Archive for December, 2010

14 Top Fishing And Hunting Stories Of 2010

December 31, 2010

The first year of the 2010s will be memorable for Northwest sportsmen and -women for several reasons.

Among them:

The return of Chinook fisheries off the Oregon Coast after a two-year hiatus and good river fishing there this past fall

A kokanee that was within a midnight snack or two of double digits

A pretty damned good springer season on the Lower Columbia

And passage of a new crabbing policy that will benefit recreational fishermen.

It’s not all happy-happy, joy-joy, of course.

Poachers continue to steal our wildlife — at shocking levels in part of Oregon.

Evergreen and Beaver state wolf packs continue to grow.

Controversial regulations were passed that will affect Northeast Washington fishermen and young Oregon hunters in the coming year.

And as the recession drags on, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife faces desperate futures on two fronts: Will it remain its own agency or be folded in with other natural resource departments and see its oversight body neutered? And will lawmakers pass new license, parking pass and hydraulic permit hikes and stave off heart-killer cuts to fishing and hunting that may otherwise have to be made?

This is by no means a complete list of 2010’s top stories, but here are 14 of the more important fishing and hunting storylines around the Northwest this year:

POACHERS KILL AS MANY DEER AS LEGAL HUNTERS IN CENTRAL OREGON

There was no lack of poaching news around the region in 2010, especially late in the year when a series of incidents illustrated the magnitude and widespread nature of the illegal game killing.

Also rearing its head, so-called “spree killing” of game — the slaughter and wastage of numerous deer or elk all at once for no other apparent reason than killing for the sake of killing. There were three cases across Southeast Washington and one south of Aberdeen this year.

BUCK DEER FOUND DEAD EAST OF LINCOLN CITY IN LATE NOVEMBER. ONLY ITS ANTLERS WERE TAKEN. (OSP)

But perhaps most chilling of all was the stunning Nov. 16 front-page article in The Oregonian that poachers kill as many mule deer a year in Central Oregon as do legal hunters.

“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 reporter Richard Cockle.

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

Another 51 died of unknown causes, and some of those could certainly be attributable to poachers, the article suggested.

“Sometimes we just find the radio collar laying out in the sagebrush,” ODFW biologist DeWayne Jackson pointed out.

Even worse, poachers appear to be killing does, the key to recovering herd numbers, Cockle reports.

He quoted 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,” WDFW Enforcement Division Deputy Chief Mike Cenci told me. “Our guys are running their asses off.”

During a late-fall 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.

In Idaho, two notable figures were charged with poaching.

One, former gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell, was found with a Southeast Idaho cow elk in late November but a tag for a Central Idaho hunt that ended in late October. He recently pled not guilty to a misdemeanor charge and will be back in court in February — but followed up the incident by exhorting an Idaho County crowd to go poach wolves.

Anthony Mayer of saveelk.com was also charged with a felony for poaching a trophy bull elk out of season and other hunting crimes. He also plead not guilty and faces an April 2011 jury trial.

At the end of the year, some good news: One Grays Harbor poacher is headed back to jail for five months after pleading guilty in November to illegally killing five deer. He just got out of the county clink in June after serving 10 months for other hunting violations too.

More on that scofflaw in our January issue, but that and other cases we’ve reported on in 2010 show that while some sportsmen sometimes love to blame the Injuns for all the poaching, the perps often turn out to be white guys in their late teens, 20s and 30s.

WDFW SEEKS FIRST LICENSE FEE INCREASE IN YEARS

Facing even more dire cuts on top of the $37 million that’s been chopped from its budget the past two years, WDFW is asking lawmakers to hike fishing and hunting fees.

Since at least the 2002 season, it’s cost Washington residents $21.90 for a freshwater fishing license and $72.27 for a deer/elk/cougar/bear combo license. (A two-year surcharge that came online in summer 2009 in response to budget crunches did add 10 percent to the cost of a license.)

THE PRICE FOR A FISHIN' LICENSE HAS STAYED THE SAME FOR A DECADE, EVEN AS THE DOLLAR'S VALUE HAS DWINDLED.

If passed, however, seniors, youth angler and disabled veterans would be exempt from the increase, according to agency director Phil Anderson.

Citing cuts of up to $20 million from his General Fund and another $6 million if the surcharge which expires this coming June isn’t extended, he says that if approved, the suite of tag and license increases could raise $14.3 million and “help maintain fishing and hunting opportunities as well as support important conservation efforts now under way throughout the state.”

If the hikes go down in flames, WDFW will have to look at killing Puget Sound steelheading, closing anywhere from seven to 11 hatcheries, pink-slipping a platoon of game wardens, closing some access sites or other measures, Anderson has warned.

“Sound resource management requires funding for biologists, enforcement officers and catch/harvest reporting as a basic condition of opening hunting or fishing seasons. Absent new funding, WDFW will be faced with reducing fishing and hunting opportunities, along with public access to state lands and our statewide conservation efforts,” he said in a guest editorial that appears in the January issue of Northwest Sportsman.

WOLF NUMBERS GROW IN WASHINGTON, OREGON

Wolves were put back under Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies, including the eastern thirds of Washington and Oregon, last August when a U.S. District Court judge in Missoula ruled the predators couldn’t be managed by the states in some parts of their range but the federal government in others. That killed planned hunts in Idaho and Montana.

At least one wolf from Oregon’s Wenaha pack was illegally shot in late September while the alpha female from Washington’s Lookout Pack went missing this past spring. It’s unclear whether age or a bullet caught up with it. There was no resolution to the case of a Twisp, Wash., man accused of killing another member of that pack in late 2008, though it is said that the new U.S. attorney in Spokane is being made aware of the importance of the case.

Populations in both states continued to grow. In Northeast Oregon, a recent aerial survey found at least 15 if not 16 wolves in the Imnaha Pack, up from 10 videotaped in November 2009. There are another six animals in the Wenaha Pack, according to ODFW, up from four the year before.

The agency is also investigating reports of wolves in the Catherine Creek, Keating, Beulah, Desolation and Starkey Units.

In Washington, the Diamond Pack of central Pend Oreille County had another litter, and numbered two adults, four yearlings and six pups earlier this year. Another two wolves, part of the unconfirmed “Salmo” Pack, were photographed by remote camera last summer in far northern parts of the county, according to WDFW.

IMAGE OF A CANID TAKEN IN MID-SEPTEMBER ALONG THE PANJAB TRAIL IN WASHINGTON'S BLUE MOUNTAINS THAT THE PHOTOGRAPHER SAYS WAS A CURIOUS WOLF PUP. (WILLIAM ERICKSON)

There were also reports of wolf tracks and doots around Hozomeen on upper Ross Lake as well as continued reports of animals in the Blue Mountains north of Oregon’s Wenaha Pack.

Hunters reported wolf sightings in the Teanaway too.

And west of Omak, a trail cam photo snapped last July shows a canid that wildlife biologists are not not calling a wolf, though they have no DNA evidence it is.

ODFW made “minor” tweaks to its wolf management plan while WDFW began categorizing and answering the 65,000 comments made on its draft document. A final plan won’t be ready until late next year.

Meanwhile, Washington legislators are expected to introduce wolf-related bills in the upcoming session.

BYE-BYE, WDFW; HELLO, UH, DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION AND RECREATION?

For the past year and a half, WDFW’s future as a stand-alone agency has been shaky at best.

First, in 2009, Gov. Chris Gregoire convened it and several other departments to come up with ideas on how to reform natural resources management, reduce costs and improve service delivery. That process spit out two-, three-, four- and five-agency models; one had WDFW folded into an “Ecosystem Management and Recreation Agency.”

It more or less was recommended against, but in early February 2010, Senate Bill 6813 was introduced by a trio of central Pugetropolis Democrats to abolish “the department of fish and wildlife and (transfer) its powers, duties, and functions to the department of natural resources.”

By late February, the Senate Ways & Means Committee’s 2010 supplemental budget had zeroed out WDFW’s budget for 2010-11 and consolidated it with DNR and State Parks.

But strong opposition from sportsmen, among other groups, led the full Senate to toss the idea.

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

Around the same time, WDFW’s Anderson told a gathering of sportsmen, ranchers and others in Okanogan County that the agency was at “a critical turning point” and “predicted” the Legislature would again look at combining WDFW, DNR and the Department of Ecology.

Gregoire beat them to it.

On Dec. 14, she proposed merging WDFW into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation. The agency would be joined at the hip with a seriously defunded State Parks & Recreation Commission as well as the Recreation and Conservation Office. It would also pick up DNR’s law enforcement arm.

It’s unclear what role the Fish & Wildlife Commission would have under Gregoire’s plan — advisory at best, at any rate — but the DCR director would be appointed by the governor instead of hired by the FWC.

Yeah, yeah, I know the state’s facing a $4,7-plus-billion revenue shortfall, but her full slate of natural resource agency merger proposals would save a mere $2.5 million and eliminate 14 jobs.

We’ll see whether legislators come up with their own ideas on reshuffling the deck when the session opens in January.

ORANGE REQUIRED FOR OREGON YOUTH HUNTERS STARTING IN MID-2011

The Oregon Hunter’s Association calls it a “misfire,” but the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in September approved new rules that will require youth hunters 17 years of age and younger to wear hunter orange tops or hats.

The rules take effect Aug. 1 and are required when hunting game mammals and upland birds except turkeys with any firearm.

The father of a 15-year-old mistakenly shot dead by his uncle while hunting called the commission’s move “the right decision,” but OHA’s Duane Dungannon argued that what you wear while afield should be a personal choice.

“The comission (sic) needs to get back on task in reversing the declines in our state’s deer and elk herds and the dwindling number of Oregon hunters,” he told a reporter for The Oregonian, not working on “needless new regulations.”

Termed an “almost-bold” move by one blogger, it split the difference between three proposals before the commission — wear whatever you want; kids in orange; everyone in orange.

PARTIAL LEAD-TACKLE BAN FOR LOONS

Is it the 747th cut of the thousand that will end recreational fishing as it is known in Washington?

Scientifically unjustified regulations?

Or a targeted effort to protect a rare and cool bird from slugging down certain types of fishing tackle and dying of lead toxicosis?

There’s something for everyone in the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission’s December passage of new rules outlawing the use of lead weights and jigs measuring 1 1/2 inches or less along their longest axis at 12 lakes and lead flies at a 13th.

LAKES WHERE THE PARTIAL LEAD-TACKLE BAN WILL TAKE EFFECT IN 2011. (WDFW)

Debated for a year, the commission passed on a sportfishing community-based approach suggested by industry reps and a proposed full lead-tackle ban, and instead went with the partial prohibition at the lakes. They are primarily in the mountains of North-central and Northeast Washington.

Opponents of the new rule said it would have a “significant negative impact on recreational anglers and fisheries resources in Washington.”

A WDFW spokeswoman pointed out that the reason loons are at the 13 lakes in the first place is the relative lack of disturbance needed to raise their broods.

The new rules go into effect May 1, 2011.

NOTABLE PASSAGES FROM THE NORTHWEST FISHING AND HUNTING WORLD

I never talked to Tami Wagner, but something compelled me to write about the ODFW assistant district wildlife biologist for the Central Coast after news of her death broke in late October.

She was killed in a three-vehicle accident outside Toledo, Ore.

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

Coworkers fondly remembered Wagner as a “great woman and valued employee,” and said that though she was smaller in stature, she was up for big jobs.

“She was not shy about handling elk 10 times her size,” one recalled.

She was 52.

Two months earlier, a pair of Idaho state biologists — Larry Barrett and Dana Schiff — as well as their pilot died when their helicopter crashed during a salmon-spawning survey.

They were 47 and 34.

Longtime Seattle-area fisheries biologist Steve Foley also died while working out at a gym in March.

Other passings in the Northwest outdoors world included bowhunting pioneer Glenn St. Charles, known as “the watchdog of bowhunting in Washington State and eventually throughout the country,” and John Amos Nosler, the founder of the famed premium-bullet-making company based in Bend.

They were 98 and 97.

WORLD-RECORD KOKANEE CAUGHT

So how about some good news?

For starters, Ron Campbell of La Grande, Ore., caught a new state- and world-record kokanee at Wallowa Lake in mid-June.

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

The lake had been on fire for giant landlocked sockeye salmon since the previous summer when Jerry Logosz set a new state record with a 7-pound, 1-ouncer.

In February 2010, it was topped by Gene Thiel and his 7-pound, 8-ouncer, but that mark only lasted a month until Wan Teece came to shore with an 8.23-pounder.

That fish was aced out by Bob Both‘s 8-pound, 13-ouncer in May.

But then Campbell’s 9.67-pound monster not only topped Both’s, but beat out the standing world record, a 9-pound, 6-ounce British Columbia fish landed in 1988.

In mid-October the retired firefighter was recognized by the International Game Fish Association as the all-tackle and 12-pound line-class record holder.

SUPER SOCKEYE RUNS

Campbell’s colossal kokanee wasn’t the only thing king-sized when it came to Onchorynchus nerka in 2010.

The run of 386,525 sockeye up the Columbia was the most since fish counts began at Bonneville Dam in 1938.

THE COLUMBIA SOCKEYE RUN CAME IN THREE TIMES AS LARGE AS FORECAST AND SET A RECORD AT BONNEVILLE DAM. (DART)

And in a spectacular rags-to-mega-riches story, the Fraser saw a mind-boggling 34 million sockeye back — the largest run since 1913. It came a year after the BC river saw the worst return in over five decades, a mere 1.3 million, just 10 percent of the forecast.

What caused the turnaround?

Scientists suspect that in 2008, ash from an eruption of the Kasatochi volcano the hell and gone out in the Aleutians somehow fertilized the Gulf of Alaska with the mother of all phytoplankton blooms just as the young Cannuckleye year-class moved into the area to feed.

The bad news is that Kasatochi has apparently gone back to sleep, so it may be awhile before the Fraser sees that sort of run again.

The good news is, aren’t the rest of the Aleutians volcanic too?!?! Let’s shake those bad boys a little bit!

GOOD FISHING FOUND AROUND THE REGION

Outside of Lakes Washington and Wenatchee, the Columbia’s Brewster Pool and the southwest side of Vancouver Island, the science of sockeye catching is still in its infancy in the Northwest, but fortunately other species provided pretty good fishing here in 2010.

The Oregon Coast saw its first Chinook retention fishery in two years as well as expanded opportunities to catch and keep wild coho. Fall king fishing was also pretty good, especially on the Umpqua and Chetco Rivers. The latter saw action extend into December.

CINDY ROANE WAS AMONG THOSE WHO GOT IN ON GOOD FALL CHINOOK FISHING ON OREGON COAST STREAMS, CATCHING THIS 32-POUNDER ON THE SIUSLAW. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The summer steelhead run up the Columbia and Snake topped 400,000, providing even earlier fishery openings in North-central Washington.

Back offshore, after a slower start, the albacore fleet brought an estimated 37,743 tuna back to Newport, Coos Bay, Garibaldi and other Oregon ports, according to ODFW’s Eric Schindler, third best only to 2007 (58,922) and 2009 (42,055).

Preliminary data from WDFW shows that 2010 may also be the best year yet for charter and private boats. An estimated 31,508 tuna were brought back to Ilwaco, Westport and elsewhere. That’s more than 6,000 fish beyond what the previous high marks (2006 and 2007) saw, though final data won’t be in until February.

And also on the salt, an estimated 225-pound halibut was landed in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca in early May.

COLUMBIA SPRINGER FORECAST WELL OFF — BUT THE CATCHING WAS GREAT

Fishery managers are still trying to dial in forecasts for upriver-bound spring Chinook in the Columbia. For the 2011 run, they’re using over 40 different models. That’s up from the seven they used to predict an all-time-best run, some 470,000 salmon, in 2010 — a prediction that fell short by a full third.

Still, at 315,345 fish, this year’s run ended up being the third best in modern history, behind 2001 (just shy of 450,000) and 2002 (a bit under 350,000).

It also provided the highest catch of all time.

JESSICA DAVIS SHOWS OFF HER 2010 COLUMBIA SPRINGER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

In the end, we sports killed at least 23,533 upriver springers below Bonneville (keep plus release mortalities), the commercials got 7,609, the tribes roughly 5,000 and the sea lions 5,392, according to a postseason analysis we put together.

The Willamette surprised everyone with a six-figure return as well.

As an aside, nobody knows exactly where Columbia springer smolts go once they swim off into the North Pacific, but one can’t help but wonder if the record-breaking number of jacks that came back in 2009 (some 81,000) were feeding in all that phytoplankton Kasotchi volleyed into the ocean.

PUGET SOUND DUNGENESS POLICY CHANGE BENEFITS SPORT CRABBERS

In the words of Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission chairwoman Miranda Wecker, a new crabbing policy that benefits recreational harvesters in Puget Sound has been “coming for a long time.”

In early October, the commission voted to kibosh Dungeness quotas and go with seasons instead. A vote to change the actual regulations was slated for this February.

A change to five-day-a-week summer and seven-day-a-week winter seasons is expected to boost the sport catch by up to 40 percent. The new policy would also result in a reduction of the nontribal commercial harvest from 67 percent to 55 percent of the state take.

The move accommodates a growing sport fleet. The number of crabbers has grown by 60,000 to 220,000 over just the past five years, according to WDFW. Figures from a News Tribune article suggest that the change will nearly double the catch out of Tacoma, growing it by 40,000 pounds, while another 20,000 pounds of Dungies may crawl into Hood Canal crab pots.

However, there have been rampant issues of, shall we say, “noncompliance,” among recreational crabbers. According to the News Tribune, Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association “said the sport fishing industry is ready to assist the state in helping recreational anglers comply with crabbing laws.”

DAM REMOVAL GAINS MOMENTUM

For the first time in over a century, Chinook, coho and steelhead can use all 150-plus miles of the Rogue River from the Pacific up to Lost Creek Lake dam to spawn in thanks to the midsummer sundering of Gold Ray Dam just north of Medford.

It made hash of downstream fishing for a time, but almost immediately salmon began using the now-free-flowing waters behind the dam.

The Oregonian reported that as of early October, 31 Chinook redds could be found in the former reservoir which until late summer had been “far better suited to nonnative bass than the king of Northwest rivers.”

Powerdale Dam on the Hood River came out a few weeks after Gold Ray, opening up 100 miles of free-flowing river on the east side of Mt. Hood.

The damcracking continues in 2011. Two monoliths on the mighty Elwha are scheduled to begin to be decommissioned this coming year.

It is said that once upon a time, Chinook returning to this northern Olympic Peninsula river reached 100 pounds, but as crews take out Glines Canyon and Elwha Dams, WDFW is proposing a fishing moratorium on the river to help native fish restoration in the 70 miles of spawning habitat that will be opened up.

STILL FISHING, STILL HUNTING, STILL BUYING GEAR, DESPITE THE RECESSION

And finally, despite the recession, Northwest sportsmen still have their wallets open.

When WDFW offered hunters twice as many choices to get drawn for a special permit this year, we bought, well, nearly twice as many applications.

“I’m pleased to tell you that we sold 230,000 special hunt permits this year, raising $1.1 million,” Craig Bartlett, a spokesman in Olympia, told us in mid-June. “That’s up from 125,000 permits and $654,000 last year.”

And in raising new revenue for the agency, we also helped ourselves secure new access to private hunting ground across the state.

The Northwest boat market remains tough, so a consortium of builders in the Lewiston and Clarkston area are right now brushing up on their “dankes” and “bittes” before heading to a massive show in Dusseldorf, Germany, in January to show off their wares. They hope to get into the virtually untapped European market for shallow-draft aluminum boats.

But Cabela’s thinks highly enough of the local sporting goods market that, this past spring, they announced plans to build their fourth store in the Northwest, this one in Springfield.

“Cabela’s brings a strong tradition of supporting hunting, fishing and camping through clinics and classes. We look forward to possibly partnering with them to get people outdoors,” ODFW’s marketing coordinator David Lane told us.

And to get ahead of the Nebraska’s company potential move to the Portland-Vancouver market, Dan Grogan of Fisherman’s Marine is going to open a third store location in Tigard, Bill Monroe reports today.

If yours truly truly had all the time in the world, this list might also include action on Oregon’s marine reserve program front, the 30th anniversary of Mt. St. Helens’ eruption, a possible sighting of a grizzly bear in Washington’s Cascades, sturgeon declines in the Columbia and Willamette, the increase of illegal marijuana grows on public land, and other stuff, but, well, I do have magazines to put together, starting with the Feb.

So what will 2011 bring?

That’s a good question, but I suspect more wolves, more woes, more record fish and more wins for Northwest sportsmen.

Till then, Happy New Year!

AW over and out.

Northwest Sportsman Seeks New Sales Talent For The New Year!

December 31, 2010

The Northwest’s only homegrown full-color, glossy fishing/hunting/outdoor lifestyle publication is looking for an experienced salesperson to round out our veteran Seattle sales team.

If you enjoy cold calling, opening new territories, and the challenge/rewards of contributing to a rare success story in today’s publishing business, we want to hear from you!

Email your résumé to blull@media-inc.com today.

5 Top NW Fishing And Hunting Rumors Of 2010

December 30, 2010

This morning during the bus ride to work, a fantastic time-waster of an idea sprouted in my mind: a run-down on the 10 top fishing and hunting stories around the Northwest in 2010!

I started jotting down qualifying subjects — wolves, dam removals, agency merger plans, etc. — but after awhile, a little sidebar idea popped up: Hey, what about the top 5 fishing and hunting rumors of the year?!?! That would be fun!

And since five is a whole lot easier to tackle than ten, it’s what I’ve put together first. To wit:

1) New state-record walleye?!?

Early one Monday morning in February, I opened my email to find two urgent messages from walleye world insiders. The rumor was that a secretive Tri-Cities area guide had recently caught a purported 20-pounder!

With the standing Washington record at 19.3 pounds, I began dialing frantically. Biologists, enforcement officers, the state capitol — surely someone official must have weighed something somewhere sometime!!!

Though I was never able to catch up with the guide, one Kurt Sonderman, my ace reporter Leroy Ledeboer did eventually reach him.

Turns out that, as a gape-jawed angler or two looked on, Sonderman released a very large walleye.

“He said if he’d been alone, (news of the catch) wouldn’t have gotten out there,” Ledeboer told me for this blog.

It’s unclear if Sonderman took any photos or length-times-girth measurements of the fish, or how accurate the scale was, but I’m somewhat inclined to believe the story because of his reputation for protecting the she-piggies.

But we’ll never know for sure.

2) Oregon Elk Rumor No. 1: Ack! Get back! Glowing elk!

Were there really radioactive elk in Central Oregon this past September?

Well, no, but someone sure wanted to give hunters in the Sisters area that impression.

Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail-Tribune reported that during the archery hunt, “fliers, printed on Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife letterhead, warned that radioactive salt licks had been placed in nearby woods for deer and elk so they could be tracked by satellite.”

SIGN ON FAKE ODFW LETTERHEAD DISCOVERED AT A TRAILHEAD DURING THE ARCHERY HUNT IN THE MT. WASHINGTON WILDERNESS AREA.

ODFW officials were said to have been amused by the prank (they even called a phone number on the flier that led to a porn line), and denied it was true.

3) Oregon Elk Rumor No. 2: Did those dirty bastard ODFW biologists ship all our elk to Kentucky — again?!?!

Perhaps it wasn’t just the wapiti consuming ‘shrooms this past fall …

When elk hunting in Southwest Oregon was tougher than usual — which is to say, really, really tough — a campfire rumor began to spread that ODFW had spirited all the elk away before season.

It was so prevalent that the agency had to put out a press release categorically denying the story.

“Recent rumors that ODFW captured 300-400 elk this fall from the Cascades or Umpqua Valley and relocated them to several eastern or southern states are false.”

The agency said it hadn’t moved elk out of state since 2000, and instead blamed the lack of hunter success on a shift of the herd from the High Cascades down to private timberlands due to restricted logging, “hot, dry” weather conditions that are poor for hunting, and an “exceptional mushroom crop” that may have kept the animals in thick forest cover.

4) Lake Washington sockeye season!?!?

In late July one of my friends — and I use that term loosely, since he didn’t send us a Christmas card — contacted me about a possible Lake Washington sockeye season.

Wahoo!!!

The deal was that someone fishing on Lake Washington was approached by the marine patrol. After discussing his expired boat tags, the cops told the angler that the big Seattle pond would be opened for a two-day season in August.

Yeah, baby!!!

It caught fire on the Internet and said alleged friend called me.

However, it seemed slightly fishy, especially considering that at the time we were still 200,000 sockeye away from meeting the minimum escapement goal of 350,000.

Even so, as a practicing outdoor journalist (in the sense of someday hoping to be in the ranks of Freeman, Sandsberry, Monroe and Landers), I had to chase the story down.

It actually turned out to be a real bastard to get official word out of WDFW, but eventually — after an excessive amount of dialing to HQ and the regional office — I got two responses.

The unofficial one was along the lines of “no freaking way.”

Well, so was the official response, but it was just phrased more pleasantly.

5) That goddamned fake cougar-stalking-the-successful-elk-hunter photo.

Almost every day, phrases like “hunter elk and cougar” or “cougar behind hunter” lead numerous searchers to our Web site.

Indeed, my blog linking toYakima Herald-Republic reporter Scott Sandsberry’s debunking of this photo is our third-most-viewed single piece of 2010!

(Way to profit off of someone else’s hard work, Walgamott!!!)

Weightier stories on WDFW’s budget woes, efforts to merge the agency with the Asparagus Commission, the rise of “spree killings” of deer and elk, poachers taking as many deer as legal hunters in Central Oregon, wolves, etc., etc., etc. — all way down the list.

Just in case you haven’t seen the photo (and to ensure the hits keep coming in 2011), here it is.

FAKE!

The story is that someone photoshopped Chris Wemmer’s 2008 picture of a glowing-eyeballed kitty into that of an unknown elk hunter and his prize.

Then again, who knows, maybe the hunter photoshopped himself into a picture of someone else’s elk in the first place.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington (12-28-10)

December 29, 2010

The good news: It looks like the precip is going to come to an end soon around Washington.

No more rain or snow for awhile.

The bad news: It’s gonna get colder over New Year’s.

In the near term, it’ll be easier to get afield when you head out for steelhead from the coast to Asotin, trout around Vancouver and greater Spokane, razor clams at Long Beach, or fish iced-over lakes in the Columbia Basin and Okanogan Highlands — but our official advice is, better bring an extra pair of mittens.

For more fishing prospects around the Evergreen State, take a look at the following report, completely courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

In January, weather conditions often dictate where an angler chooses to fish.

“If the rivers are in shape, steelheading is a good bet,” said Steve Thiesfeld, salmon manager for WDFW. “But if the rivers are blown out, blackmouth salmon fishing in the marine areas of Puget Sound is probably a better option.”

Areas currently open for salmon fishing include marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton). Anglers fishing those marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon.

Thiesfeld said anglers should focus on the San Juan Islands, where fishing for blackmouth traditionally has been decent this time of year. Later in the month, anglers also might want to consider fishing Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet), which opens for salmon Jan. 16.

“It’s been slow in other areas of central Puget Sound – marine areas 10 and 11 – during the last weeks of December,” he said. “But hopefully the fish will be there mid-January and the fishery will start strong.”

Meanwhile, the Puget Sound crab fishery is winding down. The fishery closes at sunset on Jan. 2, and crabbers are reminded that they are required to report their winter catch to WDFW by Feb. 1. Reports are due for the season running Sept. 7 to Jan. 2, whether or not crabbers actually fished or caught crab. To submit catch reports, crabbers may send their catch record card to WDFW by mail or file their report on the department’s licensing website. The mailing address is WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system is available Jan. 3-Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html .

Winter is prime time to jig for squid in Puget Sound. Good spots include the Elliott Bay Pier in Seattle and the Edmonds Pier. More information on squid fishing is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/ . Information on fishing piers is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/piers/ .

In freshwater, several rivers are open for hatchery steelhead fishing, including the Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie.

“As long as the weather cooperates and the rivers stay fishable, anglers should have some good opportunities to hook a hatchery steelhead,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.

TRISTAN BUETTNER SHOWS OFF A HEFTY WINTER-RUN STEELHEAD FROM TOKUL CREEK, CAUGHT IN MID-DECEMBER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Freshwater anglers also might want to try fishing for perch, cutthroat and smallmouth bass at Lake Washington or Lake Sammamish. Anglers targeting perch should fish near deep ledges between 60 and 100 feet, said WDFW fisheries biologist Danny Garrett, who recommends using nightcrawlers.

“Perch are generally caught within a couple feet of the bottom,” he said. For cutthroat or smallmouth bass, try trolling the same depth with hard baits near the bottom or around schools of smelt. “Anglers will likely have to put in some time to hook a smallmouth this time of year, but the bass that are caught are often trophy-sized fish,” Garrett said.

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

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Winter has arrived, but area anglers can still catch hatchery steelhead on several coastal streams, salmon in Puget Sound and razor clams on five ocean beaches.

A razor clam dig has been approved at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. Opening dates and evening low tides are:

* Dec. 31, Fri. – 3:40 p.m., (0 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Jan. 1, Sat. – 4:31 p.m., (-0.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Jan. 2, Sun. – 5:18 p.m., (-0.7 ft.), Twin Harbors

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

DIGGERS HUNT FOR RAZOR CLAM SHOWS ON A COASTAL BEACH DURING A PREVIOUS SEASON. (DAN AYRES, WDFW)

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.

Meanwhile, winter hatchery steelhead fisheries are in full swing at a number of the region’s streams. “If the weather cooperates, steelhead fishing should be good throughout January,” said Kirt Hughes, regional fishery manager for WDFW.

Anglers fishing the Quillayute and portions of the Bogachiel, Calawah, Hoh, and Sol Duc rivers have a daily limit of three hatchery steelhead. In the Grays Harbor area, anglers fishing the Chehalis, Humptulips, Satsop and Wynoochee have a daily limit of two hatchery steelhead.

TERRY WIEST OF STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM SHOWS OFF A STEELIE FROM THE BOGACHIEL. (TERRY WIEST)

Hughes reminds anglers that they will not be allowed to catch and keep wild steelhead on eight Olympic Peninsula rivers until mid-February. In early 2010, the annual opening date for wild steelhead retention was changed from Dec. 1 to Feb. 16 on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Those eight rivers are the only waters in Washington where wild steelhead retention is allowed.

The change, adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission last February, was made to protect the early portion of the run, said Hughes. He noted, however, that anglers will still have an opportunity to catch and keep a wild fish during the peak of the return.

Freshwater anglers looking to hook salmon also have opportunities in January. Anglers can find late-run coho salmon in some of the region’s rivers, including the Humptulips, Naselle, Satsop and Willapa, said Hughes. “The Skookumchuck also is a good bet for anglers fishing for late-run coho, as well as steelhead,” he said.

For winter chum salmon, anglers should try fishing the Nisqually.

On Puget Sound, Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound) remains open for salmon . However, regulations for Marine Area 13 change Jan. 1, when anglers will have a daily limit of one salmon. Anglers should be aware that salmon fisheries in marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 12 (Hood Canal) close Jan. 1. Before heading out on the Sound, anglers should check the regulations on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Opportunities to dig clams at Hood Canal increase Jan. 1, when Belfair State Park in Mason County opens for littleneck, butter, manila and other clams. Recent surveys indicate that the clam population will support a fishery at the park. For more information on clam-digging opportunities in Hood Canal and elsewhere, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/ .

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Winter steelhead are still the name of the game in the Columbia River Basin, although several other fisheries are beginning to compete for anglers’ attention. Sturgeon fishing reopens Jan. 1 from the mouth of the Columbia to McNary Dam, and state hatchery workers have begun planting dozens of regional lakes with thousands of rainbow trout .

Meanwhile, anglers continue to reel in adult hatchery-reared winter steelhead – along with some late-run coho salmon – from a number of Columbia River tributaries. The Cowlitz River is still the best bet for steelhead, although the Lewis, Kalama, Grays, Washougal, Elochoman and White Salmon rivers, and Salmon Creek in Clark County are also producing fish, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

“As usual, river conditions basically determine success at this time of year,” Hymer said. “Most anglers do best when water levels are rising or dropping. It’s a lot harder to catch steelhead in the peaks and troughs.”

As with all steelhead fisheries in southwest Washington, only hatchery fish with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained. All wild steelhead must be released. The daily limit on all area rivers is two hatchery steelhead.

Starting Jan. 1, anglers may also retain up to two adult hatchery chinook salmon per day on the mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge downstream and in the Cowlitz and Deep rivers. The daily limit is one chinook per day in the Lewis and Kalama rivers. While the bulk of the spring chinook run isn’t expect to arrive until March, Hymer said some lucky anglers will likely start catching early-arriving fish by late January or early February.

“It’s a good to keep the chinook regulations in mind, even if you’re fishing for steelhead,” he said. “Somebody has to catch the first springer of the year, and it could be you.”

WDFW recently released preliminary forecasts of Columbia River salmon and steelhead returns for 2011, predicting an upriver run of 198,400 adult spring chinook compared to an actual return of 315,300 last spring. However, the upper Columbia summer chinook run is expected to be significantly higher than in 2010.

Ready to catch some sturgeon ? All fishing areas will open to anglers Jan. 1 from the mouth of the Columbia River to McNary Dam, except for a small area in Sand Island slough upstream from Beacon Rock as outlined in the current regulation pamphlet. Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are scheduled to meet Feb. 8 to consider changes to current catch quotas, but Hymer said that won’t affect the fishery until later in the season.

“The main concern right now is the cold weather,” Hymer said. “A warming trend would likely improve the bite when the season gets under way.”

But there will be no fishing of any kind for eulachon smelt this year, he said. Once abundant in the Columbia River Basin, eulachon were listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act last May. Since then, Washington and Oregon have closed all sport and commercial dipping in the Columbia River system. In addition, Washington has closed all marine and freshwater areas statewide for eulachon smelt.

Anglers can, however, still use any frozen smelt they have in their freezer as bait, said Capt. Murray Schlenker, WDFW enforcement chief for southwest Washington.

“There’s no law about possession,’’ he said. “You just can’t fish for them.’’

As an alternative, anglers might consider spending a winter’s day fishing for trout on a local lake. Throughout January, WDFW plans to stock more than two-dozen lakes in southwest Washington with thousands of rainbow trout ranging from 8-12 inch “catchables” to 5-8 pound broodstock.

“There’s a lot of interest in trout fishing in winter,” said John Weinheimer, another WDFW fish biologist. “During breaks in the weather, people come out to fish for them like crazy.”

The timing of the fish plants will vary according to the weather and the availability of tanker trucks, but Weinheimer said last year’s stocking plan is a good indication of which lakes will fish. That stocking plan is posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/region5/ on WDFW’s website.

“All of these lakes are ice-free in winter,” he said. “Given weather conditions, we don’t encourage anyone to fish through the ice in southwest Washington. It just isn’t safe.”

FAR EASTERN WASHINGTON

Lake Roosevelt is the region’s hot spot for January fishing, says WDFW eastern regional fish program manager John Whalen. The huge Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam provides winter fishing opportunities for big net-pen-reared rainbow trout. Boat and shore anglers can take up to five trout a day, although only two over 20 inches can be retained. Roosevelt also has kokanee, walleye, smallmouth bass, burbot, lake whitefish and yellow perch , but the rainbows star at this time of year.

Four winter-only rainbow trout lakes – Stevens County’s Williams and Hatch and Spokane County’s Fourth-of-July and Hog Canyon – have been producing well since opening Dec. 1. Access and style of fishing, through the ice or open water by boat or from shore, vary with winter conditions.

No agency or organization is responsible for measuring ice thickness on area lakes, so there are no guarantees that fishing through the ice is safe, said WDFW central district fish biologist Chris Donley. According to U.S. Coast Guard guidelines, no one should venture onto lake ice unless it is at least four inches thick, clear and solid. As much as nine inches may be needed to safely support snowmobiles or other vehicles.

Drilling a hole in the ice from a safe, near-shore location can give anglers an idea of ice depth. However, drilling only provides an estimate of the ice depth because shallow water near shore freezes quicker than deeper water in the middle of a lake where springs may slow the freezing process. Ice depths vary throughout a waterway due to underwater structures, springs, geothermal activity and water movement.

Donley suggests following these winter fishing tips:

* Don’t fish alone. Let others know where you and your fishing partners are going and when you plan to return.
* Keep fishing holes small and few. When drilling fishing holes with an ice auger, keep the diameter under eight inches. Bigger holes are not necessary to land fish and can create a safety hazard for others.
* Watch your step. Avoid ice fishing near feeder streams or known springs; brush, logs, plants or docks; multiple ice cracks or ice that is popping or otherwise audible. Also, avoid dark-colored ice; it may be weak.
* Spread out. Too many people congregated in one area may be too much for the ice to support. Disperse weight and fishing holes.
* Be prepared for weather conditions. Dress in layers and wear thermal underwear, fleece or wool, and wind and waterproof outerwear, especially for feet, hands and head. Take extra clothes, food, water, sand for on-ice traction, and a sled for easy on-ice transport of all equipment.
* Be prepared for emergencies. Carry equipment such as ice picks or awls, rope, and personal flotation devices. Also pack a first-aid kit and matches for starting a fire.

Donley says there’s also good trout fishing opportunity through the winter at several large year-round waters, including Rock in Whitman County, Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line, and Waitts Lake in Stevens County.

BILL STANLEY SHOWS OFF A ROCK LAKE BROWN. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

In Lincoln County, WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area manager Juli Anderson reports shoreside openings in Z Lake, thanks to an aeration system. “I don’t know how many folks are trekking in to Z Lake to fish those rainbow trout, but they’re available,” she said.

The Snake River steelhead catch season continues, but according to WDFW fish biologist Joe Bumgarner, it’s been one of the slowest in the past decade. He guessed that those who brave the elements on the river will likely average no better than 25 hours of fishing per steelhead caught.

“Lately angler effort has been so low, and checked fish so few and far between, that it’s really hard to say what an average catch rate is,” Bumgarner said.

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp says steelhead fishing in the upper Columbia River is usually slow at this time of the year, but there are exceptions.

“There have been reports of fish being caught within the mainstem Columbia, as well as the Okanogan and Methow rivers,” Jateff said. Anglers should keep a close eye on air temperatures, because anything over 32 degrees keeps the rivers fishable and free of ice.”

JAMES WHITE WITH AN OKANOGAN RIVER STEELHEAD, CAUGHT IN MID-DECEMBER. (ERNIE BUCHANAN)

Jateff reminds anglers of the mandatory retention of adipose-clipped hatchery steelhead from Priest Rapids Dam upstream including the Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan, and Similkameen rivers.

As a change of pace from steelheading, Jateff suggests that anglers try fishing the Methow River for its sizeable population of mountain whitefish.

“These fish can be caught readily on flies,” he said. The daily limit is 15 whitefish, no minimum size, with selective gear rules in effect for whitefish in all areas that are currently open for steelhead.

Winter rainbow trout lakes in the Okanogan are usually in good shape for ice fishing in January. Jateff recommends Davis Lake in the Winthrop area, Big and Little Green lakes in the Omak area, and Rat Lake near Brewster. For anglers seeking yellow perch , Patterson Lake near Winthrop has a good population of six to 10-inch perch, as well as a few kokanee and rainbow trout .

Other popular ice fishing lakes in Okanogan County are Sidley, located east of Oroville, and Bonaparte, located east of Tonasket. Sidley has rainbow trout and Bonaparte has eastern brook trout and kokanee.

WDFW FORGOT TO MENTION THIS ONE, BUT THERE'S ALWAYS THAT LITTLE RESERVOIR THAT SERVES UP TRIPLOID TROUT -- LIKE BAILEY FLETCHER'S DEC. 21 10-POUNDER. SHE CAUGHT IT PLUNKING A MARSHMALLOW AT RUFUS WOODS. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

Anglers continue to reel in hatchery steelhead from portions of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, although the lure of bigger fish will undoubtedly prompt some to switch gears. Starting Jan. 1, Lake Umatilla – also known as the John Day Pool – will reopen for retention of white sturgeon that measure 43 to 54 inches from their snout to the fork in their tail.

Anglers planning on taking part in the fishery should be aware that the annual sturgeon quota for Lake Umatilla is 165 fish, said Paul Hoffarth, a regional fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “In recent years, the quota has been reached in a couple of months, so I’d advise anglers to get out early if they want to take a sturgeon home for dinner,” he said.

Another option is Lake Wallula (McNary Pool), including the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam, which will reopen for sturgeon retention Feb. 1.

Meanwhile, steelhead fishing has been up and down, typical of the winter fishery, said Hoffarth, who noted that some of the best catches on the Columbia River have been reported in the Ringold area. In the Tri-Cities area, the fishery is open for retention of hatchery steelhead from John Day Dam upstream to the wooden power line towers at the old Hanford town site through March 31, 2011.

Another section of the Hanford Reach is open to fishing for hatchery steelhead from the Highway 24 bridge (Vernita Bridge) upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. Fishing in that area, which opened Dec. 8, is one of a number of angling opportunities funded by the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement Fee.

The lower Snake River is also open for the retention of hatchery steelhead through March 31. The daily limit in the Snake River is three hatchery steelhead and barbless hooks are required.

Walleye fishing can get slow in winter, but there’s always a chance of catching a lunker. Hoffarth said some of the largest walleye of the year are boated during the winter months near the Tri-Cities – including the 19.3-pound state record taken in Lake Wallula in 2007.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (12-28-10)

December 29, 2010

Surf perch join the range of fishing opportunities to be had in Oregon as 2010 draws to a close.

But there’s also steelhead and fat broodstock trout on the prowl.

True, fishing may not be at its hottest right now in the Beaver State — “Slow fishing and hunting now usually means they will both turn on hot and heavy at the same time, more than likely when I’m stuck at work!” notes one of my writers — but here are highlights ripped straight from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Alert anglers will be watching water levels and hit the rivers as levels begin to fall.
  • The Applegate River will open to fin-clipped steelhead on Jan. 1.
  • Lost Creek Reservoir is stocked with rainbow trout and should provide some good winter trout fishing.
  • Steelhead are moving into the middle and upper Rogue River; fishing on the lower Rogue has been excellent, when water conditions permit.
  • The South Jetty and Triangle Area in Winchester Bay have been offering good rockfish and surfperch fishing.
  • Ocean bottom fishing opens to all depths on Jan. 1.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Alsea River: Winter steelhead fishing is picking up with anglers catching fish from the hatchery down to the lower river. Drifting or fishing off the bank can produce good results during the right river conditions.  Look to fish the upper river when flows are high or try plunking in the mid to lower river when flows are around 6 to 8 feet on the river gauge.
  • Nestucca River: The river is dropping into shape and fishing is improving in the mainstem Nestucca River. Best fishing is likely to be in the lower river below Beaver, with some fish beginning to move further upstream. Three Rivers has been steadily producing fish. Best fishing for winter steelhead is below the hatchery. Plunking just below the mouth of Three Rivers has been fairly productive lately. Drifting natural and artificial baits along the bottom has also worked well.
  • Wilson River: Angling conditions have improved. The river is a decent fishable green color at this time. Increasing numbers of winter steelhead are available, and fish are spread out up the river. Angling has been fair, with some good catches mixed in. Drift fishing or side drifting bright colored lures/baits near the bottom will produce the most fish while the river still has some color. 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 may be impacted by runoff after rain events. Check river conditions before you fish.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Steelhead are now crossing Willamette Falls in increasing numbers. Area streams could be very productive as soon as high waters begin to subside.
  • Trophy-sized rainbow trout are being released this week in Junction City Pond and Timber Linn Lake near Albany. These fish range in size from 7 to 15 pounds.

ONE OF SEVERAL STEELHEAD THAT LEONARD SCOTT LANDED ON A GOOD DAY ON THE SANDY RECENTLY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • The Ana Rivers offers good trout fishing opportunities throughout the fall and winter.
  • Trout fishing is fair on the Klamath River below Keno Dam.
  • Much of Klamath Lake and Lake of the Woods are ice-free and fishing has been fair.
  • Ice is forming on many lakes and reservoirs in the Southeast Zone, but conditions vary greatly. Anglers should exercise caution before venturing out on the ice.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • There are still steelhead available in the Grande Ronde, Imnaha, John Day and Umatilla rivers; alert anglers will be watching water conditions and hitting the rivers as flows drop.

North-central WA Fishing Report (12-28-10)

December 28, 2010

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

What’s hot is trolling the deepwater for big Lake Trout on Lake Chelan as well as jig and bobber fishing the Upper Columbia for Steelhead.

Fish on Lake Chelan up by the Yacht Club with Silver Horde’s Kingfisher Lite spoons in glow and UV patterns.  Worden Lure’s T4 Purple Glow Flatfish are also a great choice.  Mack’s Lures big Squid Rigs in Glow colors also work great.  The odd landlocked Chinook has been a bonus.

YOU'LL NEVER FIND THE WOMEN IN WADERS AT LAKE CHELAN IN WINTER, BUT YOU WILL FIND THE BYRD GIRLS -- CHAR, ANITA, NICOLE AND RACHAEL. THEY'RE PICTURED HERE WITH LAKERS TO 17 POUNDS. (DARRELL & DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

Fishing for Steelhead with a jig and bobber from Pateros to Bridgeport has been great.  Putting 10 to 15 fish in the net per days fishing has been the norm.  Fish baited jigs under slip bobbers baited with pink shrimp.  The depth that we hung those jigs varied from as shallow as 3 feet to as deep as 28 feet.  Worden’s Maxi-Jigs in 1/8 oz Calypso has been “lights out”.  Mack’s Lures Glo-Getters in pink and orange have also caught fish.  Baiting those jigs with shrimp that have been cured in Red Pautzke’s Fire Cure has been the ticket.  Move that slip knot deeper and work in deeper water if the flow is slow and the river is down.  If it is moving get in the shallow part of the runs.  Triploid escapees from Rufus and even native Bull trout have been a bonus.  Remember, it is mandatory to keep adipose clipped Steelhead.

At Rufus, try casting Worden’s Black or Green Roostertails in 1/8th to ¼ ounce to shoreline points especially where big chunk rock is present. If this works you can catch and release fish.  Remember that if you fish with bait, the first 2 fish are your “limit” whether or not you release them.

Your fishing tip of the week is to spool up your downriggers with 200 pound test Power Pro to get enough downrigger cable to get at those monster deepwater fish.  Sometimes when we are making a deepwater turn in 400 feet of water, we have over 550 feet of cable out!

The kid’s tip of the week is to be like a professional infantry squad leader when you are out with the little ones.  Physically check their fingers and toes every half hour.  If they feel cold to you, take corrective action to get them warmed up.  Kids are amazingly unaware of how cold they are until it erupts in cranky behavior.

The safety tip of the week is to stay off of Roses Lake until the ice is at least 4” thick.  We are in the thin ice period of the winter.  I know you can’t wait to get at those recently stocked rainbows, but be patient.  It is not worth a dunking!  There is plenty of great angling to be had on Chelan, Rufus and the Upper Columbia.

(www.darrellanddads.com or 866-360-1523)


SW WA Fishing Report (12-28-10)

December 28, 2010

(REPORT COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – No report on angling success.  Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 331 coho adults, 40 jacks, 256 winter-run steelhead and five sea-run cutthroat trout during four days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 164 coho adults, 21 jacks and nine winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa and 13 coho adults, seven jacks, eight winter-run steelhead and five cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 6,710 cubic feet per second on Monday, December 27.

Kalama and Lewis rivers – Anglers are catching some steelhead.

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – Light effort and catch.  We sampled 4 bank anglers with no catch last week.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia mainstem from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – Light effort and catch.  We sampled 6 bank and 7 boat anglers (3 boats) with 4 sublegals released.

TROUT

Battleground Lake – No report on angling success.  Planted with 5,000 catchable size rainbows December 16.

Icehouse Lake (near Bridge of the Gods) – No report on angling success.  Planted with 1,500 catchable size rainbows December 16.

Holiday Harvests

December 28, 2010

Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day.

I’m singing that nursery rhyme at full throat today. I’m flat-out tired of the drizzly stuff — and I’m a Wetside native.

Drove all the way from Newport, Ore., to Seattle yesterday and didn’t turn the windshield wipers off once.

They were on high-speed most of the way home too — swishswishswishswishswish.

Today the Siletz graph looks like the river’s making a moon shot, but before the latest storm hit the Oregon Coast, I got in a morning on Big Elk Creek east of Toledo.

Pretty nice little stream, scenic country — and tons and tons of access along the gravel county road below Harlan.

It’s funny. I went from desperately hoping my inlaws decide to move to Seattle to be close at hand for house-repair jobs and babysitting chores, to wanting them to live out their days at the beach house south of the bay in the space of, oh, two or three first casts into the creek.

Can’t wait to hit Big Elk again when the steelhead are a little more cooperative.The sharpie I spoke to said the fish were pretty tight-lipped that day, which gave me a hint that the big tackle I was using in the cloudy water might have been overkill.

A few of my writers were also afield over the holidays.

Rob Phillips of Yakima “had a great day on pheasant” on the reservation Christmas Eve day. He reports that despite poor preseason prospects, he and 10 other hunters managed to bag 17 roosters.

Terry Otto of Sandy worked the Naselle, landing a chrome-bright 10-pound coho, and losing three others on spinners in the middle of last week.

Jason Brooks of Puyallup hit the Humptulips looking for a little Christmas chrome. He filed this report:

Ah, December…time for rain, wind, and winter Coho…Coho? It was December 23rd and my fishing buddy Grant Blinn and I decided to hit the Humptulips for some of those late Coho. With rain increasing over the past few days we just hoped to find a fish in the rising waters. In fact when we hit the river back in the first week of October it was running a low 600 cfs, and the river gauge on this late December day showed it was at 2,400 cfs and rising! We knew that catching a Coho on a rising river would be tough, and the thought of steelhead was just impossible, so we concentrated on the hooknoses instead of the steelies.

After making a daybreak launch we drifted down to the hatchery area. Knowing this is where the fish were racing up to and then holding, we hit it pretty hard. The water was a bit off color, but 15 minutes into the fishing and Grant informs me “fish on”! We netted a nice 14 ½ pound buck and given the conditions I told him “looks good enough to give to the neighbors” meaning we were keeping this one, a bit off color but not bad, as the neighbors and non fishing family members would be delighted with some smoked salmon for Christmas.

I then hooked a nice fish that was much brighter as it shot out of the water, and just as fast threw my jig. But my disappointment wasn’t for too long as Grant had a freight train bending his rod. We thought for a few moments that he hooked one of the rare “winter kings” as this fish was a fighter. It turned out to be another 14 pound hatchery buck, a little brighter than the first fish. I continued to twitch a jig and got another fish on. This one flashed some red in the water and then, threw the jig…that was the last fish we touched for the rest of the day. It was only 9:00 am, and we had a lot of water below us, so we drifted on down.

We ran into two guide friends of ours who showed us once more a bit of humility. As I dropped anchor just outside of the holes they were working, as a courtesy to those that make their living in this economic times the hard way, and also to allow their clients to get their money’s worth.

Besides, we had two in the box, Grant was concentrating on steelhead, and the river was almost abandoned compared to how it was back in October. There was no need to crowd. I decided to watch and learn from the guides and realized after watching them catch 3 Coho out of one hole and 4 out of another that they knew what they were doing…and humble pie taste great on the river if you take it one bite at a time and learn from it. My arm was cramped up from twitching a jig the past 3 hours and it finally dawned on me that the guides were all using silver and chartreuse or silver and orange spinners! I forgot to take into account the rising waters and the off color and couldn’t figure out why the first hole was so hot for jigs but nothing since. The water had come up a few more feet from the rain and this was why the guides switched to spinners.

After finally coming to the takeout we talked with our friends for a while and then loaded up. Soaked and happy, just as a December Coho fisherman should be.

B&B WITH CHRISTMAS COHO. (JASON BROOKS)

Adventurous steelheader Leonard Scott and a friend found where the fish were biting on the lower Sandy, hooking several in the Oxbow Park area. He calls it “one of my favorite days on the river — it could not have been any more perfect.”

LEONARD SCOTT AND A PAL HIKED TO FIND A POOL OF EGG-BELOW-A-BOBBER-BITING WINTER-RUNS ON THE SANDY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

And finally, reader Scott Fletcher — who has provided this magazine many fine images — sent over several great ones of his daughter Bailey and her 10-plus-pound triploid out of Rufus Woods last Tuesday.

BAILEY FLETCHER USED A MARSHMALLOW ON THE BOTTOM TO HOOK THIS REALLY NICE RUFUS WOODS TRIPLOID TROUT. HER ARMS WERE PRETTY TIRED AFTER LANDING HER BIGGEST FISH EVER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

We’ll have more on Rufus Woods — including a pic of one trip that absolutely defies the old length-times-girth formula — in our January issue.

More Reaction To WDFW-Parks Merger

December 28, 2010

Tom Paulu of The Daily News (Longview, Wash.) interviews several local legislators for their reactions to Gov. Gregoire’s budget proposal to merge WDFW and State Parks.

One likens it to “putting two handfuls of mud together and making another mudball.”

Another notes that “The last time I knew, you couldn’t hunt in state parks.”

There’s also reaction from a commercial fisherman, the Coastal Conservation Association and the State Parks and Recreation Commission.

For more on Gregoire’s thinking, see these previous stories.

OR Anglers Invited To ODFW Open House

December 28, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon anglers will have a chance to share their ideas, comments and concerns about the state’s fisheries with top ODFW managers at an Open House on Jan. 4, 2011 in Salem.

The meeting will go from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the ODFW Headquarters, 3406 Cherry Ave. NE in Salem. The agenda will be set, in large part, by the questions and concerns raised during the meeting.

“This open house meeting is a good way to start the new year,” said Rhine Messmer, ODFW Recreational Fisheries Program manager. “It’s a chance for us to hear what issues are on the minds of anglers so we can take appropriate action.

The meeting is being held in conjunction with a meeting of the Inland Sports Fishing Advisory Committee, which provides public perspectives and input on implementation of ODFW’s 25-Year Angling Enhancement Plan. The plan is available on the ODFW website at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/docs/25_Year_Recreational_Angling_Enhancement%20Plan.pdf.

Twice a year the fishing advisory committee meetings are open to the public as a forum for interested anglers to bring their fishery management issues, thoughts and ideas to ODFW fishery managers and administrators.

In addition to the open-forum, ODFW staff will provide an update on changes to the public process for developing new angling regulations. The department is looking for ways to improve the public process and still retain its value to the public and the department.

“We’ve heard from the public and from the Fish and Wildlife Commission that the current process is too cumbersome and too much time is spent on proposed regulations that would never be adopted,” Messmer said.

“We are interested in hearing what anglers think of some of the key changes we’re proposing to the process,” he added. “The public plays an important role in the development of our fishing regulations and we want to ensure that we don’t diminish the public benefits from this process.”

Revisions of the public process are underway, and will be adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission next August. The revised process will be used for the development of the 2013 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations.

Merry Christmas, From NWS

December 25, 2010

To all three or four of you reading this blog today (including you, Mom & Dad), Northwest Sportsman wishes you a very merry Christmas.

We hope your family is well, the food and drink is good, and your stockings were filled with treats from St. Nick.

My wife, Amy, heard my bellowing these past few months about needing a new belt, and did me one better — got me a new belt and three belt buckles.

Trickster that she is, though, one buckle features, shall we say, a canid of an undetermined species.

I’m calling it a coyote, she ‘s claiming it’s a wolf.

I’ll be wearing the belt to deer camp this next fall, but with one of the other buckles — a nice 4-point whitetail — but thank you, dear.

I got her a Walkman and loaded a mess of her favorite music on it.

In the build-up to Christmas, we’ve been reading our oldest boy, River, the book “Sharing Christmas,” and telling him that sharing is what the holiday is all about (we’ll get to the birth of Jesus when he’s a bit older).

So last night, as Kiran, our youngest, was still in the process of unwrapping his first present, River pipes up and says, “Christmas is about sharing, so Kiran has to share.”

For several weeks now, we’ve been using the “Santa is watching” warning with River to try and keep his behavior tolerable — even “calling” the jolly old elf to tell him not to bring a coveted toy engine after all — but that tactic had worn very thin in recent days.

To one last attempt to keep him in line, he responded, “Santa doesn’t impress me.”

However, this morning, he changed his tune. When he opened his stocking and happily discovered “Hiro” the engine and his tender from Thomas/the Island of Sodor, he smiled and said to us, “Call Santa and tell him thank you!”

Indeed, thank you, Santa, for sharing. Your comp sub to Northwest Sportsman starts with the January issue, and should be in your mailbox after the weekend. There’s plenty to do over the next few months — steelheading, trout and perch fishing, crabbing, last-gasp waterfowl action, getting into reloading, laughing your ass off at our Last Cast, and a mess of other cabin fever cures.

Thank you, my fantastic writers, for coming up with another great issue. And thank you, readers, for reading our stuff. We appreciate it.

Merry Christmas, God Jul, Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel and Frohe Weinachten.

The Walgamotts

3-day New Year’s Dig A Go On WA Coast

December 24, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Clam diggers can ring in 2011 with a three-day razor clam dig on Washington’s coastal beaches over the New Year’s holiday.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the series of evening digs after marine toxin tests showed that the clams on all five coastal razor clam beaches are safe to eat.
All of those beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch – will be open for clam digging Friday, Dec. 31, and Saturday, Jan. 1, from noon to midnight. One beach, Twin Harbors, will also be open from noon to midnight Sunday, Jan. 2.
The National Park Service scheduled the dig at Kalaloch, which is within Olympic National Park, to coincide with those at the other beaches.
Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, is expecting a big turnout, noting that more than 22,000 razor-clam diggers have flocked to Washington beaches during previous New Year’s Eve openers.
“Razor clam digging has become a New Year’s tradition for thousands of Washingtonians,” he said. “We’re pleased that the tides allowed us to offer another holiday dig this year.”
In fact, low tide on Dec. 31 will occur at 3:40 p.m., setting the stage for the first daylight dig of the season. 
“The tides are with us this year,” Ayres said. “Next year they’ll be too high to offer any kind of digging opportunities over New Year’s.”
In early January, WDFW will release a tentative schedule of digging days in early 2011, Ayres said. As in the past, final approval of those dates will depend on the results of future marine toxin tests.
Opening dates and evening low tides for the upcoming dig are: 
Dec. 31, Fri. – 3:40 p.m., (0 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch 
Jan. 1, Sat. – 4:31 p.m., (-0.4 ft.), Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch 
Jan. 2, Sun. – 5:18 p.m., (-0.7 ft.), Twin Harbors 
For best results, Ayres recommends that diggers get started about an hour before low tide. Those heading to Copalis and Mocrocks account for possible delays on eastbound U.S. Highway 101 in Hoquiam due to emergency work on the Simpson Avenue Bridge.
Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin also recommends that diggers take safety precautions during night digs, especially at Kalaloch. 
“Kalaloch is considerably more remote than the other clamming beaches, and visitors should be prepared for primitive conditions,” she said. “With no streetlights or lighted buildings in the area, flashlights or lanterns are a necessity.” 
Under WDFW rules, harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s limit must be kept in a separate container. 
A license is required for anyone age 15 or older. Any 2010 annual shellfish/seaweed, razor clam or combination license is still valid. Licenses can be purchased via the Internet at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov , by telephone (1-866-246-9453) or in person at more than 600 license vendors throughout the state. 
Washington’s razor clam beaches include:
Long Beach, which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.
Twin Harbors Beach, which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor. 
Copalis Beach, which extends from the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River, and includes the Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas. 
Mocrocks Beach, which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips. 
Kalaloch Beach, which extends from the South Beach Campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park.

WDFW To Talk Colockum Elk At Jan. 6 Meeting

December 22, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff will discuss Colockum elk herd research and current elk winter-range closures at a public meeting Jan. 6 in Ellensburg.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m., at the Hal Holmes Center, 209 N. Ruby St.

For the past three years about 44,000 acres of the Whiskey Dick and Quilomene wildlife areas, northwest of Vantage, have been closed to motor vehicles from February through April to protect wintering elk from disturbance.

“Late winter and early spring recreational use of the area has increased over the past decade, causing elk to abandon their winter range on these wildlife areas as early as mid-February,” said Ted Clausing, WDFW’s south-central regional wildlife program manager in Yakima.

“Elk need to stay on winter range well into April to stay nourished and maintain the health of the herd,” Clausing said, noting that the closures are consistent with those on the Oak Creek, Wenas and L.T. Murray wildlife areas, and elsewhere in the state.

When elk leave wildlife areas and move to adjacent private land, they compete with cattle for forage and damage crops and stock fences, said Anthony Novack, WDFW’s elk- and deer-conflict specialist in Ellensburg.

WDFW research on elk use of the area began in 2008 when six adult female elk were captured and equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to track their movements. Since then a total of 105 elk have been equipped with tracking devices and currently 46 elk are being tracked. The study will continue until May 2012.  Research results will help WDFW biologists assess how closing elk winter range to motor vehicles affects seasonal elk movement.

WDFW has worked with local partners to manage wintering elk through the Kittitas Big Game Management Roundtable, which includes Kittitas Field and Stream Club, Kittitas County Cattlemen’s Association, Wenatchee Sportsmen, Kittitas Audubon, citizen advisory groups for local wildlife areas and others.

Flight Finds ’15 or 16′ Wolves In Imnaha Pack

December 22, 2010

It won’t be long before the USFWS puts out its year-end wolf population figures for the Northern Rockies, but in the meanwhile, word out today that the Imnaha Pack in Northeast Oregon is up to as many as 16 members.

The Wallowa County Chieftain reports that ODFW “counted 15 or 16 wolves during a flyover Dec. 11 while taking the deer census.”

They were spotted north of Enterprise, the paper says.

The deer count will be finalized around New Year’s.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon (12-22-10)

December 22, 2010

Breathe through your nose, Walgamott.

I’m trying to force myself to calm down, but, damnit, I’m going steelheading tomorrow and can’t wait to get on the water!!!!!!!!!!!!

The report is that fish are in, and — I know I’m going to jinx myself right here — I plan to show up with Christmas Eve Eve dinner in hand when I get to my inlaws’ place on the Oregon Coast.

Put the coffee cup down. Inhale through nostrils, exhale through nostrils.

Indeed, while not much other fishing activity is going on around the Beaver State right now, there are plenty of rivers where you stand a fair to good chance of catching a metalhead. Here are highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Alert anglers will be watching water levels and hit the rivers as levels begin to fall.
  • Steelhead fishing on the Illinois, Coos and Coquille rivers should be good over the holiday weekend.

GUIDE ANDY MARTIN OF WILD RIVERS FISHING HOLDS A HATCHERY STEELHEAD CAUGHT DEC. 17 ON THE CHETCO RIVER WHILE HE WAS SIDE-DRIFTING EGGS CURED IN PAUTZKE'S NATURAL BORXOFIRE AND TAGGED ON A SIZE 2 LAZER SHARP HOOK. (WILD RIVERS FISHING)

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Alsea River: The winter steelhead run is under way with anglers getting into fish throughout the river.  Drifting or fishing off the bank should produce fair to good results.  Look to fish the upper river when flows are high.
  • Lower Columbia tribs: Hatchery winter steelhead are available in Big Creek, Gnat Creek and the North Fork Klaskanine River. Fishing has improved as more fish have moved into the system, and these streams have provided the best fishing conditions recently. Expect the hatchery steelhead run to peak over the next few weeks.
  • Necanicum River: Winter steelhead are available in fair to good numbers. Fish will be spread out up to Blacks Bridge and even further upstream. As the river drops into shape, drift fishing slowly along the bottom will produce the best results. Brighter colors will be more productive until the water clears.
  • Nehalem River: Winter steelhead are being caught in the north fork. Angling has been good when river conditions allow. Fish are spread out through the north fork up to and above the hatchery (mostly in the first mile or two upstream). Drift fishing natural or artificial baits near the bottom in the slower seams will produce best while the flows are higher. Fishing is slow in the main Nehalem River for winter steelhead. Good numbers of fish won’t be in the river until later in the season.
  • Siletz River: Steelhead fishing conditions are looking good for the week. Anglers are having fair success by boat and bank. The steelhead run is just getting going and new fish should be on the move and found throughout most of the main stem below Moonshine Park.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Most of the region’s steelhead fishing rivers are in great shape and look promising over the next few weeks.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Santa brought you a new fly rod? Test it out on the Crooked, Fall or Metolius rivers, all of which offer fine winter fly fishing.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • The Ana Rivers offers good trout fishing opportunities throughout the fall and winter.
  • Trout fishing is fair on the Klamath River below Keno Dam.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • While high water limited effort on the lower John Day, water levels are dropping so expect the fishing to be good.
  • For anglers willing to brave the conditions, steelhead fishing on the Umatilla has been pretty good. High waters should have pushed fish into the Pendleton area.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Steelhead angling should improve with better water conditions in the John Day Arm.
  • Sturgeon retention is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday during Oct. 1 – Dec. 31 from Wauna Powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam.

2010 Hot Spot A No-Fish Area For 2011

December 21, 2010

To get ahead of the “extremely high catch rates” of sturgeon seen at a little slough of the Columbia River last winter and spring, fishery managers are implementing an area-closure there starting Jan. 1.

Angling will be prohibited in the slough between Sand Island and Rooster Rock State Park from New Years through April 30. The area is at approximately milepost 26 on I-84 east of Portland.

Two news articles last April had it that as many as 75 anglers gathered there at a time to target the fish, and they caught an estimated 1,000 sturgeon this past winter and spring.

The specific area runs from a line between the upstream end of Sand Island, located east of Rooster Rock State Park on the Columbia River, to a marker on the Oregon shore, downstream to a line between the lower end of Sand Island and a marker on the Oregon shore.

“In the winter of 2010, a large aggregation of white sturgeon were present in a slough at Rooster Rock State Park,” reads an emergency rule-change notice from WDFW. “Sturgeon catch rates in this specific area were extremely high in the winter and spring, which jeopardized the 2010 season structure for the gorge fishery above the Wauna powerlines. In April of 2010, the states closed Sand Island slough to all angling through the month of July. Implementing the same action earlier in the season would likely stabilize the fishery, and reduce the potential need for inseason modifications. This rule should not displace non-sturgeon anglers as the slough receives little effort for other species.”

Sturgeon fishing in the Columbia above the Wauna Powerlines is currently open for retention Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and will continue into 2011 with the same season structure.  Seasons will be reviewed in early February.

Info Sought On Poached Buck Near Lincoln City

December 21, 2010

Someone poached a buck, cut its antlers off at their base and then tossed the animal’s carcass off the side of a logging road in the hills east of Lincoln City, Ore., leaving it to waste.

According to the Oregon State Police, the deer was found off Forest Road 17 on Nov. 23. Though it may have only been dead for 12 hours, troopers were unable to salvage any meat.

BUCK DEER FOUND DEAD EAST OF LINCOLN CITY. (OSP)

The poaching occurred during the second coast rifle bull elk season, according to OSP.

The Oregon Hunter’s Association in cooperation with Leupold & Stevens are offering a $500 reward for info leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

Wooley Promoted To President at Renaissance

December 20, 2010

(RENAISSANCE MARINE GROUP, INC., PRESS RELEASE)

The Board of Directors of Renaissance Marine Group, Inc. is pleased to announce the promotion of Jerry Wooley to the position of President and Chief Operating Officer of Renaissance Marine Group, Inc. (“RMG”) and its subsidiaries, Duckworth Boat Works, Inc. and Weldcraft Marine Industries, Inc.

As President, Mr. Wooley is responsible for all the day-to-day operations of RMG, including product development for the Company’s three brands of welded aluminum sport and fishing boats marketed as Duckworth, Weldcraft and Northwest Jet boats.

Mr. Wooley has served as RMG’s Executive Vice President and COO since September, 2007. Prior to that he served as RMG’s Vice President – Production and Director of Engineering and Production.

Before joining Duckworth in 1997, Mr. Wooley spent twelve years with The Boeing Company in a variety of roles including Quality Engineering, Manufacturing, Process Engineering and Manufacturing Management. He previously worked for the U.S. Navy as a civilian engineer on torpedo and target programs.

A native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Mr. Wooley holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Idaho and a Master of Engineering Management degree from Washington State University. He also is well trained in a variety of LEAN Manufacturing processes.

Daniel N. Larson, Chief Executive Officer of RMG, stated: “We are very pleased to promote Jerry Wooley into this expanded role as President of Renaissance Marine Group, Inc. He has demonstrated tremendous industry leadership during the challenging downturn since 2007. He led our product development team that introduced our highly successful Weldcraft Cuddy King series and the new Duckworth Offshore series, and he oversaw the integration of the Northwest Jet boats line into our production and sales team. He also managed our dealer development into Canada and Russia, both of which are continuing to grow. Our sales for 2010 will be up more than 40%, and we enter 2011 with our greatest backlog of orders ever!”

Renaissance Marine Group, Inc. is the holding company for Duckworth Boat Works, Inc. and Weldcraft Marine Industries, Inc. RMG manufactures and sells Duckworth, Weldcraft and Northwest Jet brand welded aluminum sport and fishing boats solely through independent marine dealers. Dealers currently are located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, Alaska, western Canada, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Standard models are offered from 17’ to 30’ powered by outboards, inboard jet pumps and sterndrives.

Western WA Fishing (River) Report 12-20-10

December 20, 2010

The Green? Up and ugly.

Puyallup? Same.

Nisqually? Nasty.

Skookumchuck? Up, chuck.

Chehalis? High.

Cowlitz? Up, colored.

Kalama? High, off.

Lewis? Good question; was distracted by sons as we blew past.

Salmon Creek? Couldn’t see over the barricades. Stupid short vehicles.

Willamette? Fireboat blasting debris away from other boats with hose spewing water the color of weak chocolate milk.

Santiam? Up, colored.

Upper Willamette? Up, brown.

Marys River? Up, brown.

Yaquina? Does this stupid river EVER freakin’ clear up?

So goes the river report that I can file after hightailing it to Newport and back this past weekend.

But despite generally fugly water conditions that certainly would turn off some anglers, steelheaders have been finding their quarry after early December’s flood subsided.

Cases in point, the following pics received at HQ the past day or so:

TERRY WIEST AND FRIEND HAD A GOOD DAY ON THE BOGEY LAST FRIDAY, DEC. 17. (STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

TRISTAN BUETTNER FISHED THIS 16-POUND, 11-OUNCE STEELHEAD OUT OF THE UPPER SNOQUALMIE RIVER SYSTEM (I.E. TOKUL CREEK) ON SAT, DEC. 18. IT LEADS THE 3 RIVERS MARINE WINTER STEELHEAD DERBY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Here’s biologist Joe Hymer’s weekly Southwest Washington/Lower Columbia fishwrap.

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Deep River – By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit reverts back to no more than 2 adults beginning Jan. 1. In addition, all chinook must be adipose fin clipped to be kept.

Cowlitz River – Some coho continue to be caught at the salmon hatchery while steelhead are being caught at the trout hatchery.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 2,838 coho adults, 45 jacks, one fall Chinook adult, 295 winter-run steelhead and eight sea-run cutthroat trout during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 339 coho adults and eight jacks into Lake Scanewa, 405 coho adults, seven jacks and three winter-run steelhead in the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellowjacket Creek, 561 coho adults, eleven jacks and five winter-run steelhead into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, and 150 coho adults, nine jacks, four winter-run steelhead and two cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,880 cubic feet per second on Monday, December 20. Water visibility is three feet.

By permanent regulation on the lower Cowlitz, the salmon daily limit reverts back to no more than 2 adults beginning Jan. 1.  Only hatchery chinook and hatchery coho may be retained.  Also, Mill Creek near the salmon hatchery closed to all fishing the same day.

Kalama River – No catch observed there yesterday.  River conditions were less than optimal.

By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit will be 6 hatchery chinook of which no more than 1 may be a adult beginning Jan. 1.

Lewis River – Anglers are catching some steelhead on the mainstem and the north fork.  Flows below Merwin Dam are currently near the long term mean of 8,230 cfs for this date.

By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit will be 6 hatchery chinook of which no more than 1 may be a adult beginning Jan. 1.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 8 bank and 4 boat anglers (2 boats) with no catch.

Under permanent regulations from I-5 Bridge downstream to Buoy 10 release all salmon other than hatchery chinook beginning January 1.

Under permanent rules, Dec. 31 is the last day to fish for salmon on the mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco and the Elochoman, Grays, Tilton, and Washougal rivers plus Drano and Mayfield lakes.

STURGEON

Until further notice, recreational sturgeon fisheries will continue as scheduled under permanent regulations.  Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are scheduled to meet Feb. 8 to consider changes to current catch quotas.

Lower Columbia mainstem and its tributaries from Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines – White sturgeon may be retained daily beginning Jan. 1. Daily limit 1, minimum size 38” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.

Lower Columbia mainstem and its tributaries from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – We sampled 11 bank anglers from Longview to Bonneville Dam with no catch, not even a sublegal released.

Except for area described below, remains open for white sturgeon retention Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only. Daily limit 1, minimum size 38” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.

2011 Recreational Sturgeon (Above Wauna Powerlines)_minor area closure

Effective January 1 through April 30, angling for all species in prohibited from a line between the upstream end of Sand Island (upstream from Rooster Rock) and a marker on the Oregon shoreline, downstream to a line between the lower end of Sand Island and a marker on the Oregon shoreline.

Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam – Sturgeon may be retained beginning Jan. 1. In Bonneville Pool, the daily limit is 1 fish, minimum size 38” fork length and maximum 54” fork length. From The Dalles Dam to McNary Dam, the daily limit is 1 fish, minimum size 43” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length. Ending date for all pools depends upon when the individual guidelines are met.

Salmon/Steelhead

 

Deep River – By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit reverts back to no more than 2 adults beginning Jan. 1. In addition, all chinook must be adipose fin clipped to be kept.

 

Cowlitz River – Some coho continue to be caught at the salmon hatchery while steelhead are being caught at the trout hatchery.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 2,838 coho adults, 45 jacks, one fall Chinook adult, 295 winter-run steelhead and eight sea-run cutthroat trout during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 339 coho adults and eight jacks into Lake Scanewa, 405 coho adults, seven jacks and three winter-run steelhead in the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellowjacket Creek, 561 coho adults, eleven jacks and five winter-run steelhead into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood, and 150 coho adults, nine jacks, four winter-run steelhead and two cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 9,880 cubic feet per second on Monday, December 20. Water visibility is three feet.

By permanent regulation on the lower Cowlitz, the salmon daily limit reverts back to no more than 2 adults beginning Jan. 1.  Only hatchery chinook and hatchery coho may be retained.  Also, Mill Creek near the salmon hatchery closed to all fishing the same day.

Kalama River – No catch observed there yesterday.  River conditions were less than optimal.

By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit will be 6 hatchery chinook of which no more than 1 may be a adult beginning Jan. 1.

Lewis River – Anglers are catching some steelhead on the mainstem and the north fork.  Flows below Merwin Dam are currently near the long term mean of 8,230 cfs for this date.

By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit will be 6 hatchery chinook of which no more than 1 may be a adult beginning Jan. 1.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 8 bank and 4 boat anglers (2 boats) with no catch.

 

Under permanent regulations from I-5 Bridge downstream to Buoy 10 release all salmon other than hatchery chinook beginning January 1.

Under permanent rules, Dec. 31 is the last day to fish for salmon on the mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco and the Elochoman, Grays, Tilton, and Washougal rivers plus Drano and Mayfield lakes.

 

Sturgeon

 

Until further notice, recreational sturgeon fisheries will continue as scheduled under permanent regulations. Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are scheduled to meet Feb. 8 to consider changes to current catch quotas.

Lower Columbia mainstem and its tributaries from Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines – White sturgeon may be retained daily beginning Jan. 1. Daily limit 1, minimum size 38” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.

Lower Columbia mainstem and its tributaries from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – We sampled 11 bank anglers from Longview to Bonneville Dam with no catch, not even a sublegal released.

Except for area described below, remains open for white sturgeon retention Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only. Daily limit 1, minimum size 38” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length.

2011 Recreational Sturgeon (Above Wauna Powerlines)_minor area closure

Effective January 1 through April 30, angling for all species in prohibited from a line between the upstream end of Sand Island (upstream from Rooster Rock) and a marker on the Oregon shoreline, downstream to a line between the lower end of Sand Island and a marker on the Oregon shoreline. 

Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam – Sturgeon may be retained beginning Jan. 1. In Bonneville Pool, the daily limit is 1 fish, minimum size 38” fork length and maximum 54” fork length. From The Dalles Dam to McNary Dam, the daily limit is 1 fish, minimum size 43” fork length and maximum size 54” fork length. Ending date for all pools depends upon when the individual guidelines are met.

 

Monday Morning Reads

December 20, 2010

I’ve got about 38,000 tabs open on my browser this morning — not a good thing when what I really should be doing is coming up with better coverlines for our January issue and writing an editor’s note.

But there’s some pretty interesting reads and topics out there.

This year’s weather has been flat-out weird in the Northwest, and Mark Freeman of The Mail Tribune has a good story on how it’s affected everything from bears to frogs to game movement. I think there’s a much, much longer story here.

Just over 500 miles north on I-5, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission blogged about beaver deceivers on the upper Skagit River, and how the devices are helping to protect salmon-spawning channels from nature’s engineers.

Then there’s The Wolves — a whole pack of stories was delivered to my email over the weekend, including:

An Associated Press report out in the wake of Rex Rammell’s call for residents of a North Idaho county to form a posse and hunt wolves because “he didn’t think local, state and federal authorities would interfere.” The USFWS assures the AP legal action would be taken.

A New West article subtitled: “What’s a bigger threat to elk: Wolves or slob hunters?” that references two stories written by hunters on slob hunting that occurred in Montana’s Paradise Valley at the end of that state’s general season.

There’s yet another elk poaching on the Oregon Coast while back towards Portland, what may be the first book on Oregon game wardening is being self-published by a former OSP Fish & Wildlife Division sergeant.

Bill Monroe of The Oregonian interviews Joe Schwab about his book “Outlaws on the Big River,” an easy read of tales from Schwab’s two-decades-plus of chasing and pinching sport and commercial lawbreakers along the Columbia River and its tributaries, from Astoria to the John Day Dam.”

Amy, if you’re reading this at yer folks down in Newport, Santa says that Andy might like to see this book under the tree when he comes down for Christmas …

Another option might be a moose raffle ticket from the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council in Spokane. They’re just $10 and only 5,000 tickets will be printed, according to Rich Landers’ column in the Spokesman-Review. The money goes to state moose management and local conservation projects.

And just in case you haven’t had enough poacher news, Rich has more in his blog, including a bit about a man who allegedly hit four turkeys with one shot.

Willamette Keeper Sturgeon Season ‘Delayed’

December 20, 2010

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE)

ODFW fishery managers announced today the Willamette River will not open for the retention of sturgeon on Jan. 1 as previously expected. The fishery will remain open for catch-and-release fishing seven days per week.

While the popular winter fishery, which includes the Multnomah Channel and Gilbert River, will remain open for catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon, the opportunity to harvest a sturgeon in these areas will be delayed at least a month, according to Steve Williams, ODFW deputy administrator for Columbia River and marine fisheries.

The delay will give ODFW staff a chance to consult with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission about how to structure a fishing season that will balance a significantly smaller harvest quota with an increasingly popular fishery, Williams said.

The Commission will consider sturgeon seasons at its Feb. 4, 2011 meeting.

ODFW staff will be recommending a 29 percent reduction in the sturgeon harvest quota on the Willamette – from 3,600 fish in 2010 to 2,550 in 2011 – in response to a continued decline in legal-sized sturgeon abundance. At the same time, the January sturgeon fishery has grown in recent years from an average January harvest of about 350 fish from 2007-2009 to over 700 fish in 2010.

“If the retention season opened in January, a large portion of the quota could be gone before the Commission had a chance to consider any options,” Williams said.“The Commission process will also give the public another opportunity to comment on possible season structures.”

“In the meantime, I would encourage people to take advantage catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon,” Williams added. “I’ve had some great days fishing for and releasing sturgeon on the Willamette and winter can be a prime time.”

The Columbia River above the Wauna power lines will open to sturgeon retention as scheduled on Jan. 1. However, fishery managers have closed a portion of the Columbia River at the Sand Island slough near Rooster Rock State Park to all fishing.

Last year, anglers targeted a concentration of sturgeon that had gathered in the shallow waters. From February through April, catches from this area totaled two-thirds of the total Columbia River recreational sturgeon catch.

“I don’t want reduce our flexibility to manage the sturgeon fishery in the rest of the river because of a large catch in one small place,” Williams said.

Elk Cow Shot, Wasted Outside Toledo, Ore.

December 20, 2010

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division troopers are asking for the public’s help for information to identify the suspect(s) responsible for Sunday’s unlawful kill and waste of a Roosevelt elk near Toledo.  A reward is offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case.

COW ELK SHOT AND WASTED SOUTH OF TOLEDO, ORE. (OREGON STATE POLICE)

On December 19, 2010 OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers located a cow Roosevelt elk that had been shot and left to waste off the 1000 Line Road near North Beaver Creek Road outside Toledo.  The elk was found in a clear cut area down an embankment and appeared to have been shot within the last 24 hours.  Troopers were not able to salvage the meat.

OSP urges anyone with information concerning this poaching incident to call the OSP Turn in Poacher (TIP) line at 1-800-452-7888.  The Oregon Hunter’s Association in cooperation with Leupold and Stevens is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this crime.

A Flood Of Hatchery Steelies Arrive

December 17, 2010

I’m beginning to suspect that at least part of the bulge seen on hydrographs around Western Washington earlier this week was due to all the hatchery winter steelhead moving upstream.

Sound far-fetched?

Well, OK, it is.

BUT new hatchery escapement figures from WDFW do show significant jumps in returns around the Westside since the flood of 2010.

No wonder WDFW was able to lift the upper North Fork Stilly closure yesterday and announced this afternoon the reopenings of Whatcom Creek and part of the North Fork Nooksack as of tomorrow, Dec. 18.

POSTFLOOD HATCHERY REPORTS SHOW A BIG WEEK-TO-WEEK JUMP OF WINTER STEELHEAD, LIKE THIS DUO THAT WINSTON McCLANAHAN AND KAREN CHAPDELAINE CAUGHT ON THE SKY. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST

Part of the bump is probably due to all the high water, but of course, December’s more than halfway done and this month is when the bulk of fish arrive and get caught.

That said, here’s a comparison of last week and this week’s hatchery adult totals for facilities around the Westside:

Hatchery: Last week’s adult-on-hand tally; this week’s

Kendall Creek (Nooksack): 7; 54

Whatcom Creek: 1; 12

Marblemount (Skagit): 75; 142

Whitehorse (NF Stillaguamish): 3; 106

Tokul Creek (Snoqualmie): 61; 240

Humptulips: 100; 133

Bogachiel: 72; 559

Forks Creek (Willapa): 393; 423

Beaver Creek (Elochoman): 45; 102

Cowlitz (hatchery): 547; 828

Kalama Falls (hatchery): 67; 130

Lewis (Ladder): 71; 150

In addition, Wallace and Reiter filed their first reports of the season, though only counted six and five steelhead, respectively.

New Nootka Lodge Offers Year-round Getaway

December 17, 2010

(NOOTKA MARINE ADVENTURES PRESS RELEASE)

When the new full-service Moutcha Bay Lodge opens this spring, Nootka Sound will have yet another draw to one of the most pristine and spectacular fishing and ocean adventure destinations in Western Canada.

“Our goal is to offer guests a year round experience at Nootka Sound. Each season brings different ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and as Canada opens up to new emerging tourism markets, we want to ensure we continue to look after our current clientele while growing to accommodate new visitors to the area,” says Nootka Marine Adventures’ general manager, Dave Gosnell.

Gosnell adds that each year it surprises him how Nootka Sound goes quiet after Labour Day weekend, when some of the best fishing experiences are still to be had in September and October.

“We think we can easily extend our season at the floating resort by educating local anglers on the amazing shoulder season experiences they can have, while offering year round getaways at our new lodge.”

Anglers who have already discovered the joys of fishing in the area are familiar with Nootka Sound Resort, a floating lodge which can accommodate up to 38 guests, located in Tlupana Inlet – 11 miles from the open Pacific Ocean. Opened from June – September each year, Nootka Sound Resort is all inclusive, offering boat moorage along with access to a wide range of world class sport fishing,  ecotours and some of the best locally sourced gourmet fare on the west coast.

The purchase of Moutcha Bay Resort in 2008, one of the few resorts on Vancouver Island with road access, allowed Nootka Marine Adventures to cater to RV and campers, as well as offer a few chalets and additional access to the sport fishing and wildlife adventures in the area. Set in a sheltered inlet, Moutcha Bay quickly became a destination its own, offering gas and diesel sales, boat launch, propane and a small store. Fishermen took special notice as the resort is located at the head of Moutcha Bay where the salmon school for their trip up the Conuma River, thanks to a very successful salmon hatchery.

“Judging by the demand for accommodation and services we offered, it seemed to make sense to open a year round lodge and expand on the hospitality we can offer to local and international adventurers,” says Gosnell.

Moutcha Bay Lodge will be completed this fall, with the finishing interior touches taking place over the winter. The lodge will feature six spacious loft-style and self contained suites, offering spectacular views of Tlupana Inlet, and some large enough to accommodate up to seven guests. A full service pub style restaurant will also be a welcome amenity to the area, as will the fully licensed fish packing plant, with freezer and ice making equipment. Additional stand alone chalets are available with more planned for the future, as well as the upgrading of existing RV and camp sites.  Boats, electric down riggers, rods, reels and tackle, prawn and crab traps can also be rented onsite.

“Our many years of operating a resort in this area has taught us well on what amenities and type of accommodation would be welcome,” says Gosnell.  “We also want to celebrate the local First Nations Culture, while also ensuring we respect the environment, and operate with as minimal a footprint as possible.”

What that means is Nootka Marine Adventures takes sustainable tourism seriously.  Not only are they completely compliant with DFO and Ministry of Environment standards with both resorts, they have added additional infrastructure like solar energy, eco-friendly waste management while practicing and teaching environmental stewardship on all their guided tours.

Despite the recent downturn in the economy, Gosnell feels strongly that the type of full service hospitality matched with fishing and outdoor adventure expertise and affordable accommodation being offered by Nootka Marine Adventures will continue to attract tourists, whether local or long haul.

“The locations of both our resorts means we can offer one of the most diversified vacation experiences in Nootka Sound,” says Gosnell.  “Our commitment will be to provide some of the best fresh and saltwater fishing experiences in Canada, along with diving, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and the abundance of ocean and wildlife viewing Nootka Sound offers. Matched with comfortable accommodation and exceptional food, we think we provide the kind of high value, high return on experience today’s tourists are looking for”.

New Lodge At  Moutcha Bay Aims to Open Up Year Long Adventures in Nootka Sound.

Nootka Sound, BC – When the new full-service Moutcha Bay Lodge opens this spring, (located just 43 kilometres outside Gold River, BC), Nootka Sound will have yet another draw to one of the most pristine and spectacular fishing and ocean adventure destinations in Western Canada.

“Our goal is to offer guests a year round experience at Nootka Sound. Each season brings different ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and as Canada opens up to new emerging tourism markets, we want to ensure we continue to look after our current clientele while growing to accommodate new visitors to the area,” says Nootka Marine Adventures’ general manager, Dave Gosnell.  Gosnell adds that each year it surprises him how Nootka Sound goes quiet after Labour Day weekend, when some of the best fishing experiences are still to be had in September and October.

“We think we can easily extend our season at the floating resort by educating local anglers on the amazing shoulder season experiences they can have, while offering year round getaways at our new lodge.”

Anglers who have already discovered the joys of fishing in the area are familiar with Nootka Sound Resort, a floating lodge which can accommodate up to 38 guests, located in Tlupana Inlet – 11 miles from the open Pacific Ocean. Opened from June – September each year, Nootka Sound Resort is all inclusive, offering boat moorage along with access to a wide range of world class sport fishing,  ecotours and some of the best locally sourced gourmet fare on the west coast.

The purchase of Moutcha Bay Resort in 2008, one of the few resorts on Vancouver Island with road access, allowed Nootka Marine Adventures to cater to RV and campers, as well as offer a few chalets and additional access to the sport fishing and wildlife adventures in the area. Set in a sheltered inlet, Moutcha Bay quickly became a destination its own, offering gas and diesel sales, boat launch, propane and a small store. Fishermen took special notice as the resort is located at the head of Moutcha Bay where the salmon school for their trip up the Conuma River, thanks to a very successful salmon hatchery.

“Judging by the demand for accommodation and services we offered, it seemed to make sense to open a year round lodge and expand on the hospitality we can offer to local and international adventurers,” says Gosnell.

Moutcha Bay Lodge will be completed this fall, with the finishing interior touches taking place over the winter. The lodge will feature six spacious loft-style and self contained suites, offering spectacular views of Tlupana Inlet, and some large enough to accommodate up to seven guests. A full service pub style restaurant will also be a welcome amenity to the area, as will the fully licensed fish packing plant, with freezer and ice making equipment. Additional stand alone chalets are available with more planned for the future, as well as the upgrading of existing RV and camp sites.  Boats, electric down riggers, rods, reels and tackle, prawn and crab traps can also be rented onsite.

“Our many years of operating a resort in this area has taught us well on what amenities and type of accommodation would be welcome,” says Gosnell.  “We also want to celebrate the local First Nations Culture, while also ensuring we respect the environment, and operate with as minimal a footprint as possible.”

What that means is Nootka Marine Adventures takes sustainable tourism seriously.  Not only are they completely compliant with DFO and Ministry of Environment standards with both resorts, they have added additional infrastructure like solar energy, eco-friendly waste management while practicing and teaching environmental stewardship on all their guided tours.

Despite the recent downturn in the economy, Gosnell feels strongly that the type of full service hospitality matched with fishing and outdoor adventure expertise and affordable accommodation being offered by Nootka Marine Adventures will continue to attract tourists, whether local or long haul.

“The locations of both our resorts means we can offer one of the most diversified vacation experiences in Nootka Sound,” says Gosnell.  “Our commitment will be to provide some of the best fresh and saltwater fishing experiences in Canada, along with diving, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and the abundance of ocean and wildlife viewing Nootka Sound offers. Matched with comfortable accommodation and exceptional food, we think we provide the kind of high value, high return on experience today’s tourists are looking for”.

More information on Nootka Marine Adventures, Nootka Sound Resort and Moutcha Bay Resort may be found at www.nootkamarineadventures.com.

WDFW Looking For Tips On I-82 Poaching

December 17, 2010

In what might be a possible spree killing, four deer were gunned down in southern Benton County, Wash., between Dec. 5 and 7, and three were left to waste.

According to WDFW officer Brian Fulton, on Sunday, Dec. 5th, an archer on a late elk hunt saw four deer 100 to 200 yards west of I-82 in a draw between mileposts 118 and 119. But when he came through two days later, there were only carcasses.

When Fulton arrived on the scene the morning of the 7th, he found one doe and two yearlings, as well as a set of drag marks up to the shoulder of I-82.

“We’re assuming it was a buck — a little 3-point was seen in the area,” Fulton says.

Though Kennewick is just to the north and Umatilla to the south, the area at the far eastern end of the Horse Heaven Hills where the incident occurred is lightly populated wheat-growing country.

“Still, it’s pretty brazen to be shooting at least four times off the interstate,” says Fulton.

It may be Benton County’s first “thrill killing,” where a poacher or poachers blast away at many animals and leave most of them to rot, as happened in Walla Walla and Asotin Counties earlier this year.

“We haven’t had any real cases of that,” says Fulton.

But neither do they have any suspects.

“We did recover some evidence at the scene that we’re processing,” says WDFW Sgt. Mike Jewell.

Anyone with information is being asked to call the poaching hotline (877-933-9847) or text in tips.

“There is a potential for a reward for apprehending a suspect,” says Fulton.

Cash rewards of up to $500 are paid for information that leads to a conviction while hunters can score up to 10 bonus points for their permit applications.

According to WDFW, the agency pays around $8,000 a year in rewards while typically 90 hunters get the extra points.

Bighorn Release May Lead To More Hunt Ops

December 17, 2010

When I spoke with ODFW’s Corey Heath earlier this week, the Bend-based wildlife biologist told me he’d recently been out capturing 60 bighorn sheep.

He said that two-thirds were headed to two different sites in Oregon, the other third to Wyoming.

TWO CALIFORNIA BIGHORNS RELEASED NEAR JOHN DAY FOSSIL BEDS. (MICHAEL DURHAM)

Those 40 stay-at-home California bighorn rams and ewes will help grow two new huntable herds, his agency hopes.

A news release out today says that 20 were released at the new Cottonwood Canyon State Park in the John Day River canyon and another 20 were loosed on BLM land, in the Branson Creek portion of the upper John Day River, near the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

The other 20 sheep are headed for Southeast Wyoming; their capture and shipping was paid for by Wyoming Game and Fish, according to ODFW.

The sheep were captured where ODFW says their numbers are plentiful, 20 from along the lower Deschutes, 40 around the John Day.

A helicopter was used to gather the animals towards a net, and then they were ferried by helicopter to where state biologists and vets as well as volunteers from the Oregon Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wildlife Sheep could disease-test the animals and outfit many with transmitters to track their movements.

CAPTURED BIGHORNS BEING FERRIED BY CHOPPER. (ODFW)

As the herds get established in these two locations over the next few years, visitors will find viewing and eventually, hunting opportunities for the sheep, ODFW says.

While bighorns were killed off in Oregon by the 1940s due to livestock diseases and unregulated hunting, they’ve since been reintroduced and have expanded nicely. ODFW says there are now anywhere from 3,500 to 3,700, and annually captures and releases from 20 to 80 “with the ultimate goal of creating healthy bighorn sheep populations in all available, suitable habitats within Oregon.”

AN EWE RACES FOR THE HILLS AFTER RELEASE ON BLM LAND. (MICHAEL DURHAM)

Hunting is by permit only. Almost all the tags are given out through a special drawing, but ODFW also raffles and auctions off a couple. This year’s auction was one by a person who bid $110,000 for a tag while Alfredo Julian of Vancouver, Wash., won the raffle. The raffle raised $62,696.

ODFW POSTED A LINK TO SOME AWESOME VIDEO OF THE RELEASES ON YOUTUBE, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w9-BrYsnVo. (MICHAEL DURHAM VIDEO)

Rumor Control: Umm, PS Steelies Already Listed

December 16, 2010

An email that’s circulated past a number of WDFW bios and honchoes today accuses Director Phil Anderson of “floating an idea to try to get (Puget Sound) steelhead listed under the ESA.”

“By listing the steelhead under ESA they will no longer have to manage the species, but it will also make it unfishable. WDFW will also be able to close all steelhead hatcheries gaining a savings that way,” it reads.

“The economic impact will be devastating.  This will drive most fishing guides out of business as half their season will be gone.

“This story has enough credence,” adds the email, “that Northwest Sportsmen magazine is running a story on it.  The piece is excellent.”

While we appreciate accolades, we don’t want them in this case.

There are serious errors with the email, and since we’re mentioned in it, we’d like to set them straight.

For starters, Puget Sound steelhead are of course already listed as threatened under ESA. Have been since May 2007.

http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/release.php?id=may0707a

05-07-2007 Puget Sound Steelhead ESA Listing (PDF 44KB)

The listing that day prompted me to write possibly the longest story of my Fishing & Hunting News career, thousands upon thousands of words of reaction, where the listing came from, what it might mean, etc., etc., etc.

If anything, in the three and a half years since, the listing has actually led to more management — not less — but it has not led to a wholesale closure of steelhead hatcheries. I’ve been covering those and other aspects of the current state of the fishery here and in the magazine as well.

While the email says Dave Workman is the mag editor, it’s actually me, AW, and I suspect the missive stems from my recent article on the possible elimination of steelheading in Puget Sound, and why it was brought up as WDFW struggles with the budget.

Unfortunately, it appears that those words have been misconstrued, and now the mag looks kind of stupid.

Frankly, I do a good enough job of that on my own. I don’t need any extra help, thank you.

The email, sent by a member of a regional hunting and conservation group, prompted calls to me from Rep. Brian Blake, a member of said group, as well as from Anderson himself to find out if “some things need to be cleared up.”

No, Mr. Director, I think we’re good on this one.

(BTW, sir, just don’t even worry about that whole photo afield thing, I think I’m happy with what Craig sent over.)

SW WA Rep: No Reason To ‘Force The Wolves Here’

December 16, 2010

Steven Friederich of The Daily World (Aberdeen) wrote a good and lengthy article on last week’s state House hearing on wolves in Olympia, which we covered briefly earlier this week.

Friederich folds in post-hearing comments from House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Brian Blake about translocating wolves to the Olympic Peninsula and Willapa Hills, and WDFW Director Phil Anderson on the likelihood that that “tool” would be used.

Moving members of the species around Washington is part of the agency’s draft plan to achieve statewide recovery goals, but it is controversial, especially in areas where it would otherwise be pretty difficult for wolves to reach.

Blake: “There is absolutely no reason for the state to get involved and somehow force the wolves here.”

A Democrat, he represents Southwest Washington’s Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties and parts of Grays Harbor and Cowlitz Counties.

Pointing to reports of wolves around the other edges of the state — tracks, howls and photographs of animals in extreme southeast and northeast Washington and upper Ross Lake as well as confirmed packs in Okanogan and Pend Oreille Counties — Blake added: “All of these details tell us that the wolf is coming and it’s coming on its own without us needing to help it along.”

It was interesting that during the hearing (which I viewed afterwards online) no legislators asked Anderson point blank if WDFW was reintroducing wolves into the state. Some hunters believe as a matter of fact that the agency or wolf advocates in league with WDFW are bringing them in illicitly.

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.

They can be believable for those who view government and environmentalists suspiciously, though state and federal biologists scoff at the stories. One tells us that tales of sneaky bios shipping predators here and there are a worldwide phenomenon.

Realistically, the only way that WFDW would actually move wolves around is through translocation if it’s part of the final plan, but even so, that would be no slam-bam-thank-you-mam process, as Anderson sees it.

Friedrich quotes him as saying:

“Moving wolves that are within the state boundaries to another location in the state is a tool that is available in the plan but is not defined specifically that it be used … It’s not stated it will be used. It’s a tool that could be considered.”

And adds:

“Anderson said the issue would need to go through its own environmental planning process before the state agency could pull the trigger and decide to implement the concept.

‘It’s not something that could just be done,’ Anderson said. ‘I think translocation is a hugely controversial issue and it is so far down the road that it would take an excruciating process to get there.'”

Elsewhere in Olympia, WDFW staffers are categorizing by theme the 65,000 comments on the draft plan that came in during a three-month-long public review. Eight hundred separate ideas have been identified, and they will be put into a spreadsheet and given answers.

The agency had planned on meeting with its 17-member Wolf Working Group a few weeks ago, but that got scrubbed due to snow, the Capital Press reported Dec. 8.

Next up is development of a final plan this coming spring and summer, and a presentation to the Fish & Wildlife Commission in late 2011.

However, the CP story quotes WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers as pointing out that things are in flux with her agency.

“A lot could change between now and the end of session as to what we will do and how we are staffed and organized. Natural resources agency reform will be a big issue in the interest of saving money,” Luers told reporter Dan Wheat.

Gov. Gregoire earlier this week proposed merging WDFW with State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office plus eight of DNR’s law enforcement officers. It’s possible that the House and Senate will push different consolidations forward too; last session, a Senate bill would have put WDFW and Parks under DNR.

It’s also likely that wolf-related bills will be introduced in the coming legislative session.

Upper NF Stilly Reopened

December 16, 2010

In an e-reg change sent out this morning, WDFW announced that the 4-mile closure on the upper North Fork Stillaguamish has been lifted.

“The Whitehorse Hatchery facility hatchery winter steelhead broodstock needs have been met,” says the agency.

In announcing the closure in late November, it had said that the hatchery was “significantly below” egg-take needs to meet summer and winter steelhead smolt-release goals.

The affected area had covered the water downstream of the Swede Heaven Bridge to the French Creek confluence.

It went into effect Dec. 1, but starting today, steelheading is a go again.

While the North Fork at Arlington crested at just under 60,000 cubic feet of water per second during flooding earlier this week, it has since fallen to 4,470 cfs, so the river may still be a wee bit high to fish, even in its headwaters. Typical flow this time of year is 2,000 cfs.

(USGS)

Gregoire’s 11-13 Budget Proposal Out

December 15, 2010

We’re working to get clarifications from the Department of Fish & Wildlife about how deeply Governor Christine Gregoire’s proposed budget cuts agency funding, but in the meanwhile are parsing through what may change in 2011-13 if it were to pass through the Legislature unscathed.

According to a summary of recommendations, the budget would cut two fishery biologists, five back-office positions, the agency’s last full-time pilot, the dangerous animal specialist, fish passage coordinator and major projects manager.

It would hike many fishing and hunting licenses, impose a new access fee to DNR and WDFW lands and reduce hatchery operations.

The agency would pick up eight law enforcement officers from DNR — part of a plan to consolidate WDFW, the State Parks and Recreation Commission and another office into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation — but also have to lay off two wardens.

And lands maintenance would be reduced on 28,000 newly acquired acres.

“The budget I am proposing for the 2011–13 biennium is not a budget I ever expected to see in the state of Washington, and the choices it reflects are the most difficult ones I’ve ever faced,” Gregoire said in a press release. “The reality of this recession is that it has dismantled many of the programs that I, and millions of others in the state, value. In any other time I would not sign this budget. It’s difficult to support something that goes against all we have accomplished over the past six years. But these are the circumstances we find ourselves in, and we have been left with few options.”

Natural resource agencies represent literally a fraction of the state’s 2011-13 budget — just 2.2 percent of all funds in Gregoire’s proposal — and while one document from her office shows that budgets for agencies working on conifers, critters and campsites would lose $122 million ($47 million alone to State Parks), that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the overall $4.6 billion shortfall that must be balanced.

Gregoire also proposed:

• Elimination of the Basic Health Plan, which now offers subsidized health insurance to 66,000 low-income individuals. This saves $230 million in state funds and $117 million in federal funds.

• Elimination of the Disability Lifeline grant for the temporarily unemployable, which serves 28,000 individuals each month, and the Disability Lifeline Medical Program, which serves 21,000 clients each year who have a temporary disability and are unable to work. This saves $327 million.

• Suspension of the Student Achievement Program under Initiative 728, which provides smaller class sizes, extended learning time for students and professional development for teachers. This saves $860 million.

• Suspension of employee salary increases under Initiative 732 for K-12 and higher education teachers and other employees. This saves $280 million.

• Elimination of K-4 class-size reduction funds provided to school districts that exceed the state’s basic education allocation. This saves $216 million.

• Reduction of 3 percent in compensation for state employees. This saves $176 million in state funds and $269 million in all funds.

• Elimination of state general fund dollars for State Parks. This saves $47 million.

Here are further explanations about the effects the Governor’s budget would have on WDFW:

Reduce Operation Costs for New Lands
An ongoing reduction is made for the maintenance of approximately 28,000 acres of land recently acquired by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Charge Fees for State Lands Access
Agency request legislation is proposed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish a new Explore Washington Pass for admission to lands managed by DFW and DNR. The pass will generate revenue for DFW and DNR to manage recreation lands. Revenue will be distributed equally between DNR’s Park Land Trust Revolving Account and DFW’s State Wildlife Account. The amount authorized in the State Wildlife Account will allow DFW to maintain roads, trails, gates, fences, and signs. DFW will also direct additional resources towards safety management and enforcement on its lands. (General Fund-State, State Wildlife Account-State)

Extend Aquatic Invasives Fee
The Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) is responsible for all aquatic invasive species checkpoints and development of management plans in the state. The $1.50 fee on watercraft registrations to fund these activities expires on June 30, 2012. Agency request legislation proposed by DFW and the Department of Ecology removes the sunset date. Funding is increased on an ongoing basis to match anticipated fee revenue. (Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Account-State)

Reduce Back-Office Functions
As part of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 10 percent General Fund-State reductions, several back-office positions are eliminated: an accounting position, a position in the director’s office, a receptionist, fleet manager, and an administrative assistant in the Habitat Program. Other cuts include reducing purchasing and contracts and eliminating vehicle replacement for the 2011 13 biennium. The $128,000 vehicle replacement reduction is a one-time reduction while all other reductions are ongoing.

Transfer Enforcement to Fish and Wildlife
Pursuant to executive request legislation consolidating natural resource agencies, funding and FTE staff are increased to reflect the transfer of the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) eight law enforcement officers into the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) Enforcement Division, effective July 1, 2012. This will lead to greater enforcement presence on state trust lands and greater enforcement presence during hunting and fishing seasons. DNR and DFW will enter into an interagency agreement to reconcile payment of costs stemming from increased enforcement on state trust lands.

Reduce Salmonid Recovery Technical Assistance
This reduction eliminates 10 percent of statewide technical assistance provided to nine local governments and 11 non-government organizations (Salmon Recovery Board, conservation districts, and volunteer groups). This will eliminate or slow salmon recovery efforts across the state. Local project sponsors’ ability to secure funding for recovery work will also be reduced as the quality of applications may suffer due to the loss of expert biological input, making grant applications less competitive.

Eliminate Dangerous Wildlife Specialist
This reduction eliminates the dangerous wildlife specialist in western Washington, where the emphasis of the work is on education and proactive engagement with local communities. The ability for the Department of Fish and Wildlife to engage with local communities and stakeholders will significantly diminish as will the agency’s ability to respond to complaints about bears and cougars.

Reduce DFW Enforcement Officers
Funding is reduced for fish and wildlife enforcement by 5 percent, resulting in the elimination of two officer positions.

Natural Resources Consolidation
Pursuant to executive request legislation consolidating natural resource agencies, funding and FTE staff are decreased to reflect the transfer of the Department of Fish and Wildlife to the new Department of Conservation and Recreation, effective July 1, 2012. (General Fund-State, Various Other Accounts)

Charge Fees for Hydraulic Permits
Hydraulic Project Approvals (HPAs) ensure that construction activities are protective of fish and shellfish resources of the state. Unlike most state permitting programs, HPAs are currently issued without charge to the recipient. Agency request legislation is proposed to charge fees for HPAs sufficient to replace 80 percent of the General Fund-State costs of administering the HPA program. Additionally, the legislation will streamline the permitting process and improve on-the ground implementation of permit requirements, leading to a reduction in staffing levels. Finally, expenditure authority is shifted on an ongoing basis from the General Fund-State to the newly established HPA Account. (General Fund-State, Hydraulic Project Approval Account-State)

Conduct Critical Asset Maintenance
The maintenance budget for the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s facilities is increased on an ongoing basis to partially reduce the estimated $13.3 million deferred maintenance backlog, reduce future capital budget requests for repairs and replacement of assets that are unusable, create utility efficiencies, and provide safe facilities for staff and the public. (State Wildlife Account-State)

Increase Hunting and Fishing License Fees

The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s largest source of state funding, the State Wildlife Account, is facing a structural deficit due to the June 30, 2011 expiration of a temporary 10 percent surcharge on license fees instituted by the Legislature in 2009. Agency request legislation is proposed to increase most hunting and fishing license fees, create commercial fishing license application fees, and increase personalized license plate initial registration and renewal fees. Expenditure authority is shifted to reflect the transfer of existing recreational shellfish license revenue and recreational adult saltwater fishing license revenue from the General Fund to the State Wildlife Account. Additionally, new commercial license application fees will offset General Fund costs of $1 million per biennium for issuing those licenses. (General Fund-State, State Wildlife Account-State)

Reduce Winter Elk Feeding
This one-time 50 percent reduction to the winter elk feeding budget will result in the continued closure of the West Valley or Tieton feeding site through the 2011-13 biennium. This site is adjacent to private land and orchards, and is currently fenced to keep elk out of the orchards. The loss of this winter feeding site increases the risk of elk damage to the private orchards.

Reduce Habitat Research
The Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) conducts ecological integrity and habitat research, and monitoring on DFW-owned lands. This one-time reduction eliminates funding for a project to improve forest habitats to benefit wildlife in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area and reduces habitat research and monitoring activities on other DFW lands throughout the state.

Eliminate Aquatic Education Activities
Two aquatic education programs, Angler Education and Salmon in the Classroom, integrate strong messages about aquatic species, scientific inquiry, fish habitat, wetlands, estuaries and local stream protection, ethical use and resource conservation. As an ongoing reduction, these programs are eliminated.

Reduce Fish Management Capabilities
This ongoing reduction eliminates two fish and wildlife biologist positions and a part-time administrative support position. This reduction may cause a delay of one to two years in the completion of regional steelhead management plans. It may also result in lost fishing opportunities due to more conservative management of resident warmwater and trout species in certain lowland lakes. Reduced staffing will eliminate work to evaluate chinook and coho salmon release strategies from south Puget Sound hatcheries, and will also create a delay in the ability to respond to external inquiries and fish management concerns, reducing stakeholder satisfaction.

Absorb Higher Unemployment Costs
The Department of Fish and Wildlife uses hundreds of seasonal employees, primarily to assist fish hatcheries when fish are returning to or leaving the facilities and to monitor fish and wildlife populations. As a result of the economic downturn, these seasonal employees have not found work during the offseason, and have drawn unemployment. This has increased the agency’s unemployment costs by 50 percent. The agency absorbed these higher costs in the current biennium and will continue to do so on a one-time basis during the 2011-13 biennium.

Reduce Hatchery Operations
The Department of Fish and Wildlife operates 80 hatcheries across Washington State. This reduction to hatchery operations will cut costs such as seasonal personnel, office supplies, and vehicle fuel.

It’s not a done deal, of course. Lawmakers will produce their own budgets as the Legislature convenes in January, and everything will have to be reconciled before any of this goes into effect around the middle of next year.

Early Reaction To WDFW-Parks Merger

December 15, 2010

The Fish & Wildlife Commission would remain, but only in an advisory role, and the governor would appoint the head of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

That according to press reports after Gov. Gregoire yesterday announced her proposal to fold the Department of Fish & Wildlife, State Parks and Recreation Commission, Recreation and Conservation Office and Department off Natural Resources’ law enforcement wing into a new agency.

The Legislature must first sign off on the idea during the upcoming session.

We got a few immediate quotes out of WDFW deputy director Joe Stohr and the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Tony Floor about the plan — which according to the governor’s office is part of a wider agency consolidation that would save $30 million over the next two years –but this morning there are comments from others who would be affected by the proposed merger.

Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review blogged about Commissioner George Orr’s response:

“It’s hard on my ego to say I don’t’ think we need smart guys like me to write policy. But the governor’s trying to make ends meet in tough times. For now, it probably makes sense.”

“People say they want to keep political decisions out of fish and wildlife management. But the reality is that politics enter into just about every decision we make.”

Jordan Schrader of The News Tribune of Tacoma reports that state parks commission chairman Fred Olson, speaking for himself, reacted “favorably of the recreation-agencies merger, saying it deserved a serious look.”

“I think there’s a lot to be said for the current structure, but you know what? It’s not the only way to do business. Having more direct control over these agencies by a governor also makes a lot of sense.”

The issue is also being debated at Piscatorial Pursuits and Hunting Washington.

And this afternoon, Dave Workman, a longtime Washington hunting and fishing writer and state game agency watcher, posted a fiery column on the subject:

Under Gregoire’s proposal, the Fish & Wildlife Commission will be reduced to the role of an “advisory panel.” So, who would set the hunting and fishing seasons? Gregoire? A member of her staff? The wildlife director? Maybe she’ll just turn that job over to the Defenders of Wildlife, which places more emphasis on wolf welfare than on the consumptive hunting opportunities of people who pay the freight for wildlife management: the hunters, themselves.

Right now, with the state in a budget pit big enough to swallow Mount Rainier, hunters may not be too keen on any notion of merging the one agency that is supposed to address their needs and activities, with several other agencies that may be inclined to treat them like unwanted house guests.

WDFW To Merge To New DCR?

December 14, 2010

UPDATE UPDATED 4:30 P.M. 12-14-10: WDFW would be merged into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation under a plan unveiled today by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

She says that consolidating the Department of Fish & Wildlife into a superagency with the State Parks and Recreation Commission, Recreation and Conservation Office and the Department of Natural Resources’ law enforcement arm — along with reducing the number of other state bureaus from 21 to nine — would save around $30 million over the next two years.

“Out of necessity, our budget will be dominated by painful cuts as we balance a $4.6 billion shortfall,” Gregoire said in a press release. “To help offset that shortfall, we must put forward to the Legislature transformative ideas. I intend to do just that, and appreciate the thousands of suggestions submitted by Washingtonians, along with the work of our state’s Transforming Washington’s Budget committee – who spent months developing and proposing many of these strategies.”

Joe Stohr, WDFW’s deputy director, indicated he was “not surprised” by today’s announcement, pointing out that officials are looking for ways to make state government more efficient and leaner during these tough economic times.

“I think we’re supportive of exploring this idea for all those reasons,” Stohr says.

He says WDFW heard worries from sportsmen about the potential dilution of the agency’s mission, and adds that staffers would like to sit down with Gregoire’s office to talk about the assumptions behind her proposal.

Tony Floor, fishing affairs director of the Northwest Marine Trade Association in Seattle, notes it’s not the first time word of a potential merger has come out, and predicted a lot of tinkering by the Legislature.

“Our leadership is not lighting our hair on fire and we look forward to participating in a process that is good for the department, the natural resources under its authority and sport fishing in our state,” Floor said in an email.

(OFFICE OF FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT)

Last session, a state Senate committee had proposed folding WDFW as well as State Parks into the Department of Natural Resources through SB 6813, but outcry from sportsmen helped head that off.

Still, WDFW Director Phil Anderson earlier this year warned that it would be looked at again this session as lawmakers and Gregoire attempt to balance the budget.

Gregoire is also proposing to eliminate 36 boards and commissions and move appointment authority for 16 boards from the Governor’s office to state agencies.

“While these boards were created with good intentions, they take time and resources to manage, which we can no longer afford,” she said.

Doing so would save over $7.4 million during the next biennium, according to her office.

It’s unclear exactly what would happen to the Fish & Wildlife Commission (a spokesperson for the Governor has yet to call us back), but Stohr says it would be combined with the state parks commission, and would function in an advisory role with a reduced rule- and policy-setting role.

A PDF from the Governor’s office on the consolidation argues:

Washington state now operates 11 agencies with a role in managing natural resources. This organizational structure is needlessly complex, inefficient and confusing to the public. The Governor continues her campaign for natural resources reform in this phase 2 proposal, ranked highly by the Transforming Washington’s Budget Committee, to consolidate our natural resource agencies and programs into five primary, function-based organizations: fish/wildlife/parks, ecology, agriculture, natural resources and Puget Sound restoration. This will reduce General Fund spending by $2.5 million and 13.5 employees in the second year of the biennium.

This consolidation has a clear purpose: to manage and conserve our natural resources in a period of high expectations and limited resources. The Governor’s proposed organizational model moves us out of silo-based management to simplified management based on functions and accountability to:

»» Create a simpler, more functional and accountable structure.

»» Save some money now and set up for long-term savings by more efficiently using limited funds.

»» Build on last year’s consolidation of eight environmental appeals boards to three, which saves money and maintains key services.

“We’ll try and figure out how to make it work if directed to by the legislature,” says Stohr.

Tomorrow, Gregoire unveils her budget proposal; Stohr anticipates a cut of around $20 million to WDFW’s General Fund.

“Stay tuned, it’s going to be a roller coaster ride through this session,” he adds.

One thing lawmakers might consider: If they do merge WDFW and the others, how about at least calling the agency Washington Fish, Wildlife & Parks — that’s far snappier (and takes up less space on the printed page) than Washington Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Hey, Let’s Go Shoot Us A Pet Deer!

December 14, 2010

Late yesterday afternoon, while working on a story about a poacher who may have killed more than 100 big-game animals (he reportedly pled guilty to five), I asked a game warden what the hell was wrong with people.

“The answer you seek is best answered by a psychologist,” came the reply.

With that I dove into the latest newsletter from the Oregon State Police’s Fish & Wildlife Division, and now suspect that not even psychologists could help me — or the accused.

Take the trophy lust that last September led to the deaths of 7×10, 7×6 and 6×6 bull elk, each of which comes with a $15,000 fine and a three-year-to-lifetime hunting license revocations if the suspects are found guilty.

The biggest was allegedly shot on a Northeast Oregon ranch and scored 370+, according to OSP. They cited a suspect in Hermiston for Taking Branched Antlered Elk Closed Season (Rifle), Waste of a Game Mammal, Criminal Trespass II, and Hunting on the Enclosed Lands of Another while his father was ticketed for  Criminal Trespass II and Hunting on the Enclosed Lands of Another.

ALLEGEDLY POACHED 7X10 BULL ELK. (OREGON STATE POLICE)

On the fishing front, there’s the asshat who bagged a whopping six citations for allegedly snagging Chinook on the Clackamas. He was hit with:

Exceeding Daily Catch Limit of Chinook Salmon

Borrowing a Harvest Card

Continuing to Angle After Catching a Daily Limit of Chinook Salmon

Unlawful Take of Chinook Salmon—Snagging x 2

Aiding in a Wildlife Violation

Fail To Immediately Validate Harvest Card

Good show, Billy Bob, finally topped your momma’s record!

His pair of pards that day rang up a total of five more citations, and two other Clacka-clowns racked up four apiece as well.

Then there’s the woman on a public pier in Newport who, when approached by Senior Trooper Carla Urbigkeit, allegedly tried to flush a grocery bag full of crabs down the toilet. Who knows how many the harbormaster had to suck out of the pipes, but the woman and her getaway driver allegedly had a cooler with 81 Dungeness — of which all but two were illegal to keep because of size and sex restrictions.

Over on Big Creek, desperate poachers tried to catch Chinook with, err, rocks and “long aluminum poles with treble hooks taped to the ends.”

Down on the Salmon River, some guy spotted trying to get a “boat bite” going for shore anglers by zipping around the hole was cited for harassing wildlife while numerous anglers up and down the coast were allegedly caught with wild coho. Back on the Clackamas, one person tried some freelance adipose fin surgery on a native silver; he was cited for unlawful possession as well as lack of a 2010 angling tag.

In Central Oregon, a pair of “heavily armed and intoxicated subjects” were stopped after allegedly driving around and shooting small squirrels from their vehicles.

But perhaps the most boneheaded stunts the September newsletter talks about are the yo-yos who decided to go “hunting” for bucks in the ‘burbs. To wit:

LET’S SHOOT US A PET DEER!

Tpr. Stone (Roseburg) cited a Sutherlin man for Hunting Prohibited Area (inside city limits), while Sutherlin PD cited a juvenile subject for Criminal Trespass.

Several neighbors observed the subjects hunting essentially “pet” deer in their yards without permission, until they claimed to have wounded a buck then asked permission to retrieve it.

Both subjects were not honest about the events, and a wounded deer was not found. The adult lost 12 arrows over a two-day period.

GONNA GET ME ONE OF THOSE TOWNIE SPIKE BUCKS!

Tpr. O’Connor (Astoria) received a tip that a subject shot a deer with a bow within the city limits of Warrenton.

O’Connor spoke to neighbors, and one reported a subject contacted them indicating he had a deer down on their property and asked for permission to retrieve it. O’Connor and Sr. Tpr. Klepp (Astoria) contacted the suspect. The suspect admitted to shooting the deer within the city limits.

The troopers cited the suspect for Hunting/Take of Deer Closed Area—Within Incorporated City Limits and seized the spike deer head and several packages of deer meat.

I THINK I GOT A SHOT AT ‘IM FROM THE BACK PORCH

Sr. Tpr. Love (Bend) assisted Bend PD with three subjects who shot two bucks in the city limits. The three subjects shot two large bucks feeding in their backyard with bows.

The bucks ran onto neighboring properties, and the homeowners called police. Bend PD turned the case over to Love who cited the subjects for Taking Deer Closed Area—Within City Limits and seized the archery equipment and deer.

I WUZ JUST TRYIN’ TO GET THE BUCK I WOUNDED ELSEWHERE, OFFICER

While working the Hoodoo area, Sgt. Martin (Springfield) received a report of a subject who shot a deer within the city limits of Sisters with a bow, loaded the deer, and fled on Hwy 20.

When contacted, the driver admitted to shooting the deer within the city limits, but he stated he wounded it earlier and wanted to recover it.

Martin cited the suspect for Unlawful Taking of Deer within City Limits and seized and donated the four-point buck to the Eugene Mission. Sr. Tpr. McCool (Patrol) and Black Butte PD Officer Lane assisted.

I THINK I GOT A SHOT AT ‘IM FROM THE FRONT PORCH

Sr. Tpr. Bean (Gilchrist) assisted Deschutes County SO with a complaint of a subject who shot a deer inside the city limits of La Pine.

When Bean arrived, the deer was still in the back of the suspect’s vehicle. The resident shot the buck in his own front yard with a bow. Bean cited him for Hunting within the City Limits.

poaching 

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Cenci, Mike (DFW)
I rewrote some of this, no way to make it a short story. Thought you might wa…
Dec 10 (4 days ago)
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Cenci, Mike (DFW)

to andy

show details 4:56 PM (15 hours ago)

Zero tribal link – and the answer you seek is best answered by a psychologist …………….but it may have something to do with being sick in the head.

From: Andy Walgamott [mailto:awalgamott@media-inc.com]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 4:54 PM

– Show quoted text –
To: Cenci, Mike (DFW)
Subject: Re: poaching
– Show quoted text –

 

What the hell is wrong with people?!?

Any tribal link whatsoever?

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 4:53 PM, Cenci, Mike (DFW) <Mike.Cenci@dfw.wa.gov> wrote:

For the most part, he took the heads, and after he brought them home, he decided whether they measured up to trophy and retention potential. If not, then they were discarded in the pond. Meat was sometimes taken, but generally, he was just interested in killing. He is from Grays Harbor………will check on town and age – but is in his 20’s.

From: Andy Walgamott [mailto:awalgamott@media-inc.com]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 4:37 PM


To: Cenci, Mike (DFW)
Subject: Re: poaching

 

And what did Stearns do with the animals he poached? Meat? Trophy heads? Just wasted them?

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 4:21 PM, Andy Walgamott <awalgamott@media-inc.com> wrote:

Do you have an age and hometown for this perp?

 

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 4:02 PM, Cenci, Mike (DFW) <Mike.Cenci@dfw.wa.gov> wrote:

Grappling hook. Here’ another one fresh from the field:

WDFW Police participated in a joint operation with Oregon State Police that was planned and coordinated by Officer Horn.  Operation “Guiding Light” was the culmination of a two month long joint investigation between WDFW and OSP into a local, unlicensed fishing guide whom Officer Horn had learned about from an anonymous source. In addition to the illegal guiding operation, the suspect was perpetrated in several big game hunting violations.  The operation centered around two undercover officers participating in a guided fishing trip on the Columbia River above McNary Dam.  Support teams included a marked patrol vessel on the water observing the fishermen, a take-down team standing by at the boat launch and multiple interview teams conducting simultaneous door knocks at different locations.  The operation went smoothly resulting in the suspect admitting to guiding for game fish on the Columbia River without a license or coast guard certificate.  At that point, the investigation quickly transitioned to the possible big game hunting violations.  A full confession was obtained regarding multiple unlawfully harvested deer and elk in Columbia and Chelan counties.  Multiple subjects were interviewed in connection with the case resulting in evidence and statements implicating the suspect and additional suspects being identified.  Due to a past history of big game violations, several of the recent big game charges will be filed as felonies.   Approximately 20-25 fishing and hunting violations will be referred on multiple subjects to the Prosecutor’s Office in Benton, Columbia and Chelan Counties for consideration of charges.  Oregon State Police and WDFW Police often collaborate on investigations involving violations in our border country.

From: Andy Walgamott [mailto:awalgamott@media-inc.com]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 3:32 PM


To: Cenci, Mike (DFW)
Subject: Re: poaching

 

So how did “Officer James and Alexander searched a local pond” — with scuba gear or just wading around?

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 3:14 PM, Cenci, Mike (DFW) <Mike.Cenci@dfw.wa.gov> wrote:

Yes – it’s part of the submission

From: Andy Walgamott [mailto:awalgamott@media-inc.com]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 3:05 PM
To: Cenci, Mike (DFW)
Subject: Re: poaching

 

Mike, Are you sending that to The Reel News for their Jan issue?

On Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 9:49 PM, Cenci, Mike (DFW) <Mike.Cenci@dfw.wa.gov> wrote:

I rewrote some of this, no way to make it a short story. Thought you might want to use it. No one has it yet.

Poachers Killing Spree Ends With Jail: In October of 2006-WDFW Sgt. Nixon and Officer James receive independent information from informants that James Cody Stearns and Johnny Boggs poached an elk in the Charlie Creek area with modern firearm during Muzzle loader season and that none of the Stearns are muzzle loaders.  Honest sportsmen had been telling us these guys were problems for a long time, and we finally caught up with them. This was the first of several cases concerning Cody Stearns over the course of several years.

ELK INVESTIGATION: Sgt. Nixon and Officer James located poached elk remains off the Charlie Creek Main line and processed the evidence.  Officer James contacted the Stearns at their residence and checked the elk.  Officer James is told that Cody’s mother Tina killed the elk and he notices a muzzle loader tag on the animal.  While discussing the elk with Tina, Officer James learns the elk was killed at approximately 1200 hours and was told that her son Cody and his friend Johnny Boggs helped drag the animal out and processed it.  After exhaustive investigation of the case, Officer James was able to obtain a search warrant of the Stearns’ residence based on Tina’s statement of killing the elk around noon and documented evidence that she purchased the tag around 4:00 P.M. later that same day.

The search warrant was successful, the elk recovered, two firearms forfeited, and officers obtained confessions from Cody Stearns, Johnny Boggs and Tina Stearns of their involvement in the poaching.  The statements from the subjects determined that Stearns and friend Johnny Boggs killed the elk in the early afternoon of the Muzzle loader season while “Bear Hunting”, and then called Cody’s mother Tina who obtained a Muzzle loader tag to cover the elk.  All suspects were convicted of the poaching; Cody and Tina Stearns had their hunting privileges revoked for their participation in the unlawful purchase and use of the tag.  Cody was indignant throughout the case and showed no remorse for the poaching, only that he was caught.

DEER POACHING NOVEMBER , 2006: In November of 2006, Officer James assisted Officer Jeff Wickersham with a deer poaching in the North River area.  Officer Wickersham developed information that Cody Stearns and E.J. Bates had illegally killed a deer and left it to waste in a landowner’s field.  Officer Wickersham was able to obtain a warrant for a rifle matching the .243 round found at the scene.  Officer James and other officers assisted Officer Wickersham in the recovery and eventual forfeiture of the rifle.  Stearns was not charged with hunting while revoked due to the revocation not being imposed as the previous elk case was still in the court system at the time of the deer poaching, less than a month after the elk poaching.  Cody was eventually revoked from obtaining any hunting licenses for two years until May 22, 2009.

DEER POACHING OCTOBER, 2008: In October of 2008, Officer James received information from Ocean Shores Police regarding their contact and arrest of Cody Stearns and Joel Shaw hunting within the city limits of Ocean Shores in Grays Harbor County.  The Officer contacted Stearns and Shaw who admitted to spotlighting deer.  Stearns at the time had been convicted of a felony and was under a department hunting revocation.  In the Ocean Shores Police report, Officer James noticed there was a brief reference to blood and deer hair in the back of the truck, which was explained away by Shaw by claiming it was his girlfriends deer she got earlier in the day.  Officer James and Sgt. Nixon followed the case up with an interview of Shaw.

Shaw explained he and Stearns had taken his girlfriend hunting that day and helped her get a deer somewhere in the East Humtulips area.  Shaw showed officers the head from the deer and his girlfriends tag.  Through further interviewing Shaw described how Stearns had directed him and his girlfriend to the Humptulips area inside the 3200 road closure and how Stearns participated in the killing of the deer.  The deer head was confiscated and a new investigation was opened on Stearns for hunting while revoked.  Stearns was eventually charged and found guilty in a jury trial to “Hunting while revoked, and Felony Possession of a Firearm” and sentenced to Nine months in Grays Harbor County Jail along with a $2,000 Civil Wildlife Penalty and court costs.

Officer James continued his investigation into Stearns involvement with the killing of a Cougar Shaw was bragging about killing in September.  Shaw said Stearns was with him hunting at the time, but did not kill it because he did not have a shot on the cat.  Further investigation revealed Shaw’s Cougar tag was purchased after killing the cat and Officer James obtained a warrant to search Shaw’s residence.  The warrant produced several significant evidence items including the confession of Shaws participation and involvement with several elk slaughtered in the North River GMU.  Shaw eventually confessed to hunting with Stearns over the past few months, while Stearns was revoked, and killing several deer, elk, bear, and a cougar.  The warrant provided several photographs of Stearns with multiple deer heads, bear, and the Cougar Shaw earlier claimed he had killed.  While investigating this case Officer James received information in January of 2009 regarding Stearns being arrested for driving while drivers license revoked in Cosmopolis, Wa Grays Harbor County.

Officer James obtained a copy of the arrest report and observed an admission by Stearns and his accomplice Levi Stevens to the investigating officer that they were on their way home from hunting in the North River area.  Officer James followed up the information by contacting the investigating officer and obtained Stearns’ vehicle description and license number.  Based on other investigative facts, Officer James spent several weeks tracking Stearns hunting activities in various locations of Grays Harbor County.  In March, after exhaustive investigation, Officer James was able to organize several officers and arrest Stearns while in the field actively hunting in the Humptulips area.  Stearns was arrested and booked into jail for Felony weapons and hunting violations.

Officer James continued his earlier hunting investigations against Stearns and was able to gain the assistance of Shaw in locating several remains of the deer Stearns killed or assisted in the killing of over the past year.  Officer James and Alexander searched a local pond used by Stearns to discard the heads of his illegal animals and retrieved several deer and elk heads as well as bear parts described as illegally taken by Shaw.  Officer James completed his investigation and provided Grays Harbor Prosecutors with a case in which Stearns was involved in the illegal killing of more than twenty big game animals.

Based on the strength of the case and evidence provided and to avoid being charged for another felony weapons violation, Stearns plead guilty to five Gross Misdemeanors in the poaching of five deer as well as other violations in November, 2010.  Stearns was sentenced to one year in jail for each count, court costs, and assessed $10,000 dollars in Fish and Wildlife civil penalties.  Stearns has since been revoked from hunting for life by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.    Although unable to develop probable cause, it is suspected that Stearns has been involved with the taking of well over a hundred big game animals over the past few years.  Much credit needs to be given to the team work involved in the lengthy investigation by WDFW officers in Detachment 2.  This case was hard fought and it took a total team effort in the successful investigation and prosecution of Stearns, whom most likely will continue to poach in the future.

 

 


Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Twitter: NWSportsman
Wordpress: Northwest Sportsman

Support your LOCAL hunting and fishing magazine!

 


Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Twitter: NWSportsman
Wordpress: Northwest Sportsman

Support your LOCAL hunting and fishing magazine!

 


Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Twitter: NWSportsman
Wordpress: Northwest Sportsman

Support your LOCAL hunting and fishing magazine!

 


Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Twitter: NWSportsman
Wordpress: Northwest Sportsman

Support your LOCAL hunting and fishing magazine!

 


Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Twitter: NWSportsman
Wordpress: Northwest Sportsman

Support your LOCAL hunting and fishing magazine!

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Cenci, Mike (DFW)

to andy

show details 4:59 PM (15 hours ago)

The heads were peripherally important…………the evidence was essentially mounted through co-defendant and suspect admissions. When he was taken down the last time, it was because of superior surveillance techniques and the use of technology. The pond is unnamed, but will get a location

From: Andy Walgamott [mailto:awalgamott@media-inc.com]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 4:56 PM

– Show quoted text –
To: Cenci, Mike (DFW)
Subject: Re: poaching
– Show quoted text –

 

Did your guys pulling heads out of pond basically make the case here (i.e. the physical evidence? And what’s the name of the pond?

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 4:53 PM, Cenci, Mike (DFW) <Mike.Cenci@dfw.wa.gov> wrote:

For the most part, he took the heads, and after he brought them home, he decided whether they measured up to trophy and retention potential. If not, then they were discarded in the pond. Meat was sometimes taken, but generally, he was just interested in killing. He is from Grays Harbor………will check on town and age – but is in his 20’s.

From: Andy Walgamott [mailto:awalgamott@media-inc.com]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 4:37 PM


To: Cenci, Mike (DFW)
Subject: Re: poaching

 

And what did Stearns do with the animals he poached? Meat? Trophy heads? Just wasted them?

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 4:21 PM, Andy Walgamott <awalgamott@media-inc.com> wrote:

Do you have an age and hometown for this perp?

 

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 4:02 PM, Cenci, Mike (DFW) <Mike.Cenci@dfw.wa.gov> wrote:

Grappling hook. Here’ another one fresh from the field:

WDFW Police participated in a joint operation with Oregon State Police that was planned and coordinated by Officer Horn.  Operation “Guiding Light” was the culmination of a two month long joint investigation between WDFW and OSP into a local, unlicensed fishing guide whom Officer Horn had learned about from an anonymous source. In addition to the illegal guiding operation, the suspect was perpetrated in several big game hunting violations.  The operation centered around two undercover officers participating in a guided fishing trip on the Columbia River above McNary Dam.  Support teams included a marked patrol vessel on the water observing the fishermen, a take-down team standing by at the boat launch and multiple interview teams conducting simultaneous door knocks at different locations.  The operation went smoothly resulting in the suspect admitting to guiding for game fish on the Columbia River without a license or coast guard certificate.  At that point, the investigation quickly transitioned to the possible big game hunting violations.  A full confession was obtained regarding multiple unlawfully harvested deer and elk in Columbia and Chelan counties.  Multiple subjects were interviewed in connection with the case resulting in evidence and statements implicating the suspect and additional suspects being identified.  Due to a past history of big game violations, several of the recent big game charges will be filed as felonies.   Approximately 20-25 fishing and hunting violations will be referred on multiple subjects to the Prosecutor’s Office in Benton, Columbia and Chelan Counties for consideration of charges.  Oregon State Police and WDFW Police often collaborate on investigations involving violations in our border country.

From: Andy Walgamott [mailto:awalgamott@media-inc.com]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 3:32 PM


To: Cenci, Mike (DFW)
Subject: Re: poaching

 

So how did “Officer James and Alexander searched a local pond” — with scuba gear or just wading around?

On Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 3:14 PM, Cenci, Mike (DFW) <Mike.Cenci@dfw.wa.gov> wrote:

Yes – it’s part of the submission

From: Andy Walgamott [mailto:awalgamott@media-inc.com]
Sent: Monday, December 13, 2010 3:05 PM
To: Cenci, Mike (DFW)
Subject: Re: poaching

 

Mike, Are you sending that to The Reel News for their Jan issue?

On Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 9:49 PM, Cenci, Mike (DFW) <Mike.Cenci@dfw.wa.gov> wrote:

I rewrote some of this, no way to make it a short story. Thought you might want to use it. No one has it yet.

Poachers Killing Spree Ends With Jail: In October of 2006-WDFW Sgt. Nixon and Officer James receive independent information from informants that James Cody Stearns and Johnny Boggs poached an elk in the Charlie Creek area with modern firearm during Muzzle loader season and that none of the Stearns are muzzle loaders.  Honest sportsmen had been telling us these guys were problems for a long time, and we finally caught up with them. This was the first of several cases concerning Cody Stearns over the course of several years.

ELK INVESTIGATION: Sgt. Nixon and Officer James located poached elk remains off the Charlie Creek Main line and processed the evidence.  Officer James contacted the Stearns at their residence and checked the elk.  Officer James is told that Cody’s mother Tina killed the elk and he notices a muzzle loader tag on the animal.  While discussing the elk with Tina, Officer James learns the elk was killed at approximately 1200 hours and was told that her son Cody and his friend Johnny Boggs helped drag the animal out and processed it.  After exhaustive investigation of the case, Officer James was able to obtain a search warrant of the Stearns’ residence based on Tina’s statement of killing the elk around noon and documented evidence that she purchased the tag around 4:00 P.M. later that same day.

The search warrant was successful, the elk recovered, two firearms forfeited, and officers obtained confessions from Cody Stearns, Johnny Boggs and Tina Stearns of their involvement in the poaching.  The statements from the subjects determined that Stearns and friend Johnny Boggs killed the elk in the early afternoon of the Muzzle loader season while “Bear Hunting”, and then called Cody’s mother Tina who obtained a Muzzle loader tag to cover the elk.  All suspects were convicted of the poaching; Cody and Tina Stearns had their hunting privileges revoked for their participation in the unlawful purchase and use of the tag.  Cody was indignant throughout the case and showed no remorse for the poaching, only that he was caught.

DEER POACHING NOVEMBER , 2006: In November of 2006, Officer James assisted Officer Jeff Wickersham with a deer poaching in the North River area.  Officer Wickersham developed information that Cody Stearns and E.J. Bates had illegally killed a deer and left it to waste in a landowner’s field.  Officer Wickersham was able to obtain a warrant for a rifle matching the .243 round found at the scene.  Officer James and other officers assisted Officer Wickersham in the recovery and eventual forfeiture of the rifle.  Stearns was not charged with hunting while revoked due to the revocation not being imposed as the previous elk case was still in the court system at the time of the deer poaching, less than a month after the elk poaching.  Cody was eventually revoked from obtaining any hunting licenses for two years until May 22, 2009.

DEER POACHING OCTOBER, 2008: In October of 2008, Officer James received information from Ocean Shores Police regarding their contact and arrest of Cody Stearns and Joel Shaw hunting within the city limits of Ocean Shores in Grays Harbor County.  The Officer contacted Stearns and Shaw who admitted to spotlighting deer.  Stearns at the time had been convicted of a felony and was under a department hunting revocation.  In the Ocean Shores Police report, Officer James noticed there was a brief reference to blood and deer hair in the back of the truck, which was explained away by Shaw by claiming it was his girlfriends deer she got earlier in the day.  Officer James and Sgt. Nixon followed the case up with an interview of Shaw.

Shaw explained he and Stearns had taken his girlfriend hunting that day and helped her get a deer somewhere in the East Humtulips area.  Shaw showed officers the head from the deer and his girlfriends tag.  Through further interviewing Shaw described how Stearns had directed him and his girlfriend to the Humptulips area inside the 3200 road closure and how Stearns participated in the killing of the deer.  The deer head was confiscated and a new investigation was opened on Stearns for hunting while revoked.  Stearns was eventually charged and found guilty in a jury trial to “Hunting while revoked, and Felony Possession of a Firearm” and sentenced to Nine months in Grays Harbor County Jail along with a $2,000 Civil Wildlife Penalty and court costs.

Officer James continued his investigation into Stearns involvement with the killing of a Cougar Shaw was bragging about killing in September.  Shaw said Stearns was with him hunting at the time, but did not kill it because he did not have a shot on the cat.  Further investigation revealed Shaw’s Cougar tag was purchased after killing the cat and Officer James obtained a warrant to search Shaw’s residence.  The warrant produced several significant evidence items including the confession of Shaws participation and involvement with several elk slaughtered in the North River GMU.  Shaw eventually confessed to hunting with Stearns over the past few months, while Stearns was revoked, and killing several deer, elk, bear, and a cougar.  The warrant provided several photographs of Stearns with multiple deer heads, bear, and the Cougar Shaw earlier claimed he had killed.  While investigating this case Officer James received information in January of 2009 regarding Stearns being arrested for driving while drivers license revoked in Cosmopolis, Wa Grays Harbor County.

Officer James obtained a copy of the arrest report and observed an admission by Stearns and his accomplice Levi Stevens to the investigating officer that they were on their way home from hunting in the North River area.  Officer James followed up the information by contacting the investigating officer and obtained Stearns’ vehicle description and license number.  Based on other investigative facts, Officer James spent several weeks tracking Stearns hunting activities in various locations of Grays Harbor County.  In March, after exhaustive investigation, Officer James was able to organize several officers and arrest Stearns while in the field actively hunting in the Humptulips area.  Stearns was arrested and booked into jail for Felony weapons and hunting violations.

Officer James continued his earlier hunting investigations against Stearns and was able to gain the assistance of Shaw in locating several remains of the deer Stearns killed or assisted in the killing of over the past year.  Officer James and Alexander searched a local pond used by Stearns to discard the heads of his illegal animals and retrieved several deer and elk heads as well as bear parts described as illegally taken by Shaw.  Officer James completed his investigation and provided Grays Harbor Prosecutors with a case in which Stearns was involved in the illegal killing of more than twenty big game animals.

Based on the strength of the case and evidence provided and to avoid being charged for another felony weapons violation, Stearns plead guilty to five Gross Misdemeanors in the poaching of five deer as well as other violations in November, 2010.  Stearns was sentenced to one year in jail for each count, court costs, and assessed $10,000 dollars in Fish and Wildlife civil penalties.  Stearns has since been revoked from hunting for life by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.    Although unable to develop probable cause, it is suspected that Stearns has been involved with the taking of well over a hundred big game animals over the past few years.  Much credit needs to be given to the team work involved in the lengthy investigation by WDFW officers in Detachment 2.  This case was hard fought and it took a total team effort in the successful investigation and prosecution of Stearns, whom most likely will continue to poach in the future.

 

 


Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
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Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Twitter: NWSportsman
Wordpress: Northwest Sportsman

Support your LOCAL hunting and fishing magazine!

 


Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Twitter: NWSportsman
Wordpress: Northwest Sportsman

Support your LOCAL hunting and fishing magazine!

 


Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Twitter: NWSportsman
Wordpress: Northwest Sportsman

Support your LOCAL hunting and fishing magazine!

 


Andy Walgamott
Editor, Northwest Sportsman magazine, Alaska Sporting Journal, Northwest Sportsman Atlas
(800) 332-1736
nwsportsmanmag.com
Facebook: Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Twitter: NWSportsman
Wordpress: Northwest Sportsman

Support your LOCAL hunting and fishing magazine!

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104K Willamette Springers

December 13, 2010

Willamette River Chinook managers expect a run of 104,000 springers in 2011, a couple thousand more than returned in 2010, which was the 7th best year since 1970.

Over 62,000 of the kings are forecast to be 5-year-olds with another 40,000 4-year-olds. Around 83,000 will come in missing an adipose fin.

WILLAMETTE SPRINGER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The numbers come from a fact sheet put together for a joint state-Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association meeting later this week.

It adds that anglers will likely see the permanent regulations for the Willamette and Clackamas.

It also contains forecasts for other stocks which came out last week, including 198,400 above-Bonneville-bound springers, 91,100 summer Chinook and 161,900 sockeye.

There are also figures for the Cowlitz, Kalama and North Fork Lewis springer returns, out today.

It’s too early yet for an upriver bright forecast, but managers are guessing it will be above average.

Anderson Outlines WA Wolves At House Hearing

December 13, 2010

Wolf management in Washington has cost nearly half a million dollars the past three years.

WDFW Director Phil Anderson noted that during a House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee hearing held in Olympia late last week.

He said the money comes from two sources: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service “SWIG” grants and required matching funds from the agency’s vanity plate sales. He said no state general or wildlife funds were being used.

Anderson told House reps that wolves cost $125,000 in 2008, $164,000 last year and $197,000 so far in 2010.

Wolves occupied two-thirds of the two-hour-long hearing, which also saw Anderson brief the reps on Washington’s current population.

He said that the Diamond Pack in Pend Oreille County earlier this year consisted of two adults, four yearlings and six pups. Two of its members are radio-collared. The pack preys on moose, elk and deer, he said.

Two animals of the unconfirmed “Salmo” Pack in far northern Pend Oreille County were photographed by remote camera last summer. One pup was radio collared; Anderson says it is using habitat on both sides of the international border.

He says that biologists will return to upper Ross Lake next year to look for more tracks on the drawdown area where tracks and wolf poo were found this past spring.

Anderson showed an image of a “probable” wolf track next to a bootprint from the Blue Mountains. Oregon has a confirmed pack there.

And he said the status of the Lookout Pack, in western Okanogan County, is “uncertain.” He said there’s been no trace of the alpha female or its radio collar since earlier this year.

Anderson said that the agency has hired a wolf specialist, is performing howling surveys, monitoring the state’s existing animals and gathering new reports to check out.

“We received one the other day from Senator Morton actually that we’re following up on,” he said.

He and acting wildlife program assistant director Nate Pamplin also answered lawmaker questions, including some from Rep. Joel Kretz of Wauconda, outlined progress on the state’s wolf management plan, spoke to recent wolf management news around the region and explained what went into the draft plan’s blind peer review.

Chairman Brian Blake thanked Anderson and Pamplin and said the subject may come up again during the upcoming legislative session.

Afterwards, Georg Ziegeltrum of the Washington Forest Products Association spoke to how protections around denning sites may impact logging.

Jack Field of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association said that based on reports from ranchers gathering cattle, he thinks there are more wolves in the state than WDFW says.

He and several others on WDFW’s Wolf Working Group have signed off on a minority report supporting half the number of breeding pairs that the department currently proposes (15) as a minimum goal for delisting from state protections.

Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest called WDFW’s plan “one of the most forward thinking in the West,” but said there’s room for improvement. However, she asked the committee to respect the process. In our November issue, we report that wolf-related bills may be introduced in the coming legislative session.

George Halekas, a Deer Park biologist, who is also a member of the working group termed 15 breeding pairs the bare minimum needed to ensure recovery.

Two others spoke as well, including a representative of Wolf Haven International who said there’s really only two types of wolves running around, grays and Mexican.

The state Fish & Wildlife Commission isn’t expected to see a final plan until late next year, according to a timeline on WDFW’s wolf page.

Cow, NFL, Kalama Springer Forecasts Out

December 13, 2010

Southwest Washington salmon managers are predicting a poorer 2011 spring Chinook run on two of three Lower Columbia tribs.

They say that 6,600 will come back to the Cowlitz and 600 to the Kalama, according to an email forwarded to fisheries biologist Joe Hymer this afternoon.

This past spring saw 8,900 and 750 back, respectively. The forecasts had been 12,500 and 900.

Something of a bright spot is that the North Fork Lewis’s forecast of 3,400 is more than the actual return last spring, 2,800. An even 6,000 had been forecasted, though.

SHARINE SIMPSON'S KALAMA SPRINGER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Early Hatchery Returns Mostly Up

December 13, 2010

Driving up I-5 through Seattle on Saturday, a billboard caught my eye. It read “Hawaii is closer than you think,” or something like that.

You ain’t a kidding about that, I thought, as I hydroplaned back home through the first few hours of the Pineapple Express.

That tropical river of air sent streams around Western Washington over their banks, way over in some cases, so it’s going to be a few days before they’re tame enough to try steelheading.

But that doesn’t mean we stop thinking about the sport — especially during what’s turning out to be a decent season.

Proof of that comes in the form of numerous angler posts and news articles out the past few weeks, but now we can also see the bump in the first of the season’s hatchery escapement reports.

Credit goes to that inveterate fish hound/biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver for bringing my attention to this. This morning he forwarded an email showing how this year’s winter run in Southwest Washington stacks up against 2009’s through early December.

Lemme just say, it stacks up very well in some places.

KAREN CHAPDELAINE WOULD BE UNDER SIX FEET OF WATER IF SHE WERE ON THE SKYKOMISH TODAY, WHERE 29,900 CFS IS RACING PAST THE GAUGE AT GOLD BAR, BUT SHE HOLDS ONE OF MANY EARLY STEELHEAD CAUGHT AROUND WESTERN WASHINGTON THANKS TO GOOD EARLY RETURNS. SHE CAUGHT HERS DEC. 5 ON HER SECOND BOBBER LOB INTO THE WATERS BELOW REITER PONDS. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

So how about the rest of the wet side, I wondered, and began downloading files.

HATCHERY (river system): return through Dec. 10, 2009; return through Dec. 9, 2010

MARBLEMOUNT (Skagit): 20; 75

WHITEHORSE (NF Stillaguamish): 1; 3

TOKUL (Snoqualmie): 8; 61

SOOS CREEK (Green): 4; 101

COOK CREEK (Quinault): 1,269; 4,205

BOGACHIEL: 150; 72

HUMPTULIPS: 74; 100

FORKS CREEK (Willapa): 73; 383

COWLITZ SALMON: 467; 547

KALAMA FALLS: 69; 67

LEWIS RIVER LADDER: 18; 71

MERWIN DAM (Lewis): 14; 383

SKAMANIA (Washougal): 135; 154

SW WA Fishing Report (12-13-10)

December 13, 2010

(COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Despite higher flows and turbidity, about the same scenario as the past several weeks – primarily coho being caught around the salmon hatchery and steelhead at the trout hatchery.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 1,565 coho adults, 50 jacks, three fall Chinook adults, 208 winter-run steelhead, four summer-run steelhead and seven sea-run cutthroat trout during six days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 605 coho adults, 24 jacks and four winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa and 89 coho adults, three jacks and three winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 11,400 cubic feet per second on Monday, December 13.

Kalama River – High and turbid late last week.

Lewis River- Still some coho (which were dark and released) and steelhead being caught despite the high flows and turbid water.  Flows below Merwin Dam are currently 11,800 cfs, about one-third higher than the long term mean of 8,800 cfs for this date.

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – Light effort and catch.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – We sampled 2 bank and 5 boat anglers (3 boats) from Longview to Bonneville Dam with no catch, not even a sublegal released.

TROUT

Lacamas Lake near Camas – Planted with 8,500 catchable size rainbows December 2.  No report on angling success.  Lake is high and turbid.

Rowland Lake near Bingen – Planted with 62 brood stock rainbows averaging 7.7 pounds each and 68 averaging 4.5 pounds each December 6.  No report on angling success.

Preliminary Look At 2011 Columbia Fall Salmon

December 10, 2010

The boys and girls in Vancouver, Clackamas and Portland are busy this week.

Yesterday, WDFW, ODFW and the tribes came out with spring and summer Chinook forecasts for the Columbia (Willamette soon), and today it’s a glance at what may come back this fall on the big river.

LOOKS LIKE ANGIE VOLK'S GONNA HAVE PLENTY OF REASONS TO PUT HER PINK RUBBER BOOTS ON AGAIN AND HIT THE COLUMBIA FOR FALL CHINOOK. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

Ripped straight from the US v OR Technical Advisory Committee’s documents, here’s a general sense of what’s ahead for Columbia Chinook and coho, and a look back at 2010’s runs.

OUTLOOK FOR 2011

  • Total fall Chinook returns to the Columbia River in 2010 were predicted to be 664,800 adults.
  • All stocks appear to be similar to the preseason forecasts with the exception of the Bonneville Pool Hatchery (BPH) stock, which came in less than predicted.
  • Jack returns were average for Lower River Wild (LRW) and Mid-Columbia Bright (MCB) stocks and above average for the Upriver Bright (URB) stock.
  • Jack returns for Lower River Hatchery (LRH) and BPH were below average.

2011 Outlook

  • LRH, BPH and MCB – similar to 2010 returns
  • LRW – improved return
  • URB – above average return
  • Total return – similar to 2010 returns

 

Columbia River Coho

  • 2010 return of about 390,000 was greater than predicted (286,600)
  • Jack return about 20,000 is similar to 2009 jacks but below 10-year average

 

Graph Shows How ’11 Springer Run Stacks Up

December 10, 2010

When I spoke with Kathryn Kostow about this time yesterday afternoon, she termed the forecast of 198,400 upriver-bound springers back to the Columbia’s mouth “above average.”

Then, when Bill Monroe, a freelancer for The Oregonian, posted his article on the prediction a couple hours later, he used the term “lower-than-average.”

Damned newspapermen anyway, always looking for the worst-case scenario.

If you were to average our articles together, though, next spring’s run would be an average one.

However, Kostow, an ODFW analyst who this year also heads up the joint Oregon-Washington-tribal US v OR Technical Advisory Committee, has emailed out a clarification on all this averaging being bandied about, and it seems Mr. Monroe and I are somehow both right.

“It is sixth largest since 1979, above the long-term average and median, below the most recent 10-year average and about the same as the most recent 10-year median,” she writes.

Kostow also sent out a handy-dandy graph that shows the size of all those returns since 1979, and how 2011 (the red line) may stack up.

(KATHRYN KOSTOW)

But Bill’s not all bad news. He does report that the Willamette springer run “will be close to 100,000 adults.”

I’m not going to get into whether that’s above or below averages or medians or anything else mathematical (except to say that that would rank as No. 4 since 2000), but I will point out that if you add that to the prediction of 91,100 summer Chinook for the upper Columbia — a record forecast — things are looking quite kingy in 2011.

Fishing Industry Reps Rip Partial WA Lead Ban

December 10, 2010

Fishing industry representatives are deriding a partial lead-fishing-tackle ban on a dozen lakes in Washington that will go into effect next spring.

The new rules passed last weekend to protect rare common loons from ingesting weights and jigs and dying from lead toxicosis missed the mark on several levels, they say.

“Saturday will go down in Washington history as a landmark day in the restriction of fishing opportunity for all outdoorsmen, not just trout fishing,” says Marc Marcantonio, a former fisheries biologist, tournament bass angler and lead-tackle manufacturer who lives in Steilacoom. “This was not a scientific decision, but a political one.”

American Sportfishing Association vice president Gordon Robertson says the issue of lead and loons is an emotional one, but “in reality, only a small number of loons die each year from ingesting a lead sinker or jig. Other mortality factors – shoreline development, pollutants such as sewage and run-off – account for the vast majority of loon and other waterfowl deaths.”

In a press release, he also says that loon advocates can point to only nine deaths in the past 13 years as directly attributable to swallowing lead tackle. Only two of those were on the lakes in question, Marcantonio says, a total he calls “statistically insignificant.”

The new rules, passed unanimously by the eight members of the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission in attendance Dec. 4 (Chairwoman Miranda Wecker was absent), will prohibit anglers from using lead weights and jigs measuring an inch and a half or less along their longest axis at:

Ferry and Swan Lakes, Ferry County

Calligan and Hancock Lakes, King County

Bonaparte, Blue and Lost Lakes, Okanogan County

Big Meadow, South Skookum and Yocum Lakes, Pend Oreille County

Pierre Lake, Stevens County

Hozomeen Lake, Whatcom County.

Commissioners also banned flies with lead at Long Lake in Ferry County.

All 13 waters are known loon breeding grounds. They’re mostly mountain lakes stocked by the state with trout fry, though at least two get catchables annually and one of those, Pierre, also features bass fishing. Some have U.S. Forest Service campgrounds. The three in Western Washington, however, are difficult to access.

BLUE STARS INDICATE THE LOCATION OF THE LAKES WHERE PARTIAL LEAD RESTRICTIONS WILL GO INTO EFFECT MAY 1, 2011. (WDFW)

You will still be able to fish them with spinners, spoons, plugs, plastics, unweighted flies and nonlead-based jigs. Nonlead-based weights will be allowed too.

The original proposal came up last year and would have outlawed lead weights of 1/2 ounce or less and jigs under an inch and a half, but the commission followed WDFW staff advice and tabled the proposal for more study.

A citizen’s advisory group was formed, including members of the sportfishing and loon advocacy communities. Then, last summer, after looking at science WDFW had collected, it was asked to rate four regulatory options, from a complete ban on all lead tackle at the 13 lakes to two different partial bans to keeping all gear options legal. The poles — total and no bans — got the most support.

While Marcantonio, Robertson and others question the science, one of the commissioners points to it as the reason he voted for the partial restriction.

“While I supported it for conservation of loons, I did this because of good data and good science,” Commissioner Rollie Schmitten of Lake Wenatchee told this blog earlier this week. “I would be cautious about a proliferation of other similar proposals without good data and good science.”

However, Marcantonio says a 2010 paper on loons was ignored. It’s a 187-page dissertation by University of Massachusetts-Amherst grad student Kyle P. McCarthy that evaluates what disturbs loons at remote Lake Umbagog on the New Hampshire-Maine border and how global warming is moving the species north. Washington is at the southern edge of their range.

The fishery advocates are also disappointed that the Fish & Wildlife Commission passed on their alternate approach to dealing with the issue.

It “incorporated a comprehensive community-based, scientific study of loon and waterfowl mortality and an education program for fishing and boating enthusiasts to minimize disturbances and threats to loons and other water birds,” says the press release from ASA as well as The Washington Chapter of the Bass Anglers Sportsmen’s Society, The Bass Federation, the Cascade Musky Association and Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.

“Our proposal provided a measured and studied approach to a decision that should not have been made until adequate data was available,” said Mark Byrne with Washington B.A.S.S.

The fear is that the new rules are a wedge to open more restrictive regulations that will extend well beyond a baker’s dozen of somewhat remote lakes.

“The environmentalists will use this decision in many future opportunities as leverage to stop the use of hooks, line, and anything else that they can think of by saying it may hurt loons, or whales, or any other animal they can imagine,” argues Marcantonio. “Anglers and hunters have no idea how they were just stabbed in the back by the very agency that is supposed to serve them. Director Phil Anderson wants support from anglers and he treats them like this?”

The Unvarnished Truth About WA Ice Fishing

December 10, 2010

There is nothing that makes this editor more insane than the mental debate about whether to run ice fishing coverage in the Northwest.

Well, anywhere actually.

When I was the Mid-Atlantic editor at Fishing & Hunting News one fall and winter, things were shaping up fantastically for ice fishing in PA, NY and even NJ, so we ran a mess of hardwater stuff.

When the issue came out a week or so later, the ice was gone, so … I ran an open-water issue.

And of course everything froze back up.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mind you, that’s in the East, where it’s practically guaranteed to be iced up.

But our coverage last winter in Northwest Sportsman faced a similar melting.

Even so, this November, as I put together my story list for the January issue, I nearly pulled the string on a mess of ice-fishing stuff.

It was f@#king cold on the eastsides of our states.

Then it got snowy.

And then it got serious about raining over here.

And then this a.m. I received an email from my man in Moses Lake, Leroy Ledeboer.

To wit:

Call it “The Season No One Can Count On!”

Historically that’s Washington ice fishing, and this year is shaping up to be a prime example.

Way early, before Thanksgiving, we were getting hard freezes. Moses Lake’s protected bays froze solid.  It looked as if we were only days –  well, maybe a week or two –   from safe ice topping our perch and walleye honey holes.

What did we get instead? First a heavy insulating blanket of fresh snow, then daytime temps in the high 30’s, low 40’s, followed by even warmer weather and ice destroying rains.

This morning, after a steady night of drizzle, we woke to 38 degree temps, with a ‘Pineapple Express predicted to hit early next week.

Okay, late December and early January could quickly turn this thing around, but, again, don’t count on it. We could see a repeat of last January when on some waters shoreline plunkers replaced hard water guys, and unsafe ice turned our  our little lakes into no anglers ponds.

You can stick your ice auger up your a**, Jack Frost!

Forecast: 198K Upriver Springers In 2011

December 9, 2010

Columbia salmon managers are forecasting a total of 198,400 upriver-bound spring Chinook back to the river’s mouth in 2011 — and 20 percent of the run will be beefy 5-year-olds.

“It’s a forecast that’s above average,” says Kathryn Kostow of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We are expecting quite a lot of 5-year-olds to follow on this year’s 4-year-olds.”

She heads up the joint Oregon-Washington-tribal US v OR Technical Advisory Committee that early this afternoon came out with the annual prediction for the tastiest of all salmon. Managers will now begin to craft policies to guide fishing seasons.

PAULA LITTLE WITH AN 1-205 SPRINGER. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)

The forecast is just 42 percent of 2010’s whopper preseason guess of 470,000, but about 62 percent of what actually returned, 315,345.

It’s more than returned in 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, but less than returned in the bumper years of 2001 to 2004.

Managers expect the run to tributaries above Bonneville Dam to be comprised of 158,400 4-year-olds and 40,000 5-year-olds. Less than 3 percent of last spring’s run were 5-year-olds.

Just over 91,000 Snake River springers are expected, 22,000 upper Columbia kings.

(US V. OR TAC)

Forecasts for the Willamette, Sandy, Lewis, Kalama, Cowlitz and downstream netpens are still to come.

Following the spring run is a “record” — at least forecasted — return of summer Chinook, some 91,100.

The fishery panel also expects 162,000 sockeye, though Kostow admits that biologists don’t have a great handle on what the species is doing. This season saw a record return of 387,858, over three times the forecast.

(US V. OR TAC)

The difference between how many spring Chinook the smart folks in Vancouver and Portland say will hit the Columbia and how many actually return has been way off in recent years, but managers are trying to dial that in with more data.

“There’s been a chronic problem since 2000 of missing our forecast. We’re not sure why that is,” Kostow says.

However, she points out that the jack-to-adult relationships that made for fairly good predictors at run sizes of under 150,000 just don’t work too well at the big run sizes we’ve seen since 2000.

An example of that would be 2009’s return of 80,000 jacks, which — on paper — penciled into a return of 1 million to 1.5 million springers. Nobody took that seriously, of course.

As a result, biologists began folding many more factors into their projections starting with the 2010 prediction. If the blizzard of numbers above hasn’t crossed your eyes, perhaps this from today’s forecast on all those variables will:

“TAC looked at multiple models for the Upriver Spring Chinook forecasts, including over 40 models just to predict the age 4 fish abundance. The models included linear and logarithmic sibling regressions, multiple regressions, cohort ratios (ratio of younger/older age classes), and historic relationships among return groups. Variables that were considered in these models include jack counts at Bonneville, Lower Granite and Rock Island dams, an index of jacks returning to areas upstream of Bonneville Dam, different years of historic sibling relationships, and environmental variables including spill at Columbia River dams and the ocean PDO index. Models were selected based on statistical indices of model fits and historic forecasting success from hind-casting analyses.  Subsets of models were selected for each forecasted group and the final forecasts were ensemble means of these subsets.”

“That all takes more time,” Kostow notes.

But to be more accurate requires more data, she adds.

Now, Washington, Oregon and the tribes along the Columbia will hash out 2011’s fishing seasons. Word should come out in late February.

Managers will likely again use a buffer to set fisheries to prevent a repeat of 2009’s large downriver catch that shorted upriver anglers.

“We’ve learned to be cautious,” says Kostow.

But Northwest Sportsman hasn’t: Time to sharpen hooks and brine some bait, boys!!

Tables from “2010 Columbia River Spring Chinook Management,” November 2009:


Editorr’s note: Kathryn Kostow’s name was misspelled with an extraneous “r” in an earlier version of this post.

Guide Harrington To Head Up Big K Ranch’s New Fishing Program

December 9, 2010

(THE BIG K GUEST RANCH AND GUIDE SERVICE PRESS RELEASE)

The Big K has teamed up with Todd Harrington’s Living Waters Guide Service to expand its fishing services. Harrington will serve as Director of The Big K’s new fishing program, which now offers year-round guided fishing trips, scenic jet boat rides and rafting trips through the famous Umpqua River Loop, the most scenic and secluded stretch of the Main Umpqua River.

GUIDE TOM HARRINTON. (BIG K GUEST RANCH)

Big K anglers are privileged to have “first water” every day for Winter Steelhead, Spring and Fall Chinook, Coho Salmon, Smallmouth Bass and Shad. Guided trips for keeper and oversize Sturgeon, Striped Bass, Crabbing and ocean fishing are just a short distance from the Ranch. Shuttle service, non-guided private fishing opportunities and river access are also available.

With the appointment of Todd Harrington as Fishing Program Director, The Big K has added a private, easily accessible boat ramp six miles upriver from the ranch, bringing the total number of private boat ramps exclusive to Big K anglers to eight. The Big K’s drift boats have been updated, two new rafts and a 24-foot Team North River Scout jet boat has been added to its fishing fleet. Continuing its commitment to safety and professionalism, all Big K guides are now U.S. Coast Guard certified and insured.

“I’m very happy and honored to head up The Big K’s new year-round fishing program,” says Harrington. “The famous Umpqua River Loop has been my home waters for the past 12 years. Having the opportunity to team up with The Big K and share its truly spectacular 2,500-acre property, lodge, scenery and fishery with guests from around the world is a dream come true. God is good!”

About Todd Harrington, The Big K’s new Fishing Program Director

Harrington grew up fishing and rafting Oregon’s Rogue and Applegate Rivers and first dreamed of becoming a professional guide at the tender age of eight. Professionalism, a deep commitment to preserving the water and environment he fishes, and providing clients with world-class angling experiences are hallmarks of Harrington’s career. He has guided clients from around the world through his Living Waters Guide Service for the past twelve years. He also previously owned and operated Angel Lodge on the Elk River near Port Orford, Ore. Harrington, a tournament bass fisherman, earned ESPN’s Best of Show award for Sturgeon fishing on the Umpqua River. He’s made the famous Umpqua River Loop his home for more than a decade and fishes its waters more than 200 days each year.

“We’re thrilled to have Todd Harrington join our team and lead the expansion of our fishing services,” says Kathie Larsen, Director of The Big K. “Todd’s impressive experience as a professional fishing guide, his knowledge of the Umpqua River Loop bordering our ranch, and his deep commitment to customer service make him a perfect fit for working with our clients.”

120 Blackmouth Caught In SJI Derby; Winner Claims $10K

December 8, 2010

(RESURRECTION DERBY PRESS RELEASE)

Forty-seven top-notch teams found exceptionally good fishing in the San Juan Islands last weekend – and hauled a total of 120 fin-clipped hatchery Chinook up the docks during this two day contest while fishing the newest event in the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series

Lance Husby (Marysville, Wash.), a onetime salmon charter operator in Sitka, Alaska, bested his nearest competitor by almost a pound and a half and saw his 19.29 pound winter blackmouth earn him and the crew of “Team Big  Kahuna” a cool $10,000, a 1st place trophy, and bragging rights for the next year.

“The Friday morning cannon start was one of the best parts of the derby” Husby said.  “On Saturday, Rosario Strait was pretty messed up with the north wind blowing 20-25 knots. In sloppy conditions, we caught 3 fish, and then ran in to weigh the big one.”

He went on to say “I want to thank the organizers for putting on a first class event … What a great derby and we can’t wait till next year.”

Greg Baylis of Mt. Vernon WA, a member of “Team Makai,” won $2500 for his 2nd place finish with a17.90 pounder.

Dale Nelsen of Bellingham, WA, skipper of “Team Blue 52” took home $1,500 for a 3rd place effort with a 17.34 pound fish.

Planners scheduled the event to coincide with the opening week of the winter fishing season in the San Juan Islands.

“The winter season in the San Juans is a selective fishery.  We wanted to raise the awareness of the benefits of fishing on hatchery stocks, while promoting good sportsmanship and resource stewardship” said one derby organizer, Andy Holman.

“Everyone who entered this derby is helping the fishery” said Bobby Wilson, derby organizer.

Wilson went on to say, “All net proceeds from the derby will go directly towards salmon enhancement projects”.

Kevin Klein, Derby Chairman stated “I am very pleased of what we have accomplished here. Everyone I’ve talked to was very complimentary – and all indicated they had a great time. This event is the result of hundreds and hundreds of hours of planning and effort by members of the San Juan Islands Chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers.”

Klein also said, “The derby was conceived by club President Jimmy Lawson as a serious contest for serious anglers. I think our team has successfully developed Jim’s vision, as we saw the best-of-the-best here in Friday Harbor this past weekend.”

He also said, “Not only did this provide an economic benefit for our local economy in a dark time of the year, but also gave us the opportunity to showcase Friday Harbor, and all it has to offer.”

For more information, please go to: http://www.resurrectionderby.com

Columbia Barbless Rule Delayed, Director Asks Anglers To Use Hooks ‘Voluntarily’

December 8, 2010

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Columbia River anglers who fish for salmon and steelhead will not be required to switch to barbless hooks next year, but state fishery managers are asking them to do it voluntarily.

“Going barbless only makes sense in these fisheries where we’re trying to maximize survival rates for released wild fish,” said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Anglers can play an important role in that effort by using barbless hooks.”

Anderson made his appeal to anglers after informing the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission of plans to delay a new rule – originally set to begin Jan. 1 – that would require anglers to use barbless hooks in salmon and steelhead fisheries from the mouth of the Columbia River to McNary Dam.

The Washington commission, which sets policy for WDFW, approved that requirement, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission did not. Anderson said the prospect of having incompatible fishing regulations on a portion of the Columbia River jointly managed by the two states prompted him to delay the barbless rule for at least a year.

“The two states have worked together for nearly a hundred years to avoid conflicting fishing regulations that would create confusion for anglers on the Columbia River,” Anderson said. “Delaying the barbless rule is disappointing, but we’re going to continue to pursue it.”

Anderson noted that the border between Washington and Oregon – which determines which state’s fishing rules are in effect – is hard to define along the Columbia River. “Down near the mouth, about 90 percent of the river is in Oregon,” he said. “That changes as you move upriver.”

Anderson said barbless hooks, knotless nets and careful handling of released fish are all ways that anglers can contribute to recovery of wild salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River.

“Anything we can do to rebuild wild runs will ultimately help maintain or expand fishing opportunities for hatchery fish,” Anderson said. “We hope that all anglers will get behind that idea and voluntarily switch to barbless hooks.”

SW WA Fishing Report (12-6-10)

December 6, 2010

(REPORT COURTESY BIOLOGIST JOE HYMER)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Anglers are primarily catching coho at the salmon hatchery and steelhead and sea run cutthroats at the trout hatchery.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 1,248 coho adults, 67 jacks, five fall Chinook adults, 248 winter-run steelhead, ten summer-run steelhead and eight sea-run cutthroat trout during seven days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 316 coho adults, 31 jacks, two fall Chinook adults and four winter-run steelhead into Lake Scanewa, 31 coho adults, four jacks, one cutthroat trout and three winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 8,680 cubic feet per second on Monday, December 6. Water visibility is nine feet.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching coho and steelhead.  Most of the coho were dark and released.  The steelhead were a mix of summer and winter run fish.

Lewis River – Anglers are primarily catching coho (most of which were dark and released) and winter run steelhead.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam –   We sampled 13 bank anglers with no catch.

Hanford Reach – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco – An estimated 507 steelhead were caught in November.  Anglers are averaging 1 steelhead for each 11 hours of fishing. A total of 621 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 slightly better than catch and harvest in 2004-07.

On December 7, WDFW will open the Columbia River from the Hwy 24 Bridge (Vernita Bridge) to Priest Rapids Dam for the retention of hatchery steelhead. See the WDFW website for more details.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia mainstem from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam – Slow, cold, and windy.  We sampled 38 bank anglers from Longview to Bonneville Dam with no catch – not even a sublegal released.  One of the seven boat anglers (4 boats) had at least released a sublegal.

 

 

 

 

WA Moves To Protect Loons From Lead Tackle

December 6, 2010

A year after it sent the issue back for further study, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission last weekend approved a partial ban on lead fishing “devices,” outlawing jigs and sinkers under 1 1/2 inches long on a limited number of lakes to protect the state’s small breeding population of common loons.

Some had wanted a full ban on lead tackle, others no change in the fishing regulations.

The 12 lakes where the rule affecting weights, sinkers and jigs will go into effect are primarily trout waters located in the mountains of North-central and Northeast Washington. Those items may be no longer than an inch and a half long along their long axis.

“In addition, the commission banned the use of flies containing lead at Long Lake in Ferry County,” says Darren Friedel, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife in Olympia.

He says the new rules take effect May 1, 2011.

The rule was passed unanimously, according to Rollie Schmitten of Lake Wenatchee in Chelan County, one of nine members on the commission.

“While I supported it for conservation of loons, I did this because of good data and good science,” he said. “I would be cautious about a proliferation of other similar proposals without good data and good science.”

According to the Department of Fish & Wildlife, lead toxicosis is known to or believed to be the cause of death for seven of 21 loons that died in the state between 1999 and 2010.

Anglers do not knowingly poison the birds, but loons looking for pebbles to grind up food in their stomach may inadvertently grab small pinch-on fishing weights and other tackle with lead that we’ve snagged up or otherwise lost at lakes.

The issue is controversial because some anglers fear it is the beginning of a wider crackdown on lead fishing tackle.

Arguing against it, former fisheries biologist, tournament bass angler and lead-weight maker Marc Marcantonio of Steilacoom says not all of the available science was looked at, including a 2010 dissertation by a University of Massachusetts-Amherst grad student who looked at disruption factors at remote Lake Umbagog, on the Maine-New Hampshire border.

“This study reveals far more important issues than lead fishing tackle.  For example, in addition to shoreline development, predation, disease, inadequate forage, trauma, and other well-known factors there are more recently documented significant factors including kayaking and loon watching/photography that affect breeding and rearing success.  Where the ban proponents conclude declining rearing success in Washington is proof that lead tackle should be banned, this study points to different factors including climate change (and other disturbance factors),” Marcantonio wrote in public comment on the proposal.

While the rule affects lakes where the loons are known to nest, he says that by the state’s own words, only two deaths in Washington over the past 13 years occurred where the birds breed, a number that is “statistically insignificant and does not warrant a ban on lead tackle.”

Marcantonio also points to a mid-November memo from Governor Gregoire’s office directing state agencies “to suspend development and adoption of rules for the next 12 months … that is not immediately necessary.”

It continues, saying “that agencies should not suspend all rule making, as rule making is an essential government operations tool.”

The proposal came out of last year’s update to the fishing regs and generated a lot of interest. The Fish & Wildlife Commission tabled it and convened a citizens advisory group which last summer rated four options:

  • A total ban on any lead fishing tackle
  • A partial ban, with no lead fishing weights or jig heads
  • A partial ban with no lead fishing weights or jig heads equal to or less than one ounce or equal to or less than 1-1/2 inches along the longest axis
  • No restriction (no change or “status quo”)

The committee, made up of fishing industry reps, including Marcantonio, and loon advocates among others, largely split its recommendations between the status quo and a total ban.

Bass anglers and other fishermen were exhorted to fight the potential ban, with the American Sportfishing Association arguing it would have “a significant negative impact on recreational anglers and fisheries resources in Washington.”

“Significant” is probably an overstatement looking at the relative sizes and locations of the lakes, but most are planted with trout fry — two receive “catchable” sized rainbows in the spring — and many have Forest Service campgrounds on or nearby.

However, at least two others, Calligan and Hancock in King County, require a spendy pass from a private timber company to access and a third, Hozomeen, is inaccessible except by hike-in anglers and really only easily reached through Canada.

(WDFW)

The affected lakes are:

Ferry, Swan and Long Lakes in Ferry County

Pierre Lake in Stevens County

Big Meadow, Yocum and South Skookum Lakes in Pend Oreille County

Lost, Blue and Bonapartes Lake in Okanogan County

Calligan and Hancock Lakes in King County

Lake Hozomeen in Whatcom County

Several East Coast states also regulate lead tackle to protect loons.

Earlier last month, the Environmental Protection Agency denied a petition to ban lead-based fishing tackle, but the federal agency has since been sued by some of the same groups.

Marysville Wins $10K At Salmon Derby

December 6, 2010

A Marysville angler won $10,000 at a salmon fishing derby this weekend in the San Juan Islands.

Lance Husby of Team Big Kahuna took home the big check at the Resurrection Derby thanks to his 19.29-pound blackmouth.

Second place and $2500 went to Greg Baylis of Mount Vernon. He caught a 17.90-pounder.

And Dale Nelsen of Bellingham took third and $1500 with his 17.34-pound blackmouth.

The two-day derby was based out of Friday Harbor. According to organizer Kevin Klein, a total of 120 salmon were weighed in, 71 on Friday, 49 on Saturday.

“The derby surpassed all our expectations, and really was an old school, hardcore tournament with most of the best fishermen in the islands going head to head,” said Klein in an email this morning.

Husby also took 20th at the Bayside Marine derby out of Everett in early November, 10th there during a late March derby.

OSP Keeping Tabs On Arrowed Buck

December 3, 2010

The large-racked buck is still alive, despite part of an arrow stuck in its neck, and now the Oregon State Police are looking for whomever shot at the animal as they also keep tabs on its health.

THE MULE DEER WITH PART OF AN ARROW IN ITS NECK. (OSP)

An “enhanced” TIP reward of $500 is being offered for information resulting in the arrest of a suspect. The funds come from the Oregon Hunter’s Association State Chapter and the local OHA Bend Chapter.

According to OSP, the incident may have occurred between Nov. 27 and 30th.

CLOSE-UP OF WOUND, ARROW. (OSP)

There was a limited-permit archery season, the November-long late Metolius hunt, that was going on around Crooked River Ranch, where the animal is and is known to haunt, but it’s unclear where the animal was ambushed.

“There is a slim chance he was on public land in the Crooked River National Grasslands, but we doubt it based on what neighbors are saying,” says OSP Sgt. David Pond.

He says that it it is illegal to hunt on the private property within Crooked River Ranch.

For now, the buck is alive and stable.

“We’ve been keeping tabs on it,” says Pond.

Efforts to remove the arrow will be done by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, according to OSP.

While it now can’t be said with absolute certainty whether someone illegally took a shot at the animal, it does fall into a pattern Pond is noting.

“I don’t think we’re seeing any more (poaching) than in previous years, but I think the quality of the animals people are poaching is up,” he speculates. “Seems like fewer calls, but more for trophy animals.”

Earlier this week, we highlighted the cases of more than two dozen deer and elk killed illegally in recent weeks in Oregon and Washington.

Speaking to the shooting of four elk in a remote area near Arctic, Wash., WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci could only speculate yesterday to the poacher or poachers’ motivations: “I think it was someone who wanted to see a lot of animals die.”

Anyone with information on what happened to the Crooked River Ranch buck is being asked to call OSP’s Bend office at (541) 388-6213 or the T.I.P line at (800) 452-7888.