Archive for November, 2010

Lake Chelan Fishing Report (11-30-10)

November 30, 2010

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

What’s hot is the jig and bobber fishing on the Upper Columbia for Steelhead.  Also hot is trolling for Lahontan Cutthroat at Omak Lake. Finally, the “bankers bite” for lake trout in the trench on Lake Chelan is stabilizing into our winter pattern.

We had a great time getting rid of the triptofan overload on Black Friday by going Steelhead fishing between Bridgeport and Brewster.  It was a great way to hang out with the grandson’s and get them away from the video games and TV. This was not pounding away at a single spot with the same presentation.  We pounded a dozen different runs and slots with a variety of shrimp baited jigs.  We varied the depth that we hung those jigs at a lot.

ANTON JONES HIMSELF (LEFT) WITH A FLOY-TAGGED TRIPLOID, AS WELL AS GRANDSONS CHANDLER WILDMAN OF WENATCHEE AND TYLER AND MICHAEL WILSON OF CHENEY AND THEIR STEELHEAD. (DARRELL & DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

Scent and dye your shrimp with Pautzke’s Fire Cure.  Hang those shrimp off of jigs from 1/8th to 1/4 ounce.

Worden’s lil’ Corky jigs or Mack’s Glo-getter’s worked best.  Get those new Mack’s jigs with a smile blade on top as some extra enticement.  We varied depths from as shallow as 4 feet to as deep as 23 feet.  By the end of the day we had plenty of hatchery fish and the bonus of a floy-tagged triploid to keep.  We also had released a number of wild fish.  This is a great winter fishery.

The guys had a great day on Omak for Lahontan’s.  Trolling Rushin Salmon Wobblers and Silver Horde’s Kingfisher Lite spoons were best.  The bays at either end of the lake were most productive.

Our fish from Chelan this reporting period came during the bankers bite, in the trench primarily on Kingfisher Lites.  This is the time of the year to size down your Worden Flatfish from U20 all the way to F7 to consistently get those Mysis shrimp eating fish to bite.

Your fishing tip of the week is to have a plan this time of the year to keep your hands warm.  Just being out there is great, but to catch fish you’ve got to keep active and continue to fish.  The first part of this is to have a plan so that you can handle all your fishing gear without getting your hands too cold to use.  Those chemical warmers are helpful.  Also, having multiple pairs of gloves to change when one pair gets damp from handling wet line and slimy fish helps.  But don’t forget that 70% of your heat is lost through your head and shoulders.

The kid’s tip of the week is to bring a second set of footgear and socks.  Changing socks and shoes to get dry ones on can be a real day extender.  Also, those toe warmers can really help kids stay in the winter game.

The safety tip of the week is a simple one.  For you winter boat anglers, add a milk crate under your tank for those on board propane heaters.  It provides great stability.  Who needs a 20 pound propane tank with a lit heater rolling around in the bottom of their boat?

Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad’s Family Guide Service (www.darrellanddads.com or 1-866-360-1523)
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SW WA Fishing Report (11-29-10)

November 29, 2010

(REPORT COURTESY BIOLOIGST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Boat anglers are catching coho and steelhead around the trout hatchery while bank anglers are catching coho around the salmon hatchery.

Last week Tacoma Power recovered 1,857 coho adults, 116 jacks, seven fall Chinook adults, one jack, 171 winter-run steelhead, six summer-run steelhead, and 17 sea-run cutthroat trout during four days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 423 coho adults, 63 jacks, and three winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa and 47 coho adults, five jacks, three cutthroat trout, and one winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,570 cubic feet per second on Monday, November 29. Water visibility is nine feet.

Kalama River – Bank anglers are catching some bright winter run steelhead and releasing dark coho.

Lewis River – Anglers are catching some bright winter run steelhead.  Most of the coho are dark and were released.

Flows below Merwin Dam are currently 5,400 cfs, down from the long-term mean of 8,000 cfs for this date.

Effective December 16, anglers will be allowed to fish from floating devices from Johnson Creek upstream. In addition, fishing for hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead opens from Colvin Creek upstream to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – Effort and catches are light.  We sampled 13 bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam with no catch.  One of the seven boat anglers sampled at Port of Camas/Washougal had kept a legal.

– The preliminary catch for November is 169 legals kept from 4,510 angler trips (see attached). About 90% of the November catch occurred during the first two weeks of the month.An estimated 44 fish remain on this year’s guideline for the above Wauna powerlines area.

Poachers Kill 25+ Deer, Elk In Recent Weeks

November 29, 2010

Maybe it’s just a spate of articles riding the coattails of that big piece in The Oregonian about the “surprising” amount of illegal deer killing going on in South-central Oregon.

Maybe it’s because many of us hunters are still out and about in the Northwest’s woods.

Maybe it’s the economy driving people to supplement the freezer illicitly — and game agencies to publicize incidents as state budgets shrink.

Whatever it is, there’s been a lot of poaching going on this month.

Minutes ago this afternoon, the Oregon State Police announced that two cow elk and one calf were killed and wasted near the Clatsop-Columbia County line two weeks ago. They report that three “hunters” were seen in the vicinity, and describe their vehicles as:

* Newer model white Dodge or Ford crew cab pickup with unknown company logos on the doors and tailgate
* Early 1990’s forest green Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle
• Black Ford Superduty crew cab pickup with camper shell

ONE OF THREE ELK SHOT AND LEFT TO WASTE NEAR BOECK RANCH ROAD WEST OF VERNONIA. (0SP)

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to call the T.I.P. (Turn in Poacher) line at 1-800-452-7888, Trooper Joseph Warwick at (503) 325-5515 ext. 53, or Trooper Tim Schwartz at (503) 325-5515 ext. 107.

Earlier today, OSP fired off a press release looking for tips in the killing of three more cow elk in Lane County. They were found yesterday.

And this morning, the Aberdeen Daily World reported on four dead cow elk found last Wednesday off Highway 101 near Arctic.

UPDATE: DECEMBER 2, 2010, 8:11 A.M.: KING 5 has a story by Gary Chittim on this incident.

OSP is also offering rewards for information on who shot two mule deer in Wasco County on Thanksgiving and another three elk in Tillamook County a week and a half ago.

Over in Idaho, an “alarming number” of deer and elk were shot recently in the Kamiah area southeast of Lewiston. According to a report, no meat was taken from the two does, one cow elk, two bucks and two other elk.

A “trophy-class” whitetail buck estimated to score in the 160 range was shot and, except for the head, left to rot near Whitebird.

IDFG is also dealing with some asshole who’s taunting them with pictures of dead animals; “Here is a picture of the nice buck I poached up in northern Idaho this year,” a letter from the presumed poacher reads, according to Reuters, which reports the person says he will “do all my Idaho hunting like this from now on.”

While ODFW deploys Robo Elk and airplanes to catch poachers, word came out over the holiday that WDFW ain’t got no wardens in Cowlitz County, home to the Cowlitz, Toutle, Coweeman, Kalama rivers, a slice of the Columbia River as well as the St. Helens elk herd.

And that might be part of the problem. When WDFW busted a Longview man for shooting a deer decoy a couple weeks back (and discovered he’d allegedly shot five others in recent times), Deputy Chief Mike Cenci who works in Olympia and lives in Pacific County was in on the bust.

According to the Aberdeen Daily World’s article, there’s six officers for the entire north, west and southern sides of the Olympic Peninsula, and only 96 across the state.

The World paraphrases Sgt. Matt Nixon as saying “the lack of enforcement has caused poachers to become more brazen.”

“And it worries me that we’ll see more of this as the budget deteriorates,” Nixon adds.

3 Elk Shot, 2 Wasted; Reward Offered

November 29, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Division troopers from the Springfield Area Command office are asking for the public’s help to identify the suspect(s) responsible for illegally shooting three elk in rural Lane County sometime during the week of Thanksgiving.  A reward of up to $500 for information leading to an arrest in this case is being offered by the Oregon Hunters Association Turn in a Poacher (T.I.P.) Program.

A $500 REWARD IS BEING OFFERED FOR INFORMATION ON THREE ELK KILLED IN LANE COUNTY. (OREGON STATE POLICE)

On November 28, 2010, OSP Senior Troopers Martin Maher and Marshall Maher received information that three elk carcasses were found in a clear cut unit in the Mosby Creek area on Weyerhaeuser timber lands southeast of Cottage Grove. The investigation resulted in the finding of two, fully intact, cow elk carcasses that were shot and left to waste. The third cow elk had the meat removed and only the head and hide were left behind.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to call the T.I.P. (Turn in Poacher) line at 1-800-452-7888 or Senior Trooper Martin Maher (541) 726-2536.

The T.I.P. reward program pays for information leading to the arrest and conviction of person(s) involved in the illegal killing, taking, possession or waste of big game animals, upland game birds or waterfowl.

Cyber Monday Reads

November 29, 2010

We’re still gnawing on the bird at my house, but in the four days since I bothered to check my email, my inbox sure was full of stuffing this morning.

Leading off would have to be news that there are zero game wardens based in Cowlitz County, Wash.

“We’re really not covering anything,” WDFW Sgt. Ted Holden told Tom Paulu of The Daily News (Longview), an article that was picked up by numerous other sources.

Holden’s stationed up in Lewis County, and when there’s a call, he’ll zip down I-5, or the Wahkiakum County officer will head east.

The article appeared roughly a month after a piece in a newspaper in the next county south says that WDFW is looking at cutting 20 game wardens as one possible fix for the large budget shortfall the state is facing.

Meanwhile, the Oregon State Police are looking for help in finding a deer poacher who may have shot two deer in Wasco County:

A fork horn buck deer was shot and killed with a firearm in a hayfield adjacent to Highway 197 in Tygh Valley sometime in the late afternoon or evening on Thanksgiving day or  in the early morning hours on Friday.  The deer was located about 150 yards from Highway 197.  It was salvaged for donation by Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers.

A second deer was shot and killed at about the same time frame from Highway 216 west of Pine Grove.  The deer was killed about 50 yards from the highway on private property.  The deer was removed without being gutted and loaded into a vehicle on Highway 216.

Anyone with any information in either or both cases is encouraged to call OSP.  A reward of $250 is being offered in either or both cases for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible.

Contact Information: Senior Trooper Swede Pearson; Phone 541 296 9646  Cell # 541 980 8358

That big article I did on the potential elimination of Puget Sound steelheading drew some interesting comments from a former WDFW biologist and another steelheader.

While one poster on Speypages rails about tribal harvest, Smalma (aka Curt Kraemer) and Flytyer point out that the Samish River has no directed tribal netting and it’s seeing the same poor returns as every other river in the basin — as well as BC’s Georgia Strait and Vancouver Island.

So, is it really Billy Frank Jr. and the Big Bad Indians?

Somewhat along those same lines, The Olympian picks up the story on All Those Salmon In The North Pacific that came out earlier this fall. The nut is, there may be too many fish in the ocean, a result of massive hatchery production increases across the arc of the basin the past few decades. It’s almost incomprehensible that there could be too many salmon, but the more mouths to feed, the less for all.

It affects Northwest salmon fishing because many of our stocks rear up north.

“It’s on people’s radar screens,” Sara LaBorde, who monitors hatchery issues for WDFW, told Les Blumenthal of McClatchy.

But the radar screen is anything but clear, if a response I got last week from one of my sources at that agency is any gauge.

On the radar for nonhunters and -anglers in Oregon is a proposed parking pass fee at ODFW wildlife areas, Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail Tribune reports.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote late this week whether or not to eventually charge $22 to help pay for the sites.

Freeman explains:

Most wildlife areas were purchased with hunting access in mind and paid for with money raised by a federal tax on firearms and ammunition through the Pittman-Robertson Act. Operating funds come from hunting-license revenues.

A 2004 management plan for Denman estimated that hunters log about 5,500 visitor-days a year there. Bird-watchers, hikers and other so-called “non-consumptive” users log about 25,000 visitor-days annually, making them the largest block of visitors. Anglers came second, logging about 10,500 visitor-days — mostly using strips of wildlife land along the Rogue River.

These groups have strained the infrastructure of places like Denman without contributing to wildlife-area coffers.

“These are users who are not paying for any kind of maintenance,” says Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for ODFW’s Wildlife Division. “This is a way for them to contribute to what they’re already using.”

Freeman points out that parking passes have been in effect on popular Sauvie Island Wildlife Area since 1990; if the commission approves, the fee would go into effect starting in 2012 on La Grande’s Ladd Marsh, Eugene’s EE Wilson and South-central Oregon’s Summer Lake in 2012.

Back on the north side of the Columbia, WDFW and DNR are also looking at a parking pass proposal for access to their millions of acres across Washington.

To the east of the state line, there’s an interesting article (and debate) about an encounter a North Idaho woman had with four wolves. Walking up a snowed-in driveway a half hour after sunset Saturday, Karen Calisterio (who may or may not be involved with Idaho for Wildlife) says she was approached by the pack.

Different subject, and not to trumpet my own horn too loudly (but I had this one waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in early September), Doug Huddle of the Bellingham Herald reports on free vision tests for Washington hunters.

And finally, while I accomplished zero hunting or fishing over the weekend (though I did manage to trap the mouse that was trying to set up house in our car), some of the readers and writers here managed to get out. Here are a few pics:

TURKEY'S OFF THE TABLE AT THE BOLLES' HOUSE -- THEY'RE GETTING MALLARD INSTEAD, THANKS TO RANDY'S POST-TURKEY DAY LIMIT OF GREENHEADS ON THE UPPER COLUMBIA. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

NWS SCRIBE ANDY SCHNEIDER WITH A COWLITZ STEELIE, CAUGHT SATURDAY. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

For more on Schneider’s trip, click here.

A ROOSTER AND DRAKE LIVENED UP THANKSGIVING DAY FESTIVITIES FOR ROB PHILLIPS OF YAKIMA. HE WAS HUNTING WITH SON KYLE AND LAB TESSA. (ROB PHILLIPS)

PHILLIPS ALSO FILLED HIS MUZZLELOADER TAG WITH THIS 3X4 MULEY DEER FROM THE GOLDENDALE AREA. (ROB PHILLIPS)

ISO Turkey Weekend Steelies

November 29, 2010

BY ANDY SCHNEIDER

Every Thanksgiving I hear of folks heading to the rivers in attempt to catch some winter steelhead and I always thought that I should give it a try.

I do have a tradition of  headed to the rivers this day too, but usually in search of Chinook or ducks. I chose ducks this year. After a bone chilling day on the Columbia River near Boardman chasing ducks with my friend Brian in 16-degree weather, I was ready to find some warmer weather and maybe a few fish.

Tom VanderPlaat and Pat Abel had similar thoughts of chasing steelhead, but didn’t want to cross a snow-covered pass to find them, so we decided on heading north to the Cowlitz River.  And so Saturday morning found the three of us launching at Blue Creek just after sunrise.  We noticed that we were definitely not alone in our search of Thanksgiving steelhead and counted 14 jet sleds and 50-plus bank anglers all within the 1/2-mile stretch of the river at Blue Creek.

After rigging up we decided we didn’t need to make a long run before we started fishing. In fact, we simply pushed off from shore and deployed plugs and diver and bait just 30 feet off of the boat ramp.  Pat was the first to spot my rod bouncing wildly and soon I was fighting a HEFTY steelhead, 14.96 pound to be exact!

While we originally thought this was a late summer steelhead, it was later confirmed to be a winter steelhead by the fish checker.

ANDY SCHNEIDER'S THANKSGIVING WEEKEND STEELIE. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

We soon saw boat after boat hooking fish while side drifting and it didn’t take much convincing for us to switch over and start drifting Pautzke cured eggs and yarn balls.  But as luck would have it, just as we make our first pass, the bite dies.

“Dang, should have been here 10 minutes ago!”

We kept at it and finally Tom hooked into his first winter steelhead of the season.

(ANDY SCHNEIDER)

Tom didn’t need any coaching fighting his fish, but I sure enjoyed giving it anyways!!!

VANDER PLAAT'S FIRST WINTER STEELHEAD OF THE 2010-11 CAMPAIGN. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

It seems that every season brings new anticipation of upcoming seasons and we hardly have time to enjoy the current season before jumping into the next.  But I can safely say that I am thoroughly enjoying winter steelhead season, all two days of it!  Thanks Tom and Pat for great season so far!

Pre-Turkey Day PR From WDFW

November 24, 2010

OK, so I haven’t exactly got a lot accomplished on the day before Thanksgiving — a little editing, a little blogging, a bunch of magazine moving — but Phil Anderson’s cracking the whip down at WDFW.

He’s got his flacks working overtime putting out fishery rule changes for North Sound steelhead streams, writing up an upcoming meeting on a five-year fishing moratorium on the Elwha River as the dams come out and giving the head’s up that, after much talk, a lead ban at 13 loon lakes is on the agenda at the Fish & Wildlife Commission’s upcoming meeting.

Here are links:

Samish River closure

Upper North Fork Stillaguamish River closure (map here)

Whatcom Creek Closure

Elwha River fishing moratorium

Lead ban and other FWC biz

And with that, I think I’ve had it.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll!

Oregon Winter Steelhead Guide

November 24, 2010

Come mid- to late December — maybe even early January if things work out — I’ll be making several flame runs to the inlaws in Newport.

And as much fun as their house on the Oregon Coast is, one can go a little stir crazy there — especially when the whiff of winter-runs hangs thick in the air.

I already have plans for where I want to fish, but if you’re new to steelheading in Western Oregon or looking for new waters, ODFW today put out its comprehensive guide to winter fishing on the North, Central and South Coasts as well as Lower Columbia, Willamette and Sandy Rivers.

Glory hallelujah, Christmas has come early!!!

It covers waters from Gnat-sized streams to Rogue rivers and almost every rill in between, and though it doesn’t come with a pronunciation guide, it also details everything from smolt releases and boat launches to run timing and what lakes ODFW stashes surplus steelies in.

Let us give a moment of thanks to those hard-working folks in Salem, Clackamas, Tillamook, Newport, Gold Beach and elsewhere across the left half of the Beaver State.

For more on tactics and gear — as well as hot spot maps of the Wilson and Clack — pick up the December issue of Northwest Sportsman!

So, with no further adieu (i.e. blathering from The Blatherer In Chief), I give you ODFW’s 2011 Winter Steelhead Guide:

Go, catch many.

AW
NWS

NORTH COAST

Several local streams host early returning (late November through January) hatchery winter steelhead. The North Fork Nehalem River is generally one of the better early season streams, with hatchery steelhead also available in the Necanicum, Kilchis, Wilson, and Nestucca rivers. A fair number of hatchery steelhead also migrate up the Trask River, although none are planted there. The Wilson and Nestucca rivers, which have wild broodstock hatchery programs, will have hatchery steelhead available throughout the winter and early spring (generally through mid-April). Wild steelhead are available throughout the winter and the run generally peaks in March.

Anglers should contact the local ODFW office in Tillamook at 503-842-2741 for more information on fishing techniques, locations and updated fishing conditions. Recorded fishing information for the North Fork Nehalem is available at 503-368-5670. Tillamook County has instituted a fee system at county-owned or operated boat launch sites. Daily fee envelopes are available at access sites. Contact Tillamook County Parks (503-322-3477) for more information or to purchase an annual pass.

Lower Columbia
Hatchery steelhead smolts are released in Gnat Creek (40,000), Big Creek (60,000), and the North Fork Klaskanine River (40,000). Fishing for steelhead is restricted to the lower portions of the streams below the hatcheries. Hatchery fish are primarily available during December and January, with numbers of fish tapering off quickly after that. These streams are small and are primarily fished from the banks. Access is available at the hatcheries, at Big Creek County Park, and along roads following the streams. Anglers may call 503-458-6529 for recorded Big Creek fishing information. The Lewis and Clark River, Young’s River, and the South Fork Klaskanine River also are open to steelhead fishing. While anglers will encounter some stray hatchery fish, these streams offer mostly catch-and-release fishing for wild steelhead.

Necanicum River
The Necanicum River offers excellent small-stream steelhead fishing throughout the winter.  Hatchery steelhead (the river is stocked with 40,000 smolts at a several locations up to Black’s Bridge) are caught in the early winter months, and wild fish are more commonly caught later in the season. The Necanicum is open to steelhead fishing through March 31 downstream of the Highway 53 Bridge at Necanicum Junction.

Bank access is available along Highway 26, especially at Klootchie Creek Park and around Black’s Bridge (about 1.5-2 miles above Klootchie Creek). Boaters may launch at the park, and a takeout is located along Highway 101 just south of Seaside. The Necanicum River is one of the first North Coast streams to clear following heavy rains.
steelhead

Nehalem River Basin
The Nehalem basin offers a multitude of steelhead fishing opportunities. Hatchery steelhead (90,000 smolts) are released in the North Fork Nehalem at or below Nehalem Hatchery on Highway 53. The best fishing for hatchery steelhead is usually in December and January, with fish beginning to show in the catch by mid-November most years. Hatchery steelhead are recycled from Nehalem Hatchery regularly during the peak of the run. Call 503-368-5670 for recorded fishing information. Fishing for wild steelhead in February and March can be productive and is usually much less crowded.

Bank access on the North Fork is available near the hatchery and on neighboring industrial forestlands. The Nehalem Hatchery Barrier Free Fishing Platform allows increased access for anglers possessing the required disabled angler permit. Boaters may float the North Fork below the hatchery, but extreme caution is necessary. Several bedrock rapids make drifting this river hazardous, and it should only be attempted by experienced boaters. Rafts are highly recommended.

The main Nehalem River is a very productive catch-and-release fishery for wild steelhead. Best fishing is February to early April.  Some very large steelhead (topping 20 pounds) are caught from this river. Access is along Nehalem River Road. The lower river can be boated from the Beaver Slide (below Nehalem Falls) to Roy Creek County Park. The Salmonberry River, a tributary of the Nehalem about 7 miles above Nehalem Falls, can provide superb fishing for large winter steelhead. The Salmonberry closes March 31. Access to the Slamonberry is currently very limited. The Port of Tillamook Bay has closed access to the Salmonberry in the railroad right of way due to safety concerns. The railroad tracks are still in disrepair following the storm of December 2007. Anglers are advised to check with the Port for current status of access restrictions. The road bridge over the Salmonberry River near the mouth was removed by the December 2007 flooding.  The bridge will not be repaired until at least 2011.

Tillamook Bay Streams: Wilson, Kilchis and Trask rivers
The Wilson, Kilchis and Trask rivers offer excellent fishing opportunities. Hatchery steelhead usually begin returning in late November, with good fishing through January.  Approximately 40,000 early returning hatchery smolts are released in each of the Kilchis and Wilson Rivers. The Kilchis is stocked up to Kilchis Park. An additional 100,000 wild brood smolts are released in the Wilson River, primarily in the lower river up to Siskeyville but a small proportion are released in the South Fork. Wild broodstock hatchery steelhead are available in the Wilson River throughout the winter and early spring (primarily January to mid-April). The Trask River is not stocked, but hatchery strays are present. Wild steelhead are available through the winter in all three stream, with the best fishing in March. There is ample access to all three streams.

 

CHRIS WHEATON FIGHTS A WINTER STEELHEAD HOOKED PLUGGING ON THE WILSON RIVER LAST MARCH. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

Highway 6 follows the Wilson River from the lower reaches to the fishing deadline at the South Fork. The Little North Fork Wilson River and first mile of the South Fork Wilson River are open Dec. 1- March 31 for steelhead fishing. These streams provide good opportunities when the main stem Wilson River is high.

The Kilchis River is accessible at the Mapes Creek launch, Kilchis Park, and along Kilchis Forest Road up to the deadline at the confluence of the North and South forks. Under recent regulations adopted in 2009, the Kilchis River is now open year round for steelhead fishing.

The Trask River is accessible at Trask Hatchery and Loren’s Drift, off Chance Road, and along Trask River Road. The North and South Fork Trask (open Dec. 1 to March 31) are accessible by forest roads that follow each stream. The North Fork Trask deadline is at Bark Shanty Creek and the South Fork deadline is at Edwards Creek.

Boat launches are available on the main stem Kilchis, Wilson and Trask rivers. The Vanderzanden boat launch on the Wilson River and the Stones Road boat launch on the Trask River were recently damaged. Plans are underway to make repairs, but access may be restricted, especially early in the winter steelhead season.

The Tillamook and Miami rivers are open to steelhead fishing though March. A few stray hatchery fish and smaller populations of wild fish are present in each stream. The Miami River offers access in the upper stretches along Miami Forest Road; however, public access is very limited on the Tillamook River.

Nestucca Basin
Early-returning hatchery steelhead (40,000 smolts marked with an adipose and left maxillary fin clip) are available from late November into February, with a peak in early January. Wild broodstock hatchery steelhead (70,000 smolts; adipose and right maxillary clipped) are available in the Nestucca through the spring (recent creel surveys show the catch to be primarily January to early April).

 

LATE WINTER STEELHEAD, NESTUCCA RIVER, JASON HARRIS. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Since 2008, hatchery winter steelhead smolt releases have been altered in the basin. Most of the early returning fish are now released in Three Rivers, with a portion released at Farmer Creek boat launch. The wild brood hatchery smolts are released in Three Rivers; in the main stem Nestucca River at Farmer Creek boat launch and First Bridge boat launch; and in Bays Creek (a tributary just above the fifth bridge). This release strategy should optimize harvest opportunities and help spread the fishery out. Wild steelhead are caught throughout the winter, with a peak in March.

The Nestucca River Road parallels the upper Nestucca River, beginning at Beaver and continuing upstream to the angling deadline at Elk Creek. Best bank access is above Blaine, with many pullouts along the river. The use of bait is prohibited in the Nestucca River above Moon Creek. Fishing in the upper Nestucca is best later in the season, as primarily wild fish return to the upper river. The Nestucca River upstream from Moon Creek closes March 31. Boat access is available at boat ramps located at the first and fourth bridges above Beaver, at a primitive boat slide above the fifth bridge, and at the sixth bridge. Only experienced boaters should launch upstream of the fourth bridge due to some hazardous water. The lower Nestucca River offers limited bank access, but some very good boat access. Launching/takeout is available at boat ramps located at the Rock Hole, Farmer Creek wayside, the mouth of Three Rivers, and at Cloverdale.  Bank access also is available at those sites.

Three Rivers, a tributary entering the Nestucca at Hebo, offers very good bank access in the lower river and excellent opportunity for anglers targeting early-returning hatchery steelhead, as well as later-returning wild broodstock hatchery steelhead. Good numbers of steelhead ascend Three Rivers on their return to Cedar Creek Hatchery. Bank access is available at the hatchery, at the “heart attack” hole (on the south side of the stream), on the “S” curve just above Hebo, and by the sewage treatment plant in Hebo. The upper Three Rivers is accessible along Hwy 22, but fewer fish are present above the hatchery weir and bank access is limited.  When available, fish are recycled downstream from Cedar Creek Hatchery.

The Little Nestucca River offers fair opportunity for steelhead. A few stray hatchery steelhead are present throughout the winter season. Wild fish may be caught and released through the winter, with the run peaking in March. Limited public access is available along Little Nestucca River Road between Hwy 22 and Hwy101.The river closes March 31.

North Coast Lakes
Coffenbury Lake, Lost Lake, Vernonia Pond, Cape Meares Lake, Loren’s Pond and Town Lake receive excess adult hatchery steelhead periodically. Other lakes may also receive fish when available. Check the weekly Recreation Report on the ODFW website, http://www.dfw.state.or.us, for updated information on fish releases. Steelhead caught in these lakes are considered trout, and do not have to be recorded on a harvest tag. Only one trout over 20 inches per day is allowed.

MID-COAST

The Mid-Coast winter steelhead returns are typically from December through March depending on the location, flow conditions and broodstock. Please note that only hatchery fin clipped winter steelhead may be harvested. If you do catch a wild steelhead, please handle it carefully and try not to remove any wild fish from the water while unhooking it. For in-season updates of winter steelhead fishing along the mid coast contact the ODFW Newport District Office at (541) 265-8306 ext. 236 or 224. Many of the large river basins along the coast have river gauges which can be reviewed online at .http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/

Siletz Basin
The Siletz River offers anglers the opportunity to fish for wild and hatchery steelhead year round. Winter steelhead begin arriving in late November with a peak in January-March and extending into April. The winter steelhead hatchery program in the Siletz Basin, which uses wild fish as broodstock, can provide excellent fishing throughout the season. This program releases approximately 50,000 steelhead smolts each spring from the Palmer Creek acclimation facility located near Moonshine Park. During peak season drift boat fishing can be very good productive and many sections of the river are often busy when flow conditions are good. Bank fishing can also be very good in the upper river around Moonshine Park. Fishing upstream of the park does require access through the Siletz Gorge Road — a private logging road open to public vehicle traffic only on the weekends. Bank anglers also plunk with stationary gear in the lower river. A portion of hatchery fish returning to ODFW fish traps are also recycled to provide additional fishing opportunities. These fish are tagged with a small colored tag near the dorsal fin.

LAYTON THURLOW STEELHEADING ON THE UPPER SILETZ. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The Siletz River also has a native summer steelhead run, the only one in the Oregon Coast Range. A hatchery summer steelhead program with a target smolt release of 80,000 each spring offers anglers an excellent opportunity to harvest fresh steelhead by early summer. The summer steelhead start arriving in May with a peak in early July. A second push of summers arrive with the first fall rains. Most fishing is from the bank from Moonshine Park upstream.

Yaquina Basin
The Yaquina Basin receives approximately 20,000 smolts of an early-returning Alsea hatchery stock. The return usually peaks in December and January, depending on location and flow conditions. Good bank access is available along upper Big Elk Creek near the smolt release site (river-mile 21 below Grant Creek) and several miles downstream. There is no boat fishing on Big Elk Creek.
steelhead trout

Alsea Basin
The Alsea Basin provides good fishing opportunities for hatchery winter steelhead from December into March. The target release of 120,000 smolt into the Alsea are split between the traditional Alsea hatchery stock and a wild Alsea broodstock. Fair to good bank access can be found throughout most of the basin at numerous public pull offs and parks along the river. During high water, bank anglers should focus their efforts in the upper basin and around the Alsea Hatchery. A parking lot just below the hatchery provides anglers with off-road parking and access to the river. Most river access near the hatchery is on private property, which is clearly posted.

 

CHRISTMAS EVE WINTER-RUN, ALSEA RIVER, CHAD PHELPS. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Drift boats can be put in at launches from just downstream of the town of Alsea all the way to the head of tidewater, depending on the time of year and river conditions. Fishing from a boat is prohibited above Mill Creek. Throughout the season a portion of hatchery steelhead captured at the Alsea hatchery traps are tagged and recycled downstream as far as the Blackberry Launch to provide for additional fishing opportunity.

Siuslaw Basin
The Siuslaw winter steelhead tend to return later than traditional coastal hatchery stocks. Steelhead returns and the fishery typically peak from late January through February, though they can last well into March. There is also an extended fishery in the Siuslaw River from Whittaker Creek downstream to 200 yards below the mouth of Wildcat Creek through April 15. The Siuslaw River near the Whittaker Creek campground site offers good boat and bank access and is where a target of 65,000 winter steelhead smolt are released each spring. This area can be heavily fished during the peak season, particularly on weekends.

Lake Creek and its major tributaries can be a productive catch-and-release fishery for wild steelhead and there is an additional opportunity to catch hatchery fish near the town of Deadwood where 15,000 hatchery winter steelhead are released into Green Creek. A portion of hatchery steelhead captured at trap sites are recycled to provide additional fishing opportunities.

Salmon River (located north of Lincoln City along HWY 18) offers fair to good catch-and-release wild winter steelhead fishing opportunities from late December through March. Bank access can be found in the lower river near the Salmon River Hatchery or along the Van Duzer corridor.

Drift Creek-Siletz (located just south of Lincoln City) offers anglers good catch-and-release wild steelhead fishing with the occasional stray hatchery steelhead. A large portion of the fishable river is located within the Siuslaw National Forest with several good hike-in opportunities.

Drift Creek-Alsea offers fair to good catch-and-release wild steelhead fishing. A large portion of the river is within the Drift Creek Wilderness Area providing good hike in opportunities in a remote old-growth setting.
steelhead

Yachats River (located in the town of Yachats) is a productive winter steelhead river with access to public properties from a county road bordering the stream. It offers good catch-and-release opportunities for wild steelhead from the forks down to tide water.

Cummings Creek (located approximately 4 miles south of Yachats on HWY 101) is a smaller stream located in the Cummings Creek Wilderness area. Anglers can have fair to good wild winter steelhead fishing in a secluded old-growth setting.

Ten-Mile Creek (located approx 6 miles south of Yachats on HWY 101) consistently produces good catches of wild winter steelhead when conditions are right. Much of the creek-side property is in private ownership. Occasional hatchery steelhead strays also can be caught.

Big Creek (located south of Yachats approx.  8 miles on HWY 101) can be good fishing as steelhead move into the river at high tide. A good road borders the stream and most areas are owned by the US Forest Service. Occasional hatchery steelhead strays also can be caught.

SOUTH COAST

The Oregon South Coast offers the winter steelhead angler a diverse group of rivers to choose from. Anglers can fish tiny Brush Creek, battling steelhead and willows, or sit in the comfort of a jet boat running plugs on the mighty lower Rogue River. All rivers are providing good steelhead fishing by early January. When anglers look to go steelhead fishing, flow and water clarity are two key factors in determining success. The best time to fish for steelhead is after a storm when river flows are dropping and waters begin to clear. The South Coast steelhead guide will help anglers identify streams and creeks that will fish best after a storm.

Winchuck River
The Winchuck has an excellent run of winter steelhead. It’s also slow to muddy and clears quickly after rains. The upper river flows primarily through Forest Service land with good access for bank anglers. Anglers can float the river, but only experienced oarsman should attempt to. Anglers are reminded that fishing from a boat is prohibited.

Chetco River
The Chetco is slow to muddy and clears quickly after a rain event. It is the only non-Rogue River stream on the south coast with a hatchery program. ODFW has maintained a wild broodstock collection program on the Chetco River for more than 25 years, releasing up to 50,000 steelhead smolts annually. Releases occur at Social Security Bar, approximately 3 miles upriver from Highway 101. The majority of the returning hatchery steelhead stay within the lower 8 miles of the river, providing a very good fishery from early December to March. The heaviest concentrations are around the mouth of the North Fork Chetco River up to Loeb State Park.

The Chetco River also has a tremendous wild steelhead population. Both runs return at the same time, and most fish are spawned out by mid-March. The wild fish generally move through the lower river during rain events, providing excellent fishing. The majority of wild fish spawn in the upper river and tributaries. Flows are a key factor in determining when to fish and what method to use. Anglers can keep an eye on the Chetco River flows at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/or/nwis/uv?14372300.  Bank anglers usually start plunking Spin-N-Glos around 9,000 cfs and drift boat anglers do best at 4,000 cfs and dropping.

Anglers are reminded that to maintain a wild steelhead broodstock program, ODFW staff are regularly netting wild steelhead on the Chetco River. At times, these broodstock collection efforts may interfere with an anglers fishing. Please be courteous to all ODFW personnel and volunteers that assist in collecting steelhead during these times.

Pistol River
The Pistol has a very good run of steelhead but muddies quickly during rain events and is slow to clear. Most anglers use roe, cast spinners or fly fish. Access is limited by private property and anglers are reminded to ask first before entering private property. Only the lower 4-5 miles is floatable. The best access for bank anglers is around the mouth of Deep Creek and the South Fork.

Hunter Creek
Hunter Creek muddies quickly and is slow to clear. Bank access is very good, with most landowners allowing access if asked. Anglers can float the river during moderate flows. Plugs work well. Hunter Creek is closed to steelhead fishing until Jan. 1 each year in order to protect spawning fall chinook

Euchre Creek
Euchre Creek muddies slowly, and clears quickly. Like all south coast streams, Euchre Creek has a good wild steelhead run. Bank access to Euchre Creek is all through private property, but bank anglers who ask are generally allowed access to fish. This creek is too small and brushy for boats. Most anglers use roe, cast spinners or fly fish.

Brush Creek
Brush Creek is a small creek that muddies slowly and clears quickly. The lower river is all within Humbug State Park, providing ample bank access. Anglers will have to search for pools free of willows to fish, but are usually rewarded with a steelhead. Unlike most of the south coast rivers and creeks, Brush Creek is closed to the harvest of wild steelhead.

Elk River
Elk River is slow to muddy during rain events, and clears quickly. It has an excellent steelhead run that is best fished from a boat. Elk River fishes best at 5.0 feet and dropping. Anglers can call Elk River Hatchery (541-332-0405) for daily gauge heights and water clarity. Limited bank fishing is available, because the majority of land along the river is private property. Most drift boaters put in at Elk River Hatchery and float approximately nine miles to Ironhead boat ramp; both are ODFW properties. The past three years, ODFW and volunteers have worked on a new boat ramp and access at Ironhead. This new access improves boat launching and retrieval and offers better bank fishing opportunities. Anglers are reminded to park only in the parking lot, pack out all garbage and respect adjacent property owners.

Sixes River
Sixes River muddies quickly, clears slowly, and boasts an excellent steelhead run. Bank fishing and boat access are at State Park, ODOT, ODFW, and BLM properties. Boat anglers can find floats that range from two miles to 12 miles. Most anglers fish roe, spinners, run plugs or fly fish.

Floras Creek
Floras Creek muddies quickly, clears slowly, and has an excellent steelhead run. Bank and boat access are all on private lands.

COOS/MILLICOMA, COQUILLE, AND TENMILE LAKES BASINS

ODFW is anticipating another strong run of winter steelhead in the Coos, Coquille and Tenmile Lakes basins. The winter steelhead season in the Coos and Coquille basins begins around Thanksgiving, and in some years steelhead can be available through April. The peak harvest occurs from late December to late February. Steelhead usually arrive later in Tenmile Creek than other area rivers, often not making the first appearance until mid- to late-December.

The three basins are popular with winter steelhead anglers. Strong hatchery programs usually mean there are plenty of marked fish available for anglers to take home if they wish. In all three basins, only adipose fin-marked fish can be retained. Unmarked steelhead are naturally produced, and can be a large component of the catch in these basins. They  must be released unharmed. Many of the rivers open to steelhead fishing in the Coos-Coquille-Tenmile basins are open through April 30.

The hatchery programs in the Coos, Coquille and Tenmile use local stocks of fish for broodstock. In years past, hatchery stocks from other river basins such as the Alsea River were used to produce a hatchery run of fish in local rivers. This practice was discontinued, and now only local stocks are used. Unmarked, wild steelhead are incorporated into the egg-take each year in an effort to keep the genetics, behavior, and other characteristics of the hatchery stock as close as possible to those of the wild population. One possible benefit of using localized broodstock is a longer run, with fish returning from late November through spring.

Hatchery steelhead for the Coquille River Basin are reared at Bandon Hatchery. There are no facilities in the Coos and Tenmile basins to rear winter steelhead to smolts. Subsequently, steelhead smolts for these two basins are reared at Cole Rivers Hatchery in the upper Rogue, and transported back for acclimation and release.

Fishing Techniques
Novice anglers are encouraged to try drift-fishing roe and yarn on a leader about 20 to 24 inches under a three-way swivel. On the third eye of the swivel attach a short dropper (4-6 inches) of line, weighted to bounce slowly along the bottom. Adjust the amount of weight to allow the bait to drift at a natural rate, ticking the bottom periodically. Cast slightly upstream so that the bait is on the bottom by the time it is straight out from the angler. Bobber and jig combinations can also be a good method for the novice angler; if the bobber-to-bait length is adjusted accordingly it will keep the hook away from bottom snags. Long, straight runs with a uniform depth are good places to try this gear type. Sand shrimp are often added to the drift-fishing rig or on the jig, to further tempt steelhead to bite.

Coos/Millicoma Basin
In the South Coos River, the lowest five miles above the head of tidewater (located at Weyerhaeuser’s Dellwood Log Camp) are best for hatchery steelhead fishing. The Big Creek Acclimation Site, also known as the “Fivemile Hole” at milepost 5 is a good place to target adult steelhead returning to the lower river. Above milepost 6, most winter steelhead hooked will be unmarked and must be released. This area is an excellent catch-and-release fishery for anglers who want to get away from the crowds. Primitive drift boat slides are located at several points above Dellwood, and many popular bank fishing holes are accessible for drifters or plunkers. Access to the South Coos River above the Dellwood Gate is by permit from Weyerhaeuser Company, and is subject to their rules.  The company has delegated sales of their access permits to local businesses in North Bend and Coos Bay. Anglers can call the Weyerhaeuser hotline number at 1-888-741-5403 for recorded information on access and permit purchases.

Excellent steelhead fishing opportunities are available on both the East and West forks of the Millicoma River system. On the East Fork Millicoma, bank access is available in Coos County’s Nesika Park, with several excellent fishing holes and drifts from which to choose. On the West Fork, public access is available at ODFW’s Millicoma Interpretive Center (MIC), about nine miles upriver from Allegany. Located on lands administered by the Oregon Department of Forestry, the banks at MIC and for several miles upstream provide excellent steelhead fishing opportunities. The ponds at MIC are used for acclimation of steelhead smolts, so adult fish are drawn back to this area of the West Fork Millicoma. Limited boat fishing for steelhead occurs in the lower 3-4 miles of the West Fork, with access for launching and pullout on private property and subject to landowner permission. The West Fork has bedrock and boulder areas that make for difficult boating when flows are low.

The local South Coast Anglers STEP group usually puts on a “Steelhead Fishing Clinic” each winter at the Millicoma Interpretive Center. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff from the Charleston field office and many localSTEP members are happy to give tips and advice to novice anglers.

Coquille River Basin
Prime steelhead fishing on the South Fork Coquille River is downstream of the national forest boundary. Anglers targeting adult hatchery steelhead near acclimation sites at Beaver Creek and Woodward Creek are very successful. Above Powers, most winter steelhead are wild, offering an excellent catch-and-release fishery for those anglers wanting to get away from the crowds. The river upstream of the Forest Service boundary is closed to all fishing to protect spawning and rearing steelhead. Drift boat launches are located at the mouth of Beaver Creek, at the confluence of the Middle and South forks, and several points in-between. Beaver Creek, Baker Creek, Myrtle Grove State Park and Powers Memorial State Park provide access to popular bank fishing holes for drifters or plunkers.

On the other forks of the Coquille River, most fishing is from the bank, although limited drift boating occurs in a few places. On the North Fork, the most popular steelhead holes are located in Laverne County Park. An acclimation site is located here, so hatchery returns to the area are plentiful. On the East Fork, acclimations occur near Frona County Park, and excellent fishing is also available here. Land ownership along the East Fork is a “checkerboard” pattern, with alternating sections of private lands and BLM-administered public lands. Upstream of Frona Park, to the deadline marker at the lower end of Brewster Gorge, the majority of fish will be wild steelhead providing for a catch-and-release fishery.

The Middle Fork Coquille River has no hatchery steelhead releases. This river, characterized by boulder and “pocket water”, is a spawning and rearing area for wild steelhead. The steelhead fishing here is primarily catch-and-release for unmarked fish, but definitely an area to leave the crowds behind. While their presence is very low, adipose fin-clipped steelhead are legal to harvest in the Middle Fork.

River gage information for the South Fork Coquille River at Powers is available at: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?14325000.

Tenmile Lakes Basin
Steelhead fishing access is available at the Forest Service’s Spinreel Park, just west of Highway 101. This area is popular for plunkers and drift anglers. The Forest Service charges a fee for day use in the park. Steelhead smolts are acclimated and released at the mouth of Saunders Creek in Spinreel Park, in Tenmile Creek near Highway 101, and at the outlet to Eel Lake. Adult hatchery steelhead are drawn back to these areas and provide for excellent catch rates. Steelhead fishing is open in Eel Creek (below Eel Lake) from Jan. 1 through April 30.

Lower Tenmile Creek is an interesting water body to fish for winter steelhead. Consisting of mostly sand bottom, it has a different “feel” than rivers with a gravel bottom. It can be difficult to locate holding fish in this creek, as it does not exhibit the typical pool-riffle pattern like other rivers. Fishing lower Tenmile Creek downstream of Spinreel Park presents a hike through the dunes, and offers a unique steelhead fishing experience.  With the big lakes acting as a settling basin, Tenmile Creek is often fishable when other area rivers are muddy following heavy rainstorms.

The Tenmile Lakes and Eel Lake are open year-round for harvest of adipose fin-clipped steelhead. Anglers often troll the upper ends of the lake arms for steelhead. Many unmarked steelhead are destined for the tributary streams emptying into the lake arms; however, they must be released unharmed.  Rainbow trout over 20 inches in Tenmile Lakes are considered steelhead from Nov. 1 through April 30. These fish may be harvested if they are adipose fin-clipped, and must be tagged as a steelhead.  From May 1 to Oct. 31, rainbow trout over 20 inches will be considered trout, and may be harvested one fish per day, in accordance with Southwest Zone regulations. They do not need to be fin-clipped to harvest during this “trout” fishing period, nor do they need to be recorded on a tag. This regulation allows harvest of some large “holdover” rainbow trout from the ODFW stocking program. Anglers have reported rainbow of 17-inches in length or more, with a few exceeding 20 inches. These fish are an offshoot of the ODFW legal trout stocking program (stocked at 9 to 10 inches long) that survive and grow large due to the productivity of the Tenmile Lakes. During the period when wild steelhead are passing through the lakes on their way to spawning grounds, the regulations help protect these unmarked fish from harvest.

A special wild coho harvest season is open in North and South Tenmile Lakes from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2010 or until a quota of 500 fish is reached. This season allows for the harvest of one unmarked adult coho per day, and five per season. One unmarked jack may also be harvested per day. The five-fish seasonal bag limit is in aggregate with other rivers and lakes having a wild coho harvest, so the total number of wild coho any angler may harvest for this year is five fish. If the season remains open in December, anglers may have the opportunity to harvest both a coho and a steelhead from the Tenmile Lakes. Tenmile Creek below the lakes, the channel that connects the lakes, and all tributaries that enter the lake are closed to fishing for wild coho.

UMPQUA RIVER BASIN

No wild steelhead can be harvested from the Umpqua Basin. There is year-round harvest on adipose fin-clipped steelhead in the main stem and North Umpqua. On the South Umpqua the winter steelhead season is open from Dec. 1, 2010 through April 30. Only adipose fin-clipped steelhead can be harvested. Even without a wild fish harvest, anglers should still enjoy good fishing and will be able to harvest some nice hatchery steelhead.  Hatchery goals have been made since 2009, so more hatchery fish will be available for harvest. The wild run has been strong the last several years, so there are also good catch-and-release opportunities throughout the basin.

The Umpqua River Basin has an estimated population of 24,000 to 37,000 winter steelhead.  Fishing opportunities within the basin are best from late January through March, with peak harvest from February through March. The Umpqua River main stem, the North Umpqua River to Soda Springs Dam, Smith River, South Umpqua River and Cow Creek are all open for adipose fin-clipped winter steelhead fishing. Good rainfall in December will get the fish moving and distributed throughout the system. Because the fish also move more during warmer water conditions, a cold snap can slow the bite.

The North Umpqua and Smith River are typically the first waters to come back into fishable shape after a storm. The main stem Umpqua and South Umpqua are best fished when water levels are rising or falling. Higher flows cause the migrating winter steelhead to travel closer to the banks making them easier for bank anglers to target. Many of the best plunking holes can only be fished at higher flows. Contact the District Office of ODFW at Roseburg, 541-440-3353, for more information on fishing techniques, and up-to -date fishing conditions.

Last winter (2009-2010) over 10,600 winter steelhead crossed Winchester Dam. This was the third largest count since 2000, exceeding the nine year average of 9,204 fish and indicating a healthy population. Last year most of the catch was wild fish with few hatchery fish, but anglers should see significantly more hatchery fish this year. In 2008 only 28,000 winter steelhead smolts were released, but in 2009 that number increased to nearly 91,000 smolts. Most of the fish that return come back in 2 years and will be a part of the 2011 return.

Winter steelhead fishing in the main stem Umpqua River begins just above tidal influence at Scottsburg. Bank fishing begins at Family Camp and continues upstream on the south side of the Umpqua River to Lutsinger Creek. Sawyer’s Rapids and Scotts Creek are just upstream and are popular bank and drift boat spots. Drift boaters can access the river at the Scotts Creek boat ramp and the Sawyer’s Rapids RV Park. Bank anglers can take advantage of the Bunch Bar wayside, which is owned by Douglas County. Boat fishing is also available at Elkton, Yellow Creek, Osprey, James Woods and Umpqua boat ramps.  There is also access at Cleveland Rapids and River Forks Park boat ramps. Bank fishing can also be successful at Yellow Creek, Cleveland Rapids and River Forks Park. Anglers are reminded that 100 percent of the hatchery adult population passes through these fishing locations. Based on data collected, approximately 50% of the wild winter steelhead run use the main stem Umpqua and tributaries for spawning.

North Umpqua River
Boat access is readily available on the North Umpqua River. Hestness Landing provides access for anglers to the lower North Umpqua River, and Amacher Park boat ramp is located just below Winchester Dam. A drift from Amacher Park to Hestness Landing is often productive for winter steelhead anglers. Above Winchester Dam, boat access is available at Whistlers Bend Park, Gravel Pit boat ramp, Colliding Rivers boat ramp, and a drift boat slide on Lone Rock Road. A boat take-out-only is located on the south side of the river off of Page Road.

Bank fishing is limited to Amacher Park, Whistlers Bend Park, near Colliding Rivers, and just below Rock Creek. Winter steelhead fishing from the flies-only area to Soda Springs Dam is limited to bank fishing. Anglers need to remember that the North Umpqua no longer has a wild fish harvest. Only adipose fin-clipped steelhead may be kept in this area. Only about 5 percent of the winter steelhead in the North Umpqua are hatchery fish. However, with the strong wild population there is still a lot of catch and release opportunity in the North Umpqua. There is also good catch-and-release fishing with fly fishing gear above Rock Creek.

There is a summer steelhead hatchery program on the North Umpqua. The goal of the program is to release about 100,000 summer steelhead smolts each year. This provides a hatchery run that starts in March and continues through the fall. This program also had a good release in 2009 so anglers should enjoy a good return of hatchery fish in the winter of 2010- 2011. Winchester Dam counts are also posted on the ODFW website at http://www.dfw.state.or.us.  The counts are not meant to be “real time” counts and are generally several weeks behind the actual date. They do show what percent of the run is generally past the dam in the different months.

South Umpqua River
The South Umpqua is the center of the Umpqua’s winter steelhead hatchery program. The goal of the hatchery program is to acclimate and release 80,000 –120,000 winter steelhead smolts per year. Acclimating the smolts helps ensure that they will return to the area thereby enhancing the fishery and reducing stray hatchery fish. To help maintain the best possible genetics for the hatchery program, about 70 percent or more of the fish used for the broodstock are wild fish. Some of these fish are provided to the program through guides who have received permits from the ODFW and Oregon State Police, while the rest of the fish are captured at various traps in the South Umpqua basin.

The South Umpqua winter steelhead program also provides a lot of public outreach. Volunteers from ODFW’s STEP program are an integral part of operating the acclimation sites and assisting with the broodstock collection. The ODFW also runs one acclimation site in cooperation with a school. The STEP program and volunteers provide a variety of tours and field events at the acclimation sites so visitors can learn about fish life-cycles, the needs of fish, and fish management techniques.

Hatchery adults returning to the South Umpqua are available to anglers in the main stem Umpqua and South Umpqua Rivers, including Cow Creek. With the release of nearly 91,000 smolts in 2009, we are expecting a good hatchery return this year. These fish will provide harvest opportunity in the main stem and South Umpqua.

The South Umpqua River and Cow Creek provide an excellent opportunity to catch adipose fin-clipped steelhead. The Umpqua Fish District maintains two acclimation sites on Canyon Creek and one on Deer Creek. Adipose fin-clipped winter steelhead smolts are held at the sites for three weeks, and then are released each spring into the South Umpqua River. This provides hatchery fish that linger in the Canyonville and Roseburg areas. Both bank and boat access is available to anglers on the South Umpqua and Cow Creek. Boat ramps include Templeton Beach in Roseburg, Douglas County Fair Grounds and Happy Valley. Several unimproved boat ramps are located at Boomer Hill, Gazley Bar, Stanton Park and Canyonville County Park. These boat ramps tend to be in the portion of the South with the highest concentration of hatchery fish. Above Canyonville there are unimproved ramps at Days Creek, Lavadoure Creek, Milo and Tiller. Catch-and-release fishing for wild steelhead is popular in this upper section of the South.

Bank fishing can be good at Templeton Beach, the Myrtle Creek Bridge and Stanton County Park. There is also bank fishing available behind Seven Feathers Casino. Cow Creek opportunities are limited to bank fishing, which is quite productive. Both Cow Creek and the South Umpqua River also provide above-average opportunities to catch and release large wild winter steelhead.

Smith River
Smith River provides anglers an opportunity to catch and release wild winter steelhead. The regulations do allow harvest of adipose-clipped steelhead, but there is no hatchery program in the Smith River basin and stray hatchery fish are rare. Bank access below Smith River Falls is limited due to private landownership. Boat access below the falls is available at the Wasson Creek Bridge, a drift boat slide near Dailey Creek, a wayside just above Doe Creek, and an unimproved boat slide just below the falls. Bank fishing access improves above Smith River Falls, as landownership becomes BLM and private industrial. Several unimproved boat slides exist above the falls, with good boat access at Vincent Creek. Several good drifts are available in the Smith River basin.

Fishing Techniques
Bank anglers on the main stem are successful plunking with a Spin-N-Glo, with or without prawns or roe, on a 20-24-inch leader rigged with appropriate weight from a three-way swivel. Bank anglers on the North and South Umpqua Rivers prefer drift fishing with a corky, yarn and roe rig. Most will use pencil lead or a slinky about 24 inches above the bait, with just enough weight to keep the bait near the bottom. Most boaters in the Umpqua basin prefer side drifting or pulling plugs.

ROGUE RIVER BASIN

The Rogue River offers steelhead fishing opportunities nearly every month of the year. Winter steelhead migrate up the Rogue from December through May, followed by summer steelhead May through November. A strong run of wild winter steelhead is supplemented by releases of hatchery fish in the Rogue and Applegate rivers. Returns are likely to be improved from the previous few years throughout the river basin.Steelhead provide a popular fishery on the Rogue River, but do not draw the huge crowds like spring chinook. Bait, lure and fly anglers all enjoy good success.

Several dam removals have occurred on the main stem Rogue over the past two years. Savage Rapids, Gold Hill and Gold Ray dams have all been removed. This has greatly improved conditions for all the Rogue’s native species, including winter steelhead. For anglers this means more fishable water. In the areas once impounded by the dams there are now new riffles and runs – prime fishing water for winter steelies. The dam removals also reduce migratory delay and stress on fish, thus improving chances of successful spawning and the likelihood of solid runs in years to come.

To date, the Rogue basin has experienced early rain fall, which may help this year’s steelhead run get off to an early start. Even when winter freshets create high flows and turbid water, anglers can typically still find fishable water on the Rogue between Cole Rivers Hatchery and Big Butte Creek, where the reservoir outflow of clear water makes up most of the river flow. Following a freshet, the Illinois sub-basin clears more quickly than the remainder of the Rogue.

Lower Rogue River
Winter steelhead fishing kicks off around Thanksgiving, but really picks up in mid-December. Anglers fishing either off the bank or from a jet boat can do equally as well, depending on the flow. Bank anglers will do the best when flows are around 10,000 cfs and dropping, while boat anglers do best when flows get down around 7000-8000 cfs and dropping at Agness. (Rogue River flows)  The steelhead run will usually peak sometime in late January, but steelhead fishing remains good thru March or early April.

Plunking a Spin-N-Glo is the technique of choice for bank anglers. Steelhead in the lower river all migrate on the inside bends of the river in about one to three feet of water. Anglers new to the fishery can easily get all the information they need to be successful from watching and talking to other anglers on the gravel bar. Public access is very good from the top of tide all the way to Quosatana Campground, approximately 15 miles.

Running plugs is the number one technique among boat anglers. The tough part for boat anglers new to the fishery is appreciating how close to the bank steelhead migrate. Usually, you want to anchor the boat about one boat width from the shore, unless the water is really clear. Boat anglers can launch at any of the gravel bars in the lower river, or boat ramps at the Port of Gold Beach, Lobster Creek Campground or Quosatana Campground.

Middle Rogue River
Winter steelhead normally start to arrive in the area around Grants Pass in late December, with the peak in February and March. There is plenty of good bank access along the middle Rogue. Between the city, county and state parks, and the federal recreational areas, there are over 20 developed access sites. In addition, much of the land along the river below Hellgate Canyon is owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Some of the most productive sites include Valley of the Rogue State Park, Matson Park, Griffin Park and Robertson Bridge. Bank anglers drift bait, cast lures, plunk and fly fish.

This section of the river also offers good opportunities for fishing from both drift and motorized boats. With boats ramps distributed every three to five miles along the river, there are a lot of options. Boat anglers cast bait, lures and flies; back bounce and side drift bait; and back-troll plugs. The new boat ramp at Coyote-Evans Park in the city of Rogue River is now open. No ramps are available between Coyote-Evans and Savage Rapids Dam. For the section from Hog Creek (below Merlin) to the former Gold Ray Dam (near Gold Hill), anglers may keep non-adipose fin-clipped steelhead at least 24 inches in length, one per day and five per year, from Feb. 1 to April 30. Adipose fin-clipped steelhead may be kept the entire year.

Upper Rogue River
Winter steelhead are normally caught in the upper river above the former Gold Ray Dam (near Gold Hill) from February through mid-May, with peak fishing activity in March and early April.  Bank fishing access in this stretch is good. Bank anglers can enjoy good success between the hatchery and the Highway 62 Bridge, and at public access points such as Casey State Park, Rogue Elk Park and Touvelle State Park. The river gets smaller in this section, with more defined holes. The area just below Cole Rivers Hatchery usually remains fishable when the rest of the river is not fishable because of storm events. Drifting bait, casting lures and back-trolling plugs are all popular techniques. Later in the season, fly fishing can be very productive.

In the reach from the former Gold Ray Dam to Cole Rivers Hatchery, anglers may keep non-adipose fin-clipped steelhead at least 24 inches in length, one per day and five per year, from Feb.  1- April 30.  Adipose fin-clipped steelhead may be kept the entire year.

Illinois River
The Illinois River provides excellent fishing for winter steelhead in a remote and rugged setting. Winter steelhead are caught from December through March, with peak activity usually in January and February, depending on river conditions. A new opportunity for a limited harvest of naturally produced steelhead on the Illinois began in 2009 and continues in 2010 and 2011. Updated regulations, including the new harvest opportunity for the Illinois River are as follows:

Non-adipose fin-clipped rainbow trout and steelhead and all cutthroat trout must be released unharmed and should not be removed from the water, except in the main stem Illinois River from the confluence with Briggs Creek upstream to Pomeroy Dam, non-adipose fin clipped (wild) steelhead at least 24 inches in length may be kept; 1 per day, 5 per year, as part of the daily or annual steelhead/salmon catch limit.

The Illinois River flows out of California into the Illinois Valley, before entering a long canyon leading to the Rogue River at Agness. In the Illinois Valley, private land limits access to the river. In the canyon, most of the land is in public ownership. A lack of developed access points and technical whitewater limits fishing opportunities from a boat. In addition, topography in the canyon makes access to the river difficult in most places, but this also keeps the fishing pressure down. Anglers willing to make the effort can have a beautiful section of river to themselves. With clear water, outstanding scenery, and big fish, the Illinois River is a good destination for a quality fishing experience. The river is full of boulders that make drift fishing difficult in most places, so casting flies and lures are popular fishing methods. Due to the local geology, the flow in the Illinois can increase rapidly during a storm; however, the river drops and clears quickly afterward.

The river is closed to salmon fishing.

Applegate River
The Applegate River is smaller than the neighboring rivers, and offers good opportunities for wading anglers due to well-defined holes and runs, and a gravel bottom that makes it easier to fish. Winter steelhead are usually caught in the lower river starting in mid-January, with the fishery peaking from mid-February through the end of the season on March 31. Fishing in March can be excellent.

Drifting bait works well, and casting spoons is popular. The river also offers one of the best opportunities in the area to catch a winter steelhead on a fly. Traditional steelhead flies and nymphs both work well. Fly anglers will find the best conditions when flows out of Applegate Dam are below 800 cfs, but the river is fishable at higher flows as well.  Reservoir outflows can be monitored at the Copper USGS stream flow gauge (#14362000) at http://waterdata.usgs.gov.

No fishing is allowed from a floating device. Much of the river is in private ownership, so anglers must use caution and always avoid trespassing. Cantrall Buckley Park and Fish Hatchery Park are prime fishing sites. The main stem Applegate upstream to Applegate Dam is open to fishing for adipose fin-clipped steelhead from Jan.  1 through March 31. Use of bait is allowed.  All non-adipose fin-clipped rainbow trout, steelhead, and cutthroat trout must be released unharmed.

WILLAMETTE VALLEY

Portland area anglers should have plenty of opportunities to land a beautiful winter steelhead in 2011 as ocean survival continues to be good and management changes geared at expanding opportunities appear to be taking hold. Winter steelhead begin moving through the Willamette system during winter months, with the lower river fishery beginning in late November and early December. The native late-run winter steelhead start migrating upstream during the latter part of February and continue into early May.

Wild steelhead returns for the last five years averaged 5,329 fish over Willamette Falls in Oregon City with 7,337 returning last year. A record number of wild winter steelhead (2,174) passed North Fork Dam on the Clackamas in 2010. Hatchery returns to the Clackamas and Sandy rivers have been increasing in recent years with Clackamas Hatchery collecting a record number (1,600) of returning adult in 2010 after shifting to wild broodstock. Coho returns to the Upper Willamette and Sandy rivers were very good this fall and the fourth highest return of summer steelhead passed Willamette Falls in 2010.  All indications are that opportunities should be plentiful in the Willamette Zone for the dedicated angler.

For more information on steelhead fishing in the Lower Willamette, Clackamas, Sandy, or Molalla rivers, contact the North Willamette Watershed District office at (971) 673-6011.  For information on Upper Willamette tributaries, call the ODFW South Willamette Watershed District office at (541) 757-4186 x 249 or the ODFW Springfield Field office at (541) 726-3515.

Lower Willamette
The fishery for winter steelhead in the lower Willamette River (below Willamette Falls in Oregon City) usually begins in early December, although by Nov. 15, 2010 there already have been reports of winter steelhead being caught at Meldrum Bar and over 150 wild winter steelhead passing Willamette Falls. A dry spell followed by a high flow event in late November/early December typically brings the first flush of winter steelhead into the Willamette. With the change to a native broodstock in the Clackamas River, winter steelhead should be available in the lower Willamette from November through the early part of the spring chinook season. Steelhead caught in the lower Willamette River are headed for the Clackamas River and tributaries above the falls including the Molalla, Tualatin, Santiam and McKenzie rivers.

The most popular and accessible bank-angling site in the lower Willamette is located at Meldrum Bar in Gladstone. Many long-time Meldrum Bar anglers are successful in high, muddy water when fishing close to the bank (within 15 feet) using brightly colored gear such as a Spin-N-Glo or spinner. The Meldrum Bar fishery can be a little different than most bank fishing so a good tip is to spend some time on the bank watching other anglers to see how it’s done.

Winter steelhead are known to hold in shallow margins of the Willamette below the mouth of the Clackamas River, waiting for higher flows and warmer water temperature. Steelhead in the Willamette can be very lethargic and less prone to taking the bait during low, cold winter flows. Look for river flows ranging from 12,500 – 20,000 cfs and water temperatures from 45-55 degrees for the best opportunities. Willamette River flows, temperatures, and Willamette Falls fish counts.  Keep in mind while viewing the fish counts that steelhead passing the falls after May 15 are all considered summer steelhead.

Clackamas River
The Clackamas River provides a highly-valued fishery near the Portland metropolitan area. In fact, it is the leader in recreational catch for the Columbia River tributaries. The hatchery winter steelhead program on the Clackamas is comprised of two stocks of fish, Eagle Creek stock and Clackamas stock (a local stock that incorporates wild returning fish). Long-time anglers should be aware that with the discontinuation of Big Creek stock releases in 2001, the run timing of winter steelhead in the Clackamas is now later than they may remember. Winter steelhead fishing usually begins slowly in December, but noticeable numbers of fish do not enter the system until high water events occur in January. Eagle Creek stock usually returns from late December through March, with a peak from mid-January to mid-February. The first Clackamas River stock show up as early as Jan. 1 and continue through May. This run usually peaks in March and April. Even though these fish peak in the Clackamas River they are often caught in the lower river and even in the Willamette during late winter. Also, summer steelhead are released into the Clackamas River and return from March through October (peaking in late spring and early fall). Counts of fish passing North Fork Dam on the Clackamas River..

Hatchery fish are acclimated and released from the Clackamas Fish Hatchery at McIver State Park, Cassidy Pond near river mile 11 (just above the confluence of Foster Creek), the mouth of Foster Creek, and the Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery on Eagle Creek. When these fish return as adults many of them will hold at or below these release points.

 

CLACKAMAS RIVER STEELHEAD, KEEVIN COLLIER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The Clackamas River typically fishes best at flows with a gage reading of 10-13 feet, although anglers have been known to catch fish at levels up to 14.5 feet (measured at Rivermill Dam;
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/or/nwis/uv/?site_no=14210000&agency_cd=USGS). When the river is high and off color, anglers should concentrate their efforts at the mouths of tributary streams such as Clear Creek, Eagle Creek, or Dog Creek (at the hatchery outlet). The best fishing is two to three days after a high water event, when the river has dropped and fish start to hold in pools or pool tail-outs.

Bank anglers can find access to the Clackamas River in the High Rocks/Cross Park area in Gladstone, Riverside Park in Clackamas, in Carver near the mouth of Clear Creek, Barton Park, McIver Park near Dog Creek, and near River Mill Dam. Easy access to Eagle Creek can be found at Bonnie Lure State Park and Eagle Fern Park. Anglers can also walk down Eagle Creek to its confluence with the main stem Clackamas to find good bank fishing on the Clackamas River. Boat anglers can find ramps at McIver Park (note: upper ramp should only be used by experienced boaters due to hazardous whitewater), Feldheimer’s Road, Barton Park, Carver Park, Riverside Park, or Clackamette Park. The Clackamas River above North Fork Reservoir is managed as a “wild fish sanctuary” and is closed to angling for steelhead and salmon.

Eagle Creek
Eagle Creek, a tributary of the lower Clackamas River, offers a popular winter steelhead fishery with easy access for the bank angler. The first steelhead of the season will typically start showing up in the creek right after Thanksgiving, but it is usually late December before anglers will find significant numbers of fish in the creek. Quality winter steelhead fishing can be expected in Eagle Creek from January on into March. Many of the steelhead caught at Meldrum Bar and in the lower Clackamas are actually destined for Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery.

Fishing conditions on Eagle Creek are dependent on precipitation and its flows can change dramatically after a good rainfall. Often it will blow out quickly and be unfishable in a matter of hours. On the flip side, it also clears very quickly. It doesn’t take long for the water color to improve, even though the flows may be somewhat high. If there is a long period of cold, dry weather it can get very low and clear, making steelhead fishing a bit more of a challenge. In the past few years, the number of smolts released in Eagle Creek has been reduced from 150,000 to 100,00 – anglers will start seeing this reflected in the number of returning adults.

Many different types of gear can be successful on the creek, with color often dictated by water clarity. Try brighter colors during the murky water conditions and darker, less flamboyant colors during times when the creek is crystal clear. Types of gear that have consistently proven successful include bobber and jig, sand shrimp, corkies and yarn, and small egg clusters with yarn. The skilled fly angler can do very well using steelhead flies.

Starting from the mouth of the creek, the first place to try would be Bonnie Lure Park, which is off of Dowty Road. Take a right from Hwy 224 in the community of Eagle Creek to find the park area.  From Bonnie Lure Park you can also access nearly a half-mile of the Clackamas River for bank fishing. The creek passes under Hwy 224 just past Eagle Creek Store and there is also some bank access there. Very close to this highway crossing is Wildcat Mountain Road. Go left towards the hatchery, then follow the hatchery signs on Eagle Fern Road, you will soon encounter several pull-offs on the right that provide great access to the creek. A short way up from there is Eagle Fern Park that has many good holes. This access area runs for about a half mile on up to Snuffin Road Bridge. From Snuffin Road you can continue up Eagle Fern Road (also called George Road), and after about three miles, turn right down Rainbow Road to Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery. Fishing can be very good below the hatchery if you are willing to make the hike. Much of Eagle Creek flows through private property. Longview Fiber and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are the largest landowners along the creek and they are not usually concerned about anglers for most of the year. However, it is advisable that you get permission before accessing Eagle Creek on individual private landowner’s property.

Sandy River
The Sandy River provides a highly-valued fishery near the Portland metropolitan area. In fact, it is the second highest in recreational catch for Columbia River tributaries. The localized hatchery program is comprised of a native broodstock, meaning that the hatchery fish are derived from a portion of wild fish returning to the river. Since the Big Creek stock is no longer released into the river, the hatchery run timing has become more like the wild returns. This results in a later run than most anglers are used to in the Sandy River. Winter steelhead begin returning to the river in December, but larger numbers do not start showing up in the catch until early February. The fishery usually runs from January through April. It is important to note that summer steelhead are also released into the Sandy River, and return from March through September.

 

WINTER STEELHEAD, SANDY RIVER, GUIDES BRANDON AND JACK GLASS. (TEAM HOOK UP GUIDE SERVICE)

All Sandy River winter steelhead are released from the Sandy Fish Hatchery on Cedar Creek, so anglers should focus their efforts from Cedar Creek downstream. There also are good opportunities for catch-and-release fishing for wild steelhead, as well as hatchery strays, past Cedar Creek in the gorge above and below the former Marmot Dam site. The Sandy River is a glacier-fed system that typically runs very muddy when warm winter rains melt the glaciers on Mt. Hood. The river will clear up within 3-4 days after high water if the snow level drops below 4,000 feet and the rain stops or slows to showers. The Sandy fishes best at gage readings of 8-11 feet (measured below the Bull Run; http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?14142500).

Of special note is the recent removal of Marmot Dam at river mile 30. The river became free-flowing again in mid-October 2007, providing fish unimpeded passage to the upper basin. With removal of the dam, river flows and patterns will likely continue to change. It may take several years for the sediment to leave the system, possibly altering your favorite fishing hole in the meantime. In addition, the angling deadline, which was located at Marmot Dam, was relocated to the mouth of the Salmon River beginning Jan. 1, 2008. The former dam site is now managed by BLM and is open for foot traffic only. Plans are being made to develop a boat access point below the old dam site.

Anglers can access the Sandy River from many parks including Lewis and Clark, Dabney, Oxbow and Dodge. Access is also available at the mouth of Cedar Creek near the Sandy Fish Hatchery. Boat anglers access the river at Dodge Park (recommended only for expert boat operators due to hazardous rapids), Oxbow Park, Dabney Park and Lewis and Clark Park near Troutdale. Jet boats are allowed downstream from Dabney Park. Also, fishing from a floating device is only allowed starting from a point that is 200 feet downstream of the Oxbow Park boat ramp.

Sauvie Island
There are several miles of open beach suitable for steelhead fishing on the Columbia River at the Sauvie Island Wildlife Refuge just north of Portland. The best public access to the Columbia River from Sauvie Island is on NW Reeder Road, which runs from south to north along the western side of the Island. Getting to Sauvie Island is easy. Just take Highway 30 out of Portland and head north toward Scappoose. Look for the bridge crossing onto the island about two miles north of Linnton.  After crossing the bridge, drive north on Sauvie Island Road to Reeder Road. Take Reeder Road west across the island about 6 miles to NW Reeder Road where it runs north along the Columbia for several miles. There are several points to find parking in easy walking distance of the river.

NOTE: Once on the island, you will need a parking permit. Daily permits are $7 and can be purchased at Sam’s Cracker Barrel, Reeder Beach RV Park, Island Cove Café and the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area headquarters (during regular business hours). Permits also can be purchased in advance of your visit on the ODFW website.

The best time of the year to fish for winter steelhead at Sauvie Island is from December to March as steelhead bound for tributaries upstream move past the Island. Many of the fish hug the shoreline in six to 15 feet of water. The most popular method is to plunk using a weight or sinker heavy enough so it doesn’t move with the current. The preferred lure is a Spin-N-Glo. Some anglers also attach salmon eggs or sand shrimp to the back of the lure for added attraction. Use 15 pound test line or heavier to adequately hold your gear in place and to fight fish in the strong current. Watch other experienced anglers and ask questions about best rigging methods. Be courteous to other anglers and give lots of space so you don’t crowd in on other’s space. This area is also intertidal, and depth will change 3-5 feet with the tide.

Molalla River
The Molalla River in the upper Willamette is becoming increasingly popular for catch-and-release fishing for wild winter steelhead. The Molalla River is no longer stocked with hatchery winter steelhead, but good numbers of wild winter steelhead are present and offer the adventurous angler an opportunity to catch this majestic fish in relative solitude. Limited numbers of naturally produced and stray summer steelhead may be present in the system in many of the same areas where winter steelhead are typically found.

Harvest opportunity was expanded in 2009, and anglers can now harvest non-adipose fin-clipped summer steelhead from July 1 through Aug. 31. The use of single barbless hooks is encouraged. Please note that beginning Jan. 1, 2009, there also was a change in the angling deadline, moving it approximately six miles downstream to protect important spawning areas. The river is now open to fishing year-round for coho and adipose fin clipped chinook and steelhead up to the Pine Creek Bridge located on BLM land in the upper basin. The use of bait is allowed only from May 15 to July 15 in order to provide opportunities for spring chinook harvest while minimizing impacts to native winter steelhead and juvenile salmonids.

Keep an eye on Willamette Falls fish counts as approximately 1/3 of the total number of steelhead passing the Falls are destined for the Molalla River. Head for the Mo’ when daily counts pick up to over 50 fish per day or total count exceeds 1,000 fish. If you would like more information about steelhead fishing opportunities or about native fish conservation efforts in the Molalla, contact the Native Fish Society/Molalla River Alliance office at (503) 829-6211.

Upper Willamette
There are no longer any hatchery winter steelhead programs in place for the upper Willamette, so virtually all returning adult winter steelhead are unmarked and must be released unharmed. Early in the season, anglers can target steelhead in the main stem Willamette River between San Salvador, near St. Paul and the mouth of the Santiam River. One popular and successful method is to plunk near the bank, either from shore at numerous greenway access points or from a boat that can be launched at one of the four public ramps in this stretch of river. About 70-80 percent of the winter steelhead ascending Willamette Falls are destined for the Santiam River system, and about two-thirds of these fish are headed into the North Santiam. Winter steelhead are available in the Santiam as early as late February and contribute significantly to the fishery through April. By then, summer run steelhead, most of which are marked (adipose fin-clipped) hatchery fish, have moved in and become the target catch. Winter steelhead typically are fished with a variety of steelhead lures, Spin-n-Glo with bait, or bobber and jig. The North Santiam River is generally preferred by anglers over the South Santiam because water clarity is better during the winter and spring months, and both bank and boat access are better.

Both the North and South Santiam rivers are stocked with summer steelhead smolts that return to the rivers after spending two or three years in the ocean. They begin to show up in the Santiam in mid-April with the run peaking from May through July. Anglers typically fish low in the system early in the season and move up the streams along with the fish. Summer steelhead are collected through the summer months at ODFW trapping facilities near the dams and transported back down the river to be fished on again. A significant portion of these “recycled” fish end up being caught by fishermen on their second run up the river. Boaters do well on both forks, but bank access is more plentiful on the North Santiam. Anglers can receive recorded updates on Foster trap (South Santiam) counts and recycling activities by calling 541-367-3437 or by going to http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/fish_counts/ and clicking on Foster Dam. Anglers are allowed to retain unmarked adult steelhead during the months of July and August in those areas open to steelhead fishing. A late spurt of fish destined for the Little North Santiam can provide good opportunities for steelheading October through December.

Water conditions in the North and South Santiam Rivers varies. Typically, flows are relatively high in November and early December as the Corps of Engineers draws the reservoirs down to accommodate flood waters. After that, flows are driven by precipitation until reservoir refilling begins in February. A good site for up-to-date flow information is at the USGS website:

The North and mid-Oregon Coasts offer the winter steelhead angler a variety of opportunities. Whether you prefer fishing from the bank or a boat, with a fly or a spinner, on a small intimate stream or a large tidal river you can find excellent fishing just a few hours from Portland, Salem, Eugene and Corvallis. Fishing conditions often depend on rain patterns and water levels. Flooding in recent years has brought large amounts of wood and debris downriver and changed fishing in many rivers. Anglers should always use caution when floating rivers as new hazards can appear throughout the season. Road access may also be blocked after severe storms so be sure to check road conditions before heading out.

steelhead
North Coast Steelhead
– Photo by Greg Apke-

NORTH COAST

Several local streams host early returning (late November through January) hatchery winter steelhead. The North Fork Nehalem River is generally one of the better early season streams, with hatchery steelhead also available in the Necanicum, Kilchis, Wilson, and Nestucca rivers. A fair number of hatchery steelhead also migrate up the Trask River, although none are planted there. The Wilson and Nestucca rivers, which have wild broodstock hatchery programs, will have hatchery steelhead available throughout the winter and early spring (generally through mid-April). Wild steelhead are available throughout the winter and the run generally peaks in March.

Anglers should contact the local ODFW office in Tillamook at 503-842-2741 for more information on fishing techniques, locations and updated fishing conditions. Recorded fishing information for the North Fork Nehalem is available at 503-368-5670. Tillamook County has instituted a fee system at county-owned or operated boat launch sites. Daily fee envelopes are available at access sites. Contact Tillamook County Parks (503-322-3477) for more information or to purchase an annual pass.

Lower Columbia
Hatchery steelhead smolts are released in Gnat Creek (40,000), Big Creek (60,000), and the North Fork Klaskanine River (40,000). Fishing for steelhead is restricted to the lower portions of the streams below the hatcheries. Hatchery fish are primarily available during December and January, with numbers of fish tapering off quickly after that. These streams are small and are primarily fished from the banks. Access is available at the hatcheries, at Big Creek County Park, and along roads following the streams. Anglers may call 503-458-6529 for recorded Big Creek fishing information. The Lewis and Clark River, Young’s River, and the South Fork Klaskanine River also are open to steelhead fishing. While anglers will encounter some stray hatchery fish, these streams offer mostly catch-and-release fishing for wild steelhead.

Necanicum River
The Necanicum River offers excellent small-stream steelhead fishing throughout the winter.  Hatchery steelhead (the river is stocked with 40,000 smolts at a several locations up to Black’s Bridge) are caught in the early winter months, and wild fish are more commonly caught later in the season. The Necanicum is open to steelhead fishing through March 31 downstream of the Highway 53 Bridge at Necanicum Junction.

Bank access is available along Highway 26, especially at Klootchie Creek Park and around Black’s Bridge (about 1.5-2 miles above Klootchie Creek). Boaters may launch at the park, and a takeout is located along Highway 101 just south of Seaside. The Necanicum River is one of the first North Coast streams to clear following heavy rains.

steelhead
North Coast Steelhead
– Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Nehalem River Basin
The Nehalem basin offers a multitude of steelhead fishing opportunities. Hatchery steelhead (90,000 smolts) are released in the North Fork Nehalem at or below Nehalem Hatchery on Highway 53. The best fishing for hatchery steelhead is usually in December and January, with fish beginning to show in the catch by mid-November most years. Hatchery steelhead are recycled from Nehalem Hatchery regularly during the peak of the run. Call 503-368-5670 for recorded fishing information. Fishing for wild steelhead in February and March can be productive and is usually much less crowded.

Bank access on the North Fork is available near the hatchery and on neighboring industrial forestlands. The Nehalem Hatchery Barrier Free Fishing Platform allows increased access for anglers possessing the required disabled angler permit. Boaters may float the North Fork below the hatchery, but extreme caution is necessary. Several bedrock rapids make drifting this river hazardous, and it should only be attempted by experienced boaters. Rafts are highly recommended.

The main Nehalem River is a very productive catch-and-release fishery for wild steelhead. Best fishing is February to early April.  Some very large steelhead (topping 20 pounds) are caught from this river. Access is along Nehalem River Road. The lower river can be boated from the Beaver Slide (below Nehalem Falls) to Roy Creek County Park. The Salmonberry River, a tributary of the Nehalem about 7 miles above Nehalem Falls, can provide superb fishing for large winter steelhead. The Salmonberry closes March 31. Access to the Slamonberry is currently very limited. The Port of Tillamook Bay has closed access to the Salmonberry in the railroad right of way due to safety concerns. The railroad tracks are still in disrepair following the storm of December 2007. Anglers are advised to check with the Port for current status of access restrictions. The road bridge over the Salmonberry River near the mouth was removed by the December 2007 flooding. The bridge will not be repaired until at least 2011.

Tillamook Bay Streams: Wilson, Kilchis and Trask rivers
The Wilson, Kilchis and Trask rivers offer excellent fishing opportunities. Hatchery steelhead usually begin returning in late November, with good fishing through January.  Approximately 40,000 early returning hatchery smolts are released in each of the Kilchis and Wilson Rivers. The Kilchis is stocked up to Kilchis Park. An additional 100,000 wild brood smolts are released in the Wilson River, primarily in the lower river up to Siskeyville but a small proportion are released in the South Fork. Wild broodstock hatchery steelhead are available in the Wilson River throughout the winter and early spring (primarily January to mid-April). The Trask River is not stocked, but hatchery strays are present. Wild steelhead are available through the winter in all three stream, with the best fishing in March. There is ample access to all three streams.

Highway 6 follows the Wilson River from the lower reaches to the fishing deadline at the South Fork. The Little North Fork Wilson River and first mile of the South Fork Wilson River are open Dec. 1- March 31 for steelhead fishing. These streams provide good opportunities when the main stem Wilson River is high.

The Kilchis River is accessible at the Mapes Creek launch, Kilchis Park, and along Kilchis Forest Road up to the deadline at the confluence of the North and South forks. Under recent regulations adopted in 2009, the Kilchis River is now open year round for steelhead fishing.

The Trask River is accessible at Trask Hatchery and Loren’s Drift, off Chance Road, and along Trask River Road. The North and South Fork Trask (open Dec. 1 to March 31) are accessible by forest roads that follow each stream. The North Fork Trask deadline is at Bark Shanty Creek and the South Fork deadline is at Edwards Creek.

Boat launches are available on the main stem Kilchis, Wilson and Trask rivers. The Vanderzanden boat launch on the Wilson River and the Stones Road boat launch on the Trask River were recently damaged. Plans are underway to make repairs, but access may be restricted, especially early in the winter steelhead season.

The Tillamook and Miami rivers are open to steelhead fishing though March. A few stray hatchery fish and smaller populations of wild fish are present in each stream. The Miami River offers access in the upper stretches along Miami Forest Road; however, public access is very limited on the Tillamook River.

Fishing
Nestucca River Fly Fishing
-Photo by Jessica Sall-

Nestucca Basin
Early-returning hatchery steelhead (40,000 smolts marked with an adipose and left maxillary fin clip) are available from late November into February, with a peak in early January. Wild broodstock hatchery steelhead (70,000 smolts; adipose and right maxillary clipped) are available in the Nestucca through the spring (recent creel surveys show the catch to be primarily January to early April).

Since 2008, hatchery winter steelhead smolt releases have been altered in the basin. Most of the early returning fish are now released in Three Rivers, with a portion released at Farmer Creek boat launch. The wild brood hatchery smolts are released in Three Rivers; in the main stem Nestucca River at Farmer Creek boat launch and First Bridge boat launch; and in Bays Creek (a tributary just above the fifth bridge). This release strategy should optimize harvest opportunities and help spread the fishery out. Wild steelhead are caught throughout the winter, with a peak in March.

The Nestucca River Road parallels the upper Nestucca River, beginning at Beaver and continuing upstream to the angling deadline at Elk Creek. Best bank access is above Blaine, with many pullouts along the river. The use of bait is prohibited in the Nestucca River above Moon Creek. Fishing in the upper Nestucca is best later in the season, as primarily wild fish return to the upper river. The Nestucca River upstream from Moon Creek closes March 31. Boat access is available at boat ramps located at the first and fourth bridges above Beaver, at a primitive boat slide above the fifth bridge, and at the sixth bridge. Only experienced boaters should launch upstream of the fourth bridge due to some hazardous water. The lower Nestucca River offers limited bank access, but some very good boat access. Launching/takeout is available at boat ramps located at the Rock Hole, Farmer Creek wayside, the mouth of Three Rivers, and at Cloverdale.  Bank access also is available at those sites.

Three Rivers, a tributary entering the Nestucca at Hebo, offers very good bank access in the lower river and excellent opportunity for anglers targeting early-returning hatchery steelhead, as well as later-returning wild broodstock hatchery steelhead. Good numbers of steelhead ascend Three Rivers on their return to Cedar Creek Hatchery. Bank access is available at the hatchery, at the “heart attack” hole (on the south side of the stream), on the “S” curve just above Hebo, and by the sewage treatment plant in Hebo. The upper Three Rivers is accessible along Hwy 22, but fewer fish are present above the hatchery weir and bank access is limited.  When available, fish are recycled downstream from Cedar Creek Hatchery.

The Little Nestucca River offers fair opportunity for steelhead. A few stray hatchery steelhead are present throughout the winter season. Wild fish may be caught and released through the winter, with the run peaking in March. Limited public access is available along Little Nestucca River Road between Hwy 22 and Hwy101.The river closes March 31.

North Coast Lakes
Coffenbury Lake, Lost Lake, Vernonia Pond, Cape Meares Lake, Loren’s Pond and Town Lake receive excess adult hatchery steelhead periodically. Other lakes may also receive fish when available. Check the weekly Recreation Report on the ODFW website, www.dfw.state.or.us, for updated information on fish releases. Steelhead caught in these lakes are considered trout, and do not have to be recorded on a harvest tag. Only one trout over 20 inches per day is allowed.

A huge steelhead
A huge steelhead
– Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

MID-COAST

The Mid-Coast winter steelhead returns are typically from December through March depending on the location, flow conditions and broodstock. Please note that only hatchery fin clipped winter steelhead may be harvested. If you do catch a wild steelhead, please handle it carefully and try not to remove any wild fish from the water while unhooking it. For in-season updates of winter steelhead fishing along the mid coast contact the ODFW Newport District Office at (541) 265-8306 ext. 236 or 224. Many of the large river basins along the coast have river gauges which can be reviewed online at .http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/

Siletz Basin
The Siletz River offers anglers the opportunity to fish for wild and hatchery steelhead year round. Winter steelhead begin arriving in late November with a peak in January-March and extending into April. The winter steelhead hatchery program in the Siletz Basin, which uses wild fish as broodstock, can provide excellent fishing throughout the season. This program releases approximately 50,000 steelhead smolts each spring from the Palmer Creek acclimation facility located near Moonshine Park. During peak season drift boat fishing can be very good productive and many sections of the river are often busy when flow conditions are good. Bank fishing can also be very good in the upper river around Moonshine Park. Fishing upstream of the park does require access through the Siletz Gorge Road — a private logging road open to public vehicle traffic only on the weekends. Bank anglers also plunk with stationary gear in the lower river. A portion of hatchery fish returning to ODFW fish traps are also recycled to provide additional fishing opportunities. These fish are tagged with a small colored tag near the dorsal fin.

The Siletz River also has a native summer steelhead run, the only one in the Oregon Coast Range. A hatchery summer steelhead program with a target smolt release of 80,000 each spring offers anglers an excellent opportunity to harvest fresh steelhead by early summer. The summer steelhead start arriving in May with a peak in early July. A second push of summers arrive with the first fall rains. Most fishing is from the bank from Moonshine Park upstream.

Yaquina Basin
The Yaquina Basin receives approximately 20,000 smolts of an early-returning Alsea hatchery stock. The return usually peaks in December and January, depending on location and flow conditions. Good bank access is available along upper Big Elk Creek near the smolt release site (river-mile 21 below Grant Creek) and several miles downstream. There is no boat fishing on Big Elk Creek.

steelhead trout
Steelhead at Alsea Hatchery
– Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Alsea Basin
The Alsea Basin provides good fishing opportunities for hatchery winter steelhead from December into March. The target release of 120,000 smolt into the Alsea are split between the traditional Alsea hatchery stock and a wild Alsea broodstock. Fair to good bank access can be found throughout most of the basin at numerous public pull offs and parks along the river. During high water, bank anglers should focus their efforts in the upper basin and around the Alsea Hatchery. A parking lot just below the hatchery provides anglers with off-road parking and access to the river. Most river access near the hatchery is on private property, which is clearly posted.

Drift boats can be put in at launches from just downstream of the town of Alsea all the way to the head of tidewater, depending on the time of year and river conditions. Fishing from a boat is prohibited above Mill Creek. Throughout the season a portion of hatchery steelhead captured at the Alsea hatchery traps are tagged and recycled downstream as far as the Blackberry Launch to provide for additional fishing opportunity.

Siuslaw Basin
The Siuslaw winter steelhead tend to return later than traditional coastal hatchery stocks. Steelhead returns and the fishery typically peak from late January through February, though they can last well into March. There is also an extended fishery in the Siuslaw River from Whittaker Creek downstream to 200 yards below the mouth of Wildcat Creek through April 15. The Siuslaw River near the Whittaker Creek campground site offers good boat and bank access and is where a target of 65,000 winter steelhead smolt are released each spring. This area can be heavily fished during the peak season, particularly on weekends.

Lake Creek and its major tributaries can be a productive catch-and-release fishery for wild steelhead and there is an additional opportunity to catch hatchery fish near the town of Deadwood where 15,000 hatchery winter steelhead are released into Green Creek. A portion of hatchery steelhead captured at trap sites are recycled to provide additional fishing opportunities.

Salmon River (located north of Lincoln City along HWY 18) offers fair to good catch-and-release wild winter steelhead fishing opportunities from late December through March. Bank access can be found in the lower river near the Salmon River Hatchery or along the Van Duzer corridor.

Drift Creek-Siletz (located just south of Lincoln City) offers anglers good catch-and-release wild steelhead fishing with the occasional stray hatchery steelhead. A large portion of the fishable river is located within the Siuslaw National Forest with several good hike-in opportunities.

Drift Creek-Alsea offers fair to good catch-and-release wild steelhead fishing. A large portion of the river is within the Drift Creek Wilderness Area providing good hike in opportunities in a remote old-growth setting.

steelhead
Steelhead
– Photo by Derek Wilson-

Yachats River (located in the town of Yachats) is a productive winter steelhead river with access to public properties from a county road bordering the stream. It offers good catch-and-release opportunities for wild steelhead from the forks down to tide water.

Cummings Creek (located approximately 4 miles south of Yachats on HWY 101) is a smaller stream located in the Cummings Creek Wilderness area. Anglers can have fair to good wild winter steelhead fishing in a secluded old-growth setting.

Ten-Mile Creek (located approx 6 miles south of Yachats on HWY 101) consistently produces good catches of wild winter steelhead when conditions are right. Much of the creek-side property is in private ownership. Occasional hatchery steelhead strays also can be caught.

Big Creek (located south of Yachats approx.  8 miles on HWY 101) can be good fishing as steelhead move into the river at high tide. A good road borders the stream and most areas are owned by the US Forest Service. Occasional hatchery steelhead strays also can be caught.

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Proposed Marine Reserves, Protected Areas Maps Posted

November 24, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has posted for public review the maps and descriptions of proposed marine reserves and protected areas on its marine reserves website (www.oregonocean.info/marinereserves).

ODFW received the final marine reserve recommendations from three local community teams that considered proposed reserves at Cape Perpetua near Florence, Cascade Head near Lincoln City and Cape Falcon near Manzanita.

According to Cristen Don, ODFW marine scientist, the recommendations for the Cape Perpetua and Cascade Head reserves were made with the strong support of the local community teams. Each is a compromise proposal that includes a marine reserve and less restrictive protected areas.

The community team considering the Cape Falcon site was unable to agree upon a compromise and narrowly adopted the original marine reserve proposal forwarded for further evaluation to the team by the Ocean Policy Advisory Council, Don added.

“All members of the team were able to support some form of a marine reserve at Cape Falcon,” Don said. “But in the end members of the team couldn’t reach full agreement on the exact size, shape and conditions for the reserve.”

“It was not an easy task reaching compromise recommendations,” Don added. “We need to commend the members of all three of the local community teams for their perseverance and willingness to work together to reach compromises.”

ODFW will consult with scientists on the Science and Technical Advisory Committee before taking their recommendations to OPAC in December for additional review.  The agency will make its final recommendations to the Governor and Oregon Legislature in time for the next Legislative session.

According to Don, the Governor and Legislature are expected to consider funding and additional policy direction before any sites are designated.

Public comment on the proposed marine reserves will be accepted throughout this process and should be submitted through the Oregon Marine Reserves website at www.oregonocean.info/marinereserves. Members of the public also will be able to comment at the upcoming OPAC meeting on Dec. 6-7 at the Hallmark Resort, 744 SW Elizabeth St., Newport, Ore.

SW WA Fishing Report, Novembrrrr 22, 2010

November 22, 2010

(REPORT COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Grays River – Mainstem Grays from Hwy. 4 Bridge to South Fork opens to fishing for hatchery steelhead, hatchery coho, and adipose and/or ventral fin clipped Chinook beginning December 1.  On the same day the open area on the West Fork expands from the hatchery intake/footbridge to the mouth.

Cowlitz River – Anglers are still continuing to catch coho throughout the river though best catches came from the barrier dam area.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 5,393 coho adults, 189 jacks, 52 fall Chinook adults, one jack, 46 winter-run steelhead, 42 summer-run steelhead, and 56 sea-run cutthroat trout during seven days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 1,101 coho adults, 71 jacks, and 26 fall Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa, 130 coho adults and five jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood,  and 88 coho adults, nine jacks, one fall Chinook adult, and three cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,470 cubic feet per second on Monday, November 22. Water visibility is seven feet.

Blue and Mill creeks (tributaries to Cowlitz River) – Beginning December 1, Blue Creek opens to fishing for hatchery steelhead and sea-run cutthroats while Mill Creek opens to fishing for hatchery steelhead.   See the 2010-2011 Fishing in Washington pamphlet for additional details.

Green River, North Fork Toutle River, and mainstem Toutle from mouth to forks –  November 30 is the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead and hatchery salmon.

South Fork Toutle River –  From 4100 Bridge upstream, November 30 is the last day to fish for hatchery steelhead.  From the mouth to the bridge remains open with selective gear rules in effect beginning December 1.

Kalama River – Anglers are still catching some coho and steelhead.

Lewis River – Anglers are catching some coho though most of the fish are dark.  In addition some Chinook, which have to be released, are being caught.  Flows below Merwin Dam are currently near 8,200 cfs, up from the long-term mean of 6,610 cfs for this date.

Under permanent rules, the night closure and anti-snagging rule is lifted from Johnson Creek to Colvin Creek beginning December 1.  However, the restriction of fishing from any floating device in that area remains in effect through mid December.

Wind River – Under permanent rules, November 30 is the last day of the catch and release game fish season above Shipherd Falls.

Klickitat River – Under permanent rules,  the Klickitat (except for the salmon fishery from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream) closes to fishing for trout including hatchery steelhead and salmon beginning December 1.  The salmon season from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream remains open through January.

The whitefish only season from 400 feet above Fishway #5 upstream to the Yakama Reservation boundary begins December 1.  Whitefish gear rules will be in effect

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 1 salmonid bank angler from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with no catch.  We did not sample any boats.

Hanford Reach – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco – An estimated 351 steelhead have been caught in November through the 21st.  Anglers are averaging 1 steelhead for each 11 hours of fishing. A total of 501 hatchery steelhead have been harvested this season in the lower Hanford Reach (Hwy. 395 to Hanford town site). Catch and harvest is well below the 2008 and 2009 November fisheries but similar to catch and harvest in 2004-07.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – In general, the fishing has gone as cold as the weather.  We sampled 117 sturgeon bank and 24 boat (8 boats) anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Wauna powerlines with no legals kept.    Combined with the few fish found in the ODFW sample, probably less than a dozen fish were caught out of the 57 legals remaining on this year’s annual guideline for this area.

TROUT

Swift Reservoir – Remains open to fishing through November 30.  No report on angling success.

Poachers Strike Again In Trask Unit

November 22, 2010

Poachers have struck again in Northwest Oregon’s Trask Unit.

This time it’s three elk — two of which were killed and left to rot.

The carcasses were discovered Nov. 20 near the East Fork Bypass Road, according to the Oregon State Police.

One was found skinned and gutted with most of the meat taken; a second animal’s head was removed, but no meat taken; a third was left untouched, say police.

A reward of $1,000 is offered by the Oregon Hunters Association for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Anyone with information is asked to call Senior Trooper Guerra at (503) 815-3315 or the Turn in Poacher (TIP) number at 1-800-452-7888.

OSP has also asked the public’s help on two other poaching cases in the Trask Unit this year.

In July, the agency announced that $2,500 is being offered in a case involving three dead bucks, killed in June.

That’s the same amount for information in the killings of two cows and a spike bull found along Clear Creek Road in mid-February.

Game wardens were able to make one arrest in another incident along the Wilson River earlier this month. A construction crew worker and local citizens blocked the exit of alleged poacher Bryant Robles, 31, of Hillsboro. Robles was cited with one count of taking a bull elk during closed season, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $6,250.

 

O My! Oprah Mag Covers Hunting

November 19, 2010

Sometimes we sportsmen are surprised when the subject of hunting and why we kill wildlife turns up outside the bounds of hook-and-bullet Web sites, kill-and-grill TV shows and dead-critter magazines.

We shouldn’t be, but some among our tribe have a more myopic vision of the world, overlooking the vast center between prohunting and antihunting sides.

There does appear to be genuine interest in the middle, judging by recent articles from big-name titles.

O, for starters.

The magazine you see in the grocery-store checkout line featuring a new look every issue for Oprah Winfrey recently posted a seasonally themed piece entitled “A Humbling Harvest: Could You Hunt Your Own Holiday Turkey?”

Self-described “sucker-hearted animal lover” Kimberly Hiss describes her transformation from eating sandwiches made with meat from turkeys killed god knows where and how to harvesting her own bird with a Benelli.

True, Hiss experiences conflicted emotions before and after she gets a shot off on that snowy Nebraska morning, but the hunt proves successful and the bird pops out of the oven “perfect” for Christmas dinner.

It’s a good read and puts our heritage in front of an audience we might not otherwise reach in a positive, constructive way.

Seattle-area writer Bruce Barcott does the same in “Killer Hike” which appeared late last summer in Backpacker magazine.

Its subtitle asks “When a lifelong backpacker decides to shoot a deer, will he lose touch with the wilderness he loves–or get closer to it?”

The answer, emphatically, is the latter.

“Troubled” by a “world too cleanly divided” between “red states or blue states, urban or rural, creamy or crunchy … Patagonia R2 fleece or Mossy Oak Break-Up camouflage … Cabela’s or REI,” he finds that the experience of hunting enriches his understanding of nature.

After three days of hunting in Southeast Washington’s Palouse and Snake and Grande Ronde River Breaks — killing his buck on the first day and helping a friend try and notch his tag the next two days — he begins to see through “a fresh pair of eyes.”

“Landscapes that were once barren to me become lush and vibrant, alive with life, crackling with possibility. Where once I saw lowland scrub—white noise for a backpacker—now I see a living habitat where rosehip bushes function as secret deer beds. Blank hillsides aren’t blank at all; they’re terraced with game trails. I see water and imagine the animals it might draw. I start to think like a predator. To be perfectly frank, hiking as a hunter is fun.”

True that last statement — and vise versa.

The dozen or so comments from readers are almost entirely positive towards Barcott and his article.

And finally, three Novembers ago National Geographic did a big article on hunting that worried “Strong supporters of land and wildlife conservation, hunters in the U.S. are in decline. Will a new generation take the field?”

I certainly hope so, and I think that articles like these really bolster our cause, and possibly our numbers .

‘Eliminating Steelhead Fishing In Puget Sound’ Rivers

November 18, 2010

WDFW DIRECTOR FLOATS THE IDEA AS BUDGET CRUNCH, ESA LISTING CATCH UP TO FISHERY

‘Costs are quickly beginning to outweigh the benefits they provide,’ says spokesman.

OLYMPIA–It is a birthright for we Puget Sound anglers – drifting bait in mountain-born streams for winter- and summer-runs like our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers before us – an important fishery for local guides and tackle shops, and an economic boost for sleepy river towns, but the region’s steelhead program is being eyed for elimination.

The staggering news came out of a meeting 100 miles safely removed from the basin.

Citing continuing budget woes where tens of millions of dollars will likely be cut from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s General Fund over the next two years, Director Phil Anderson floated it as one fix.

“We’re talking about things like eliminating steelhead fishing in Puget Sound,” Anderson told a Vancouver audience in late October, according to an article by Columbian outdoor reporter Allen Thomas. “Does that make sense along the coast? Going through a process where you do proportional cuts, you take a little bit out of every place, you can only do that so much to where you get to a point you’re not doing anything very well.”

If it comes to pass, the end on some waters could come as soon as after the smolts released this past spring get picked off during 2011-12’s fishery, according to an agency spokesman.

For good measure, Anderson added that a platoon of enforcement officers, up to 11 hatcheries and numerous access sites are also on the chopping block, Thomas reported.

It’s somewhat puzzling why Anderson would push such draconian measures forward before a legislative session where the agency conceivably needs sportsman and -woman support for lawmakers to pass license and other fee increases to stabilize its budget as well as again possibly fend off merging WDFW with other departments.

True, it’s clear Anderson is desperately trying to get across just how dire WDFW’s financial situation is – at the same time as he’s probably probing to see what ideas would draw the fewest pitchfork-and-torch-bearing anglers to his headquarters in Olympia.

But even as staffers down the chain of command say reduction rather than wholesale elimination is more probable, it does raise a deeper question: What is the thinking behind why steelheading on storied Pugetropolis rivers such as the Sky, Stilly and Skagit is expendable in the first place?

STEELHEAD FISHING ALONG THE GREEN RIVER, CIRCA 1958, JOSEF SCALYEA, GENERAL SUBJECTS PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION, 1845-2005, WASHINGTON STATE ARCHIVES, DIGITAL ARCHIVES

THERE ARE SEVERAL OBVIOUS REASONS, for starters.

WDFW spokesman Craig Bartlett points to declining wild steelhead populations, and low returns and catches of hatchery fish. To put it bluntly, despite millions of smolts released annually from hatcheries and increasing protections for native fish, steelheading has collapsed.

In the nearly 50 years since WDFW began collecting catch-card data in 1961, the high mark for Puget Sound winter-runs is the season of 1963-64 when we bonked 88,578. Two years later we nearly matched that while the late 1960s saw a pair of 79,000-fish winters.

That’s a whopping 332,793 steelies on two-fish-a-day/30-a-year punchcards over four winters.

But ever since, the trend has been relentlessly downhill. Even the best years the past two decades haven’t been as bad as the worst years of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

The nadir – so far – is the winter of 2008-09, when only 3,361 were kept.

Last winter saw a slight uptick, and there’s optimism about this season, but added together, the last 10 seasons still don’t top ’63-64.

It’s almost mind-boggling that Dad and Gramps brought home 88,000-plus steelhead with nothing but drift-fishing gear like Okie Drifters and Sammy Specials, Spin-N-Glos for plunking and Dardevle spoons to break up the monotony, so how did they do it?

They pounded the Skagit, carding 21,000, as well as fished 10,500 out of the Green, 8,800 from the Puyallup and 6,000 from both the Skykomish and Stillaguamish, according to catch-record manager Eric Kraig.

True, they could keep wild fish back in the day, but that’s been forbidden since the early 2000s. And still last winter’s native returns were extraordinarily low – less than 2,000 on the Snohomish, about 4,000 on the Skagit and just 435 on the Green, according to unofficial state figures posted online before tribal managers agreed with the data. Escapement goals for those streams are 6,500, 6,000 and 2,020, respectively.

Poor ocean feeding conditions since 1988 are blamed for the low runs these days.

(WDFW STATEWIDE STEELHEAD MANAGEMENT PLAN)

On one system, basically one out of every 350 hatchery smolts has made it back from the Pacific in recent years, according to a biologist.

And that’s actually twice as good as it’s been elsewhere.

“Over the past 10 years (to the Puyallup), it’s been a .15 percent return; in the heyday, it was 8 percent,” says fisheries biologist Mike Scharpf.

It shouldn’t take a state auditor’s report to figure out that those adults are pretty expensive specimens.

BARTLETT SAYS IT’S THE BUDGET CRUNCH that’s primarily leading to a hard look at the steelhead program. He points to the $37 million cut to the General Fund the last two years and says another $10 million to $20 million hack job is possible as the state grapples with a $4.5 billion revenue shortfall (Editor’s note 11-19-2010: That shortfall grew to $5.7 billion, the Seattle Times reported today.)

“Even if the Legislature approves WDFW’s fee proposal, the department will have to make serious reductions in the services it provides to the public,” he warns.

So instead of fisheries, wardens and hatcheries, cut all those back-office staffers and IT guys down in Olympia!, armchair biologists rail online.

But in the words of one manager there, “Thanks to budget cuts, I ain’t got no minions.”

Another source says HQ’s Geek Squad is all of three people.

Other WDFW watchers howl, To hell with managing wolves and the rest of the state’s frou-frou wildlife!

But whether by design or just alphabetic arrangement, WDFW’s new home page shows increasingly what the department’s priorities are rolling back to in these money-tight times: the Conservation tab comes before the Fishing and Hunting buttons.

And therein lies the convergence with steelhead.

“The main reason steelhead fisheries on Puget Sound rivers are on the list of programs under consideration for reduction,” says Bartlett, “is that costs are quickly beginning to outweigh the benefits they provide for the fishing public.”

It’s a stunning statement for those of us who have more Corkies, pink worms, jugs of Fire Cure, rvrfshr spoons and marabou jigs than our wives should ever know about.

SKYKOMISH RIVER SUMMER-RUN (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

But he says since Puget Sound steelhead were listed as threatened in spring 2007, Endangered Species Act requirements have “raised the cost of everything from broodstock collection to trapping operations on those rivers … further stretching the department’s reduced staff and budget.”

Bartlett didn’t have actual cost estimates available, but the first biologist estimates that roughly 20 percent of their own work time is now dedicated solely to dealing with steelhead issues. That’s a fifth of their day, week, month, year that might otherwise be dedicated to salmon, inland and warmwater fisheries and high lakes.

Instead, it’s now spent in all-day meetings, negotiating with the tribes, writing exhaustive harvest management plans, doing even more stream surveys and gathering other niggling details for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

For instance, when WDFW opened the Baker River for sockeye in mid-July, the agency had to send someone over to check if any wild winter steelhead were being landed.

Given the glaringly obvious decades-long fall of Puget Sound’s steelhead, it’s too bad that more scrutiny didn’t occur to someone at WDFW earlier. But now NMFS has been asking things like, how many wild fish are hooked during winter fisheries?

That’s unclear – there’s no data – and to run a creel sample could cost upwards of $50,000 to $60,000 for just a single river, the first biologist estimated, a big chunk of change for a cash-strapped agency.

Starting this winter, there’s a new allowable “impact rate” on natives – how many fish can be incidentally killed by hook-and-release mortality, net drop-out, etc.

“It’s 4 percent averaged over the ‘Big Five’ rivers – Skagit, Snohomish, Green, Puyallup and Nisqually,” says Bartlett. “It will likely tighten seasons when wild fish are present.”

While you can find a few wilds in Puget Sound rivers practically any month of the year, this winter’s fishing may be curtailed on waters outside of terminal zones at the end of January as they really begin to arrive.

If there’s an irony in all this, it’s that NMFS didn’t mention harvest as a factor in the species’ decline. Instead, it was linked to habitat, dams, hatcheries and the ocean.

But outside of salting Puget Sound and the North Pacific with iron filings and sprinkling krill in front of our smolts, forklifting Stanwood, Mount Vernon and Tacoma off of the deltas and joining with Billy Frank Jr. and the tribes to demand that the state seriously address habitat, tightening the fishery is the only place managers can turn.

“ELIMINATION” WAS THE COLUMBIAN article’s watchword — and the nut of the story is being used as a rallying point to get anglers to email Director Anderson about how we feel — but afterward WDFW spokespeople were using terms like “reduction” and “reduce” instead.

“I don’t believe (Anderson) meant eliminate all of Puget Sound,” says Hatcheries Division manager Heather Bartlett, no relation to Craig, “but we may have to make some reductions where it eliminates it in some places and refines opportunities elsewhere.”

How much meaningful fishing opportunity there is left to prune is a good question.

A quintet of waters that contributed a total of 6,447 fish to ’63-64’s catch – the Nisqually, Sammamish, Duckabush and Dosewallips Rivers and Lake Washington Ship Canal – are no longer in play.

TWO PAGES FROM THE OLD DEPARTMENT OF GAME'S 1962 FISHING REGULATIONS DETAIL THE LAST DAY OF WINTER STEELHEAD SEASON FOR NUMEROUS STREAMS AS WELL AS PUGET SOUND ITSELF. (WDFW)

Up until 10 years ago the regs allowed you to keep wild fish on several of the so-called “S” streams in North Puget Sound, and there was a spring catch-and-release fishery on the Skykomish.

WDFW is no longer stocking fish-trapless tribs such as the Raging, Tolt and Sauk, no longer uses late-returning hatchery fish for broodstock and new this winter is a Feb. 15 closing date on most streams, two weeks earlier than in the past.

Also new this year, stream fishing rules on Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca tributaries flip-flopped from open unless listed as closed to closed unless listed as open.

And, acknowledges Craig Bartlett, WDFW has “reduced or eliminated (summer-run) hatchery production on several area rivers, including the Snoqualmie, Green, Skagit and Nooksack, largely due to previous budget reductions.”

Nature as well as those extremely low adult returns has ended it on the Puyallup for now.

“The last release was basically the flood of (January) 2009,” which walloped the Voights Creek hatchery, says Scharpf.

WINTER 2009 FLOODING AT VOIGHTS CREEK HATCHERY, CARBON RIVER. (WDFW)

WDFW has a plan to rebuild Voights, and has strong support from the Puyallup Tribe, but there have been “speed bumps” in being able to buy a nearby property to build a new facility, according to Heather Bartlett. The budget crisis isn’t helping the project either, but she believes there’s enough support to fund it and move forward. 

WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN in the end with Puget Sound steelheading. Craig Bartlett says that final decisions are still months away, but the agency “has no choice but to start weighing the alternatives.”

“WDFW does not want to reduce fishing opportunities for steelhead in the Puget Sound area any more than it wants to lay off enforcement officers, lose hatcheries or close public access sites,” he says. “But those are some of the options the department is facing.”

When Anderson and other honchoes fan out across the state to talk about potential cuts, the size of the hole in not just the General Fund but also the Wildlife Fund if a 10 percent license surcharge isn’t extended by the Legislature forces them to warn that many programs are in danger.

“It would be worse,” says deputy director Joe Stohr, “if we didn’t talk about it and then surprised everybody.”

He says that there’s really only five or six areas where General and Wildlife Fund dollars go, thus there’s really only a handful of places to cut — and he sees years and years of economic difficulties ahead for WDFW.

Meanwhile, among Washington sportsmen there have been mixed reactions to WDFW’s legislative request to – for the first time in 10-plus years – boost some license fees which would bolster the Wildlife Account.

Online, people grumble that it’s just a “tax” and that what we’re paying for now isn’t a glimmer of what it was back in the glory days – say, 1963-64. But they may not realize that when it comes to the General Fund, WDFW and DNR are sucking hind tit. And the coming cuts are only going to make the milk flow thinner.

“The Department is making a concerted effort to make itself less dependent on the General Fund,” says Heather Bartlett, “to be less subject to economic (ups and downs) knowing we don’t compete well against hungry kids,” a reference to public health, prison and education needs that consume the lion’s share of the General Fund.

So something is going to give.

Inland fisheries and warmwater took hits in the last budget go-around, so what else is left?

A fishery that’s a shadow of its former self, one that basically just feeds smolts to the ocean, one with increasing costs due to ESA, and one that largely uses a single type of steelhead for its broodstock which, says a third biologist, has been shown to interbreed with threatened wild stocks?

“I think people think it’s a scare tactic, but it’s not,” says the first biologist, who was monitoring reaction to Anderson’s words on Piscatorial Pursuits. “We’re to the point now that most (WDFW employees) can’t do what needs to be done. We can’t do some core activities, so we have to look at whole programs.”

If the number of local magazines, radio shows, Web sites, bait and tackle shops, fishing guides and boat and gear manufacturers focusing on steelhead here are a sign, I’d say the species is the core of Puget Sound fishing.

True, it’s not what it once was and the wilds need help.

But it would be a devastating blow culturally and economically to kibosh the fishery.

Tax measures got crushed at the ballot box earlier this month and WDFW has no plans to ask we users to support the program financially, but would some sort of license endorsement funding improved hatchery production, biologists and monitoring be a better answer than no season at all?

Or would limping along on a core of rivers — maybe the Skykomish and Cascade — be preferable?

AS LATE AS 1984, THE PUYALLUP -- WHERE THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN 26 YEARS EARLIER -- WAS THE TOP WINTER STEELHEAD RIVER IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON. NEXT SEASON, THERE WON'T EVEN BE A HATCHERY RUN, A VICTIM OF MOTHER NATURE AND ADULT RETURNS THAT PLUMMETED FROM AS HIGH AS 8 PERCENT TO .15 PERCENT. (STEELHEAD FISHING ALONG THE PUYALLUP RIVER, CIRCA 1958, JOSEF SCALYEA, GENERAL SUBJECTS PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION, 1845-2005, WASHINGTON STATE ARCHIVES, DIGITAL ARCHIVES)

What’s Fishin’ In (Greater) Oregon

November 17, 2010

When it comes right down to it, we’re all Oregonians here in the Northwest.

After all, once upon a time Oregon was everything between Astoria, Bellingham, Kalispell and Rock Springs, Wyoming.

So sometimes when we detail what’s fishin’ in Oregon we mean what’s fishin’ in Greater Oregon.

In that spirit, we bring you word from the Smith River, just south of the border with California, where earlier this week, Brookings-based Capt. Andy Martin and a crew from Pautzke’s as well as the lovely Kari Armstrong wailed on the Chinook.

KARI ARMSTRONG CAUGHT HER SWEET CHINOOK NOV. 15. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

PAUTZKE BAIT CO. GENERAL MANAGER DON SHERMAN AND OWNER CASEY KELLEY SHOW OFF A PAIR OF SMITH RIVER KINGS CAUGHT NOV. 16 WITH GUIDE ANDY MARTIN. (WILD RIVERS FISHING)

Martin reports that the boyz from the Ellensburg (North-central Oregon) based bait company were checking out how a new cure worked for salmon.

While “field testing eggs cured in Pautzke’s Fire Cure and BorxOFire, (the) pair hooked six salmon and kept a limit of bright kings,” he says.

“The river was low and clear and the salmon were holding in the deeper holes lower in the river,” Martin said. “We decided to fish smaller clusters of eggs with Corkies to help float them up off the bottom.”

He reports that most hookups were from “eggs cured in a combination of pink and red BorxOFire” and says the mojo was outfishing the usual hot bait for the Smith, sand shrimp.

Armstrong’s boyfriend Eric Tallman says she caught her Chinook on a diver baited with a Spin-N-Glo and eggs.

“Just one of many big Chinook that we have been catching from there this season,” he says.

As for what’s fishing within the modern (and much reduced) bounds of the state of Oregon, here are highlights ripped straight from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Check out the Chetco, Elk and Sixes rivers for fall chinook fishing.
  • Some low tides into the weekend should offer some good bay clamming.
  • Trout fishing at Lost Creek Reservoir has been very good with reports of several 15 to 17-inch fish.
  • Our biologists are advising anglers to get the winter steelhead gear ready – the first fish of the season are usually caught near Thanksgiving.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • The wild coho fisheries on Siltcoos and Tahkenitch Lakes are in full swing with fair to good opportunity for anglers to harvest a coho. Good numbers of coho are expected to be in the lakes through November. Trolling or casting spinners and spoons are common tactics.
  • Kilchis River: Fall chinook salmon fishing has been fair to good. Fish should be available throughout much of the river, but concentrate on the lower river for brighter fish. Bobber and bait should be effective in the deeper holes. Look for the first winter steelhead of the season to be caught soon. Catch and release fishing for chum salmon closed Nov. 15th.
  • Trask River: Angling for chinook is fair to good, depending on water conditions. Good numbers of fish moved upstream on the last high water. Bobber and bait, plugs, or back-bouncing from a boat will all produce fish. Eggs and shrimp are standard baits to fish. Try adding tuna or sardines to the mix if the bite is slow. Angling for steelhead is slow, but should begin to improve over the next few weeks as winter steelhead begin to arrive in better numbers. Concentrate on the lower river for steelhead. Few hatchery coho are still being caught as the run is mostly over.
  • Wilson River: Chinook are moving through the system and can be caught from tidewater upstream. Bobber and eggs and or sand shrimp are productive in the deeper holding areas. Bait wrapped plugs should produce some fish for boaters. Steelhead angling is slow. A few summer steelhead are in the upper river, and early winter steelhead are available in the lower river. Expect steelhead angling to improve over the next few weeks as more winter fish move into the system. Anglers should be aware that an active slide is affecting a tributary to the Wilson River around milepost 20. Another slide is active in the Ben Smith Creek drainage. Water clarity is likely to be impacted by runoff after rain events. Check river conditions before you fish.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • A total of 2,800 two-pound rainbow trout were released this week at six Willamette Valley locations – Walling Pond, Walter Wirth Lake, East Freeway Lake, West Salish Pond and St. Louis Ponds #3 & #6.
  • Steelhead are being caught on the McKenzie River below Leaburg Dam.  The next freshet will continue to bring fish in.
  • Coho are now distributed throughout the Willamette and its tributaries, and fishing prospects are looking up with the arrival of fall rains. Anglers are targeting coho at the mouths of the Clackamas, Tualatin, Molalla, Yamhill, and Santiam. Bright fish should be available for a couple more weeks.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Summer steelhead fishing on the Deschutes River continues to be good with majority of fish now between Maupin and Warm Springs.
  • Late fall and winter can be excellent times to hit the Crooked River for some trout fishing.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • The Ana Rivers offers good trout fishing opportunities throughout the fall and winter.
  • The Loop Road to Fish Lake (Steens Mountain) remains open and fishing at the lake has been good.
  • We’re getting reports of muddy/snowy roads affecting access to some water bodies. This time of year, it’s a good idea to check the road reports before heading out.
  • Haines Pond was recently stock with legal-sized and one-pound trout.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Steelhead fishing has been good on several rivers including the Grande Ronde, Imnaha, John Day, and Umatilla near Hermiston.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Steelhead angling is decent in the Columbia River above the John Day Dam and in the John Day Arm.
  • Steelhead fishing is improving above McNary Dam as water temperatures cool.
  • Sturgeon retention is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday during October 1 – December 31 from Wauna Powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.

Clam Dig This Weekend

November 17, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Clam diggers got the go-ahead to proceed with a two-day razor-clam dig the weekend of Nov. 20-21 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors on the Washington coast.

RAZOR CLAM DIGGERS. (WDFW)

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

No digging will be allowed before noon on either beach.  All other coastal beaches will remain closed to razor-clam digging that weekend.

“This dig is scheduled only at Long Beach and Twin Harbors , because they have the largest number of clams available for harvest,” said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. “We’ve tentatively scheduled another dig in early December at all five ocean beaches.”

A list of tentative digs, subject to future marine toxin tests, is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current .

For the biggest clams, Ayres recommends arriving at the beach about an hour before low tides. Evening low tide will be -0.4 feet at 5:39 p.m. Nov. 20 and -0.7 feet at 6:17 p.m. Nov. 21.

Twin Harbors Beach extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor and includes Westport, Grayland and North Cove.  Long Beach extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.

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.

Lamiglas G1306T Boasts New Look & Features For 2011

November 16, 2010

(LAMIGLAS PRESS RELEASE)

The Lamiglas 1306T is one of an entirely updated series of tried-and-true high performace rods by Lamiglas. Now, with a rich, striking cranberry metallic finish, this quintessential steelhead drift rod features more guides, in fact, American Tackle Ring Lock guides. These guides are more durable and lighter which you’ll feel the moment you pick this rod up.

(LAMIGLAS)

The 1306T is an 8’6”, 2 piece rod rated for 8 to 12 lb. test line and lure weights from 3/8 to ¾ ounce.

For more information, visit Lamiglas.com

A Muddy Day Afield For Chums

November 16, 2010

Ahh, the joys of childhood in fall. I remember it mainly as a mixture of fishing and getting wet/muddy, though not necessarily in that order.

Seems Jason Brooks’ son Ryan will have similar memories.

Here’s Jason’s write-up of last weekend’s chum salmon trip:

With the recent rains I figured this past weekend would be a good time to hit the local rivers and streams for some Chum action. Chad was over for the day as well and had never caught a Chum, and Ryan has been asking to go fishing…so off we went.

Our first plan of action was to go hit the Skokomish River. As we turned from 101 onto the Purdy Cuttoff road I saw the tribe was out in force in Purdy Creek, the intake to the hatchery. I assumed the hatchery had already met its egg take goals, as there was no way a fish would make it through all the nets.

TRIBAL NETS ON THE SKOKOMISH. (JASON BROOKS)

We continued on and I began noticing nets in the main Skok as well. After walking into a Chum hole I like to fish we set and up Ryan began “fishing”. We tried jigs under a bobber tipped with shrimp but no takers. A group of guys were above us drifting fishing a run and doing “OK” with a fish on about every 15 minutes. Chad just had to put a stop to that, so he headed up there and after another 30 minutes he hooks into a fish and loses it…after that, his eastern Washington magic kicked in and the bite was off (Chad has the ability to shut a bite off faster than anyone I know!)

RYAN'S FIRST GO-AROUND WITH WATER AND MUD. (JASON BROOKS)

Ryan decided to give his hip boots a try and then when he was knee deep he found that “perfect rock” on the bottom of the river. I caught his just as he stood up holding the rock, one look at me and he could tell Dad wasn’t too happy that he decided to get soaked in November. So, Ryan and I decided to head back to the truck, where I had a change of clothes for the kid, and hit Hunters Farms for some hot dogs and popcorn. Chad stayed to fish and make sure nobody got any more bites. On the way back to the truck Ryan found some really nice mud puddles to walk splash in. Of course the deepest one is the one he fell all the way down in and continued his quest of getting muddy and wet.

 

WELL, AT LEAST HE'S NOT POURING IT OUT INSIDE THE TRUCK. (JASON BROOKS)

After an hour of drying out and watching Curious George movies in the truck I called Chad and he still had nothing. He added that nobody else has caught a fish since we left either but I am sure it had nothing to do with the nets in the river all the way to the salt water. So I told him to beat feet back to the truck and we were off to Minter Creek.

Thank goodness Chad had one of those web surfing phones for directions, as we both had never been there before. I must say this is a “creek” at best. Due to the amount of people in the “hole” Ryan had to sit on the sidelines until I hooked a fish for us to play together. He was down to his rubber boots and last set of dry clothes so I told him to stay out of the mud…what I lesson I soon learned, a 5 year old at Minter Creek…there is no way he was staying out of the mud!

I hooked two fish in the tail and Ryan helped get them in, and couldn’t understand why I pushed them back into the creek.

 

FAMOUS MINTER CREEK. (JASON BROOKS)

15 minutes later I looked over and the kid was knee deep and stuck in the muck. I helped him get out and we went for a walk along the creek to occupy his time as Chad continued to fish. We decided to leave just as it got dark and headed home. Chad took two bright Chums with him, one of which was a hen, and I got the eggs for some future steelheading trip.

Ryan had a great time and said he wants to go back…I on the other hand and still trying to get all the mud out of my truck.

‘Shocking Level Of Poaching’ In Central OR

November 16, 2010

Stunning news out of Central Oregon: Nearly as many mule deer are poached as are taken lawfully.

“If we look at the illegal take, it’s basically equal to the legal take — it’s bad,”  Michelle Dennehy, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman told Richard Cockle in a front-page article in today’s Oregonian.

He reports that’s part of what turned up out of a half-decade-long study of mule deer from Bend south.

ODFW discovered the intensity of poaching while monitoring 500 radio-collared deer from mid-2005 to this past January. Poachers killed 19, 21 were taken by legal hunters.

“We saw something similar with elk,” says Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Division deputy chief Mike Cenci pointing to a dated study put together by now-retired Olympic Peninsula wildlife manager Jack Smith.

Another 51 mule deer died of unknown causes, according to the article. Cockle points out that cougars, bears and Highway 97 all take their toll too and changing habitat hurts the deer population, but Eastern Oregon’s herd has been on a downward trend since the turn of the millenium.

What makes it all the more staggering is that poachers prefer does, Cockle reports.

No does, no fawns. No fawns, no bucks or more does, no mule deer recovery.

Calling poachers the “great unknown predator,” he offers several reasons why they may do so — money, meat, anger at the state or license fees — and he interviews an unidentified retired businessman about why he has poached.

“”It was a habit that was hard to break,” the man tells him; another reportedly said during trial, “Some people do cocaine. Hunting is my drug.”

Cockle quotes Mule Deer Foundation regional director Ken Hand as saying that the crime “is out of hand in Oregon. It’s going on all over the state, 365 days a year. From all the contacts I have around the state, I just hear about it constantly.”

Maybe it’s my position as an editor/reporter for a regional fishing and hunting magazine, but I’d echo that.

“We investigate poaching 12 months out of the year,” adds WDFW’s Cenci. “Our guys are running their asses off.”

The trouble seems to peak during fall’s hunts.

“Given the response this season, a lot of deer died that shouldn’t have,” he says.

During a recent spate of activity in Southwest Washington, officers put out a deer decoy and not 10 minutes later, it was shot, Cenci says.

Officers nabbed the suspect and paid a visit to his house.

“Had it been an actual deer, it would have been the sixth in a week,” he alleges.

Cenci can’t say for certain whether poaching is on the rise or hunters and the general public are just fed up with it and calling in tips more.

“But I can say confidently that spree, or thrill, killing — guys whacking animals in a single night — is. We’re seeing more of that and that’s pretty frustrating. That’s not a frustrated sportsman. I’m talking hardcore poaching. These are people who often have serious criminal records,” he says.

A recent case in Pennsylvania highlights the problem: A felon allegedly caught spotlighting deer at Gettysburg shot game warden four times David Grove, killing him.

 

SW WA Fishing Report (11-15-10)

November 15, 2010

(COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Coho are still being caught throughout the river while fall chinook were being caught around the salmon hatchery and steelhead around the trout hatchery.  All the chinook caught were voluntarily released.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 7,654 coho adults, 516 jacks, 202 fall Chinook adults, ten jacks, 48 summer-run steelhead, 19 winter-run steelhead, and 87 sea-run cutthroat trout during six days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.     As of November 10, nearly 60,000 hatchery adult coho had returned to the salmon hatchery.  Just over 75,000 coho returned each of the past couple years.

During the week, Tacoma Power employees released 1,536 coho adults, 186 jacks, 158 fall Chinook adults and eight jacks into Lake Scanewa, 392 coho adults and nine jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, 129 coho adults and six jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek,  and 333 coho adults, 23 jacks, two fall Chinook adults, and 15 cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,700 cubic feet per second on Monday, November 15. Water visibility is eight feet.

Kalama River – Some coho, fall chinook, and steelhead are being caught.  The first winter run steelhead of the season returned there last week.

Lewis River –North Fork Lewis anglers are catching some coho and fall chinook (which have to be released).  The first hatchery winter run steelhead of the season returned there last week.

Klickitat River – Good for coho, especially for boat anglers.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 1 salmonid bank angler from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with no catch.  We did not sample any boats.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers continue to catch coho from the mouth of the Klickitat downstream to Memaloose Island.  About 25 boats were observed in this area last Saturday morning.

Hanford Reach – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco – An estimated 312 steelhead have been caught in the first 14 days of November.  Anglers are averaging 1 steelhead for each 10 hours of fishing. Boat anglers are doing slightly better than bank anglers.   A total of 452 hatchery steelhead have been harvested this season in the lower Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 to Hanford town site).

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – We sampled 115 sturgeon bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Wauna powerlines with 7 legals kept.  All the legals were kept just below the dam.  In addition, we sampled 11 sturgeon boat anglers (5 boats) with no legals kept.

 

 

Construction Workers Help Nail Alleged Poacher

November 15, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

With help of a LRL Construction employee and local citizens last Friday, Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division troopers were able to find a man who shot and hit a spike bull elk near Berry Creek along the Wilson River in Tillamook County.  The incident happened one day before the start of the 1st Coast Bull Elk Season.

According to OSP Sergeant Todd Hoodenpyl, on November 12, 2010 at approximately 7:30 a.m., witnesses were watching a herd of elk in a large clear-cut area near Berry Creek along the Wilson River when they saw a man shoot a spike bull elk.  An employee from LRL Construction used his company vehicle to block the suspect from leaving the area, and along with several witnesses they prevented the man from leaving while waiting for OSP troopers to arrive.

Subsequent investigation led OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers from the Tillamook office to cite BRYANT ROBLES, age 31, from Hillsboro, on one count of Taking Bull Elk Closed Season.  The Class A misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $6,250.

The shot elk fell to the ground where it remained about one minute before getting up and fleeing with the herd.  Troopers are on the lookout for the injured elk.

“The concerned witnesses and LRL Construction employee was the key to our being able to charge the suspect in this poaching incident,” said Hoodenpyl.

Hoodenpyl said poachers are stealing from all our citizens and encourages anyone to report wildlife violations to the Turn In Poacher (TIP) hotline at 1-800-452-7888 or contacting their local OSP office.

Elimination, Or (Further) Reduction?

November 11, 2010

It’s unclear if an earlier article this week overstated or misreported the potential cuts to Puget Sound steelheading — it used the word “elimination” — or whether WDFW has since backed off such a draconian measure, but an agency spokesman late yesterday afternoon was instead using words like “reducing” and “reduction.”

Of course, this winter’s fisheries are but a shadow of what they were just 10 years ago, when the regulations actually allowed the retention of wild steelhead on some rivers in the basin and anglers enjoyed catch-and-release fishing on the Skykomish into early spring, so how much more reduction or reducing they can take is a pretty damned good question …

… And one I’d follow up on with state staffers today if they were in their office.

It’s Veteran’s Day; they’re out.

And the guy I was haranguing about steelhead is not back in his cube until next Monday, our drop-dead press deadline for the December issue.

I’m not usually a pitchforks-and-torches type of guy, but I’m ready to storm Oly today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s undefended, after all.

Anyway, I’m guessing the radio guys are scrambling to get ahold of Anderson, Stohr or Anyone Else at Headquarters Who Might Have Answers to what is, frankly (and no pun intended), a very fluid situation, and I’ll have much more on this in our upcoming mag.

The End Of Puget Sound Steelheading?

November 10, 2010

It’s an almost incomprehensible proposal, but the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife appears to be seriously considering the “elimination of steelhead fishing in Puget Sound tributaries.”

That according to a news article by Allen Thomas of The Columbian and picked up by the Tri-Cities Herald earlier this week, as well as our talks with state staffers.

The fat now long gone, WDFW has been forced to take a hard look at cutting the basin’s steelhead program as it faces budget shortfalls in the $10 million to $20 million range over the next two years. That following cuts of $37 million to its General Fund over the past two years.

And then there’s the staggering drop in the fishery’s productivity over the past 50 years — from a high of 88,000 winter-runs harvested in the 1963-64 season to just 3,361 in 2008-09, the last year there is complete data available for.

In some rivers, fewer than 1 percent of hatchery smolts return as adults. Ocean conditions are blamed.

The agency is also facing increasing headwinds from the Feds since Puget Sound steelhead were listed as a threatened species in spring 2007.

And while harvest was said not to be a factor when the fish were listed, it is anglers who may suffer in the end.

It’s possible WDFW is just probing for what cut gets the fewest Washington sportsmen to pick up the pitchforks and torches — Thomas’s article also mentions director Phil Anderson says other cuts could include one-seventh of the state’s game wardens, closing a number of access sites and anywhere from seven to nearly a dozen hatcheries — but for Puget Sound anglers, steelheading — which is almost a birthright to us — is on the line.

10K ‘Jumbos’ Going Into 3 South Sound Lakes

November 10, 2010

Ten thousand “jumbo” rainbows are going into three South Sound lakes to boost winter and fall fishing.

WDFW is planting the 3/4-pound trout in Black and Offut Lakes in Thurston County and Kitsap Lake in Kitsap County.

The stockings should be wrapped up by early next week, according to fisheries biologist Larry Phillips.

“These fish will provide anglers a great fall and winter trout fishing opportunity,” he said in a press release.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (11-10-10)

November 10, 2010

It absolutely never fails: Come deadline time for the magazine, the fishing invites roll in.

Case in point, Monday night’s email from Andy Schneider, aka AndyCoho, err, AndyChinook.

Can you break away and fish Wednesday by chance?  We fished the Wilson last Monday and got 7 ducks and 2 chinook for the 2 of us.  Friday we hooked 5, today we hooked 3 for 3 of us.  Plan on hitting it Wednesday too….

Where is yours truly today? At the office, of course, trying to nail down all the last bits of the December issue — the nitty gritty details that ALWAYS take freakin’ longer than they have any right to.

The good news — well, at least if you’re a spiteful and jealous fishing partner — is that as of 11:20 a.m., Mr. Schneider ain’t caught nothing, but that’s bound to change for our ace Northwest Oregon angler.

What else is there to fish for around the Beaver State right now? Puh-lenty — including a heaping helping of 2-pound rainbows stocked in a host of Willamette Valley waters, steelhead in the northeastern corner and more. Here are highlights ripped straight from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Trout fishing at Fish Lake has been very good lately as anglers target trophy-sized rainbow trout recently released in the lake.
  • Fishing is very good in Applegate Reservoir, which was recently stocked with large rainbow trout for fall fishing.
  • The Chetco River opened for fall chinook fishing a week early and anglers are already seeing some good fishing.
  • Trout fishing at Lost Creek Reservoir has been very good with reports of several 15 to 17-inch fish.
  • Coho and steelhead are being caught on the middle Rogue River.
  • NORTHWEST ZONE
  • The wild coho fisheries on Siltcoos and Tahkenitch Lakes are providing anglers with fair to good catch rates. Good numbers of coho are in the lakes and many more are expected through November. Trolling or casting spinners and spoons can be effective.
  • Tillamook Bay: Angling for chinook has been fair to good. 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 (red and white or green dot are popular colors) or plugs in the upper bay. Most hatchery coho have moved upstream. 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 to all salmon angling.
  • Trask River: Angling for chinook is fair to good, depending on water conditions. Good numbers of fish moved upstream on the last high water. Bobber and bait, plugs, or back-bouncing from a boat will all produce fish. Eggs and shrimp are standard baits to fish. Try adding tuna or sardines to the mix if the bite is slow. A few summer steelhead are still available in the river, and the first winter steelhead will begin to show soon. Few hatchery coho are still being caught as the run is mostly over.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • A total of 2,800 two-pound rainbow trout were released this week at six Willamette Valley locations – Walling Pond, Walter Wirth Lake, East Freeway Lake, West Salish Pond and St. Louis Ponds #3 & #6.
  • Steelhead are being caught on the McKenzie River below Leaburg Hatchery.
  • Coho are now distributed throughout the Willamette and its tributaries, and fishing prospects are looking up with the arrival of fall rains. Anglers are targeting coho at the mouths of the Clackamas, Tualatin, Molalla, Yamhill, and Santiam. Bright fish should be available for a couple more weeks.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Trout fishing has been excellent on the Crooked River.
  • Summer steelhead season continues on the lower Deschutes River with more fishing moving above Maupin.

BRENDA LEE IS AMONG OREGON ANGLERS IN ON THE DESCHUTES RIVER'S FALL STEELHEAD ACTION, CATCHING THIS TROPHY LAST MONTH ON A VERY SUCCESSFUL CAST-AND-BLAST ADVENTURE). (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing on Thief Valley Reservoir has been good for even bank anglers.
  • The Ana Rivers offers good trout fishing opportunities throughout the fall and winter.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Trout fishing on Wallowa Lake has been good.
  • Steelhead fishing is fair to good in the lower Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers.
  • Steelhead fishing is picking up in the lower John Day River.
  • Steelhead and coho are showing up in good numbers improving fishing prospects in the Umatilla River.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Steelhead angling has been good in the Columbia River above the John Day Dam.
  • Steelhead fishing is improving above McNary Dam as water temperatures cool.
  • Sturgeon retention is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday during October 1 – December 31 from Wauna Powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.

Sturgeon Retention On Lower Willamette, Multnomah Closed

November 9, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon fishery managers announced the closure of recreational sturgeon fishing on the Willamette River downstream from the Willamette Falls, including Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River. This closure is effective Nov. 9.

RETENTION OF WILLAMETTE WHITE STURGEON IS NOW CLOSED. (TEAM HOOK UP GUIDE SERVICE)

According to fishery managers, the closure is needed to remain near the guideline of 3,600 fish set earlier this year.

“For 2010, white sturgeon harvest guidelines were reduced 40 percent because of declining trends in numbers of fish,” said John North, fisheries manager for ODFW’s Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program.

“Anglers kept over 3,000 fish, or 84 percent of the annual guideline between January and March.  When the fishery reopened last week, effort and catch rates were high, resulting in the balance of the quota being used. That is why we are taking this action.”

Catch-and-release angling is allowed after the retention season closes.  The fishery is scheduled to reopen to retention on January 1, 2011.

In addition, the area from the Wauna Powerlines to Bonneville Dam is currently open to sturgeon retention three days per week on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This fishery should continue through Nov. 20, and potentially through the remainder of the year.  The States will continue to monitor this fishery and recommend action if needed.

More information on the sturgeon angling rules may be found on the ODFW website.

SW WA Fishing Report (11-8-10)

November 8, 2010

Sometime last week, I got an email from reader Kevin Medved out in Colorado. He was headed to Washington’s South Coast for the weekend and looking for some fishing action.

Info was on the scarce side, but I fed him what I knew about the Grays and Naselle, and while awaiting his flight back home last night, he emailed me the report:

Andy,

We fished both the Grays and Naselle rivers over the weekend. My son caught quite a few fish. He hooked a monster Silver  (15+ lbs) and played it for about 10 minutes on the Naselle yesterday. It was at that time the fish just took off down river, as if to say, “I’m done messing with you” and snapped the line. It came out of water several times so we got a good at it… what fun!!

 

COLIN MEDVED, A SUMMER GUIDE WITH ALASKA SPORTSMAN LODGE, SHOWS OFF A DARKER COHO FROM THE NASELLE, CAUGHT THIS PAST WEEKEND. (KEVIN MEDVED)

From  what the guys were saying yesterday on the Naselle, the fishing was very good on Friday. (we got two small silvers) They started commercial netting the mouth of the Naselle on Saturday and things really slowed.

The Gray’s was pretty slow. There were fish in the river but we could not get  them to bite. We talked to a couple of hatchery workers and they said it should get really good in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for the info, we had a great weekend….Sitting @ PDX now waiting to catch our flight back to Denver!

As for the rest of the action around Southwest Washington, here’s the report biologist Joe Hymer sent out earlier today:

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Coho are still being caught throughout the river while some fall Chinook are being caught near the barrier dam and sea run cutthroats near the trout hatchery.  Note the seven winter run steelhead that returned to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator last week.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 10,003 coho adults, 402 jacks, 465 fall Chinook adults, 30 jacks, one chum salmon adult, 207 summer-run steelhead, seven winter-run steelhead, and 82 sea-run cutthroat trout during seven days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

Tacoma Power employees released 1,485 coho adults, 82 jacks, 282 fall Chinook adults, 23 jacks, and one winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa,  809 coho adults and 91 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, 273 coho adults and eight jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, 612 coho adults, 18 jacks, four fall Chinook adults, and four cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,870 cubic feet per second on Monday, November 8. Water visibility is eight feet.

Kalama River – Bank anglers are catching some coho and steelhead.  About half the coho were dark that anglers had released.

Lewis River – Slow on the mainstem and only slightly better on the north fork for hatchery coho.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Light effort and catch.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers are still catching some coho around the mouth of the Klickitat.

From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco:

Steelhead catch and harvest in the Hanford Reach has been slow in both September and October. October catch and harvest was the lowest on record dating back to 2003.

Catch and harvest have increased in this first week of November.  For the first week of November, an estimated 178 steelhead were caught and the majority of these were retained.  Anglers averaged 1 steelhead for 10 hours of fishing (1/3 steelhead per angler) in November.  For the season, an estimated 354 steelhead have been harvested, well below the average from recent years.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – Less than 100 legals were estimated caught last week.

The Joint State Hearing scheduled for today has been cancelled.  The hearing was scheduled to discuss the ongoing recreational sturgeon fishery on the mainstem Columbia River from the Wauna powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.  Fishery managers have determined the fishery can continue through November 20 and potentially through the remainder of the season based on updated catch data.

The States will continue to track sturgeon catch in this fishery and schedule a hearing if necessary.

Rural Legislators Question WDFW’s Wolf Info, Land Plans

November 8, 2010

AS CANIS LUPUS MOVES INTO OKANOGAN COUNTY, THE AGENCY HAS A LONG-TERM PLAN TO ‘SECURE’ 80,000 ACRES OF RANCHLANDS THERE FOR ‘RARE, WIDE-RANGING CARNIVORES.’

Editor’s note: This version of the article printed in Northwest Sportsman‘s November 2010 issue clarifies how the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife aims to protect 80,000 acres of land in central Okanogan County.

WAUCONDA, Wash.—As Congressmen insert themselves into the wolf debate in the Northern Rockies, a group of Washington legislators are joining the fray in their home state.

Suspicious about how the species got here as well as their true numbers, the quartet of Eastside lawmakers are going through an estimated 7,200 pages of biologist emails, plans and other things wolfish they received through a public disclosure act request of the Department of Fish & Wildlife this past summer.

At the same time, they’re questioning WDFW’s effort to provide new corridors for “rare, wide-ranging carnivores” through Okanogan County. A plan shows the agency hopes to “secure” 125 square miles of ranchland in the heart of some of the state’s best mule deer country through a mix of acquisitions and conservation easements over the next decade.

And while Reps. David Taylor, Joel Kretz, Shelly Short and Matt Shea, all Republicans, are still chewing on the documents, work has already begun on a bill for the coming session.

“We’re in the process of drafting legislation to require the wolf [management] plan to come to the Legislature for an up-or-down vote,” says Taylor.

If passed, it could further delay the Fish & Wildlife Commission’s final approval of state guidelines for Canis lupus recovery, a plan that, once upon a time before breeding wolves were confirmed in Washington, was expected to be finalized in June 2008.

TAYLOR, A RANCHER in his late 30s who represents a large swath of South-central Washington, grew up in Kittitas County and now runs cattle on leases between Ellensburg and Sunnyside. Over the years he’s heard ranchers and hunters tell of wolf sightings from the Teanaway to White Pass, so last November he attended a public comment meeting on WDFW’s draft management plan and then began worrying about its handling of cattlemen’s issues.

REP. DAVID TAYLOR (R-15)

“My concern escalated with the initial response from WDFW. They just didn’t think the concerns expressed were as high as I thought they should be,” Taylor says.

Afterward he became a contact point for others. One constituent told him about a man wandering around the woods with telemetry equipment. After WDFW claimed it didn’t know anything about the guy, Taylor filed the PDA request which yielded seven CDs and a stack of documents as thick as a big-city phone book.

“I’m still going through it,” said Taylor in late September.

He’s looking for “evidence of wolf populations that haven’t been made public. I personally believe there’s a higher population than the department would like to make public.”

Republican staffers in Olympia are also scouring Internet forums such as Hunting Washington for reports from hunters which state biologists may have poo-poohed.

One thing in the documents that has caught Taylor’s eye is Conservation Northwest’s involvement with WDFW. He brands the Bellingham organization an “environmental” group and says there is a lot of email traffic between them and state biologists.

“If you’re putting in time and money, there is some sort of payback – influence in the [wolf] plan or something,” he says.

Taylor, who defeated Democrat Tom Silva in early November to retain the seat he was appointed to in March 2009, says he’s spent enough time in small government to know the direction green groups are pushing, and points to the state’s 1990 growth management act which focuses new building in urban areas.

“It’s almost a conspiracy theory,” he admits, “but the progression is to remove people from working landscapes.”

ONE PARTICULAR WDFW document adds fuel to that fire.

A grant proposal submitted to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2009 makes it appear as if the agency has a Yellowstone to Yukon-like master plan for North-central and Northeast Washington.

It asks the Feds for $4 million in matching funds for “the second phase of an anticipated 5-10 year public/private effort to secure approximately 80,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat and vital wildlife corridors in the Okanogan-Similkameen watershed.”

A map with the request shows a pair of yellow lines through central Okanogan County. One stretches south from Canada through the Similkameen and Sinlahekin Valleys towards the Columbia. The other intersects it and heads east-southeast between Tonasket and Riverside and across the Okanogan River through a concentration of large ranches, nine of which are targeted for purchase.

MAP SHOWING WILDLIFE CORRIDORS THAT THE OKANOGAN-SIMILKAMEEN PROJECT WOULD PROVIDE.

The yellow lines are the wildlife corridors the grant speaks of. The second line is referred to as “the critical linkage … between the North Cascades and the Kettle/Selkirk Mountains for rare, wide-ranging carnivores (grizzly bear, gray wolf, lynx, wolverines).”

Protecting the land through conservation easements and fee-title purchases would help “maintain migration corridors for deer, moose and bighorn sheep (rare carnivore prey).”

It’s the phrasing – relegating game species to burger for footloose wolves and bears – that partly gets Rep. Joel Kretz.

“It really frosts me that sportsmen are the biggest contributors to the department and the reason for [the acquisitions] is to feed predators,” he says.

An aid tells me Kretz single handedly killed a bill supportive of the transborder Yellowstone to Yukon initiative in Olympia in a previous session.

FOR KRETZ, who ran unopposed for a fourth term to represent the 7th District in Northeast Washington, the issue of carnivores on the land is “personal.”

When not in Olympia, he raises cattle and working quarterhorses on a 1,400-acre spread at remote Bodie Mountain in eastern Okanogan County.

REP. JOEL KRETZ (R-5)

After voters banned hound hunting his herds ran scared. He says he had at least 20 cougar attacks, and on one occasion, a big cat deeply scarred a foal’s flank. Since then he successfully worked to legalize limited dog chases in his neck of the woods.

Now, wolves and grizzlies are returning to the delight of some Washington residents, but to the consternation of Kretz. He has at least one pack and possibly a second plus some stray grays in his district.

“It’s one thing to have wolves in the Pasayten [Wilderness] but another to have them down where ranchers are trying to calve,” he says.

Kretz says Washington lacks Idaho’s low-elevation public land – “Ninety-eight percent of the winter range is in private land” – and doesn’t have the ground to support the minimum 15 packs the draft management plan currently calls for to reach recovery goals.

“I think it’s foolish. This state can’t provide the habitat,” he says.

To help the species spread across Washington, WDFW would translocate wolves from one part of the state to areas they might not otherwise reach.

Kretz defiantly says he’ll make sure they get to the Olympic Peninsula.

“I’ll propose a wildlife corridor through downtown Seattle. If they’re so good, they can have them,” he says.

THE STATE’S TWO confirmed breeding packs are genetically linked to British Columbia and Alberta/Montana populations, according to WDFW.

But how they got here is an open question for some. Kretz says there’s a “lot of concern” that the game department – or wolf lovers in cahoots with them – are bringing wolves in any which way they can.

For instance, he wonders why wolves went through so much game-rich territory before denning up near Twisp, in western Okanogan County. That’s the home of the Lookout Pack  which produced pups in 2008, 2009 and possibly this year, though the alpha female is missing and believed dead.

And then there are recent reports from Kittitas County – 80 air miles south of that pack’s home range and 160 air miles northwest from wolves in the Blue Mountains.

“They’ve popped up in some odd places,” Kretz says.

One story has it that a white rig, not unlike a Schwan’s delivery truck, was spotted resupplying the Lookout Pack with eight more members in spring 2009. A more dated one has it that Weyerhaeuser parachuted them into the Willapa Hills to reduce elk and deer damage to young trees.

The stories can be believable for those wary of government and environmentalists.

“I don’t have any hard evidence,” Kretz admits, “but I don’t trust that agency.”

His distrust grows with every acre of land WDFW buys in Okanogan County. All totaled it owns over 73,000 acres, including recent buys of 815 acres around Buzzard Lake south of Conconully and 4,000 acres in the Methow Valley. A 2,700-acre deal in the Similkameen is pending.

Kretz says the issue is “nuclear, beyond hot” because it takes working land out of production, hurting related operations, affects tax collection, and can aid the spread of invasive weeds.

“If you don’t have money to maintain lands, why buy more?” he wonders.

DAN BUDD, WDFW’s real estate division manager, recalls watching helplessly as a huge Okanogan County spread was cut up.

“Twenty years ago, when we didn’t have the money, [Junior Eder] had 20,000 acres,” he says of a ranch east of Oroville. “He had a big urge to sell land and sold off 10,000 acres to Lynn Barnett of the Tacoma Land Company.”

Nowadays, homes and building sites on 20- and 40-acre parcels dot the land, though WDFW has since bought 5,738 acres of the farm.

For Budd, who himself comes from a ranching family, purchasing land or conservation easements in Okanogan County just makes sense.

“Whole watersheds are intact,” he says. “The reality is that’s where the big open spaces are at, where the big animals are.”

By comparison, he says it doesn’t do much good to buy land for elk on the far more developed Kitsap Peninsula.

Budd doesn’t deny that buying ranches is a hot topic.

“We’re only buying from willing sellers. We’re not pushing them off,” he says. “Those who’ve provided stewardship for more than one generation are approaching us.”

As elsewhere in the West, the ranching economy here is in trouble. A recent study by a Bozeman consultant found that between 1993 and 2008, developers and investors bought 43,775 acres of cattle land in central and eastern Okanogan County while ranchers themselves purchased 41,983, government agencies 11,410. But roughly two-thirds of those cowboy-to-cowboy deals occurred between 1993 and 1996. Almost every year since speculators and amenity buyers have bought the most land.

What’s hurting livestock producers, the study says, is long-term income stagnation and, in recent years, higher hay and fuel costs. With too few cattle to support them, two local stockyards also closed in 2000 so ranchers now have to truck their animals to lots 150 and 250 miles away.

Budd worries about what will happen when the economy improves and people again begin buying property.

“If we don’t block it up,” he says, “you’re not going to have the wildlife.”

VIEW NORTH OVER THE BEAUTIFUL CHESAW AREA, INCLUDING THE CHESAW WILDLIFE AREA (AT LEFT), COBBLED TOGETHER IN THE 1990S FROM SEVERAL LARGE RANCHES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

PERRY HOUSTON is the planning manager for Okanogan County. At 5,332 square miles, it makes up 8 percent of the entire state of Washington, but 80 percent of the county outside the Colville Reservation is federal wilderness, national and state forests, BLM land and wildlife areas, he says.

And with WDFW “very aggressive” about buying some of the remaining ranches, local politicians want to whoa up for a moment.

“The cry isn’t to stop it. It’s to review it. Let’s talk about this,” Houston says.

He says the county commissioners want the agency to prepare a State Environmental Policy Act study.

“We’re asking for an analysis of the fiscal and economic impacts as more and more and more land is converted to public ownership,” Houston says.

(WDFW lands manager Jennifer Quann says land acquisitions are exempt from SEPA. She says there won’t be any slow down in attempts to buy property, but that there would be more external review.)

Houston says the county isn’t against folks selling to the state, but every exchange leaves less and less room for future development and thus increased tax revenue.

“The percentage of impact increases as you slice off” more ranches, he says.

DAVE BRITTEL IS WDFW’S assistant wildlife program manager. He admits that if he were looking for “mischief” in the agency’s dealings on wolves, the carnivore-centric phrasing in the Okanogan-Similkameen grant proposal might be it.

“That makes it awkward, you’re right,” he says.

But the verbiage appears to be a function of what it takes to shake loose money from USFWS. Plug in words like “Canada lynx,” “bull trout” and other endangered or threatened wildlife, add that there’s connectivity to nearby public lands, and the coffers seemingly swing open – especially for WDFW.

“The intent of these grants is to acquire habitat for listed species,” says Joan Jewett, a USFWS spokeswoman in Portland.

Since 2001, her agency has awarded at least $28.74 million for land buys in Okanogan County. WDFW then matches that with grants from the state Recreation and Conservation Office, itself funded by state gas tax and bond sales, and the federal government.

In the 2011-13 biennium, WDFW sent RCO a wish list for $73.5 million to buy 82,000 acres of habitat across the state, including 20,000 in Klickitat County, 15,000 in Benton County, 9,000 in Asotin County and 8,400 in Kittitas County. It’s also asking for $12 million to buy 4,300 acres in Okanogan.

VIEW OVER THE UPPER METHOW VALLEY, INCLUDING PARTS OF THE BIG VALLEY (LEFT) AND RENDEZVOUS (UPPER RIGHT) UNITS OF THE 31,000-ACRE METHOW WILDLIFE AREA. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW’s success with scoring grant money rankles Kretz, but Brittel points out that hunters want the land conserved.

“They want mule deer to get from the Pasayten to the valleys,” he says.

AS TAYLOR AND KRETZ’S staffers dig into sites like Hunting Washington, they will find nearly as many reports of wolves there as they can find in WDFW’s own records. Together, the draft plan and a 1998 paper list over 800 different howls heard, tracks seen and critters spotted across the state the past 35 years.

Over 250 sightings between 1975 and 1995 are considered confirmed wolves or highly likely to be, but wolf-dog hybrids – released by owners who can’t handle their pets, find another home for them or have them euthanized – lead to false sightings, giving biologists fits.

For example, in 1992 WDFW’s Scott Fitkin captured, collared and released an animal near Mt. Baker. Big news at the time, but a month later it was determined to be a hybrid, so it was recaptured and taken to Wolf Haven International near Tenino where it was nicknamed Nooksack and died in 2005.

Wolf Haven doesn’t take them anymore, but still gets “two to five calls or emails a week from people who have wolf-dog hybrids and are looking for a home,” says spokeswoman Kim Young.

They refer owners elsewhere, though those facilities are often full. “We hear occasional stories of people dumping [hybrids],” adds Wendy Spencer, also at Wolf Haven.

WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers says crossbreeds have been released north of Spokane near Diamond Lake. An agency enforcement officer also says he treats wolf reports with a grain of salt because sometimes upon investigation they turn out to be just a local’s dog wandering the woods.

However, a real female wolf that was turned loose in southern British Columbia led to a flurry of sightings of adults and pups on upper Ross Lake in the early 1990s. The woman who raised then released the animal vehemently denied state biologists had any part in it when we spoke in early fall. But Seattle Times articles from that period – including one with a dubious passing reference to a whopping six packs in the state’s Cascades – are sometimes dredged up to discredit WDFW’s claim that the Lookout wolves were the state’s first confirmed breeding pair in 70 years.

SOME OF THE FIRST images of that pack and its six pups came off of Conservation Northwest’s trail cameras. The group is headed up by Mitch Friedman, one of Earth First’s original tree sitters. Now he’s hugging loggers.

And the gun.

MITCH FRIEDMAN, CONSERVATION NORTHWEST EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HUNTING IN THE SINLAHEKIN VALLEY. (COURTESY MITCH FRIEDMAN)

I met him in mid-September as CNW campaigned in Seattle for new wilderness, more sawlogs and continued cattle grazing in the Colville National Forest (see page 14 of the November issue of Northwest Sportsman).  He surprised me when he said he hunts Okanogan County, as do I.

Suspicious he was just orangewashing himself, though, I checked with state sources and found he’s actually bought a deer tag every year since 2001. Over that time he reported killing three bucks and one doe with a rifle. He sent me pictures of himself posing with two, a spike whitetail and nice muley.

Friedman later blogged that he’s a “nature lover” and “sportsman” at the same time. He explained of CNW, “Part of our role is to bridge the gap between various pro-nature ethics, urban/rural, and hunter/nonhunter, because this is what helps wildlife best.”

One of their staffers – who also hunts – is on WDFW’s Wolf Working Group (as are several ranchers and sportsmen), and CNW and the state collaborate on a network of trail cams and wildlife conservation issues, thus the contacts with biologists.

The group also recently helped keep the  Colville Valley’s indebted Dawson ranch, which provides deer habitat, from being broken up by funding half the purchase of development rights on 164 acres of it.

ED BANGS, THE USFWS’s wolf recovery coordinator for the Northern Rockies, has been working with the species for 34 years. He’s known by some as “Mr. Wolf” for his expertise while extremists simultaneously call him one of the foremost murderers of wolves and destroyers of big game herds in the U.S.

One thing that Bangs says most people don’t realize about wolves is how mobile they are, so he understands why stories like the Schwan’s van pop up.

“We got the same thing with wolves showing up in Glacier National Park in the 1980s,” he says.

Bangs says they’re “world champions” at covering ground and finding mates. “That’s really startling to people who say ‘There’s no wolves within 100 miles of here.’”

So stories of nefarious government agents and/or whacko greenies bubble up.

“It’s a very common story, and it’s worldwide,” he says.

When the wild canids made their return to Sweden, “the strong rumor or suspicion was that biologists moved them in when in reality they probably walked across the frozen Baltic Sea … or around the top through reindeer-herding country,” Bangs says.

With drastic drops in a few Northern Rockies elk herds, I snorted loudly when he said wolves are “easy to manage,” but had to agree when he quickly added “the people issues are very difficult.”

Wolves’ symbolism through the ages and their similarity to us makes them powerful totems for both poles of the debate.

“When you stretch your credibility, you lose it, and it happens on both sides,” Bangs says, scoffing at hydatid worm worries and new-age notions of the species – “‘The wolves are going to give your kids brain cysts.’ The other side, ‘Wolves are balancing the world.’”

BUT THERE’S ENOUGH anger over the continuing delisting fiasco that Montana and Idaho’s Congressional delegations are working on bills to exempt wolves from the Endangered Species Act all together. Here in the other Washington, it will be interesting to see what more the state legislators find in the material from WDFW.

“To their credit they’ve been pretty forthcoming,” Kretz allows. He and Taylor also speak positively of agency director Phil Anderson, at the helm almost two years now.

Next month, the House Agricultural & Natural Resources Committee is expected to hold a work session on the wolf plan. Taylor says they’re working to bring in state and federal experts.

And if that bill requiring an up-or-down vote is passed, the plan would then go before lawmakers. If they approve, it would go to the Fish & Wildlife Commission for final sign off.

“But if the Legislature says no, it’s too overarching, it’s not looking at economic impacts, then it would go back [to WDFW] for additional work,” says Taylor.

Meanwhile, the agency has posted the 65,000 public comments it collected last year. A final document now isn’t expected until next summer.

$40 Access Pass Proposed

November 5, 2010

Nonhunters and -anglers would be asked to pay much more to get onto the bulk of state lands under a plan WDFW and Department of Natural Resources want legislators to approve in the upcoming session.

So too would Washington sportsmen, but only $5 vs. $40.

Citing past and future state budget cuts, a statement from WDFW says that unless new revenue sources are found, some of the agency’s 900,000 acres and DNR’s 5.6 million acres could be closed.

To combat that, the two departments are asking lawmakers to sign off on a three-pronged plan that would raise just over $7 million annually.

The keystone is the new “Explore Washington” access pass, which would replace the current vehicle-use permit WDFW requires at some of its sites.

“Under the proposal, annual lands access pass would be $40 for general users age 19 and older, or $5 for those purchasing fishing or hunting licenses or a watchable-wildlife package,” says the statement, emailed this afternoon. “Short-term passes would be available at $20 for a three-day pass; $15 for a two-day pass; and $10 for a one-day pass.”

Currently, WDFW charges $14 for an annual permit, though it is free when you buy your hunting and fishing license.

It’s expected that sales would raise $5.5 million a year, which would be split between WDFW and DNR to manage, police and maintain the lands.

The agencies also want legislators to charge $10 more to buy as well as renew vanity plates, which would yield $1.3 million more a year to help out threatened species on WDFW land, and recalculate the amount of gas tax money directed to WDFW, which would yield a quarter million in new funding.

“This budget crisis has taken a toll on WDFW’s ability to care for the 900,000 acres of recreational land and 700 water-access sites the agency manages,” the statement says. “WDFW’s land operation and management budget has been cut by nearly $2 million over the past several years, from $10.8 million to an anticipated $8 million next biennium. As state revenues continue to decline those cuts could grow deeper.”

WDFW says that state lands aren’t just critical for wildlife, but economic engines as well, helping “generate billions of dollars annually for Washington’s economy.”

Workman For Guv?

November 4, 2010

More steelhead! Longer deer and elk seasons!! And DNR, you’re taking over management of all the frou-frou wildlife in the state!!!

Northwest Sportsman columnist and Gun Week senior editor Dave Workman fired off a blog today that reads as if he’s ready to be Washington’s next governor.

“[KIRO Radio talk show host Dori] Monson has called on Gregoire to resign. Dori, if she quits, I’m available!” Workman writes in a post-election post riffing on two different themes.

GOVERNOR (?) WORKMAN AT THE RANGE. (DAVE WORKMAN)

Frankly, we’re not quite sure how serious the North Bend resident and loooooooooooooooong-time local hook-and-bullet scribe is about a run — he named us his campaign manager and first thing we’re doing is spending all his funds on Powerball tickets — but the first part of his blog tackles several gun-control laws that newly-elected-to-national-office Republicans should help overturn while the second half reads like a campaign platform for the local Wild Meat Eaters Party.

“It’s time to roll back the clock,” proclaims Workman, and by that, we’re guessing to somewhere around fall 1965-1970, when Chinook, coho, bucks and bulls were plentiful, there was more hunting land to access (our father and grandfather used to hunt on what is now the massive “Redmond Ridge” housing development) and there were far fewer Californians inhabiting the Evergreen State.

The first things a Governor Workman would do are audit the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, “ask the attorney general to investigate wolf re-introduction,” and maybe even send “the feds a letter telling them that Washington State is out of the wolf management business,” just like Idaho Gov. Butch Otter did.

“If they want wolves here, they need to pay us, in advance, for the damage they do to game herds. If not, they can remove the wolves or we will,” says Workman, a rallying cry sure to earn him many votes on Hunting Washington.

However, the “or we will” part may not go over so well with the U.S. Attorney’s office as Canis lupus is still protected under the Endangered Species Act and illegal killings are punishable by a $100,000 fine and year in jail. Wolves have filtered into the state from British Columbia and the Idaho Panhandle while those introduced into Central Idaho in the mid-1990s have swam the Snake and are establishing packs in the Blue and Wallowa Mountains of Oregon and Washington. WDFW is still working on a management plan for the species, and that may be complicated by a bill rural Eastern Washington legislators are drafting for the upcoming session (see the November issue of Northwest Sportsman for more).

But first things first with Workman, and that means plenty of edible game for local sportsmen.

He vows he would:

… remind Fish and Wildlife commissioners that hunters and anglers pay the freight, and “encourage them” to restore longer hunting and fishing seasons, restore the hatchery programs, work on rebuilding mule deer herds while abolishing that stupid 3-point requirement in all but a few management units, stop that equally stupid “true spike” rule for elk, end the spike-only rule in Eastern Washington, and go on the warpath against poachers and game wasters, no matter who they are.

They would take us back to the time when a hunter could hunt with modern firearms, bows and/or muzzleloaders so long as they paid an additional fee to hunt the extra season with an alternative weapons permit. It’s a great money maker for a financially-strapped agency, and so long as people can only harvest one deer or elk each year, why not give them the opportunity?

All very populist arguments in a state where the fishing and hunting pamphlets seem to grow by the year, WDFW is on pace to send out more e-reg fishery change notices than any previous year, the agency’s director stated last April that “At WDFW, every day is Earth Day,” and “Our first priority is to conserve our state’s fish and wildlife,” and the feds have declared dozens of animal, fish and plant populations threatened or endangered since passage of ESA in 1973.

Workman doesn’t go in for touchy-feely stuff or watchable wildlife. Indeed, one of his planks is that, if elected, he’d hunt around for state legislators to sponsor a bill for “transferring the management of non-game fish and wildlife to the Department of Natural Resources and re-establish the WDFW as the Department of Fish and Game.”

Questioned by email whether he was serious or not, Workman was coy, but his blog says watch for more “roll back the clock” posts.

“The campaign for 2012 has just begun!” he declares.

Fine, but please remember to have your Chief of Staff get me your columns by deadline each issue, Guv.

The Weird Stuff Hunters Find

November 4, 2010

I can’t really say I’ve ever found anything weird while out chasing game (a friend thought he found Ted Bundy’s ashes and some sort of ID tag, but that was while hiking), though it’s amazing what others come across.

From X-rated material to crashed planes to odd people to giant birds, the guys and gals on Hunting Washington have come across quite a bit while out for deer and elk.

True, you might take some of it with a grain of salt, but here are the best entries from the latest incarnation of the “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found while in the woods?

There are things that fall from the sky ….

Cle Elum Bowhunter: My “wierdest” find was a plane crash up in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  Pieces scattered for a few hundred yards down the mountain.  Could find no human remains.  Took down the tail number, contacted the FAA, and got a call back a few days later.  Turned out it was a few guys from Wenatchee, returning from the Seattle area and went down in a storm.  Bodies were recovered in the Spring, this happened in the early 70’s.  Kinda cool to at least get the story behind the wreckage.

Bowhunterty: Back in the 8o’s a friend and myself found an ejection seat to an F-86 in a swamp. Buddy called McChord and got the story behind it.He gave it to them and now it’s suppose to be in a museum over there.

Bigpaw: … an old plane wreck in the blues this year.

Wildmanoutdoors: We actually found a Weather balloon up in the staircase area once. We couldn’t figure out what the heck it was cause it was caught in a tree. Well we got it out and down to the ground after about 3 hours and it had a label and everything of what it was and how to contact the weather service to have them come pick it up.

… And things that fall from backpockets …

dscubame: Bird hunting 15 years or so in college.  Found a wallet with 40 bucks in it off Chicken Ranch road outside of colfax.  No ID, no cards, nothing but 40 bucks.  Bought beer and smokes in town that day.

Then there are things of, ahem, a personal nature that are left behind:

MADMAX:  Pink vibrator left at an elk camp near Tamerack springs

Elkslayer069’s: Today while prepping my elk camp location (clearing some brush ect.) i came across a silicone female “mid-section” and trust me it had all the parts and orfaces. I just thought i would share this with you all and i also wondered if i should post this in the lost and found section?

The1rod: my dad and i found a backpack, in it was three 24oz hurricane high gravitys, ( i believe that was the name). a dirty magazine, a bottle of lube, a small pair of panties, and a towel. then we also found in there a check book, the only checks written from it were to the department of corrections. it was kinda creepy and kinda funny all at once.

wsucowboy: … a big pile of dirty magazines up at the pit on 70 one time, found a full Coor’s light mini kegs when I was floating the green a couple of summers ago … also found a blow up sex doll at lake 12 last summer.

… And then there are persons on unknowable personal journeys:

Seth30: While Hog hunting in clear creek Cali, my old hunting buddy and I were waling up to a good vantage point, and came around a bend in the trail.  There was some guy that looked like charles manson just standing there looking at a tree.  We waited a few minutes and decided to walk past him.  He never stopped looking at the tree, and didnt even budge or look our way.  I still think abou that from time to time.

Bigpaw: A naked hiker, he was wearing nothing but hiking boots and a backpack.

… All of which leads lady hunter Schmalzfan to make the observation, “And they wonder why us women don’t feel safe in the woods alone.”

But perhaps funniest of all in this thread is TJD’s tale of emu wrangling:

Myself and a buddy of mine were elk scouting back in the early 90s stopped to go down a gated road and came across an emu it was one hell of a big bird,well my buddy pulled out his .41 mag and was going to shoot it and i said lets try to catch it we cornnered it on a high bank i grabed its legs he grabed its body and man the fight was on it starts kicking iam holding the legs with all i had while looking at the huge spurs on its legs thinking if i let go we toast the thing is swinging it head around smacking my buddy in the face iam laughing so hard iam crying we finely get to the ground i look at my buddy and he has one hell of a bloody nose were covered in mud we wrapped the thing in a tarp when we get to the truck it looked like a christmas package hog tied and all.We went down to the main road and started to stop at the houses and found the owner.To this day when i think about it i laugh to myself its one memory i will never forget and one of the wierdest things i have found in the woods.

A similar thread came up last November. Can’t wait for the next time it comes around!

Pierce Co. Bio Looking For Input On Fall Trout Stocking

November 3, 2010

Hey, Tacoma and Puyallup — you too, Orting, Carbonado and Graham — want a fall-winter stocker trout fishery like your anglin’ brethren up in the Emerald City and down in Capitolville have?

A state biologist is looking for suggestions on lakes that could provide the kind of autumn action seen on Beaver Lake in central King County and Black Lake in Thurston County.

Both waters have been planted in midfall with 1- to 3-pound rainbows for several years now and are popular with many fishermen. And now Mike Scharpf, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s local fishery bio, wants to fire up a similar fishery in Pierce County for the next time around the leaves turn golden.

“We currently don’t have a good winter fishery, but I’m looking for public input on a lake or two that may supply one,” he says.

There are plenty of potentials, that’s for sure. Pierce Co. has a whopping 369 lakes within its boundaries, according to my trusty Lakes of Washington book — third most on the Westside.

Scharpf points to year-round Harts Lake, between McKenna and Eatonville, as one possibility.

“Spanaway Lake might be a good one,” adds Randy at Sportco in Fife. “The spring trout only last a few days.”

If you’ve got any ideas on which lakes to stock with catchable rainbows in fall, drop Scharpf an email at mike.scharpf@dfw.wa.gov.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (11-3-10)

November 3, 2010

“They’re coming – and nothing’s stopping them.”

So writes Northwest Sportsman contributor Larry Ellis, stationed on the banks of the South Coast’s Chetco River, about this fall’s Chinook fishery, which has so far started off hot and heavy.

That’s not all there is to fish for around Oregon (see highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report below), but it’s definitely what we’re leading with here at What’s Fishin’ In Oregon.

Here’s more from Ellis as well as pics of a couple hog Chinook:

South Coast anglers have not been lacking for salmon this season, especially Chetco River groupies where limits were the rule on Saturday, October 30, when the river opened above River Mile 2.2,  one week earlier than scheduled.

In ODFW’s pre-season projections given in a Gold Beach meeting last March on all Oregon coastal streams, the Chetco was predicted to have the second highest percentage of escapement back to the river based on a 20-year average – 167-percent of average to be exact.

The department’s prediction of a higher-than-average amount 4-year-old Chinook also came to fruition when fish upon fish averaging between 30 and 50 pounds were filleted at the Port of Brookings Harbor’s cleaning station.

On Saturday, with a river averaging 3,500 cubic feet per second, and perfection visibility, anglers hooked kings on sardine-wrapped Kwikfish and MagLips.

“I went through a whole package of sardines,” said guide Joe Whaley of Joe Whaley’s Guide Service of Brookings.

Martin Thurber from Willakenzie Guide Service of Eugene brought plenty of sand shrimp with him for the opener and clocked limits of adults and jack Chinook for his clients as well. Thurber took top honors for opening day with Russell Cearney of Cottage Grove landing a 42-pound Chinook while back-bouncing roe.

RUSSELL CEARNEY OF COTTAGE GROVE CAUGHT THIS 42-POUND CHINOOK AT LOEB STATE PARK WHILE FISHING WITH MARTIN THURBER OF WILLAKENZIE GUIDE SERVICE WHEN THE CHETCO RIVER OPENED ITS DOORS ABOVE RIVER MILE 2.2 LAST SATURDAY. (LARRY ELLIS)

Andy Martin from Wild Rivers Fishing also hooked plenty of fish.

KATIE SELVOG AND WESTON WALKER OF KLAMATH FALLS HOLD A TROPHY CHETCO cHINOOK, CAUGHT ON HALLOWEEN WITH GUIDE ANDY MARTIN OF WILD RIVERS FISHING. THE SALMON BIT A SARDINE-WRAPPED MAG LIP PLUG. (ANDY MARTIN, WILD RIVERS FISHING)

George Morrison and Roland Robertson of Brookings hold a 44-pound Chetco River king salmon caught Nov. 3 while fishing with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing (www.wildriversfishing.com). The salmon hit a cluster of roe cured in Pautzke's pink BorxOFire fished with size 3/0 Lazer Sharp hooks and a Wright & McGill back-bouncing rod. (WILD RIVERS FISHING)

On Sunday the river blew out but by Monday anglers were catching fresh batches of chrome-bright 4-year-olds on a dropping river with Jack Hanson of Jack’s Guide Service putting one of his clients on a 45-pound monster king.

Tuesday also proved to be an excellent day for fishing guides when the Chetco also kicked out more fresh batches of silvery Chinook with Joe Whaley again limiting out his clients.

Bobber-and-egg or bobber-and-sand shrimp cocktail users (see November’s Rig Of The Month) are going to be stealing the show for the rest of the week and through the weekend, with a few baby-back-bouncers and plug-pullers taking fish from the South Fork put-in down to Social Security Hole.

If the river levels go below 1,000 cfs, Tide Rock anglers using the aforementioned bobber set-ups can also expect to score Chinook averaging over 30 pounds.  Bobbers-and-bait can also be employed in the softer water of back eddies and near the sides of the river where the river flow isn’t as robust.

Bank fishermen will find that drifting Corkies-and-roe, or Puff Balls-and-roe to be their best tactic until the river drops below 1,000 cfs, at which time bobbers-and-bait will be the go-to method.

Shore fishermen can expect to catch Chinook at the South Bank Pump house, the upper and lower ends of Social Security hole, the North Fork, Loeb Park and Miller Bar.

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Fishing is very good in Applegate Reservoir, which was recently stocked with large rainbow trout for fall fishing.
  • The Chetco River opened for fall chinook fishing a week early and anglers are already seeing some good fishing.
  • Trout fishing at Lost Creek Reservoir has been very good with reports of several 15 to 17-inch fish.
  • Steelhead fishing on the upper Rogue River is starting to heat up.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Alsea River: Fishing is fair to good with many fish moving up river.  Look to fish the falling river level later this week. Trolling, bait and bobber or casting lures can be effective this time of year in many river locations. The cutthroat trout season is closed for the season.
  • Kilchis River: Fall chinook fishing should improve as fish move upstream following recent storms. Fish should be available throughout much of the river. Bobber and bait should be effective in the deeper holes. Catch and release fishing for chum salmon should be fair. More fish will arrive in November.
  • Necanicum River: Angling for chinook salmon is fair in tidewater and in upstream areas. Try bobber and eggs/shrimp, or cast spinners in the deeper holes. Fish will be spread out after recent high flows.
  • Nestucca River: Angling for chinook is slow to fair, depending on river conditions. Fish are still available in tidewater, but many fish moved upstream with recent rains. Concentrate on the deeper holes where fish hold. Bobber and bait, or bait-wrapped plugs should produce some fish. Check regulations carefully as there are several closure areas and a new bag limit in effect this year. Fall chinook are being caught in Three Rivers, where angling has improved as more fish moved in. Summer steelhead angling in Three Rivers and the upper Nestucca is fair, with some improvement after the latest storm. Expect fishing to slow over the next few weeks. Spinners or bobber and jig are effective for steelhead.
  • Siletz River: Chinook and coho salmon angling is fair. A good portion of fish have moved up river above the angling deadline into spawning areas. Recent rain events should bring in a new batch of fish. Steelhead fishing is slow in the upper river. The cutthroat trout season is closed for the year.
  • 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 (red and white or green dot are popular colors) or plugs in the upper bay. Most hatchery coho have moved upstream. 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. The terminal area closes to salmon angling after Oct. 31.
  • Wilson River: Chinook are moving through the system and can be caught from tidewater upstream. Bobber and eggs and or sand shrimp are productive in the deeper holding areas. Bait wrapped plugs should produce some fish for boaters. Summer steelhead can still be caught, with many fish in the upper river. Fishing should improve somewhat after recent high waters. Anglers should be aware that an active slide is affecting a tributary to the Wilson River around milepost 20. Water clarity is likely to impacted by runoff after rain events, possibly for long periods of time. Check river conditions before you fish. The Vanderzanden boat slide on the Wilson River (approximately MP 9 on Hwy 6) is closed until further notice. The slide was damaged by a fallen tree, and is in need of repairs.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Sturgeon retention fishing season resumes the Willamette River starting Nov. 1 with the usual Thursday, Friday, Saturday retention period and a fork length of 38-54”.
  • Coho are now distributed throughout the Willamette and its tributaries, and fishing prospects are looking up with the arrival of fall rains. Anglers are targeting coho at the mouths of the Clackamas, Tualatin, Molalla, Yamhill, and Santiam. Bright fish should be available for a couple more weeks.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Trout fishing has been excellent on the Crooked River.
  • Summer steelhead season continues on the lower Deschutes River with more fishing moving above Maupin.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing on Thief Valley Reservoir has been good for even bank anglers.
  • The Ana Rivers offers good trout fishing opportunities throughout the fall and winter.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Trout fishing on Wallowa Lake has been good.
  • Steelhead fishing on the Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers should improve with some significant rain.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Steelhead angling is good in the Columbia River above the John Day Dam.
  • Sturgeon retention is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday during October 1 – December 31 from Wauna Powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.

MARINE ZONE

  • Big waves and strong winds are the rule this time of year, but anglers who keep an eye on the ocean can find days when wind and wave abate enough to allow a little bottom fishing, which can be productive this time of year.
  • All shellfish is open along the entire Oregon coast from the Columbia River to the California border.
  • The consumption of whole recreationally harvested scallops is not recommended. However, coastal scallops are not affected by this closure when only the adductor muscle is eaten.

Yakima Bait Buys Big Al’s

November 2, 2010

(YAKIMA BAIT PRESS RELEASE)

Yakima Bait Company has purchased Big Al’s Tackle Company of Lakebay, WA. Big Al’s manufactures and markets the unique Fish Flash in-line, “no drag” flasher.

The purchase by Yakima Bait will help in getting production up to speed and allow the rotating flasher to be marketed in the Great Lakes and other areas where attractors are used.

The Big Al Fish Flash is an extremely popular attractor used by salmon and steelhead anglers in Alaska, British Columbia and along the West Coast.  The triangle-shaped attractor actually spins, putting off a fish-attracting flash on every rotation.  And, unlike traditional dodgers or flashers, the Fish Flash is easy pulling, offering very little drag, letting the angler feel the fight of the fish.

“This is a great addition to our line of salmon and steelhead products,” said Yakima Bait president Mark Masterson.  “We are excited to meet the demand of anglers who know how effect the Fish Flash is, and to help bring it to new markets.”

The Fish Flash was invented by Al Hazelquist in 1990, and is available in four sizes and a dozen colors.  Masterson said that Yakima Bait will be working on some possible new Fish Flash colors and UV finishes in the months ahead.

Yakima Bait Co. currently makes Worden’s Rooster Tail spinners, the original FlatFish lure, Spin-N-Glo and Lil’Corky drift bobbers, Mag Lips and a variety of other fresh and saltwater lures.


Reward Offered In NW OR Elk Poaching

November 2, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Division troopers from the Astoria Area Command office are asking for the public’s help to identify the suspect(s) responsible for an illegal shooting of an elk in rural Clatsop County last weekend.  A reward of up to $500 for information leading to an arrest in this case is being offered by the Oregon Hunters Association Turn in a Poacher (T.I.P.) Program.

(OREGON STATE POLICE)

According to Trooper Jim O’Connor, on October 30, 2010, OSP Fish and Wildlife Division troopers responded to a report of a wounded cow elk on the Youngs River mainline near milepost 6.  The elk had been shot with a firearm and the meat was salvaged by OSP troopers.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to call the T.I.P. (Turn in Poacher) line at 1-800-452-7888 or Trooper O’Connor at (503) 791-7003.

The T.I.P. reward program pays for information leading to the arrest and conviction of person(s) involved in the illegal killing, taking, possession or waste of big game animals, upland game birds or waterfowl.

SW WA Fishing Report (11-1-10)

November 1, 2010

(REPORT COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Though coho are still being caught throughout the lower river, the best checks last week were from the barrier dam area.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 10,198 coho adults, 434 jacks, 756 fall Chinook adults, 50 jacks, 178 summer-run steelhead, one winter-run steelhead, and 104 sea-run cutthroat trout during seven days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the week, Tacoma Power employees released 1,405 coho adults, 191 jacks, 396 fall Chinook adults and 41 jacks into Lake Scanewa, 1,176 coho adults and 41 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, 166 coho adults, 10 jacks, 54 fall Chinook adults, and one jack into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek, and 579 coho adults, 42 jacks, six fall Chinook adults, and three cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,500 cubic feet per second on Monday November 1 and will rise to 9,700 cubic feet per second this week.

Kalama and Lewis rivers – Anglers were catching some coho while releasing some fall chinook.

Washougal River – Light effort and catch.

Klickitat River – Bank anglers on the lower river are catching some coho.

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 11 salmonid bank and 19 boat (8 boats) anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line with no catch.

Bonneville Pool – Boat anglers are doing well for coho at the mouth of the Klickitat.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia mainstem from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – We sampled 433 sturgeon bank anglers from Bonneville Dam downstream to the Wauna powerlines with 36 legals kept.  All the legals were kept just below the dam.  In addition, we sampled 65 sturgeon boat anglers (31 boats) with 8 legals kept.  The legals were kept from Kalama upstream.

WALLEYE

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – The few boat anglers sampled in the Camas/Washougal area had kept one walleye.

Game Warden Survey Online

November 1, 2010

How good of a job are game wardens doing in Washington?

Are they focusing on the right things?

Think there are enough of them around the state?

Heck, do you actually ever even see one while afield?!?

Those are some of the questions (paraphrased) an online survey from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Enforcement Program asks its “customers.”

Posted today, there are 20 questions that the agency thinks will take the state’s hunters, anglers, trappers and other outdoor recreationalists 10 minutes to answer. Some queries allow for up to 250-character written responses.

It follows up on a 2007 survey and gauges the public’s perceptions of the program’s priorities and performance.

“It’s important that we hear from people, especially those who have interacted with our enforcement officers and staff,” said WDFW Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork in a press release. “The information we receive will help us improve our resource protection and business practices and ensure that we are meeting the needs of the public.”

Washington’s game wardens enforce not just what’s in the fishing and hunting pamphlets, but are considered general law enforcement officers and can respond to non-wildlife related calls.  There are 139 officers across the state.

Why Brian Lull Hates Blacktails

November 1, 2010

If you haven’t seen it, there’s a thread on Hunting Washington today entitled “I hate blacktails. Never hunting them again.”

Writes Double J, author of the post, “I hate this animal.  Give me a nice 350 yard shot across a canyon at a mulie any day.”

Responds Smokepole, “Me too.  I feel your pain, brother.  Go ahead and let it all out… You need a hug, man?”

Adds Runamuk, “… damn (things) are in my yard all night eating apples in my trees but go to the woods where they belong…nothing…….”

Later posters speak to the difficulties of patterning the deer known as the ghosts of the timber and say perseverance is needed.

Well, if anyone has persevered this year, it is Northwest Sportsman‘s Brian Lull.

Not happy with getting blanked for muleys in the Okanogan and driving 600 miles roundtrip to glass hundreds of whitetails but no shootable bucks in Whitman County, he decided to hunt a little closer to home this past weekend — albeit it in a jungle he wasn’t exactly familiar with — and see if he couldn’t lug a blacktail buck back to a Halloween party.

Or pull of the hat trick of futility with Washington’s third huntable species of deer …

Here’s Lull’s tale:

Here’s my latest sob story from Saturday’s efforts.  I hunt as hard as anyone; opening weekend I was in the Tripod Burn north of Winthrop.  Last weekend I was in the nearly vertical Snake River Breaks.  I admit I probably don’t hunt as smart as those who kill blacktail deer consistently….they are out there, both the big bucks and the hunters who have dialed them in.  We get numerous HIVIZ / Northwest Sportsman Magazine entries every month of big beautiful Washington and Oregon blacktail bucks.  The common theme from these hunters is ‘know your deer’.  These guys and gals live in deer country and spend alot of time in the brush.  They know them winter spring summer and most importantly, fall.  That’s tough for an urban based hunter, so I tend to stab in the dark hunting areas I think they will be based on cover, food and hunting pressure.  Educated guesses at best.

My 2010 blacktail hunt started at 5 PM Friday; hop the ferry three blocks from NW Sportsman’s offices to Bainbridge Island.  Just 2mi from the ferry dock I see flares, a car in the ditch with its headlights pointed in the sky and my first deer of the trip…unfortunately she’s dead having just been hit by that Cadilac in the ditch.  Stop, the driver is shaken but not injured, deer is deader than a door nail and the cops and tow trucks have been called.  Off I go.

I wake up next morning, apply face paint for the first time…..I’m going to a Halloween party tonight and I’ll be a deer attack victim.  Might as well try the face paint thing for the first time and it will make a heck of a costume.  It can’t hurt, I’ve tried everything else.

I’m in the deer woods South of Port Townsend today because that is when I’m told by the blacktail experts that this is the seeking phase of the rut and deer should be moving.  Well it’s a very bright half moon tonight and plenty of light so I”m sure they’re moving…will they be in the morning??

4:30 am comes early when you’re sleeping in the back seat of your truck beside the main hwy leading to Port Townsend.  I hike in to my spot well before the first hint of dawn and bump a deer.  This is a good sign.  Over 30yrs of hunting them I notice blacktail leave plenty of sign.  ~Signs that they were here and some places you would think all the tracks,rubs and poop were made by invisible deer. It’s maddening.  They make good use the cover of night, as if the cover of the Pacific coast jungle isn’t enough.  Then again, I ask myself “what would I do to avoid being shot?”

6:45 am light begins, I see my first hunter.  Two shots ring out 1/4 mile to the NE.  Someone got lucky.  (Or they’re a better hunter than me)

7:45 am I see two more hunters.  They must see me yet they stand and glass only 300yds away.  Why do people do this?

7:50, I hike out to my truck.  2mi walk, the sun is out, the birds are out, the deer are not.  Today’s storm looms on the Southwest flanks of the Olympic Mountains.

9:10am,I peruse my maps, figure a place I’ve never been to but looks promising on the Google Earth.  I go to said places and make several hikes and find some very ‘wolfy’ areas but no deer.

2:30 PM; I’m back in an area I have hunted previous years.

2:40PM.  I’m 400 yards back from the truck where the really thick reprod begins and I’m starting to see lots of sign…it’s mossy and dark and this is where I’d be if I was an old blacktail buck.  ~And I can see the signs, fresh poop, rubs and tracks.  Even a pile that isn’t cold.  I’m in the zone now.  I rattle, I use a deer call (very effective in Sitka).  I’m quiet..I’m cold and wet.  Damnit I’m over due for a deer.

A mental check is in order. The woods don’t owe you anything.  Yes this is true but I hunt hard and hike and pursue my deer on their terms.  Yes good on you, sure you haven’t shot a deer in a few years, but you’re not entitled to anything….you earn it.  OK Self, point taken.

But why do I see pictures of 14yr old girls with nice big bucks and stories about guys who walked into the deer woods for the first time and shoot the buck of a lifetime 10 minutes later?  Just the way the ball bounces sometimes.  Time in the woods….it could happen in the next minute or another year.  It will happen.  Time in the woods.

Speaking of time.  It’s getting dark.  I’ll hunt my way back to the truck and get going.  I have to catch the ferry in time for the Halloween party.  “Wait till they get a load of me” the Joker from Batman scene plays in my mind.

5:15PM Jeez I should have been back to the cut my truck is parked on by now.  If I keep heading East I have to run into the road.  Right?

5:45.  This can’t be right.  It’s getting thicker not thinner.  The trees are 30ft tall, the salal is up to my armpits and there’s trailing blackberry interwoven everywhere…a tangled mess.  I need to find the road and fast.  I head frantically in the direction I see light.  It’s getting dark and the rain is increasing.

6:01.  I stop.  Actually I fell.  I stop and tell myself I’m about to hurt myself and be really screwed if I break something out here. I AM LOST.  The first time in 30 years of hunting and hiking I’m lost.  I make myself admit it.  Like an alcoholic, it’s the first step to solving the problem. Stop and think.  Make a plan.  You’re just making it worse every step you take.  It’s compass time.  The compass says this way is North….the mind says this way can’t be North.  I have been heading East.  Compass says I’m heading West.  The compass never lies, I remind myself.  OK, I know the direction, but I’m seriously screwed because I can’t see any land marks, it’s dusk, it’s raining hard and I don’t know which direction to hit the road my truck is on.

6:04.  I pick a direction.  It is East because that’s the direction I’ll certainly run into a road on in this peninsula. I hope.  I finally find a stump that doesn’t crumble when I try to stand on it….I proceed to get on top of it and off in the distance a mile through the gloom is a row of tall timber…there must be a road there.  The compass reads 70 degrees magnetic.

This is not the woods.  It is a tangled nightmare of salal, ferns, alder, fir and trailing blackberry.  ~And a hidden layer of ankle twisting logging slash.  Taking a straight line course is nearly impossible.  But it’s necessary to hit the mark.  I remind myself each detour around a brush wall takes you off course.  Must stay the course If I’m to make it to the tall timber. I don’t want to spend the night out here.

7:15.  I break out of the wall of brush onto a well traveled road.  But I did not pass any tall timber on the drive in.  This isn’t the right road.  But goddamn I’m glad to be on any road at this point. I’ve solved problem 1….get myself un-lost.

7:30:  Problem 2; finding the truck is starting to look like a very big problem indeed.  I’ve been hiking West on this road for at least a mile and I’m not seeing anything that looks familiar.  Each truck that passes I stop to ask if they’ve seen a gray four door Toyota parked.  All five times the answer is no.

8:10: Complete darkness, wind is blowing rain sideways,  but I’m heading North and hear the highway a couple miles in the distance.  It’s comforting to know which way is up now, but I’m clearly on the wrong road.  It’s going to be a 5 mile hike back on the right road once I get to the highway.  There’s one more beer left in the cooler and it’s going to be the best I’ve ever drank!

9:15:  Arrive at the highway and I take the left fork of the mainline back in nearly the same direction I just came from.

9:24: A Toyota comes down the road.  They stop to ask.  (They are first truck I didn’t have to flag down).  I ask them if they’d seen my truck.  They say no but volunteer to go look.  I describe best I can the turns I took and where it should be.  Their truck has a very distinct loud exhaust.  I hear it fade off into the distance and after 5 minutes the sound completely disappears. This could be a very long night.

9:47  I hear their truck.  It’s coming my way.

10:02   Headlights.  They found it.  I hop in the back even though the passenger offers to give me his seat.

10:14.  We arrive at the truck.  I offer them beers, money, an invitation to a very swinging Halloween party with lots of drunk pretty girls.  They politely decline, just happy to help they say.  It turns out they are, in the famous words of my pal Dave Workman; “not from around here”.  The two young men are sailors stationed at Everett aboard the Louisiana.  I thank them for their service,  for saving my ass.

10:15 I fire the truck up, call my wife.  She is in full on party mode yet very grateful I’m OK.  I can hear lots of girls giggling in the background.  Did you get a deer?  (I hate that question)  More giggling. I tell her the usual answer and a little about my new found appreciation for where they live.  I tell here I love her and will be to the party by midnight if I make the ferry.  I’m very glad to be in my warm truck and headed in the correct direction for the first time in hours.

10:23.  A large blacktail doe jumps up out of the brush onto the road in front of me.  She prances one way then back, seemingly confused as to which way to go to get out of my headlights.  ~She probably knows exactly which way to go.

3 Meetings On 3 OR Marine Reserve Proposals Coming Up

November 1, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Community teams considering marine reserves off the Oregon Coast will be developing their final recommendations and soliciting public comment at a series of meetings in early November.

There will be meetings in Florence, Newport and Astoria to consider three possible marine reserve sites:

Cape Perpetua, Monday, Nov. 8 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Siuslaw Fire Dept., 2625 Hwy. 101 N, Florence, Ore.

Cascade Head, Tuesday, Nov. 9 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Oregon Coast Community College, 400 SE College Way, Newport, Ore.

Cape Falcon, Wednesday, Nov. 10 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Clatsop Community College, 1651 Lexington, Ave., Astoria, Ore.

While the community teams will be deciding on their final recommendations in November, which could include a recommendation to not create one or more of the proposed reserves, these meetings will not be the last step in the designation of marine reserves, nor the last opportunity for the public to have input.

According to Cristen Don, ODFW marine reserve staff, ODFW will consult with the Ocean Policy Advisory Council in December prior to taking the community team recommendations to the Oregon Legislature. The Legislature is expected to provide further direction on marine reserves implementation and funding before any sites are designated.

“While there will be additional opportunities for public comment in future stages of this process, this will be the last chance the public has to have input prior to the community teams’ recommendations,” Don said.

At the direction of the 2009 Oregon State Legislature, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been evaluating the three potential marine reserve sites. A local community team was formed for each site to consider the biological, social and economic characteristics of their site, and to submit a marine reserve recommendation to ODFW this fall.