sibility

October 14, 2010

“The bane of a logical wife.”

That was Amy’s suggested headline for this blog entry on the eve of the eve of me leaving for deer camp.

As we lay in bed after getting the boys down last night, she wasn’t buying into my precautions with scents.

Over two nights I’d washed all my hunting, camp and sleeping clothes in special scent-free detergent I’d just bought. And when her dad stayed with us for awhile last month, I refused to let him use my sleeping bag because it had been freshly dry-cleaned and packed away.

Controlling odors while hunting has become an obsession of mine, probably because of the number of very close encounters with deer I’ve had as I’ve gotten more serious about it.

But now with the final load finished in the dryer and ready for packing, I was worrying that a finger that had just touched the sock on my right foot might contaminate the whole batch.

When I sniffed it to double check, Amy scoffed.

She finds it ridiculous that I go to lengths such as the hunting beard.

She pointed out that my freshly cleaned clothes were all going into a plastic bin and a garbage sack. (I don’t have Dad’s woodworking skills — he built cedar boxes to store his getup.)

They’ll just end up smelling like plastic, Amy said.

Plastic packed with Douglas fir twigs and pinecones so I blend in with the forest, I retorted.

OK, she said, but what about campfire smoke Friday night before the opener?

We have giant space heaters at deer camp, I said.

Do not.

Do so.

No, you’ve talked about sitting around the campfire, she said.

The trick is to stay upwind, babe, I said.

Doesn’t matter, she said, it will still smell up you and your clothes.

She had me there. There’s just no way to avoid smoke — it follows handsomeness, and I’m the best looking guy at deer camp. Gets into your hair, nostrils, pores — all over so you end up smelling like a contestant at a wood-burning derby by the time you get back home.

“The bane of a logical wife,” she said.

Harumph.

“I’m shattering all your fantasies of being scentless with reason,” she cackled.

“Alleged reason,” I quickly countered.

What you really should do, she said, was go the opposite way, all natural – no shower for a week, roll in some leaves, eat nothing but grubs and blueberries, don’t wipe your butt.

In other words, the Bigfoot route.

I’m not sure how that would go over with my hunting partners, however. Part of the reason I go to deer camp is the camaraderie with Dad and the gang, and that sort of scent profile might violate the unspoken code — not to mention get me kicked out of Dad’s trailer.

She teased me some more so I left in a huff.

On the couch, as I folded my hunting clothes and put it them order, I realized I’ll have plenty of fleeces for a cold weekend (forecast calls for snow tomorrow and lows in the 20s on opening morning), but it appears that I’ll need to do yet another load. Apparently I only washed one pair of boxers and two and a half pairs of sox for the whole weekend.

But does it really matter, though? After awhile I recalled that my dad has actually killed far more deer as a smoker than he has since quitting. In fact, I don’t think he’s shot one since giving up Marlboros.

Wait, he did get one, a doe up the Entiat.

Maybe scent control isn’t the entire reason those deer have passed by me at such close range, maybe it’s also body control – not moving much.

Yeah, that makes sense too. Put your back to a tree or rock and just slowly scan the woods.

I was going to run that one past the “logical” wife, but she’d gone to sleep.

Which, with 58 hours till opening morning, seemed like a logical thing for me to do as well.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (10-13-10)

October 13, 2010

Postcard from Tillamook received earlier this week at Northwest Sportsman World Headquarters:

“On the Wilson now, one-day window. Yesterday: mud, tomorrow: low and clear,” wrote Andy Schneider, who just happened to attach a couple images of how things were going in that “one-day window.”

 

WILSON RIVER FALL CHINOOK FROM EARLIER THIS WEEK. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

 

 

ANOTHER WILSON CHINOOK. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

 

Grab your October issue of Northwest Sportsman and go, man, go! Schneider maps and details the nitty gritty on this fishery.

That’s not the only place around Oregon you can find fishing action right now. Chinook fishing’s still going strong in Coos Bay and around the mouth of the Umatilla River.

There are other species to pursue too — walleye off Troutdale, trout in the hunting country of Northeast Oregon and bottomfish out of Brookings.

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

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Chinook anglers continue to do well in Coos Bay.
  • Empire and Saunders lakes have been stocked with trout this month and should offer some food fall fishing.
  • Thanks to cooler fall temperatures and supplemental trout stocking, fishing has been excellent on several lakes in the upper Rogue area.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Alsea River: Anglers a having fair to good success for fall chinook from the lower bay up to Five Rivers. Recent rains have moved fish up river but more fish are expected to pulse in through the month. Trolling herring or lures near bottom on an incoming tide or bobber and bait in upper tide water can produce 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 having fair success at catching chinook in tidewater and up to the hatchery. Fishing the incoming tide should produced the best results. Cutthroat trout fishing is good from the bay through the mid river area.
  • Siletz River: Fall chinook angling is fair with fish found throughout tide water.  Recent rains have moved fish above tide water. The wild adult coho fishery is producing a steady catch throughout the open zone. Steelhead and cutthroat trout fishing is slow to fair in the upper river.
  • Siuslaw River: Anglers are having fair to good success for fall chinook. Mid to upper tidewater is producing the best catch rates around high tide. Trolling herring or artificial lures in lower to mid tidewater and bait and bobber in upper tide water can be effective. Cutthroat trout angling is fair.
  • 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. A few hatchery coho are still being caught, mainly in the upper bay. Many of the wild coho have been quite large this year causing some anglers to confuse them for chinook. Make sure to positively identify your fish as to species. 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 is fair to good from mid to upper tide water. Anglers are getting into fish during the incoming tide trolling herring or artificial baits. 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.

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, trout fishing has been good in several area lakes.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Brown trout fishing has been good in both Miller Lake and Lake of the Woods.
  • Fishing for brook trout in the Cascade Mountain lakes has been excellent.
  • Wild redband trout have been biting on the Wood and Williamson rivers.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Trout fishing in many area lakes also has improved as with cooler weather.
  • Hunters should pack a fish rod in with the hunting gear and take advantage of good fall trout fishing in Jubilee Lake, Pendland Lake and the Umatilla/Walla Walla forest ponds.
  • Steelhead fishing has been fair on many area rivers and should improve with some rain and increased flows.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Walleye fishing is excellent in Troutdale.
  • Catch rates for fall chinook remain high for boat anglers in the gorge.
  • Sturgeon retention is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday during Oct. 1 – Dec. 31 from Wauna Powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.
  • Bass and walleye anglers should take advantage of the great fall weather and get in a few more fishing trips prior to winter. Bass and walleye are on the bite in the John Day and McNary pools, top water angling for smallmouth can be good all day this time of year!
  • Fall chinook, coho and steelhead numbers are peaking in the Columbia River at the mouth of the Umatilla River. Anglers are casting spinners and plugs for salmon and using bobbers and jigs/bait for steelhead.

MARINE ZONE

  • High winds and big waves kept most ocean anglers off the ocean last week, but ODFW samplers in Brookings reported several limits of bottom fish.
  • Big swell continued this week and kept most tuna fishers in port. Most years the fish continue to hang around until mid to late October, but from now on weather and ocean conditions are the key considerations.

New Boots

October 13, 2010

You may recall my old hunting boots. I slapped a picture of them in the magazine last October and wrote an editor’s note around them. They were coming apart, as was the economy.

To make do in a time of want, I got out my 65-pound braid and sewed frayed seams back together. It worked.

THE EDITOR'S FIRST REPAIR JOB ON HIS BOOTS. THE 65-POUND BRAID HELD, BUT THE SOLES CAME APART. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

But after two years or so of nearly daily wear, they’re now beyond my shoe repair skills.

At some point during this past spring and summer’s rains, they developed reverse osmosis, somehow sucking water up off the ground, even when there weren’t puddles. This puzzled me until one day when I turned them over and discovered large patches of the rubber sole had separated from the boot.

Hmmm.

Despite that, I actually thought I could limp them through another hunting season. After all, the Okanogan can be bone dry in mid-October.

It can also be pretty wet, as has happened several years since 2003’s statewide rainfest that swamped our camp. And the forecast calls for a fair chance of rain or snow Friday.

So I broke down yesterday afternoon and went over to Outdoor Emporium and bought new boots, giving myself about, oh, 85 hours or so to break them in before deer season begins.

It wasn’t just me. There were a couple other guys giving the Seattle outfitter’s footwear a going over.

Admitting to myself that most of my walking is done on pavement — as is most driving done by 4×4 trucks — I put on some less expensive shoes, but they didn’t have the ankle support or the toe room. Then, reconsidering my economic reasoning, I went for a pair of $150 boots in the next size up and started wandering around the store.

They felt good on the trip back to the scent-free laundry detergent, which was good, but I could swear they stumbled slightly when I came around a corner and found about two dozen pink ice fishing rods.

Ice fishing rods?!?! In Seattle?

And pink?

I don’t know, maybe Paul M., Tim B. and the boys hope to corner the lucrative Capitol Hill tip-up market or something.

Anyways, after slapping down a whole lot more money than I’d anticipated, I hoofed it the mile or so to my bus stop in my new boots and noted some hot spots on the sides of my feet. Then, walking around the house, there were some traction issues with the Vibram soles — or maybe that was just the peas Kiran tossed off his high chair onto the floor.

Got them on again today and they feel all right, though I don’t think nervously tapping legs as deadline and hunting season (now just 69 hours away) approach will do much to help stretch out the leather.

Emails a friend just now, “Yeah, I would make it a priority in getting those boots broken in pronto!  I don’t need to see you in tears at the saddle because your feet hurt.”

But if that does happen, he can give me a ride back to camp in his deer cart. He won’t need it otherwise because he used up all his luck last year.

2 World Records For OR Koke Angler

October 13, 2010

One kokanee yielded two world records for a La Grande, Ore., angler.

“Ron Campbell is the new all-tackle and line-class record holder,” said Jack Vitek, the world records coordinator for the International Game Fish Association, this morning.

The retired firefighter caught a 9.67-pound landlocked sockeye at Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa Lake June 13, killing the standing world record, a 9-pound, 6-ounce British Columbia fish landed in 1988.

It was also the largest ever on 12-pound test.

 

RON CAMPBELL AND HIS WORLD-RECORD KOKANEE. (RON CAMPBELL)

 

 

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE MONSTER. (RON CAMPBELL)

 

Vitek says Campbell will be receiving official certification of his catch, membership in the IGFA and a letter from the Florida-based organization’s president in the mail, and have his name included in the world-record book.

SW WA Fishing Report (10-12-10)

October 12, 2010

(COURTESY JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Grays River – No report on angling success.  Friday October 15 is the last day to fish for salmon and steelhead until November 15 (mainstem Grays from Hwy. 4 Bridge downstream) or December 1 (mainstem Grays from Hwy. 4 Bridge to South Fork and West Fork Grays from mouth to hatchery intake/footbridge).

Cowlitz River – Anglers are catching a mixture of fall Chinook, coho, and sea run cutthroats.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 8,349 coho adults, 1,049 jacks, 2,396 fall Chinook adults, 247 jacks, 57 summer-run steelhead, one winter-run steelhead and 64 sea-run cutthroat trout during seven days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released 1,012 coho adults, 243 jacks, 606 fall Chinook adults and 77 jacks into Lake Scanewa, 965 coho adults, 101 jacks, 423 fall Chinook adults and 57 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, 477 fall Chinook adults, 44 jacks, 35 coho adults and 24 jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, 105 fall Chinook adults, 13 jacks, 450 coho adults, 44 jacks and six cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.  In addition, a total of 35 sea-run cutthroat trout were recycled downstream to the Barrier Dam boat launch.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,900 cubic feet per second on Monday, October 11 and will remain steady.

Kalama and Lewis rivers – Anglers are catching some coho though most of the fish were released.  However, a higher ratio of the fish were kept in recent checks.

Klickitat River – Anglers are catching a mix of Chinook, coho, and steelhead.

Yakima River – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist, Pasco WA:  Fall chinook harvest continues to improve. Effort continues to increase as the harvest begins to rise.  WDFW staff interviewed 142 anglers with 19 salmon this past week. An estimated 103 adult chinook, 10 jacks, and 13 coho were caught this past week. For the season an estimated 179 adult Chinook, 13 jacks, and 23 coho have been caught.

Lower mainstem Columbia from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to Bonneville Dam – During the first week and a half of October we sampled 77 salmonid bank anglers with 4 adult coho and 2 steelhead, an average of a salmonid kept/released per every 12.8 rods based on mainly incomplete trips. In addition, we sampled 187 salmonid boat anglers (92 boats) with 18 adult fall Chinook and 10 adult coho, an average of a salmonid kept/released per every 6.7 rods based on mainly completed trips.  Overall, 43% of the coho caught were kept.

Bonneville Pool – Anglers are catching some Chinook at the mouth of the Klickitat.  50 boats were counted there last Saturday (October 9) morning.

Effective October 16, anglers will be able to fish for salmon and steelhead at night and the anti-snagging rule will be lifted per permanent rule.

The Dalles and John Day pools – No report on angling success.  Per permanent rules, the anti-snagging rule for salmon and steelhead will be lifted effective October 16.

Hanford Reach – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist, Pasco WA:  Another good week in the Hanford Reach for fall chinook.  Staff sampled 317 boats (759 anglers) with 518 chinook. Better than a chinook per boat average.  For the fishery this season an estimated 7,662 adult chinook, 1,079 jack chinook, and 4 coho have been harvested.

Based on passage through October 7, the estimated total adult fall chinook return to the Reach is 88,097. This is an expansion based on the 12 year average. Using the most recent two years this estimate increases slightly to 88,911 fish.

The Hanford Reach is open to the retention of steelhead upstream to Priest Rapids Dam this fall (through Oct 22).  An estimated 691 steelhead have been caught through October 10 and 302 of these have been harvested. Fishing for steelhead throughout the Hanford Reach was slow last week for both bank and boat anglers.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – In general, decent from the bank just below Bonneville Dam on the opener (October 1) but has since slowed.  Boat anglers are catching some legals from Kalama upstream.

During the first week and a half of October we sampled 574 sturgeon bank anglers with 57 legals kept and 2 released, an average of a legal per every 9.7 rods based on mainly incomplete trips. All but one of the legals was caught just below the dam.  In addition, we sampled 161 sturgeon boat anglers (72 boats) with 21 legals kept, an average of a legal per every 7.7 rods based on mainly completed trips.

The balance remaining on the catch guideline for the year above Wauna is only 2,337 fish.  An estimated 1,182 legals were harvested the five days sturgeon retention was allowed from October 1-10.  There are 1,155 fish remaining on the catch guideline for the year.

WALLEYE

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Boat anglers in the Camas/Washougal area averaged over 1.5 walleye per rod.

 

 

 

Good News, Bad News For W WA Hunters

October 12, 2010

THE GOOD NEWS: WDFW today announced that an area near the mouth of the Dungeness River will be open for duck and goose hunting for the first time in over a century.

The 140-acre Lower Dungeness Unit will be open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays when the statewide season gets under way Oct. 16 through a three-year agreement with Dungeness Farms Inc.

The area is on the west side of the river off of East Anderson Road near Sequim.

A state biologist says it’s important that hunters follow the rules for the site.

The nearby Dungeness Recreation Area will also be open for waterfowl hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays for the duration of the waterfowl season as well as pheasant hunting three days a week and holidays through Nov. 30, thanks to a new three-year agreement there. However, deer hunting has been banned.

THE BAD NEWS Deer hunting has also been banned on Center Forest, on Vashon Island, effective Oct. 15. It’s the only real public land available to hunting on the island in southern Puget Sound.

King County DNR, which owns the land, “is temporarily suspending its authorization allowing the discharge of weapons in Vashon Island’s Island Center Forest while County officials assess past and current uses on the land, and collect citizen input about future uses. The effect of the County’s action is to suspend deer hunting in Island Center Forest.”

The Vashon-Maury Beachcomber recently did a good long article on hunting and nonhunting uses at the forest.

Deer On The Range – Literally

October 12, 2010

Every year I head to deer camp believing that muleys, whitetails and blacktails are the cagiest animals on this planet.

Maybe it’s all this copy I’m always reading right before season starts, but my mind builds them up into these almost mythical creatures, as rare and shy as Bigfoot, and as fleeting as the fog through timber. They’re known as timber ghosts, after all.

So to beat them at their own game, I get crazy with camouflaging myself, my smells and my noises.

I wash my socks, boxers, camo pants, T-shirts, fleeces and hunting vest as well as my sleeping bag in special scent-free detergent so the animals don’t smell me. I then add pine and fir needles to the bin I carry them all in to give my getup an eau du woods.

I grow a hunting beard.

I spray my hunting boots to try and mask some of their atrocious odor.

I avoid campfire (as much as possible).

I creep through the forest, three steps at a time.

I hold my mouth open to better hear sounds in the woods.

I overfill my backpack so my knives, radio, extra bullets, etc., don’t clank around.

I sit still, back against trees or rocks for hours.

In other woods, I try my best to blend in so that when deer come along, they aren’t aware of my presence.

And then you read online threads like the one I found today and think, why am I doing all this work again?!?!

Seems that one of the boys on Hunting Washington was sighting his rifle in at the range this past Saturday when something unexpected wandered by.

Take it away, Timberghost72:

This morning I went to the range to fire a few rounds off and to dial in some hand loads.  The range is 100 yards and is across a grass field. There was about 20 people also there using the 100 yard range.  10 minutes into live fire I look up after I took a shot and a deer (doe) jumps out of some tall grass on the right side of the last lane about 15 feet in front of the targets down range. It proceeds to casually walk and eat grass all while moving from right to left across 8 lanes. People are still firing their rifles so I yell out DEER. Still no one sees it and still are firing their rifles down range. Keep in mind it is WIDE OPEN. After about 45 seconds and a second yell by me finally people start to see it. Range master called a cease fire and he went out and chased it off.

Not so unusual, it turns out.

Adds Frogger:

I’ve seen a few nice 4 points out on the range in Renton

And Grainfed Muley:

In 1994 I was in Selitz Oregon for the Oregon Rifle and Pistol Assoc., Full auto state championships. In the middle of the assualt rifle match, with 6 people shooting, a blacktail doe steps out left to right and did the same thing just casually walked accross the shooting range. Luckily everybody saw her and stopped. They started the match over.

And Polar Bear:

An old guy that I use to work with dropped a 4 pt. that showed up at the end of the 200 yard range at Evergreen Sportsman’s Club out of Littlerock. He was packing up his stuff after several hours of shooting when he noticed it standing on the hill behind the target.  He dropped it, backe his truck up to the hill, rolled it into the back and drove off to nearby Capitol Forrest to roll the gut out of it.  Pretty sweet for an old dude with diabetes who could hardly walk anymore.  Oh, and yes it was rifle deer season and he had a tag.

And Woodswalker:

BEFORE the DNr closed the pit up above my place it was common to see deer wandering out nibbling the blackberry tips while folks were shooting…we would call a cease fire and shoo them off…and go back to shooting.

Hmmm. Maybe I don’t have to launder my giant pile of hunting clothes or track down the bottle of scent mojo in the 72 hours between now and taking off for camp after all.

Sweet Day On The Columbia For Lad

October 8, 2010

In the Walgamott Pantheon of Greatest Fishing Days ever, one stands — that February morning back in high school yours truly had a pair of those elusive Skykomish River hatchery steelies on the bank by 7:30 a.m.

But I think I’d trade it for the day that young Brayden Loyd recently enjoyed.

Out trolling the mouth of the Deschutes with his grandpa, the 9-year-old not only nailed a steelhead that dwarfs both those brats I caught, but he landed a pretty nice Chinook as well.

Even better, they were his first B-run and his first salmon ever.

BRAYDEN LOYD'S FIRST SALMON ... (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

... AND HIS FIRST B-RUN STEELHEAD. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Welcome to the sport, Brayden, and good job!

Coquille Coho Show Closes After Sunday

October 7, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

This is the last weekend of the season to fish for wild coho in the Coquille River. Beginning Monday, Oct. 11, the fishery will be closed because the harvest quota of 1,200 fish is projected to be met, ODFW fishery managers said.

“Earlier this week, the harvest estimate approached 80 percent of the allowable quota. With the rains coming Friday night, coho will be on the move and, with higher weekend effort, we’re projecting a high catch rate this weekend,” said Mike Gray, ODFW fish biologist. “It’s been a fantastic season, and we’re glad we could give people the opportunity to take a wild coho salmon.”

ODFW received approval from NOAA Fisheries Service to implement conservative harvest on ESA-listed coho salmon, for populations that meet certain criteria.  The ability to implement fisheries on listed coho depends on managing the harvest within allowable quotas.

The Coquille River remains open for fall chinook and hatchery steelhead.  The fall chinook fishery continues to be excellent in the Coquille River this season.

Saveelk Founder Accused Of … Poaching An Elk

October 7, 2010

This is one of those cases that, frankly, I don’t want to touch with a 20-foot pole, but reports out of South-central Idaho indicate that an outspoken pro-elk/anti-wolf activist not only faces a felony charge of poaching a trophy elk in September 2009 but could lose his hunting privileges for life.

Reports the Idaho Mountain Express:

Anthony J. Mayer, 59, is charged in a criminal complaint filed in Blaine County 5th District Court in September with “flagrant unlawful killing and possession of a trophy bull elk.” He is also charged with the misdemeanor crimes of hunting without an elk tag, hunting without an archery permit and unlawful possession of protected wildlife.

Mayer, who cofounded the graphic Web site saveelk.com along with his brother Dr. Rick Mayer, entered a plea of not guilty, the paper reports. His lawyer vows to fight the charges in a jury trial.

“We’re prepared to bring every possible legal defense on behalf of our client,” attorney John Lothspeich told the paper’s Terry Smith. “He is a lifelong dedicated hunter and fisherman and we deny any wrongdoing on the part of our client.”

 

A PAGE FROM SAVEELK.COM

 

According to Smith’s article yesterday:

A probable-cause affidavit filed by Fish and Game Conservation Officer Merritt Horsmon accuses Mayer of illegally killing a “6X6 bull elk” in the Alturas Lake Creek drainage area several days after the bow hunting season was closed in Unit 36 on Sept. 30, 2009. Horsmon alleges that the animal, of trophy status, was killed instead by Mayer on Oct. 3 and that Mayer did not have an elk tag at the time or a valid archery permit.

Horsmon wrote that he started the investigation after being told by other Fish and Game employees that Mayer had posted a story with photographs about the killing of the animal on the “Bowsite” website on Oct. 5, 2009. Details of the story, Horsmon wrote, indicated that the animal had been killed when the season was closed.

Horsmon wrote that Mayer posted the same story on the “Sportsman’s Warehouse Bragg’n Board” on Oct. 7, 2009. He further wrote that Mayer entered the animal’s antlers in the Twin Falls Sportsman’s Warehouse 2009 Bucks and Bulls contest.

Evidence was also gathered after a search warrant was served on Mayer’s home in Twin Falls on Nov. 11, 2009.

Horsmon wrote that Mayer told him in an interview on Oct. 8, 2009, that “he had first shot and wounded the elk using archery equipment on Sept. 30, 2009, and again shot and killed the elk using archery equipment on Oct. 1, 2009.”

Horsmon alleged that Mayer didn’t purchase an elk tag until Oct. 4, 2009, and that when he reported the elk harvest he claimed to have killed the animal on that day.

Speaking through his attorney, Mayer declined to comment on the charges to the Idaho Mountain Express.

Obviously we only know the state’s side of the story so far — and frankly, what’s confusing to me with all the dates about who did what when.

And it will be interesting to hear what comes out in a jury trial about the reason Mr. Mayer allegedly went out during closed season to kill the elk.

But I gotta say, WTF!?!

Even if Mayer is found not guilty, this can be nothing but a black eye for sportsmen and the country’s perception of us.

Here we have one of the biggest howlers about the horror that is the wolves who for all intents and purposes allegedly poached an elk, a species said to be on the ropes … because of the wolves.

I suppose it is possible that Mayer, feeling guilty about only wounding the animal, decided to mercifully finish the job.

But it’s puzzling why he allegedly didn’t have an elk tag in the first place. Or a permit to hunt elk with a bow.

We’ll see how this story develops.

The Hunting Beard

October 7, 2010

I’m working on my annual hunting beard, but I’m not sure this fall’s edition will make it the week and a half until Washington’s deer season opener.

Too many white hairs, especially around my chinny chin chin.

Also up around my ears and above my upper lip.

Makes me look old — and I’m too young to have to start using Just For Men.

So every morning my razor calls louder and louder.

For now I’m ignoring the blasphemous blade. I’ve grown a scruff this time of year for a decade or so, for reasons that probably make not a lick of sense to Amy, who says it hurts her lips when we kiss.

 

THE 2009 EDITION OF THE BLOGGER'S BEARD -- STARTING TO SHOW SOME WHITE HAIRS! (TOM WALGAMOTT)

 

For starters, beards just look outdoorsy. How many mountain men do you know of who head out to check their trap line clean-shaven? The tough men in all those rifle and shotgun ads all seem to have either the Don Johnson or Merlin Olsen thing going on as well.

Then there’s the badass factor. For whatever reason, the more facial hair, the meaner you look — I personally wouldn’t mess with the guys from ZZ Top. A beard can come in handy when some big jerk tries to beat you to your stump — or you have to try and scare off a cougar or bear poaching on your hunting grounds.

It also seems to keep my face a bit warmer on cold autumn morns — or at least my face feels a lot cooler in the breeze after I cut it off.

And while my beard isn’t very thick, there’s enough dark hairs to mask an otherwise pale face that might as well be a stop sign for a muley buck. Sure, I’m wearing a hunter orange hat and vest, but it just seems like the black and copper whiskers help me become one with the ponderosa pines up on Andy’s Mountain.

Well, until recently anyway.

The white hairs have actually been increasing for some time, making inroads above my ears and on my chest. From time to time a stray albino even shows up on my brown mop. I quickly pluck it out.

But this fall, it’s like they’ve bumrushed my face.

Maybe it is age, maybe it’s having two young sons — one of whom seems to want to do nothing but take bites out of the other while the other won’t share his immense pile of Legos — maybe it’s the pressure of coming up with new and interesting stuff for the mag.

Perhaps the best thing about my dark-haired mug up until now is that with a few razor swipes after season, I’ve got a pretty killer Fu Manchu.

Great for Halloween getups or getting an eyeroll or 300 out of Amy.

But methinks a salt-and-pepper ‘stache loses the affect.

If there’s one good thing about my whiskers losing their color, it’s this: At least I’ll be able to blend in better when it snows up at deer camp.

Postscript: A friend makes another good point about the hunting beard. After you shave it off, you tend to look a whole lot younger, and that’s pretty cool too.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon 10-6-10

October 6, 2010

(OCTOBER 6, 2010) If you’ve got an unfilled deer tag and a permit to hunt in the Murderers Creek or Silver Lake units, we’d suggest bringing along a rod and reel this weekend.

Anglers have been catching “huge” rainbows out Dead Horse and Slide Lakes recently, ODFW reports.

Dead Horse is south of Summer Lake, Slide southeast of John Day.

But trout aren’t the only thing gnawing on baits in the Beaver State. Chinook fishing continues to be good along the coast, tuna are still biting (we got a report of a good catch out of Brookings last weekend) and so are steelies, coho and spinyrays.

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

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.
  • Fish Lake has been freshly stocked with 900 trophy-sized trout.
  • Recently anglers have reported catching limits of browns and rainbows at Lemolo Lake.
  • 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.
  • Siuslaw River: Fall chinook angling is consistent with fair to good catch rates. Anglers are catching fish from the lower bay through tide water. Trolling herring or lures close to the bottom can be productive. Cutthroat trout angling is fair with sea-run cutthroat found from the bay into mid 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. A few hatchery coho are still being caught, mainly in 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

  • ODFW will host a youth angling event Saturday, Oct. 9 at Mt. Hood Pond from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Approximately 1,500 rainbow will be released in the pond in anticipation of this event. ODFW staff and volunteer instructors will be present to provide instruction and fishing equipment to any youngsters who need assistance.
  • Coho are moving into the Willamette River and its tributaries in good numbers and recent rains have improved conditions.

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, trout fishing has been good in several area lakes.
  • 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.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • 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 good in Troutdale.
  • Catch rates for fall chinook remain high in the gorge.
  • Sturgeon retention opened Friday, Oct. 1 from Wauna Powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.

MARINE ZONE

  • Most bottom fishers out of Charleston and Brookings came home with limits or near limits of rock fish. The rest of the coast had bottomfish catches of between three and five fish per angler. Lingcod were harder to come by with the best catches being one fish for every four anglers.

Oregon Deer Opener Reports

October 6, 2010

It’s hard to judge across the board, but initial reports from ODFW indicate that deer hunters in Eastern Oregon may have fared better than those on the I-5 side of the Beaver State did over the opening weekend of rifle season.

Here are reports straight from the agency’s weekly recreation report:

SOUTHWEST

Deer season opener here was slow as expected.  Conditions were warm and calm and few hunters were making an effort.  Several commented they were scouting for elk as much as anything.  Warm calm conditions have deer moving and feeding mostly at night which makes hunting them difficult.  The lack of effort and success is not unusual for the coast; most hunters wait for rain before they expend much effort.  As rain occurs, effort and success should pick up; it always does.

The buck ratio going into the season is fairly good this year and a good proportion of that ratio is made up of by bucks with better that forked antlers.  So the deer season in Coos County should be a good one as long as weather cooperates.  The best days to hunt are days with light rain or mist late in October.  Deer will be found in or near clear cuts with lots of brush growing in them.  The most productive time of day will be just after the beginning of shooting hours and just before the end of shooting hours.

SOUTH WILLAMETTE WATERSHED

Hunting was fairly slow due to the warm weather but a few hunters found animals. Conditions in the woods are fair in terms of the “crunch” factor, but deer are not real active right now. Hunters may find deer feeding early or late in the day but the deer will most likely be bedded down during most of the day.

NORTH WILLAMETTE WATERSHED DISTRICT

A typical opening weekend for hunters in the NWWD. The majority of industrial forest land managers in the district have opened their lands for access, motor vehicle or walk-in, to hunters. The number of hunters in the field appeared to be similar to previous years. Staff were out in the field and checked 52 hunters but did not encounter any hunters that had harvested a deer. Prospects for this weekend: Average! Forecasted cool and wet weather will help dampen leaves that have fallen and make stalking more successful. Deer will be found in clearcuts and other forest openings early in the morning but will quickly move to brushy cover areas to bed down for the day. Hunters should concentrate their efforts on these bedding areas during mid-day.

CENTRAL

Opening weekend buck hunters enjoyed average to above average success though conditions were hot and dry. Most of the animals taken were yearling bucks, but several nice older bucks were taken in the Maury and Ochoco units. The predicted cooler weather should provide improved hunting conditions, and the bucks taken have been in excellent shape. . Overall harvest success for the weekend was 8%, an improvement over the 5% observed last year. Hunters are reminded the Rager and South Boundary Travel Management Areas (TMA’s) will be in effect in the Ochoco unit.

NAOMI SMITH'S TAGGED OUT, BAGGING HER BUCK LAST SUNDAY IN THE GRIZZLY UNIT. THE HANDSOME FORKED HORN WAS FEEDING IN A CARROT FIELD. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

SOUTHEAST

Weather conditions were quite variable this year. Opening day conditions were hot and dry with temperatures into the upper 80s and lower 90s. By Saturday evening storm clouds had moved in and some areas experienced light showers. Sunday brought intermittent showers and provided enough moisture to settle the dust and create quieter hunting conditions. Daytime temperatures for the second day of deer season ranged from the upper 50s and lower 60s. Opening weekend hunter success as measured on the second day of the season varied depending upon the area.  Many unsuccessful hunters reported seeing some yearling bucks, but were holding out for something larger. Success rate averaged 15 percent district wide.

NORTHEAST

Rifle Buck DEER season opened Saturday Oct. 2.  Warm temperatures opening weekend resulted in lower hunter effort and few hunters were checked. The highest success was reported in the Sumpter unit with an 11% success rate. Temperatures dropped substantially October 4 and success should improve as the season progresses.

Gonowgonowgonow — Big Trout Just Stocked!

October 6, 2010

WDFW just announced they’re sluicing 12,500 “jumbo” trout into lakes in three Hood Canal-area counties this week.

The agency is putting the 1-pounders into Gibbs and Teal lakes in Jefferson County; Island, Kokanee, Lost, Nahwatzel, Spencer and Trails End lakes in Mason County; and Kitsap Lake in Kitsap County.

ISLAND LAKE LUNKER CAUGHT BY THE EDITOR. ("UNCLE WES" MALMBERG)

All the lakes are year-rounders, and while local angler “Uncle Wes” Malmberg and his bro Brett will take their fair share of the booty, some of the rainbows are expected to stick around til next spring.

The fish were raised at WDFW’s Eells Springs Hatchery near Shelton.

ODFW: Coquille Coho Could Close Quickly

October 6, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

ODFW fishery managers are alerting anglers that the wild coho fishery on the Coquille River is nearing its harvest quota and could be closing soon.

“Angling effort has been very high the last two weeks, with a lot of people catching fish,” said Mike Gray, ODFW fish biologist. “While we haven’t set the actual closing date, we wanted to give people as much notice as possible that it will likely be closing soon.”

The wild coho fishery is scheduled to remain open until Nov. 30 or until a harvest quota of 1,200 fish has been met.  As of Oct. 3, nearly 80 percent of the quota has been caught.

Gray suggests anglers check the ODFW website before planning a trip to the Coquille. While the wild coho fishery may close soon, the river will remain open for fall chinook fishing

Food For Thought On Hunter Orange

October 5, 2010

Earlier this afternoon one of my Portland writers turned in a story on mushroom hunting for our November issue. Pretty good piece, I thought — unexpected too, which pleased me even more.

As we bantered back and forth over email about how to illustrate the article, I gave him a rough idea for setting up a photograph when he heads afield soon with a pail and high hopes of chanterelle soup.

With Oregon rifle deer season on now, and last week’s tragic shooting death of a brush picker in Mason County, I added, “And for criminy sakes, wear something bright so you don’t get shot.”

He said he always did.

I don’t mean to imply here that the Northwest’s woods are some sort of free fire zone in fall — or winter, or spring, or summer. Statistics from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife back me up that it’s not.

The sport is extremely safe compared to the days before Hunter Education was required. Compare the 400-plus fatal and nonfatal accidents between 1967 and 1976, in the pre-hunter orange and pre-Hunter Ed requirement days with the 110 fatal and non-fatal incidents between 1997 and 2006.

To me it just makes sense to wear hunter orange while afield.

Heck, I’ve worn it even when I haven’t had to — while grouse and bandtail pigeon hunting with dad or friends.

(Sportsmen chasing ruffies, blues and spruce grouse, as well as bear, bobcat, cougar, coyote, fox, hare, rabbit and raccoon are now required to wear hunter orange while hunting areas open for rifle deer and elk seasons.)

But today another one of my writers, longtime Washington hunting and gun pen Dave Workman, came up with a “food for thought” blog.

It wonders whether hunter orange itself may have played a role in the shooting deaths of Carlos Pablo Carrillo last week and Pamela Almli last year. Both were mistaken for bears. Another forest worker was mistaken for an elk and killed in 2008, he notes.

Writes Workman:

Over the weekend, I spoke with a pal about these incidents, and one might wonder if hunter orange, or the lack of it, might have played a part in these tragedies. Before anybody blows a gasket, just consider the possibility, however unlikely (and even foolish), that the shooters in these incidents including a 14-year-old kid, might have subconsciously presumed that the image they saw – the target – could not have been a person because he/she wasn’t wearing orange. Sounds stupid, right?

It’s not that this column subscribes to the theory, nor is interested in removing any fault from any of the shooters. It is ultimately the responsibility of a hunter to confirm the target, and even what is in the background, before pressing that trigger. But we’re tossing it out there as proverbial “food for thought.”

Color association may or may not have some link to vision-related hunting mishaps, but long ago, this writer consciously decided to never use targets with orange bull’s eyes. You don’t need three guesses why.

I don’t know that I buy into the argument — I think, like Workman notes, that the hunter is ultimately responsible for knowing his target and what’s behind it before firing — but it is worth noodling.

New Salmon Derby Features $10K First Prize

October 5, 2010

(SAN JUAN ISLANDS PSA PRESS RELEASE)

The San Juan Islands Chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers is pleased to announce the Northwest’s newest salmon derby, The Resurrection Derby, which will award a first-place cash prize of $10,000. This newest addition to the NMTA’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series will be held December 3rd & 4th at the Port of Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA.

For a mere $400.00 entry fee, those 100 teams (with up to 4 anglers per team), lucky enough to get a spot, will vie for $15,000 in guaranteed purse money offering a 1st place prize of $10,000, 2nd place $2,500, 3rd place $1,000 and a $1,000 “Mystery Fish” prize during this two-day event.

“I envisioned a serious winter derby for serious salmon anglers … an event very similar to the old Rosario Derby” said club President and derby executive committee member, Jimmy Lawson.

Derby planners have scheduled the event to coincide with the opening week of the winter fishing season in the San Juan Islands.

“The winter season in the San Juans is a selective fishery.  We want to raise the awareness of the benefits of selective fishing, while promoting good sportsmanship and resource stewardship” said derby organizer, Andy Holman.

“Everyone who enters this derby is helping the fishery” said Bobby Wilson, derby organizer.  Wilson went on to say, “All net proceeds from the derby, which is staffed by club and community volunteers, will go directly towards salmon enhancement projects”.

“We are pleased and encouraged by the enthusiasm and support shown by The Port of Friday Harbor, the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce, businesses and the community” said event Chairman Kevin Klein.

He went on to say, “Not only will this provide an economic benefit for our local economy in a dark time of the year, but will also give us the opportunity to showcase Friday Harbor and all it has to offer while providing needed funds for salmon enhancement”.

For more information, please go to: www.resurrectionderby.com

Blackmouth, Puget Sound Fisheries Board Members Sought

October 5, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking members of the sport fishing community to serve on a committee that oversees the Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement program, which includes the production of blackmouth chinook salmon.

The seven-member Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Oversight Committee was created in 2003 by the Legislature to advise WDFW’s director on all aspects of the fisheries enhancement program.

Key responsibilities of the program are to restore and enhance recreational fisheries in Puget Sound and ensure the productivity of sustainable populations of salmon and marine bottomfish.

Seven volunteers will be appointed to the oversight committee. Members serve two-year terms and may be re-appointed. The next term begins in January and expires in December 2012.

The committee, which is a broad representation of the sport fishing community, meets quarterly to review projects and provide guidance on funding activities related to the enhancement program.

To qualify, applicants should be closely linked and maintain strong communication with the recreational fishing community, have an understanding of salmon and bottomfish fisheries in Puget Sound, be able to attend the quarterly meetings and communicate effectively.

Committee members do not receive direct compensation for their work.

Interested individuals should submit a letter of interest and a resume by Oct. 31 to Steve Thiesfeld at steven.thiesfeld@dfw.wa.gov or Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Attn: Steve Thiesfeld, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia WA, 98501-1091.

For more information on the enhancement program and oversight committee, contact Thiesfeld at (360) 902-2715.

Try, Try and Try Again for Upper Columbia Kings

October 5, 2010

Editor’s note: it’s been a sloooooooow year for Wenatchee-area salmon angler Eric Granstrom. Before this past weekend, he’d been out on the mighty Columbia something like 19 times without success. The 20th time, however, yielded a Chinook too big for his cooler. Here’s his story:

I launched from the Orondo Street boat launch Sunday morning at 6:30. It was a calm morning with a little overcast. The clouds had thrown a thermal blanket over us to trap the heat in from Saturday’s beautiful, fall sunshine. I felt almost overly warm in the sweatshirt I had donned to launch the boat. I used my small, 10-horsepower trolling motor to get away from the dock so I could let other boats lined up launch too. Once out in the river, I noticed there wasn’t much flow. I figured I’d be using the trolling motor to troll both up and down stream today in this placid pool.

ERIC GRANSTROM'S WENATCHEE-AREA CHINOOK. (ERIC GRANSTROM)

A few grinds on the main motor later and I was powering my way upstream. It felt good to be out again. It had been several weeks since I’d tried these waters on my boat. I was happy not to be blurry-eyed from staying up too late the night before. I had turned down hockey tickets and suds-soaking at a local tavern to get a good night’s rest. I was determined to finally land a fish.

Skimming across the water, I scanned my fish-finder in the early morning light for a depth. 35-feet deep. At the Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club’s dock, I angled the bow across toward the east shore of the Columbia. Watching closely, my depth reached as shallow as 12-feet in the middle of the river before it finally dropped into another 35-foot channel on the other side. I was on the bottom end of the channel I’d schemed to fish the night before while standing in my kitchen, tying hooks while watching TV.

I turned the main motor off and lowered the trolling motor. It had been a challenge in my 20-previous trips. It seemed the God’s had cursed me one time after another with something different going wrong. These murky thoughts swirled through my mind as I pulled on the rip cord of the 10-horse Honda. To my delight, the motor caught and purred to life within half a pull. I attached the steering arm to the main motor and kicked it into gear, aiming the bow upstream.

I opened my tackle box and remembered to put my gloves on to maintain a sterile, non-human smell as I loaded the Brad’s Super Bait (Mello-Yellow color) with Graybill’s Salmon Sauce and tuna canned in oil. I dropped the smelly concoction over the side and watched it dance behind the silver flasher in the water. “I’d bite that if I were a salmon,” I mused. I let out 17-pulls of line and then hooked it to the downrigger snap. I put the rod in the pole-holder and loosened the drag just enough so it would automatically unspool as I let the downrigger ball down to 17-feet deep. I was fishing. And it was 6:45am.

I glanced at the fish-finder…35-feet of water. I glanced at the sky. “Full daylight will come dragging its feet today,” I thought. I pulled the cooler I’d loaded with two bags of ice, some soda and a sandwich down between the walk-through window of my 17-feet Mirage and sat on it facing the stern. It allowed me a good view of my line, which

I’d dropped with the downrigger on the starboard side of the boat. Normally, I’d put the pole opposite the steering wheel so I’d be able to sit in the seat and watch it easily, but today was my first day using the Scotty downrigger Dad had loaned me. I figured the weight of the downrigger on one side of the boat would balance out the trolling motor attached to the other side of the stern.

I glanced around the river and noticed I was fishing this stretch of river alone. A group of boats were fishing downstream of Walla Walla Point Park in the channel off 5th Street. Another wad of boats was upstream of me hitting the upper end of the channel I was fishing. And then the majority of the boats were fishing right off Walla Walla Point Park, many of which anchored. I figured they were probably bobber and shrimp or jig fishing for steelhead.

By 7:10, I’d made my way slowly upstream even with a large, fully foliaged tree along the bank. I was cutting a zigzag course back and forth through the channel when suddenly, my pole started to jerk awkwardly. I had made so many trips since salmon fishing opened on the Columbia with nothing to show for it I was in disbelief. I figured, “I must be on bottom.” But a glance at the fish-finder and I surmised I was in 35-feet of water still. “It must be a fish!”

I put my soda down and grabbed the pole from the quick-release holder. Sure enough, as I brought the tip up, there was something pulling it back down on the other end. My mind still couldn’t quite wrap around the fact that I had a fish on! I kicked the trolling motor into neutral and began playing the fish. A few tugs and winds on the reel and I saw a splash in the water 35-feet behind the boat. “Hmm,” I thought, “that looks like a fish!”

I’ve caught more than my fair share of salmon in the past. Growing up in Western Washington, I cut my salmon teeth fishing Puget Sound for Blackmouth, Chinook, Coho and Pink salmon. I’d plied the Lower Columbia for sturgeon below the Astoria Bridge. I’d also had plenty of success fishing salmon and steelhead on the Upper Columbia, but it was always with someone else. I had bought the open-bowed Mirage from my sister over the winter and had tried, and tried and tried to “hook” up this summer on my own. It had just never happened. Until this day.

I reached around behind me along the gunnel and grabbed the net and placed it in the corner of the stern. I was almost working on instinct or out of a dazed repetition, not fully comprehending that I’d finally hooked a salmon fishing my new boat in the Columbia River right in downtown Wenatchee. I finally got a glimpse of the fish about the same time it glanced at me and took a nose dive toward the bottom, pulling line off the drag with every powerful kick. Again, I turned its nose around and brought it up to where I could finally see it for the first time. “Holy (bleep)! That’s big!” I surmised. I looked down at my net and back at the fish and also quickly assessed that my net wasn’t big enough.

I held the rod with my right hand, gave it a few more reels, trying to lift just the salmon’s head above water. I raised the rod high into the air and back toward the opposite side of the boat. With my other hand holding the net, I quickly dipped the leading edge of the aluminum hoop under the salmon and allowed the rod tip to go down as the salmon went head-first into the folds of the net. I quickly went to my knees, dropped my rod and reached over the side, grabbing the net and salmon and all and heaved it over the side.

Now thumping violently on the deck of my boat was the most beautiful fish I’ve ever seen. Not quite prepared, I searched around and found my other pole holder and gave it a good thump on the head. I stood up to catch my breath and take in the scene. Half the salmon lay in the net, the tail lay out, quivering. I couldn’t believe it! It had been a long summer that had now slipped into fall. It had been a summer that tested my metal as a fisherman. I considered even selling the boat and giving up my plight. But now, here on the floor before me lay my quest.

I guessed it to be 18-to-20 pounds. I took my sandwich and soda out of the cooler and placed the fish into it. It didn’t fit. The tail hung out the side. “That’s OK,” I thought, “it’s mine!” When I got home later that morning, I hung the salmon on my fish scale and it weighed in at 23-pounds. Cleaning it, I learned it was a female and awarded me two, large skeins of eggs which I’ll cure and use for steelhead fishing.

I’m glad I didn’t sell the boat. I’m glad I kept at it. And even though this fish was worn out from the thousand-mile swim up the Columbia to find my hook, it was the prettiest fish I’d ever seen. And, you can bet I’ll be back out again to drop a hook in the channel along the Columbia River through Wenatchee outside the heavily foliaged tree, trying to find my next fish for my boat.

The author lives and works in Wenatchee, WA as Director of Marketing for the Wenatchee Valley Sports Council. He’s an avid fisherman, hunter and outdoorsman whose articles appear periodically in the Wenatchee World newspaper and The Good Life magazine.