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.”
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.